True Grit


I came downstairs one morning this past summer to discover this spider web in progress across our patio doors. I watched that little spider work methodically to spread the web over the expanses from one side across to the other. Spider had to spin some far-reaching strands to secure the thing and it seemed such a monumental task, and I wondered why the little critter didn’t pick a smaller, more convenient area for its necessary creation. It struck me as a fitting metaphor for trying to finish a novel and find a market for it.

Two years ago today my writing friend Linda died from cervical cancer. She and I used to meet once a week for what we called writer’s luncheon. We’d discuss (and whine) about our novels, revisions in progress and all that jazz that goes with writing for publication/sale. We’d also exchange calls for submissions and other publishing/marketing stuff. These weekly luncheons were tremendously helpful for keeping the writing energy bolstered.

Every January we chose a word to keep us writing-goal-focused. The last year of her life she’d chosen “persevere” and I’d chosen “believe.”

Linda mailed my birthday gift to me early that year. It was a Christmas table runner with a large picture of St. Nicholas in the center with the word “Believe” bordering the four sides. She died two weeks later.

When a person works from home as a freelance writer, novelist, poet, whatever—it’s hard at times to keep hunkered down into the work. You wonder if anyone is reading what you’ve published—or if what you do with your life matters. Deep down you know it matters to you, but once in a while you need some outside validation—just because you’re as pathetically human as the next guy.

Linda had finished a couple of children’s picture books, one YA novel and one adult fiction novel, but she never found a literary agent who was willing to take her on. It wasn’t for lack of trying either.

Trust me when I say that Lin’s and my writing friendship was pretty candid at times, and it was she who got in my face several years back challenging me to “stop taking on more church committee work, planning more redecorating projects and house parties just so you don’t have to finish your book.” (She told me later she thought I might hit her.) I bought her a dozen roses the following week because she’d nailed it on the head. That’s what real friends do.

I told her I thought she held back too much in her fiction writing; that she needed to inject more of herself into it to make it more tangible. She agreed with me, but she wouldn’t go there. Said she couldn’t. We had to leave it at that.

The “Believe” gel gems that you see in the picture went up in December 2007, the last time Lin visited in my home. They’ve been up ever since.

In memory of Linda Lee Hanson (November 5, 1953 – October 9, 2008)