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With the cover of their recently published memoir, This Child of Faith: Raising A Spiritual Child in A Secular World, displayed on a projection screen behind them, mother and son Sophfronia Scott and Tain Gregory spoke to and answered questions from seventh grade students at Newtown Middle School on December 20.
It was the second day the duo spoke with reading students at NMS. They had met and talked with eighth grade students a day earlier.
“I wrote a book and it was a pretty unique experience,” eighth grader Tain said to his fellow NMS students, hands periodically tucked inside his NewArts sweatshirt.
Ms Scott, a writer and published author, explained the idea behind the book. She shared how Tain had been interviewed for the documentary Midsummer in Newtown, which followed the NewArts summer 2014 production of A Rockin’ Midsummer Night’s Dream. Ms Scott told the students that Tain’s response to a question in the documentary prompted her to think of writing the book.
According to the book’s introduction, Tain was asked “What’s the most important thing in your life?”
Ms Scott wrote, “I can see the slight smile on the director’s face, and he and I both are expecting to hear a long list of the virtues of the Mario Kart video game or Tain’s powerful Pokemon trading card. Instead Tain thinks for a moment then answers with one word. ‘God.’”
While Ms Scott and Tain spoke mostly about the writing process with the students, they both shared after the presentation on December 20 that writing the book was important to each of them in similar and different ways.
Ms Scott told the students that once her idea for the book was accepted, she and Tain began the writing process. It took about five months to write the book, according to the presentation. Tain had multiple responsibilities with activities outside of school, and Ms Scott was writing other books too.
“This was a very busy time,” she told the students.
To begin, Tain was given some pages from the book proposal, and Ms Scott asked him to contribute essays. The book would go on to span six years of their family’s life, from 2011 until near the present. Ms Scott explained the memoir starts when Tain was roughly 6 years old. She asked the students if they remember their life when they were that age. Many silently shook their heads, no.
“The great thing about keeping a journal is you have details or feelings that you may not have now,” said Ms Scott, holding a book in her hands.
For Tain, they looked for other sources. While 6-year-old Tain did not keep a journal they could use, he had made entries in books kept at Trinity Episcopal Church. Tain also interviewed people who knew him when he was 6 years old to help complete his memories.
Tain’s essays turned into sections in the book, which are each labeled “Tain’s Take.” While Ms Scott continued describing the writing process, Tain pulled up a projection of one of his “Tain’s Take” entries from the book. Ms Scott said Tain would submit an essay, and she asked him what she would do with them.
“Send them back!” Tain said quickly.
“I knew Tain had really interesting things to say… it’s just a matter of getting it out on paper,” said Ms Scott.
Writing about personal experiences can help others, Ms Scott told the students. Tain added the book covers some sad topics, like the loss of loved ones and, later in the book, the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School on 12/14. While he found thinking deeply and writing about those experiences was hard, Tain said he also found writing was like talking to someone.
“Writing can be a stress reliever,” Tain said.
Along with speaking with the NMS students, Ms Scott and Tain signed copies of their book at two separate events in December. Their first appearance was outside Trinity Episcopal Church the first Sunday of the month, the same afternoon the Newtown Holiday Festival took place. A few weekends later they were the guests at Barnes & Noble Booksellers in Waterbury.
The book was published by Paraclete Press in mid-December, and it chronicles stories from the family’s journey of faith. This Child of Faith: Raising A Spiritual Child in A Secular World is dedicated to Reverend Kathleen Adams-Shepherd, who served as the pastor at Trinity Episcopal Church from 1996 until late 2016.
Following the presentation, Ms Scott said she wanted the book to share how Tain’s faith is natural.
“Tain taught me so much. His faith is so much there,” said Ms Scott.
Ms Scott said they were fortunate that Newtown has a number of faith communities. Residents would miss out, she said, if they do not take advantage of what is offered here.
The title, This Child of Faith: Raising A Spiritual Child in A Secular World, refers to how everyone is a child of faith trying to make their way in the world, Ms Scott explained. She hopes people will find space in their lives for faith.
Speaking about what he hopes people will find in the book, Tain said, “I hope it can help people learn from a healing process.” He was quick to add that the book is not a “how to” book.
Ms Scott compared her family’s story of finding faith to building an ark before a storm. Before embarking on their journey of faith, Ms Scott said her family did not know how much faith would sustain them.
“I say don’t wait: Make that connection,” said Ms Scott.
More information This Child of Faith: Raising A Spiritual Child in A Secular World is available on the book publisher’s website, paracletepress.com. The 196-page paperback is available directly from the publishers and other outlets, including Amazon.com (which also has a Kindle version available for purchase). More information about Ms Scott and her other publications, including her recently published book Unforgivable Love, is available on her website, sophfronia.com.