On the home page of . . . the better plan . . . blogsite I described how Soul Shapers, published in 2005, “renewed the conversation.” I used the word “renewed” intentionally as a shout out to William Glasser, who re-started the conversation in 1965, and especially to Ellen White, who emphasized the conversation at the turn of the last century. The ideas in Soul Shapers struck many readers as new and radical, but I will be the first to admit that the ideas were around long before I came along.

Getting a book published, especially to newbie writers like myself, is an interesting adventure that involves important details. It is great when a company like the Review & Herald wants to print your manuscript, however when you sign their thick contract you agree to give up the rights to your book and a number of the significant decisions that go with getting the book published. For instance, you give up the right to title the book. They do that. The working title I labeled the manuscript with was The Better Plan, which I thought was the best option of several I had thought of. They started to edit the book and said they would get back to me regarding the title. When they called me several weeks later (I remember that I was waiting for a flight in the Oakland airport terminal when my phone rang) they suggested that the book be called The Blinfolded Dolphin. (You may recall that I share an example on page 33 of Soul Shapers in which I describe one of the demonstrations during the dolphin show at Marine World.) I said “what was that?” I wasn’t sure I heard correctly. Yes, in fact, I had heard correctly. Someone on a committee must have really liked the dolphin story. I responded that I didn’t think it was a very good title, that the dolphin story was a very minor moment in the book, and that it didn’t really represent what the book was trying to express. I could tell the person on the other end was miffed at me, but they said they would think about what I had said.

Soon thereafter they chose the title, Soul Shapers, and a little while after that the first copies, ten to be exact, arrived at my house. I really did like the tone and visual feel of the cover. Designers know what they are doing. I struggle with that kind of thing. A closer look, though, past the tone and visual feel to the actual details of the cover gave me a bit of pause. Along with the Soul Shapers title, which appeared in rich lettering, was a cookie cutter in the shape of a heart. The heart connection was touching, but the sharp metal of the cutter had just one purpose – to force its way into soft dough and make it into a specific shape. When you read Soul Shapers you come to realize how opposite the goals of the book are compared to the role of a cookie cutter. Adults should not be in the business of forcefully shaping children into their preconceived pictures. Instead, adults have an opportunity to model, to guide, to persuade, to inspire, and to invite. By the time I saw the book for the first time, 5,000 copies of it had been published. Very few people have brought the disconnect to my attention, although people quickly agree if I bring it to their attention. The key to remember is that we really aren’t shaping kids souls. Every human being on planet earth is in the process of forming their own character. When we keep that in mind it really does change our roles as teachers, parents, and leaders.

I’ll share one more thought on . . . the better plan . . . in my next blog.