The company of not-so-strangers
I've attended enough breast cancer support groups to know that there will be people there you don't know, have never seen before, they are strangers to you and yet by the end of the meeting, you feel like old mates.
It's the kinship of common experience.
It doesn't really matter if it's a cancer group, or a writers' group because the intent is the same: the support given by and shared with your peers.
It's the sharing of stories, the narrative of challenges faced and overcome, the brightness of hope that glimmers on the horizon, the open and honest exchange of tips, ideas, information, things that worked and didn't, roadblocks overcome and slips and slides weathered with aplomb.
You just can't beat sitting down with someone who knows how it is, has 'been there' with their nose stuck up against the rock face, trying to figure out how to get round or climb over.
If I've had that experience, and have found a way past it, I can share it with you, and chances are you may have had that same issue and can tell me how it was, or perhaps you'll encounter it in the future and when it happens, you'll think back and remember, 'Aha! That worked for her, I'll give it a go.'
I'd like to invite you to come to my writing place on 5 October and join other writers for a good chat, do some writing, raise some issues, sort some common problems, and generally support this writing craft that has us hooked. It's a love/hate thing, this writing, it can drive you to despair and distraction, but then it can uplift, invigorate, and delight.
Let's sit down and have a chat about it because the writer's life doesn't have to be a lonely one. There are lots of us out here. We just need to get together, have a cup of coffee, couple of biscuits, talk things through and keep each other jogging along.
For the love of books
My Mom loved books and we had plenty at home, all of the time.
Those we owned snuggled up in their bookshelves and guests from the library perched here and there during their visit, on table tops, chair arms, kitchen counters, and other places where they were safe from water, dirt, the fireplace, and the cat who liked to sit on them.
Mom taught us not to read with sticky fingers, nor were we to 'break the spine' by folding back the covers and under no circumstances was it acceptable to fold down page corners to mark your place. Books were treasured items.
'Somebody wrote that book, you know,' she would say. 'That is someone's creation. Treat it with respect.'
I had books from a very early age, picture books that Mom read to me at night, like Dr Seuss' Cat in the Hat, books about whales and stars, and I loved the smell of them, the smoothness of the pages, the black type of the fonts and the brilliant colours of the illustrations.
I remember the pictures of Captain Hook and the alligator that swallowed the ticking clock, and he knew the creature was coming because he would hear the ticking. I can still hear Mom reading to me from Brer Rabbit and the Tar Baby, she did the southern accents perfectly. The ticking alligator and the thought of getting stuck to the tar baby were deliciously nightmare inducing.
Growing older, my sister and I found our groove with books, seeking out those we enjoyed in the old second-hand shops that Mom routinely scoured, searching for antiques and treasures. We coveted Agatha Christie, racing each other to examine the sagging shelves in these dusty old shops for the slim treasures to add to our collection.
As Mom's Parkinson's disease advanced, books still provided her with companionship, as they always had, until one day I came into the house to visit and she said she couldn't read any more.
'I can't get past a sentence,' she said. 'I get stuck on the first few words.'
We read to Mom after that but it wasn't the same for her. The joy of reading the written word for herself, holding the book, being immersed in the story, and having that joyous relationship with the book, was gone for her and I think that may have been one of the greatest losses that Parkinson's visited upon her.
These days, we can download books, read them on our phones, listen to them on audio, and it's all wonderful because it means as writers we can really get our stuff out there ... but you know, I still think there's nothing like 'the real thing'.
Call me old school and old fashioned, but I reckon Mom brought us up right when it came to books (and most other things too, by golly) - I love to read, I love the feel of a book in my hands, and I still cannot read a book with dirty fingers, crack the spine, or bend down the corners of pages to mark my place.