Jane Kirkpatrick will be keynote speaker at NCWA’s Renewal Conference in May. See end of post for details.
I first discovered Northwest Christian Writer’s Conference when I was asked to be on a panel for inspirational writing. I didn’t think of my stories as being “inspirational” though I’d written a memoir called Homestead about my husband and I making a new life on remote Oregon acreage known locally as Starvation Point.
I guess survival stories are inspirational in nature. And I’d written a small gift book called A Burden Shared that blended my mental health background with my new life as a novelist. That book was meant to encourage people especially in times of grief. So, maybe I did write inspirational books. But I thought of myself more as a novelist who tried to tell a good story.
Yet because of the invitation, I looked up the word “inspire” and discovered it meant, among other things, “the act of breathing in.” I loved that and decided that good stories are inspirational. They help us breath in what we need for the long haul, allow us to take something away from a story that will help sustain us in when we leave the story and return to the world of reality.
Now that my twentieth novel (and 24th book) is about to be published I still consider myself fortunate to be writing inspirational stories though they may be shelved in bookstores under Northwest, Women’s Fiction, memoir, Quilt books, Christian Fiction, Grief, Contemporary and sometimes “new arrivals.” Most of my novels are based on the lives of actual people, historical women primarily.
As I research and write, I’m constantly asking myself “Where did this character gain their strength from?” “What kept them going when the flood took their home or the grasshoppers consumed their gardens?”
While building our remote homestead I knew that one day we would have electricity and running water and a telephone or I wouldn’t live there! But those pioneering souls didn’t know that. They had to find strength within their everyday and writing of them helps me discover those strengths within myself.
I learned a great deal from the other panelists (and from the conference in general!). As I listened to panel participants I realized how much that “act of breathing in” means to me as a storyteller. I wanted readers to find sustenance within my stories and so did the other writers I sat with.
Whether they wrote non-fiction or poetry or novels, their goal like mine was not just to offer solid well-researched stories. but to find ways to connect to readers and yes, offer them spiritual support. That didn’t mean telling someone how to feel or think but rather offering new ways to see the world, maps for pathways to hope, encouragement and grace; maps to reduce the fear of the unknown. I decided then that I liked being in that company of “inspirational writers.”
I hope those of you who join us in May will enjoy the “acts of breathing in” offered there.
Don’t miss Jane Kirkpatrick, homesteader and cherished Northwest novelist, keynote speaker at NCWA’s Renewal Conference May 17 & 18th! Click the conference picture on the right-hand sidebar for more information.
Jane Kirkpatrick is internationally recognized for her 20 published books, 17 of which are historical and often set in the American West. Several of those books have been Book of the Month and Literary Guild selections. Click here to visit her website.