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Filtering by Tag: Daniel Bowman Jr-

Art Matters. Let’s Save Ruminate.

Daniel Bowman, Jr.

Ruminate photo for Oct 20  

Here at Relief, we are ever thankful for the art-and-faith community that sustains us: that large but loosely affiliated group of people around the world who value excellence in writing and the arts, and who also are followers of Christ. This is our tribe, and together we’re shaping the landscapes of literature and belief.

We plan our attendance at the Festival of Faith and Writing or the Glen Workshop a year or more in advance. We zealously await new books by Marilynne Robinson, Wendell Berry, Kathleen Norris, or others whose works are the cornerstones of our reading lives.

And we read, publish in, blog for, work at, or otherwise engage art-and-faith journals such as Image, Books & Culture, Rock & Sling, Saint Katherine Review…and of course the beautiful Ruminate. Here is where emerging voices—are own among them—find homes alongside award-winning writers.

Some of these journals are housed at universities, or are part of organizations that can help financially sustain their work. Others are run independently, operating entirely on the goodwill of savvy and passionate volunteers.

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Ruminate has been independent since its founding. Its staff have day jobs and often do their work at the journal on nights and weekends, between family and professional commitments. These dear friends and colleagues have found that this model is no longer sustainable.

That’s where we come in. We can provide balance to numbers that are dramatically skewed.

Did you know that Ruminate receives and carefully reads over 5,000 submissions a year? How many of those submitters offer any support in return? Well, the journal has around 500 subscribers, a number of which are libraries, along with four monthly donors and about fifteen one-time donors per year.

It’s clear that the vast majority who send to Ruminate—who expect and receive excellent attention to our work—are not doing our part in the relationship. Now is our chance to change that trend.

They’ve launched a fundraising campaign, and they need every one of us in the art-and-faith community to give something. A one-time gift of $30 or $60 is doable for most of us, even if it requires a bit of sacrifice. If you can give a little more, please consider doing it. They’ve already raised over $13,000.00 but still have a long way to go. If they cannot meet this financial goal, Ruminate will be forced to close its doors in 2016.

We’re all in this together. If one art-and-faith journal goes out, we’re all much worse for it. Ruminate knows how badly our world needs the comfort and challenge of excellent faith-infused art. Let’s show them how much we love what they do.

Please take a moment to read this note from Ruminate’s Editor-in-Chief Brianna Van Dyke.

Then click here to do your part.

Please spread the word in your own art-and-faith circles by sharing these links. Thank you!

An Update (Finally!) from Relief’s New Editor-in-Chief

Daniel Bowman, Jr.

ReliefLogo Dear readers, writers, and friends:

Many of you know that Relief Journal is in the process of transition. I’m here to give an official update on the situation. After a number of years of service, Brad Fruhauff felt it was the right time to step down as Editor-in-Chief of Relief. I will be taking over in that role, and transitioning Relief’s operations to Taylor University in Upland, Indiana. This will enable the journal to benefit from an unprecedented level of structural support while retaining in full its editorial autonomy and unique spirit.

Before I continue: If Relief has meant something to you—moreover if the conversation at the intersection of faith and art means something to you—please make a point of thanking Brad for his work. His contributions have done nothing short of helping shape the contemporary landscapes of Christian faith, imagination, and creativity that are critical to many of us. Brad has agreed to stay on in the capacity of Board member and the special role of Senior Editorial Adviser. We’ll lean on his experience and knowledge as we move forward with the transition. Again, please take a second to thank him at *                *                *

Allow me to introduce myself, then discuss my vision for the next era in the life of Relief. I want Relief’s longtime readers and contributors to know that this journal is ultimately landing in the right hands, even as the transition has meant we’ve been in a holding pattern for a number of months.

My name is Dan Bowman. In the mid-1990s, as a freshman at a small Christian liberal arts college in upstate New York, I took a literature class that changed the course of my life. Through the truth and beauty of the poems and stories, and our probing discussions of them, I realized that if I could choose a place to stay, a place where I would have the chance to flourish, it would be at the intersection of literature and Christian faith. I haven’t looked back since.

My path led me to an MA in comparative literature from the University of Cincinnati and an MFA in poetry from Seattle Pacific University. My debut collection of poems is A Plum Tree in Leatherstocking Country (Virtual Artists Collective, 2012), and I’ve since completed a novel called Beggars in Heaven along with a good number of essays.

My work has appeared in several recent books, such as How to Read a Poem (TS Poetry, 2014) and Not Yet Christmas: An Advent Reader (Seedbed, 2014), and in periodicals like The Adirondack Review, American Poetry Journal, Books & Culture, Cha: An Asian Literary Journal (Hong Kong/London), Istanbul Literary Review (Turkey), The Midwest Quarterly, Pyrta (India), Rio Grande Review, Saint Katherine Review, Seneca Review, and others. I’ve blogged here at Relief, and occasionally at Image Journal’s Good Letters; I currently blog for Ruminate.

I grew up in Mohawk, New York, and live with my wife Bethany and our two kids in Hartford City, Indiana, where I’m Associate Professor of English at Taylor University.

Like many of you, I am sustained and inspired by art-and-faith events (in particular the Glen Workshop in Santa Fe and the Festival of Faith and Writing at Calvin College); by many, many books; and by magazines like Relief. In those spaces I’ve been both comforted and challenged, always nudged toward my best self. I couldn’t be happier to take the helm of a journal that exists to further those very conversations, to explore and inhabit the richness of, as we say in our mission statement, “a complete picture of Christ and life—real, gritty, painful, wonderful, this-side-of-heaven life.”

*                *                *

Beginning in the 2016-17 academic year, Relief will return to its publication schedule of two issues per year. But starting now, and ongoing throughout this year, the Relief team is working toward these long-term goals that we believe will enable the journal to come into its fullest expression:

  • Moving operations into permanent physical office space on the campus of Taylor University (to be opened at select times for visits from writers and readers),
  • Expanding readership of the blog and the print journal (including expanding subscriptions to individuals and libraries),
  • Expanding the pool of submissions to include more literary writers from around the world whose works attain excellence and engage faith in evocative ways,
  • Enhancing our presence on social media, ensuring consistent and meaningful platforms that allow crucial conversations and relationships to develop and thrive,
  • Attending key national conferences, including Festival of Faith and Writing, AWP (lack of funding has precluded Relief’s attendance in recent years), and several regional gatherings in the Midwest,
  • Engaging the next generation of art-and-faith writers and readers by involving passionate, talented university students in key support roles of Relief’s weekly operations,
  • Empowering Relief’s editorial team with trained interns so that genre editors can read and respond to every submission carefully and quickly, and
  • Developing a small literary press, Relief Books, to publish 2-3 full-length books of fiction, nonfiction, or poetry each year (stay tuned for submission details!) and offering our authors a high level of support in connecting with readers.

As you can see, these are not cosmetic changes, but substantial objectives that will put Relief in a position to facilitate better than ever the kind of art that’s been at its core since the journal’s inception.

In the short-term, our goals are more modest but equally important:

  • Completing the transition of the nonprofit to Taylor and the state of Indiana,
  • Applying for substantial grant monies,
  • Onboarding Aaron Housholder as new fiction editor and Adele Konyndyk Gallogly as new blog editor,
  • Reading and responding to every current submission in all genres,
  • Rebuilding, and reconvening regular meetings of, the Board of Directors as well as a new Advisory Board to oversee operations, give counsel, and help shape the future of the journal and press,
  • Publishing a sizeable issue in the late winter/early spring of 2016 (submissions in all genres are open and will be attended to very carefully in the coming weeks!),
  • Finding some way to thank/compensate/retain one-time-intern-turned-Managing-Editor Hannah Haney for her incredible dedication and hard work over the past year,
  • Thanking, retaining, and better supporting the diverse, extremely talented, and soul-stirring writers who have given their time and talent to Relief’s blog, and
  • Winning back the goodwill of readers and writers whose work or correspondence may have slipped through the cracks during this long holding pattern of the last year.

To that last point…please send me a note ( if your submission is sitting in our queue and you still do not hear from us by Thanksgiving. It’s my goal for us to attend to every submission by then, and we’ve scheduled several meetings in the coming weeks toward that goal. From there on out, we will have somewhat shorter reading periods, with a break in the summer, to ensure that every submission can be carefully considered in a timely manner in the future.

I will be back here with updates soon! Thank you for your patience. I believe it will be worth it for us all as we move forward.



The Tracks of My Tears

Daniel Bowman, Jr.

Teary_Eye_Stock_02_by_WhisperMeTheSkyI was better after I had cried, than before more sorry, more aware of my own ingratitude, more gentle. ― Pip, Great Expectations (Charles Dickens, 1861)

Those who do not weep do not see.Les Misérables (Victor Hugo, 1862)

In the end, this round of antidepressants didn’t do me much good. I tried the latest kinds, upped and downed the doses with my doctor, and stuck with the most promising for a year and a half before deciding to ditch them at the end of the summer. Sure, there were days when they evened me out a bit. But ultimately I received a different diagnosis that explains much of the anxiety which has been my lifelong companion. (Stay tuned here for my first efforts at writing about that.)

So my symptoms would not be subdued with meds. A good thing, as I had grown tired of the side effects: weight gain, fatigue, bouts of insomnia. And a more insidious development: I couldn’t cry.

For a year and a half I could not summon a tear. This, though I endured the death of a beloved family member, celebrations of new births, and a hundred small scenes that may otherwise have prompted wet eyes of sorrow, nostalgia, or joy. Though I don’t cry that often, I’ve appreciated the cathartic release when it was deeply necessary. And I’ve noticed that for me, it’s often connected to prayer. As the Dickens line above suggests, tears can be something of a reset button, grounding our next action in a richer compassion. For one who needs all the help he can get, the loss of this gift truly hurt. Since I could not cry, I felt I could no longer see rightly.

But this story has a hopeful ending: I’ve reclaimed the gift of tears. And the way recent weeks have been, I’m thankful — though the tears have shown up much more frequently than ever before, as if making up for their absence. I’m sure it will even out again, but for now, I’ve coveted each one.

I cried in prayer over the open heart surgery performed on the six-month-old daughter of my dear friends — and again when I got the news that she pulled through and is flourishing. I cried alone after a student sat in my office, looked out at the campus water tower, and told me of some personal atrocities endured at the hands of an oppressive administration in the country she came from.

I cried sitting next to a recent cancer survivor at a performance of Margaret Edson’s one-act play Wit. And when my beloved creative writing students came over to watch Anne of Green Gables, I found myself crying (though I’ve read the book and watched the movie many times). I was caught off guard by one of Matthew’s great lines.

Marilla, surprised at the appearance of a girl where a boy was expected, thought immediately of sending Anne away. “What good would she be to us?” she asks her brother.

Matthew quietly turns the tables: “We might be some good to her.”

Yes, I have a sentimental streak. But in that moment, Matthew’s shifting the focus from his own needs to those of someone far worse off came to stand in my mind for every act of selflessness and grace our world desperately needs. So, in the dark room, with salt streams trickling down my face, I prayed for each one of my students hugging pillows on the couches and floor. I prayed that when things got bad, they could find someone who would be some good to them. And I prayed that we’d all decide to be some good to the people around us.

Though I could barely make out the TV screen through blurry eyes, I could see again.

The Space Between

Daniel Bowman, Jr.

14 cafe-fang_ "In his 1951 essay ‘Transitional Objects and Transitional Phenomena,’ British psychologist D. W. Winnicott wrote, ‘It is in the space between inner and outer worlds, which is also the space between people — the transitional space — that intimate relationships and creativity occur.’” - quoted by Alexandra Enders in “The Importance of Place: Where Writers Write and Why” (“The Literary Life,” Poets and Writers, March/April 2008)

The routines of writers seem to be of perpetual interest to us bookish types. Stories abound about where and when and how (and with precisely what type of instrument) famous writers have done their work. I’ve always been intrigued by those stories, in part as they helped me think about my own habits and preferences.

I’m one who prefers to be in a public space. Even when I have a nice office, I find I’m more productive when I leave it. When I worked in the private sector, this made more sense: I kept shop in a mind-numbing gray cubicle under mind-numbing fluorescent lights, with the nearest window way down at the end of my row.

So I wrote most of the early drafts of my forthcoming novel at a Tim Horton’s just around the corner from that office. I always took the same table when I could get it, next to a giant window that let in every bit of the cloudy daylight afforded by the long winters of Rochester, NY. I’d hurry through a bowl of soup and nurse my black coffee for the duration of lunch hour. And I would enter that space between the inner and outer worlds.

I remained partly aware of my surroundings: the blasé music, the retirees who met every Wednesday and sat at the large round table in the back, the business crowd wiping slush and sticky rock salt off their polished shoes as they yapped into their phones. At the same time, I was entirely absorbed in the world of my story. I could see and hear my characters clearly, follow them where they went, imagine what might happen next, fashion careful words to represent that universe.

And now I’m finishing the final work a world away at a small coffee shop in Hartford City, Indiana called Common Grounds. I chat with Katie, who knows my routine: after I order, she lets me get to work, then quietly brings my food and coffee over when it’s ready, for which I’m deeply grateful. Each table contains a tablecloth with a hearty thread count, a small lamp, and a centerpiece of several antique books or a milk bottle from farm days past. The music is good: Neil Young or Dylan or Louis Armstrong. A small television mounted to the wall plays Turner Classic Movies in glorious black and white, set to mute. I like to sit where I can see it out of the corner of my eye. Then I enter into the world of a story that, by now, I’m very tired of and will be pleased to leave behind soon.

Floating over the top, I’ll hear someone yell out the day’s headline from The Hartford City News Times or start yet another conversation with, “Hey, remember [so-and-so]? Well, did you hear what happened?” But I’m into my book, sometimes immersed in the vivid and continuous dream of the story, sometimes taking a cold, critical look at a darling phrase and dragging it by the neck to the chopping block.

I can’t seem to do without either; it’s that space between the exterior and interior worlds where I feel most able to write. I don’t know exactly why this is, and I don’t know if the why matters. It’s what works for me.

What works for you?

Minor League

Daniel Bowman, Jr.

the-rookie-best-baseball-movies. . . for my dad, Daniel Bowman, Sr.

“Baseball, it is said, is only a game. True. And the Grand Canyon is only a hole in Arizona.” ― George F. Will

The dog days of summer are just around the corner, and I’m thinking about baseball. Anyone who’s been around the game knows that it has long been considered a metaphor for life, or a metaphor for America, or a metaphor for…something. The daily grind, the peaks and valleys of success and failure: the rhythms of baseball reflect our experience.

At the big league level, we put our faith in larger-than-life heroes who can change the fate of the team with one swing of the bat, or streak across the field in a display of elite athleticism available only to a few. And for his trouble, the worst player on the worst MLB team, in today’s high-stakes sports world, is making the kind of money that none of us will ever see in our lifetimes.

As a native New Yorker, I grew up a Yankees fan, and I still love and follow major league baseball. But as I get older, I think back to the games my dad took me to when I was a kid: Single-A New York-Penn League games. All over again, I’ve become enamored of the minor leagues, where baseball and its attendant metaphors play out in different ways. The towns aren’t glamorous; the fields, though nice, are not obsessively manicured. The players—and their salaries—are not larger than life. They feel more like me, my family, my friends and neighbors.

In recent years, when I lived in western New York, I often made the trek to the humble baseball town of Batavia, home of the Single-A, short season Muckdogs, an affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals. Dwyer Stadium in Batavia seats 2,600, making it one of the smallest of the hundreds of minor league venues around the US and Canada.

Some MLB stars have passed through Batavia in recent years. No doubt a few more will have a stint there en route to the Bigs, giving the locals a brush with greatness, a story to share.

But the proud list of Muckdog alums who’ve made it to the majors is not, to me, the most interesting aspect of minor league baseball. I love to show up early (parking is easy and affordable!) to see the ambitious young players, either just out of college or sometimes just out of high school, taking batting practice. These kids were just recently drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals, a legendary franchise with the most World Series titles of any club in the National League. With a six-dollar ticket, you can get right up on the dugout; you can see the determination and naïveté on their faces. They are playing their first professional games. They are beginning a journey.

Somewhere on the bench (especially when you’re at a double- or triple-A game), there’s a guy who just turned thirty, which is ancient in professional sports years. He was a winner, a champion and record-holder in high school and college, and a sure-thing to breeze through the minors on his way to a multi-million dollar big league contract. But something happened. He hurt his knee. He couldn’t hit the curveball. Or worse: there was no single factor to blame. He just didn’t pan out. He’s not fooling himself any longer; he knows he missed his chance at fame and millions. But he stays on the club because he still has something left to offer on the field. And he’s starting to get a kick out the fact that the young kids look up to him as a veteran leader in the clubhouse.

Those aren’t the only two kinds of players in the minors. There’s everyone else, everyone in between whose names won’t be remembered, people at every stage of the journey. All of us. Truly, with the cheap tickets and intimate ballparks, there’s very little separating us from them—both literally and metaphorically. It’s a quest narrative for the players, and for fans as well. Whether we’re young with stars in our eyes, older and wiser, or somewhere in the vast middle space; whether we had our best day or a terrible outing we’d rather forget…we’ll all get up tomorrow and do it again.

Corny? Yes. But one of these days, go sit on the hard bleachers at the local minor league park with friends and neighbors, eat a hot dog, and see the next batter step up to the plate. Feel that little thrill: the enchantment of possibility. Let it get inside you. This might be the night. Watch him connect, blast the tiny sphere right over their heads.

And when you jump up and cheer, don’t tell me it’s only for the players on the field. It’s for all of us.