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Thanks to my local-adjacent library, I had the opportunity simultaneously to pursue my loves of writing and Appalachia. The Foothills Voices writing project, hosted by the Blount County library, not only facilitated the first (and only to date) story I’ve published but also taught me research skills I can use for future works.

Foothills Voices Volume 2, Echos of Appalachia, launched last week. A modest crowd of family, friends, and library supporters gathered to celebrate the completed work. Prior to joining the other contributing writers at the table to sign our work, I spoke to the group for a few moments about my experience.

“When you read about the process, even real writers go through phases of self-doubt,” I said, as I thanked my family who attended the event. My mother has never stopped believing in me. From the moment she saw the class application deadline on Facebook, all the way through to the last minute difficulties I faced the final week before my story was shipped to the publisher.

One of the editors followed my statement with the encouragement of her own. “You are real writers.” I’m starting to accept that she is right. Not because I now have my name in print, or because my dozens of fans (okay so 11 family members and various supporters of the project as a whole) presented their copy of the book to me for my autograph.

I am a real writer because there is a lifetime of stories within me, just waiting to get out. Some I’m just storing for other people. My grandparents’ story, for instance, lives in me, even if I’ve only been alive for a small fraction of their time together.

My “trophy wife” status provides the opportunity for me to meet with people from all walks of life. My husband’s clients often become friends, and over a shared meal or evening we trade stories. Because of Jay’s business and the magic of Facebook, I’ve seen pictures and videos from a client’s time at the base camp of Mt. Everest.

I’ve sat around a fire pit drinking moonshine and acting a fool with a couple who are similar in age to my parents. They started just as a couple who were interested in buying a rental cabin as an investment, and have grown into friends who keep in touch. While I was composing this post, Jay called to let me know this couple is in town and wants to meet us in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for a picnic tonight. Part of their story has become my own.

As the book launch wound to a close, I rose from my seat at the table to get the editors to sign my copy of Foothills Voices. “Will you be joining us again? Do you have another story in you?” The research librarian/guru asked me as she signed.

“Without a doubt.”

And I’m thankful for any opportunity I have to share them.

Everyone has a story to tell. Finding the right outlet, however, can be a challenge. How do you tell your story?