Musings on Collaboration and Friendship by Deborah Bryan

I am honored and excited to introduce my dear friend Deborah Bryan, the author of The Monster’s Daughter and Memos from Your Closet Monster, as our guest today. What first struck me about Deb (besides the swell name of her Facebook page) was her keen intelligence, strong conscience and grace, and I think my first impression was dead-to-rights accurate.

In December, 2011, Deb and I first started writing these notes, or epistles, back and forth to one another, beginning a correspondence that has covered almost every subject imaginable.  Often we talk about writing and the projects we’re either working on or dreaming about starting. If I am struggling with a blog post, a scene, or even the concept for a new book, I can bounce all of my ideas off Deb. I value Deb’s input into my creative process so much that in a couple of weeks, I will be sending Deb Draft Two of my upcoming novel, Ripple, for her review and commentary.

Deb and I talk about far more than work. Often, we talk about philosophy, politics, social reform, parenting, psychology and personal issues in our  lives. I’ve laughed, cried and even argued with Deb. Whether I am confused, amused or feeling abused, I can call or write Deb, and I always smile when I see her name in my in-box or hear her voice on the telephone.

I hope that Deb and I will continue to talk, work and laugh together for many years to come. I cannot emphasize enough how gifted she is or how much I value her friendship. Her latest book is a must-buy, and it is available through Amazon on the attached link: Memos from your Closet Monster.

Without further ado, I introduce Deb Bryan:

Conversations with good friends don’t really end and begin so much as they continue in different times and places.

El and I hold conversations across a half-dozen forums, frequently seeming to leave one conversation behind in favor of a new one elsewhere. While it might seem this way, it’s not the truth; we are always engaged in conversation, and it’s always coherent between us, no matter how it might seem from the outside.

A couple of months ago, I emailed El to let her know that I was stressed out, and why. She wrote back almost immediately in an email to which I did not reply.

The next morning, however, I awakened to a short, sweet personal message on Facebook asking me to consider taking a new approach to my writing. El knew I’d been slowly working through edits on the second book in my YA Glass Ball trilogy. Although she loved its opening book, The Monster’s Daughter, she wasn’t convinced that it was what I needed to be working on right now. In a couple of short sentences, she explained what she felt I should be working on, and why.

As I read her so-short email, my entire perspective changed.

I tabled editing my trilogy’s second novel and considered what I might write, were I to follow El’s suggestion. Inspiration didn’t strike immediately, but I did let El know that she’d reoriented my entire perspective with her email.

The Monster’s Daughter, Book 1 in the trilogy

A couple of days later, I found my new project. I wouldn’t even have been looking for that project, but for an early morning email from a friend who not only felt certain things, but took the time out to express them. Like that she believed in me, more than I believed in myself.

I started working on that new project immediately but slowly. As I worked on it, I wondered, “Is writing this enough, or is there something else I need to be doing?” El is constantly thinking not only about the words she’s shaping, but about other projects and ways for allowing her words to shine in new ways and places. I wanted to try thinking a little more like her—not just pushing out word after word, but looking at everything from another angle altogether.

This exercise led me to ask myself why some of my best blogs shouldn’t be aggregated into an ebook, thus enabling them to reach a whole new audience from the one they had previously reached.

I emailed El to ask her opinion.

There were many steps between that and last week’s publication of my new ebook, Memos from Your Closet Monster. El was involved in each of them.

More than that, she was the inspiration for them. Thanks to both her offered perspective and her encouragement, a book that included but was more than the sum total of some of my most powerful blogs came into existence.

Every day, as I work on my new project, I say thanks for El and friends everywhere who inspire their friends to think in different ways. To see themselves through their friends’ eyes.

I may never yet have met El in person, but she has taught me best of all that in-person meeting isn’t required for someone to reach straight into the heart of another’s life and change it, for the better, forever.


© 2012 by E. L. Farris and Deborah Bryan

29 Comments on “Musings on Collaboration and Friendship by Deborah Bryan

  1. I enjoy reading about your collaboration, both as writers and as friends. I tend to hold my writing (and many other thoughts) very close to my body until every thing is “right”. It’s not always the best approach. I look at your open connection and see there is value in early sharing. I just have to be brave enough.

    • Hey Kelly!!! Aye, before I started meeting and talking with other writers like Deb, I was often bored and lonely. As you probably could guess, I feel like a fish out of water when I talk to other suburban moms. Especially without a drink in hand, these moms seem nice and all but I have nothing to say because all I ever think about is deep, esoteric stuff (or about running and swimming). Now that I have friends (albeit ones who mostly live far away) to talk to about the issues I care about with MY PEOPLE (other writers and artists, and athletes), my life has become a much happier, more fulfilling one.

      So be brave my friend. And find your people–like this woman (pointing at log-splitting chin) right here.

      • I loved reading both of the comments just above this one! In bygone days, I used to share my work with anyone and everyone, with no second guessing involved. Then I fell along the other side of the scale, where I couldn’t envision anyone looking at anything I’d written until it’d seen my punishing revisions at least a dozen times over. Having someone to talk to before I even start writing makes it feel so much more fulfilling and less lonely. I’m so glad to have been pulled out of my writing shell! I’m glad, too, my sister’s being pulled the final bit out of the way by the same great company. 😉

  2. a supportive, encouraging, challenging yet collaborative friendship like this is very rare to find – keep shining both of you : )

    • I agree, Evie! I don’t think I’ve experienced anything quite like it before. Once in 33 years might not be overwhelming on a galactic scale, but it’s pretty unique on the scale of my life. 🙂

      Sometimes when El and I talk, I remember my mom talking to my godmom. That’s what our conversations feel like. I wish for everyone relationships like this, which cover work, not-work and everything in between!

  3. The greatest gift of reading Deb’s blog has been finding El. Like you, El has been an amazing source of inspiration to me, and I’m really glad your eyes will see draft 2! I think Ripple is something really special. The interwebz are amazing. Even as I see some of the comments here, I think: I am fortunate to have met Lisha. And I have Deb’s phone number. I could go on. Some many wonderful people helping each other.

    • I’m looking forward to reading it, because the other novel I’m beta reading is a horror novel–thus making it non-optimal reading for just before bed! I know that Ripple will have its own horror factors, but they’re a kind I’m already accustomed to facing in my sleep.

      I am so grateful for the relationships that have sprung from being online! Sometimes I get frustrated with how hard it is to find my balance, but the good is so, so good, it far outweighs the bad of that.

    • Hey there Pardner!!! And had it not been for Deb, I wouldn’t have met you–right? And without you, I cannot imagine Ripple being Ripple. Do you know how many e-mails you and I have sent back and forth? I was looking at my writing folder and laughing because there are a few hundred messages in there! And yep: Lisha; and Dartinia; and Mary Bird (Transitioning Mom) . . . I could go on and on. Much love to you!!!

  4. Well I’m sorry ladies, but this is FAR too much awesome for one blog post. I am SO glad you two have this relationship, and can attest to the wonderfulitude (yup. Totally a word) of you both. I’ve had the good fortune of talking to Deb on the phone, and hope to meet her, Li’l D and Ba.D soon, if they get over to the east coast! I often fantasize about hosting a Blogging Summit where I can afford to fly everyone to a single location for a long weekend!

    Thank you, El, for inspiring Deb to do this latest book – I’m so excited that her posts are reaching a broader audience!

    • I thought about this a lot while driving today. In addition to getting me unstuck from writing in general, I can feel my thoughts getting clearer for Sweets, too. I feel like I got the creative kickstart I needed to really feel like a writer again.

      And, speaking of awesome things? Your post this morning! I know you’ve mentioned writing, but this felt like the first time you really, really stepped out as a writer. It’s possible I’m forgetting something with my notoriously sieve-like memory, but hey! I loved it. I loved seeing that side of you. I can’t wait to be reading your memoir someday, and then the books that follow it. In the meantime, I’m glad I’m able to read your words on your blog, and I’m looking forward to hearing more about your writing process!

      • Yes!!! Jules post this morning kicked ass1!!

        Oh good–Sweets is becoming clearer too? GOOD!! That happens to me . . . I had to take off a lot of time in March because I had no idea where I was going with Ripple and was struggling with sobriety too I reckon . . . and the time off crystallized part 2 for me.

    • Wait!!! East Coast darling Jules!!!! I live near DC!!! Let’s do a Blogging Summit–OMG! I talk nonstop so you might not get a word in unless you talk really fast and if you invite Renee and of course you will you will not get a word in with her and me in the room lol!! Wow! I would love to meet you in person!!

      And hey: Deb inspires me ALL the time–believe me, the inspiration goes just as much from her to me!! She always smiles when I send her one of my e-mails that goes: “Hey, what do you think of . . . and how about if . . . ” Giggle.


      • Now here is an instance in which I will GLADLY shut up about chipmunks for a few hours, LOL! That is AWESOME that you’re only a few hours away! And Renee isn’t THAT far either… And Deb has been talking about visiting some folks they know over here….

        Yes. It is decided.

  5. Deb gave me a wonderful gift one day, that was El. Both Deb and El have given me wonderful gifts and that has been the open sharing within their blogs, the connections I so often feel in reading their words, that I am brought to my knees sometimes and at others lifted up and wrapped in secret invisible arms safe and cared for (I wonder do you know that?).

    Your collaboration is inspiring, just one more reason to be grateful!

    • Valentine, I can’t remember how our paths crossed, but I consider it a gift that they did! Your candor opens me up to reflecting on things I might never have thought about in ways I’ve definitely never thought about things. I am grateful to be able to see things anew, most especially when “anew” means “through your eyes.” Thank you so much for your beautiful compliment. I feel the same when I read your words.

      • We crossed because one day while hunting for something to read I ran across the name of your blog and thought…..hmmm, that looks interesting. I was right!

        Then I started reading, I was flummoxed. Who was this woman? She was funny, bright and her words … my her words filled me up.

        That Deb was how our paths crossed. I suspect sometimes I am thrown great gifts and all I have to do is reach out my arms and catch them. Thankfully, I am still pretty quick!

    • Hello my dear Val!! I was so awed when I discovered you via Deb! Your honesty and beauty on such difficult subjects made you feel like a kindred soul and you know what Val? Reading your writing made me feel protective toward you, if that makes sense. No! I don’t mean I think you were weak–no quite the contrary! Your soul seems so precious, and your past so difficult, that I immediately valued you and wanted to make sure that your words made it out to the world. Oh! I feel foolish but I am going to hit post comment anyway. And yes, to answer your question–I know that, because I feel the same safety with you and Deb. xoxo

      • Why ever would you feel foolish? I know exactly what you mean, you my friend do not have a foolish bone in your body. I am grateful for any bit of protection I can get and I know it doesn’t mean you think I am weak….though a grant of weakness now and again would be most welcome (I let you know when I am looking for it).

        • I am smiling–foolish because I am so deep and quick to express what I am thinking and feeling–too open for many, at least in real life (yep, I am the bad-ass wild woman of the neighborhood, LOL). I am so grateful that I’ve gotten to meet people who get me and who I have real things in common with via the writing and blogging community. I am with my own people here, and I feel so much more fulfilled and happy to be able to be real and talk. In real life I have to self-edit all of the time. And it is boring–so I dive in the water and swim more laps or grab my running shoes and run to avoid too much social interaction. Am I still making sense lol? I lose my filter after midnight.

          • Yes, you make perfect sense. I know all about filters, I have more of them than even I knew about until recently. Now I am shredding them (painfully) and as they fall away I am trying to figure out what to do to replace them. Next up? Replacements of self-flagellation with something more healthy and within my ability….I follow your statements and wins and thing come on body you could do 1/8 of that, please just for me. Some day maybe pretty please.

            I also am grateful I am finding people who get me and don’t want something for it.

  6. “Conversations with good friends don’t really end and begin so much as they continue in different times and places.”—So true. A friend of mine from high school only see each other once or twice a year, but we always pick up like we were never gone.

    It says a lot about both of you and your friendship that she could point you in a different direction like that, and that you were ok with it.