I’m in the middle of Suzanne Marrs’ biography of Eudora Welty. It’s affirming to see parallels to my own writing life–Welty transformed her own experiences, her thoughts about the culture and political climate of the time she lived in (racially charged Mississippi), into fiction as a way of understanding them. It might seem the height of hubris to claim an affinity to Welty, but reading about other writers was the way I first formed community. All in my head. It was all I had, but it was enough. Just the sense that she’s been down a similar road. I’m not totally alone.
Later I joined a writer’s group and met my first true writing friend, Pat Kearney. Together we went to workshops and open mic nights and collaborated on installations that incorporated poetry and art. We had many adventures. She died a few years ago, and I still miss her every day. I’ve met other writers since Pat died, but I haven’t managed to forge that deep, lasting connection with another writer again.
Aside from a yearly conference where I meet other writers, the internet is where I typically bond with other writers these days. It’s a step closer than reading a biography, but it’s not what Pat and I had. Not even close. We talked about writing all the time. We read each other’s work religiously. We shared books and authors and stories and so many good times. I helped type the galleys for her book of poetry when she got sick. Her only book was finally published, but not before she died. We had a party anyway and her spirit was there.
I do have friends that are writers. And with my critique partners Beth and Trisha I share almost the same level of writing stuff as I did with Pat. Except we don’t live 20 minutes from each other. Since Pat died, several years ago now, I have missed having Real Life Writers in my actual physical space. Aside from a few short-lived writing groups–all connections, I now realize, made through Pat–I haven’t filled that empty space Pat left when she died. I know now that I never will.
But returning to teaching has done something unexpected. It has put me back in touch with Real Life Writers. It’s been 16 weeks with the Creative Types, and most of the group are the real thing. Honest to God writers. There’s not a Pat in the bunch, but then again, I always knew she was one of a kind.