Here in Valparaiso, Indiana, the snowflakes are drifting past my window on a January day like the one on which I began jotting notes for the story that was to become Kingdom of the Birds. Seven years ago, that new project was just “the Luther book.” I’d been reading about the life of Martin Luther, taking special interest in his time as an outlaw, which I remembered vaguely from my Lutheran upbringing.
I must confess that even as I researched my Luther project, I avoided other opportunities for Lutheran education. Between the early and late church services, while my three children were in Sunday School and my husband attended Bible study, I would slip into the deserted gymnasium, drag a folding chair from the equipment closet, and sit by the glass door that overlooks a little courtyard between the school and the church.
The gym was dark and cold, but the courtyard was often bright with sunlit snow. For a long stretch of Sundays, I sat in my little corner scribbling for an hour, blessedly free from other responsibilities. I would look up from my notebook to gaze at the square tower rising above the walls of the courtyard. To ensure that I rejoined my family at the appropriate time, I would peer at the clock on the wall alongside the figure of a knight, the mascot of the Immanuel Valiants.
Looking back now, I see how natural it was that the Luther book ended up including the story of a knight at the Wartburg Castle.
Immanuel Lutheran School features another depiction of a knight and a castle in a storybook mural on the wall of the lunchroom. That’s the corner in which I’ll be signing copies of Kingdom of the Birds at the book launch party in March.