Open Mic at Art6 Gallery

Open Mic at Art6 Gallery

Sunday, January 5, 2014

A Bittersweet Holiday (In Memory of Shann Palmer)

By now the holiday season is over for everyone. People have spent this time with family and friends, opening up Christmas presents, and ringing in the New Year. Fun and joyous times were had by all.

But honestly, my holiday has been a bittersweet one. Sure, I had a nice time with my parents during Christmas and New Year’s Day. I got a chance to talk to my aunt and uncle in Florida via my Mom’s IPhone. I watched plenty of good bowl games and took in the NFL playoffs.

But why bittersweet?

I lost a very dear friend of mine over the holiday. Without her, I wouldn’t be the writer and the person that I am today. I can truly say that if I hadn’t had met her there is no way I would have considered taking the course that I have gone on. There would’ve been no poetry, no essays, no short stories, no novel, and no blogging.

Shann Palmer was more that just a writer. She was a presence that couldn’t be ignored. She could brighten up a room with her energy and her wicked sense of humor. But what was great about her was that she was always welcoming to anyone who had written anything. It didn’t matter how good or how bad the work was or how much or how long the person had written, Shann encouraged that person to share what they had.

I was one of those people she encouraged. I met her in 1996 when all I had were a bunch of words and no idea what to do with them. She welcomed me to Open Mic events with open arms and gave me the support I needed to share with people what was on my mind. She always had kind words to say to me about what I was doing and what I needed to improve on. She always told me about writers’ groups that could help me as well as many writing events going on around town.

Shann was quite the busybody. She not only put in efforts to write and publish her own works but also to promote and grow the poetry scene in the Richmond, Virginia area where we lived. She read anywhere and everywhere and often encouraged the rest of us to join her. I was still a little hesitant about venturing out to other venues but Shann was great with me, treating me like I belonged at every place I attended.

That’s the biggest thing I remember about Shann. She made everyone feel that they belonged. We were all a family of writers and it didn’t matter how much or how little anyone had written.

Shann passed away right before Christmas this year. It was sudden and shocking to many, including myself. I’ve spent this entire holiday thinking about her and that I won’t be able to see her again. I hadn’t been able to bring myself to writing no matter how hard I’ve tried. I found out today that many of my friends have been feeling the same way. She meant so much to so many and it’s been hard to try to come to grips with the loss.

We have said our goodbyes and celebrated her life, all knowing that we have to carry on. The last thing that Shann would want any of us to do is stop writing because she’s not here with us. Her light and her energy shine within each one of us and we can keep our writings going not only here in Richmond but wherever we go.

As for me, I’m getting back into my writing starting with this very piece. I love her and miss her dearly but I owe it to her to keep going, to keep my pad full of thoughts and ideas, to write and fill up my blogs, and to have my works published and share with the world. But the most important thing is to be open and caring just like Shann because there’s someone out there who is in the same position I was in so many years ago and they just need a little encouragement.


-R said...

Beautiful, Vernon. A beautiful testament to a wonderful person and friend. And yes, I'm sure she'd like you to keep writing!

MA_Woody said...

We met Shann and each other, at the same time, Vernon. I feel the same way. Shann started me writing, too. I am glad you are writing.

It was great to see you, Vernon!