On Connection, Friendship, Serendipity, Woman Power, Writing.
And GRATITUDE! Thank you all for your responses to my query about book last week. Tried to get back to each of you; forgive me if I failed.
Consensus: Memoir. And thank you for all the suggestions: what you connected with in the show, what you want to know more about, your reactions to blurb, title, graphic, suggestions for marketing, for add ons (like dvd), etc, etc.
Your comments, one word to prosaic essays, were ALL helpful. And I thank you for taking the time and energy to respond.
In a perfect confluence of the stars, or serendipity, last weekend had the pleasure of reuniting with remaining members of my mid 80's to 90's women's writers group! YES!!!! 22 years later, and it was as if we'd never been apart! (And just shoot me, didn't think to take a picture! BUMMER! Though Elizabeth's pix, shared now with you, took us all down a trip on memory lane!)
My show was the catalyst! Learning I had written a show, the others regrouped to attend together!!! YES!!! With heartfelt gratitude!
Afterwards, Lee Darby graciously invited us all to her Tiburon home for a reunion! Postponed once when my show was extended, but this weekend, finally happened!!!! Sadly, one of us, Valerie, at whose home the photos were taken, was ill, but the other four of us gathered. YES!
But how did it all begin? We met at a San Rafael Dominican (at that time College, now University) Writer's conference July 1984, organized by Elaine Petrocelli of Book Passage and a few others. We were each assigned to one of 4 authors for the week. I had recently published an op ed piece in the SF Chronicle Sunday Magazine, and was assigned to Herb Gold's section, who, at the time, had the largest name cachet. Lucky me! A writing world newbie, writing 6 am in the isolation of home before work, seen his byline, score!
At the intro meeting, the authors and participants introduce themselves. The group,
typical for Marin, is pretty homogeneous. Triggers all my insecurities! What am I doing here? I don't belong! What was I thinking?
Then my rational voice, sane and logical: "You have the week off work, first rate author assignment, space to learn and grow. Use it." So, like the "good girl" I was raised to be, I stay put through that first hour.
Opening session ends. We pour into the lobby.
Catch my breath. "Cut your losses! You don't know these people. You can't trust anyone but your family. Escape now."
Now, if you've seen the show, you know that voice. But it would be eons before I recognized the origin of that voice and change it.
So, I'm on my way out the front door, when a man and a woman (sadly, don't remember her name- wasn't one of us at the reunion) grab each of my elbows. Man says, "You need to come with us to Annie's section." That would be Annie Lamont (yes, author of Operating Instructions, Bird by Bird, Hard Laughter)!! Woman smiles and says, "Please. We want you with us."
Now, I was a stone introvert, less well compensated than now, so the idea of anyone grabbing me, inviting me, was, well.... YES!!! Didn't know what I was giving up, but knew I was going somewhere I was wanted, YES!!! A sideways glance from Herb Gold - who probably had looked at his list of students, might or might not have seen my article (this was way before Google search) -minutes later convinced me I'd made the right choice!
The man and woman, who knew each other, later confessed they had read my article, recognized me and wanted to get to work with and get to know me!
Followed them into Annie's room!!! OMG!!!! Through the looking glass!!!
Maybe one day, I'll share more about that experience! Suffice it to say, a small slice of heaven: radical challenge, support and permission to be vulnerable, authentic and empowered to speak/write from the heart! (Eons later, would have a similar experience with Ann Randolph in the performance world.)
At week's end, we wanted to keep the magic alive. So the man and maybe 9 of us women formed a writer's support group. We met once a month for the next ten years to share our writing, initially at Dominican, but in time, at our homes. The man we lost a couple of years in, sadly. Some say overwhelmed by female energy/power, others, that he was writing about us and lost his nerve. Linda, who wrote non-fiction and published her book was next to go. Mary, who wrote beautiful short stories of rural farm life in the 30's featuring chickens in trees and a turkey on the front seat of a pickup truck, retired and moved to Oregon. Judy left to concentrate on her visual art. After my second son, Takeshi arrived, I no longer found the time, energy or space to write. The group continued for a couple more years, until enough life happened to enough of the remaining members.
So, our reunion. It was four of the five of us pictured below, minus Hella Fluss, MD, pediatrician and psychotherapist, who, though she never published her beautiful memoir, lives on in her oral history of the holocaust.
Looking at Elizabeth's photos of us, carefully archived by year, sparked memories and discussion. It was Elizabeth who brought the Meyers-Briggs assessment tool to us in the 80's! 8/9 of us were introverts, most intuitives, all of us in the single digits frequency of personality style (outliers). I'm an INFJ (or was before my stroke- now an INFP), a personality style matched by 1.5% of the general population. No wonder I always felt different!! As Elizabeth watches our reactions to the discoveries, she smiles, Yoda like, then says, "Welcome to Nebula!" And indeed, there was magic in discovering our strengths and place in the world, even if it felt to be outside the solar system! Interestingly, when we later shared most impactful or memorable books, Quiet: The Power of Introverts(also a TED talk) was number one!
Lee brought out her copies of an exercise we once shared: "Why I write." (No word minimum or maximun, just write!) We read them aloud, each of us rediscovering a self of decades earlier, rediscovering the artists within each other. Diving in, sharing and connecting so deeply after so many years was so powerful. I felt humbled and uplifted, with a renewed sense of gratitude for all we shared, for creative partners who show up, dive deep, cross pollinate, prod, challenge support, inspire! Coming on the heels of the Pitch-o-Rama and Writer's Conference last week, feels like another opening door...
At that point, we broke to enjoy the still warm cake Lee baked!! (Women do take care!)
Our afternoon did not end there. But I'll save the denoument for the next newsletter!
For now, simply glowing in the aftermath.....