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It’s About the People

“It’s not about the paddle; it’s about the people.”

Early on in our journey, this quote became our motto. I can’t take any credit. It was originally coined by Gene, in response to a quandry brought on by an accident in the headwaters. After repairs were made, we faced a choice between foregoing some river miles or missing one of our planned service stops.

Our new motto became a litmus test whenever we considered a change of route or a modification of our itinerary. We thought of it when people emailed us to ask if we could stop and have lunch with them, or invited us to stay in their home to talk with their children about service to others. We considered it when people asked us to stay overnight to meet their friends, or paddle a few miles out of our way to meet the spouse of a volunteer we met during a day of service. You see, each morning we asked God to put people in front of us that God wanted us to meet. We learned when you ask something like that, you’d better be ready for an answer!

The greatest joy of the trip, even better than the amazing river, the spectacular wildlife, and the peacefulness of daily life lived in the outdoors was meeting interesting, kind and generous people all along the way. Since we’ve been home, we’ve kept up with some of these friends through emails and social media. Jason and Jeni, who since helping us overcome a river crisis, have gotten married, bought a home, and had a beautiful baby girl. Jennifer, who started After School Adventures in the neighborhood by her church, left that flourishing program in church hands and with her family, relocated to Texas to serve with Pioneer Bible Translators. And Elizabeth, who recognized a need, began a GED tutoring program in her town, and, with dedicated volunteers, is still changing lives.

Handmade Quilt sent by the Volunteer Staff at the Itawamba Learning Center

Elizabeth recently sent us this beautiful quilt, handmade by Judy, one of the Itawamba Learning Center volunteer tutors. Among other pictures, it has a photo of a student we met, who went on to attend the area college.

The photo shows her with the Itawamba staff on her graduation day, her mother on the far right.

 

 

This summer and fall, we look forward to several book tours along the Mississippi and Tenn-Tom waterways that will give us a chance to visit and catch up with the amazing folks we met on our trip. We plan to be in the St. Louis, Hannibal and Dubuque areas in June; Brainerd, Bemidji and Little Falls areas in July; Paducah, Fulton, Savannah and Demopolis areas in August; and the La Crosse, Ferryville and Twin Cities areas in September. (If you are from these locations and know of libraries, bookstores, or churches that might be interested in meeting us, we’d love to know.) As we arrange programs, readings, and/or book signings, we’ll list them on our website. Look for the “Appearances” tab on the main page.

Gratefully,

Barb

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Check Out Our New Look!

Now that we have a release date (April 3) for the memoir, Paddle for a Purpose, we’ve been busy updating our website. To share our excitement with you, we’ve added a countdown to the release date, and to make it easy for people to order, we’ve added a link to eLectio Publishing. You’ll be able to order Paddle for a Purpose right from there, as soon as it’s available. Before then, feel free to click on the link to look over eLectio’s varied selection of great books!

We’ve added new features to the website for readers, too. An interactive map is available here to help readers follow along as they wind their way to the Gulf of Mexico within the pages of Paddle for a Purpose. Markers on the map show towns where we stopped to volunteer with service organizations. Clicking on each marker pops up a photograph, a link to the charity’s website in that community and a brief description of what they do. Feel free to explore the links and support the wonderful things these organizations are doing to help others.

In addition, we’ve added five pages of photo galleries with pictures of the people, places and wildlife that are mentioned in the memoir. As readers enjoy the small moments on the water, the conversations with people we meet and our camping exploits, they can refer to color photographs which couldn’t possibly all fit in the book itself. The interactive map and the photo galleries can both be accessed at the top of the home page on this site. We hope the interesting sights whet your appetite for the many entertaining and heart-warming stories of our Paddle for a Purpose!

Barb and Gene

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An Author with eLectio Publishing: A Dream Come True

A few years ago, when I was barely into the first draft of Paddle for a Purpose, when I wasn’t sure it would ever be polished enough to be published at all, I read Dirty Shirt: A Boundary Waters Memoir by Jim Landwehr. Jim was a colleague of mine at All-Writers’ Workplace and Workshop. I was eager to read his first book. Like mine, it was a memoir, and it was about canoeing! I loved Jim’s humor, gentle storytelling style, and emphasis on family relationships. His publisher? eLectio Publishing.

Intrigued, I visited eLectio’s website, and learned their mission included discovering and publishing works by both new and established authors, and publishing God-honoring stories…stories that exemplify Christian living. A seed was planted. If my story was ever ready to send to publishers, I wanted to send it to eLectio. I wanted to work with a God-honoring publisher. I certainly met the criteria of an unknown author. Maybe I had a shot.

Last fall, after more drafts than I ever would have predicted I could write, the manuscript was finally ready. “I have a publisher in mind for you,” said Kathie Giorgio, my writing coach and founder of the AllWriters’ studio. “I think eLectio would be perfect.” I agreed, but together, we still came up with a list of over twenty small presses for submission. Despite plenty of options, my heart was set on eLectio. I submitted to them first, determined to give them a head start before submitting elsewhere.

“Don’t worry,” said Jim, when I didn’t hear back. “They’re really busy. But, I’d be surprised if you don’t hear from them.” I hoped he was right, but submitted to another group of publishers. If God did have a different publisher in mind for Paddle for a Purpose, who was I to submit to only one?

And then, after a few weeks of hoping, doubting, praying, trying to distract myself… I got the email. Christopher Dixon, of eLectio Publishing, wanted to speak with me. Oh, my heart raced! After talking with him, I could barely contain my excitement. It was really going to happen. Paddle for a Purpose would be published. I would be an eLectio author!

Still in the middle of the process, I am grateful, each day, for the opportunity to work with eLectio – for their faith in me and in the quality of my work and the merit of our story. Click on the link to check out their website and see if you don’t agree. I couldn’t have found a better home.

Barb

 

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Birth of a Book

My writing coach, Kathie Giorgio, once told me that publishing a book is like giving birth. Each one is different – and special. I’m sure she’s right. But I’ve only got one childbirth to compare with one book, and I think perhaps the childbirth was easier.

The manuscript, Paddle for a Purpose, is finished now, resting between the covers of a three-ring binder on my shelf. I’m submitting it to small press publishers, hoping to find one who sees the same hope and promise that Gene and I have seen in this story since setting out on our kayak trip years ago. Already, the gestation period for this book-child has been five times as long as that of my son, Eric, whom I welcomed into my arms and into my life almost 27 years ago. I’m getting eager to hold the book in my hands, to run my fingers over the cover, and flip through the pages. Some of you have told me you are also anxious to see it – to read the story of God’s work in us during our months on the Mississippi.

So, what took so long? It’s just a book, right? The first year, I worked with a small group of colleagues in a Write-a-Book Workshop. We read and critiqued each others’ work, meeting once a month to discuss our books in progress. I loved being immersed not only in writing our story, but stories in other genres, as well. After the first draft was finished, I worked by myself for a while, then weekly on another draft with a different group of colleagues. Descriptions became more vivid, sentences more succinct, and inner thought more apparent, as other writers asked questions and offered suggestions. Next came a Writers’ Retreat, where I solidified the all-important beginning of the story. Then, more drafts, reading through the manuscript with Gene, cutting out unnecessary sections, and adding authenticity to the dialogue. After a couple more independent readings, I worked through the manuscript again with the help of my writing coach. Each time, the story stayed the same, but the telling improved. After the last independent read-through, I finally reached the conclusion that the memoir was written the best way I knew how.

When I began to put our story on the page, I had no idea how much revision it would need or how much I would learn in the process. I’d like to thank Kathie Giorgio, and my AllWriters’ Workplace and Workshop colleagues, not only for their help with this book, but for encouraging and helping me grow as a writer. And of course, I need to thank my husband, Gene, for his patience, support and invaluable assistance, both during the trip and the writing process.

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