Lisa A. Kramer

Author, Speaker, Theater Artist, Creativity Facilitator

Creating a Web of Kindness: The Connections We Make

ConnectionsA few days ago I got a message from a former student ago asking if I would mind looking over an essay she was working on for a  graduate school fellowship. I readily agreed, even though I haven't had this student for 4 or 5 years. It didn't take a lot time (as she is already a good writer) but I felt good that I was able to make some suggestions to strengthen her statement. I also had to put myself in the unfamiliar role of scientist, which was kind of fun and led to this brilliant sentence:
"For example, Dr So and so of Whosamajig University is studying yadayada, while a team of researchers based in blah blah blah is looking at such and such. "
I'm expecting a Nobel Prize in science any day now. :D

Anyway, some might ask why I agreed to help Kristina, when I moan and groan about the grading and poor essay writing skills of my current students.  Sometimes I wonder myself, because I often find myself lending services in a variety of areas where I could charge money (like editing, or writing  newsletters, or teaching a drama session in a school, or . . . ) But a few other things have happened over the past few days which is making me understand myself more, and finally come to terms with what makes me tick and the kind of world I would like to live in.

Let me see if I can explain, because the links are kind of obscure.

Last Sunday I had lunch with a new(ish) writing friend (although we have much more connection than just writing). Laurence King and I both have the desire to find a path to publishing our completed manuscripts through traditional means, or at least to make a valid effort to find our way in before looking at alternative routes. Laurence and I met last May, when I first attended the New England Society of Book Writer's and Illustrator's (NESCBWI) conference which led to me taking control of my website.

[caption id="attachment_7432" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Reagan Leigh, Laurence King and myself at the conference. Image from Laurence King. Reagan Leigh, Laurence King and myself at the conference. Image from Laurence King.[/caption]

The way we met, though, has a lot to do with the lessons I've learned this week. I went to this conference alone. I wasn't staying at the conference hotel (couldn't afford to) and I had to drive back and forth one day because of a work commitment. This was the biggest writing conference I've ever attended, but I figured I had to do my best. Anyone who has ever been to a large conference of any type knows that conferences are often filled with reunions between friends and lots of socializing. That can be difficult for someone who is a little shy, knows nobody, and comes without moral support. However, I intended to make the best of it.

The worst times, of course, are meal times, when you either have to tag onto a group of strangers or find a place where you are comfortable eating alone. On the first day, I had intended to find a coffee shop and get something small for dinner while hiding behind my computer and blogging about my day. Of course, I didn't realize that every coffee shop within walking distance would shut down by 5:00. That left me needing to find a restaurant and face eating alone. (I enjoy doing it sometimes, but preferably when I have a clue where I am going). I went out to the street and began to look around, when I saw this tall, beautiful woman who had her conference name tag around her neck standing on the corner. I went up to her to ask if she had any idea where I might find a restaurant. She told me there was one in the hotel across the street where she was heading to drop her bags off in her room. We had to wait for the lights to change so got into a conversation and I was intrigued by her French accent.

I did the scariest, craziest thing I'd ever done and asked, "Would you like to have dinner with me?"

And a friendship was born.

A short while back, after I had one of my bloggy self-doubt moments, Laurence commented and asked me to call her so that we could see how we could help each other. When we talked, she told me that she was struggling with the same issues I am. Things like: how to write the perfect query, how to select the agents to submit to, how to get over your fear of submitting, etc.

The only difference is she has more manuscripts actually out there than I do. She also had one editor read the manuscript (after a friend of hers connected them) who had given her some positive feedback but said she should hire someone to help her edit a little.

"I can't afford to pay someone $600 to edit my manuscript," she said to me.

"No, you can't," I said to her. "But you can afford to exchange manuscripts with me. You edit mine, I'll edit yours, and we'll help each other get our babies out into the world."

So we met for lunch and shared thoughts and ideas both about our books and our lives. We also made plans . . . plans for how to get our books out into the traditional publishing world and backup plans for what to do if we've tried our best and can't break through the iron walls that make it so difficult. The plans and possibilities excite me.

The next day I met with another writing friend, who I've been meeting with for a little over a year to have mini-writing sessions once in a while. This is the woman who introduced me to Zentangle, and who I met when we got into a conversation at Barnes & Noble one day, another brave but strange move for me.

As I waited, I worked on NaNoWriMo, and when she got there I offered her a challenge inspired by my commitment to NaNoWriMo. She has no interest in writing a novel (per se) as she tends to write poetry and shorter works, but she wanted to try something bigger so I suggested she just commit to working on one longer piece for at least 30 minutes a day. We talked about what she might write about and she began. We helped each other.

Later that day, I got a message from my new business partner and good friend that put HeArtful Theatre Company back on track in the direction it needs to go to fit into the world I truly desire.

Big Plans


Today a high school friend of my sister's (which means he is five years older than I and would only have known me as a kid) contacted me to ask for my advice/help/input on an exciting theatre-based opportunity that he has stumbled onto. I am going to do what I can to help, or at least connect him with the people he needs to know.

Finally, today I learned that someone I've only met through the THEME-THOLOGY: INVASION project is dealing with some issues and needs help with a move from Phoenix to Kansas City. I happen to have an abundance of connections in both those places, so I offered to reach out and see if I could find some ways of lightening her load.

What do all these things have in common? They all have to do with doing things with and for people because of the personal connection with them. Do I expect something in return? Well, in some of these cases we already have established the exchange rate--and it is a rate that is valued in friendship. In other cases, I can only hope for a thank you and the feeling that I helped.

Those aren't bad things to receive as payment.

Would I like to actually make a living doing things I love? Sure. I'm human and we need money to survive in our world.

But I'm beginning to realize that I wish we lived in a world which valued the exchange of goods, labor, and friendship over the value of money. To that end, I have finally realized that the connections we make along the way are more important than anything else in the world.

I'm going to live with that in mind.