My first post at Story Warren sort of gave a big part of the vision for the site, so maybe read that if you are interested. It’s much more important than this one. But I thought I’d tell a little bit about how Story Warren was born, at least from my perspective. I doubt many will want to read this, but some might. Consider it of the DVD commentary variety, at best interesting only to a few and at worst a crime against humanity. This could be either.
It’s actually going to be so boring that I’m going to include visual cues, as if it were a movie, so you can pretend to see some action. These will have no reference at all to the content of the blog post. They will be entirely random. They’ll be in parentheses. Like this…
(Cowboys ride off into a bleak dawn. Indians loom in the frame’s edge. One of the cowboys burps grotesquely. An Indian mentally invents badminton.)
Many years ago (6?), Andrew Mackay and I stayed behind at a church breakfast at the Shoney’s in Beckley, WV (which no longer exists). That day we laid out the framework for what we were then calling The Maple Mountain Story Club. Much of what Story Warren is was dreamed up that day. That was the genesis.
(A horse slurps water from a stream. Cowboy runs up, screams “That ain’t fir drinkin’ ya stoopid hoarse!” He makes to punch the horse, but the horse dodges his swipe and the cowboy’s air-ball haymaker causes him to pitch forward and land in the latrine. Expletives fill the air. Horse chuckles and the laugh track does its work.)
We added and subtracted from the vision, and even had a sort of false-start launch of The Maple Mountain Story Club. But that site never became what we envisioned and just really morphed into my own personal website, becoming the antecedent to this blog you are now, for some strange reason, reading.
But Andrew and I never quit dreaming and re-imagining our original vision.
Sometime later, I was catching up on a songwriter I had first met several years before and had sort of lost track of. When I first heard him in concert, way back before he had recorded even his first record, Andrew Peterson had instantly become a favorite. At that first meeting (1999?) I received a great concert, a free meal (Andrew sneaked and paid -a prelude to many generosities that would follow), and an “Andrew Peterson is My Friend” T-shirt. I felt a great deal of kinship with Andrew (AP), like I was certain we’d be the best of friends if we lived near each other. A few years later I saw him in concert again with a certain Eric Peters (with whom, believe it or not, I did not hit it off). But after that, I had sort of lost track of AP.
When I found him again, I saw there was this fancy website he’d created. The Rabbit Room. I clicked around in astonished delight. This was wonderful. And I saw something that closely aligned with what Andrew Mackay and I had dreamed of doing. Only it was better. Much better. And it was real and live and it looked like a unique group of characters were clustered around. I began to read there regularly and, without much regularity, to join in the conversation and comment. I ended up reviewing AP’s first book, On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness, on my blog (then called The Maple Mountain Story Club). The story behind that is actually somewhat interesting. I’d tell it, but that would go against what I’ve got going here in the way of boredom. The people with high-blood pressure are reading this all and thinking, “Man, this is perfect.” Of course the book was incredibly good, and my review led to a follow-up interview with AP. This was all very fun for me.
(Sunset and the cowboys are settling in around the campfire. Banditos raid the camp, but all they want is some cloth for a sewing project. After an awkward moment or two, the cowboys hand it over and the banditos leave, their heads swimming with patterns.)
Weeks went by and I kept working on various writing projects. I had just had my first sniff of print publication when WV South began to run my short fiction serial, The Fledge Chronicles. I was getting paid to write for the first time. And we needed the money, too! I was working at a cafe, serving coffee and sandwiches and supporting a family of 4.
(The screen fills with pinatas. More pinatas than anyone has ever seen. The screen is teeming with pinatas. What a party this must be! But as the camera pans out further and further, it becomes clear. There are no children. Sad music plays and you are meant to wonder about things.)
Soon thereafter, I got an email from AP saying he wondered if I might be interested in being a contributor to the Rabbit Room. I was super excited and answered in the affirmative. My time with the Rabbit Room has been very special. The two Hutchmoots (Rabbit Room conference-type things, 2010, 2011) have been real life highlights. I owe so much to the Rabbit Room community, and to AP in particular. I’m still sort of surprised I’ve been included there, but it’s been a deep joy.
Andrew Mackay and I had not given up on our idea. Over the years, as our families grew, the vision turned to focus on children. I was writing children’s stories, inspired by tales I’d told my kids for years. One particular story had staying power in our home. Since my oldest daughter was two or three (2005), we would sit on the porch and watch the animals running and flying around our rural Appalachian home. Rabbits abounded. Naturally, there needed to be a story to go along with these critters. It turned into a pretty long series of stories, which called for more and more back-story and history. This story was always called, “The Rabbits at Jupiter’s Crossing.” So rabbits had, long before I had heard of the Rabbit Room, been a mainstay of the imaginative life of our home. Our house abounds with “Jupiter’s Crossing” drawings.
As the idea of a website (and more) dedicated to fostering holy imagination in kids grew and took shape, I began having conversations with people about it. When I told AP about it, he was very excited and shared that he had had a vision for something similar for years. I know the feeling, I thought. I ended up talking to Pete and Jennifer Peterson about it and Pete and I began figuring out what kind of relationship the two sites would have. AP and Pete were kind enough to let us have a store at the RR, and we ended up choosing a name that had at least a vague allusion to the Rabbit Room.
(Three cowboys begin to argue over the etymology of the word “cowboys,” one making the case for “cowmen.” They commence to wrassle and the “cowmen” advocate is defeated. “Stays at cowboys,” the winner says, with authority.)
I cannot say enough about how important the Rabbit Room has been for me personally, and for Story Warren. For one thing, half the people contributing to Story Warren are people I met through the Rabbit Room. Though we had planned for years, it doesn’t seem possible to launch Story Warren without our connection to the Rabbit Room. I am so thankful to be a part of that community. I am so honored to have a part in speaking to that community. I am so grateful to AP for his generosity, kindness, and for giving me the opportunity he has.
Andrew Mackay, my partner in all things Story Warren, and I are very excited about what Story Warren could be. We have high hopes of serving parents and children. We are very excited about the team of contributors who are working with us right now to share Story Warren. You can see them all here and you’ll be reading their stuff soon! I appreciate each one of them so much and have really enjoyed the process of seeing this team assemble. It’s a great group and I’m so excited about being a part of sharing their writing with you.
Finally, Andrew Mackay has worked so hard on this site. Hopefully, it’s not all crashing as you read. But that would be kind of hilarious. Regardless of that Andrew has, on a shoe-string budget, put in endless hours on the SW site. He has had to put up with me asking him to move something 1 thousandths of a millimeter to the right a thousand times. He has been very patient and has been a really excellent complement to the kind of work I like to do (which does not involve anything technical). He has let me focus on the people and vision side and has taken care of so much. He designed the website. We had some great help at the eleventh hour from Zach Franzen, who created a wonderful banner and modified Andrew’s design for the logo, which we all love.
(Cowboys are eating steak. They love it and the steaks are very rare. A few shots of dripping blood and firearms. One of the cowboys says something about a nice salad, but when he’s loudly asked to repeat what he said, he says, “I like that old ballad.” Everyone looks at him like he has two heads and he quickly adds, “About the killing.” Everyone nods and goes back to eating their steaks.)
Anyway, that little summary leaves a huge amount unsaid. (There’s nothing here about how when I first met Andrew Mackay, he was a nerdy kid in Puerto Rico at a deaf school full of Canadians. There’s nothing about my brother Josiah and his role in connecting me to reviewing AP’s book.) But the bottom line is that I feel grateful to God and to so many of his children for letting us get to this point. The whole thing may end in disaster, but I really hope not.
I hope it is something that serves you. I hope it helps you help your children to see, through an enlarged capacity for imagination, the right-side up world Jesus is recreating.
(The ending credits are better than the movie and it’s probably just because people are so relieved it’s over.)