Musical Scores and Manuscripts–Layering in the Theme







The local symphony’s season opened this week, debuting with several numbers bearing a Spanish flair, including Ravel’s “Bolero”.  If you’ve heard the work, a simple melody is repeated over and over as it threads its way through the orchestra.  Each instrumental section is layered in, one at a time, beginning with the flute, followed by the clarinet, then the oboe, continuing on through the different families of  instruments like a genealogy, building into a climatic finish with tympanis, cymbals, and bass drums. 

Throughout the entire thirteen minutes, a drummer beats out a rhythm that is also consistent—ret, ret, tat-a-tat-a, tat-a-tat-a, ret, ret—like a backdrop of scenery flavoring the melody’s journey. In an interview after the number’s premiere, Ravel explained that Bolero constituted “an experiment in a special and limited direction. . .consisting wholly of ‘orchestral tissue without music’—of one very long, gradual crescendo.”

Listening to the orchestra perform, I noted how similar this piece’s structure is to writing a book. An author sets the scene, weaving the characters into the plot, one at a time. As the story progresses, the characters react with each other, the layering of the story building to a climactic finish that leaves the reader breathless.

Even though Bolero repeats the melody line several times, I couldn’t help but wonder if Ravel agonized over each note in the score, or struggled with the order of the instruments as they entered the melody—just like authors wrestle with each word typed on the page.

Perhaps it is in the battle for the perfect word or note our inspiration finds value, our inner quest finds peace. For if we reflect on our finished manuscripts, we want to see a masterpiece worthy of others’ attention. I can only believe that need for perfection was instilled in us by a loving heavenly Father. 

For when God created the world, and added the layers of vegetation, animals, and people, He looked over what He had done and said, “It is good.” Only then, did He rest.

As His children, we do the same.


On Wings and a Prayer–Flying to ACFW in Indianapolis, Indiana

The last leg of my journey–Riding the IndyGo bus from the airport








“Your flight has been cancelled.”

After waiting twenty minutes for my plane to be cleared for takeoff from Eugene, Oregon on the first leg of my journey to Indianapolis, Indiana, the ticket agent’s words numbed me. Images of wasted dollars filled my mind. The American Christian Fictions Writers conference, paid in full, and a hotel reservation with too few hours left to cancel, waited at the other end. What would I do?

I had called a friend a few minutes before, asking her to pray for a timely departure. I had connections to make. Now I wouldn’t fly at all.

Heartsick, I approached the ticket agent to ask about options. He said he could fly me out the next morning, arriving later that afternoon, which meant missing an entire day of a three-day conference. Or I could take a chance and fly to Portland, Oregon trying to get a standby seat on a jumbo jet bound for Chicago that night.  The plane was big, but full, he said. Sometimes a seat remained empty.

 Phoning my husband, I asked his wisdom. He said to go for it. I told the ticket agent, “You only live once. Book me.”

I arrived at the gate of the Chicago-bound plane with ten people listed on stand-by.  When the schematics of the plane flashed up on the monitor, only six empty seats remained. Not good odds. I kept praying. With each ding of a boarding pass, my hopes dwindled, as did the number of available spots. Six, Five, Four, Three. . . It looked to be a long night in the Portland airport.

When everyone had boarded, I heard my name. I jumped up and approached the gate desk. With a smile, the attendant handed me a boarding pass for the last of the two remaining seats. I told the woman I was so happy I could hug her. Singing thanks to God, I boarded.

The irony hit me the next morning. With the original flight plan I was to arrive at 10:30 a.m. in Indianapolis. Flying on God’s timetable, I arrived a full hour earlier.

Is He great or what?

Jeremiah 29:11: “For I know the plans I have for you. . .”

I could feel Him smiling.

ACFW Conference in Indianapolis, Indiana–A Family Reunion of a Different Persuasion

Family Reunion in Tumalo Park, Bend, Oregon


I enjoy family reunions. My family attends an annual one hosted by my husband’s cousins. Originally the outsider to this group, I’ve grown acquainted with many family members and consider them friends.

We meet at a restaurant the first evening. The next day we gather at a public park where we’ve reserved a group site and share potluck together. A river tumbles by, offering water activities for the children, and trees shade the picnic tables—perfect for conversations that usually take up the entire afternoon. My family returns home reconnected to people we love.

I’ll be attending a different kind of reunion this next week—a writer’s conference. Just like the family reunion, I began as an outsider and with repeat visits to different conferences over the past few years, I’ve become acquainted with many authors, editors and agents—many of whom I consider friends.

This year I travel to Indianapolis for the American Christian Fiction Writers conference. If you follow my blog, you know last year I visited Dallas, Texas for the same gathering. This meeting of writers and editors draws people from all over the United States, as well as from some foreign countries. Last year, I met someone from New Zealand.

I’ll be gone three days, but the schedule is jam-packed with workshops, meetings with editors, getting reacquainted with friends, and sitting down with agents. I’ll return home exhausted, but recharged—which sounds like an oxymoron. But like the family reunion, I’ll come back reconnected with people I’ve grown to love.

See you in two weeks.