Nancy describes the process of writing Sea Level
Sea Level began as a doctoral project at Boston University School of Theology. I was studying psychology and pastoral counseling and was interested in family systems and church systems and the ways they interweave. How is the church, I wondered, like a family, and how do people’s unresolved family issues play into the church system? The church is a place where people bring their deepest hopes and vulnerabilities, but it can so easily become a place of anger, rage and vicious conflict. What happens to make the minister the target of that anger?
I could research all the theories about these questions or I could write a story. I chose to write a story. Fiction writing, when it is authentic, is an open-ended process, a process of asking questions. If the author already knows all the answers, she might as well write a tract and be done with it. I didn’t know the answers to my questions, so I started Sea Level to explore them.
Sea Level began as a story about a young woman entering her first parish in an isolated community. A well-meaning young woman with high ideals who wants to make her mark, and a group of parishioners “mired in tradition,” to quote one of my reviewers. What would happen to her? to them? And what about this other woman, this radical feminist artist who happened into the mix? I spent a year, an exhilarating and agonizing year, writing my first draft. This first draft of Sea Level was accepted as an arts project for my doctoral degree.
And then I discovered that there was a lot more to fiction writing than I knew. I went back to school, to the Radcliffe Writing Seminars, and embarked on the process of rewriting and revising. Eventually I found kindred spirits at the Resource Center for Women & Ministry in the South and my editor, Danelle McCafferty, both of whom helped immensely in bringing this novel to fruition.