A little more than 30 years ago, I took the metro home with a fellow student. We were both doing our MA degrees at Concordia University -- she in Creative Writing, me in English Lit. On the surface, we had little in common. Rina Singh grew up in Ambala, in the north of India. I had spent my entire life in Montreal. Rina is Sikh; I am Jewish. She has straight black hair; I've got a mop of blonde curls.
And yet... something magical happened. We became close friends and have remained close friends all these years. And though other friends have influenced and supported me in my journey to become an author, Rina is the one to whom I owe the greatest debt.
Rina told me about an organization called CANSCAIP, of which I am still a loyal member. She told me I had to go to a conference, held in Toronto every November, called Packaging Your Imagination, organized by CANSCAIP. I listened to her -- and it helped.
Rina is also the one who cheered me on when I was first submitting manuscripts to publishers. When I phoned to tell her -- by then Rina had moved to Toronto, where she still lives -- that I had been rejected by yet another publisher, this time with a long letter explaining what the publisher liked and didn't like about my submission, Rina was the one who said, "That's great news!" And when I felt like giving up, Rina brought me a little glass statue of Ganesh, the Hindu god who is known to help people overcome obstacles. That Ganesh is still sitting next to my computer as I write this.
Rina's writing career was booming long before mine ever began. She is the author of six books for children, the most recent of which are Nearly Nonsense and Guru Nanak.
This weekend, Rina and her husband made the long drive to Montreal to come and celebrate the launch of my new YA novel, So Much It Hurts. You may know the book is based on a dark chapter in my own life -- and Rina was the friend with whom I was closest during this difficult time. She helped me dig myself out of a dark sad hole.
We spent a day this weekend working together -- comparing notes, discussing story ideas, looking at outlines of our upcoming projects. I didn't tell you but Rina began her writing career as a poet. She published her first collection of poems in India when she was still in her twenties. Maybe that's why she speaks in a poetic way. (She is also very funny... one more reason why I love her.) "How did you do it?" Rina asked about So Much It Hurts. And then she answered her own question in a way that was smart and also made me laugh, "By doing it!" she said.
Rina also made a wonderful observation about outlines. I showed her my newest outline and how I've scribbled all over it. "Outlines," said Rina, "are living documents."
Anyway, now maybe you will understand why I feel so lucky to have Rina for a friend. Dear blog reader, I wish that you, too, find a friend who understands and accepts you, who supports your dreams, who shares her own struggles and dreams with you -- and makes you laugh.