Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Things That Barbara Said


This has been quite the month for saying goodbye to dear women and brilliant authors. Dee Stewart, my fellow dreamer/complainer/darer from our Faith*in*Fiction* days died suddenly in early October. Just a few days ago, Ethel Herr**, a saint who touched my life from my very first writers' conference, passed away as well.

And today I hear yet another friend, Barbara Curtis, has gone away.

Do you think they had a meeting? "I'll go if you'll go?"

I'm still reeling from the shock of Barbara's passing, so I hope you won't mind if I share a few memories.

We met the first time I attended The Mount Hermon Christian Writer's Conference, at the very moment I'd arrived at dinnertime, and walked into the dining hall, feeling lost and out of place in a room full to the brim with "real writers."

Absent a quiet corner to hide in, I found the next best thing: a table at the edge of the crowd, and near enough to the door to allow for a quick escape.

But that just happened to be the table of Barbara Curtis, the author who had read the article I'd sent ahead to the conference for evaluation. So the first thing Barbara said to me - the first thing anyone said to me at Mount Hermon was, "Oh, you're Kathleen Popa! You're a great writer." You can imagine what it meant, hearing those words at that moment.

From that time on, Barbara never failed to greet me as a friend, invite me to her table, and cheer my successes. She was dear to me, and over ten years of attendance at Mount Hermon, I sat at her table, and took her workshops, whenever I could.

At one of her workshops, she said something odd that has come to mean more to me with the passing years. She said, "A writer must stand a little outside the church." She said we have to see from an outsider's view, and we have to write what we see. I'm not sure whether she also said it was important to stand outside of the world - for the same reasons - but her life said as much. Barbara showed me how to dance in the no-man's-land between.

You know the place. So many of you have danced there yourselves.

The no-man's-land between is the place where Barbara learned that "being a Christian wasn't about following Christians - it's about following Christ."

The no-man's-land between is the place where Jo March stands in Little Women, saying, "I just know I'll never fit in anywhere!" The dance begins when a writer settles into that place,  turns to scan the horizon, feels the touch of a hand in hers...

... and twirls.

I hope you'll all stick around. You are dear to me.

And I hope you'll speak to us. Perhaps you too, have lost friends who lead you to the dance. Please feel free to share.



*Faith*in*Fiction was editor Dave Long's blog/forum once upon a time, where writers were - if not born, then nurtured to maturity, and where relationships were established. We ladies try to make Novel Matters just such a place for you. 

**That week Ethel Herr spent more time than I like to think about, listening to things I needed someone to hear. We hope to pass that gift along here, as well. 

9 comments:

Megan Sayer said...

Yep.
...
...

:)

So sorry to hear of your trio of losses Katy. That's hard news.
and...

Yep.

Patti Hill said...

Katy, we all hope we can carry on Barbara's legacy right here at Camp Novel Matters. We want to challenge writers, instruct our readers, and ENCOURAGE our readers.

Kathleen Popa said...

Amen.

And yep.

SharonK Souza said...

I didn't know Barbara well, but she was quite an inspiration. I especially loved it when Dave would interview her during dinner at Mt. Hermon. So entertaining. Such a loss, especially for her family.

Ethel Herr was the speaker at the first writers meeting I ever attended. She was a dear woman.

Cindy Martinusen Coloma said...

I'm feeling the losses of Ethel and Barbara as well. Thanks for your writing this, Kathleen.

Marcia said...

"being a Christian isn't about following Christians - it's about following Christ."

I didn't know these ladies who have passed on to higher ground ahead of us, but that phrase really speaks to me at this time in my life. It will be a quote I think I'll remember for the rest of my life.

Thanks, Katie!

Nicole said...

"At one of her workshops, she said something odd that has come to mean more to me with the passing years. She said, "A writer must stand a little outside the church." She said we have to see from an outsider's view, and we have to write what we see." Brilliant.

Sounds like the earth has lost another sterling individual. Sadly. Heaven's gain.

Cherry Odelberg said...

To dance - that has been a livelong desire. Thank you for sharing the wonderful words of wisdom. In this way, you know, the folks who influenced us live on.

Kathleen Popa said...

Cindy, thanks for checking in. It felt right to honor these dear women.

Marcia, yes, that phrase speaks to me, too. Nicole: Yes.

And Cherry, yes, it's a privelege to pass along gifts we've been given.