At the end of this week I flew out to meet the book team for Imaginary Jesus at Tyndale. I was picked up at the airport by my driver and he told me that he had another fare to pick up. I said that was fine with me (as if I had some sort of say -- like to keep the illusion of power), so we zipped over to the international terminal and picked up a guy who had just gotten in from Frankfurt. He offered me some french fries. As we talked a bit more he told me that he had been in Frankfurt on business. I asked his business and he told me that he worked for a publisher and had been at the Frankfurt book fair. I asked what publisher and he said Tyndale. Then we all (driver included) had a good laugh because that's why I was in the cab, after all. It turned out that this was actually Doug Knox, the publisher for the section of Tyndale which is printing my book. So we had a half hour together on the ride home.
That night, Kevin O'Brien from Tyndale's Bible division came over and picked me up and we went back to his house where we talked with his lovely wife about hockey, writing, family, Bibles and cats with too many toes. We had a good time, and it was super nice of Kevin to drive a half hour each way, twice just so we could hang out.
Then I tried to get a burger at WhiteCastle, but they were only taking people through the drive thru.
The next morning Sharon Leavitt picked me up and we made our way over to the Tyndale office. I met the book team, which was cool because I feel like we're all already friends, so we were meeting again for the first time. We went downstairs into "THE STUDIO" to do a little interview for Imaginary Jesus where I answered questions like, "Why do you hate Jane Austin so much?" and "If you had to fight a ninja or a pirate which would you choose?" and also "Can Matt inflate a long skinny balloon without a balloon pump?" (SPOILER: I can't). These questions were all masterminded by Sarah Atkinson, who was trying to publicly humiliate me in an attempt to keep me from getting a big head because of all the nice endorsements coming in for the book. It was a clever ploy and it remains to see if it is working. Luckily Nancy Clausen was along to make sure that my answers didn't come across too idiotically (meaning: too much like my real self! Ha ha.)
Then off to a meeting with the excellent Publicity team (you guys are going to enjoy some of the fun ideas that will be coming your way soon), followed by a lunch from the local pizza place. Chicago deep dish, of course! As we ate and then afterward we had an enjoyable conversation that ranged from books, missions, my next project, the gospel, who-in-the-room-speaks-Chinese, how great my wife is, and more. It was a lot of fun, and I think we all laughed pretty hard.
After that came the big discussion of whether to include a study guide in the back of Imaginary Jesus. There has been a lot of back and forth on this topic -- whether a series of questions in the back will create a "value added" experience for readers, or whether it will make the story suddenly seem like it was a didactic lesson. Feel free to leave your opinion on this topic in the comments, but I think we finally came to a resolution.
Then came the tour of Tyndale, which was fun, and I got to meet some more of the amazing staff that works there. One of the things I was amazed by was the fact that the illustrated Bible I read when I was a kid, they had some of the original art up on the wall. And then, too soon, it was time to leave. I know that the Tyndale staff actually have jobs other than hanging out with me, but I would have been glad to spend one more day hanging out. And I'm glad to say that all the people who have been my e-mail and twitter buddies are even more fun and enjoyable in person.
Last but not least I got in my car headed back for the airport and had a pretty deep spiritual conversation with my driver. He's going through a rough patch and just starting out in a relationship with Jesus, so we talked about the gospel and what it means to experience God's peace in a broken world and then I had the privilege of praying for him.
WHEW! So. I should have a few more details to share about our time together this week and some of the things we decided, plans we made, and things we're kicking around. There are a lot of fun things coming up in the future.
Thanks to all the Tyndale staff for the amazing hospitality, for your hard work and your friendship. I hope to get a lot more time together in the future!