Encouragement from Harlan County

by Carlton Hughes

“I’m proud to be a Kentucky woman from Harlan County!”

Those were the first words out of the mouth of Sandra Aldrich as she began her first keynote address at Kentucky Christian Writers Conference several years ago. I couldn’t believe my ears.

It was my second time attending the event, and I looked around the room—I was the ONLY attendee from Eastern Kentucky and certainly the ONLY one from Harlan County, as far Southeast as you can go in the state.

I listened intently as Sandra detailed her writing journey, from humble roots in our “neck of the Appalachian woods” to working for Focus on the Family and speaking all around the country. She lived up to her title of “encourager,” as her speech fired me up to not only write but to conquer the world.

At the break, I timidly (people who know me are laughing, but I WAS timid) approached Sandra and introduced myself, letting her know that I now lived in her home county. To say she was excited is an understatement. She asked to meet my family back at the hotel, and, later in the weekend, I won a drawing for a spot at her lunch table. I now want to apologize to the other people at our table because Sandra and I chatted and chatted until time was up, leaving little room for anyone else to get a word in edgewise.

We promised to keep in touch after the conference, and I bought two of her books, 101 Upward Glances and Bless Your Socks Off, devouring them when I got home. Sandra has a way of taking the simplest thing, like watching her grandmother remove biscuits from the oven, and finding God in it. Her work is encouraging and uplifting.

I had been home about two weeks when I got an email from Sandra.

“A couple of friends of mine from Jerry Jenkins’ Writers Guild are putting together a book. Here’s the information—submit something! Deadline is in two weeks.”

TWO WEEKS? Thanks, Sandra, but I don’t know . . .

I prayed about it, and God gave me a spark of an idea. I sat down at the computer and wrote the piece, editing and honing it over those two weeks. I finally hit “submit,” and the rest is history. That essay, “God Will Honor Your Sacrifice,” was my first major publication, featured in the book Simple Little Words.

Sandra and I have kept in touch over the years, and she returned to KCWC a couple of years ago, much to my delight. As always, we shared some great conversations and some hearty laughter. She continues to inspire me with her written words in her books, her spoken words in her speeches, and her encouraging words in our exchanges, both online and in person.

WRITING PROMPT: Write a “Thank You” note to a person who has encouraged you in your writing journey, detailing how that person inspired you.

Click to Tweet: Encouragement from Harlan County–Carlton Hughes: Sandra Aldrich continues to inspire me. How an author inspired me via @InspiredPrompt #amwriting #writerslife