Joan of Arc Ribs, Anyone?
- contributed by B.C. Brown
Growing up, while a chatty person by nature, I always felt a writer's existence was a solitary one. At the tender age of 20, just as I was truly coming to terms with pursuing my first novel, I stumbled onto a writer's group. And the clouds parted, the sky opened, and the light shone forth! I learned that writers don't have to lead solitary lives of isolation and loneliness. Believe it or not, we can congregate as colleagues and learn from one another.
I spent many years with this group. So when my (now ex-) husband and I moved to a town nearly an hour away one way, I felt bereft. Out of the blue, I'd been plunged back into a world of hermetical existence. Well, I did not go softly into that good night! What's a writer to do? Words are our solace and comfort, and the places that house those words? Our refuge. I found myself at the local library.
The librarian was kind enough to tell me about a local writer's group that met monthly. And, after providing me with contact information, I rang up a polite lady named Cindy, who informed me the next meeting would be at her family's home. She invited me to visit the group there, if I felt comfortable. I accepted.
Later that week, I found myself at a modest home amidst several other writers, a barbecue sizzling in the background. At this point I knew nothing about these people except that Cindy and her husband were the group coordinators and everyone there had some interest in writing to one degree or another. So one can imagine my bafflement when Cindy's husband led the group in an opening prayer... O.o *blink, blink*
I waited until the prayer had been finished and the meeting officially began with the discussion of Christian-related writing projects. Then I interjected that I wasn't exactly Christian. I was *gulp* a witch (although not entirely accurate. I'll explain in a bit). My heart launched itself into my throat, my palms grew slick, and my beautiful writer's mind supplied fantastically vivid images of old black and white films of lion pits and stonings.
Then, Cindy and her husband looked at each other, a few of the other members glanced my direction, and... nothing. They went on with the meeting like nothing amiss had occurred. Later, after the meeting wound down and many of the people had drifted back to whatever lives they led, Cindy, her husband, and I discussed my spiritual beliefs (because "religion" is not a term I've ever been comfortable with - my views are a bit too fluid for it). To my surprise, I was invited to return to the group.
There are a few things about me you must understand. I have always stood out. Pick one: my bright red hair, my unusual sense of fashion, my spiritual beliefs, my writing and fascination with all things fantastic. The big one, however, was the peculiar sense my spiritual beliefs as a Shamanic Priestess ("exploratory" would be the best description) in my back water, rural, fundamentally Christian town. It seemed the belief was that my fluid religious beliefs were evil. The townsfolk made sure I was aware of how vile they thought I was. *Ahem... burning, upside-down crosses on my front lawn* What did I do? I killed 'em with kindness, etiquette, and phenomenal manners. Honey, not vinegar, baby.
As you can understand, my trust in Christian groups has been limited. Just because I'm willing to be open-minded and unrelentingly polite does not mean they always are. I'll admit that as I attended more meetings, I was leery to how I would be received. ECWU members were unfailingly polite and more than interested in my experience as a writer. I was always well received, my enthusiasm matched. With the exception of the occasional curious question, my beliefs were never mentioned again. To these people it didn't matter that I was a heathen - just that I was a writer and loved words as much as they. And, since my writing is non-political and non-religious in nature, it was easy to find some of my work to share at meetings.
I've since moved away from the ECWU area and its group. While I've joined a new one where I currently live and enjoy my group a great deal, I do miss my fellow writers from The 'Ham. I've managed to stay in touch with Cindy electronically and, for that, I am grateful. It was Cindy and her husband and the wonderful people at ECWU that taught me to heed my learned experiences but to understand that my learned experiences are not always the most reliable. Different isn't always the big, bad scary we thought it was.
What I didn't know until Cindy contacted me regarding sharing this story with everyone was how much flack she and her husband took for me being in the group. My friends (those who do and do not share my spiritual beliefs) shared a momentary twinge of oddity that I was joining a Christian writer's group. Then it was dismissed. They had no comment or opinion one way or the other. There were no concerns over my association with "such people". I understood my introduction to the group might be a concern for the actual members. The thought that it might also be a concern for other individuals outside the group hadn't occurred to me. Until Cindy's article it still hadn't.
Now I know that I obtained more than just writing-related learning from my time with the group. I also obtained friends - ones that didn't judge me based on my personal life but accepted me based on my professional enthusiasm and skill and love of all things word-y.
B.C. Brown was born with six fingers on each hand endowing her with super powers, thus enabling her to fight crime. When a freak Cuisinart accident severed the additional digits and her powers, B.C. was forced to fall back on her secondary talent -writing. Now she lives between the pages of a book - whether she has written it or not. Since she has not found the surgeon to restore her fingers and powers, she has published three novels to date and contributed to one anthology. She enjoys writing mystery, paranormal romance, science fiction and fantasy but is always in the mood for a challenge to branch out. You can follow her crime fighting or writing at her blog: www.bcbrownbooks.blogspot.com , Twitter @BCBrownBooks, or Facebook: www.facebook.com/bcbrownwrites .