I got to hang out with a bunch of writers last weekend. I enjoyed meeting up with friends and making some new ones. I loved meeting readers and listening to their encouraging words about the books we’ve shared between us.
Elizabeth Yates said, “A writer only begins a book, it is the reader who completes it.” She’s right, of course, and it’s always a delight to meet the people who complete my stories.
HopeWords Conference is a good time in Bluefield, West Virginia. (About an hour from my hometown.) I was really inspired by Haejin and Mako Fujimora, Malcolm Guite, Hannah Anderson, Travis Lowe and many others. Travis always gives voice to the cry of my heart about our area. He sees the “light of the world” where many just see impenetrable darkness.
The news guy asked me if I was pleased that the conference drew people from over thirty states and several countries. He wanted to know if I was excited that our area was attracting these amazing people. I said that I was, but I was equally excited about those people being exposed to our area.
Most of the time people think of Appalachia in general, and West Virginia in particular, as a place where anyone who can leave does leave. They see it as a place of need where kind people go to help the poor, unfortunate souls stuck here. That’s kind of true and we are grateful for everyone who comes with a generous heart of love. But we also have something to give, something to share, and we grow when we have a chance to see ourselves as servants instead of victims. The victim narrative is so seductive, but it’s an impotent story and we need to show up in love and, with humility and dependence on God, get to work shaping our own story.
That’s certainly my heart for our state, and one of the main reasons I’m so committed to staying here and being part of, not only helping us grow, but also give. We’ll start believing better once we get on the job of serving others with the gifts we have been given. The first step is gratitude and wonder at what we have.