Reaching a Reader: You’ve Got a Friend

Ed is in the center hiding.

“Readers are wonderful people, readers are the best of people.” Lee Child

Sometimes I get discouraged about writing. You know the litany of self-doubt if you’re a writer. Am I a shitty writer? Why didn’t I start writing sooner? Do I really have anything to say that anyone wants to hear? What is the point of putting myself through this anyway?

            I won’t continue the maudlin monologue. I’m sure it’s familiar to anyone reading this who is also a writer. Even lifelong hard-fought-for success is moderate for most writers. The average writer earns less than $10,000 per year from writing, which may explain why so many writers have day jobs and why they often define success in non-monetary forms.

            For me, the greatest satisfaction comes from connecting with readers because I am also a reader and am grateful to so many writers who have enriched my life. Oh, I’d love to make the New York Times Bestseller list, get a movie deal, and make enough money to more than survive. But for now, I’ll revel in some wonderful connections I’ve made with readers.

            Last winter after the cottage we had fortunately been renting and had not purchased in St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands was nearly blown away, I made plans to spend the winter months in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, away from our three-season home in Cape Cod. I reached out with many questions on a Facebook page and was welcomed immediately by a man named Ed Thomas, who generously answered my questions. As often goes, we became Facebook friends. My cousin and his partner, who winter in Puerto Vallarta, happened to run into Ed and learned he was from Dorchester, Massachusetts, a few miles from Jamaica Plain, where I was born.

            Faced with a second winter displaced from St. John, I made plans to return to Mexico for the winter months. This time we were staying in the sleepy coastal village of San Pancho outside Puerto Vallarta with no car. It was a self-inflicted experiment for me as a writer and for my husband and me as a couple. We love to get in the car and just go.

            I got an invitation from Ed via Facebook asking if I’d like to attend the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new satellite SETAC community center in Puerto Vallarta. SETAC (http:/www.setac.com.mx/en/about-us/) is a non-profit organization devoted to reducing HIV and other sexually transmitted infections in Jalisco’s coastal region and Banderas Bay. SETAC provides services to approximately 5000 direct and 25,000 indirect clients annually through programs and activities. The programs are available to the entire population free of charge, without prejudice or discrimination. Tom Viola, president of Broadway Cares/Equity Fights Aids, was coming to cut the ribbon and there would be cake – Tres Leches, no less. I accepted and asked if I could bring my husband, my cousin, and his partner, whom by now I was calling “my three husbands.”

            Ed greeted me as if I were family, introducing me to everyone as “the writer.” I had no idea that Ed had a nineteen-year history of founding and fighting to establish SETAC in Puerto Vallarta. He told me he had returned home to Boston one fall to be treaded for a cardiac condition. When the doctors told him he wouldn’t live to open his Christmas presents, he got on a plane and returned to Puerto Vallarta and SETAC was born. Ed has struggled since then to make SETAC what it is today, occasionally selling personal possessions when funds were short. He is still an enthusiastic Patriots fan who was giddy about the Pats’ Super Bowl win the day before. He regaled me with stories about Dorchester and Southie.

            When I asked him to remind me how we had originally connected, Ed told me it was on Facebook. Ed said that he had read my blog post, “The Day After,” which I wrote the day after Hurricane Irma decimated St. John, and that it made him cry. “I said, I have to meet this writer,” Ed told me with tears in his eyes, which brought a few to my own.

            I doubt I’ll ever know how a million dollar book/movie deal would make me feel. I do know that a very fine human being and reader, Ed Thomas, made me as valued as a writer as I have ever felt and that I am humbled.

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