Influencers-E. B. White

Elaine Baldwin | elainehbaldwin

I know most serious writers know E. B. White as the author of “Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style.” I didn’t know this until three years ago when I decided to take writing seriously. But I did know Mr. White as the author of two of my favorite children’s books: “Charlotte’s Web” and “Stuart Little.”

In fact “Charlotte’s Web” was the first book I ever read that was not required reading. Then I read it again; still not required reading. And then when I had my own kids and they were assigned to read this classic book, I read it again…still not required.

Okay, I confess. I still love children’s books. In fact I appreciate them more now than when I was a kid. My childhood delight had no concept of the grueling hours of writing, editing and slashing that took place to put Charlotte into my hands. I just knew I was transported from my big city bedroom to Zuckerman’s Farm where I could talk to pigs and geese and spiders. And that’s all I needed to know.

This is the high ideal of every storyteller. We consider our job well done if the reader gives no thought to details of how the book got into their hands and simply find themselves escorted to a world far far away.

But, as we know not every book accomplishes this ideal. Why? What will get in the way of our reader getting wonderfully lost in our story?

Sloppy style, shallow characters and saggy plots are all potholes readers get tired of navigating. Eventually they will put the book down and leave the world of make believe behind.

E. B. White knew this.  That’s why I keep “Strunk and White, The Elements of Style” close at hand; right next to my copy of “Charlotte’s Web.”

What do you keep close by?


Influencers-Oswald Chambers

Elaine Baldwin | @elainehbaldwin

This is Oswald Chambers. He was born July 24, 1874 in Aberdeen, Scotland and died in Egypt on November 15, 1917. That was one year before my mother was born; very surreal.

Mr. Chambers was a minister and he was also an artist and musician. He wrote only three books in his lifetime and he was not widely known. This gives me hope, I trust not in arrogance, that my feeble attempts to shout God’s grace and mercy for any who will listen will not be limited to my span of time on this earth.

I hope in this because unknown to Oswald Chambers, his classic work, “My Utmost for His Highest,” was used by God to shout His grace and mercy into my battered and broken soul.

My copy of “My Utmost for His Highest” was given to us (hubby and me) as a wedding gift 32 years ago. It was in its 54th printing. The original copyright is 1935, but the book was first published in England in 1927. It was his wife, Biddy Chambers (Gertrude Hobbs) who summarized his talks from her extensive shorthand notes. The inscription placed in the book reads, “To the students of the Bible Training College.”

I remember trying to read this timeless book in our first year of marriage. I didn’t get it. It wasn’t just the old early century style that hindered my understanding. My own spiritual shallowness was the main reason I put the book down and placed it back on the shelf for a long time. You may well guess that if I wasn’t able to read Oswald Chambers I didn’t do much better with the Holy Word of God and you would be right.

Oh I read my Bible, of course. Don’t all good Christian wives, mothers and Sunday School teachers read their Bibles? But I didn’t get it!

I didn’t get GRACE! Oh, I knew I was saved by grace and grace alone. I just didn’t get grace in everyday living. How could I? I was so filled with bitterness, anger and resentment I had no room for God’s grace in my life or in anyone else’s life. I and those around me were indeed most miserable.

But God did not let go of me. Day after day, layer after layer God peeled away all the angst that hid His light in me. Finally that Light pierced through and declared His Word clearly into my heart and soul. Now I could pick up His Word and “My Utmost for His Highest” and understand how grace and mercy freed me to live my life as a holy and acceptable sacrifice before an Almighty God.

I’ve given many books away over the years, but “My Utmost for His Highest” remains with me as a supplement to God’s Word and as a reminder of God’s amazing unmerited favor to me a sinner saved and sustained by grace!

When  Mr. Chambers taught at the Bible Training College did he know? Did he have any inkling or hope or aspiration that his shouts for God’s grace and mercy would touch a life of  a young woman 70 years later?

At this moment only God knows the answer to that question. But oh how I look forward to eternity and the time I will see God unfold before my spiritually awakened eyes the dots He connected between Oswald Chambers and me!

(As part of the Turn Write Series, I hope to share more of the authors who have influenced my writing and my life. I’d love to hear about who has influenced you.)