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FaceBook at its best

If you read my previous post you’ll know I was struggling last week with whether to continue with The Magdalene Poems, or chuck it and stick to safer topics for my writing. The Charlie Hebdot massacre scared me, badly. And I was lost in a swirl of questions: in a time when words (or pictures) can cost people their lives, where does the responsibility of the writer lie? If someone is so offended by an article, book, or poem that they are moved to violence, how should the writer respond? Does public safety trump freedom of speech? Should it? If the writer is willing to die for their work, what about the innocents who could be caught in the crossfire?

I still haven’t figured out all the answers yet, but a string of remarkable coincidences and the words of wise and generous souls convinced me to take up my pen again, even if my hand is still shaking. This is a miraculous example of FaceBook at its best, so many of my FB friends holding up their lights of kindness and courage to show me the way.

First on the scene was one of my Yaya sisters, Kim Barry, who I suspect is a poet herself, urging me to continue writing and not let the terrorists “scare us all into the quiet abyss.” Another Yaya, Heather Ferdinand, reminded me that I cannot be responsible for another’s actions, but if I stop writing, “then that would be on you.”

Less than an hour after I’d posted a notice of my blog update on FaceBook, Heidy Vazques Sutphin posted a picture of seven books she had in her purse the day before. I don’t think she had read my blog or knew what questions I was wrestling with, but right in the middle of the pile of books she had carried with her that day was “holy cards: dead women talking.” I caught my breath and swallowed hard against the lump in my throat.

Ron Lawrence, my beloved Brother Loon, sent me several glorious messages in his inimitable style that were like a hand reaching down to pull me from the torrents threatening to close over my head. His last admonition was to “Let the Magdalene dance!” I joined in a robust discussion going on at Ian MacAgy’s FB page and he linked me with two memorable quotes, the first from New York Times editor, Ross Douthat – “If a large enough group of someones is willing to kill you for saying something, then it’s something that almost certainly needs to be said…” And the other from writer/philosopher and champion of free speech, Christopher Hitchens – “We cannot possibly adjust enough to please the fanatics.” I started to understand that giving up our rights and freedoms in an effort to keep ourselves safe will ultimately fail and at best will leave us slaves of terror.

Michelle Harris, a peace worker, agrees. She urged me to finish my manuscript because “to deny it would be to deny your very self, and that is another form of violence that humanity cannot allow to grow.” My dear sister Chris encouraged me with her big sister pride in me and told me to keep my writer’s voice loud and strong. Kathleen Knott, a sister choir member made me realize terrorists will find a reason for violence. If it isn’t the cartoons, it would be something else. And Valerie Hess showed me how any form of creativity, even baking a red velvet cake, can be a stand against the madness.

But the Universe wasn’t finished with me yet. An hour after I posted my notice on FB, Vanessa Shields, sister writer and dear friend took time from writing her novel to post an audio clip on my timeline. Again, I don’t think she’d read my blog prior to doing so. It was, like Heidy’s picture, just a wonderful stroke of timing. The clip was from the CBC radio show Tapestry, and it featured an interview with K. D. Miller on the link between spirituality and sexuality. I listened with half an ear while I did other things, but when K. D. said that writing fiction was how she prayed, I stopped and gave her my full attention. She said spirituality and fiction writing were the same thing to her, and the way she told her truth. Oh that’s what I so needed to hear, I thought, but there was one more word coming. At the end of the interview, K. D. suggested her listeners do a writing exercise and finish the sentence “The sky I was born under…” A woman called in and finished the sentence thusly, and that’s when my heart tore open in a great flood of tears – “The sky I was born under,” she said, “whispered ‘Persevere.'”

Persevere. OK. Message received.

My deepest thanks to everyone who placed their hand over mine and helped me pick up my pen.

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  1. Valerie Hess
    Posted January 17, 2015 at 5:13 am | Permalink

    So glad to hear you have managed to right the ship again, Penny-Anne!

    • Penny-Anne
      Posted January 17, 2015 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

      Thank you, Valerie, for your help in rebalancing me! :-)

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