This weekend, Joette Reidy will welcome Steve Watkins to her home. The Washington gal and Arkansas author haven’t met, but they have a pilgrimage in common — both have made the 500-mile trek to Camino de Santiago in Spain. Also known as The Way of St. James, the pilgrimage concludes at the Cathedral of Santiago de Compestala where St. James is believed to be buried.
Watkins is coming to Washington to present on “Pilgrim Strong, Rewriting My Story on the Way to St. James,” a book he wrote about his experiences after his first Camino hike in 2015. He reported on his experiences in “real time,” and garnered quite a following –thousands of people followed his journey, as did Reidy who was readying herself for her first pilgrimage in 2016 and “was hungry for anything about the Camino.” Her interest piqued, she contacted Watkins via Facebook.
Going on Tour
Because of their connection, Watkins, with the help of Reidy, has made Washington part of his book tour. It launched recently in Nashville and will take him to Michigan, Ohio, California, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Virginia, Maryland, Vancouver and other locales. He’ll make tour stops for about a week at a time, and then return home until another leg of the tour takes up, concluding in July.
Watkins will crisscross America in a new venture, building on his background in journalism and mass communications. Being a published writer is something he’s “always wanted to be.”
In a phone interview, Watkins said hiking the Camino made a significant difference in his life, but not in the way he thought it would. He approached his pilgrimage as a journalist would, “in reality, not believing it would change my life.” But over time he said it has reshaped his life for the better. Watkins said he “loves all aspects” of publishing, from writing, to editing, to cover design and marketing.
Not Just for Pilgrims
He calls his book spiritual and “transparent” — and it is heartwarmingly honest as he details his struggles with depression and the challenges he faces on and off the trail. In 2012, “in the tender stage of recovery from his depression” he wanted to celebrate with the Camino after seeing a video of the pilgrimage.
“I’m a follower of Christ, and don’t shy away from that, but I don’t preach it,” Watkins said. He hoped a walk with God would make clear what his next “path in life” would be. That didn’t happen immediately upon completion of his pilgrimage. It occurred gradually as he put pen to paper and began writing about his trek, “writing always at the heart of everything” he’s done.
Watkins said “Pilgrim Strong” is certainly for pilgrims who have shared his experience but it’s also for “people who experience the unexpected ups and downs of life, the brokenhearted, those who have experienced unforeseen circumstances like depression. I took these stories and lessons from my life and painted them against the canvas of the pilgrimage experience.”
Watkins believes that is our commonality, the reason he “believes his book is resonating in a certain way with people.” He wants others to understand that just as he has been transparent it’s OK for them to be as well.
“We’re all just walking each other home,” he said.
Speaking of home — on Watkins’ expansive book tour, he won’t be staying in a single hotel room. Other pilgrims are opening their houses and hearts to him —another blessing of the bond they share.
Watkins will be interviewed on KLPW this Monday from 8:35 to 9 a.m. Afterward all are invited to meet him at Neighborhood Reads in Downtown Washington, from 9:30 a.m. to 11, where he will sign copies of his books.