The two bookshelves above my computer are reserved for my “how to write” titles. The bottom shelf also displays the latest greeting cards I’ve received in the mail. This juxtaposition of anthologies and published expert advice with handwritten cards reflects my writing and personal life.

Creating in the same space for decades, I’ve grown to appreciate the contrast between well-worn works of literary craft to the handwritten expressions of friendship and kindness I pull from an envelope.

Perhaps my occupation of observing the human condition encouraged my natural habit to honor those greetings—to set each artistic card and heartfelt sentiment before my eyes.

For I value personal letters more than my bound tomes of the pros. I’ve bins of greeting cards in the basement, and don’t regret whatsoever leaving them behind for a bonfire.

I’ve considered weeding my shelves of bulky dictionaries and literary volumes, yet I may need the Italian dictionary again someday. Besides, I bought the antique in Vienna on a beautiful, sunny morning.

And then there’s the more contemporary self-help category. Pat Conroy’s “My Reading Life,” and “On Writing” by Stephen King,” for example.

I have a relationship with these occupants in my library. Some bear personalized chocolate smudges on pages of my favorite passages.

For instance, page 236 of “On Writing,” King says, “You learn best by reading a lot and writing a lot, and the most valuable lessons of all are the ones you teach yourselves.”

I marked this page with a sticky, green arrow when I read the book twenty years ago. King’s dynamic duo of reality and encouragement offered deliverance from doubt and self-censorship when I needed it most as a beginning fiction writer.

My mother-in-law cast her copy of “On Writing” my way when she discovered the story wasn’t of the horror genre. “I would’ve never bought it,” she said. “Take it.”

I devoured “On Writing” while my entire extended family of twenty-some visited my mother for our last Thanksgiving dinner together in her Kentucky homeplace.

Then again, Conroy’s “My Reading Life” came by recommendation. A smaller cover that cradles in the hand cozily, Conroy’s point of view supports King’s.

“The writing life requires the tireless discipline of the ironclad routine…it does not permit much familiarity with chaos.”

So, that’s why I left the family herd for a bedroom upstairs to read “On Writing”?

I mailed Mom a thank-you note for her boundless love and preparations for her Thanksgiving feast. On occasion she’d write me a note of gratitude for a gift I’d mailed her.

Now my mother’s age of that Thanksgiving, I have self-published my first novel, and am presently working with a publisher on my second work of fiction.

Dear Reader, the encouraging words of one card on my shelf says: “The Lord has wonderful things in store for you! May His loving presence bring joy to you today.”

I pass this message on to you: mercy and grace to hold friendships, families, and the human race together.

Contact Iris at