Saturday, March 31, 2007

Now Accepting "Bloginations"

I'd like to update my "link list" to include all those who have websites or blogs that they would like to "link" to the Silent Canticle site. If you would like your site (or know of other excellent sites that you would like me to consider), please send me the link. I have just a few requirements:

1. Writer/creator must be a Catholic woman (couples or family sites OK, too).
2. Must be 100% faithful to the Church, both in what they themselves post and what they permit to be posted in terms of third-party reviews etc.
3. Extra points for a link to the "Canticle" site ( and "Silent Canticle" blog ( or
4. When you send your link, be sure to include a way to contact the original writer/creator in case I have any questions. (Goes without saying, I hope, we need the permission of the blogger in order to post the link.)


Friday, March 30, 2007


One of the most satisfying perks of parenting is being able to share the unforgettable images you first experienced as a child with your own brood. Sometimes, if you're really fortunate, you can even feel the full force of that imagery for the first time, as I did a few days ago reading Eric Carle's Dragons, Dragons to Christopher. I had never heard of some of these creatures: rocs that feed on elephants (and will surely turn up at my next Scrabble match), kappas that steal bellybuttons while you're sleeping, or the manticore "dragon behind and man before." The one that caught my imagination most vividly, however, was one with which I was at least distantly acquainted: the Pegasus. There walk among us right now those with heavy hearts; I found out my mother-in-law just lost her last living sibling yesterday. This poem makes me think of her.

He could not be captured,
He could not be bought,
His running was rhythm,
His standing was thought;
With one eye on sorrow
And one eye on mirth,
He galloped in heaven
And gambolled on earth

And only the poet
With wings to his brain
Can mount him and ride him
Without any rein,
The stallion of heaven,
The steed of the skies,
The horse of the singer
Who sings as he flies.
Eleanor Farjeon

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Canticle News

Well, this may be my last chance to post before Catholic Connection on Thursday at 9:30 a.m., so I thought I'd take a moment to put together a quick "hello" to welcome those who are logging on to this site for the first time, in response to hearing about us on the radio. Didn't get a chance to listen in? Catch the show in the CC archives ... here's the link!

Welcome ... and hello!

(If you're listening now, and trying to remember what number to call to get on the air with us, here it is: 877-573-7825.) Thanks in advance to all you wonderful readers and contributers who made a point of supporting me in my half-hour of need.

OK, were you intrigued by my description of Canticle, but wanting a little more information?
Would you like to know what a "canticle" is? Click here. Want to check out a sample copy of the magazine? Here's the link. Would you like to see our writer's guidelines? Our theme list? OK ... now that you've seen all that, are you ready to order? Good, I thought so ... here's the link for that.

As I'm sure I said on the radio (I'm typing this ahead of time, but I feel this so strongly I can't imagine not saying this), Canticle is the best magazine for faithful, thoughtful Catholic women on the market today. And the reason for that is simple: our writers. Whether married or religious, widowed or otherwise unmarried, they write deeply, profoundly, and fearlessly. They are seasoned women of faith who have faced everything from infertility to eating disorders to disorderly husbands to debilitating diseases to the untimely deaths of loved ones to their own mortality ... all with grace. And though I will never become rich at the work I do, my life has been immeasurably enriched because of it ... and for that I have you to thank, my friends.

Today I also want to say a special thank you to Lisa Hendey of, who continues to be an inspiration and support to me personally and professionally, and who was kind enough to promote the show on her blog and website. Thanks, Lisa! And thanks to all you CM ladies who continue to write for Canticle!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Shouts and Whispers

Yesterday I checked into moving our little blog into the "St. Blog" community (thought it might be nice to put it in a Catholic-based network, where like-minded people would be more likely to find it). I was also drawn by the assertion that the product itself was supposed to be better ... and perhaps it is. And yet, I'm pretty sure I'm happier with the current blog setup -- what do you think?

Here's the link to the "new and improved" Silent Canticle.

Lee Anderson, the guy who runs St.Blogs, has been so very nice. He even moved the files over for me (as much as possible). Do any of you have experience with St. Blogs? Do you think I should persevere in this direction?

Now for the "SHOUT". I was DELIGHTED to find that one of our contributing writers, Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur, has been listed as a columnist at Catholic Exchange (one of two women columnists). Patrice has been doing so much excellent work at "Canticle," I was absolutely thrilled to see her name getting this kind of exposure on CE. Congratulations, Pat.

Incidentally, if any of you have other milestones you'd like to share with your other "Canticle sisters" (you wouldn't be bragging since technically I'd be doing the posting), please pass them on to me. The task of a writer can be a thankless one at times ... A gentle pat on the back is always a good thing.

Under the Mercy...

Friday, March 16, 2007

Sacramentum Caritatis ... Morsels for the Soul

This morning I began to read the Holy Father's new encyclical, and was struck by a passage that immediately brought to mind those moments I stood, motionless, outside that church in Southern California ...

Each of us has an innate and irrepressible desire for ultimate and definitive truth. The Lord Jesus, "the way, and the truth, and the life" (Jn 14:6), speaks to our thirsting, pilgrim hearts, our hearts yearning for the source of life, our hearts longing for truth. (par 1)

Every time I talk with someone who has left the Church ... for whatever reason ... or who has gone through RCIA and decided not to move forward into full communion, I always ask the same question:

"But what about the Eucharist? How do you expect your soul to live forever without the Body and Blood of Christ living within you? And where else can you receive that, except in the Catholic Church? Oh, please come back. It's not too late!"

In this encyclical, the Holy Father reminds us what a treasure we have ... and while I think you should go and read the whole thing in its entirety (here's the link) ... especially now, in the season of Lent, I wanted to offer a few of my favorite "tidbits" from Part I to inspire you.

Under the Mercy...

"Jesus is the lodestar of human freedom: without him, freedom loses its focus, for without the knowledge of truth, freedom becomes debased, alienated and reduced to empty caprice. With him, freedom finds itself." (1, quoting from his own Address to Participants in the Plenary Assembly of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on 10 February 2006)

Faith and the sacraments are two complementary aspects of ecclesial life. Awakened by the preaching of God's word, faith is nourished and grows in the grace-filled encounter with the Risen Lord which takes place in the sacraments: "faith is expressed in the rite, while the rite reinforces and strengthens faith." (6, quoting Propositio 16).

We too should therefore exclaim with Saint Augustine: "If you see love, you see the Trinity" (8, quoting De Trinitate, VIII, 8, 12: CCL 50, 287).

Relationship between penitence and indulgences. The practice of indulgences, which involves not only the doctrine of Christ's infinite merits, but also that of the communion of the saints, reminds us "how closely we are united to each other in Christ ... and how the supernatural life of each can help others." (18-19, Paul VI, Apostolic Constitution Indulgentiarum Doctrina (1 January 1967), Norms, No. 1: AAS 59, 1967).

Relationship between baptism, Eucharist, and marriage. Baptism, the entry into the People of God, is a nuptial mystery; it is so to speak the nuptial bath which precedes the wedding feast, the Eucharist." (85)

The Eucharist inexhaustibly strengthens the indissoluble unity and love of every Christian marriage. By the power of the sacrament, the marriage bond is intrinsically linked to the eucharistic unity of Christ the Bridegroom and his Bride, the Church (27, cf. Eph 5:31-32).

On divorce and remarriage. The Synod of Bishops confirmed the Church's practice, based on Sacred Scripture (cf. Mk 10:2- 12), of not admitting the divorced and remarried to the sacraments, since their state and their condition of life objectively contradict the loving union of Christ and the Church signified and made present in the Eucharist. Yet the divorced and remarried continue to belong to the Church, which accompanies them with special concern and encourages them to live as fully as possible the Christian life through regular participation at Mass, albeit without receiving communion, listening to the word of God, eucharistic adoration, prayer, participation in the life of the community, honest dialogue with a priest or spiritual director, dedication to the life of charity, works of penance, and commitment to the education of their children. (29)

Saturday, March 10, 2007

And now ... MAGAZINE queries!

Now … For those of you who would like to know how to write a good Canticle query letter...

The other day I received this query via e-mail that was so good, I just had to share it with the group (with the author’s permission, of course ... Thanks, Katy!). I was so inspired that I not only asked her to write about St. Edith for the August/September issue … I also asked her to adapt one of her three writing samples for an upcoming issue!

What makes this such a good letter? Well, for starters she incorporated many of the points I included in my “Seven Second Test” post: She demonstrated a familiarity with Canticle (and had read the writer’s guidelines and theme list as well as the blog, and knew the magazine well enough to understand our devotion to Edith Stein). She listed and supported her credentials, gave me ALL her contact information (address, phone, e-mail), gave me several angles from which to choose – and promised to have it all on my desk by the time my deadline rolled around. WOW!

Without further ado … Thanks, Katy; you made my day!

Dear Mrs. Saxton,

First of all, thanks for your blog "Heidi's Hotline" and for the opportunity to submit queries in this way. I just found it this past week, so I hope you're still looking for the kind of articles on the saints that you asked for last month!

I love how C. S. Lewis turned an old line of poetry on its head. Instead of "Be good, sweet maid, and let who can be clever," he encouraged women and men to "be good ... and don't forget this means being as clever as you can." How much more, then, do I love how St. Edith Stein (Teresa Benedicta of the Cross) lived cleverness as one of many ways of being good. She turns our distinctions between types of virtue on their heads. Both intellectual and intuitive, active and contemplative, Stein provides a profound model for women in every vocation. In her academic life, she embodied the life of the Church as teacher; in her prayer life, she embodied the life of the Church as mother; in her martyrdom, she embodied both, like Mary, by following Christ to the very end of His road.

The Church remembers Stein's life on earth and her entry into new life on August 9. So I see two possible routes for this piece: For your July/August issue about the Universal Church, I could write about how Stein's variety of virtues provides an all-around model for women and how we can imitate this model practically. Or, for your September/October school-themed issue, I'd like to write a reflection specifically on how Stein both describes in her writing and models in her life the feminine life of the mind for us. Though not all of us may be philosophers of her rank, we are all called to be "as clever as we can."

How can women stay intellectually nourished, yet receptive and simple, in a world so complex and active? Stein's thought provides what seems like a complex answer, but one that is, at the heart, simple. Let us be authentic and actively receptive. Let us build on the way He created us, not try to reconstruct it. Let us let God feed our intellects; let us hunger not for words so much as for the Word. In short, let us follow Him to the end of the road.

If an article along these lines sounds good to you, from whatever angle, I can have it on your desk by March 31. If you have other saints in mind (or anything else!), I'm also open to receiving assignments. Attached, please find a couple of my writing samples from the National Catholic Register and one from the online magazine Dappled Things, for which I'm an assistant editor. Please let me know your decision as soon as you're able. Thanks for your time.

In Christ,Katy Carl

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Can Your Query Pass the Seven-Second Test?

Before I became editor at Canticle, I worked primarily as a book editor -- most recently as senior editor at Servant Publications (before it was sold to SAMP). However, I've found some significant overlaps in the two markets -- and one of those is the importance of a good query letter.

A few years ago, I gave a talk at the Mount Hermon Writer's Conference called "Can Your Query Letter Pass the Seven Second Test?" It was picked up by Writer's Digest. For your reading pleasure, I'm going to place it here in hopes that it might inspire you!

Can Your Query Letter Pass the Seven-Second Test?
Seven pointers to help you catapult from the slush pile

In the Christian publishing industry, there are three facts about book buyers that marketing types have bandied about for years:

1. Women 35-60 years of age make 70-80% of all book purchases.
2. About two-thirds of those purchases are gifts for someone else.
3. It takes 7-12 seconds (on average) for her to decide whether to purchase a book once she sees it on a store shelf.

Studies show that her decision is largely based on author recognition, title appeal (remember, most books are displayed spine-side out), and cover design. If those three things hit what the industry refers to as a “felt need,” she will then look at the back cover summary, endorsements, table of contents, and interior design.

Perhaps not surprisingly, 7-12 seconds is also the average time it takes most editors to decide (on a slow day) about a query letter that passes their desk from the slush pile. If you overlook the details, you will spill far more ink in your “pitches” than in your actual publishings. See if you can spot ten of the most common mistakes in the following, based on an actual query letter (I kid you not) that once landed in my in-box.

XYZ Christian Publishing House
37 Big Bucks Circle
York, NY 10038

Two Whom It May Concern:

Did you know that Jesus went to the Martians before he came to save us? It’s true, because my Aunt Mabel was visited by one of these born-again Martians. He wasn’t “Left Behind…” He was “Sent Ahead.” This book will convince you, guaranteed. I’m enclosing a picture of Aunt Mabel. The Martian wouldn’t stand still for the photograph.

I would like Christian Brother’s Publishing to publish this book that God and my Aunt Mabel told me to write. It’s called “Aunt Molly and the Martian.” There is nothing like this on the market. Aunt Mabel says the style is just like Jeanette Oake, except that this story is completely true. It is 450,000 words long (Martians like to talk a lot). I will call you next week to find out the best way to get this EXCELLENT book into your hands.

My husband was just laid off from the plant again, and that is why God told me to send this to you. He said you’d pay me BIG BUCKS. $10,000 ought to get us
through the end of the year. Our 12 kids really go through the groceries.

Yours sinserly

OK, time’s up. How many did you spot? (The answers can be found at the end of this article.) All ten? Good for you! Now, while you’re still feeling like a winner, here are seven pointers to help you move from the slush pile to the top of the editor’s “present to the committee” list!

1. Title. This is potentially the most important element of the query, especially for non-fiction. Should address a “felt need” and express it in a way that is fresh and unique. Beware focusing on what the reader “should” do or think. Benefit to reader should hit them between the eyes. Subtitle should drive it home, and clue the editor in to the intended audience of the book.

Good: Experiencing God
Not So Good: 101 Things You Gotta Do If You’re a Christian

2. Packaging. Your query letter is a reflection of your professional abilities.

Good: Names specific (and correct) editor, and demonstrates a thorough understanding of the publisher’s market niche. Confident, but not demanding.

Not So Good: Is full of typos, hyperbole, or cliché. Demonstrates a lack of research about the publishing company to which it has been submitted.

3. Summary (Query Par 1). Can you describe the essence of your book in a way that highlights both its felt need and uniqueness, in three sentences or less? If not, back to the drawing board! A well-crafted summary paragraph is the mark of a professional writer.

4. Market Considerations (Query Par 2). Never, ever claim, “There is nothing like this on the market.” That sentence alone is enough to make many editors stop reading, even if the idea itself has merit. Do your homework. Read those trade catalogs. Haunt your local bookstores. Search and other virtual bookstores. How is yours better or more marketable? What other similar titles have been doing well? What has the publisher done recently that makes you think your idea is a good “fit” with their mission and market?

5. About the Author (Query Par 3). One of the most recurring phrases in publishing today is “author platform.” A platform is what the author brings to the table that will assist the publisher in getting the word out about the proposed book. Do you have contacts in the media who would be able to help? Can you get a series of articles in key magazines, to draw attention? Have you been published successfully before? Do you have a newsletter, website, professional association, or other means to spread the word? The more you can do, the greater your chances of being published. This is not the time to be modest. Sell yourself!

6. Network Magic. This is the part of the author paragraph where you demonstrate your ability to market yourself within the industry. Do you attend writer’s conferences, and (even more importantly) do you know the editor to whom you are submitting this proposal? Remind her of the meeting, and demonstrate that you learned something from the encounter. “I appreciate your taking the time with me at CBA last year to talk about your needs. I remember that you were looking for devotionals for young adults. Perhaps this could be a good fit for your house. If so, let me know how soon you’d need the rest of the manuscript, and I will do my best to meet your schedule.”

Perhaps you have never met the editor, but you know (and have discussed your idea) with another author that this house publishes. Say so, but only if the author will both remember you and be willing to put in a good word, should the editor decide to push it that far. The publishing industry (like many industries) is about relationships. Anything that you can do to build your network, both within the industry and as part of your platform, is worth investing your time and resources. My first three book contracts were for compilations, given to me because an editor was willing to give me a break in the business. If you can’t actually get a job in a publishing house, get to know those who have!

7. Your Secret Weapon: Page Two. No, I’m not talking about money, scented teabags, or other bribes (although a little chocolate never hurt anyone). A standard query letter is one page long, single-spaced. However, if you really believe that you have done your homework and that the editor is going to go nuts over your query letter, you might risk adding a second sheet. This second page would contain the proposed chapter titles, to give the editor a sense of how the book would be structured. This only works if

· The chapter titles are insightful, provocative, and/or witty.

· The editor caught a vision for the project by the end of the first page.

· The second page is necessary to demonstrate how your idea really is different from the other books on the subject.

· The second page is as professional and intriguing as the first one.

In preparation for giving a talk at a writer’s conference last spring, I asked editors from nine different publishing houses the three most important things a writer can do to increase his or her chances of getting published. These seven tips came up one or more times on each of their lists. That means if your query letter does all these things, you may have a winner on your hands.

Errors in sample letter:

1. Address the person in the company who will receive your proposal. That person is generally not the publisher, but an editor.

2. After reading the first line of the letter, the editor will know this writer is an amateur. First, the writer did not research the name of the editor who should have received it. Second, she did not proofread the letter, and a competing publisher’s name appears on the first line (evidence that this is a simple form letter, another no-no). Always proof your letters carefully.

3. If you’re going to name-drop, it’s probably best not to use God’s or a relative’s (unless your uncle happens to be Matthew Kelly, and even then only after he has actually read it and is willing to recommend it). Neither is generally considered an industry “expert.”

4. The author shows bad judgment by sending this proposal to a conservative Christian publishing house (rather than, say, a house that specializes in sci-fi).

5. Starting a query letter with a provocative question is good. Starting it with a question that is offensive or delusional is not. Again, bad judgment.

6. Keep your query letter clean and clear of any unnecessary attachments. That includes photographs. (Although a photo of the Martian might have wound up on the office bulletin board, it wouldn’t have gotten this author published.)

7. For heaven’s sake, if you’re going to name drop, at least spell it properly. It’s Janette Oke.

8. Even if this were a good book, 450000 words is too much text. This is probably a typo – another no-no. (There’s another typo at the end, too.)

9. Never call an editor if you’ve never worked with her before, unless she specifically asks you to (this is not always true with magazine editors, but I still prefer e-mail to phone because it leaves an electronic "paper trail"). E-mail, if you simply must follow up, is best.

10. Never mention money, either in reference to an advance or for any other reason, in the initial query. Let the editor bring it up at the appropriate time.

Heidi Hess Saxton has ten years experience in the publishing industry, most recently as senior editor of Servant Publications. She has published five books, including With Mary in Prayer (Loyola) and Touched by Kindness (Servant). Her most recent book, Raising Up Mommy: Heavenly Virtues for Difficult Mothering Moments, is being published by Simon Peter Press. For more information about Heidi, go to

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Talk about NOISE!

This morning I attended Teresa Tomeo's booksigning at Our Lady of Grace Bookstore in Ann Arbor for Noise! How our Media-Saturated Culture Dominates Lives and Dismantles Families (Ascension Press).
For more than twenty years, Teresa has been an insider in secular and religious media alike. In this book she exposes the dangers of today's media swarm, and how we can best protect our kids and ourselves.
You can order her book here.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Bloomin' Seeds o' Faith: First Canticle Writer's Contest

Funny thing happened today. As I was preparing a special mailing to a few institutions I think would benefit from a subscription to "Canticle," I debated whether to print the sample article I intended to send with the cover letter in color (which would make the better impression) or black-and-white (which was significantly cheaper).
It was tempting to go the cheaper route, as I was financing this effort myself. But then I thought, "What impression will this make? What is going to get the results? How much faith do I have that God is going to bless this effort?"
And so I bit the bullet and went full-color. It's Lent ... nobody is going to notice if we eat beans and rice all week! Timidly I held up the envelopes for God to see before I stuffed them in the mailbox. "Lord, I offer this to you, and ask that You take these little seeds of faith and make them bloom for Your Kingdom..." Outwardly I exuded confidence as I stuffed the envelopes in the box; inwardly I wondered if I had just wasted $50.
Imagine my surprise when I arrived at the mailbox that afternoon and found a check from one of my clients ... money I'd forgotten they owed me, representing SEVEN times my small investment. I had to laugh. And then I smiled, reminded of the little ditty I learned from my mother, who was a great believer in these kinds of "seedling" prayers...
Have you ever talked to God above,
told him that you need a friend to love? ...
Pray in Jesus name believing that God answers prayer.
Have you told him all your cares and woes,
every tiny little fear he knows.
You can always run to him and he will answer prayer!
OK... Now it's your turn! Send me a little story about a "seedling prayer," an unexpected divine response to a tiny act of faith. Writer of winning entry will receive $50 and have her entry printed in Canticle (300-500 words) -- both in print and online! Deadline is April 10 at 12 midnight. Send to All entries become property of Canticle Magazine and LHLA, Int'l. Judges' decision is final.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

"Rubber" e-mail?

I've had a couple of people complain that their e-mails to me are bouncing. Please be sure you have the following e-ddress: Some people have been using, and that is incorrect.


Canticle -- By Any Other Name...

When I first joined the team as the editor of Canticle, about eighteen months ago, we discussed the possibility of changing the name of the magazine. Some of us liked the name "Caritas" (after the pope's new encyclical); others wanted a name that was more identifiably a women's magazine (e.g. "Women of Grace"). To be honest, I was eager to see the name changed ... It seemed anachronistic, out of touch with the mainstream (I actually had to look up "canticle" to see what it meant). I thought we could do better.

For a variety of reasons ... most of which had to do with the perceived branding power of the existing magazine ... it was finally decided not to change the name, after all. At first I rolled my eyes ... but then, as I thought about it more, I realized it wasn't a bad decision.

A "canticle," you see, is simply a holy love song -- a poem or refrain based on a portion of Scripture not found in the Psalms. The Magnificat is one such example ... also the mystical poetry contained in the Song of Songs, with its idealized imagery of human love, a sustained metaphor for the nuptial love of Christ the Bridegroom for His Bride (the Church or, according to St. Bernard, the individual soul). Traditionally the Song is applied in a particular way to the Blessed Virgin Mary. For those of you who haven't cracked open that particular book of Scripture in a while, the first stanza reads ...

Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth!
More delightful is your love than wine!
Your name spoken is a spreading perfume --
that is why the maidens love you.

Draw me! --
We will follow you eagerly!
Bring me, O King, to your chambers.
(SoS 1:1-4)

A holy love song ... isn't that what all of life is to be for us? When at the end of my life, God and I review what I did with my time on earth, my most fervent prayer is that He would take those discordant notes and mistimed opportunities and somehow turn them into something that makes the angels sing.
"Canticle." It's got a ring to it ... don't you think?
Under the Mercy.