Thursday, February 7, 2008

When in Doubt, Sing: a new edition!

Oh, I have been sitting on this good news for three months because I did not want to say anything in public until everyone had signed on the dotted line. Now I can tell you.

My book When in Doubt, Sing: Prayer in Daily Life is being re-issued in a brand new paperback edition, with New Preface by the Author (c'est moi).

The book came out in 1999 and HarperCollins let it go out of print. Never mind that the reviews were great and people said it was useful to them and I was giving workshops and retreats based on it all around the U.S. The other Harper, HarperSanFrancisco (now HarperOne) with which one must contract separately, didn't want to bring it out in paperback when I and my then- literary agent asked. Long story with a lot more in it. I will not grouse publicly about various past publishers, but I will sing the praises of my new publisher, Ave Maria Press. Yes, a Catholic publisher, based at Notre Dame University (NOT at Ave Maria University!) and and yes, they know I'm an Episcopalian (and former Roman Catholic) and they are just fine with that. Their book list is ecumenical. In fact, they contacted me about doing this reprint. Bless their hearts.

Like most writers, I like getting my deathless prose published. (This did have something to do with my starting a blog.) So I am a happy puppy. I am also deeply grateful to Ave Maria Press and its fine publisher, Tom Grady, for bringing out this book again to be of help to people in their spiritual lives.

As things stand now, When in Doubt, Sing: Prayer in Daily Life's new paperback edition will be out in the U.S. in the fall of this year under Ave Maria Press's imprint Sorin Books.

I'll post a reminder when I know the actual date the book will be in the stores.

Yes, the book will also be available in Canada, the U.K., Australia, and Aotearoa New Zealand. Perhaps South Africa too. Contact me if you can't get a hold of that info locally and I will put you in touch with the publisher and the distribution people.

And yes, I am available for talks, workshops, retreats, quiet days a.k.a. days of recollection, guest sermons, adult education sessions and forums, spiritual formation programs, et al.

Bookstore talks of course are unpaid, so if your local Borders or Barnes & Noble or independent bookstore (support your local independent bookstore!) wants me, I don't get paid, but author appearances do sell books and people get to hear me read and ask me questions and get their book signed. So it pays in that sense -- and for the public, it's a nice free talk. When I post the reminder, I'll post my publicist's name. She'll be arranging bookstore appearances.

For the other appearances, like retreats and all the above, which require more preparation and expertise, the hosts do have to pay me, plus there are travel expenses.* I don't have a lecture agent at this point, it all goes through me. That may or may not change. For now, just contact me if you or your congregation, diocese, house of prayer, community action group, or other constituency have interest in my coming to visit.

****I make exceptions (from receiving an honorarium) for Catholic Worker houses, poor or very small urban and rural congregations, homeless and battered women's shelters, and prison chaplaincies. Everyone else gets to help me earn a living.

I'm going to gloat, to the greater glory of Godde of course, by reproducing this wonderful review from the Los Angeles Times by Nora Gallagher, the author of Things Seen and Unseen and Practicing Resurrection.

Los Angeles Times, Saturday, May 1, 1999
Finding the Voice to Pray

Prayer is strange. Sometimes it's akin to shouting out loud in a dark barn without any sense of who or what will reply, if anyone at all, or whether the reply will come in a language we can immediately understand. But when you reach down into the discipline of prayer, you understand that the shout itself is important, that to want to find the holy is to want to find your own soul. What begins prayer is a search and what ends it is a finding, not of the mind, not of the heart, but of the mind's heart.

Yet to pray is to invite uncertainty. And many guides to prayer are too sentimental or simplistic to provide any help. Whether Jane Redmont is gazing at icons or practicing healing prayer or "waking in the night: when you cannot pray," she provides in When in Doubt, Sing an intelligent and compassionate guide to prayer and daily practice. Her tone, her own story and her good writing infuse the book with a trustworthy authenticity: This is a woman who knows about prayer, in all its patterns, depths and turns.

Divided into 27 short chapters, which include prayers taken from such traditional and contemporary sources as the wonderful New Zealand Prayer Book, Janet Morley, Kathleen Norris and the Psalms, When in Doubt, Sing opens with "Begin where you are, not where you ought to be." From there it gets into specifics: mantras, petitions, intercessory prayer, lectio divina (reading and praying), singing and prayer, building a daily practice.

"What is prayer?" Redmont asks in her introduction. "A sentence, paragraph, or page of definition would not bring us much closer to the doing of prayer. I keep hearing Jesus' words to his would-be disciples... [when] they asked him, 'Where do you live?' 'Come and see,' he answered. Come and see."

A feminist Roman Catholic theologian, Redmont is studying for her doctorate at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley. She has worked as a chaplain and a social justice minister and has directed the National Conference of Christians and Jews. Born of Jewish parents, she converted to Catholicism as a young adult. [And I was raised a Unitarian; people almost always leave that one out. My "New Preface by the Author" will of course talk about my emigration to the Episcopal Church after 26 years as a R. Catholic.] Her life has not been simple, and her work reflects it.

Redmont suggests slowing down as a preamble to prayer -- "Love has its speed," she quotes a Japanese theologian, "at 3 miles an hour. It is the speed we walk and therefore the speed God walks." But she acknowledges that "much depends on temperament, circumstance and time of life." Redmont says she prays outdoors more and uses icons and candles, fleshly things.

Redmont's own story is woven throughout, but most poignantly in the chapter "From Where Will My Help Come? Praying During Depression." After finishing her first book, Generous Lives: American Catholic Women Today, she took on a demanding job and then suffered from serious anxiety attacks and depression. "Sometimes it seemed as if the electrical wiring inside my brain was short-circuiting. No amount of deep breathing, yoga and fresh air seemed to help." One night, desperate with panic, she read the Psalms out loud, especially Psalm 6 -- "Oh, Lord, heal me, for my bones are shaking with terror."

When on a business trip to New York City, overcome with panic and increasingly suicidal thoughts, she prayed on the street to "every saint I could think of in that moment." She checked herself into a hospital for several weeks
[actually, 12 days], went on antidepressants and began to slowly recover. Each phase of her illness required different kinds of prayer, and no prayer "worked" or "made everything all right," but all the prayers added up. Redmont's strongest writing is in this chapter.

"Asking for help: Again and again it came down to this. Help from therapists, from family, from God, from the local bank, from colleagues and friends. Help with the fear, help with the rent, help with employment, help with prayer." Toward the end of the book, Redmont talks more about communal prayer and prayers for justice. Prayer at its most profound is countercultural: It requires us to feel the ache in the heart for both love and justice, for the place Jesus called the kingdom. A friend of Redmont says it is "the never-ending work of trying to bring more alignment between what you hope for and how you live."

Nora Gallagher is the author of Things Seen and Unseen: A Year Lived in Faith.

And here's another review, this one from The National Catholic Reporter.

May 28, 1999
When in Doubt, Sing: Prayer in Daily Life - Review

One cannot read this book and remain the same. It is a book that stretches traditional thinking about God without discarding tradition, distilling what is salient while gentle nudging fresh ideas our way

When in Doubt, Sing is a revitalizing book, meant to be pondered slowly, perhaps in a journal or through dialogue. Redmont approaches her subject as much from personal experience as from her Ph.D. work at Graduate Theological Union. Born of Jewish parents who later became Unitarian, Redmont, a feminist theologian who studies yoga, is a Catholic practicing in an urban congregation with a penchant for gospel.

"Our whole life belongs in prayer: emotional, intellectual, physical, sexual, affective, social, economic, political in the broadest sense of the word. Our doubts and our pain, not only our wishes and our dreams. Our whole selves."

Such a premise immediately challenges conventional parameters. Yet, Redmont points out, this approach finds its approach in the life of Jesus Christ and other biblical brethren. [I used gender-inclusive language in the book and did not speak of "brethren." But her point is accurate. The book does have Buddhist meditation- and yoga-inspired parts, but I am irredeemably biblical.] For them and for us, prayer is relationship with God, encompassing our entire lives.

The 27 chapters of When in Doubt, Sing address the seasons of that relationship and offer ways for it to deepen. In each chapter Redmont shares real life anecdotes, insight from various theologians and religious texts and exercises pertinent to the subject. The topics are roughly chronological, corresponding to the maturation of a relationship. [Interesting, I didn't really think of them that way except of course in the early chapter titled "Begin Where You Are, Not Where You Ought to Be."]

Accordingly, Redmont explores ways to meet and get to know God in the beginning chapters. She stresses the words of Thomas Merton to alleviate initial hesitation or feelings of unworthiness: "Don't set limits to the mercy of God. Don't believe that because you are not pleasing to yourself you are not pleasing to God. God does not ask for results. God asks for love."

Redmont then discusses ways to related to God authentically and comfortably through forms of prayer ranging from the use of icons and rituals, meditation to singing. In these and other forms offered, Redmont consistently refers to biblical precedents.

In the chapter, "Praying With the Body," for example, Redmont points to the physicality of Jesus beyond Incarnation and Eucharist. "You will find bodiliness nearly everywhere [in the gospels]. Jesus touches eyes, ears, mouths, restoring speech and sight... Even after the Resurrection, Jesus is still dealing with bodies, breaking bread on the road to Emmaus, grilling fish on the beach, showing wounds to a doubting disciple."

The theme of this chapter resonates throughout. We know, worship and pray to God through our individual and collective bodies. Redmont stresses the two as inseparable; individual relationships take place within a living context informed by history and tradition. The baptism of a friend's son vividly captures this union while providing an unconventional example of prayer. The parents asked loved ones to send water that would be blessed by the priest and used in the baptism. They received water from the Ganges, from Walden Pond, well water, salt water and fresh.

Since Redmont couldn't attend the ceremony, she sent the boy a letter along with the water: "With all your friends and family I welcome you to the church. It's got its problems, but let me tell you two wonderful things about it. This baptism makes you related to millions of people! People from Zimbabwe and France and Brazil and New Zealand. [Actually I wrote, and the book says, Aotearoa New Zealand, but book reviewers don't much care about the Maori.] People of all different colors and shapes and sizes speaking different languages and singing different songs and eating different foods. They too are your aunties and uncles and brothers and sisters. Imagine that!

"And all of them are friends of Jesus. That's the second wonderful thing: being a friend of Jesus. He was a real person many years ago, but he's all over the place now, too. You can talk to him and listen to him and hear his stories and ask questions about him. You can hear how he was friends with everyone -- poor people and rich people, women and men, and little children like you, too; he always made room for children. He also liked very old women and men. There was always room at the table for one more person; that's the way Jesus is."

Redmont's letter eloquently and simply explains the legacy of Christianity bestowed through the ritual of baptism. The letter also expresses what is essential to any ritual; it is a way to re-member because it brings together or makes whole.

When Redmont lost a friend and could not find words of her own to grieve, she repeated the words of the Requiem Mass. Years later, she realized she had been praying for him in the plural. "I said the words, but the words were not mine. I felt the grief; grief was not mine alone. All those who mourn and all those who have died were present in the prayer. The words were not mine; but there was room for all my grief inside them."

We belong to a spiritual fellowship that spans history and geography. Redmont reminds us that we are not merely passive inheritors of something lifeless. Instead, what we have received is dynamic and calls for our participation. In human relationships, we care about the concerns of those we love; it is no different with God.

Karl Barth urges us to pray with the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other. One reveals who is on the heart of God: the poor, the dispossessed, the disenfranchised and the marginal; the other where to seek them. Here, too, prayer takes on a corporal form, for we attend to God's cares with our bodies and as a body of believers.

It's easy to question whether this book is really about prayer, perhaps because we approach prayer with narrow definitions that do not have room for the abundance suggested. Redmont challenges these definitions in a curative, enlightening manner, providing new perspectives on the familiar and opportunities to relate to God more intimately.

Throughout, Redmont refers to the prayers, relationships with God, modeled in the Bible. Among others, David raged, grieved, rejoiced, wept, lamented, and yes, even danced before the Lord. With gentle passion, Redmont exhorts us, "go and do likewise."

Mary Silwance is a staff writer and book reviewer for Review, a Kansas City, Mo., arts publication.

COPYRIGHT 1999 National Catholic Reporter

Here endeth the commercial.


Paul said...

Congratulations, Contessa! Lovely news.

Fr Chris said...

Congrats! Any chance you'll do a reading out Durham way, maybe at the Regulator Bookstore?

FranIAm said...

WOW! That is great, I am so delighted and I am so impressed!

If you are anywhere here in the Albany area, I will be the first in line for the reading/signing!

This sounds like a great book and I will be looking forward to reading it.

Congratulations Jane!

Jane R said...

Thanks, all. Fr. Chris, I haven't been in NC very long, so I hadn't heard of the Regulator bookstore, but of course I would be happy to set up something there if they are interested. I will put their name on the list for the publicist. (The bookstore has to want to invite me, of course, but publicists send them little packets of information to tantalize them. It always helps of course if customers ask for an author to come. Demand and supply.) I have friends and colleagues in the Durham area, and it's not too far from here, so it would make a lot of sense. Write me off-blog if you have more information about bookstores in the area. The address I use for people in the blogosphere is missmayapavlova at gmail dot com. Thank you so much. Glad to have you visit.

Fran, I would love to go to Albany, though maybe not in the deep of winter ;-). Let's talk.

Paul, you know I am going to head your way sometime somehow. Tom Woodward lives in NM too and he is an old acquaintance -- we were campus ministers on the same campus (I with the RCs, he with the Piskies) way back in the late 1970s. Then we were in CA at the same time. And some years back I gave a workshop at Ghost Ranch in Abiquiu. So there are possibilities.

Joseph Zitt said...

Woohoo! Congratulations!

And, of course, I would love to set up an event for our store when you're out on this side of things once the book is out.

johnieb said...

Oh good!

Kirstin said...

Fabulous news! Are you coming out here?

Mary Clara said...

Hooray for you, Jane! I shall be watching eagerly for the book to come out, and hope you make it to Baltimore or Washington on the tour.

FranIAm said...

Here is a good local independent bookstore in Schenectady and here is one in Albany.

Spring will come soon, see us then!

Jane R said...

Fran, the book won't be out till fall, but never fear, Albany is just up the Pike from Boston and Boston is where my Parental Units live... So, it's a real possibility. Just not this spring. (And I have to finish writing that New Preface by the Author.)

FranIAm said...

Aha! Well I will anxiously await the arrival of the book and more importantly the human herself!

Prayers your way as this progresses my friend.

If you have a moment today, come on by; I have a post up about eating as an act of compassion. I did not write it myself, it is the work of a friend who remains anonymous.

Jane R said...

Dear Fran, I saw the post on eating last night. Beautiful. I will come by and read it again though, since it's Saturday and I have a little more breathing room, and it's one of those reflections that benefits from slow reading. I thought of it as I was eating brunch just now.

As for "the tour," only big-shot authors get a paid tour. Small potatoes people like me have to set events up one by one (in the case of bookstores with the help of a publicist). In the case of a place like Albany where I wouldn't naturally go (as opposed to here in NC, or Boston where I end up a few times a year anyway to see my parents) what I will do is try to get a paying gig for a retreat or speech or something which would cover my transpo and housing and, if it's not a tiny poor place (see my post where I note that some communities don't have to pay to hear me, e.e. Catholic Worker houses, tiny rural places, etc.), my honorarium, and then I'll piggyback some bookstore talks and appearances on that. Bookstores don't pay travel as far as I know. But it's doable since I have friends and acquaintances in various parts of the U.S. and some new ones since I started blogging. I could do Albany and Western Mass. in one trip. I will look forward to that! Thanks, Fran, for the bookstore info too, that's great. I'll put it in the p.r. file and also send it to my publicist at Ave Maria Press, who is eager to get to work.

Jane R said...

P.S. Mary Clara, Washington is a definite yes at some point. (And therefore Baltimore-Washington.) I have dear dear friends with whom I can stay and also some cousins and a whole cluster of college-era friends, all in the Metro DC area. They are mix of Jewish, Episcopal, Unitarian, Catholic, Quaker, et al. In Baltimore there is the relatively new community of Episcopal Carmelites as well as a group of Roman Catholic Carmelites and I have contacts with both. Very fine women. What we can do is keep a running list of people, congregations, book stores, etc. for each area and then when the time gets closer, get in touch and get organized. I'm excited about the book but also about meeting people.

Shannon said...

Dancing, dancing, dancing! I'm putting in my order for half a dozen copies. They will be well-read and well-worn at the prison. What an antidote to some of the material that passes for prayer stuff in here!


Rowan The Dog said...

Congratulations. This is really great.

Ken said...


Can I play you in the movie?:-)