A novel written by the Right Reverend Cathleen Bascom, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Kansas, has been named one of eight finalists for the 2020 INDIES award in the category of fiction/religious. The INDIES, given by Foreward Review, recognizes the best books published from small, independent and university presses, as well as by author publishers.
The book is entitled Of Green Stuff Woven and grew out of projects for her Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and the Environment from Iowa State University, which she earned before becoming bishop.
When she learned of the recognition from her publisher, Betty Turnbull of Light Messages Publishing, Bishop Bascom said, “this is rather lovely news,” noting that since it was published in March 2020, her attention has been focused on helping churches during the coronavirus pandemic, with little time left to think about her book.
The novel has two threads: a modern-day story featuring the dean of an Episcopal cathedral in Des Moines, Iowa (which the bishop was), as well as remembrances from the dean’s childhood that help to explain her passion for the prairie that is reflected in her actions. Bishop Bascom said that the story of the fictional dean includes pieces of her tenure as dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral, but she was able to make that part of the book much more dramatic. Some of the characters in the book are based on parishioners or people she knew in Iowa, but the plot itself is entirely fictional.
The other part of the book – a look back at key parts of the dean’s life in Colorado and Kansas – is much more autobiographical. Bishop Bascom said that pieces were moved around in space or time, but they are fairly close to her actual experiences. The juxtaposition, she said, was to “explore how one’s ecological spirituality comes into existence.”
The book has drawn praise from reviewers, including Presiding Bishop Michael Curry. For the book’s cover he wrote, “This new novel by ‘writing bishop’ Cathleen Bascom, is a book you won’t want to put down!” Christine Havens, writing for The Living Church, called the book “A Prairie Church Companion” and said it was a love story, reflecting Bishop Bascom’s spirituality and love of the prairie and of the Episcopal Church.
Winners in each category of the INDIES, along with Editor’s Choice Prize winners and Foreword’s Independent Publisher of the Year, will be announced on June 17. More than 2,000 entries spread across 55 genres were submitted for consideration.