It’s been almost three years since that spine-tingling episode (horror genre in my mind) turned my placid existence upside down, but whenever I remember it, I cringe still, big time.
I was invited to speak in a forum on “Creativity” at the Litt world 2004 (a biennial gathering of book publishers, editors, and writers from all over the world). I had never attended any gathering that had to do with book writing in my life before.
“No, I can’t,” I said, rightfully spooked. I wasn’t ready for an occasion that big. I was a neophyte author and was feeling dismally inadequate.
“Oh, but your whole career centered on creative work," Yna, the publications director of my publishing house, insisted. True, as Creative Director for many years, the topic “creativity” always turns my mourning into dancing.
“That was different! That was advertising, not creative writing,” I insisted, dreading the onslaught of many seasoned authors in the five-day affair.
“Say, yes, nothing to it,” she insisted. “Just speak about your experiences in the workplace.”
“Who are the other people in the panel?” I asked.
“Oh, a Russian author and an American author,” she replied nonchalantly, dismissing my anxiety and reciting a litany of reasons why I should say, yes.”
There. That settled that.
Two weeks before the affair, Yna sent me the printed program. I blanched and stopped breathing, suddenly needing a tank of oxygen and blood transfusion.
The American author she was referring to was . . . Philip Yancey! The Philip Yancey, one of my favorite authors, who has written more than a dozen books (translated into more than a dozen languages), all of them bestsellers and award winners.
I had a sudden lapse of sanity and concentration. You know that feeling when the movie screen turns dark, with a tiny light coming from the moon, while the eerie music screeches on and some unknown character lurking below is about to leap at you? Yna had withheld the information from me, guessing rightly that I would decline had I known. But all my excuses to wiggle out of it at this point fell under this category: lame. (In my mind, the screechy music looped, playing on and on.)
Came the day of the forum, I donned a winter attire (in tropical Philippines) because I was feeling unusually cold. Sitting across the formidable author on stage, I checked out my tongue. It was still there, so I put it to use. But what it said I don’t remember.
After the forum, people lined up to have the man of the hour sign his newest book, “Rumors of Another World,” on sale during his visit. I was in line cradling all of his books, my collection over the years. When my turn came, I put all the books on his table, and suddenly it was Easter in my soul—coming eyeball-to-eyeball with the man whom God has used to explain to me, in a book language I can understand, the doubts I have in my head.
“Are those all yours?!” he asked, raising his graying brows.
“All mine,” I replied, and all the colors around me brightened.
“Where did you get this one?” he wondered, opening and signing the oldest of the lot. “I don’t think I have a copy of it left.”
“Well, I am not giving it to you,” I said, stabbing at failed humor.
He laughed and asked further, “Which of my books is your favorite?”
“What’s So Amazing about Grace?” I replied. In it I discovered God’s abounding and overwhelming magnitude everywhere.
“Of course, I should have known that—your name is Grace,” he said, laughing harder.
“He knows my name!” I whispered to the man behind me.
“He should! You have your name tag on,” he deadpanned. “You were on the same stage, for Pete’s sake,” he reminded me.
|(Three panelists, one moderator, and one translator)|
Images of the panel discussion with him a few hours back were now tap-dancing in my head. And the photo captured it for all to see. (He had this same photo on his website for sometime!)
What’s so amazing about grace? It put me on stage, and at the same hour, with Philip Yancey, discussing the topic that drives me, and I lived to tell the scary story.