CHARLOTTE, N.C. (CNS) — When Catholic blogger Heather King is asked who her readers are, she describes them as “anyone with a bleeding heart who lives at the intersection of the cross.”
King is a book author and essayist who also has a blog, http://shirtofflame.blogspot.com. She told Catholic communicators gathered in Charlotte how she embraced sobriety after years as a “falling down drunk,” why she decided to become a Catholic and what led her to give up practicing law to follow a “sacred call” to become a writer.
In a June 19 talk that was by turns serious, humorous and emotional, she said the Catholic Church was the “one place that has truly welcomed me and loved me and allowed me to flower as a human being and as a woman.”
King was the keynote speaker at a luncheon during the 2014 Catholic Media Conference, the annual gathering of members of the Catholic Press Association of the U.S. and Canada and the Catholic Academy of Communication Professionals.
The conference was hosted by the Diocese of Charlotte and its news outlet, the Catholic News Herald, and drew more than 200 reporters, editors, communication directors and others serving in Catholic media across the U.S. and Canada.
King opened her address by noting some differences between her humble media “operation” and that of the luncheon’s sponsor, the Eternal Word Television Network, which has TV, radio and print divisions reaching an international audience. She’s based in a rented room in someone else’s house in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Silver Lake. Her equipment includes an old digital camera she uses to snap pictures to post on her blog.
“My entire writing life is operated from this … one room, unseen,” she said with a laugh, but “there are many rooms in my Father’s mansion.”
Raised a Protestant, King said she regularly went to Bible school growing up in Massachusetts, but as an adult she thought “God was irrelevant, a hobby for people who had it all together.”
An honor student in college, she was already a drinker, but “I had intelligence,” she said. She went to law school, passed the Massachusetts bar “in the throes of drinking,” got married and moved to Los Angeles, where she was a lawyer.
“I should have felt grateful, but I never wanted to be a lawyer. I just was good at taking tests, while drunk. In my heart I wanted to be a writer,” she said. “I did not belong in law.”
In 1987, she said, she decided to get sober and help another alcoholic find sobriety — and to become a writer. She began ducking into churches in L.A., “reading the Gospels from my childhood Bible.”
“In Boston, I knew all the bars and in L.A., I know all the churches,” she quipped.
King said she had Catholic friends “who hated the church,” but she had a “hunger and thirst” to answer the question “how can I live in the world with integrity? The Gospels are a blueprint.” She wanted to “tell the truth” and couldn’t do it in the law.
She finally went to a Mass, and once she saw the crucifix, she “just knew” she was home.
With her sobriety and “budding Catholicism, I started to get published bit by bit,” said King, who added that she has always written “what spontaneously flows from my heart.”
She doesn’t write to be rich or famous, but to be useful, she said, adding that she is gratified to hear from readers that her words have touched them.
“The Internet is a beautiful thing,” King said, and she likes that it offers the chance to have conversations with readers. But there’s a downside to the Internet, she said: It has “an element of ‘Come and look at me while I’m looking in the mirror.'”
Her writing has led to assignments from NPR and now she writes an arts and culture column for The Tidings, newspaper of the Los Angeles Archdiocese, and contributes to Magnificat, a prayer and spirituality magazine.
“I’m the worker who came to the vineyard at 5 p.m. and never had to work in the heat of the day,” she remarked.
No longer married, King said she is not a mother or a wife but still found a place at the table. Like a prodigal daughter, she was welcomed in “no questions asked. God is not keeping score, he just wants us back.”
She’ll be 62 soon, and at an age when many people are looking to retire, “I’m getting my first regular job,” she said.