"Sheltering the Creative Spirit"
Taos, New Mexico USA
Off Interstate 20
Charles Behlen (first resident)
FWF Residency Report October 2002
My novel Leaves of Glass is a
story of a young man in search of himself.
Determined to find God, he enters a Jesuit novitiate.
World of the story.
While the outer world of the novel is based on the four years I spent in
a Jesuit novitiate, my memory after forty years had slipped.
Fortunately, my friend and fellow ex-Jesuit John Palenchar had sent me
one hundred letters he wrote to his family on a weekly basis for two years of
our novitiate. I was able to
research and make a complete outline of the two year time line of the novel. Anchored in this time line are significant experiences of the
hero. John’s letters had enough
details about our daily activities to enable me to properly sequence the outer
world of the character, which supports the inner journey.
World of the hero. This was the
most difficult challenge. I knew my
own story and my own growth curve during the two years of novitiate.
But I was not writing my story. I
was using my knowledge and experience and that of several other ex-Jesuits to
create a composite character. I
wanted to create fiction, a novel, a universal “hero” story, not a
How lucky, or serendipitous, was my trip to
the Taos library. I had forgotten my copy of Volger’s book The
Writer’s Journey, which describes the twelve steps a “hero”
experiences on the hero’s journey. The Taos library had one, and right there a
few books away was Pearson’s book The
Hero Within on archetypes, which I had also forgotten.
Bingo! The research into the
archetypes of the Innocent, Orphan, Martyr, Wanderer, Warrior, and Magician made
clear to me the plot arc of growth my character had to experience.
This research opened the door to the boiler plate of the novel, the
character’s inner journey. With the inner journey of the character so clear in my mind,
I was able to take up the writing of the story.
I developed a good fifty pages, the first three chapters, before I had to
My daily routine involved starting with a walk in the morning, journal
writing, and then working on the novel. By
1:00 p.m. my well was running dry.
After a lunch break I either made town trips to the library or worked on
poems or other stories that needed polishing before I could submit them.
I submitted a number of poems to magazines
and sent out two stories. This was
very productive work for me because I usually have to go to my bookstore and do
“business” stuff in the afternoon. To
have time to research and submit work was a pleasure that nurtured me and gave
me time to get away form the novel, yet I could stay in the writing state.
This was a real bonus for me. And
already the magazine Venus Envy out
of Taos will be publishing “When a Poem Wears Muddy Shoes,” which I re-wrote
and shortened while at the cabin.
I participated in one poetry reading at Doc
Martin’s, and enjoyed another, the Dead Poets Night at Caffe Tazza.
Both the outer and inner world of the story are solidly outlined.
I have developed a preliminary outline of the hero’s inner journey.
The first three chapters are complete in first draft, the next three
chapters are outlined, and I am well on my way to being able to write again. If all goes well, the first draft will be complete by spring.
Ciletti, poet, writer, and instructor, owns the bookstore Hooked on Books in
Colorado Springs with his wife, Mary.)
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