“The loneliest woman in the world is the woman without a close woman friend” my favorite author Toni Morrison once wrote. I only discovered this quote in recent years, but I wonder if it something I’ve always known intuitively. There were periods in my life when friendships were hard to come by. And times when I lived away from childhood friends, in unfamiliar cities, started a new job or spent much of my time in academic pursuits that left me feeling adrift. Friendship is the place you go to feel safe and nurtured yet I had no safe haven. “The antidote to fifty enemies is one friend,” wrote Aristotle. Friendship is, and has always been, the place that revives me and gives me the strength to fight another day. It creates in me a openess and honesty, filtered of all pretense. And when it comes to my work, it allows me to enter my writing clearer, with a willingness to share some version of my own story and give a voice to someone elses. It gives me the courage to write about fear and the security to write about vulnerability. These are the experiences I draw upon when I attempt to create characters that readers know and understand.
Sharing and hearing stories with friends are how I fine tune the ones I put to paper. The cadence, the dialect, the humor, the humility are what I hope to capture when I tap into the essence of my characters. I want my stories to feel like the ones that are shared at kitchen tables with a cup of tea and a caring confidante. The ones that begin, “You are not going to believe this…” and you lean in to hear more.
It is my daily connections with friends that have given me the greatest source of inspiration–the walks down long, country roads, breakfasts at a local coffee shop, over lovingly prepared dinners, at birthday parties, holiday gatherings, backyard barbecues, weekend getaways, game nights, book groups, text messages and extended phone calls. Friendships fill a heart, soothe a pain, nourish a soul and ultimately fill a page with characters who love and feel as I do.