Tuesday, April 8, 2008

The Shack in the Tennessean

This is a Copy of the article, I copied and pasted from article printed in the Tennessean not altered or changed-

April 3, 2008www.tennessean.com

Novel about God hits a chord in Nashville areaSelf-publishing turns rejected manuscript into a big sellerBy BOB SMIETANAStaff Writer
When Liz Logan saw a copy of the best-selling novel The Shack lying on a table at the Starbucks in Franklin she couldn't help but gush.
"Have you started it yet?" she asked William Paul Young, who was sitting with the book at his elbow. "I love it. Everyone at my church is reading it."
Young paused, took a sip of his Chai tea, and then smiled before replying, "I wrote it.''
With a scream, the woman bounded from her chair and gave Young a hug. "I can't believe it," she said. "Thank you, thank you, thank you."
Logan was hugging a publishing phenomenon.
He self-published The Shack after no publisher would touch it, and it held Amazon.com's No. 1 spot in fiction for weeks. The book he wrote for his children has now sold close to 400,000 copies. Churches buy his book by the box load and fans flock to hear him speak.
All this for a parable in which God is depicted as an overweight, African-American woman who is constantly at the stove cooking.
"I'm being asked to speak to thousands of people, and I am as dumb as I was last year," said the 53-year old Young, who until recent weeks had a job as an office manager that also included cleaning toilets at a small sales company in Oregon.
No longer. Not since The Shack turned the head of the publishing world with its startling success.
"When a self-published book is printed, it's not big news," said Lynn Garrett, senior religion editor for Publisher's Weekly. "When a self-published book sells 300,000 copies, it's big news.''
Young was in Nashville this week as part of a speaking tour that had already brought him to Malaysia, Orlando and Atlanta.
In tracing the history of the book, Young said he wrote it for his children, at the urging of his wife, Kim, and printed a few spiral bound copies to give as gifts during Christmas 2005. He also e-mailed copies to a few friends, who, in turn, e-mailed their friends and soon Young was hearing from readers around the country.
He also sent a copy to an acquaintance, California author Wayne Jacobsen, who helped convince Young to pitch the book to publishers.
There were no takers. Only a string of rejections.
"They didn't know what to do with it," Jacobsen said. "I always thought the book would sell. I was surprised that no one else could see it. Now they have all called and want to take it over."
So, in the wake of the publishing house rejections, Young, Jacobsen, and another friend, Brad Cummings, started a company called Windblown Media to print and sell the book. Their advertising budget was $300.
Their faith in the project changed Young's life and touched thousands of others.
"I know we can't keep it in stock,'' said Erik Hearn, store manager of the Nashville Lifeway Christian Store, which has sold about 275 copies.
A note from God
The Shack tells the story of Mack Phillips, a 50-something father who has been haunted by "The Great Sadness," a depression that set in after his 5-year-old daughter, Missy, is killed.
In the book, Phillips gets a note in the mail from God, inviting him to spend the weekend in the shack where Missy was murdered. Over the weekend, Phillips meets face-to-face with the Trinity, and together, they hash out their differences.
Young said much of the book is autobiographical. He grew up the child of missionaries in New Guinea and said he was taught that God would take care of him if he was a faithful servant. But Young's life was haunted by heartache. Young says other kids molested him as a child, an experience he hid from his family for years.
Then, in his 20s, death began to stalk Young's family. During a six-month period, his younger brother died in a truck accident, Kim's mother dropped dead at 55, and his niece Jennifer was killed on the day after her fifth birthday. Jennifer was out riding her new bike when she was run over by a cement truck.
Young said that for years he carried his grief over the deaths, along with the shame of being abused, and tried to be a model Christian. He said he failed miserably and couldn't escape his past, but he was able to use those experiences in the book.
"The shack is a metaphor. It's the place where you get stuck," he said. "It's the a place you keep your secrets. We don't go back there willingly."
One of the keys to finding healing, for Young and for his fictional counterpart, was to realize that the God of the Bible was no stranger to sorrow.
In The Shack, God the Father, nicknamed "Papa," appears in the form of a large, African American woman who likes funk music and, at the end of the book, as an elderly man with a goatee and ponytail. Jesus is a Middle Eastern man, while the Holy Spirit appears as a young Asian woman. Papa spends most of her time cooking as she talks with Mack, and teases Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
Garrett says that the parable format can account for some of The Shack's success.
"People would rather read a story than straight theology," she said.
Jim Sterling, executive pastor of Grace Chapel in Leiper's Fork, says The Shack has brought theology to life. The church has bought copies of the book "by the caseload," selling them in the congregation's bookstore and giving many copies away.
"And we've never stood up in the pulpit and said, 'This is a great book.' Instead, it's spread one person at time," said Jim Sterling, the church's executive pastor.
Success helps family
While he relishes the chance to talk about The Shack, Young said he isn't taking his newfound celebrity too seriously.
"All I wanted to do was write a book for my kids," he said. "The rest is grace. I feel like I am on The Truman Show and keep looking for the cameras."
And if he ever got a big head, Kim would keep him in line.
"We're supposed to be celebrities now," she says. "Now that's weird."
Still, the Youngs are enjoying at least a little bit of the book's success. Just before Young started on The Shack, they lost their home to foreclosure, and spent several years living with four of their six children in a 900-square-foot rental. "It's nice to know that we can pay the bills," Kim Young said.

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