Hope Conquers - A Campaign to Help Children With Cancer

I read as an escape, as a form of entertainment and as a way to learn. I've never thought about the idea of "reading for good," but I'm happy to introduce a way to do just that. Tammy Blackwell, a Kentucky author, is with us today for a post on her campaign of kindness - Hope Conquers - which aims to help children and families of children diagnosed with cancer.  - Lydia

I have lived in Marshall County, Kentucky, the majority of my life. When you live in a county of 31,000 people, there is no way to know every single person, but after thirty-something years, you feel like you do. You certainly know every member of your graduating class well enough that you feel a profound sense of sadness when one of them has a child be diagnosed with cancer. And when a person you grew up with is forced to bury their child, your heart becomes a raw ache inside your chest.

I was a member of the Marshall County High School Class of 1996. There were 300 of us. Three hundred. Out of that 300 people, four of them have recently had a child diagnosed with cancer. Two of those children died from the disease.

You would think that was enough for one small town, but unfortunately life wouldn’t agree. There are currently three teenagers in Marshall County missing school as they undergo cancer treatment. Three kids who should be worrying about exams, papers, and unrequited love are now worrying about blood levels, treatment options, and whether they will ever truly get to experience life again.

Cancer is cruel; it’s wrong; and it is certainly not fair.

I recently realized I could just sit around and feel sorry for all the families around me struggling, or I could do something to help. My day job is as the Young Adult Services Coordinator for the Marshall County Public Library. Over the years, I’ve seen how books can change a teen’s perception and attitude. I’ve seen books change lives. And so, armed with that knowledge, I came up with the Hope Conquers campaign.

The Hope Conquers campaign is simple: During the month of October, I will be collecting books inscribed with messages of inspiration and encouragement signed by the author. Those books will be donated to the Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital, the place most seriously ill kids in Marshall County go to receive care. I’ll also be donating all the profits from the Kindle edition of my novel Destiny Binds
to the Ronald McDonald House, which provides assistance to families with sick children.

I know in the grand scheme of things, Hope Conquers isn’t a lot. I’m going to give some kids some books and donate a little bit of money. So what?

Here’s the thing, though. I think it will make a difference. Actually, I know it will. I know, without a doubt, that every little bit helps. I know that if we work together, if each of us does what we can, our little bits will add up to a big something.

I encourage you to do what you can this month for kids with cancer. If you want to help the Hope Conquers campaign, you can do so by picking up a copy of Destiny Binds in the Kindle Store. (Don’t have a Kindle? No problem! Most app-enabled devices, like computers and smart phones, have a free Kindle app. And Destiny Binds is only 99¢!) Even if you don’t want to buy the book, you can help by
spreading the word about the campaign. Or by making a donation of your own to a charity that supports seriously ill children. Or by dropping a few coins into the collection boxes at McDonald’s. Please, just do something, anything, to get involved. 

Together we can make a difference in the lives of children battling cancer.

Tammy Blackwell works at the Marshall County Public Library in Kentucky and is the author of the popular YA series, the Timber Wolves Trilogy. You can visit her online at www.misstammywrites.com or follow her on Twitter (@Miss_Tammy).

Kentucky Writers' Day

In honor of  Kentucky Writers' Day, the HerKentucky team put together a few thoughts about our favorite Kentucky writers. 
Wendell Berry. Image via Garden and Gun
I love Bobbie Ann Mason for her storytelling. I love Barbara Kingsolver for the rich imagery in so many of her books. Prodigal Summer is one of my all-time favorite books, but The Poisonwood Bible was the one that really drew me in to her canon. I also love Wendell Berry for both his fiction and his activism. I respect that he fights for what he believes in. (Most of which I also happen to believe in, so that helps!)

Also, as a reader and unashamed lover of romance novels, I have to give a shout out to Jude Deveraux who is hugely successful in her field and is from Fairdale. She's been on the New York Times  Best-Seller list with 36 different books. Last summer, I set out to read every one of her books that follow the Montgomery/Taggert families and loved it!

Oh, I forgot to add an up-and-comer in young adult fiction named Tammy Blackwell. She has a trilogy of YA paranormal fiction that features a great strong female character. She's a librarian in Marshall County.

I know other states might have more Presidents or celebrities but I have to say that Kentucky has done a fantastic job of producing writers. When I get comfortable calling myself a writer, then I'll be so honored to be included in this group. Here are my top five:
bell hooks. Image via Berea College.

1. Wendell Berry Others have captured his genius much better than I can. All I can say is if I ever met him I'm pretty sure I would go full-scale Wayne's World "I'm not worthy!"
2. Barbara Kingsolver I was a vegetarian for five years. Then I read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. I'm not a vegetarian anymore. I'd say that about sums it up.
3. Bobbie Ann Mason From just down the road, her memoir Clear Springs made me feel at home when I was anything but.
4. Molly Harper She's from Paducah (and in my book club!). Molly Harper writes about vampires...and librarians. Need I say more?
5. bell hooks Feminism is for Everybody should be handed out to every college freshman in the nation.
Hunter S. Thompson, by Annie Leibovitz

Hunter S. Thompson, Louisville native, for introducing us to Gonzo journalism with his 1970 essay "The Kentucky Derby is Decadent and Depraved", and for the fact that his ashes were fired into the sky by a cannon (arranged by another Kentuckian, Johnny Depp) because "he loved explosions".

I have to agree with Cristina; Dr. Thompson's piece about the Derby is on my short list for the greatest configuration of words ever set to paper.   As I've said before, I find his sports writing to be the greatest and most underreported of his works.

The works of Verna Mae Slone and Paul Brett Johnson are sentimental favorites for me, because both authors were my distant cousins on my father's side. 

A few years ago, I had the good fortune to interview a Western Kentucky-born writer named Holly Goddard Jones.  She was charming and down-to-earth, and her short stories captured rural Kentucky life without pathos or exploitation (a rare gift in a young author.)  Holly hasn't quite made my "favorite Kentucky writers" list yet, but I certainly think she's one to watch...

Who are your favorite Kentucky Writers?