I remembered this week one of the nicest things that happened to me last year. Two writing friends sent me pies. Belinda made them. Wendy paid for them. I remembered this because Wendy Nelles died last week, very young in her early 60s. I didn’t know her deeply, but I knew her generosity to Canadian writers, and other artists as well. She helped keep a Canadian Christian writing conference alive when it looked like it could have folded years ago. That conference, Write Canada, has encouraged a lot of writers over the years.
I’m thinking about generosity to writers and each other. When I first began my writing career years ago in Toronto, a more accomplished writer opened some doors for me with an Anglican newspaper. When I expressed my thanks and, quite frankly, my surprise, she told me that writing wasn’t a pie with limited slices. It was a whole world with endless possibilities. Her open hands challenged my clenched fists.
So, in honour of Wendy and the spirit of whole, beautiful pies given away, here are a few easy ways we can encourage new, younger writers (and maybe old, older ones too).
If you can’t mail a pie, send a compliment. If I read something I love, even a phrase in the newspaper — and if the writer’s contact info is right there — I email them a quick note to say how much I enjoyed it. They almost always write back. My husband read a book he loved this summer, found the author on Facebook and messaged him his thanks, and now they are going to have lunch. That’s cool.
Be a mentor. Find a young writer and offer to help them. Even if you’re just answering the odd question or being a safe place to bounce ideas back and forth. Make introductions like my friend did for me so many years ago. If it’s a publication I write for, I actually find this challenging still to introduce another writer to them. I confess that. But the only way to get over these things is to push through them and do it anyway. It’s a good thing to do.
Buy books. I attended a book launch with my son last year and I bought the book, even though I haven’t read it yet and I might actually not get around to it. I confessed this to my son, who was an English student at the time. He told me in one of his classes they had discussed being good literary citizens, and buying books from each other is part of that. I think that’s right. So when you can, buy the book.
Soon I’m heading off on a writing retreat with four other writers. We will read each other’s work, make suggestions and maybe even eat pie. I think of a friend who told me she once registered for a marathon, partly so she could have the experience of people cheering her on. I get that. I’d like to give that more. Let’s cheer each other on, shall we?
And thank you Wendy. You were really beautiful.