“I live in the States now. Wisconsin.”
“Is it cold there?” my questioner asked warily.
It only he knew! I took advantage of being back in Johannesburg to visit my old writers club, Writers 2000. The group meets the last Saturday of the month in the elegant clubhouse of a retirement center surrounded by manicured gardens.
After a break for tea and chatter, we returned to club business, applauding a member’s success—a short story and a profile published in the glossy Essentials—and awarding prizes for this month’s competitions. Winners are published in the club’s journal, The Write Stuff, along with other contributions.
It was only when I arrived that I recognized the hostess, Rozenn Torquebriau, as the delightful Frenchwoman I met over dinner at a children’s literature conference, and roomed with at the 2008 SCBWI retreat near Cape Town. Rozenn comes from the south of France and her lovely Pretoria home reflects a Mediterranean love for light and gardens. She took the dozen of us to her upstairs studio and showed us charcoal drawings her students had done in a cooperative project with a British illustrator. Rozenn continues to use drawing as a way to free her creativity and inspire her writing for children.
After her presentation we sat around Rozenn’s dining room table, sharing the lunch we had brought and talking children’s books and writing. One woman had just returned from the SCBWI conference in New York with lots of stimulating ideas to share. Unlike Writers 2000, whose members are mainly senior citizens, this group includes a number of young adults with careers in the arts.
Writing can be a lonely passion. Groups like these remind me that I am not alone. Others have experienced the same frustrations, disappointments and occasional elation. Groups are a place to network. At Writers 2000 I found a potential reader whose life experience will be invaluable for critiquing my Glastonbury Tor sequel. I gave my card to a couple illustrators at SCBWI, still searching for the right one for my HIV stories. I am involved in a critique group at home, but it is nice to revisit old haunts and renew friendships with people who have encouraged me in the past. I’m not sure when, but I know I will be back.