Saturday, June 18, 2011

A Terrifying Thrill

Imagine if you will, that you have labored for almost four years on a novel and you discover it's going to be published! How thrilling and terrifying it is in the same heartbeat.

Now imagine you are at a writer's workshop, and one of your all time favorite writers is the keynote speaker - Lee Smith. There are so many things about Lee that inspire you - her amazing books and short stories, her witt and sense of humor, but most of all, you admire her love for the people and culture of Appalachia.

The mountains and coalfields surrounding the little town of Grundy, VA are the inspiration for many of Lee's novels. Here she grew up with the dream of being a writer - just like you. Being a writer is not the only thing you share with Lee, you too are from the little mountain town of Grundy, a place as rich in mountain lore as it is in coal.

Return with me to the writer's symposium. Here you get to tell Lee about your novel. She is thrilled for you and asks to see it. Further, she asks if she may talk about it in her address at the symposium. You nodd and babble something that is more than likely unintelligible, but you return the next day with the manuscript. You present it to her and wander off so she won't see you pinch yourself because you cannot believe you just gave your novel to one of the most prolific writers of our day!

Later that morning, you join the crowd to hear Lee speak about the craft of writing. You are mesmerized by her excitement. She speaks of writing and her voice sparkles. Her hands wave and gesture in the air. She laughs with pure delight at the joy of language. Then she does something that you will never forget. She tells everyone about your novel and reads from the first chapter. For the first time, you hear someone read your words - someone who loves Appalachia and her people as much as you do.

Lee reads and you hear your characters come to life. The room shimmers with them. The audience chuckles, then laughs in all the right places. You soak up that moment and tuck it away, so later you can take it out and hold it in your hands like someday soon, you will hold your book.

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