May 1, 2020 Carol Brennan King
Well, we sure won’t be publishing an anthology of our work this year, but can you imagine the stories we will have next year? You have been writing, haven’t you, even if it is in a spiral bound botebook like those we used in school? Sometimes, we don’t have the energy to write it all out, but I do believe you can write down a few lines, a few words, or even a sketch, if you are the sketching kind, that could bring back the memories or stories you must tell about your trip through the pandemic.
I say we must write our stories because we all have had occasion to learn during these last two months and the months ahead. Like how precious some people are, and how kind other people are – especially the ones that you never dreamed would show up when you needed them. And how shocked you were by the response of others you trusted to “be there” for you.
Maybe you found some resources that helped you cope, some books you read in the past or read while quarantined. Or even books you didn’t even know you had. Or maybe it was a TV series someone wrote that you watched that encouraged your heart.
The point is, we learn from other people’s stories. This thing, this set of circumstances is going to come around again, probably in different clothing. However it happens, we will find ourselves, our children or grandchildren, nieces and nephews too will find themselves in a set of circumstances that show all of us we must find a new way of living or suffer the consequences.
So we write, so they can read and find comfort and a path through the challenges. It’s kind of like walking through the woods where there is no path.
You have to step cautiously. But it would sure help if someone left you a map of how they got through.
Some of us are natural journal or map writers, and we have been writing our path, how and what we did every day to get through. I can hear some of you say “I don’t write like that.” Like what? I want to know.
Can you sit at the computer, or out in the sun or in the privacy of your bedroom and record what was good, what was hard, what helped you or where you looked for help? A journal is not a place where our writing will be graded. It is like writing a letter to yourself, that kind of honesty.
Some of you will have your journals or a rewrite of some parts of it published. And it will encourage a brown haired woman that you never knew, or some man hurting inside, or a child who has lost his or her parents to know that they can do it too. That woman,that man or child will learn he or she can put one foot in front of another and not worry about the steps ahead. All they have to do is take those steps one step at a time, and periodically rejoice over how many steps they have been able to take.
So write! Give them a map like the one that got you through, bumps and all. A story like the ones written by all those other people who have their journals or memoirs published on Amazon.
From one of my journals a long time ago:
I am 29. The tiny airplane that carried my three children and I to the hospital station 400 miles south of Chad’s capital had only room for us, not my husband. I learned my first Sara word that night as they handed me a kerosene lantern and pointed the way to the house where we would be staying, alone, some distance from the missionary’s house. “Li,” he said. “If you see a snake, just scream ‘Li’, and a Chadian will come and kill it.”
So we made a little line in the darkness. Me first holding the lantern in front of us, then my youngest next and the middle one just behind him, the oldest in the back to watch that the little ones did not stray off into the thick darkness.
I didn’t have to use my new word.
The next morning the doctor told me they had heard over the radio that there had been an attempted coup in the capital, guns fired and civilians dead. The doctor also said they didn’t know how long it would be before they opened the roads, or we saw Jim and the hospital administrator with him.
It was what he didn’t say that scared me the most. They didn’t even know for sure whether Jim was among the people killed. At 6”2’, a big white guy, in a country where there were few white guys of any size, Jim would have made an easy target.
So I sat down in t he edge of my bed and wrote. You can ask me the rest of the story the next time we see each other.
That’s what a journal might sound like. So find your space, and keep writing.
One of your classmates had her first publication, originally an assignment for our class. Send a note of congratulations to Denise Piepoli for taking the assignment to find a place to submit a piece of your writing seriously.
And May 6: the day to join us on Zoom for a one-day class on flash fiction. See the library site for more.