Word Count

Posted August 22nd, 2012 by

Promotion of Gather at the Table ultimately depends on Tom and I. Even though we are supported enthusiastically by Beacon Press, book publishing has changed a lot in recent years. Promotion is no longer the primary responsibility of the publisher. It is authors who must drive awareness and sales. To do that requires as much if not more time than the actual writing of the book.

With that in mind, I have tried wholeheartedly to engage the “blogosphere.” Every weekend, I jot down thoughtful notes and vow to create blog posts on Monday. Almost every week, I fail to follow through. My consistent recalcitrance made me wonder: Why can’t I do this?!! On surface, it seems so simple…. just a few words (500 or less)…. A punchy intro, a few lines of explanation and a provocative close … I should be able to pump that out — no problem, no stress. But… I can’t. WHY NOT?!!

The root of my problem is that writing is not easy. To say something meaningful requires serious thought, deep meditation, often research, and careful crafting of words that express my inner feelings. I read in one of the writer newsletters I subscribe to that there are people who can produce four blogs in an hour. Yikes! It takes me at least an hour to summon the mindset to merely sit myself down at the computer.

….. And then there is the fact that I just don’t have that much to say. There are not too many things I feel so passionately about that I need to tell others. On the subject of racism, what I felt moved to get off my chest awaits the light of day on October 9th when Gather at the Table hits the bookstores (both literal and virtual). What else can I say that is not in the book? Not much.

There is an excess of verbiage these days. Everyone has an opinion about everything and are all too willing to share with whomever will listen. As we watch television (which I seldom do), we are urged to tweet… give comments… post photos… provide reports…. Most news shows have segments where they respond in real time to the audience. America is drowning in a deluge of personal opinion. Depending on which stations you watch, we are encapsulated in a bubble of mutually reinforcing and self perpetuating views that feed into whatever it is that one is predisposed to think.

On one hand, this outpouring of personal opinion is a good thing. With so much opportunity to express oneself, the “silent majority” has ceased to exist. On the other hand, the onslaught of opinion has become overwhelming. There is just too much to consume. How nitpicking and politically correct can one be?

Earlier this year, we were seeking well-known people to write “blurbs” = endorsements for our book. One of the people I reached out to was Wendell Berry, an 80+ year old environmentalist and poet whom I deeply admire — especially for his groundbreaking book The Hidden Wound, which talks about slavery and the “… peculiar tension in the casualness of this hereditary knowledge of hereditary evil…” Not finding trails online, I tracked Mr. Berry to his farm in Port Royal, Kentucky and sent him a personal note by “snail mail.”

Much to my amazement, he received, read my letter, and responded in kind. His personal note, handwritten in pencil and delivered by post, said:

 “…I am interested in the subject of your book, and so I regret having to tell you that, for want of time, I don’t write blurbs. To have such a policy is sometimes an embarrassment and probably is bad manners, but it’s nonetheless necessary.” 

Beyond the disappointment of not succeeding in getting his endorsement, I was delighted to hold in my hand an actual piece of paper that acknowledged me in a profound way. This revered man spent time writing out a response, putting it in an envelope, stamping it, and posting it to me — personally.

This bright encounter does not solve the dilemma I face in trying to keep up with the “word count” needed to engage social media in making  Gather at the Table a success. But it does direct me to the inner spirit that reverberates my grandmother’s admonition: “It is better to remain silent and appear dumb than to speak out and remove all doubt.”

I would like to promise that I will keep my commitment and write something every week… but I can’t do that. I can only say what I have to say when I am ready to say it — after it has been incubated and crafted into something that is worth reading.

And so… READ OUR BOOK…. please…. because we DO have something to say that needs to be said and read… in spite of my lapses along the way to propel it to popularity.



3 responses to “Word Count”

  1. ann neel says:

    YES! What you say here resonates so much with me — even to the extent that I'm hesitant to write a comment. I so appreciate your directness and emotional honesty. Hang in there! I WILL get the book.

  2. rebecca sive says:


    I've pre-ordered the book. Can't wait to read.

  3. Pretty nice post. I simply stumbled upon your weblog

    and wanted to mention that I've really enjoyed surfing around your blog posts. In any case I'll be subscribing to your rss feed and I hope

    you write again soon!

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