January 27, 2021

When I Held It

Chris Pepple

I remember the day that I held my first published book. It seemed like a dream come true. When I was growing up, my grandmother would buy me spiral notebooks and pencils any time I asked for them. I would hide in a secret corner in her house and write every chance I got. I even loved my writing assignments in school and never could understand why other classmates dreaded them. I always wanted to be a writer, but I didn’t pursue that dream in college, however. Well, I did in a way, but I also listened to people who said that writing wasn’t a “real career.” I always heard people say, “That’s only a dream that will disappoint you if you try to follow it. Hard-working people need to find real jobs.” So instead of majoring in creative writing, I majored in technical writing. It sounded more impressive to my critics, and I convinced myself I could take on the business world with my writing skills.

My first dream never died, however. The voice inside of me kept calling me to pen and paper…kept creating characters in my head…kept telling me to listen to the stories around me. When I entered Emory University to work on my Master of Divinity degree, I knew I had to find a way to write. I took every course that gave me opportunities to write sermons or liturgy. I sought out volunteer opportunities to write for local organizations. I even took occasional writing courses at other universities even though the credits didn’t go toward my degree.

I wrote everywhere I went. I carried paper with me long before laptops existed. I wrote on every hike. I wrote late at night after other jobs were completed. Writing made me feel alive and connected to my community and my faith. I never gave up the dream even when I had to set it aside while raising my children. Finally, though, I came back to my dream and learned that I loved to interview people and tell their stories. I wrote for several magazines and eventually took a job as a staff writer for a university. But that voice inside kept calling me to write more. I listened.

In 2012, I published a book of short stories titled Look to See Me: A Collection of Reflections. When I held that book, I felt a rush of joy that I had never experienced before. That writer inside of me felt alive. I had followed my dream and succeeded. It didn’t matter to me in that moment if the book sold or became a bestseller. That first book was for me. I had to believe in myself, and I finally did. It was a bonus that people did read the book and talked with me about it and invited me to read a few stories to their book clubs or writing groups.

My last two books fulfilled two other dreams—I published a book of poetry and a book about the craft of writing. I teach my writing students to never give up on their dreams. We each have a voice inside that helps us discover our gifts and talents. We have a voice that calls us to use those gifts and talents to bring good into the world—to make us a better person and bring love and light to others. So, I write and also edit and consult with others as they work to follow their dreams. I don’t pretend that I have to change my dream to please others.

I am a writer. I am a poet. I am a storyteller. I knew my dream was real the moment I held my first book. I’ve learned a lot about writing and publishing since that day, but more than anything, I learned to follow my dream and listen to that guiding voice that tells me to never give up.

I am an award-winning author and a freelance writer, manuscript consultant, and editor living in Germantown, Tenn. As a published author, my works include Looking, Seeing (2018), Without a Voice (2017), Two Frontiers (2016), Writing Your Faith Journey (2016), Look to See Me: A Collection of Reflections (2006) and Reflections on Suffering: Defining Our Crosses and Letting Go of Pain (2012). My first novel, Two Frontiers, was a 2017 Next Generation Indie Book Awards Finalist.

I was a long-time writer-at-large for Southern Writers Magazine, interviewing national authors for each issue. My articles have appeared in many other local and national publications, including Delta Magazine.

I speak to writing groups on topics such as self-publishing, how to find your own creative voice and how to break writer's block. Along with speaking to writing groups, I also speak nationally to churches and nonprofit organizations on a variety of motivational and spiritual topics.

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  1. Chris,

    Thanks for telling us about your journey and the celebration when you held your published book. The celebration never ends for me. Each time I hold a new book for the first time is magical and to be celebrated and appreciated (and I've been blessed to write over 60 books). Each one I approach with gratitude.

    author of 10 Publishing Myths, Insights Every Author Needs to Succeed

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