Wendy sent me two whole pies

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.


12 thoughts on “Wendy sent me two whole pies”

  1. Lovely writing as always, Karen. I hope your writing retreat is wonderful! Festival of Faith and Writing 2020? I hope we can make it happen. xo

  2. Dear Karen, I am so grateful that Patricia Paddey forwarded this post to me. Thank you so much for capturing that precious moment and using it as an example of generosity and celebration. I said to Patricia that Wendy’s act managed to encourage two friends at one–you for the publication of your article in The Walrus, and me that she would choose my pies to bless you. And that event has warm memories too because when one of your friends asked on Facebook, what kind they were, I jumped in quickly with a description of the “gourmet pies,” as you had kindly described them. Wendy read it and called me immediately in fits of laughter and spluttered, “Belinda, I just read your comment, and you’re going to want to edit it.” I had made a mortifying typo, but the repeated gales of laughter as I hoped that no one else had noticed before I changed it, became the sweetest memory.

    1. And Karen, what you wrote is even more special because we were given 20 copies of a book to take on our trip to Mishkeegogamang First Nation by a new author. The title is: He Called Her Soft Shoe, by Charmaine Hinds. On the back cover of the small book, it says that Soft Shoe is her first fruit and is dedicated to those in pursuit of family, heritage, birthright, destiny and identity. Yesterday I read this beautiful book and immediately emailed Charmaine to thank her for the treasure in our hands and to tell her I’ll be using it for some of the devotions for the team on our trip.

      I just read your blog post to our son on his journey to work in the city. He said I should tell you that I have turned your blog post into an audio version! 🙂 He said it was very well done and a beautiful way to convey the point. One of my passions is using my pies to ensure that more people get a slice of the pie of a good life. Wendy used to like to tell people that my accountant once told me that I could work at WalMart and earn as much. She would laugh and laugh. Her laughter was my gold.

        1. Karen, I just called Lois, Wendy’s mother, and I read your blog post to her. She murmured her approval of the lines as I read, and chuckled in some places. It meant a great deal to her.

  3. Thank you, Karen. Your words are appreciated. You are an encourager as well. I still read your long critique of my manuscript for what was then Labour of Love – now A Rare Find (2013, Castle Quay). Writers create a tight bond together.

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