user checks her or his phone for messages more than 90 times a day. When we see a SMS or email from a friend—especially one we haven’t heard from in a while—we have an immediate, positive emotional response. That takes us back to Tolkien. While we enjoy the momentary

gratification of hearing from those who care about us, there is something deeper, more engaging, more satisfying and more enlightening about an intentionally crafted piece of literature, regardless of its genre. Many folks are delighted and carried away by fantasies like The Hobbit. Just as many are immersed and intrigued by cookbooks. Take, for instance, Julie Powell, a New York writer thoroughly

burned out in the business world. She found respite in Julia Child’s seminal cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Powell’s dedication to Child’s cookbook so transformed her life that she turned it into her own memoir, Julie and Julia: My Year of Cook- ing Dangerously, which was made into the popular 2009 motion picture.

The written word is a balm for the soul in an uncounted num- ber of ways. This was a surprising lesson learned by Piedmont Triad novelist Joan Byrd. Though she was first published as a Christian romance author, Byrd had a lifetime of literature she had written in a variety of genres. Eventually her thrillers and children’s picture books came into print as well. Though her impetus to write has always come from a powerful inner muse— whom she calls her guardian angel—the wide, diverse impact of her literary gift has been revealed to her in the surprising amount of feedback she has received from those who have read her books. Among those who have expressed the most gratitude for her work are people who are homebound or who yearn for respite

because they are caring fulltime for others. Readers she has never met perceive they have a special bond with the author and, in their fan mail, address Byrd as if she were a longtime, close friend. Frequently they write to ask when they can expect the next book from one of her mystery or romance series. One audience she never expected, however, is made up of prison inmates. After one North Carolina inmate obtained a copy of her mystery A Box in the Attic, he read it at one sitting, then passed it among others incarcerated with him. Other inmates sought out Byrd’s novels and began to share them with one an- other. Soon, multiple letters of appreciation found their way to the author. One prison resident shared an insightful editorial critique of

Byrd’s first novel, A New Beginning, writing: “I’ve read plenty of books from first-time novelists, but this one was as good as any I’ve read. I hope you are almost finished with book 2 because I really want to know what happens. I’ll be sending the book home to Mom soon, but my friend here wants to read it first.” To be sure, this man was undergoing a very different type of struggle than J.R.R. Tolkien’s son, but both of them found peace and strength in the tincture of the written word. Authors write first to quiet the inner muse that drives them. It’s essential, how- ever, that writers become aware of the effect their words can have to uplift, transport and empower others.

Mike Simpson is the publisher of Empower Publishing, part of a Piedmont Triad literary team that has published 600 titles from 150 authors in the past 12 years. He can be reached at empow-, (336) 257-9276, PO Box 26701, Winston- Salem 27114 or See ad on page 7.

Enjoy fine dining in a relaxed and casual setting.

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Hwy. 16 N, Grassy Creek, NC just 15 minutes from Jefferson

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