I began writing as a young girl; I wrote a diary, and I kept it to myself, locked in a most secret place, Back then I wrote simply because I enjoyed pouring my thoughts onto paper, and like Anne Frank – whose Diary had impressed me very much – I wrote to an imaginary friend, whom I called Ana. I kept a diary for several years until one day I suspected Granny was going through my secrets and I dropped it. How sorry I am for it; how I would have loved to go back in time through those pages and remember facts and people long forgotten…
During my teens I wrote many letters; to Mom who was living in England and was always my best friend and confidante; to my friends abroad, those I met during my holidays in Madeira; I even wrote to friends who rarely replied, such as my great friend Luisa, but I didn’t mind, as for me writing was a real pleasure.
Many years later I began writing a book and discovered I wanted to share my stories with the world – and that’s how I started writing a blog. At first I got feedback from the few friends I shared it with but then I began my Facebook account which meant I got Likes, and comments such as “beautiful” and “I know what you mean” or “I’ve been there”, and many others that show me that somehow my messages are getting through.
One day, however, something very special happened. I received a message through Facebook from a reader in Canada; this lady told me she really enjoyed my stories and also that she very much related to them; she added that she would be coming to Lisbon soon and that she would like to meet me.
Now this was an amazing feeling. I was never one for making friends on the internet as I fortunately have good friends whom I often meet; I had never felt that need. But to have someone who had never seen me or talked to me, who only knew me from reading my blog, reaching out to me and wanting to meet the author of the stories she enjoys reading, that was quite special and made me feel very happy. If I write because I feel the need to share my stories, there will be nothing more rewarding than learning they are appreciated, that my readers relate to them.
I happily replied to this lady and told her I’d be thrilled to meet her. I told my boys and my closest friends about how proud I was that I was meeting a reader from Canada, who was coming to Lisbon and wanted to meet me. I almost felt like a published author, one who has gained recognition and enjoys meeting her fans with whom she shares some of her writing secrets.
Curiously when I shared these news with my sons, and told them I would be meeting this lady for lunch in a few days, my son Pedro advised caution, saying something like “Mom, are you going to meet someone you know nothing about? What if someone wants to kidnap you?” – he was half joking, half serious.
I laughed at his worry, so unlike him. It was good to know he is more cautious that I thought about internet, but I reassured him that this meeting promised to be absolutely safe. I would take place in the centre of Lisbon at lunchtime and besides this Canadian lady did not really look menacing…
The day came when I went to meet Monique at her hotel. It was a beautiful, sunny, bright winter day and the sky was blue. The temperature was unusually warm for the time of the year. I immediately recognised her; a blonde, good looking lady in her fifties – or so I thought – with a refined look and a nice smile. She greeted me as if she had known me for a long time – if not for a long time, she certainly knew a lot about me, having read my blog – and soon we were chatting amicably over lunch at a typical Portuguese restaurant with wooden tables and red and white checked tablecloths. We talked on and on and she told me about her life: she is 65 – she doesn’t look it one bit – she is retired and enjoys travelling during the Canadian winter. She travels by herself and has made quite a few new friends during her travels. I loved her spirit! As for myself, she knew a lot about me so I didn’t really have to tell her much. Time went by too fast and I had to go back to work, but we promised to keep in touch and meet again the next time she comes to Lisbon, scheduled to December I believe. She has fallen in love with Portugal and I promised to take her to St. George’s castle, my favourite spot in Lisbon.
We have of course kept in touch and she religiously follows my blog and – I believe – reads my stories. I am very grateful to Monique for getting in touch and making me feel like a true writer; I am grateful to her for giving me the most precious gift an author can aim for – recognition that what we write reaches out to people and somehow touches their hearts. For someone like me who will soon publish a book – my first – and dreams it will be a success, she has made me believe all is possible. She has given me hope, confidence and a friendly hand. She will always be very special to me because she has been the first – the first reader (apart from my friends), from a distant country but yet sharing many feelings and relating to “the many stories of a woman” I tell.
Dear Monique, I know you are reading this. You are very special to me. One day, not too distant I hope, when I present my book in a great event, I want you to be there. I will share this story with everyone, so that they know that, from a very early stage, there was a reader who wanted to meet me, who supported me and gave me the strength to carry on. Who made me feel like a published author at a time when my book was nothing but a beautiful dream. Who told me – without words – that my writing is worth reading and enjoyable. Who made me feel on top of the world, even when the climb was only just beginning.