Sophfronia Scott, Author Writing, laughing, and loving

Writers to Read: Robert Vivian

November 11, 2015 | Book Reviews, Writing | Permalink

I’m going to tell you to read a book that’s not here yet. But it’s coming. In fact it’s quite close. At first I only sensed it out there somewhere, its wake pushing waves across an ocean and causing seawater to lap at my toes where I once stood on dry land. Now I see this book, a gorgeous ship at full sail, on the horizon. It’s so beautiful I feel impelled to cry out, “Look, it’s here!”

robertvivianThe vessel we await is called Mystery My Country, and it contains a collection of dervish essays written by Robert Vivian, the author of four novels and two collections of meditative essays. It arrives in 2016, published by Anchor & Plume. A dervish essay is a prose poem that takes on the spinning energy of its namesake. But it goes beyond the realm of poem and stakes itself in nonfiction because Vivian molds the form to make it so. Using precious little punctuation he feels his way through, much as a straight essayist would, a notion, an observation, a question, all in service to better understand and appreciate what connects life to himself and his world.

To read the rest of this review, written for Assay: A Journal of Nonfiction Studies, use this link.

When asked to contribute to the Assay series on “Writers to Read” I seized the opportunity to discuss an intriguing form, the dervish essay, and Vivian’s forthcoming book.







Why Ruminate Matters

October 22, 2015 | Publishing, Ruminations on Faith, Writing | Permalink


My issue of Ruminate arrived in the mail today. I’m happy to see the swooping cursive capital R on the cover. Just inside the front is a painting of a stoic heron gliding over blue water toward a full moon. The presence of a new Ruminate is a signal: it’s time. It’s time to slow down and pay attention, as the note on the opposite page from the heron reminds me. It’s time to chew on questions of life, faith, and art. It’s time to participate in an important and growing conversation about the wonders of our world.

The first Ruminate I ever read was a PDF file I purchased in February 2013 so I could check out the publication. I wanted to find the right place for my more faith-based or spiritual pieces. And I do mean the right place.

I’m not a writer who, like throwing darts, submits work to hundreds of literary journals. I understand this limits my chance of publishing more frequently, but when a piece of mine is accepted, I want to have an understanding of what it means for me to be in that journal.

RUM_Issue36_Cover_largeDo I admire it?

What does it feel like in my hands?

Does it publish writing I want to emulate?

Will my work jibe with its sensibilities?

It’s like developing a relationship—in order to gain this understanding, I have to see the journal on a regular basis. Which means I have to be a subscriber. Literary publications are expensive, but if I believe in a journal, I want to support it. And being a subscriber consistently keeps my goal of being published in the journal in front of me. I get positive reinforcement every time it shows up in my mailbox.

The breathtaking art and powerful writing I consumed in that first PDF inspired me to subscribe toRuminate. The moment I held it in my hands I knew I wanted to be in the book. The paper was and is substantial, thick, and satisfying. Eventually I had the honor of being named a finalist inRuminate’s VanderMey Nonfiction Prize and having my essay published (“Why I Must Dance Like Tony Manero,” Issue 33).

What I didn’t expect, though, was how much my Ruminate subscription would engage me not only as a writer but also as a reader.

I wanted the conversation within its pages to find its way into my life. I bought subscriptions and copies for my friends. Last summer I took a stack of Ruminate issues to a friend’s house so we could have tea and talk about why I felt she should submit her art to Ruminate’s Kalos Foundation Visual Art Prize. There’s something exhilarating about the way Ruminate captures the feeling that we are all part of a bigger process. To have more people partake of this feeling, I believe, can only be more of a very good thing.

A journal like Ruminate is rare. Most literary publications of such high quality are subsidized by university presses, but Ruminate has no such cushion.

Ruminate is published independently, a ten-year labor of love produced by a volunteer staff. But it is time for Ruminate to reach a wider audience and to grow to a level where it has a louder voice in the literary world. If it doesn’t grow it will soon go silent. I know the pain of watching a publication disappear both on a large scale (Teen People where I was once an editor) and a small one (The Newtowner, a local journal in my town that lasted only two to three years). In such a landscape the fact that Ruminate has published so well for 10 years is impressive. And all the more reason to help it continue.

Right now Ruminate is in the process of raising enough support to finance this expansion and ensure its ongoing existence. I don’t often participate in fundraising campaigns. I write about this one because I believe the existence of this journal is important for writers and readers alike. There aren’t many journals that offer this kind of special place where we can contemplate the art that awakens us to beauty and the faith that sustains us. Please consider subscribing and donating so this place remains.

My Thoughts on Rob Bell

September 17, 2015 | Loving Life, Ruminations on Faith | Permalink

11223898_10153904116811564_1730988187097310130_nMy latest contribution to Ruminate Magazine’s website shares a bit of the long and winding road that is my ongoing spiritual journey. The latest stop on this trip included a visit to New York City to hear Rob Bell speak in the latest rendition of his “Everything is Spiritual” tour. As I explain in my essay, he’s a controversial figure in the religious world. But, “My spiritual journey is not about following gurus or cults of personality. It is about connection—finding friends, kindred spirits, brothers and sisters. Once encountered, we tend to recognize each other.” While I can’t speak for Rob, I get the sense that we hold our faith in a similar way and evangelize accordingly. The controversy comes in because others, surprisingly of the same faith, seem to think he isn’t going about things in the right way. They kind of remind me of a tyrannical child in a sandbox who won’t let you play or build anything unless you do it by his earthbound rules. Of course the other kids eventually give up and leave, defeating the purpose of the sandbox–to be in community, our hands deep in the messy but awesome business of discerning God’s will, and taking our part in the ongoing creation that is His plan and not someone else’s. I admire Rob’s determination to stay in the sandbox. My essay will show you why I do the same. Here’s the link to the piece. I hope you enjoy it. In the meantime, please pass the sand bucket. And maybe the starfish mold…

What Back to School Means to This Writer

August 27, 2015 | Writing | Permalink

Summers tend to reshape my writing life. My husband is a teacher so when school ends in June both he and our 11-year-old son, Tain, are home and my carefully honed routine dissolves within days. That didn’t mean I stopped writing altogether this summer. I just had to accept writing under different conditions. At any given time, for example, Tain, all 85 pounds of him, would come into my office and sit on my lap. Or my husband would come in to inquire what I’m doing or to sit on my chaise and read.

I suppose I could have put a Do Not Disturb sign on my door or communicated a hard and fast “Don’t bother Mama while she’s writing” rule, but I didn’t. These warm and lovely days are fleeting. For all I know this may be the last summer Tain will be able to fit on my lap. And the time my husband spends in my office is brief because, being a musician, he has his own artistic pursuits. I was grateful for impromptu hikes, going out for ice cream, and being available to drive Tain to and from his rehearsals for the show he was in this summer, “The Lion King, JR.” I told Tain as we waited for his school bus I would miss all these things and it’s true.

But I have missed my routine. I am happy to have once again time to think, and time to take better care of myself. After putting Tain on the school bus I exercise, shower and dress, then write. It sounds simple but it’s grounding. And that’s what I need. In her wonderful book Still Writing, the author Dani Shapiro quotes a list of instructions for writers left by the poet Jane Kenyon:

Protect your time.  Feed your inner life.  Avoid too much noise.  Read good books, have good sentences in your ears.  Be by yourself as often as you can.  Walk.  Take the phone off the hook.  Work regular hours.

I have these words on a bulletin board next to me in my office. When I posted them I made peace with the fact that there will be many days, as there were this summer, when following these instructions would be impossible. They do remind me, though, to honor the days when it is possible. Today is such a day. It’s a good day.

The Importance of Forgiveness

July 4, 2015 | Loving Life, Ruminations on Faith, Writing | Permalink

Last week I was working on an essay I planned to submit as my latest contribution to Ruminate Magazine‘s blog. Then I read Roxane Gay’s “Why I Can’t Forgive Dylann Roof” in the New York Times. It bothered me so much I woke up thinking about it the next morning and knew I wanted to respond. I emailed my Ruminate editor and told her I would be scrapping what I was writing and sending her something entirely different. I ended up writing, “For Roxane Gay: Notes from a Forgiving Heart,” and you can read it at this link. I’m not saying she has to forgive him but I do believe it’s important to discuss why this level of forgiveness matters. In fact I felt it was so vital that this is the first completed essay I’ve managed to write in connection with the Sandy Hook shooting at my son’s school, two and a half years later. I hope you’ll comment on the piece and join this ongoing discussion.

Thanks and be well,




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