This year presented its share of opportunities and challenges. But in almost every respect, 2021 is a year we’ll remember fondly with some particularly meaningful events.
I realized the pursuit of a decade-long dream on February 10 (my 55th birthday) upon receiving an email offering professional literary representation for my future writing. Books & Such agent Mary DeMuth’s email began with the words ” …it is with great pleasure that I offer you representation…” They are some of the sweetest words I’ve ever seen. There were times I thought it would never happen, and the “passes” must have amounted to at least 40 occasions since 2012. Mary gave me a chance, and that’s something you never forget. It’s a thrill now pursuing new book projects on the traditional side of the business. God is good.
My previously self-published book, The King of Highbanks Road fared well in independently-judged contests. King was a Selah finalist for Best Audiobook at the Blue Ridge Christian Writers Conference. Ultimately the book ranked as runner-up in that category and as Director’s Choice Non-Fiction Book of the Year. The Independent Publisher Book Awards (IPPY) made King its silver medalist for Best Non-Fiction Book in the South. Second place all around. Much like kissing your sister.
I spent much of 2021 working on my author “platform.”
There is a new website at steve-watkins.com, I’m expanding my reach with YouTube and a possible podcast that will launch next year. My Sunday Share newsletter is revamped and becomes twice monthly beginning in January. And I’m continually looking for ways to bring value-added thought to readers’ lives. Mostly, I’m working to create a safe place for people that I define as “on the fringe” where they may ask questions, express doubts, and speak authentically and openly. What I find is that so many people want to believe in something higher, something holy, something bigger than themselves, but they simply have a hard time because of the hypocrisy displayed by so many of us in the Christian community. We are generally what we project ourselves to be. If this community is a place where questions and doubts are not allowed, to whom can we go? We have SO much to discuss together this year.
I wrote a short daily devotional style ebook Out in the Country. You may download that book for free here. It would be a great way to begin the year with a daily reading for all of January.
For the first time in two years, Dana and I took a vacation to Perdido Key. We enjoyed a great week on the beach doing absolutely nothing.
My vegetable garden at Tranquility Base expanded exponentially and the months of May through August are now pretty much consumed with garden maintenance, harvest and canning, pickling and other methods of food preservation. Much of this work now becomes the focus of my new YouTube channel, Ozark Garden & Grub.
We made other improvements at our Tranquility Base including some land excavation that improves the river view. And we added a guest cabin for my mom and anyone else who wishes to enjoy the peace we experience in Round Bottom Valley. Y’all come.
I experienced a rough patch during April and managed some issues with depression. Working through that time birthed an idea that will become much of my writing focus during the next year. I’m passionate about how we each may discover our gift, passion, calling and love, and how those roles come together to form a spiritual fingerprint in our lives. This personal discovery has changed my life radically for the good. More to come.
I fulfilled a promise to get a full medical physical complete with all the “procedures” called for in a male’s mid-life. Oh, the humanity. In the process of a colonoscopy, the doctor discovered a condition known as bradycardia, a severe sleep apnea where I stop breathing and my heart rate drops dangerously low (as in as low as 30 beats per minute). We are working to correct this now, but the adjustment isn’t easy.
The year brought a season of loss. Our dear friends Phil Volker and Jay Gunter went to Heaven. I could write about them both until the end of time and still not tell their amazing stories. Our cocker spaniel, Snickers, died suddenly. There is still a hole in our family with her loss.
We enjoyed bumper crops of cotton and corn on our farmland in eastern Craighead County.
My relationship with organized church remains complicated. I can honestly say my personal relationship with Jesus grows stronger as I pursue that walk with Him. I’ve unlearned a lot in recent years. And I’d like to believe I’ve picked up a bit of wisdom here and there.
My work continues at the weekly newspaper the Stone County Leader where I write a weekly column about whatever’s on my mind.
The prospects for 2022 are better than ever.
Guideposts has invited me to participate as a contributing author in a book titled In God’s Time set for release in April 2023. I’ll write two chapters based on text from Eccliastes 3:2-3. We’ll also pitch book projects to other publishers, some of which will center around my ideas on our Kingdom Fingerprint.
We’re thankful for this year, and for the opportunities ahead.
And I’m grateful for every person who reads whether it’s a social media post, a blog post or a book our there with my name. If you want to talk truth, this is the place for you.
Best wishes to you all in 2022, my friends. Let’s all expect great things together!