Feeding the Writer Within

stoking the flames of love

Certain loves are more difficult to keep alive than others. These are the loves that no one assumes you harbor.

Some loves are normative. I can tell you that I love my husband and daughters and you will understand me. I could say I love Jesus, and most of you will understand what I mean to say, even if you don’t share that love. I could mention that I love the smell of frying onions and the sight of melting cheese, and many of you will sigh and salivate.

I could even say that I love words and writing, and many of you will nod in agreement. But if I say that I love my writing self will you continue to nod? Or is a bit transgressive to turn a love inward?

Yet the best way for me to express my love of words and writing is to honor my writing self. I have to feed Writing Ruth. I have to stoke the flames of her loves.

How about you? Are there loves you struggle to honor? 

This past Saturday something unexpected happen — something I’ll think of as an early valentine I gave to myself. At the last moment I attended the last day of the AWP conference (Association of Writers and Writing Programs) in Washington, DC. The opportunity was spurred by a long-time writing friend who traveled to the conference. Not only could I listen to writers talk about writing, but I could spend time with my friend, who is a phenomenal poet.

I had to scramble to make it happen. I sacrificed a few hours of sleep. But what I gained was not just a 24-hour series of events and conversations. I gained a space of time that reminded who I am: a writer. In fact, that is who God created me to be.

Perhaps this is why brief love liaisons don’t go out of fashion, even when they’re transgressive. Even a few hours can feed a hunger inside of us, a love that deserves to be stoked, an identity too often hidden.

Andres Dubus III, Angela Flournoy, Aminatta Forna

This is how I fed my writer self at AWP:

  • wandered through an enormous book fair and chatted with other wordy-type people
  • discovered a writing program that tickles my fancy for summer 2018
  • listened to three authors read, then discuss how they work with their characters’ history. “What is our present moment except the consequence of everything that has gone before?”
  • heard a panel of authors discuss the topic Wayfaring Stranger. “Who gets to tell the story of a particular people?”
  • met writers in every stage of their careers, including the novelist Richard Bausch
  • gained insight into my own current writing goals and roadblocks
  • attended a candlelight vigil to support the right of free speech #WritersResist
  • closed the evening with a sort of bedtime story from Colum McCann, a reading from “”Letters to a Young Writer”


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I'm an essayist, memoirist, and Presbyterian pastor. My books are both spiritual memoirs -- "Chasing the Divine in the Holy Land" and "Ruined."