I don’t really know where this book came from.
I’ll tell you what I know.
In the spring of 2008 I wrote a short story for a Theology and Literature seminar at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta. The seminar was taught by Dr. David Pacini, with the assistance of Dr. Stacia Brown, now Pelletier, a successful novelist in her own right.
While looking for a story idea, I remembered an interview that Krista Tippet of NPR had conducted with the late Dr. Jaroslav Pelikan, a famous theologian who converted to Easter Orthodoxy late in his life. They spoke about Dr. Pelikan’s collection of creeds from many different belief systems.
One of the interesting creeds that Pelikan highlighted was the Maasai creed. Nineteenth century missionaries had written a version of the Apostles’ creed that was ‘translated’ into the Maasai world.
You can see a transcript of the interview here, and the full text of the creed here.
I wrote the story, from the first person, of a Maasai boy, a little cattle herder, who lost his way, metaphorically speaking, and stole a goat from a neighboring village. From there on, his life went from bad to worse, and he ended up in jail in the big city, Dar es Salaam. In prison, the regional parole officer, Captain Ndulu, calls him a baboon. But he also gives him the Maasai creed. the protagonist uses the Creed to clear up the muck and start “seeing” into his own mind again, where the spark of God lives.
A couple of years later, around 2010, I started tinkering with the story to prepare it for inclusion in a bundle I wanted to publish. I got inspired, and when I looked up, I was at 1,700 words. I thought Ok, it’s definitely not a short short story anymore. But there was more to do: some pre-shadowing—just setting things up nicely to give more impact to this final words of the story. That took me to 28,000 words.
I don’t recall much of writing the eighteen or nineteen thousand words that pushed me over the boundary from story to novelette to novel. That part is still a bit of a mystery.
The last phase was laborious crafting, using Scrivener and Aeon Timeline.
Finally I started self-editing—writing and fixing and writing and fixing—until one day I couldn’t take it no more and sent it off to my editor, ready or not.
I guess in that respect my book is like poetry—a good poem is never completed; it is abandoned in despair.