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Vines in the South of France


I just got off the phone with my dear friend Christelle, whom I met twenty years ago in a small town in the Savoie department of the Rhône-Alpes and who now lives in the South of France with her husband and two boys. Christelle is a true Frenchwoman, a university teacher who has taught me much about enjoying life (and food!). She tells me she’s enamoured with my novel, and our discussion today centred around her continuing education and her plans to use The Third Grace as a text in her graduate studies.

“I love how allusive of the Bible your writing is,” she said to me. “This isn’t common in France, and your book makes me want to go to the Bible and read it for myself.”

I get goosebumps just typing this. Here is a reader who understands my whole purpose in writing fiction! Someone—of another culture, at that—gets that my literary intention is to point back to the Scriptures, and is intellectually and spiritually stimulated to pursue God’s Word because of my imaginary story.

This is my satisfaction in writing—to know my words make a difference.

Two years ago this month, The Third Grace won The Word Guild’s prestigious Grace Irwin Award. You’d think this would be enough to carry me through the drafting of my second novel, almost done now. The validation of the award does go a long way in that direction and, anyway, I’m writing out of a solid conviction that I have a contribution to make. But yet I find myself flagging, wondering if all this time spent in my head really makes a difference to flesh-and-blood people out there in Real World.

My fan club is either minuscule or shy, but every now and then I learn about someone else who’s read my work. For example, upon request from a local business owner, I stopped by her establishment this past week to sign my book. When I walked in, she got all excited and dragged out her very worn copy (What, was she reading it in the tub?) for me to add my John Henry. It encouraged me to see her delight in having the signature of “the actual author” and hear her inquiry into when the next book would be out.

Granted, not everyone likes The Third Grace. I was at a cattle branding recently and a neighbouring rancher with cow poo on his boots told me his wife forced him to read it.

“I didn’t get it,” he said to me. “Your words are too long.”

I grinned and thanked him for his sacrifice in making it through to the end. I meant it; not many men I know have read the novel, and it honoured me.

I’m not alone in enjoying acknowledgment.

Yesterday I read a Facebook post from a fellow writer who’s many more times published than I am or might ever hope to be. Linda Hall expressed a similar thrill over a recent review of her latest book—number 19, I believe. That “famous” writer still gets a positive charge out of one review.

My point isn’t to elicit more praise from my readers! In fact, if you are compulsively driven right now to tell me how much you like my novel, please save it because I’ll know you think I’m pathetic.

My point is that for some reason I’ve tended to believe people who are having successes don’t need positive feedback from others, as though I should “save” my verbal support for those who are more obviously struggling in their lives. But my own experience with the publishing of my first novel, as well as my observation of those who are more proficient or qualified, is telling me something very different.

We all need encouragement.

How can I, today, spur someone on to love and good deeds (Heb. 10:24)?

Whom do you know needing a cheer of support, a confirmation that he or she makes a difference in your life? Perhaps it’s your pastor, or a politician, or another writer immersed in solitary work.

Join me in taking time today to tip your hat to someone you think shouldn’t need it.

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