3 Reasons the Faithful Writer Needs a Secular Writing Life

Call this post my Ode to Sisters in Crime, an international organization for women crime writers.

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Moar Marketing Ideas!

This past Saturday I was able (at last!) to make it to my local chapter of Sisters in Crime.  Our guest speaker was Nicole Loughan.

I’m posting both pictures, because in the first, Nicole looks lovely but blurry and I just look like me, while in the second she looks lovely and clear, while I look like I’m plotting to kill hamsters.

AAAANYway, Nicole gave a great presentation on how to sell 10K books in one year.  Yes, this is the kind of marketing topic that gets covered at CMN/CWCL, but this had the benefit of being local (or, for me, local-ish, now that we live in a cornfield) and only took a morning rather than most of a week.

There’s also something I’ve noticed about secular  marketing strategy talks, and it’s a good thing: if you’re marketing secular fiction, you only have to worry about bad reviews.  You don’t have to worry about people mocking you personally for being a person of faith.  I don’t know about you, but I move past my fears better when I have someone who loves at least one thing I do (or three: writing, books, and writing books) giving me a to do list, even if I have to read that list to myself as, “Baby steps get on a bus.  Baby steps get on a bus.

Nicole had some great tips to share, and she’ll be sharing more at the 2016 Annual Winter Writers’ Weekend in Lambertville, NJ.  Maybe you can attend?  Check out her branding, too! Oh, and she has a Philly-based novel coming out next about an old North Broad landmark, the Divine Lorraine.  Look at this cover!

NicoleLoughanDivineHotel

::drool:: Gorgeous stuff. Thanks, Nicole!

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Moar Research

Through SinC, I’ve met a local mystery writer who also happens to be a prosecuting attorney, watched cadaver dogs train (and incidentally got to smell what a cadaver smells like to humans–an unearthly stench unlike any other), met a state trooper who worked on the Johnston Gang murders, found out about ways to connect with readers instead of just writers, and on and on.  If you write in a genre, and you want to enrich your writing, your nearest genre-based writing group can be a bottomless resource for you.

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Moar Humans

There’s a certain danger in being a writer in any faith-based genre, and that’s the danger of wanting to circle the wagons.  In a faith-based writing group, I can really let my hair down. I can talk about the pope as he is and not how the media portrays him.  I can talk about 10KLAD over Chipotle and have nobody bat an eye.  I can relax.  I don’t have to hold my breath and feel the sweat bead on my palms as soon as everybody starts talking politics.  I don’t have to answer the unspoken question, “But you’re not like those Catholics, right?”

However.. Jesus?  Not the wagon-circling type.  If you circle the wagons, though, you won’t ever reach your destination.  The hard thing to remember is that the destination is not the cross, it’s the resurrection.

So I go to a secular writing group as often as my time allows.  My life is enriched by the marketing tips and the research opportunities and the fresh ideas both spawn, but my heart and soul are enriched by getting out of my little Catholic bubble, by having my them-against-us tendencies challenged.  “Them” are just folks, just like me, and in the scheme of eternity, I’m not that much closer to God than anybody else.  I’m reminded once again that, no matter what we believe, not a one of us gets out of this alive, and we’re all in this together.

3 Reasons a Faith Writer Needs a SECULAR Writing Group

Have you found great resources and wonderful people in your secular writing group?  Do you know of any secular writers’ organizations that might be helpful to others?  Or do you need help finding one for your genre?  Comment below, and let’s talk about it!

WORKING MOTHER FREE THRU September 28!

In honor of the World Meeting of Families and the visit of Pope Francis to my hometown of Philadelphia, “Working Mother” is free through Monday.  Working Mother short fiction by Erin McCole Cupp FREE through Sep 28 2015

With her husband disabled and out of work and her child in mortal danger,

a mother must leave her family and find work so they can all survive.

The husband’s name is Joseph. The child’s name is Jesus.

The working mother is Mary.

“When I contemplate the Holy Family, I often wonder about those ‘hidden years’ — the decades left biblically undescribed that laid the foundation for Jesus Christ’s public ministry. In ‘Working Mother,’ Erin McCole Cupp offers us one possible scenario in a story that is emotionally gripping and filled with heart. Based on known biblical precepts, Working Mother contemplates the depths of Mary and Joseph’s ‘yes’ to God’s will for their lives.”  Lisa M. Hendey, author of The Grace of Yes and Founder of CatholicMom.com

“It’s not often that we’re given a look at the Virgin Mary as a real person without somehow finding her diminished. And yet, that’s exactly what McCole Cupp does… It’s not only a delightful read, but one that will increase your appreciation for the Mother of God.”  Sarah Reinhard, Author and Blogger, SnoringScholar.com

“Erin McCole Cupp’s ‘Working Mother’ pulls us into the daily life of the Holy Family.  The story portrays how the Lord creates miracles from the mundane, answering prayers and weaving the tapestry of our lives in the most unpredictable of ways.  I thoroughly enjoyed this novella.  The writing was excellent and the tone was reflective. Prayerfully read, Cupp’s story is edifying.”  AnnMarie Creedon, author of Angela’s Song

“As a working mother, it’s hard to find time to read for enjoyment. …[R]ich with imagery and pulsing with palpable faith, ‘Working Mother’ is not to be missed. You will find yourself seeing through the eyes of Mary only to look back at yourself. If you struggle coming to terms with working outside of the home and living out your vocation as wife and mother, this is a must read.”  Cristina Trinidad, fillingmyprayercloset.com

“Working Mother is an intimate and compelling glimpse into the lives of the Holy Family during their exile in Egypt. Reading WM helped me to understand a bit of the physical and emotional struggles that the Holy Family might have faced in their daily lives. I came away with a greater respect for their strength and a greater empathy for their humanity. Well done!”  Laura Nelson, greenforgod.com

“’Working Mother’ sounds like a modern-day phenomenon… a woman having to step up from family and home to provide for her family and maintain her home. But it was a reality, even in the days of Christ, when it was even harder for a woman to step up to these responsibilities… Erin McCole Cupp weaves a remarkable tale of heroic love that puts a new light on how Mary, the mother of Jesus, is a role-model for women of all ages… not just the mother who toils at home to raise her children, but also the mother who must leave her home to toil in order to provide for her children and her husband. ‘Working Mother’ is a shot of strength and encouragement to many women who take on a responsibility thrust upon them by changing life’s circumstances and fulfill it wholeheartedly. It’s another beautiful example of how Our Blessed Mother does understand us, no matter where we are, and can help us shoulder the burden.” Amy M. Bennett, author of The Black Horse Campground Mysteries

“The Holy Family’s time of exile in Egypt is left to the imaginations of the faithful. Author Erin McCole-Cupp explores the possibility that the Blessed Mother supported her family. This novella is a well-researched depiction of family life at the time of Christ’s birth.”  Barb Szyszkiewicz, franciscanmom.com

“Erin McCole Cupp gives the term “working mother” an unexpected twist in this thought-provoking story. Imagine a different time, a different place, and a familiar figure thrust into a role never imagined. Then stir in sacrificial giving with no guarantees and without a roadmap…” —Leslie Lynch, author of The Appalachian Foothills novels

“Imagine the Holy Family’s journey to Egypt from an inside perspective.  How might Mary have been called upon to be faithful in the details of supporting her family?  How might Joseph have grown in his relationship with God as his son?  Enjoy a refreshing perspective of an ancient journey through vivid details, drawing us closer to God.”  A. K. Frailey, author of The Deliverance Trilogy

“Working Mother” is free through Monday 9/28/15!

{SQT} We interrupt this blogging hiatus to bring you information about POPEADELPHIA! 

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This Ain’t The Lyceum does the 7QT thing.  Make with the clicky.

I wasn’t sure I had much to say about the World Meeting of Families. First of all, we didn’t decide until rather recently to attend WMOF (that’s the convention next week, at which we will NOT see the pope).  Then, even after we decided to go, that decision was made in the midst of starting our homeschooling year—my first year schooling kindergarten and middle school simultaneously.  On top of that, have I mentioned that I’m trying to finish drafting a sequel here?  And lastly… I didn’t think I had anything to say.  Nothing helpful to others.  Nothing that would be anything but navel-gazing.  Seriously, have you seen my navel?  No?  Then give the good Lord a nice, big “Thank You.”

Then this morning, someone on Facebook asked a friend, “What’s so great about Wawa?”

Hold the popephone. I may live on the border of Sheetz country these days, but I spent the bulk of my first thirty years under the warm glow of that golden rectangle emblazoned with the sleek silhouette of a Canada goose. You mean to tell me there are people who don’t know what’s so great about Wawa? 

That is when I realized that I have something to say about next week’s events, something important, even something unique.  I may have left Philly and its suburbs, but Philly and its suburbs certainly never left me.  I, dear reader, have been called.  I have a mission.

I have, my friends, found my WMOF blogging voice.  And thus I bring you…

Visiting Philadelphia during the World Meeting of Families? This post will help you blend in like a local. As long as you take off your nametag, that is.

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Wawa I may not have fresh insights to share about Catholic teaching on family life or why the feminine priesthood is different from the masculine priesthood, but by all the saints in heaven, I do know my Wawa.  For those of you not in the know, Wawa is a convenience store, but such a term does little to convey the glory that is Wawa. Their coffee is good.  Really good.  Most agree better than Sbux. They have all the coffee fixins out for you to work up yourself, so you can doctor yours up just the way you like it.  They also usually have about ten different roasts available at any time, and they’re always fresh, because everyone in the five-county area is always stopping in to pick up a coffee.

WawaLove

Even better is their automated, made-to-order hoagie ordering system, and that’s not just limited to hoagies, either.  You could get three square meals a day plus cheap drinks (hot or cold), plus dessert, all at your Wawa.  I believe the closest to the convention center is their fancy-shmancy new location with tables and seats and everything, so you don’t have to eat your hoagie on the street.  Seriously.  Wawa.

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Reading Terminal Market is really close to the convention center.  As a result, it’s also really crowded whenever there’s a convention in town.  Forewarned is forearmed, but if you can brave the crowds, it will be worth your while.  Whatever kind of food you like, they are pretty much guaranteed to have it.  Known for:  Famous 4th Street Cookie Company (not on 4th street, but their parent, Famous 4th Street Deli is—worth the long walk if you’re up for it), Bassets Ice Cream, and Termini Brothers Bakery (I have waited in line for nearly an hour for one of their cannoli, and I regret nothing).  Our family tradition is to stop for smoothies at Kamal’s.  Second Shift of Kid may be big enough to get her own this year, which means I have nobody to share mine with.  Hmm…

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Chinatown, which is almost as close to the convention center as Reading Terminal, in the blocks just north. Last I’d heard, Philly’s Chinatown is the second largest Asian neighborhood in the US, bigger even than New York’s.  In addition to rubbing elbows with the greatest evangelists of Catholic family life next week, we also are planning a stop for dim sum at Joy Tsin Lau. Back when I was a little less adventurous, my high school friends’ tradition was to stop for roast pork lo mein at Imperial Inn on our way to South Street.  I have been to Imperial Inn in more recent years, but I don’t think they’ve changed their décor since the first day I set foot within its plywood-paneled walls; thankfully, they haven’t changed their recipes, either.  I’ve never been, but Sang Kee comes highly recommended as well. Need something to keep the kids’ mouths busy between the WMOF and your hotel/homestay?  Pick up a little bag of White Rabbit taffy at any of our Chinatown’s ubiquitous grocery stores. You won’t hear from them again until the bag runs out.  And your dentist will love you.

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Our Cathedral, the Cathedral Basilica of Sts Peter and Paul, is probably a good fifteen minute walk from the convention center.  Those of you from other places without Philadelphia’s history may think the place feels like, frankly, a dark tomb when the lights are down.  Take a moment, then, and reflect: the Cathedral was built during a rather dark time in our city’s history.  The Nativist Riots of 1844 were a very real problem, leaving dozens dead and wounded, churches destroyed and peace uneasy.   Catholic churches all over the city (and one convent) were going up in flames after bricks tied with burning rags were thrown through their windows.  Legend has it that St. John Nepomoucene Neumann hired the biggest, toughest Irish stevedores he could find and gave them bricks. He told them to throw the bricks as high as they could.  Then he told the architect to build the windows of the new cathedral just a bit higher than the bricks were thrown.

So if you feel entombed when you visit our cathedral, say a prayer for the souls on either side of the Nativist Riot who lost their lives during those dark days.

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Getting lost in translation: The older I get, the thicker my accent gets, even though I haven’t lived in Philly for nearly a decade.  When I met my husband, I didn’t ask for a bottle of “wooder,” but now I do.  I recently realized that, the older I get, the more tired I am, and speaking with nice, General American Dialect takes more energy than I have to spare.

Sorry. Navel gazing.  Here are a few linguistic tricks to help you when you visit the neighborhood where the WMOF will take place:

  • Market East Station Anyone who says this means Jefferson Station.  If somebody tells you to go to Market East, they mean Jefferson Station.  Nothing against Thomas Jefferson University and Hospital—I used to work there and all—but no amount of money will get us to accept your branding in our everyday speech. Too bad so sad.
  • R-5, R-3, R-1, etc. Those are old names for different SEPTA rail lines.  If you ask someone where to get on a certain train, and they start talking about how the R-3 will take you to West Trenton but not Trenton… just nod, say “Thank you,” and check the SEPTA website.
  • Center City is what most of you people would call the City Center. Philly used to be broken down into a bunch of smaller cities, like New York and its boroughs.  Again, old habits die hard.  The convention center is in Center City.  The Festival of Families and Papal Mass will take place on The Parkway, technically the western end of Center City but considered a neighborhood of its own.
  • The El

Oh you can’t get to heaven

On the Frankford El

‘Cause the Frankford El

Only goes to Frankford.

It’s not just Chicago that has an el. Chicago, however, doesn’t have an el that looks and acts like a subway for 1/3 of its route.  If you’re looking for a faster, less-walking way to get from the convention center to Independence Hall and the touristy stuff in Olde City, somebody might tell you to take the el.  They mean get on the Market Frankford line (which you’ll pick up in the basement of Market East Jefferson Station), head east, and get off at 5th Street.  Head south from there and, voila! History at your feet. Lots of food trucks,too.

As a side note on the language barrier, I present to you the declension of “you.”

The Declension of You: English-to-Philadelphian Translation

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The whole cheesesteak thing: People will tell you not to go to Pat’s or Geno’s or even Jim’s, because that’s tourist food.  Honestly–and nobody I grew up with smack me for saying so–they’re all good.  Tony Luke’s seems to be the hands-down favorite of the natives, but plenty of little hole-in-the-wall neighborhood places have very good cheesesteaks.  If you’re pressed for time, then whachagonnado, unh? Not have a once-in-a-lifetime cheesesteak?  If you only have time to go to Pat’s/Geno’s or Jim’s, don’t hold out for Tony Luke’s and miss out on your only opportunity.

Anyway, wherever you go, the basic rules are as follows:

  • If they’re calling it a “Philly Cheese Steak,” it’s not. You’re liable to get a wad of tough, unscraped beef with a folded, unmelted (::shudder::) piece of swiss cheese on top and something ungodly on the side, like, I dunno, ketchup or sliced pickles. You might even get sesame seeds on your roll.
    The name is a dead giveaway. THIS WILL NOT BE A STEAK SANDWICH!

    That name is a dead giveaway. THIS WILL NOT BE A STEAK SANDWICH!

    Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Back away slowly and eat somewhere else.

  • Find somewhere that has “Steaks” on the menu. You’re in the 215 now, where “steak” and “steaks” are no longer the same thing. The former is best rare and with béarnaise.  The latter is best with Cheez Whiz and mushrooms.
  • Go up to the counter. Tell them you want a steak. As long as you entered a dining establishment that has paper napkins instead of tablecloths, you’ll get the non-bearnaise kind.  Then tell them what kind of cheese you want, the choices usually being “Whiz,” “provolone,” “American,” but check the menu for their options.  Then mention whether or not you want mushrooms.  If the menu offers peppers or other non-onion add-ins, you can ask for those now, too. Finally, tell them if you want it with or without onions by saying either “wit” or “without.”

Example: If you want to order a cheesesteak with provolone and mushrooms but no onions, you say, “Can I have a steak, provolone mushroom without?” “Steak, Whiz wit” is a cheesesteak with onions and Cheez Whiz.  If this is a place that only sells steaks (and not hoagies, pizzas and cheese fries as well), you don’t have to say the word “steak.”   Because, obviously.  “Provolone mushroom without.” “Whiz wit.” “American green peppers and sauce wit.”  And so and so.

  • Pass through the line, get your food, pay when they tell you to, sit down, and enjoy this little preview of the beatific vision. You’re welcome.

Oh, and don’t try ordering anything called a “Philadelphia Steak Sandwich” from your hotel.  That can only go badly.

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Actual Sacred Sites You know how if you grow up somewhere, you don’t do the whole tourist thing?  There are a number of shrines in Philadelphia, all within easy public transportation or cheap cab ride of the convention center, that I’ve just never seen.  The best source I can think of for a better guide to those places than I could ever be would be The Faithful Traveler.  She came to our fair city as a grown-up, and her fresh eyes took in and bring to light all those things that I took for granted and never bothered to go see.  Check out her page if you are getting ready for your trip. If you can’t make it next week, watch the videos and made a virtual pilgrimage. Then, with your fresh eyes, tell me what you see in Philadelphia so I can wonder along with you.

While drinking my Wawa coffee.

Do you have any questions about getting around Philadelphia and enjoying the local culture?  Want to hear more about the WMOF from a native local’s perspective? Ask questions in the comments below! Guaranteed, if I can’t answer you, I know someone who can.