>All Out of Faith: Getting Unstuck

>It’s 103 degrees here in Memphis … at 5:30 p.m.! To escape the heat, I’ve decided to write about something wonderful that happened last fall … when it was cooler here in Memphis! It was October. Close your eyes and imagine the cool breeze on your face. ahhhh. Now open your eyes so you can keep reading:-)

I had a life-changing experience. I went to the Southern Festival of Books in downtown Memphis, where I had the opportunity to meet and talk in person with three women who had a big impact on my growing interest in writing:

Lee Smith did a reading and Q & A about her latest book, On Agate Hill. I’ve enjoyed Lee’s books for years, and it was inspirational, to say the least, to hear her and chat with her.

Beth Ann Fennelly read from her latest book of poetry, Tender Hooks. I met her outside the Cook Convention Center at her autograph table, and ended up buying about 6 copies of her book for myself and a few friends. Little did I know that she would be one of the faculty for the Yoknapatawpha Summer Writers Workshop at Ole Miss in June (another life-changing event for me.) I’ve always loved poetry (reading and writing it) but she took my interest to a new level. And her craft talks at the writers workshop in Oxford were amazing. She encouraged me to try to bring the poet’s rhythm to the writing of prose. sigh.

Cassandra King Conroy participated in a panel with three other authors and editors from the wonderful book All Out of Faith: Southern Women on Spirituality, which includes a piece by yet another of my favorite authors, Sue Monk Kidd. Anyway, Sandra wrote about her book, The Sunday Wife, in an essay in All Out of Faith called “The Making of a Preacher’s Wife” which touched too many familiar chords to mention. But I mentioned a few when we were chatting later, and when she autographed my book, she wrote, “To Susan, who knows what a Sunday wife is!” As I read her description of the roles she was stuck playing and her journey to break free of those roles, I cried:

“As long as I didn’t stop long enough to question my life, as long as I refused to listen to an inner voice that cried who am I and what am I doing here, everything went well, and everyone was happy.”
So what did she do? (more from “The Making of a Preacher’s Wife):

“…. I started a novel about a woman like myself… and I can see now that the writing of it was my salvation.”

And what did I do? That very day, I went to High Point Coffee on Union Avenue and began writing my novel. I gave it a name, outlined the eight chapters and the main characters, and jumped right in. In two months, the first draft was done. With the help of some wonderful first readers and a talented freelance editor, I’m hoping to have The Sweet Carolines ready to send out to agents by the end of the year. You know, I might have gotten around to this eventually, but I owe so much to Sandra, Beth Ann and Lee for their inspiration. My debt to you ladies is big. And to Winnie-the-Pooh.
Winnie-the-Pooh? Of course. I picked up a coffee mug at Square Books in Oxford shortly after the book festival, and had to buy it because of the wonderful quote from Pooh:
“Bear began to sigh, and then found he couldn’t because he was so tightly stuck; and a tear rolled down his eye, and he said, ‘Then you read a Sustaining Book as would help and comfort a Wedged Bear in Great Tightness.”
Feeling stuck? Read a Sustaining Book and be comforted!

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