Mary just sent me an email, citing a finding that researchers have realized men and women respond to stress differently. We might say, “duh,” to this. . . but one reason researchers were slow to tumble is that most stress research (evidently) is done on men. It appears that women have another option in their response to stress besides “fight or flight” and that is “Tend and Befriend.” And it turns out that women’s abilities to make and nurture friendships may be one reason we live longer than men.
This morning’s Spoken Word treat was Graham Greene and he said something that spoke to a perpetual struggle of mine: “One does have to accept that one walks in a particular way.” One of the questions I often get in interviews is this one, “What book do you wish you had written?” And my inner answer is generally: “All.” (well, not Twilight). I wish I could write killer first lines like Kate DiCamillo did in Because of Winn-Dixie; I wish I could spin tales the way Karen Cushman and Barbara O’Connor do. I wish I were as consistent (and prolific!) as Laurie Halse Anderson.
I can’t help it. It is difficult for me to accept that I walk and write in a particular way. And sometimes that longing to be that “other kind” of writer freezes my brain and my fingers and nothing gets written and I am miserable and even crabbier than usual.
Which is why I would go the UCLA study one step further: I don’t think my women friends– particulalrly my writing friends — help me live longer. I think they help me live. Period! I would’ve given up writing very early on if Tricia Gardella hadn’t shored me up with pep talks, and scooped me up into the circle of friends I now call the Write Sisters. And I’m so grateful for people like Laini Taylor who took time out of her busy writing day to share her tips on how she gets a novel finished, and everyone in my critique group — Bonny Becker, Kathryn Galbraith, Sylvie Hossack and Dave Patneaude (yes, a guy but what a guy!) — who comment on my first drafts without gagging. And I’m thankful to the librarians who make sure our books get into the hands of the kids who need them.
So here’s to friendships. Because even if we each must walk in our “particular way,” we’re never alone in the children’s writing community.