I’m filled with gratitude with the opportunity to attend the Festival of Faith and Writing in Grand Rapids last week. It was the first time I attended, though as I wrote recently, I wanted to attend the past two times.

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One of my special possessions as a result of the conference is above. I’ve had the book Breath for the Bones for about 7 years now, and I love it. When I found out Luci Shaw was coming to the conference, and she’d be signing books, I brought the book along with me for her to sign. As you can see, she did sign it above. I asked her to sign a couple of poetry books, too, which she graciously did. She asked me if I was a poet. I said yes. And then she wrote the above in my book. πŸ™‚ Nice, isn’t it? I love it.

Do you know she is almost 90 years old? Amazing. I hope- well, I hope I’m alive- but also that I’d be as active as she is at that age.

I had the privilege of hearing a tribute to her (she’s attended many of the FFWs) and I heard this will likely be her last one. A few people shared stories about her. At the end of those, Luci Shaw read some poems that have yet to be published, in an upcoming book. It’s amazing to me that she is still writing. I did get a couple of those readings on video.

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The next evening, I attended a book launch party for Leslie Leyland Fields’ new book titled “The Wonder Years: Forty over Forty” which is basically a book of essays written by women about women over the age of 40. Luci Shaw has an essay in the book, and she read portions of that essay that evening as well. That ended at 9 pm, and as soon as that was over, I saw her walking to the room next door, where a poetry reading was happening from 9-11 pm! I think she was scheduled to do a poetry reading at that event. I did have that poetry reading on my agenda, too, but I decided not to attend and instead chose to head back to my hotel room, and there was 88-year-old Luci Shaw, still going! I truly almost changed my mind; I did peek in the door. However, I realized I needed time to decompress from the fire hose of information and intensity of the day.

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It will take some days to process it all, but I can say how much I enjoyed being there. The people there-writers, readers, authors-people who spend their days wringing their heads and hearts to put words on the page, those are my kind of people. I do feel something in common with them. From what I’ve seen and read, I am not the only one who also feels this way.

What is amazing to me is to think that many of the folks I met in real life are people I have only seen online, either through Twitter or Facebook. Extraordinary! And while introverts (and writers) talk about desiring to hide from other people and avoid the awkwardness of social conventions, conversations, and small talk, they do converse quite remarkably well in person. πŸ™‚ Very well, I should say!

I find people there who do like to engage in deeper issues, and who are not afraid to go where the conversation may be more difficult. They certainly go there with writing.

Personally, I do not like small talk and will sometimes try to avoid it. I understand it is the first stage of a conversation and where we all feel most comfortable and safe much of the time. And, I understand it is what we do when we converse with strangers at the grocery store, etc. So, yes, I am fine with it and do it, like everyone else.

But, honestly, if I know you, and we are friends, I prefer to skip the small talk. I would much rather move to the next level. But truthfully… with some people I know, it is simply not going to happen, because many people are just not able to move beyond the superficial, nor do they want to. Doesn’t it get bothersome after a while? Come on. Move on to the real stuff. I don’t want to hear the “How are you/ I’m fine” refrain over and over. It’s not true. If it is always true for you, I don’t think you are really alive… or you’ve numbed yourself and you are zoning out of reality.

Have you ever had a roommate like that or lived with someone like that? I despise living like that, in theΒ superficial realm. It’s extremely bothersome and aggravating (and maddening?!) to live in shallow realms of existence, is it not? It truly bugs me. A lot.

Oh, and also? I value honesty. I’m partial to honesty. I kind of really like it. Just be honest. And I like being honest, too. Truly less to remember, if you’re just honest, right? I like people to be real and transparent. Because then I know exactly what they think. Otherwise, I’m only guessing. I’d so much rather be sure than have to wonder.

So, I seek places to engage in deeper and more meaningful conversation. I like the world of writing and reading. And, I find I like the people engaged in the world of writing and reading. Book people. Reading people. Writing people. Word people. And artists. I like them, too. I do like many other people, too, who do many different things, of course.

But, book and writing people might be my kind of people. Whenever I am around other writers, and bookish people, I feel a bit more… understood. I can identify with people in this group. There are many, many bookish people who are extremely smart, way smarter than me, and I’m not on their level of intellectual discourse or talent or even understanding. But I like books, I like writing, I like these sorts of people, and I like learning from other people; there is so much to learn.

I will continue to add more thoughts about my experience at the FFW as I think about and process what I learned there. And– I have some exciting writing news to share, as well! To be continued! πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

Thanks for reading, friend. I’ve heard that for a writer to be a writer, she/he must have a reader. Some say yes, this is true, some say no. What do YOU think? What makes a writer a writer? Is it a reader? Or, is it something else? Is it a combination of factors? Which factors? If a writer writes 10 books but nobody reads them, is that person still a writer? What do you think?

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