Snippets from Virtual Sessions: Life Beyond Words

While the pandemic pulled us apart, the collective experience of isolation and pain also unified us and brought us together. Over the last two years, writers from around the world have joined us virtually to talk about writing, reading and leading life through an overwhelming time. As we inch closer towards the end of the NLF Reading Challenge 2022, we look back at some of the special moments we were able to be a part of.  

Our writers have donned many hats such as those of journalists, scuba divers, and even magicians! But nothing could have prepared us for the impromptu musical performance by Joseph Bruchac, the accomplished writer, musician and storyteller whose art focuses on the lives of Native Americans. When asked how he found his way to each of these things, Joe casually picked up a traditional native American flute and played a little bit from the first flute song he was taught more than 50 years ago. 

To him, exploring music and folklore is also a way of gaining new perspectives, “You have this ability with two ears to hear more than one side.” When he lived and taught in West Africa he learned how to play the native bamboo flute, and was even the lead singer in a highlife band in Ghana and toured the country! 

Joe’s interests, like all of ours, reflect the life he has lived and the world he inhabits. 

Bestselling author Thomas Taylor grew up in a sea-side town and often goes beachcombing, for pleasure as well as for inspiration. He has collected many objects including snails, fossilised “dino poop” and seaglass. But what he showed us was the object that inspired Erwin, the delightful cat in his debut novel Malamander‒a small pebble with a cat-like white pattern on it that he chanced upon during one of his beachcombing trips. 


It was a conversation about how her characters in A Long Walk to Water take life bit-by-bit—keeping an eye out for little milestones—when the going gets tough that led Linda Sue Park to talk about her love for crocheting and knitting.  She introduced us to a crocheted figurine of Baby Yoda from The Mandalorian which she had made before the pandemic began. When the pandemic came knocking at our doors, Linda knitted a mask to keep him safe. She reflected, “There are ways we all have of helping ourselves and each other to get through this incredible time in history we are living through.” 

And following the things that you love is a way of helping yourself. Joseph Bruchac said, “I can’t do everything, but I can sing, I can tell stories, I can play music, and I have so many things that connect together, that are part of who I am. I think it is the best advice we can give young people. Be open to develop into the person you will be. Find out for yourself what you can do.”


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