Five years. It has been five years since I wrote my first story for the annual Gathering of Authors. Five years, five stories (not including this one), and three published books later, much has changed. The Gathering of Authors has grown bigger each year until the venue had to be moved to accommodate the increasing population of writers and readers alike. More contest entries, more authors, bigger venues, and most importantly, more money being raised for St. Jude's Children's Hospital. Yes, after five years, I can humbly say that the Gathering of Authors has changed my life in so many more ways than I would have ever expected.
A bittersweet feeling lingers in my chest as I write this, since this past year was the last year I was eligible to enter the Gathering of Author's writing contest. Those five years flash before my eyes. I was a girl with a passion of writing, and this contest was a way to exercise my passion, to use it in ways to help and uplift others. Each year my passion grew, and my writing grew and evolved with it. I owe this growth and improvement especially to Tammy Thompson, the founder of Gathering of Authors. Ms. Thompson has been most influential during these past five years in supporting me and other aspiring authors in our writing endeavors, and I cannot thank her enough. I do not want to leave anyone out, because numerous authors have provided inspiration and encouragement throughout the years, but I would be remiss if I did not give a special thanks to Ms. L.J. Maxie who made it possible for youth writers’ stories to be shared through publication in the book Dream Catchers by Topaz Publishing. But above all, I want to give a huge thanks to St. Jude and Arkansas Children’s Hospital, who are saving the lives of children everyday and making it possible for them to fulfill their passions, all while giving parents some much needed peace of mind. Gathering of Authors has contributed so much to St. Jude and Arkansas Children’s Hospital, and I am proud to say that I have been a part of that. I have heard so many testimonials of miracles that resulted from seemingly hopeless situations during this past five years - and for that I am thankful.
I know that I did not write a story this time, but rather reflected on previous years; I felt as though it was necessary to do so - to express my gratitude, thanks, and admiration for the people and organizations whom I have had the blessing of working with these past five years. Because of you, my life has been forever changed in the best way possible. Thank you all.