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Friday, July 11, 2008

Supporting Each Other

I am basking in the warm glow of community and friendship this week. In the aftermath of Gathering, it has been nice connecting (online and in person) with people I met there. Natural Mom—an online friend who came to my parenting interest group—wrote a wonderful post about how supported she felt there with two children, one of whom had to visit the emergency room. There is nothing like community.

My good feeling about community has continued through the week. Tuesday night I had the second meeting of my support/anchor committee. (This is a Quaker tradition for people who often travel or lead workshops to make sure they are grounded, supported, and held accountable.) I was touched by the effort it took for five women who live in far-flung neighborhoods to meet on a week night, especially for the host and cook. I felt encouraged to offer my skills a little more assertively, rather than just waiting for work to come to me, which is what I have been doing. Stepping out of my comfort zone feels right for where I am right now.

During the course of the evening, someone mentioned that one of our group members, political cartoonist Signe Wilkinson, recently won a prestigious award, but everyone was too discreet to say which one. (She’s already the first woman cartoonist to win a Pulitzer.) Then it came out that Signe is going to be a speaker at a comics convention in San Diego this month where she is billed as “edgy middle-aged white woman humor!” I don’t know how many of you may be in San Diego July 24-25, but any chance to hear Signe is a treat. The fact that this news was slipped into the conversation by someone else made me think about how awkward many of us (women especially?) feel announcing our accomplishments, even to those who would want to hear about them. So for the rest of this post I am going to shamelessly promote my artistic friends, in the conviction that community is about supporting one another and that in a world where crappy creations are often well advertised, it is actually a community service to tell readers about the cool stuff my friends are doing.

My writers group is always a source of inspiration. In the last few months, Lori Tharps (our foundress and “cruise director”) has published her memoir Kinky Gazpacho: Life, Love & Spain about being a Black American who finds love and some interesting history in Spain; Eleanor Stanford has published The Book of Sleep, a collection of poetry about motherhood and other adventures; Miriam Peskowitz has come out with her sequel The Pocket Daring Book for Girls: Things to Do and Jude Ray has premiered her film Traces of the Trade a documentary about the descendants of the largest slave trading family in the United States and their attempts to grapple with their family’s legacy. In a few months, child psychologist Tamar Chansky's book will be out, Freeing Your Child from Negative Thinking: Powerful, Practical Strategies to Build a Lifetime of Resilience, Flexibility, and Happiness, and there is more on the way from this amazing and prolific group of women!

Although finding all those links has worn me out and used up much of my writing time for today, I want to add a few things about my writer’s group. First, we are not a group that gets together to critique each other’s writing, though those types of groups can be very helpful, especially to people starting out. We get together about once a month to support, encourage, and learn from one another. Some nights we just go around the table “checking in” which has been known to take hours. Other nights we have a guest speaker or one of us designated to cover a particular topic of interest to professional writers. Sometimes just hearing other people’s experiences with the publishing world can be helpful and encouraging. And that’s another thing—we are really encouraging of one another, despite a wide range in the kind of work we do and the kind of remuneration we’ve received for it. I’m very grateful to Lori for finding us all and getting us together, though I know some self-interest was at work in it, which is the final point I’d like to make about supporting each other. We each have need of community, as well as something to contribute. If Lori hadn’t realized that being new to town and an extrovert she needed to find other writers to connect with, none of us would have been up to 11:30 last night talking and laughing at Miriam’s house. As Natural Mom implied in her blog post about Gathering, sometimes putting our needs out there helps us to build community.


Blogger naturalmom said...

Wow, that is quite a group of writers! My daughter has been enjoying the Daring Book For Girls, and I'll have to check out a couple of those other books you mentioned.

Your last paragraph reminded me of the time about a year ago when a family in our meeting was having an unexpected crisis that occasioned a lot of assistance, both from our Meeting, and from Friends in another state. (The crisis was playing out in both places.) My husband pointed out that *we* should be thanking the family in question for their need and acceptance of help, as it was coming together to support each other during vulnerable times that builds true community.


7:46 PM  

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