Thursday, December 9, 2010

Telephone Interview with Author Frank Schaeffer

A highlight of the semester for our Advanced LIEP Reading & Writing class was an interview by speaker-phone with author Frank Schaeffer on December 1.

The class had read Frank Schaeffer's novel Baby Jack, about a young man named Jack Ogden from an upper-class family who enlists in the Marine Corps right after high school against the objection of his parents. Baby Jack deals with thought-provoking themes of life, death, war, loss, grief, family, social class, coming of age, service, God, and love. It provides rich material for discussion and writing. It also draws upon the author's life experience: like the fictional Jack Ogden, Frank Schaeffer's own son surprised his upper-class family by enlisting in the Marine Corps right after high school.

Frank Schaeffer is a gracious and friendly author who enjoys interacting with his readers. During our speaker-phone interview, Frank spoke openly about his experience, his thoughts, and his writing.
  • WRITING FROM LIFE. Frank helped us to see how an author uses his or her own experience to create a work of fiction. While the fictional story of the Ogden family is very different from the true story of the Schaeffer family, the seed idea for Baby Jack comes from Frank Schaeffer's life.
  • BEING OPEN TO CHANGE. Like many members of the upper class, Frank initially believed that the military was not a good enough choice for his son. But when Frank saw his son's tremendous growth in maturity and the Marines' depth of love and sacrifice, he did not cling to his original opinion but had the humility to change his mind. "Because of my son's service in the Marine Corps, I changed my opinion about the military," Frank said.
  • SERVING ONE'S COUNTRY. Frank drew a sharp distinction between serving one's country in the military and agreeing with the politics behind a particular war. To help us understand this, Frank used an analogy: a police officer will rescue a person trapped under a wrecked automobile whether the trapped person is an upstanding citizen or a hardened criminal. Frank also emphasized the importance of living a life of service in any walk of life.
  • BELIEVING WITHOUT CERTAINTY. Because God appears as a character in Baby Jack, we were interested in Frank's religious beliefs. Frank told us that he had created the character of God in a certain way for his novel and that he does believe in God. But he stressed, "I don't know what God is like." Frank explained that he had grown up in an evangelical Christian missionary family with very definite ideas about God but that he now prefers to practice his faith in the Greek Orthodox Church, which emphasizes the mystery of God. 
Our class awaits the moment for our telephone interview with Frank
Jane Nguyen of Vietnam asks Frank a question
Mariel Colon and Amalec Perez, both of Puerto Rico,  review their questions for Frank
Jinhee Lee of Korea listens intently to Frank
LIEP instructor Karen Greenstone listens closely to Frank
It was exciting for us to talk with the author of a novel we had read and to learn about the experience and thinking behind the novel. Thank you, Frank Schaeffer, for talking so openly with us about your life and your writing.

Our next post will feature the exciting swing dance lessons taught by LIEP students to other members of the Loyola community.

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