It’s not often I can look back over my life and see a series of events unfolded in a way I might have written them in a novel (and perhaps been called on the “coincidence”  or contrivance of it). But I was coming to my desk a moment ago for my day of writing and glanced up to where I have the Christy Awards my debut novel Burning Sky won back in June arranged on the shelf above my work space, along with a photo of my grandmother.

Why a photo of my grandmother?

When I was a girl, Margaret Johnson, my Dad’s mom, sent me a copy of the book Christy for Christmas (she lived in California, I lived in Maryland). I might have been about twelve. Too young to appreciate the book at that time. But I did love books, and reading, just not this book, right then. So it found a home on my bookshelf for a couple of years before I gave it another try. And was swept away to early 20th century Appalachia, with a courageous and naive young woman who thought she could march into those isolated coves and teach children how to read, never knowing what obstacles she would face. Never knowing that love–God’s, and a woman’s, and a man’s–awaited her.

I enjoyed Christy so much I sent my grandmother a much more heartfelt thank you note after I finished it than the one I no doubt sent the Christmas she gave the gift.

At this time I had long since forgotten that, years earlier, I’d sent my grandmother my very first story (I’ve shared about it on my Facebook Author Page, scroll back to July 16 posts to see and read it). When I started writing again in my early twenties, my grandmother, through our exchange of letters over the years, became a source of encouragement, a real cheerleader, for my efforts. She cheered me on through my twenties, through my journey with cancer and chemo fog at age 30, and again when I began writing once more in my mid-thirties.

She didn’t live to see Burning Sky published, but the book bears her name in dedication. That it went on to win an award named for the book she gifted me all those years ago has, over these past weeks, felt to me like a precious heart circle closing. A happy ending, though a little bittersweet that she, and my Dad who passed away last December, couldn’t celebrate with me on this side of heaven.

I’m thankful for all of you who have shared it with me, reader friends and family who’ve expressed kind words and congratulations (and sent chocolate!). I haven’t posted a lot about my feelings concerning Burning Sky‘s awards, but this story about my grandmother and the book, Christy, is one of the deeper joys, one of those things I can look back on and see God’s hand in the details.

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