Friends with Benefits

One of the greatest things about loving books and writing is that you end up befriending people who share your passion.  These are people who can differentiate between their and there, discreet and discrete (they know that these terms are, ha ha, discrete).  They know why active voice matters, and they understand why adverbs should be used lightly (ha ha again).  And beyond understanding and reveling in the mechanics and beauties of language, they tend to be funny, and absurd, and aware of their humanity.  In my experience, thoughtful readers and writers are often good people.  Kind people, who can empathize with situations that lie outside their own experiences.  Perhaps this is because, as Percy Shelley said, “The great instrument of moral good is the imagination.”

Last week, I was tired and had to push myself.  This week, I had student conferences at school, and though I wanted to write, I wasn’t as productive as I wanted to be.  Not in a writing sense, anyway.  Luckily, my good friend Kathy MacMillan sent me the manuscript of her novel, and I had the awesome experience of being swept away, not just by a good book, but by a good book written by a friend.   It came at the perfect time.  My word-well was running dry.  A good book fills it back up again like a long rain, and I came back to my own manuscript last night, inspired and ready to work.  Thanks, Cap’n Kathy. 

Other friends of mine are writers too.  Melissa Anelli is the most notable, but there’s also the marvelous Minneapolis playwright Ruth Virkus, whom you will hear a lot more about, on this blog, when I decide it’s time to dish the dirt about my writing process.  And though many of my friends have not made writing their profession, they are great readers and writers simply because they love these things.  I count librarians and archivists, teachers and cartographers, nurses and office administrators among my friends, and every one of them is a writer whom I respect.  My friend David Carpman, a lawyer, gave me some of the most sensitive feedback on my writing that I have ever received. 

It’s not an accident that all my friends can do this.  Those of us who love books are drawn together by our heartstrings.  We are, as Anne would say, of the race that knows Joseph, and we seem to be able to spot each other from miles, and even continents, away (thank you, Internet).  I met my husband online, and the first thing I found compelling about him was his ability to construct a sentence and communicate an idea.  I am so fortunate to have someone of his intelligence on my side, giving me the courage to go on even while he fixes the typos I don’t see and asks questions that expose the flaws in my plotlines.  

I’m grateful for my small and beautiful community of friends who have been willing for so many years to read my drafts, and who still tell me that they believe it’s going to happen.  I’m lucky.  But I guess what I’m saying here is that it’s not luck.  We find each other because of this great thing we share, and then we keep on sharing it.
Happy Thanksgiving.

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