The Art of Giving

Paying forward to other writers isn’t always possible. Especially when you’re a cash-poor mommy like me. Being close to my colleagues in Romance Writers of America is tricky too, what with the Atlantic and all. However, as I pound the streets of Dublin, I listen religiously to my RWA conference recordings and the several workshops therein. In 2011, one standout workshop was Brenda Novak’s talk, ‘The Climb’ – her career journey from unpublished writer to NYT bestselling author.

Brenda gives tips, dos and don’ts, and the story of how she persists through what she still determines is a tough business. She talks with humanity, humour, and a huge dose of honesty. She tells it straight: this job is hard but it’s worth it; the old process of submitting still works; people still need new writers, and most importantly for me, a busy mother can make it.

I listened again, and realised I had to contact this woman. Tell her how her words have touched me, motivated me, energised me. Thank her for her warmth, lend my support for the job she describes as a climb, congratulate her on her awesomeness!

So I hit her website, read her bio, and was blown away by her personal story of needing to find a job that would let her stay at home and raise her children. Wasn’t this my exact same plan? I stay at home to raise my two. I want to work, preferably by writing. If that busy mother could write day after day, persist despite hurdles and rejections, and produce sellable manuscripts, then what was stopping this one?

As I skimmed the pages, I dreamt about a similarly awesome ‘How Nikki Became A Published Author’ story. You know the deal: ‘The Call’, NYTB Stellardom, Oodles of cash. Then I read about her youngest son Thad, his diabetes, and Brenda’s quest to eradicate this horrible disease.

I fired off an email, “Dear Brenda”. Amid my compliments and general gushing, I said something like “when I get published and make some money, I’ll donate to your Diabetes fundraising.”

How delighted I was to read her reply, filled with kindness, tons of support, and a firm reminder to hang in there and keep turning out the pages. Then she wrote: “You don’t have to wait until you’re published (to help the cause)”.

The idea of donating something, either handmade or otherwise, got me thinking.

Donations, handmade, Ireland, me….

Every May, thousands of people visit Brenda’s auction website from all over the world, but the majority of bidders are US-based. Now I’m no marketing whiz, but I do know that the Irish thang is rather huge there. If I could create a piece of art, something really Irish – hand-made, unique, something created right here in ‘good auld Dublin’? Say, writing up some Gaelic sayings, artsy, maybe drawn in inks a la calligraphy I learned many years ago? Something unapologetically Oirish. Would it fly?

Brenda thought so!

‘Seanfhocail’ is a Gaelic word that literally means ‘old words’. Filled with wisdom and wit, these sayings and their English translations lend light and fun to everyday chat. So I got myself to the craft shop, bought paper, cards, ink, and the fanciest wee silver nibs.  I double-checked my grammar, deciphered my Celtic Garamond from my Uncial Antiqua (don’t worry, it’s a font thing), and practised like hell.

I’m no pro, but I knew that if I tried hard enough, I could come up with something eye-catching and worthwhile. And I did. In February 2013, I produced thirteen one-off pieces of art. Old Irish sayings, calligraphed on parchment, suitable for framing. My pieces raised $341 for the cause!

I’m a writer with time and energy. I am blessed with many amazing friends. I am innovative and creative, and I’ll go out on a limb for someone who’s helped me. Brenda’s friendship and encouragement helped me give back. Her can-do attitude, her passion to find a cure, not just for her child, but for diabetics across the world, inspired me to try and help.

One woman can make a difference, and it’s all part of The Climb.

We are each challenged in some way. Brenda has been running this auction for over ten years, and has been helping her son battle the disease for many more. All while writing book after book, building a career, and raising a family. If that doesn’t drive you to don some hiking boots and join us, I don’t know what will.

Producing and donating artwork has challenged me, but it’s given me so much too. I discovered a dormant talent. I raised money. I put something nice on the walls of thirteen strangers. I helped pay for something worthwhile, like the wages of a lab technician, or a week’s worth of printing costs for a Diabetes research lab, or a month’s worth of coffee to keep those postgrad researchers working til the wee hours. To all at Florida’s Diabetes Research Institute who are working so hard to improve the lives of the near-26 million* diabetic people in the United States, thank you.

This year, I am donating four pieces – a drawing of a ‘Celtic Knot’ and one called ‘An Irish Blessing’. Both are designed, drawn, inked, and calligraphed by myself using high quality materials. The third and fourth items will be personalised after the auction – if the bidder has a favourite motivational saying, a prayer, book title, or anything they like, I will design and ink a piece to suit their specifications.

There are many ways you can participate and help Brenda raise money toward a cure:

Visit the Brenda Novak for The Cure website for more details.
Join the cause in a variety of ways- from donating an item to helping us spread the word.
Donate in your own way in the For The Cure Cafepress store.
Visit the auction and make your shopping list! Items go up every day for the auction that opens on May 1st.

Register as a shopper today (the link you have already works great) to be able to bid on hundreds of items. It’s a great place to find birthday and holiday gifts for your friends and loved ones.

Do you have some special words I can draw up for you? I take orders for personalised calligraphy according to your specifications.