Last summer I spent some time in Forest City, Iowa doing some research for a travel story I hoped to write. In the process I discovered that the owner of the local B&B, The Elderberry Inn, is a distant cousin of mine. Through my new-found friendship with Carolyn, the B&B owner/distant cousin, I found out that she and five other women gather twice a month to paint on porcelain and have been doing so for 30 some years.
"There might be a story there," Carolyn said.
And she was right.
At first I thought I simply had a story about six women who painted together, six women who were keeping the nearly lost art of porcelain painting alive. But upon meeting the ladies - Janice, Marian, Florence, Carolyn, Delores and Marj - I knew there was something extra special about this group of painters. In fact, this group of ladies was so full of life and laughter, kindness and fun that I decided that I had to make another trip to Forest City to do more research for the story.
I didn't have to do more research. Not really. I mostly wanted to hang out with this fun group of "girls," as they call themselves (they range in age from 63 to 93) because they were so positive and wonderful to be around. Because I wanted to get another glimpse at what makes them so special.
Sometimes a story becomes so much more than I thought it was going to be. This was that kind of story. Though meeting the ladies, through watching them paint and seeing them interact with each other, I learned so much about friendship, about kindness, about life. And I realized that I wasn't simply writing a story about people who paint, the story I needed to tell was that of six friends who have friendship down to an art.
The Art of Friendship was published in the May issue of Womeninc. Magazine. It was, without a doubt, one of my favorite stories to research and write.