There is no way to sum up my Girlfriend Weekend experience in a single blog post. Even though Ann Hite and I made a guest appearance on the Southern Spines Blog, there are still stories to share. By the way, you can read our post here. Would you believe, Ann and I worked separately on this piece? Funny, I think the post reads like we shared a keyboard. Put fifteen hundred miles of asphalt under us and we became connected at the hip.
Today I want to write about Alyse Urice. Ann told me about her during the trip, mentioned that Alyse had reached out to her after reading Ann’s book, Ghost on Black Mountain. Through that initial email, Ann has become Facebook friends with several ladies from the Colorado Pulpwood Queens book club chapter.
That is one of the great things about Girlfriend Weekend (other than the boas and tiaras). Writer meets reader. One can never go wrong when emerged in a room of book lovers.
Because this was my first year I wasn’t aware that Kathy presents a Pulpwood Queen, or entire chapter, with an aptly titled KAT award. The diamond-shaped ruby-colored prize represents a passion for literacy. This year’s award went to Alyse Urice. Alyse stepped up to the mic and delivered an acceptance speech that brought tears to my eyes.
She explained how her non-profit, Literacy and Hope, began when her daughter wanted to rescue unwanted library books from being destroyed. This is a gal after my own heart, I thought. (Remember, I rescue flowers on the highway).
Then Alyse shared her next vision: providing books to children on a Native American reservation in her home state. It seemed Miss Alyse has what I would call a God-planted gift. She believes books heal. She sees people others overlook. Miss Alyse, far from being wealthy, awakens each day and recites these words What You Can. Where You Are. Everyday.
I don’t know about you, but those words are mighty powerful. Let’s repeat them again…slower this time.
What You Can.
Where You Are.
I’m not a wealthy author. Heck, my first book is no longer in print. I’m not on the New York Times Bestsellers List (yet). But I can do something. Today. What I can do is encourage the ladies of Alyse’s chapter. For you see, I learned after speaking to Alyse, that these women are members of the STRIDE program. These are homeless women, working mothers who through no fault of their own found themselves down on their luck. They call themselves The Homecoming Queens. These ladies aren’t seeking a hand out; they just need a little time to get on their feet.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve needed a little time to get on my feet…haven’t you?
Some of these women have been abused, some have fought cancer, and some are scared. So as Alyse shared stories from her Chapter, God pricked my heart. I would encourage the Queen by teaching them to journal their stories. I collect journals; stack them in towers; caress them; seek comfort in the blank pages. And you know what? The stacks of journals I had in my dresser drawer weren’t doing me one bit of good. So I placed them in a box. But the box wasn’t full. Then, that still small voice whispered, Toss in the Sketchbook Journal.
For the record, I covet,– more than anything in this world– the gift of drawing. Alas, I don’t have it which is why my note read.
Someone in your group has the ability to draw. God told me so. This journal is for her
After including a list of journal prompts, I included a book titled Let the Journey Begin then typed a note filled with personal things that I have never shared with anyone.
I cried a bit too. It felt good. The Homecoming Queens, these ladies, these strangers, are my confidants. They know my heart. Like me, (and you) they are on a journey. Can you see me on the path? I’m lagging way behind the Pulpwood Homecoming Queens. As my rural Appalachian people would say, those ladies are plowing the road and keeping it hot.
Aren’t you excited to see where they will end?
I share this not to toot my own horn, but to challenge you to do What You Can. Where You Are. Everyday. For those who, like me, feel a heart-tug, please visit the Literacy and Hope website here and make a monetary contribution.
Where You Are, (please) Do What You Can.
Renea Winchester is an award-winning author. Her next book: In the Kitchen with Billy: Farming, Friends & Fried Bologna Sandwiches will be released soon. She loves hearing from readers at www.reneawinchester.com