Ian Philpot

I had the opportunity to hear author and artist Craig Thompson speak at the Festival of Faith and Writing two weeks ago, and I’ve had a hard time shutting up about it. It was really great to meet him, ask him a few small questions, and get his autograph (and a picture) in the cover of my most favorite of his books, Blankets.

The picture of the inside cover is there on the right. The only part he didn’t draw when I met him was “Blankets”, which was part of the book print.

As he started drawing the picture, I asked Craig if I could tell him a story about that specific copy of his book. He was gracious enough to listen as I told him about how that was about my eighteenth copy of Blankets (definitely more than my twelfth copy, definitely not past twentieth). I told him how I first heard about his book from my friend Laurel who read about it in Spin magazine just after it was released in 2003. She purchased a copy at a comic book store on Madison Avenue when we were walking from the Ogilvie Metra station to Navy Pier to watch the Red Bull Flugtag. I can’t say that Laurel watched a single flying machine crash into the water, because she was so into reading the book. At the end of that day, she begged me to buy it for myself. So I did.

I admitted to Craig that I didn’t read Blankets until later that year when I saw Seth Cohen had included it in his “Seth Cohen Starter Pack” for both Anna and Summer in The O.C.‘s Chrismukkah episode. I read the 582 page book in just a few hours one night. It was funny and personal and beautiful. I immediately hopped onto AIM to tell a friend of mine about it. She didn’t have a job at the time, so she couldn’t buy it. I made up my mind that I would just give her my copy and buy another. Then I repeated the process a few weeks later.

I went on buying copies of Blankets and giving them to friends for a few years. Then I ran out of friends who hadn’t read the book, so I kept the last copy I bought. That, as I told Craig, was how I ended up buying eighteen copies of his book. He was very gracious and thankful, and he noted it under my name.

But something happened in my head as I was telling Craig the story. I realized that my way of telling my friends about Blankets was, essentially, evangelism. I thought through my whole story and how happy my church friends would be if I replaced the book Blankets with the Bible. But I had always told those friends that I didn’t feel comfortable sharing my faith. That I wasn’t wired to evangelize.

But here I am, with my eighteenth copy of Blankets and about a half dozen Bibles on a bookshelf that I’ve accumulated over the years. Bibles from my childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. I haven’t given one away. I haven’t talked to a friend on AIM late one night telling them how important it is that they read this book.

Deep inside of me lies some disappointment. But, right next to that disappointment, there is hope.

I heard Erwin McManus speak at the 2011 Global Leadership Summit, and I absolutely loved what he had to say. He spoke about how Christians have lost their ability to be the best storytellers. He said that Christians didn’t have to communicate the Bible message at every turn but they should use their creativity to tell any story. At the end of his message, he begged the audience: “We need a revival of storytelling.”

I couldn’t agree more.

And I think that Craig Thompson is a great storyteller. He’s not a Christian. He doesn’t have to be. His level of storytelling can still be something I aspire to. Something to sharpen me.