I know it is just one essay and I may be doing too many acrobatical maneuvers of glee for some of you to bear, but other than a few odds and ends in various journals, this is my first book publication. My essay is published in the company of some pretty hefty authors. So, I'll probably stop making a big deal eventually, but for now, darn it, I'm excited.
It would have been impractical for each contributing author to submit acknowledgements, so I want to mention a few people that I'm thankful for here. Conincidentally, David did mention in his acknowledgements the person I am most indebted to, my wife, Susanna Childress. I'll say more about her in a second.
Most notably I need to thank David Cunningham, director of the Crossroads Lilly Endowment here at Hope College. I knew he was a theologian who cared about the arts when I met him in a book group that was working through Rowan Williams' Grace and Necessity. David not only read the essay, but we sat down for a 2.5/3 hour dinner (my dime as thanks) and he walked me through one of my drafts almost line by line. His feedback was very insightful and gave me lots of confidence.
Steven Bouma-Prediger, religion professor here at Hope, read a very early draft. His comments were both constructive and encouraging.
I also had some friends back in Oklahoma City, from the church that is the focus of the story, give me some feedback too. Thanks to Wendy Shreffler and Lance Humphreys especially.
Thanks also to Charlie Peacock for reading through the essay and helping me believe that my writing did fit in the company of such "august" (his word directly) company.
Now back to Susanna. When I spent my first weekend with Susanna, I was concerned that she not think my writing ridiculous. She'd sent me her manuscript, the manuscript that was later picked by Billy Collins to win the Brittingham Prize. I didn't think that she would think my essays back then were ground breaking. I just wanted to make sure she didn't think my scribbles were silly, so somehow I found the nerve to read some of my writings to her. From then and to this day, she has indulged me by being my first reader of almost everything I write. She doesn't just listen. She gives me real, tangible criticism. Sometimes I have to go for long walks after recieving such criticism, but she has made me into a whole new kind of writer. Yes, writing just comes down to lots of hard work, sifting through draft after draft. I only wish I could be half as helpful, loving and supportive for her as she is for me.