I was in the middle of reading my editor’s comments on my novel yesterday when I heard the news about Boston. I work at home by myself, but at that moment I felt sure I was united with many others who probably also stopped working, watched in disbelief and horror, and cried.
Going back to work on my novel, a bittersweet love story, didn’t feel right. How could I write about romance when bombs had gone off at what should have been a fun sporting event, on Patriots Day? I couldn’t, so I went for a walk.
During that walk I remembered another time when I was doing what I thought of as frivolous work during a serious event. I was working at Mademoiselle Magazine in September, 2001. One day I was writing cover stories on celebrities; the next day I was running down the stairs during a bomb scare, one of hundreds in the days that followed the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.
Even when things settled down, morale at the office was low. What were we doing? How could the beauty editors write about lipstick at a time like this? How could I review movies when everyone was huddled scared in their homes? What was the point of putting out a lightweight women’s magazine at one of the lowest points in our country’s history?
Someone wise told us exactly the point. I believe it was one of our readers who wrote and said that reading the magazine gave her a respite from the nerve-wracking reports on 24-hour news networks. Others outside our industry told us the same: People need occasional diversions from sorrow. Yes, we need to mourn, we need to acknowledge those who are lost and help those who are here. We help in every way we can. Some of us can help by writing.
Fiction has long been a way to escape for a while from ordinary life. In particular, romance and women’s fiction have been credited as providing uplifting moments in people’s days. Yesterday, I remembered as I walked and wept for the people of Boston, that the seemingly silly stories we wrote for Mademoiselle had given someone, somewhere, a break.
If you, like me, are in the middle of writing a love scene, or about a woman taking a fun adventure, I implore you: Keep writing. Your words are necessary, perhaps even more than they were last week. If you can put a smile one someone’s face when the world seems to be darkening, you have performed a wonderful service.
Authors, let’s make people smile again.