How To Write an Oprah Best Seller


in a world that operates

like a poorly done hybrid

of The World According to Garp

and Forest Gump

Now: list 87 character quirks.

Randomly ascribe 17 and a half of them to a main character

who must be female


and dumber than your phys. ed. teacher in high school.

Apply the other sixty-nine and one half quirks

to the people who will rally around the protagonist

after three chapters of abuse, melancholy, and opression.

The fourth chapter should introduce sexual tension with somebody who’d never,

in the real world,

be attracted to the mousy little victim…

it should also foreshadow

some hitherto unimagined talent.

The talent should be something surprising

not something we’d ordinarily want to be good at

maybe dripping with clumsy symbolism.

Perhaps she’s the worlds greatest sculptor of soft serve ice cream.

but suffers from lactose intolerance.

Just imagine all the metaphors you can imply

as her Magnum Opuses all melt around her.

Watch her get better.


Believe in herself.

Master her dairy.

But her savoir has to do something stupid.

Maybe it reminds the hero of her

good-for-nothing-no-good ex boyfriend

When she leaves him

her talent fades

or she realizes

the thing discerning readers picked up

half a book ago:

It doesn’t really matter– even a little bit

if you can sculpt soft serve ice cream.

When they reunite

at the place they first met

They kiss the way they’ve wanted to for the whole book

and they discover together it was never about the ice cream after all.

That’s when the gift returns:

At the end of the second-to-last chapter

There are two differences

between this poem and the latest Oprah book.

The first is that it won’t earn 87 million dollars.

The second

is that I won’t bother

spelling out

what happens in the last chapter.

You already know.


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The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

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