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.”
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.