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Friday, June 6, 2014

An Ex-Truckers Writing Tale

                                  The Conference

    The difference between a fairy tale and a truck driving story is in the way they start. A fairy tale begins with, Once upon a time.  A truck driving story begins with, You ain't gonna believe this.  The difference is that the fairy tale usually isn't true, but the truck driving story is, though it may be embellished a bit.

      Having just returned from my third trip to the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writer’s Conference my goal is to share how it is and has changed my life. Just attending the first time was an act of providence.  My intention had been to go to a conference in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.  I discovered that conference in Writer’s Digest magazine.  It took me two years to get the money together for it.  The trip to the conference was 1500 miles one way.  In my van that would have been over $700 in gas round trip.  I had to have the deposit for the conference mailed in by June 1st

      While looking on twitter I found a link to a site run by Keiki Hendrix that supposedly listed Christian authors.  Well it did and it also listed writer’s conferences.  One of them was the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writer’s Conference or BRMCWC for short.  It started on the 20th of May and this was on the 15th of May.  In the morning I called and checked on it.  It had a lot of things going for it. First it was less than five hundred miles.  That saved me almost two thousand miles in gas alone which almost paid for the BRMCWC. On top of that the conference was only $730 for room, meals and classes which was cheaper than just the conference in Wyoming.  As they say, it was a no brainer.  The next few days were hectic.

    The drive to the conference was an adventure in itself.  During the conference I finally realized I do not really want to write books.  My goal is to have a meaningful blog where I can share things I have learned from life and many hours of studying the Bible.  My blogging started before the conference but had little direction.  My daughter Angelica had gone to Costa Rica to get her certification to teach high school Spanish classes.  She started a blog to keep us up to date on what she was doing while she was gone. I really loved it and told her so.

      During my last year in the Army in Panama I had been a photo/journalist for the command newspaper.  She suggested I start writing some of my life experiences so they could share them with my grand kids when I am gone.  It seemed a good idea to me having had a heart attack and been bought back in January 2004.  My youngest daughter Glenda fought a seven year battle with a brain tumor.  She went home to be with the Lord in August 2010.  One advantage of being on disability during that time was that I was able to spend a lot of time with Glenda taking her to appointments and running her around as she could not drive.  Starting the blog in March 2011 helped get me out of a bit of a low point in my life.

     Arriving at the conference and signing in was an adventure.  You meet so many people it is almost overwhelming.  Arriving early a couple of the first people I managed to meet were Alton Gansky  and  Edie Melson, later I would discover they were and are the ones in charge of making things happen. They are both really nice people to meet.  The chance meeting with them helped me realize I was definitely where I needed to me.

    The next morning I met a real nice person at breakfast. He is from California and was on staff.  I told him I was from Indiana and he said he had grown up in Indiana and gone to Vincennes University.  Over the course of our conversation we found out we both attended the same years and may have actually crossed paths at some point. The thirty plus years since then made it hard to be certain.
    An hour into my first day of classes the schedule I had made for my self was history.  It modified as the conference progressed.  Finding what you really need and what will benefit you at the level you are at is one of the learning experiences you will go through at your first conference.  Writing was something I already felt comfortable with.  How to develop and market my writing was my interest.

     The classes I took taught me that many of the things that I had taught myself were not the best way of doing things.  Most of the teachers stressed that blogs should be short and no more than three to five hundred words.  My posts were and are much longer than what they recommended.  To me it is determined by the purpose of your writing.  Short is nice if you want to break things up and post often.  My style is to post four to six times a month and while my blog is not growing as fast as some I have heard of.  It is doing okay for me.  It has had over thirteen thousand hits and been read in over seventy countries.  That made me proud until I realized that those numbers were about what one might expect from accidental hits as big as the web is. Eventually I would like to start doing travel stories and maybe ones on crafts, especially ones done with recycled materials.

     What is fun and makes blogging worth it is when one of your blog posts takes on a life of its own.  A couple of my older blogs have suddenly started getting hits from all over the world.  They received far too many hits for it to be a random accident. 

    One incident happened the first or second night and set a tone of things that has continued happening to me since the very first conference.  My room at the first conference was in the Mountain Laurel East building on the third floor.  In the evening I decided to have some Pepsi, but the ice machine on the third floor was not working.  So I went down to the second floor to get some ice. As I did two ladies were sitting in the hall and signing books.  When passing I said, “Hi” and continued on to get my ice. While waiting on the elevator to come back we made small talk and one lady said it was her book she was signing. I said that was nice and proceeded to get on the elevator and had a sudden and overwhelming desire to know what her book was about. I stuck my foot in the door as it closed.  It was about the loss of her daughter Megan. It was something I could definitely relate to having lost my own daughter.  We talked a few minutes and Marcia gave me an autographed copy of her book.  It really touched me and I realized it was not only my cross to bear, but that many others had been through the same thing.

    The conference went well and way to fast.  On the way home I pondered all the things I had heard seen and experienced.  Stopping for gas and coffee at a truck stop in Leavenworth, IN in the wee hours of the morning I saw a man come in with one leg and on crutches.  I assumed, which is a bad thing to do, that he was riding with someone until I watched him go out and start sliding the tandems to make his truck legal. It would never have hit me that what I was watching was a story before the conference, but now I was seeing stories everywhere.

   In 2013 on my way to the Conference I decided to stop and see my daughter in Corydon, IN and watch my grand-daughter play softball.  Friday night I went to an oldies but goodies car show in Corydon.  Saturday morning we went to the game. Things went fine till I made a comment to my grandson about the pitcher having a real good arm.  Very sarcastically he looked at me and said, “Yeah she has a real good arm. Did you look at her Papaw?” It was then I knew where and why the sarcasm was in his voice. She only had one arm. In my defense she really is an awesome pitcher.  Anyhow I found out her father was the coach for her team.  She and a friend play in a traveling league.  She played with the 16 to 18 year olds but she was only 14 at the time.  There is a definitely a story here and if things go well I will get it.  Her Dad has been too busy to find time for me, but my daughter said he was just hired by the same high school she works for as a coach so the door still may open.  

   The second year was pretty nice and again I threw away my schedule.  It was a lot less hectic than the first year and I seemed to get a lot more out of it than the first year. While I had submitted several stories to publications I still had not had any luck generating revenue from my writing.  That was when I decided if my writing didn’t pay my way that I would not be back in 2014.
       A couple things happened in 2013 that I found strange.  There is a lady that goes to the conference and uses a walking stick.  I had wondered who she was and what her story was in 2012.  Well I sat down and struck up a conversation with and elderly lady and it happened to be her Mom. Thank you, Lord, for that gift of knowledge. Then later in the conference I sat at a table with Edie Melson who has a son who is a veteran.  Five of us sat with her and every one of us had lost someone in the last couple of years.  That had to be a God thing. Some very powerful testimonies were given at that meal

       Well 2014 came up kind of fast and I had to either admit I wasn’t a writer or lie and go to the conference anyhow.  So to justify going I had to use some “truck logic” to allow myself to go to the conference.  It certainly was not because of a lack of money.  Between 2013 and 2014 my income had quadrupled.  In 2011 I had gone to a 4th of July get together at an old friend’s house.   His wife is a retired Lt. Commander from the Navy.  Well in the course of events I met a retired Air Force Lt. Colonel.  We got to talking and I shared how it had been my goal to lose weight and get back into skydiving which I did in the military and get my Gold Wings for a 1000 jumps.  In the course of the story I explained I had a heart attack, after losing ninety pounds and that they had implanted a defibrillator in me and that I doubted I could jump as they had taken away my CDL.  Well it seems he had worked in the compensation department and informed me that if I had a defibrillator and was a Vietnam vet I was automatically qualified for Agent Orange compensation.  That was July and I didn’t do anything till January, when I decided to turn over a new leaf and fill out the paperwork.  The worst they could say was no.  Well in October 2013 I was informed I would start receiving my compensation.  So having the money I had to justify my going to the conference.  I did fill out the papers and write all the forms they wanted me to write for the compensation and if I had not done so I would not have gotten the compensation.  So with a little stretch my writing did pay my way to the conference.

      Also I have enough money to do some serious traveling this year and hopefully by next year I won’t have to play games to justify my coming to the conference. It is nice to know that money is not the issue anymore.  In the course of events though I think I have stumbled on what the Lord is using me for as it seems I have met dozens of people like Marcia and myself.  It is a ministry which I had not counted on but which gives me peace each time I am able to talk with a person who is recovering as I was when I met Marcia.
     One evening I decided to stop at “The Cloud” and get a cup of coffee before going to my room.  I met a pastor named Dan Ellrick who was attending the conference from Japan. I mentioned I had a close friend that was Japanese that I had lost contact with over the years.  He asked me for as many details as I could give him.  Her husband, my best friend at the time, had been killed in a plane crash on his way to his first demonstration with the Golden Knights Army Exhibition Parachute Team.  The next morning at breakfast he handed me a sheet of paper with some info on it.  I had tried for years to track her down.  He had done it in one night.  When I called the number it turned out he was successful.  It had been only forty one years since I had contacted her.

     On the way home from the conference I had an experience that defies logic and kind of spooked me.  I stopped at the Wendy’s in Cherokee, NC and got me some lunch.  I got Chili, fries and a frosty.  When I got to the table and sat down I realized I only had three crackers.  As I pushed my chair back to go get some more a lady across the restaurant from me got up, picked up crackers off of her tray, walked over to my table and put her crackers on my tray.  Then she walked back and sat down.  Neither one of us said a word.  Kind of freaked me out till the next morning.  I being a creature of habit stopped at the same truck stop where I had met the one legged trucker.  I started talking to the coffee lady and started to get the wrong coffee and she straightened me out.  In the course of the conversation she revealed her Mom had died from a brain tumor a couple years before.  I told her my cracker story and she simply said, “You have some one looking out for you.” Yes I do and my prayer is that I learn to use it and walk in the power of it to help others.

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