Faith and Courage

by Francisco Stork on January 1, 2018

These past few months I have been working on faith and courage. For faith and courage are both gifts of grace and qualities of being that we construct. Like one day going outside to your backyard and finding the wood, the hammer, nails, the saw. Where did they come from? Who put them there? Regardless of the answer to these questions, the message from the materials is irrefutable: Build. Some time is needed, before commencing a new work, to build the faith and courage that will carry me through. I am going to start on a novel that follows Emiliano and Sara from where I left them in Disappeared. The preparation for this new work has been internal – building inside of me the faith and courage for the task. Gradually I construct the vessel of faith and courage. I ask the two questions that Annie Dillard says are asked by the book to be written: Can this book be done and can I do it? The first question needs to bring risk otherwise I have not yet found the book that I must write. If the answer to “can it be done” is an easy yes then I am not there yet – not yet reached the depths of truth where lies the book that only I can write. If it’s an easy yes, I am still too much on the surface of what the world wants and not yet reached the risky depths of that place of what the world needs and only I can give. So in a way courage comes first and it also comes last. Or better yet, faith and courage are only two separate realities here where words are needed but in my heart they are one. It takes courage to find the book that calls for my all and it takes faith to know that this is what I must do. And then it takes courage/faith to do it, to keep at it patiently through the days and months that lie ahead. Faith is not so much a confidence, although there is that. Faith is more like an inevitability and a certainty that despite the risks of failure nothing else but what I set out to do will do. It is not so much a reliance on my abilities as the certainty that what is needed will come at the right time. Why? Because I am answering a deep call that asks for much and my response and my faithfulness to what is being asked is all that is needed for life and light to do their part. But how do you build faith and courage, the elements needed for the work? What is my part with the boards and nails and tools? A lot of the building consists of waiting. A kind of waiting with a certain alertness – as if you were spending the night in the desert where you knew rattlesnakes liked to crawl. I wait and with wary attention watch the doubts that slither through my mind. Will the book be liked? I watch various plot lines and characters and search for the uniqueness that can only come from me, from what I have lived, from the truths that have revealed themselves to me through pain and joy.  I know I reach some truth worth holding on to when I hear a small rattle of fear. That’s the signal that must be followed. Now, faith/courage comes like a seed and then a tender shoot that must be protected. I don’t know how to offer this fragile life protection without creating some kind of barrier. If I could carry faith/courage into the market place without concern that it would be destroyed or harmed, I would. Maybe some day. But now, all I have is hands to keep the noisy winds away. Solitude and isolation in some healthy measure is the best that I can do. I must be in the world but not of the world, as best as is humanly possible for me. A good monk goes into the seclusion of the monastery not to hide but to find. So I protect faith/courage for the sake of giving. I say no for a while, a gentle, gracious no, because I am responding with all the faith and courage I can muster to a yes. Faith/courage begins in love and ends in love.

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by Francisco Stork on July 3, 2017

Figuring out the inspirational origins of a novel is usually a difficult process for me. Multiple images, memories, ideas and emotions come together at different times to form the work’s initial vision. This was not the case with Disappeared (published September, 2017) where two seemingly disparate events coalesced in my heart and imagination with unusual clarity. The first consisted of the disappearance of hundreds of women in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. Young women, typically between the ages of fourteen to twenty-two, are kidnapped from downtown streets and are either never seen again or their mutilated and sexually abused bodies are found some time later.  Mexico’s own National Human Rights Commission estimates that 4,500 young women disappeared from 1993 to 2004.

Who knows why of all the suffering in the world some of it touches us more deeply, more personally? Maybe the crisis of the Desaparecidas affected me because my memories of Juárez.  When I was nine-years-old and my adoptive father sought to bring our family to the United States, we lived in Juárez for a year while my mother waited for her visa to be approved. And even after moving to El Paso, we never really left Juárez. We moved back forth naturally and freely between the two cities, the two countries, hardly noticing the legal border that separated them. We bought our groceries, went out for lunch and dinner, got haircuts, visited doctors and dentists, repaired our cars, in Mexico. When I got to high school, I learned to appreciate my Mexican heritage even more in the festive and welcoming Juárez bars only two miles from my house in El Paso.

The other event that inspired Disappeared was the recent presidential campaign. That’s when I saw the anger of many people in this nation against Latino immigrants. It was hard not to feel included in the spreading rage despite assurances that the anger was not ethnically-motivated, but simply the desire for tougher enforcement of our immigration laws. I didn’t know what to do with my own anger and sadness. That’s when the memory of the missing Juárez women came to me. I felt that the best thing I could do was to write a book about two young Mexicans, a brother and a sister, who are admirable in many ways, while continuing to be fully human. Sara is a budding journalist in Juárez investigating the disappearance of the young women. Emiliano is a soccer star, an enterprising high school student with his own arts and crafts business who is determined to make it big in Mexico. They each must confront dangerous situations at home which force them to make hard moral choices, including the decision to cross into Texas desert for the freedom and safety offered by the United States.

Disappeared helped me grow as a writer and as a person. Creating a suspenseful, fast-paced story from the perspective of two different characters challenged me as a writer in a fun and meaningful way. But I think that it was in trying to respond to hatred creatively, with all the love I could muster, where I grew the most. My hope is that Disappeared will do something similar for you, its reader.

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A Secret Place

May 30, 2017

When I retired a little over two years I go, I intended to make this site more a reflection of a true journal. I meant to write here more frequently in the open and free and unconscious manner that I write in the private journal where I write every day. But I found it impossible […]

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