This past year, I have experienced some conflicting emotions. On one hand, I was genuinely touched by the messages that colleagues or people that I haven’t really been in touch with sent out in response to a piece of my writing. Most of these messages were truly genuine and uplifting. There were of course, for the lack of a better word, a group of people who diligently and consistently responded to almost every piece of writing that I posted online. I thanked them for their encouragement and their generosity of feedback and praise throughout the year, and in the past.
On the other hand, I was baffled and truly puzzled by a deafening silence from those that I had been, or am close to. People who are in love with words and writing and have over the years, shared via emails and WhatsApp links of articles, feature stories, musings and books that they have read and enjoyed.
It was as if, my writing (on this personal blog) and what I do for The Good Story Project, had sent them into a hole of some kind. A hole out of which no good word, or feedback critical and constructive would emerge. Their lips were sealed shut, their fingers would not press a like, or type out a word or a line to me.
Even so, I continued to compliment them. Leaving a like on their WordPress blog, and sometimes referring to the piece over a phone call. Telling them what resonated with me, what word or phrase delighted me, and what memories their retelling of an incident evoked in me. I also continued to speak to them about other people and their writing.
Then there were ‘the others’. they weren’t necessarily close friends but had been good colleagues. Journalists like me, they would often post the links to their articles on social media, including LinkedIn but they would rarely acknowledge mine.
I am still not certain what their reasons in holding out any form of feedback or dare I say praise were – was I writing too much, posting too much, were they jealous, or dismissive of what I had written or it simply did not resonate with them. I do not know.
But what I do know is this. I don’t want to dwell on that. I rather concentrate on all the good writing that exists around us, and the different kinds of writing and narratives that have resonated with me all through the year, and before that.
I want to celebrate other writers, no matter what stage of the writing journey they are at – whether they are just beginning, or are established names, or those who write without aiming or yearning for any ‘success’ of any kind. I want to celebrate their hard work, compliment them (I usually leave a comment, a like, some feedback) and most of all, I also want to share their writing with other readers. Writing is hard work. Whether you are writing a blog, news report, feature story, personal essay or a book. I don’t think I will ever hold back on complimenting – a fellow blogger, a journalist, an essayist, an author or anyone who writes – if I come across writing that reflects hard work and craft.
Of course there may be jealousy – why can’t I write like that? Or why didn’t I get to do a story like that. But over all of that is genuine admiration and joy for the people who write, and for the stories that resonate with a wide variety of people.
This post is about sharing. Sharing just a tiny bit of the writing that has meant something to me. Every day I benefit from good writing. Good writing that comes from several people across the globe. It is all around me.
So in no particular order, listing out some writing that has really resonated with me.
By John Woodrow Cox for The Washington Post. Find it here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2020/local/coronavirus-orphans-kids-lose-parents/
(It’s about three siblings. Their parents emigrated from Baghdad to US for a better life, and just when it looked like they were giving their children a better future, both die because of the coronavirus. )
A paragraph from the piece:
They never explained exactly what led them to flee Iraq, but the kids surmised that their dad’s work at a Catholic charity might have made them targets. In 2012, they moved to Michigan’s large Chaldean community, where they had no family, knew no English and lost a common last name because of a quirk in the immigration paperwork. Nameer and Nada worked hard, helping their kids earn citizenship and saving enough money by 2017 to make a small down payment on a half-century-old beige-brick ranch house in a peaceful neighborhood where people kept their yards neatly trimmed.
By Carolita Johnson for Longreads. Find it in the quote box below:
A special note about this one. I first read a piece from Carolita Johnson via my Longreads feed. Her writing spoke to me in such a manner that I went on to read all her essays. I also sought her out on Instagram, sent her a message about the impact one of her piece had on me and started following her. There have been many lines, many words and emotions from her writing that have found a place in my heart, but these ones seem to touch something that I quite can’t articulate in words.
I understood that to her, without Michael, there was no more “us,” so, logically, there was no more “ours.” She was going to separate the me from the him again. From that point I was haunted by the fear that when I came back from LA I might find all my personal effects removed. Or, in an alternative nightmare scenario, all “his” stuff would have disappeared. This isn’t a reproach against his family — if you read Joyce Carol Oates’ novel, A Widow’s Tale, this kind of paranoia, this perception of the invalidation of your existence in immediate widowhood, is normal. Nothing personal to Michael’s family.
It was just one more way I was losing my foothold on the reality I had shared with Michael. We’d closed our joint bank account when I declared bankruptcy so I could quit my job and take care of him full time, afraid it might be counted as one of my assets and used to offset my debt. If that happened we’d be left with nothing to live on while Michael recovered from surgery. I hoped my money would last until we could both start working again. But a month before he died, I’d had to tell him I couldn’t pay my half of the rent. In his stress, he had not been gracious about it. When we went grocery shopping together for the last time, I‘d been afraid to get my usual breakfast supplies and preferred to pass rather than ask him to buy them for me.
By Bhushan Korgaonkar for adda
It’s called For a daughter, a Kalpavrksha, the ever-giving tree. It’s Translated from Marathi to English by Sheela Jaywant.
A passage from the piece:
He tenderly told me that it was but a poem. ‘Who told you that it’s based on personal experience? But you cried. That means I won. Because when something that’s created from a little bit of imagination and a little bit of reality strikes someone’s heart so hard…what else can a poet want?’ He crinkled up his eyes and laughed so hard that they filled up with tears.
I was always a generous sort. My sisters were frugal and practical. Miserly, actually. Baba would tell them: ‘A well must have water drawn from it daily. Then the water that springs from below is clear, like gangajal. That’s what happens to Mohana. The more she spends, the more she earns. Still water gets stagnant. That’s what will happen to your money. Learn to spend. Be charitable. And then you’ll see how money will get drawn towards you, by itself.’
By Purusottam Thakur and Kamlesh Painkra for the People’s Archive of Rural India (PARI) website
From the story Jamlo’s last journey along a locked-down road
“She was a little girl, and walked so much [around 140 kilometres] for three days and collapsed when a distance of 55-60 kilometres more was left to reach her home,” Dr. B. R. Pujari, Chief Health and Medical Officer, Bijapur, told us on the phone. “She might have collapsed due to exhaustion and muscle fatigue, which may not figure in the postmortem report. She also fell down on the way and was injured the previous day, say the other labourers.”
By Tom Lamont for The Guardian
From the piece:
Good-weather months he camped on the heath, becoming familiar with the park’s night-time rhythms – first the hour the rangers knocked off, then the last of the dog-walkers, and, after that, the twilight time when the homeless presided, gathering on benches to share a beer or a spliff before they bedded down and ceded the place to the magpies and moles. There could be an absolute stillness on the heath at one or two in the morning – a stillness shredded, more than once in Van Allen’s experience, by the arrival of joyriders, convening to gun their cars over the empty grass before disappearing as suddenly as they’d come.
There are so many more. Over the past year and before that I have read so many blogs, reports, longreads and essays that have stayed with me in one way or the other. Perhaps I should do another post. Or a series of posts and link these stories up.