Robert Benson is a "writers writer," as well as a critically acclaimed author with a multiplicity of books on spirituality and life. In his July 15 release, Dancing on the Head of a Pen, he answers one of his most frequently asked questions. "Can you tell me how to write a book?"
In twelve delightful chapters with titles such as, "Dark Marks on a Page," "Go to Your Room," "Six Hundred Words" and "The Jury Box," Benson describes the techniques, disciplines and processes he employs "when he begins to make a book."
He's quick to admit some of the habits and methods he practices are ideas "stolen" from other successful writers. Others he discovered after years of what he describes as "dancing on the head of a pen," reminiscent of the question about the number of angels who can dance on the head of a pin. While some are disciplines he's stumbled across over the years that equip him to be a better writer, able to deliver a clear message.
He says, writing a book is like starting a new "construction project" except the writers tools of the trade are a "pen and a keyboard and paper and ink." Nothing more. Nothing less. When it's time to start a new project he knows it's time for him to pick up his "tools, pull on his boots and go to work."
He writes about procrastination and warns just as "solitude and silence" are a writers best friend, waiting for the muse to show up is a writers worst enemy. Because the muse shows up "in the midst of the dance he does with the fountain pen on the page."
Benson's' wisdom shines through the pages with practical advice on what to write about, your audience, writers disciplines, word count goals, when to share your work and knowing when the project is finished.
I especially appreciated his lyrical phrasing such as:
· "Any writer worth his ink stains..."
· "Writers pause instead of writers block...""
· "Writing in the cracks..."
· "The Affliction That Must Not Be Named..."
· "To begin a book, I select the jury..."
· "Good writing takes time..."
· "The value of slow..."
"Dancing on the Head of a Pin" is filled with realistic tips for talented or aspiring writers on the writing life and useful techniques to consider when writing a book. Benson delivers his advice with deceptive ease, humor and skill that mines his many years of writing experience. He hopes his words will give "writers a way to begin."
"Dancing on the Head of a Pin" is a wise, witty and practical gem. I encourage anyone interested in the craft of writing to pick up a copy, especially readers of Annie Dillard, Anne Lamott and Frederick Buechner.
'Dancing on the Head of a Pen: The Practice of a Writing Life,' by Robert Benson,WaterBrook Press, Releases July 15, 2014, 978-1400074358, $14.99
Midwest Book Reviews—"Gail's Bookshelf:" July 2014
FaceBook: Gail Welborn
Dancing on the Head of a Pen: The Practice of a Writing Life, by Robert Benson
In this masterful blend of the practical and the spiritual, Robert Benson invites you into the work and rewards of a writer’s life. More than a primer on effective writing, Dancing on the Head of a Pen is a winsome guide to the place in the heart where the life of the spirit meets the life of art.
“Dancing on the Head of a Pen is a pure delight to read. Encouraging, honest, practical, and important. I needed this book.”
—Melody Carlson, author of more 200 books including Finding Alice
“With deceptive simplicity and an almost seductive easiness in his voice, Benson lays open before us the filigreed mystique of the writing life in all its beauty, its unmitigated angst, and its inescapable vocation.”
—Phyllis Tickle, author of numerous books including The Divine Hours
“Robert Benson’s Dancing on the Head of a Pen is a gem. It is wise, witty, and inspiring—a trifecta seldom achieved by a book on the writing life.”
—James Scott Bell, bestselling author of Plot & Structure
In Constant Prayer (Ancient Practices), by Robert Benson
What does it mean to pray without ceasing? Is it really that important to pray as the early Church did?
In this installment of "The Ancient Practices" series, Robert Benson presents a structure for our lives where we can live in continued awareness of God’s presence and reality. A pattern for worship and prayer that is offered to God at specific times throughout the day, the daily office is meant to be prayed by all the faithful so the Church may be continuous and God’s work in this world may be sustained. Yet it is highly personal too—an anchor between the daily and the divine, the mundane and the marvelous.
Says author Robert Benson, “At some point, high-minded discussion about our life of prayer has to work its way into the dailyness of our lives. At some point, we have to move from talking about prayer to saying our prayers so that the marvelous that is possible has a chance to appear.”
In Constant Prayer is your gateway to deeper communion with God. Expect something new to unfold before you and within you while heeding this ancient call.
The Ancient Practices
There is a hunger in every human heart for connection, primitive and raw, to God. To satisfy it, many are beginning to explore traditional spiritual disciplines used for centuries . . . everything from fixed-hour prayer to fasting to sincere observance of the Sabbath. Compelling and readable, the Ancient Practices series is for every spiritual sojourner, for every Christian seeker who wants more.
THE ECHO WITHIN, Finding Your True Calling, by Robert Benson
“I can remember the words people said that meant so much to me and my own sense of who I was and who I might become…. You know you have heard such a sentence when you hear inside a corresponding Yes. The Yes is an echo of sorts, or at least it is the same voice as is the Echo that you have come to count on. Such a sentence takes your breath away…. It tells you something about yourself that you suspected or hoped, something you glimpsed but were too shy or uncertain to name aloud.”
To Hear and Live Your Calling
When one day a friend wondered if he was being called to a certain field of work, he asked Robert Benson, “Do you think I am?”
The Echo Within is Robert’s illuminating answer, a thoughtful, honest, profoundly-affecting account of his own search and failings and eventual discovery of the Yes he describes–what it is one truly is called to do and be. Written out of a lifelong search and response to the callings on his life, The Echo Within explores:
•how to love the work you do, and the process of doing it.
•ways to sense God’s pleasure in your pursuits, both in the pursuits and in you.
•whether you fall into your vocation as a destiny or you chart that course.
•how to begin living with added dimensions of meaning and purpose.
Through the ups and downs of the changes inherent in family life, professional choice, and spiritual experience, Robert shares with wisdom, humor, and heart what he’s learned–and how you can discover your calling too.
Digging In: Tending to Life in Your Own Backyard, by Robert Benson
The story of a small garden large enough to hold everything in life that really matters.
“These days the portion of Eden for which I am responsible is fairly modest. . . . It is a small house in a small garden in a small neighborhood. But it is large enough . . . Large enough to hold everything dear.”
Digging In tells the story of the author’s move into an early twentieth-century cottage with a long abandoned back yard, and the work that he and his family had to do to bring a garden to life there. It is the story of the way that the garden became the ground upon which deeper relationships with his family, friends, and neighbors began to blossom and grow.
Written in the gentle, revealing prose for which Benson is acclaimed, this is a lyrical and wise book, beautifully evoking the wonder of planting and seasons, humorously recalling the challenges and the struggles of the labor itself, and carefully observing the simple truths and timeless joys that were there to be found.
Home by Another Way: Notes from the Caribbean, by Robert Benson
A lovely Caribbean island and its people awaken in author Robert Benson a sense of place and home. The islanders’ warmth and welcome prompt a new understanding of ideas of beauty, community and spiritual belonging.
“We live in a world where such welcome and gentleness and civility are increasingly rare. Most of the conversation between strangers is terse and quick and far too often, it is cold and rude. It can even be that way, more often than we care to admit, among people who are not strangers. And such is the way of the world that we live in that we are almost stunned by welcome whenever it breaks out around us, and we are certainly drawn to the people and to the places where we find such welcome in abundance.”
The Body Broken: Answering God's Call to Love One Another, by Robert Benson
Praise for The Body Broken
“The pathos of God for the torn and tearing body of Christ has seized the heart of Robert Benson. This book is a pure, passionate and prophetic cry to transcend all division and discord into reverence one another in obedience to the Master. One more thing: Benson is a helluva writer!”
-Brennan Manning, author of A Glimpse of Jesus
“In a time when bookstores are full of books and films about the end of the road (everyone seems to want to know), The Body Broken takes us on a journey for the sake of the journey itself, and in the process, it teaches us about loving one another, not by imperative, but by example.”
—from the foreword by John Fischer, author of Love Him in the Morning: Reflections on God’s Faithfulness
A Good Life: Benedict's Guide to Everyday Joy, by Robert Benson
What makes a "good life" in today’s fast-paced, competitive world? In this book, beloved author and spiritual guide Robert Benson turns to the wisdom of Benedict, a 6th century monk. Compassionate and practical, Benedict created a rule of life—balancing prayer, rest, community, and work—that has helped centuries of people to lead more fulfilling lives. With trademark humor and elegant prose, Benson shares his own struggle to balance a spiritual life with the demanding roles of father, husband and writer. Anyone who feels pulled in too many directions will find in A Good Life thoughtful, ancient wisdom for creating a life of deep meaning and joy.
That We May Perfectly Love Thee, by Robert Benson
THAT WE MAY PERFECTLY LOVE THEE: Preparing Our Hearts for the Eucharist was written out of a realization that although I had taken the sacrament many times over the course of my life, I was not really sure where all of its forms and practices and traditions came from or what they meant. It ended up being a book about our need for prayerful preparation of our hearts as we gather for worship and join in the mystery of taking the sacrament.
The Game: One Man, Nine Innings, A Love Affair with Baseball, by Robert Benson
THE GAME: One Man, Nine Innings, A Love Affair with Baseball tells the story of one minor league baseball game that I saw in Nashville one spring evening. Which does not sound like much of a thing except that it reminded me of why I love the game itself, it took me back to all of the places and moments where the game taught me something about life that really matters, and it gave me a chance to tell my children the things that I hope they will remember as they grow up and leave home.
Venite: A Book of Daily Prayer, by Robert Benson
An ecumenical guide for the observance and practice of daily Christian prayer.
Robert Benson's "beautifully measured prose" (Publishers Weekly) has inspired his readers to examine their faith with "words that have the ring of truth" (Frederick Buechner). As his readers will attest, he is a powerful and poetic writer in the manner of Madeleine L'Engle and Kathleen Norris. Now, with Venite, Benson compiles the ancient and traditional prayer practices of the Church, recited by priests, nuns, and monks, in a book essential to lay people who want to practice daily prayer throughout the year in their own solitude.
Like The Book of Common Prayer, Venite (an invitation to come to prayer) is a daily book of connecting to God for people of all Christian faiths. Crossing denominational lines in spirit and in practice, it is divided into seven parts: Office, Seasons, Days of Remembrance, Canticles, Psalter, Lectio, and Prayers. Based on and adapted from ancient texts, it is a book firmly rooted in the Church. At the beginning of each section, readers will discover explanatory and instructive notes to help them begin their practice. Easy-to-use and follow, it is an uplifting and enlightening book for all experienced in or new to sacred daily prayer.
Bringing readers to faith and the wonder of a life complete and whole, Venite is a means for everyone to participate in the daily Office "that is prayed by the Body of Christ Himself to sanctify the day."