On Book Deals | My Own: A Non-Fiction Genie Project

Literary agent Weronika Janczuk’s THE PERSON PROJECT: A GUIDE TO THE HUMAN PERSON, an overview of the human person, his/her nature, and his/her development, featuring memoir, visual elements, resources, and worksheets, to guide young adults into their full potential, to Amy Einhorn at St. Martin’s, in a major deal, in a seven-figure deal, in a three-book deal, for publication in fall 2020, by Lynn Nesbit at Janklow & Nesbit (NA).

  1. This is a dream come true.
  2. I adore Amy. She tested me, hard and true, and we came out on top together.
  3. I never expected my first project to be a non-fiction one, but if I have my way with Anne Groell at Del Rey, Lynn jumping in, I’ll have a forthcoming novel announcement also–for an adult debut–and a YA debut with Arthur A. Levine, who first loved me, a long time ago, when he published three novels that changed me forevermore. Another story, for another time.
  4. Hard work pays off, so much that it is sheer joy to walk away with funds to invest and to cause due good. Write–to write with love, and to change people, and to cause experience. I cause it, because it has been caused to me, and I have let it shape all of me. Ten years after a solid whipping in the ass from Sara J. Henry, author of LEARNING TO SWIM, who told me “more experience” and “more affect; you need to heal,” I now have two treasures. I may never write again.
  5. Of course I will agent. I agent to write, and write to better agent, on all fronts.

On Writing About Human Sexuality

Just note: This post is not intended to discriminate. It is designed to prompt hard questions about objective + subjective realities.

I just spent a wonderful weekend south of Nashville, for another Writing Day Workshop (see notes/resources from these workshops here), and amid other questions considered this weekend, I sat with the question of ‘how to write on/about human sexuality.’

It’s an extended question, that deserves and requires a very extended treatment–hundreds of dissertations, or perhaps just one, very comprehensive one, could be written on this question.

A few theoretical places and definitions to propose (debatable, but I like these as first principles, given the way they help ground content on the page, as writers write, as readers read):

  1. Sex = physical characteristics, as given in DNA, neural patterns, reproductive endocrinology & anatomy, etc.; with rare exceptions, biologically sexed as man or woman, distinguished by distinct, comprehensive, integrated sets of the physical characteristics noted here
    1. Some people might deny the value or validity of the sexual as given by the physical, but advances in neural patterns, neuro-plasticity, and endocrinology (see an article on this question here; I’m drawing on strictly peer-reviewed research in endocrinology) alike make it more and more difficult to deny the reality of physical form this way understood. Women have a particular set of reproductive organs that men do not; women experience hormonal abnormalities in a way that men do not (i.e., painful periods). Experience and observation testify to much here.
  2. Gender = interior experience of the person who is sexed (emotional/affective, spiritual experiences; intellectual mode or filter through which these experienced are received/understood/vetted)
    1. Some people might deny the value of gender, or the possibility of an interior experience of femininity or masculinity (if we understood those to be interior correspondents to the physical form given in bodily realities; say a woman experiences an interior disposition to maternity in her heart, in part because her body is ordered to it–a theoretical mind model here, for the sake of integrity in the way these two realities operate with one another). I’d say experience and observation testify against the denial of the value of a category like ‘gender,’ given that all language around ‘sexuality and/or/versus gender’ arises because of a disrupt in exterior and interior experiences, which suggests that all people have these experiences interiorly or have the potential for them.

In one way, given the definition above, it could be said that every single person has a sex and a gender, but that the vast majority of persons experience their sex and gender as one, and that this then makes, for some people, the category of gender irrelevant or incomprehensible (in part because they do not study or are not aware of their own experiences); the interiority of gender (subjective) is mapped onto the exteriority of sex (objective), and/or vice-versa.

In persons with a diversity of experiences on the LGBTQ spectrum, for example, as a set of categories that have objectively developed in a particular way over time, note that there is always an account, in one form or another, of a divergence between sex and gender, as if they were competing with one another. (It might very well be the case that they are competing with one another, but it is not sufficient to ever assume an answer to this question. I acknowledge the reality of the experience for all sexual beings–all sexual experiences.)

Here are some thoughts, assuming that we adopt the pre-requisite definitions above. Let me note here that the very structure of my questions suggests, in me, the fundamental belief that there are actual, objective answers to every question, that can be tested against the structure of the body, the structure of the intellect, the structure of the affect, and the structure of the integral in us.

There is, therefore, in me, never room for a ‘relativistic’ or one-dimensional answer–to write a relativistic or one-dimensional answer is to not do the work to understand what integrity and actuality look like in the human person, it is to neglect the structure of the human body and person, and it is to deny observation and experience.

People always come from somewhere; there are always things that happen to us; there are always things that we do to ourselves and to others; and there are always, without question, answers to many–if not–most questions about the why and how in us, in others, so long as we do the work to test all frameworks, all sources, against experience, and against what we know from within experience may be complete or incomplete in us.

Some questions, for writers, as a general framework:

  1. How is sexuality given to us, physically? What does our sexuality look like in us, actually, physically? Do we or do we not have a particular physical build that determines the way we live and function, every day?
  2. How is sexuality experienced in us? How is gender experienced in us?
  3. How are the notions of these questions formed in us, intellectually?
  4. How are the notions of these questions formed in us, emotionally?
  5. How are the notions of these questions formed in us, spiritually?
  6. How are the notions of these questions formed in us, physically?
  7. How should they be formed? What happens if they are not formed? What happens if they are misformed?
  8. How does any form of intellectual, emotional, spiritual, or physical trauma affect the human body and experience?

I am always a proponent of formation in integral, healthy sexuality, understood here as a union of these dimensions, ordered to the true integrity in relationship; where there is not integrity in the sexual experience, it is difficult to justify integral persons involved sexually.

(In other words, we as persons cause the particular form or structure of our sexual experiences. So how and why are we how and what we are? And how and why are our sexual experiences what they are?)

I am, thus, essentially, a proponent of an honesty before experience, and so it is that writers have the fundamental responsibility to shape their characters’ sexualities and sexual experiences substantially, so that they–and, ideally, their characters–know the answers to these questions. I think it is important, for example, to treat of abuse, and rape, and otherwise in fiction and non-fiction (how does a rape victim experience their sexuality? how does a woman identify a narcissist from a non-narcissist? how do abuse and neglect change what we understand to be normal about love?–see the book Authentic Love for key answers to these questions).

We call it ‘rape’ and ‘abuse’ because it is non-normative, or non-healthy (in other words, we identify them because they are objectively not what we intend, or are objectively different from what we see and want). We want to identify it as such, and thus want the tools to identify it in us, in our real lives, and around us; I think it important that good non-fiction and formation put all of these things into really healthy, integral context. On the other side of the spectrum, we need a grasp of what fiction is versus what it isn’t, as a tool for learning and grasping reality; just because someone rapes in a novel doesn’t make rape itself good, but it is worthy–given that rape occurs–to have some form of understanding how and why it comes to be, and what it can do to a life. (Let’s be real: for me, fiction, non-fiction, and hardcore research in peer-reviewed academic journals, on different questions, from endocrinology, to empathy, to militarization, have been the fundamental sourcing for answers to the basic question: ‘What is reality? What am I?’)

It might be said (something like this): I want my child to never rape, and never be raped; I also want my child to love the victim of rape, and to know that rape is not the victim’s fault, and to be able to say to someone who may be a victim, of rape, abuse, sex trafficking, or otherwise: ‘Are you okay? Can someone help you?’ It might be asked: What do you have to do to get your child there? I’d say: read fiction, and put fiction into context; read good non-fiction, and use this non-fiction as your context.

It is dangerous to perpetuate an answer to questions of sex, gender, and sexual experience, whatever those answer may be, if there isn’t some form of a cause–an answer to the question, Why?–underlying the reality before us: in us, in others; in our characters, of all diverse kinds, with the fundamental understanding that they are all human persons, and human persons worthy of respect. I caution against including sexuality in a visceral or explicit way within novels without a clear, true grasp of the answers to this question–only because one might perpetuate a sort of ignorance about things, or a version of those things that isn’t actually true to the vast majority of others’ experiences, or to the way that the structure of the person gives rise to healthy sexual realities, and more.

Some thoughts. Learn to look for causes, and ask hard questions; learn to make your characters four-dimensional, so that they are real, unique, and true, inside and out, to what they are, the way we must also be, as characters in the novel that is our own personal life. The key difference–fiction is imagined, and about real life, whereas real life is just real; this is real life.

For some novels, read: Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon (fantastic, and integral in terms of the portrayal of human sexuality, as distinct from marriage itself, in many, many ways; extended conversations to be had), and watch the show; The Notebook, by Nicholas Sparks (also integral portrayals of integral sexuality, as distinct from marriage itself; a separate, extended conversation), and watch the movie; and Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson, as well as Forbidden, by Tabitha Suzuma (portrayals of the effects of abuse, or strange dynamics relationally, and their impact). Also watch something like A Walk to Remember, to see something of questions of healthy sexuality and formation explored.

Whereas some may find these kinds of books or treatments inappropriate or unethical, I’d say those persons conflate their own sexual triggers with the sexual reality as portrayed, integrally; the degree to which there is a sort of ‘ethical’ or ‘moral’ participation in this content is fundamentally contingent upon the human person, who is the ethical or moral agent, if morality or ethics exist at all.

The potential problem exists at the level of, say, hard pornography–significant abuse of the sexual integrity of all persons involved, and a perpetuation of an enjoyment of that form of disintegrity in the watcher, if s/he enjoys it. One can watch a clip of pornography and be completely unmoved by it; one can watch it, and make it a stimulation toward violence–the problem lies at the level of the human person who is watcher, and if we agree pornography to be harmful, definitely at the level of the maker–but integral portrayals of sexuality are not pornography, for they do not perpetuate a disordered sexuality.

The primary question, though: Is to what extent is a visual portrayal essential at all? Where there is healthy sexuality, in formation and activity alike, it could be said, one does not need portrayals of sexuality at all; sexuality is self-explanatory, unto itself. Why do person seek after it? For formation and/or to satisfy emotional/attachment needs, in part, even if they never know that to be the case–and so what are we doing as a culture to form our own grasp of sexuality?

Be careful to never traumatize a child to feel guilty about their curiosity or interest; these are healthy responses to sexuality, I’d say, fundamentally, given that we are sexual beings–curiosity or interest is never the problem. The problem is potentially in the way natural curiosity or interest is formed and then manifested in actions, and herein begins a conversation about integral sexuality, whether one can ever bear one, how one comes to be, and why one should or should not seek one out.

When it comes to kidlit especially, be ready to give children real answers, to serious questions; never, ever traumatize a child for seeing something real–and for wondering about what it is, and how it came to be, and for seeking after it, to try it, to taste it, and to know it, inside out, if you have not explained it to them, for them, for now and unto the rest of their life.

See my “The Person Project” post for some more context, about these thoughts.

If one were to ask, how does one attain a healthy sexuality? There may be different ways to understand it, but I’d define it as a sexual integrity across all of these dimensions.

Some quick thoughts, to attain:

  1. Identify emotional realities. (See the PDF in the link above.)
  2. Heal unformed emotional realities & attachment needs. (^)
  3. Form one’s self in sexual realities. (^)
  4. Seek after the highest and most integral realities. (^)

The hardest? #1-2. Almost always.

On Publishing as a Form of Value Investment

value investment (n): a form of investment in which those who invest select companies’ stocks or other forms of financial receptacles that are either undervalued objectively on the market or have a yet-undiscovered or yet-unactivated potential, both relative to the potential as understood by investors

Value fund managers look for companies that have fallen out of favor but still have good fundamentals. The value group may also include stocks of new companies that have yet to be recognized by investors. (from this post on Merrill’s website)

As an example:

Say you have a human person who identifies a need, and then the mind model or conceptualization for the product that can meet the need.

I’ll share one company which I follow on Twitter, to which I gave a shout-out, given that great thriller or speculative writers might find something very interesting for themselves in this company’s work, if their plot development depends in any shape or form on cool IT or tech developments that have never been treated before in fiction: Axon produces technology to help protect the lives of police officers and others working within the public safety realm. (Check out the video on this page. Isn’t this the coolest?)

Using Axon as a purely theoretical example–I do not know the details of Axon’s own strategic planning or history, in terms of conceptualization-to-patent-to-product-development–this can be said: Before someone thought about the time that it takes a police officer to identify a person who observed a crime, to taking notes in an interview, to transcribing those notes for their own chief, to then moving on the transcription–a product did not exist that could aide police officers in saving this time.

Then someone figured the genius idea out, and then Axon moved on the concrete product development, and then it had to launch its own public stocks, and then people had to identify those stocks, and then invest in them. Before these stocks took on some form of public urgency, though–and certainly before the product was ever developed–the value of the product and thus of the stock was undervalued; by value, here, we mean its financial weight relative to other stocks on the market (it’s valued less than it ought to be, given the definition above). A good value investor, in doing his/her research, will identify products of this kind.

Find the newest, coolest need; respond to it; invest in it; and then watch your investment return significantly greater funds than investment in a product that meets a need that isn’t really a need.

Besides this form of dynamic financial value, measured at the level of the stock, there is also the value of the product or company understood in its human or aesthetic sense–the value met, in a personal way, of a product developed and used. It’s an interesting matrix, to think about both the value of the stock as it is, financially, and also the value of the product in human terms.

A long time ago, during my undergrad, I took a course in international development, and one of the questions treated in the course was micro-financing. I was fascinated, also, given that it made sense–both on paper and in experience, given huge case studies abroad–for an investor to pay $250 for a sewing machine, and give a woman a sewing machine, so that with apt sewing skills, she could maximize the value of the $250 over time with the development and sale of her own products (and the investment serving as a sort of guarantor of that kind of value-maximization over time), than to just give her $250.

Shocking, isn’t it, what a basic “mind model” distinction between pure funds and product value, in one form or another contingent on funds, can do to investors–as well as to the creation and maintenance of healthy infrastructure, over time?

If you think about it, book publishing is sort of like this–or could be like this, if writers, agents, editors, publishers, and investors in the book publishing realm thought about their own work with this kind of an acute sensibility and analysis of the kind of product being pitched. This applies, in a particular way, to non-fiction, especially non-fiction that is built and ordered toward the development and maintenance of longevity in infrastructure–a good book about tobacco as a public health concern will aide federal and state governments in responding to these public health concerns in actuality, beyond the theory about the issue and the theory about the necessary public health response contained within the book.

The book is both a product of theory as it is a product that opens up a demand–an undervalued need, say, before the book is published–among readers across the world.

One way to think about agenting on the non-fiction end is this: A primary underlying task involves sifting through huge quantities of research of diverse kinds (financial, creative, regional, personal, and more) to place the highest-quality products, unique in their content, before publishing houses for purchase, given the model above. The research is key to finding holes in published products. Why has the whole planet, for example, never published a book about some of the world’s most key, individual historical icons? You might be surprised about the depravity in biographies.

I, for example, with regards to the development of proposals from the ground up for non-fiction books, help academics sift through large quantities of data and their own research to shape an argument for popular/trade publication (think your big five publishing houses: Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster, etc.). Buy this, because it is genius, and it needs to be published; it fits a need, and it creates an experience, and it moves readers over time to remain committed to a product and an imprint, to an idea and to a conversation.

[Read: At its heart, agenting and publishing in this way is a project of ‘long-term, value-only investment’ applied to a different form of creative work. I spend time with ‘companies’ (books) to place before ‘analysts’ (editors, publishers) to maximize authors’ returns (royalties, post-advance earnout) over time. Fun, isn’t it–what it does to the mind?]

So much more could be said, but this is one of the reasons why I came back to book publishing. Really good books, fiction and non-fiction both, have a huge potential to save the world–good fiction aides culture, creates minds and hearts in a vision of humanity and the good; genius non-fiction helps us understand the structures we create and adopt, and helps us also run a thousand miles in the direction of change that brings true joy, and freedom, collaboration and acute responses, and moves those with minds and hearts for good conversation into those exact conversations.

I’ll leave these musings here.

“The Person Project”: A PDF That May Pose Hard Questions

Dear Beloved Readers,

I am fully aware that, if you put my name into Google, you will find quite a breadth of resources and links and articles and posts–over hundreds of different territories–about my life, including my work in agenting as well as my work in different contexts.

There is nothing that I desire to hide about any of it, even if some of it may require being put into context–especially given that we come to understand those things we do, and the ways in which we engage in them, in our own way. For me, my understanding of everything that I do has been shaped infinitely by a fundamental commitment to unconditional love, a radical preference for the other, and a radical preference for self-sacrifice.

One post that you might stumble upon in your research is this one, for a project that I designed and taught, this past April, at the Catholic Information Center in Washington, D.C. The project was called “The Person Project,” and it was styled after my undergrad degree.

I spoke about it to an agent friend of mine at a conference earlier this spring, and wanted to put this out there, so that there’s context to what I have done, who I am, and the disposition that I bring to the work I’m doing in book publishing today.

This is not an evangelical post, if we understand ‘evangelical’ to mean an imposition upon you of some kind of principle, or a movement toward an ideology. I define ‘ideology’ here as some kind of disproportionate or self-selected vision of the world, one that doesn’t fully correspond with the way and rules by which it’s structured, and in which it operates and unfolds; in other words, the adapting of some kind of a premise or truth that doesn’t actually show up in the world unless we imagine it, or force it to be there, because we want it to be.

I also think ideology arises when people aren’t honest about the content of their own experience, and those dimensions of experience that could be integrated, healed, or directed to a different end or content. For example, if you have anxiety, why not this question: Is anxiety all there is? And that’s it.

That’s all I do. I ask hard questions, and I look for answers that fit.

My work, therefore, is not evangelical work, if understood in the way above. Whether you profess a faith or not, whether you profess mine or not, I love you, and I respect you, and I appreciate your experience, and I want to know you and to understand you; to know you and understand your experience. If you don’t make sense, though, then you and I will have a bit of a pickle–and I’ll ask more hard questions; I prefer thought that fits, and thought that coheres what it itself professes, especially on the non-fiction end.

There is no writer, no agent, no editor, no publisher, or otherwise in this business who should be afraid that I would impose upon you a reality that you yourself have not chosen.

Ultimately, therefore, this is a post that is designed to prompt questions–and to share some new ideas–not with the intent of imposing, or ‘converting’; it is certainly not a post designed to judge, discriminate, or to condemn, because in this heart of mine there is no movement of this kind and never has been. It is a heart that loves your experience as it is, and is prompted only to ask, Can there be more? Do you have everything that you need and desire? Have you ever tried this experience, and is the pursuit of a new kind of experience something that might change your life forevermore? It might be worth it.

I was raised Catholic, by Polish Catholic parents; Poland is a country deeply Catholic at heart, and so it was a deeply cultural reality (in addition to being a deeply theological one), with Poland’s different political, social, and cultural movements informed by its profession of faith in a god: God, the Other, a trinity/unity of three persons, ‘person’ understood as a ‘phenomenon of relativity.’ In other words, to be person is to stand in relationship; to have relationship as something at the core of your very being, and that this relationship is a necessity for you and your life.

When I was an undergraduate in college, I had the privilege of taking an independent study course on the human person, from the perspective of the Catholic Church. Prior to then, I–despite being Catholic–did not know that there was a huge trajectory of philosophical, theological, and psychological content that underlies this understanding of the human person and human life, as well as the Church’s understanding of human potential.

To be a saint, as the Church understands it, is to love much. I fell in love with this concept, and to this day remain utterly fascinated with it: I want to love much. I want to love you, and to love you much. My heart is that you be fully provided for, and that I be present fully to you. I want to not come to you with any preconceived notion of who you are, or how or why you are the way you are; I want to be able to ask questions, and not offend you, and promise a lack of offense about any kind of question which you yourself might want to pose me.

I want to make sure that you are healthy, and integrated and whole, and happy. I want to make sure that you are spontaneous, and that nothing binds you, impairs you, or imprisons you; I want to see you free of guilt and shame, which are two realities inside of us that bind, impair, and imprison us, among others.

I, as I mention in my bio, reject any and all discrimination; I also reject any and all ideas that are proposed without a deep, thorough examination of their rationality and their consequence upon the person, with his/her experience.

Knowing that there are contentious questions that are always prompted, I will say simply this: When it comes to questions of trauma; sexuality and gender; abortion, euthanasia, etc.; and otherwise, I am beyond persuaded that persons’ experiences of these items and the related actions they take are so complex, and diverse, that there is no easy way to articulate their ‘structure’ universally (from where this action comes, how it’s taken, the degree to which one is conscious of it and a volitional participant in it). The structure of the experience in context of any of the specific actions taken is vital to determining the ethical value of that action, taken on behalf of any individual person.

Pre-requisite to any action is the inherent goodness of our person (which takes a particular kind of experience to fully know, and to internalize–modern psychology gives us this evidence, showing that without affection and tenderness, human beings wither), and I would agree with the fundamental position of Karol Wojtyla, later Pope John Paul II, who argued that we become who we are as ethical agents through the choices we make/actions we take. We make ourselves, in some sense, who and what we are. If, then, there is any reason to think that any of the actions related to the phenomena above decrease love, integrity, unity, and a healthy, spontaneous participation in relationship, I would say there is grounds, right there, to start asking hard questions.

Over the years, I’ve done my research–across dozens of different religions, different experiences, different ways of experiencing reality, of different positions on the nature of ‘virtue’ (which I have come to understand as nothing more fundamental or interesting or difficult than actions that create and maintain in us the experience of unity), of different positions on ethical questions and issues, and more, and I’ve come to a place in which, tested by intellect/reason and experience and choice, I have come to personally prefer a whole series of positions on these questions, and I wanted to share them with you.

I trust you to respect me for these positions, if you were to consider them. I consider every position that comes my way, ask where it comes from, and “mind model” it into a logic model, as best I can.

I prefer them because I have tested them by experience, and they have crystallized my mind–I have experienced a greater clarity over my mind, my choices, my commitments, my friendships; they have taken away fear; they have prompted and opened me to generosity and love, in a freedom and a self-possession that I did not know was possible.

Here’s the PDF with resources.

All of the content within the PDF is mine, unless otherwise noted (in other words, the overview/outline, the annotations, and the overview of the resources are all written by me; the excerpts from Attachments, the spiritual theology manual, and the Heart of the Father ministry resources were generated by those cited). It was a project I launched in a former workplace, but never completed there, given that its design and implementation was rooted in my own degree and experience; I now house it on my own.

Read the PDF this way:

+ In the outline for the content, which I taught from memory, you’ll find this: The Church teaches that there is a structure to all things, and a cause for all things. All things come to be because of something else, and thus we are and become causes for things we bring into existence–including our books.

+ In the excerpt from the book on attachments, you’ll find this: The degree to which we have been loved informs the degree to which we have an easy time being in relationship with other human beings, and the degree to which we have an easy time in relationship informs the degree to which we have an easy time in romantic relationships and marriage, especially.

The degree to which we have an easy time in these relationships is the degree to which we have an easy time raising our kids, and if we cause things, then the way we are as parents informs the way we create/form/shape our children. I owe my love of my life to my mother and my father, and my mother in a special way, given her radical and heroic peace during years of ovarian cancer; she testified that a peace that surpasses understanding was possible, and I have sought it and love it and know it and prefer it.

+ In the account of ‘sin’ from the spiritual theology manual (which can sound like it’s judgmental and condemning, when at its foundation, it is a reflection on a spectrum of different kinds of experiences as understood by saints of the Church), you’ll find this: The promise of an experience of deep prayer that is formative and creative, received and deepened over time; a form of prayer that leaves an impact. I know this kind of prayer by experience.

+ In the account of different lies or forms of spiritual bondage (which can sound a bit dramatic, but is not, if you know people who are deeply wounded–and/or if, in thinking about it, you acknowledge that you have had or even now have something of this interior experience), you’ll find this: An account of people’s experiences, this way understood; these kinds of experiences manifested, in some kind of bondage, or denial, or pain, or otherwise, about which the Church would say, to your heart and mind, This is not everything there is; there is more, and you can be free.

+ In the booklist, you’ll find this: An account of my own understanding of reality, in simplified form, which has proven true to my intellect/reason, to my will and the choices I have made, and to my entire life, with all its experience and its desire for integrity, because integrity gives me peace, makes me happy, perfects love, and gives me an energy that is unceasing–I love the life I have led, and I have lived it with no regrets.

+ In the resources, you’ll find this: A list of resources for different kinds of healing; know that some of these ministries are contingent upon what Christians may call the charismatic or spiritual gifts. This offers an interesting set of experiential testimonies; I know the fruitfulness by experience, also.

I don’t need you to ‘convert.’ I just ask that, if you have some free time, you take a look at some of the books. I love The Religious Sense, and I love Theology and Sanity, and I love I Want to See God and I Am a Daughter of the Church, and you might just be surprised to find something much more intelligent, and clever, and broadly-minded in Catholicism than you might expect.

Note also that I offer this as a post to any of you who have been damaged by the ideology that persons who profess a faith, be it Catholic or not, sometimes create and induce in the lives of human people; they say they believe, but they do not, and they say that they love, but they do not, and they say that they will be unconditional before you, but they are not. They dismiss testimonies of experience, and they dismiss their own experience; they dismiss their own limitations. I would go so far as to say that deep prayer, over years, imprints in me the experience of total, actual, easy unconditionality, and the lack of any kind of emotional or other trigger before others.

“There are not one hundred people in the United States who hate The Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they wrongly perceive the Catholic Church to be.”

Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen (1895-1979)

Fiction, of every kind, has opened my entire life to each of you–to the life and imagination of my clients, and to my favorite authors, and to authors whom I have a hard time internalizing, all at the same time–and so while I partake in fiction, also, I offer here this more extended list of non-fiction loved and internalized over the years, to add to that list of non-fiction for which I am seeking actively: anything that starts a conversation, and anything that really challenges you, as everything that I have ever read and preferred has challenged me.

With all my love,


P.S. This is partially inspired by the work of Rachel Wahl, PhD, on receptive learning during political crisis:

Drawing on Charles Taylor’s conception of the primacy of moral identity and his assertion that ideals can be best understood through the study of how people enact them, Wahl argues here that some aspects of the secular liberal imaginary can hinder noninstrumental engagement, but that such engagement may be precisely what is needed to bridge the deepest divides.

P.P.S. I also would encourage reading something like Love Thy Neighbour (Convergent/Penguin Random House, 2019), a beautiful testimony from a Muslim medical doctor about his own profession of faith, in small-town MN. Derek, its editor, recommended it to me weeks ago, over coffee, as a testimony worth hearing.

Meet W.’s Clients: Rob Arnold

Rob Arnold

Watch an introduction to Rob published on the website of the National Institute of Standards & Technology (NIST), an arm of the U.S. Department of Commerce, here.

Find Rob Online

Website | Twitter

Meet Rob

City/State or Province: North Carolina, USA

Birthday (MM/DD): The day after Christmas

Describe your writing and how you came to work with Weronika: I was referred to Weronika by another of her clients.

Favorite TV show: Stranger Things

Favorite book of the year: Origin by Dan Brown (yeah, I’m 2 years behind)

If I could have dinner with anyone (dead or alive, fictional or historical), it would be: Jesus, preferably with Buddha. Mohamed and a Hindu prophet so we can sort out some stuff that seems to be vexing us all.

If I were to hang a quote or an art piece above my fireplace, it would be: “DarnArnolds,” since it already hangs there, and it’s a mashup of the last names Darnell and Arnold, which are my fiancée’s last name and my last name, respectively.  It is how we refer to our blended family: “The DarnArnolds.” The kids, her two boys and my two girls, love it.

Three things to ask me about: Cybersecurity, Wealth Management, Spiritual Exploration

Most interesting idea I’ve encountered in the past three years: The confluence of cybersecurity and geopolitics.

Learn More About Rob’s Work

How did I get into the discipline within which I am working? Or: What is the particular body of personal experience from which I am drawing or about which I am writing?

I am an old-school technologist. I taught myself to program at age 14 so I could write and play video games.

I then spent nearly two decades as an executive IT consultant where cybersecurity was just part of the gig. A decade ago my ex-wife passed away and I became the sole part to a pair of young daughters. 

While making them my primary focus, I returned to graduate school to get a Master’s Certificate in cybersecurity (because I thought, Yeah, that’s going to be big soon). I’ve since become very well-known as an expert in my field of cyber risk management both at home and abroad.

If I had to teach a core principle to a group of elementary school students, what would I teach? How would I teach it?

Topic: Encryption. Method: Visual cryptography that doesn’t require computer, but can be done by mixing light and shadow.

Say I am asked to give a lecture about my area of expertise. Podium or no? Hand mic or clip-on mic? PowerPoint presentation or no?

My absolute favorite is a free-form Q&A. No podium, clip-on mic, no presentation. I cannot do a PhD level dive in to every cybersecurity subject, but I can field any question that the average business executive might ask about cybersecurity.

If I can point to a writer whose research or writing or otherwise has inspired me to pursue my own work, it is…

Malcom Gladwell. That guy has a great knack for making obscure concepts approachable and entertaining. And he does is succinctly.

Describe the most important lesson you’ve learned from another human person in undergoing your work.

Joe. The professor that reviewed my first manuscript. Unlike everyone else that said it was great, Joe told me it totally sucked and told me why.  I tore it up and started over. Lessons learned: Look for the reviewer that won’t sugar coat and be willing to destroy your own work at the 11th hour.