One kind word

Author’s Note: West Virginia Writers, Inc. is a non-profit that has supported and celebrated Mountain State writers and their words since 1977. That was the year I gathered the courage, with my mom’s support, to attend the inaugural West Virginia Writers Conference in Charleston, WV and share some of my poems. I am so grateful that this group exists. Here’s a short memory of that terrifying yet exhilarating day at the poetry workshop, which I  recently shared with the current members on the WVW Facebook page. 

I owe West Virginia Writers a debt of gratitude. Back in 1977, which would have been the organization’s founding year and maybe the first WVW Conference, I stood onstage at The Cultural Center in Charleston, all of 18 years old, and read aloud in front of an audience for the first time several of my poems. I was terrified but my mother, who accompanied me to the conference, encouraged me to get my words “out there.”

Me at 18

Me at 18

One poem in particular received both criticism and a compliment. It was inspired by Langston Hughes’ poem “Dreams,” written about saying goodbye to a dear friend. It was short and sweet:

“Without you to share with,
my days will only fly
on half a wing.”

One audience member (or maybe two) quickly pointed out that my metaphor didn’t make sense. How can there be just half a wing?

And then a fellow West Virginia writer, sitting right up in front of the stage in her wheelchair, spoke up and said she completely understood the imagery. I have never forgotten her support that day. Sometimes just one kind word can inspire us to carry on with our writing. And I have.