STORY 2016 and Exploring Nashville

City streets have imprinted themselves on my mind and, with my creative inclinations fueled, I’m ready to start typing. I spent last Thursday and Friday in Nashville, TN at The STORY Gathering. A few months ago, I applied for a youth scholarship to attend STORY. I was thrilled when I opened the email with the news that I had received a scholarship and would have the opportunity to attend STORY. I have been looking forward to this conference for several weeks and my experience was beyond my expectations.

My mom and I packed our bags and headed to Nashville, thankful for a girls weekend. I had some time to do some sight-seeing and exploring in Nashville, checking out most of my Nashville favorites like coffee at Frothy Monkey, wandering downtown Franklin, supper at Puckett’s, shopping at Opry Mills Mall, and exploring downtown Nashville. It was a couple of days packed with fun and memories. It’s always interesting to get away from my small, quiet mountain town for a trip to a big city. I tried to be sophisticated, but I think my rural roots (or blonde roots) may have shown when I embarrassingly gave up on trying to walk through a revolving door. I enjoyed trying new things, getting out of my comfort zone, and laughing and making memories with Mama. We didn’t miss the opportunity for good-eating in Nashville either.

I spent majority of my time at STORY. STORY is a conference for creatives (writers, film-makers and videographers, graphic designers, visionaries, entrepreneurs, etc.) that inspires the creative community to learn how to tell their story well. STORY took my breath away from the moment I walked in the door. I was greeted by a foyer decorated with a treehouse, swing-set, Jenga game, see-saw, and tables covered in paper for coloring, all bringing the “childlike imagination” theme to life. I was inspired, challenged, and encouraged by an impressive line-up of incredible creative people like Brad Montague, Casey Neistat, Ron Hall, Joanne Cash, Jeremy Cowart, Hannah Brencher, and lots more. It was a privilege to sit and learn from so many amazing minds. I soaked it all in, scribbling notes as fast as I could, laughing, wondering, dreaming, crying, and imagining with each of the speakers.

It was exciting for me to meet so many people who share my passion for art and writing. I left dreaming bigger, imagining deeper, and crafting words to better write my own story. I had the opportunity to enjoy a writing intensive with Hannah Brencher, one of my favorite bloggers and authors (check out her blog). Not only was I challenged creatively, but I learned writing and blogging skills. I seize every opportunity I have to learn from successful writers and grow in my own writing. Chasing your dream is a humbling experience. I have so much left to learn and I’m excited to see what the future has in store.

I always love to see how God places opportunities like this in my path. I feel like he’s standing beside me cheering, “Just follow me, I’ll take you where I want you to go.” God has taken me places that I never imagined I would be. I didn’t think I could really be writer; I didn’t think writing was a “real job.” To be honest, it still scares me. But for now, that’s where I feel God asking me to go. So I’m following. I don’t know where he’ll take me or if the future looks anything like I think I have planned (in pencil), but I trust He knows what He’s doing. STORY was just another sign of confirmation and encouragement. The words kept echoing in my brain, “This is what I want to do. I want to write words, create, and worship.” I have realized that subtle echo is what God’s voice often sounds like.

Brad Montague opened with asking, “what do you love about you do?” That question challenged me to reach deep inside. Why am I chasing this dream? Why does this passion pierce my heart? Why do words cause tears to well up in the corner of my eyes? Why does the smell of new books and the feel of worn pages of old books make me feel like I’m holding a sacred kind of beauty and power? What draws me into quaint bookstores? Why do words feel like breath, suffocating me if I leave them trapped inside?

The theme quote for STORY, wisely expressed by Walt Disney, gave me the answer, “That’s what we storytellers do. We restore order with imagination. We instill hope again and again and again.” I realized that darkness scares me and brokenness and injustice break my heart and make me angry. But I see light in the promises of God. I have peace in His quiet whisper. His love lets me find beauty in mornings, pajamas, the smell of coffee, and a good book. The world needs this light, we all need these promises, this peace, this love and beauty. Words are powerful, they can share darkness or light, make you cry or make you laugh, make you love or make you hate. When I write, I find light, joy, and love. I write to share the hope that makes me brave in the darkness. I write to share the light that is always burning through the crack in the door of dark rooms, even when I close my eyes. I write because it makes me smile and laugh and enjoy life. I write to share the way that words on the page romance me and the way they let me love. I write because I’m tired of the lies and I think truth deserves a voice. I write because it forces me to look around and see the beautiful mess of brokenness. Most importantly, I write because God has given me the lenses to see that good still reigns in the middle of this ugly world and He wants others to know that too. In the eloquent words of Walt Disney, I write to restore order. I write to instill hope over and over again. That is what I love about what I do.

















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