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Penelope J. Stokes

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Penelope J. Stokes
It’s often been debated whether a person’s destiny lies in genetics or environment, but either way, I suppose I was destined to be a fiction writer. A Baby Boomer with an English teacher and a social worker for parents, I grew up being challenged to develop my imagination, and to seek out for myself the meaning and significance of life. I learned early both the magic and mystery of stories and the importance of people–their dreams, their hopes, their longings, their struggles.

From the age of four, when I first learned to read and discovered that words had incredible power, I dreamed of being a writer. But the fulfillment of that dream was a long time in coming. Ten years of university study, culminating in a Ph.D. in Renaissance Literature, led me to a career as a college professor. I loved teaching, loved the students and the challenge and the interaction, but the longing for full-time expression of my creativity never died. Finally, after twelve years of college teaching, I left the classroom and turned my energy toward my life’s passion–writing fiction.

In the process, I discovered another passion–the magnificent grandeur of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Western North Carolina.

I was raised in Mississippi, and as a child I remember family vacations to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I loved the undulating layers of blue and purple and green, the rushing streams coming down over the rocks, the cool glades and misty mornings. And now I live here—in the shadow of the Blue Ridge near DuPont Forest, where rare and remarkable white squirrels chatter wisdom to me from the trees outside my office window.

White squirrel in TamaracBut scenery can only take you so far. Fiction is about people. Not just what happens to them, but about what happens in them–the spiritual, emotional, and psychological passages that lead people to an understanding of their inner selves, and of one another. That’s what I like to write about: the heart, the mind, the soul. Authenticity of character and profound spiritual transformation. I want to draw my readers into a different kind of world–one marked by purpose, significance, and hope. Most importantly, hope.

Some readers have criticized me for dealing with uncomfortable subjects in my fiction–subjects which do not lend themselves to easy answers. The truth is, there are no easy answers in life. There are not even any easy questions. Over the years I’ve come to the conclusion that our character is determined not so much by the certainties we cling to, but by the uncertainties we are courageous enough to face.

At the end of the day, only a few things in life really matter: Love. Insight. Growth. Grace. When we’re committed to going deeper, to following the unknown path, our journey can lead us to an understanding of our own our inner being, to a connection with a power that is both within us and beyond us. And that understanding, that connection, gives meaning and purpose to our days.

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