This is a repost from 2010. I’m posting it now, because I’ve noticed that, after “pizza ovens,” “meeting my best friend for the first time” is the second-most popular phrase entered as a subject into search engines that brings readers to my blog. Curious, I thought. Then I checked the stats and this post has garnered 816 views since it was first published on Feb. 9, 2010. There must be a lot of other people out there who are meeting their best friends for the first time!
Monday was a very good day – an historic day, I should add. In the same way as the meeting between Livingstone and Stanley, Lennon and McCartney, Lewis and Clark – okay, maybe I’m stretching this a bit here, but bear with me… For me, this was definitely a significant turning point in my life, to finally meet, in person, the person I’ve long considered my best email writing friend, but had never had the opportunity to actually meet.
Darcie Hossack and I “met” online for the first time on the Humber student discussion board. Those early exchanges involved talking about food, specifically white chocolate and berry scones and an exchange of recipes, if I remember correctly, Firefly – oh, yes, and writing, too. We quickly realized that while we come from different backgrounds, are separated in age by a couple of decades and (at that time) several thousand miles physically – not to mention that Darcie’s writing is leaps-and-bounds more accomplished than mine, we definitely clicked, and became fast friends all those years ago. During the past four years (now seven!!), we’ve offered each other advice, editing, encouragement, connections, and confidence that what we write, and the way we’re writing it, is not only good, but will eventually be published. I’m so proud that Darcie is first this fall with a collection of short stories, Mennonites Don’t Dance, to be published by Thistledown. **Update – Here’s Darcie’s book on a playdate with mine, which I have since published, as well!
And read this terrific review by Jim Bartley Of MDD that appeared in The Globe & Mail.
But we’ve also been collaborating all this time on another idea. I don’t think it’s stretching things too much to say that we complement each other. And that’s what best friends should do, right?
So meeting Darcie, finally, yesterday, was just a matter of putting a physical presence to someone I felt I have really known all along. And now I have the added bonus of being able to hear her voice when I read emails she writes to me. She’s no longer my imaginary friend. But she is still my best writing friend!
During 2006, I was enrolled in the Humber School of Creative Writing online program. The very best part of the eight months was that we were given access to the school’s student discussion board, and had the opportunity to “meet” and chat with our fellow classmates who were situated across Canada, with one – me – living in the Caribbean. Many of us were quite vocal on that board, in the days before Facebook and other social networking sites, and we discussed all manner of ideas and concerns, and sometimes even talked about our writing. By Sept. when the program came to an end, a group of us (and we were all women – there were a few men in the class but most chose not to take part in our online discussions, but that’s another story) decided to organize an email group, and we’ve remained in contact ever since. We’ve lost a few people along the way, and picked up some other emerging writers and one bookseller friend, but that core group has remained the same since 2006. We decided early on that we would not critique each others’ work, although some have offered to help privately with editing, etc. Mainly what we do is exchange information on writing and publishing, share advice and informative articles, and provide the best support system an emerging writer could ever want to have. These women are always there to cheer, to fume, to laugh, cry and commisserate, to suggest, and to help.
It was believed at the time that Darcie Hossack would be the first of our group to actually publish a book. This has turned out to be the case, and Mennonites Don’t Dance will be published in mid-Sept. But hot on her heels is Teri Vlassopoulos with her new book, Bats or Swallows, and Other Stories from Invisible Publishing, being released a month later. The two women sorted out time zone differences (something we’ve all become accustomed to over the years, although Darcie has always been last to arrive at every online party, living in BC and an hour behind Calgary), and managed to have a conversation in which they sort of interview each other. Read the entire un-interview, as they call it, either at Teri’s blog or Darcie’s.
Terrific job, you two! And a hearty congratulations on the two new books – ya done the group proud!
I am fortunate to belong to a great community of writers that has its roots in the Humber School of Creative Writing, on the student website where we all chattered throughout those 8 months in 2006. A group of us decided to continue email contact, rather than suffer the serious consequences of withdrawal, and the main part of that group has stuck together ever since. Along the way, we have picked up various other interested, and emerging, writers I’ve met through courses I took in the Ryerson Publishing Programme and Creative Writing Dept., through my membership in Mystery Ink, last summer’s Fernie Writers’ Conference, and my long-time friendship with a Calgary bookseller (the lone non-writer amongst us, but in my opinion, the best bookseller in the world!). As a group, we all generally share information, discuss ideas, and help each other with our careers as writers. But the best part of all is that we each have this great squad of cheerleaders, congratulating, encouraging and supporting us every step of the way. No one could ask for a better group of women in this journey through life. And yet many of us have only ever met in cyber-space.
Take Darcie Hossack, ferinstance… An excellent writer whose first exchange with me on Humber’s student web-board concerned food, and not our writing at all. Ever since, we’ve exchanged emails regularly, sometimes 5-6 times a day, and yet we have never set eyes on each other, in the flesh, and have spoken on the phone less than a dozen times in all these years. Yet we might as well be living right next door to each other. When we finally do meet, we believe that historic occasion will provide us with a fitting conclusion to the cookbook on which we’re collaborating. In the meantime, though, Darcie did exactly what we all expected she would do – in being the first of our group to land a book contract! Now she’s blogging about the experience of having her first book published. Check that out here, and make sure to read her post of Jan. 5th about her experience of belonging to this writing group.
As well, other members of our group, Teri and Lisa, have also recently been contracted, or contacted by an editor, to publish books in 2010. They too have begun posting to their blogs about this experience. Vicky is finishing her thesis in the UBC MFA programme this spring, and I have no doubt that she will soon be following the others’ lead in having her novel picked up for publication. She “promises” us that she’ll be updating her blog on a regular basis… soon. (Get with it, Miss Vicksters!!)
It will be very interesting to follow these four women as they head towards the finish line that the rest of us are still dreaming of for our own writing – publication. You go, Writers! Congratulations to all!