Storyformed

Sarah Clarkson, Storyformed founder

Elizabeth Goudge once wrote that humanity can be roughly divided into three sorts of people by the kinds of comfort they seek; one was those who "take comfort in literature." She's got me pegged since books have helped me to make sense of the world and my own emerging story since I was a tiny child. Three decades of varied exploration haven't changed the fact that it is to a good book I turn when I need to make fresh sense of the world. Words make worlds, they say, and I love the swift and creative way in which a good story can tell us who we are, how we can love or create, and what it looks like to live a good story in our own epic of life in the world. 

Words are most definitely my world, the realm from which I work as a freelance writer, blogger, and current student. My themes of interest always centrer on language, beauty, and imagination, all of which are topics I hope to write about in future. I study theology at Oxford University where I focus on the Incarnation and the role of beauty to reveal truth. I blog at sarahclarkson.com, and am at slow work on a children’s story set in my grand old church here in Oxford. I'm the author of four books and am at delighted work on a fifth called Book Girl, an invitation and guide to the reading life for women, to be released with Tyndale Momentum in 2018. 

I'm the wife of a marvelous Dutchman named Thomas, and very happy resident of the golden-walled and cobble-streeted Oxford. I hope that someone will say of me when I die what William McGreel said of his wife Elizabeth Yates (a writer, of course): "She has plenty of courage, a strong faith, and a native expectancy of good. Living with her is a high adventure." I'm always up for a long, windy walk, a foray into a new corner of England or a country I've never seen, or a cup of tea with a friend (a good flat white always works well too). I'm ever on the hunt for a new novel and I justify my buying of second-hand books by my dream to open a someday community library. I come from a highly opinionated family that values discussion, good books, strong hot drinks, and the thinking up of impossible ventures. I live in a red-doored cottage with church bells for an alarm clock. One of these days it will all go into my novel.

Holly Packiam, Storyformed.com Director

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Because my family valued education, people would often say to me growing up, “Holly, of course you’ll be a teacher.” As a young girl, I imagined myself as Anne of Green Gables teaching a room full of keen children eager to learn. I didn’t realize how prophetic that would be.

Glenn and I met at a Christian college, married, and settled down in Colorado Springs in 2001. Glenn was a worship leader, and I worked in various positions at church. I completed a Masters in counseling, but soon settled into my new role as a mom when Sophia arrived in 2005, followed by Norah in 2006, Jonas in 2009, and Jane in 2012. Motherhood has been stretching, but joyous. I find myself leaning on the Lord every day as I educate our children at home—reading great books, talking about everything, and learning together. As a dreamer, like Anne Shirley, I love the flexibility I have at home to put aside the schedule and stop to smell the roses with my children.

I also love coffee, dark chocolate, reading and writing in the quiet early hours, and long walks in my forested neighborhood full of wildlife. My children have given all our animal friends names, so it’s like a walk through our own magical land of Narnia. I appreciate a wide variety of music and art when I have time to enjoy it, but especially books. I welcome deep discussions, especially with Glenn, who is now pastor of New Life Downtown, a non-denominational church with ancient liturgical elements. We’re both avid readers and book collectors. As my daughter, Norah, says, "Mom you’re addicted to the library!" Our overflowing bookshelves prove her point.

At the heart of me, I’m driven to read and think deeply, learn new things, teach, and write. Every day I ask, “Lord, what do you want me to learn, see, and do today?” I never tire of invigorating conversations with Glenn, my children, and all my thoughtful and engaging friends. That’s why I love what’s happening here at Storyformed. I’m so delighted to be able to extend those kinds of conversations to so many new friends on the internet. We’ll have a feast of discussion about all the books we love in the Packiam home, and that you all love in your homes. I hope you will join me on this journey of discovering the soul-forming power of story for seeing the goodness, truth, and beauty of God.

Jaime Showmaker, Storyformed.com Contributor

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I'm almost certain that I am a reader because of my grandmother. She was an avid lover of books and stories, and some of my earliest memories are of being enveloped in her lap between her iced coffee and the latest mystery novel she was reading. Her house was full of books and I would run my fingers along the spines of every one, longing for the day when I could take them down off of the shelf and read them all for myself. When I was finally old enough to read, I couldn't get enough. My parents would often find their shy, quiet, little dreamer girl curled up on her bed, lost in the latest book series or popular novel. Unfortunately, somehow, I missed reading most of the beloved classics in children's literature, but I am grateful that the books I did read captivated me and created a love of story that has endured. I delighted in the way that books transported me to new and exciting worlds and I longed to live in each one of them.

Not much has changed since then. I can still almost always be found curled up somewhere with a book, but these days I am usually negotiating which one of my three boys gets the prime space in the center of my lap. Will (7), Eli (5), and Zach (3) are the focus of much of my reading life these days, as we explore together all of the beautiful books that I loved (and missed) as a child. Inspired by Alcott's Plumfield, my husband Eric and I educate our pack of "little men" at home in the beautiful foothills of North Carolina.  Although I am not technically using the education and religion degrees that I earned, my days are still focused on teaching and discipling, even if it is just for our little class of three. In addition to reading, the boys and I can often be found roughhousing underneath the dozens of oak trees on our property, taking nature walks, and looking for “Glory”, our resident Cardinal friend.

I am still a dreamer at heart. I love contemplating ideas and discussing them with other people, preferably over good food with lots of laughter. Since I am a night owl, you can usually catch me up late--thinking, reading, writing, and eating chocolate. And since I do love chocolate, I also enjoy working out.  I love being challenged and learning new things. Over the past several years, I have become passionate about children's literature and the way that it forms children in the most profound ways.  I have enjoyed discussing the True, Good, and Beautiful that can be found in books with my online book club and blogging at the book club's supporting blog, and now I am thrilled to be able to continue those discussions with the Storyformed community.

Episode #30: Q & A and an Announcement

In this Storyformed episode, Holly Packiam and Jaime Showmaker answer listener questions and make a special announcement. 

Topics include:

  • Cultivating imagination without it leading to violence and aggression;

  • Book recommendations for young boys;

  • Picture books suggestions with themes of courage and bravery;

  • Favorite audio books for kids ages 3-5; and

  • Book recommendations for new readers

Episode #29: Using Stories to Enhance Summer Experiences

Do you want to travel more with your kids, but realize this may not be a likely reality in your near future? Or maybe you are traveling soon and want to enhance your experience through reading books about the place or culture. Today on the podcast, Holly Packiam and Jaime Showmaker share about their summer plans and give book recommendations to aid you in transporting you and your kids to other countries, the beach, woodlands and many other places and locations. 

Topics include:

  • The value in taking advantage of more space in summer to read

  • Ways to travel to nearby or faraway places through books

  • How to create summer booklists with your kids

  • Book recommendations

Episode #28: Cultivating Your Child's Imagination

Do you sometimes wish your child had more of an imagination? Do you wonder what steps to take to help cultivate an imagination in your kids? Today on the podcast, Holly Packiam and Jaime Showmaker talk about why imagination matters in life and faith, drawing from the stories of inventors, authors, and even their own experiences with their kids. 

Topics include:

  • How imagination inspires creativity

  • How imagination leads to a life with God

  • Ways to cultivate imagination in our kids' lives

  • How to create space for imagination in our children

  • Book recommendations

Episode #27: Why Do Goodness, Truth, and Beauty Matter?

Do you ever hear people rattle off the words, 'goodness, truth, and beauty', and wonder what they are talking about? We mention this triad of words from time to time on the Storyformed podcast, but don't often take the time to discuss what we really mean when we say them. So, today I had the opportunity to interview philosophy professor Adam Pelser about this topic!

Adam received his Ph.d from Baylor University where he studied under Bob Roberts, a renown Christian philosopher. Adam is a currently a philosophy professor at the Air Force Academy where he teaches Ethics, Philosophy of Religion, Philosophy of Love, and even a course on C.S. Lewis and Philosophy. He writes on emotions and virtue formation and he is currently writing a book on Emotional Evidence for God where he explains how we can see God with the "eyes of our heart." You can connect with Adam on Facebook and Twitter (@AdamCPelser) and at his website - adampelser.com.  

Topics Include:

  • The value of understanding goodness, truth, and beauty as Christian virtues

  • How goodness, truth, and beauty show up in everyday life

  • How goodness, truth and beauty reveal themselves in stories

  • Book recommendations

Episode #26: Stories From the Farm

In this episode, Holly Packiam talks with her husband, Glenn Packiam, and their daughter, Sophia Packiam about farm life. Glenn shares his first experience of going to the farm, and Sophia talks about what visiting the farm has meant for her childhood. Holly discusses how reading Wendell Berry helped realize the gift she was given by growing up on a farm and having a poet-farmer for a father. Sophia contributes to the conversation by talking about the various farm stories and books set on farms that she’s read and what she’s gained from them.

Topics Include:

  • How farm life can teach us to see beauty in the ordinary and to have patience and persistence through difficulty;

  • What Sophia would tell young people who find farm stories uninteresting;

  • Why reading farm stories are not about nostalgia or idealizing a certain way of life, but rather about learning a new perspective and gaining new virtues.