Friday, September 27, 2013

Writing for Good

By Susan

I'm writing this, a bit road-weary, from a roadside Starbucks somewhere near Knoxville, Tennessee, still absorbing the connections, serendipity, and friendships of my past week of travel.
Beautiful writing day at the Carnegie Center 
This trip brought me back to people I've welcomed into my life over the past two years of writing full-time: a Trappist monk, the staff and crew of a small non-profit, writing friends from conferences and workshops, authors and teachers I've been lucky to meet, and--as always--my family. I marvel at the life I'm creating by staying true and focused to my passion for writing and my purpose-driven quest to promote literacy around the world. It all converges, and the past few weeks encapsulate how my past two years of writing, seeking, and connecting people are all beginning to come together.
I started at the Kentucky Women Writers Conference in Lexington, Kentucky, and participated in a fiction workshop for two days with George Ella Lyon, a gifted and beautiful Kentucky writer I met over a year ago through the Appalachian Writers Workshop. I reconnected with other Kentucky writers--friends who are starting their own presses, editing anthologies, completing novels, and leading panels. Friends who are connecting with other writers to say new things and encourage each other. After two days, I left refreshed and inspired enough to complete a short story and a poem. Surrounding myself with literary energy, I've discovered, pushes me along my own path, right when I need it.

From there I took a day to revisit the Abbey of Gethsemani. This visit was different from my prior stays: I loaded twenty boxes of books to donate to the International Book Project, who will ship them to a sister abbey in Nigeria that lost its theology library to a fire. Many of you may know about IBP and the work that they do to supply books around the world (and BIG THANKS to those of you who've donated to make this project happen!). The same day I delivered the books for the Nigerian library, I received word from Kumasi, Ghana, that the second library I'd collected and shipped had finally arrived in the hands of the kids of Touch A Life Foundation. It was a full circle moment: planning and shipping a thousand books while the last shipment of books arrived at their new home. There's nothing much sweeter than that feeling!

Today, I stopped in Richmond, Kentucky, to visit a friend who has an incredible young adult manuscript he's ready to launch into the world, and we spent almost three hours talking about writing, partnerships, books, and the future. How can we all keep writing, writing for good? And I thought about where I was two years ago: out of work, stepping off a cliff toward an artistic life, jumping into my passion with both feet. I had no idea I'd hang out with monks and ship books around the world. I didn't know my workshops and conferences would connect me with some of my favorite writers and expose me to so many new ones. And I didn't know my life would be so much richer because of the new friends, partnerships, and people who are slowly becoming my ever-expanding writer's circle.

I didn't know until I stepped out of my regular life that this whole other world was waiting for me--one full of writers and people wanting to change the world with words. So tonight, here in the cool mountains of east Tennessee, I'm thankful. Thankful that I'm a writer, for good.

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