Sunday, April 20, 2008

It's All About Me-Ville

This week, everything I've seen and done has reminded me of Deliver Us from Me-Ville. This week I joined a small group of authors for a round of manuscript Bible study (exploring a passage from the Bible without the distractions of chapter numbers, verse numbers or other indicators of context) looking at John 1:35-51, a passage from the Gospel of John that figures prominently in my chapter on community. This week in my free time I corresponded with a few churches and bookstores about doing something related to the book with them. This week I heard from a bookselling group in Canada about the possibility of getting together to discuss the book. Last night I attended the DVD release party for Living Waters, a play I was in last year that wound up being source material for the introduction to the book. I'm on the precipice of becoming that obnoxious author who can't shut up about his book, who won't leave his poor publicity department or his unwitting audiences alone. Now that the book's release is only a few weeks away, it is, apparently, all about Me-Ville.

I find that funny--I'm not going to lie to you. My friends in publishing every so often talk about the "level 5 author," the author who, like the level 5 leader in the book Good to Great, is wildly enthusiastic about the task at hand but shockingly evasive when it comes to taking the credit for success. The level 5 leader is marked by humility and commitment, and as such the level 5 leader, or author or actor or plumber or whatever, is about as easy to find as Sasquatch or the source of that weird smell in my office.

This week, however, I've also been reading and discussing Tolkien's Ordinary Virtues, a journey through the Lord of the Rings in search of character qualities to emulate, written by a friend of mine. The section we discussed this week is about leadership, but it includes such odd topics as mirth and submission. The interesting thing about Tolkien's books and Mark Smith's treatment is the awareness of both that virtues are not necessarily housed where we might expect to find them. In Tolkien's creation, kings regularly need correction, and Hobbits often prove to be heroes. And yet Hobbits themselves often fall short, and kings regularly prove their mettle. The books are about journeys both physical and developmental--an entire cast of characters, an entire universe, really, moving awkwardly and slowly but resolutely from where they are to a better place, one that improves their own lot while serving the far greater good.

I simply can't claim to be a level 5 author. But I suppose I can strive toward becoming a level 5 author, as long as people cut me some slack: I imagine it will be a slow, awkward process for all of us.

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