Meet my writing group.
Left to right, Stephanie Farrow, me, Lucy Hampson, Katherine Hauth, and Vaunda Micheaux Nelson. The Autodidactics. We ate, laughed, talked, retreated, argued, read, worried, revised, shared writing and rewriting, commiserated over setbacks and celebrated successes. Sometimes Jeanne Whitehouse joined us, but most often on my trips down for meetings, it was the five of us.
This year we lost one of our own: our dear friend Lucy Hampson.
Lucy gave us laughter. She gave us her wealth of knowledge about children and she gave us her unending concern for young readers: their lives, their minds, and their eccentric genius. She gave us fresh tomato and mozzarella platters, topped with basil straight from the pot on her deck, drizzled with olive oil and loving care. She gave us fires in the winter, and the kettle was always on for tea. She gave her kitchen over to us when we descended upon her. She gave us straight up critiques, told it the way it was. Her questions were always clear and direct, often delivered with a laugh that still rings in my mind. She lit candles when we gathered around her table. She cared deeply about her stories and ours. She and I went to the mat on a couple of occasions. Lucy always said it was just my brown girl self and her white girl self on a collision course, and it was meant to be. I learned so much from her.
We have an assortment of eating habits among us, spanning vegetarianism and allergies to chocolate, wheat, soy, and dairy. Lucy always said if she ever got mad at us she'd serve up cheeseburgers with a chocolate shake and we'd all have to go hungry while she ate!
For thirteen years we gathered at Lucy's table. Hold hands with me around its memory now.