“A Good Story” by Joseph Durepos

 Joseph Durepos, executive editor/trade acquisitions at Loyola Press, has penned a moving essay about his dad. I’m delighted to spotlight Joe on this week’s blog. As an aside, Joe and I both graduated from Clovis High School, Clovis,  New Mexico. 

Joe and his dad
Joe and his dad

A Good Story

by Joseph Durepos

My dad read to me a lot when I was young. We always had a storybook going before bed. Later, I asked him why he read to me so much. He said that if you can find your way into a story, you can often find your way out. That sounded pretty Zen-like coming from Dad. I’m not sure I understood it at the time.

Several years later, I listened to poet Robert Bly talk about fairy tales and why they’re so enduring. He said something very much like my father had. He made his point by talking about certain doctors in Europe who worked with patients in psychiatric wings of hospitals—many of them troubled by bad dreams and feelings of inescapable panic.

Frustrated by their inability to reach these patients, the doctors began reading fairy tales to them before bed. Startlingly, many of the patients reported finding doors in nightmares where there were only walls before. Others saw light where there had been only darkness. Some patients showed marked improvement in moods and a lessening of agitation.

If I’m honest with myself, I didn’t always appreciate my father’s gifts, but I did always love him. He was an orphan, and his childhood had been tough. He lived in a foster home with lots of children moving in and out. The woman who ran the home liked my dad and raised him as her own. But there was nothing easy about growing up as a foster child in an orphanage in rural Maine during the Depression.

When he turned 17, he graduated from high school and immediately joined the military. It was a perfect marriage for him; it offered him structure, a way to find himself in the world, and a good job for almost 30 years.

My dad was a military man. A stoic. He rarely complained, certainly not about personal pain. In his world, unless you were down for the count, you just kept on keeping on.

Late on September 10, 2001, I got a call that my dad wasn’t doing well; I needed to come home right away. I flew to Albuquerque that night, met my two sisters, and drove to Lubbock, Texas, where my father had been taken to the hospital.

We arrived at the Texas Tech University Medical Center early on the morning of September 11. All eyes were on a small TV in the corner. Within five minutes I learned that my father was dying, probably had been for some time but hadn’t sought medical attention until he collapsed under the pain. I learned that all flights had been grounded. I learned about the hijackings, the attacks, and the estimated death counts. It was all too much to process at once. But I realized we were living in a story within a story: my dad’s story and our family story, but also the larger story of that day’s horrible events. This is how my father would have wanted me to make sense of the craziness.

We lost Dad less than four months after that terrible Tuesday. My father wasn’t a religious man, but he believed. As he drew closer to death, he spent quiet moments praying with his prayer book from childhood and reading novels. He told me that stories can make transitions, even difficult ones, possible. Then he winked and said he was simply finding his way out of the story. When he died, he was serene.

My dad never had a chance to read my first published book. It was a book about Saint Paul. In the first chapter, I talk about being part of the larger story of the faith that we live as Christians. It’s a vast, enduring story of salvation and redemption. Each one of us plays our part in the unfolding. It’s a concept I know intimately because of my father.

I’m in publishing today largely because of the love of stories my father nurtured in me. My dad loved that I became an editor and a writer. He would ask about my work and smile proudly. I still see that smile in my dreams, and I wake up happy. It’s a good story.

Bio:Joe Durepos 2013

Joseph Durepos is the executive editor for trade book acquisitions at Loyola Press, where he has worked since 2002. He’s published over 300 books, including New York Times Best Selling authors Fr. James Martin (My Life with the Saints) and Joan Wester Anderson (In the Arms of Angels).

Durepos has also worked as an independent literary agent specializing in religion and spirituality titles.  Titles sold include No Greater Love by Mother Teresa and The Invitation by Oriah Mountain Dreamer both with worldwide sales of over 500,000 copies.

As both an agent and editor, his books have been New York Times Best Sellers (The Rhythm of Life by Matthew Kelly) and Publishers Weekly Best Sellers (The Invitation by Oriah Mountain Dreamer and I Like Being Catholic by Michael Leach & Theresa Borchard); they have also won Publisher’s Weekly’s Best Books of the Year awards (Prayer is A Place by Phyllis Tickle and My Life with the Saints by James Martin, S.J.).

Durepos lives in Woodridge, IL with his 18-year-old American Eskimo, Sasha.



WOW: Words on Wheels…a bus full of free books


Tina Stovall greeting book lovers on steps of her converted school bus.
Tina Stovall greeting book lovers on steps of her converted school bus.

Posted 11/4/13

Fort Worth, TX: Tina Stovall had books. Too many books. They were spilling into every nook and cranny of her split-level townhouse. She needed to get rid of them, but this 50-year-old freelance copywriter wanted to do it in an innovative way. So she bought an old school bus, and with the help and muscle from her boyfriend, Heagan Bayles, they converted the interior into a library on wheels. For now, the WOW bus sits on a vacant lot in the 1400 block of West Magnolia Avenue in the Southside neighborhood of Fort Worth. What sets this library apart besides the obvious (the bus)? No checkout required. If a patron wants to take a book home, there’s no requirement to sign for it, much less bring it back. On a recent visit to see the bus, my husband and I were treated to a tour, and Tina was kind enough to answer a few of our questions.

Tina Stovall
Tina Stovall

Q: Do you plan to branch out and drive the bus to area neighborhoods and schools around the metroplex or do you plan to stay within the southside of Fort Worth?

A: Once the bus’s interior is redone to make it more mobile, I hope to take it to a variety of locations and events around Fort Worth.

Tina hopes to add built-in shelves to make it easier to move the bus to different locations around the city.
Tina hopes to add built-in shelves to make it easier to move the bus to different locations around the city.


Q: Any thoughts to visiting homeless shelters, soup kitchens, or public transportation waiting areas?

A: I think that would be a great idea. Maybe once a month, the bus could travel to one of these locations for the day.

Q: What about nearby orphanages or hospital parking lots or even local blood banks?

A: Another great idea! Also, I was thinking retirement communities might be a good place to visit.

Q: Any thoughts to spending time on the campuses of our local colleges and community colleges?

A: Yes, I’d love to be able to take the bus to campuses. I’m also interested in taking the bus to local middle- and high schools, especially in underserved areas. I could stock the bus with books from their reading lists.

Tom Rodgers visiting with Tina Tovall inside the WOW bus.
Tom Rodgers visiting with Tina Stovall inside the WOW bus.


 Q: Do more women than men visit your mobile library or is it split down the middle? What about children? Have you had many teenagers stop by?


A: I’ve had a good mix of men and women. Several couples have visited as well. Mothers and their children have come by to read in the bus. A few teenagers have come by as well.

Q: Most people would try and resale their used books. What is your motivation for giving books away?

A: As a creative person, I tend to think in terms of, how could I do this differently, making it more fun and interesting? I thought about selling the books but it seemed sad and boring to me. That led me to begin thinking about creative ways to reduce my book collection, which led to the bus idea. I don’t sell the books from the bus because I wanted the project to be simple, without a lot of legal/tax implications.

The curved ceiling is lined with pages from many famous books.
The curved ceiling is lined with pages from many famous books.


Q: What do you like to read? Are you drawn more to fiction or nonfiction? If fiction, what kind of novels interest you?

A: I love memoirs and I like novels written in first person. And I’m a sucker for humor, like David Sedaris, Tina Fey and Dave Barry.

Q: Given the fact that your mobile library is based on the “physical” book, what are your thoughts about e-books?

A: I’m not a big fan. To me, holding a book is just more magical than holding an e-reader and that adds to my experience when reading.

Q: What is the first book that made an impact on your life? And why?

A: “Alexander and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day” This is the first book I remember reading as a child. After reading it, I realized that reading was fun and that made me keep reading.

Two steep steps into a world of books...
Two steep steps into a world of books…


Q: If you were suddenly to lose your sight, would you learn Braille so you could continue reading?

A: Good question. My first reaction is to say absolutely, but realistically, I probably would listen to audiobooks more than read them using Braille.

Q: Are you involved in any book clubs?

A: No, but I would love to be a part of one.

Q: If a soldier returning from war stopped by your bus, do you carry titles that would interest them?

A: Thanks to your generous donation, I do!

The WOW busphoto-7 is located at 1455 W. Magnolia, Fort Worth, TX 76104. It’s open everyday from morning to night – unless it’s raining. You can read more about the bus at the following links:


Website http://thewowbus.com


Kathleen M. Rodgers lives in a Fort Worth suburb.
Kathleen M. Rodgers lives in a Fort Worth suburb.