Why not try a writing pal? I’ve never had one before and I’ve been thinking about if for a while. I need someone to check in with on a weekly basis, compare notes, and offer encouragement. I thought about an online group, but if people didn’t spend time telling me how talented I was (!), perhaps I wouldn’t participate. I could have joined a local group, but, um, I worried about the unknown. Oddballs. Scary sorts. What if a grim-faced quiet man fell in love with me and asked for my number?
Finally, a light went on. A college friend who is also writing a novel suggested we should encourage each other and use one another as sounding boards: something I’d been thinking about for months because I kept circling back to her. Well read, patient, good sense of humor, private, honest, kind – I thought why not? Mick was the first person I befriended at Kenyon; she lived next door to me freshman year. She doesn’t live far from Richmond, only about an hour and a half away, so we’ve decided to check in once a week with progress reports and continue getting together every six weeks or so as we’ve been doing.
Mick and I lost touch for about 30 years – children, divorce, we’re all spread so thin these days – life gets in the way of friendship. Technology lent a helping hand about two years ago and we’ve been keeping in touch ever since. Every so often we meet in a little town in horse country, chitty chat, tell stories, antique, walk, and drink a lot of coffee. I always buy a small souvenir, a Japanese vase with a house on a hill painted on the front, a fat striped ceramic cat; she collects tea towels. We email when we can and just as wonderful, we write real letters. In this day and age! It’s always such a pleasure when I see one of those hot raspberry notecards arrive with all the junk mail.
So now, for me, there will be accountability. I have been doing research before I start writing, though the start date keeps getting moved forward so I can go to concerts/graduations/parties/lay mulch/shop with my sixteen-year-old/do laundry/drive to get the cat’s thyroid medicine/hire a contractor/do laundry/drive my daughter to driving lessons/ do laundry/drive my daughter to friends/weed/unclog the upstairs sink. Anything, but write. Starting June 23, I’ll finish up the few library books I’ve checked out on structure of novels, dialogue, and characterization and send Mick an update. I’ve already cut up direct mail and magazines and put pictures of people on the storyboard next to my desk. Maybe I’ll add a house or a church or a school as I build my imaginary community. It’s time for the 15 or so made up people to move into my head for the next few years. I hope we all get along.