The Hawaiian fire dancers stepped up to the front and did their best to soothe my disappointment. The blue Pacific Ocean’s waves lapping gently against the hull of our giant ship calmed my stress. The promise of a day exploring Fiji began to bend my mind back toward vacation and this long-awaited cruise.

Still, if I could twitch my nose Samantha Stevens style, get a transport from Scotty or find a portkey with Harry Potter, I would be in Knoxville today.

Honors and awards are not commonplace for me. I am a simple Southern country girl who loves her family, friends and faith. I have been blessed to be able to write our stories and share our daily adventures with newspaper readers for 30 years. Today, still somewhat unbelievably to me, I was inducted — in absentia — into the East Tennessee Writers Hall of Fame.

Sponsored by the Friends of Literacy, the luncheon event also serves as a fundraiser to help with the critically important work they do.

Although I was not able to be there, FOL let me make a video clip, which I ended up making with my $30 video camera that I bought back when we started putting videos on our website at Blount Today. I intended to have one done professionally, or at least get some professional help editing it, but, in my usual workaholic way, I simply ran out of time before we left for the cruise. In hindsight, that feels right to me, assuming the video worked!

In addition to the tremendous honor, this day is special, even from more than 3,000 miles away, because my friend Terina Bryant nominated me, and my friend Melissa Nance is finishing her time as executive director at FOL this year. Their friendships mean a lot to me and having that connection is something I cherish.

Lastly, and importantly, is the willingness of my dear friend, former boss and always mentor Harry Moskos to go to the luncheon today and stand in for me. Harry and his wife, Vicki, didn’t hesitate when I asked them, and I thought it was fitting that they be there. I had written some columns before Harry came to the News Sentinel as editor, but Harry was the one who asked me to write weekly in a brand new section called Family and Religion. Rhymes and Reasons was born that day, and its spirit continues here today with Kitchen Table Talk.

The list of folks in the East Tennessee Writers Hall of Fame includes some of my literary heroes, both living and dead. In just the first two years of the award the list included Cormac McCarthy, Wilma Dykeman, Nikki Giovanni, Carson Brewer, Mary Bozeman Hodges, Jack Neely, Marilyn Kallet and James Agee.

My momma always told me, “Wherever you go, act like you belong.” That’s been good advice, but today I think my momma would say, “Heavens to Betsy, girl. You’ve wandered into some high cotton.”

My husband is buying a bottle of champagne at dinner tonight, and we will drink with our new friends/tablemates on the cruise, a toast for a memory being made far, far away.

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Written by Sherri Gardner Howell