While it is peaceful and productive to remain disconnected from social media (limited to Twitter in my case), I found some inspiring posts in the few times I logged in last month. One was the Ickabog drawing competition run by JK Rowling – a lovely initiative in which she offered a fairy tale serialised online and a related competition in which children could send in their illustrations for each scene or character. It was beautiful to see her encouraging responses to enthusiastic children who sent in their entries from all over the world, a really good way to divert minds from the repercussions of the pandemic and turn it towards creating good art. A truly commendable effort on the part of the author.

I was also pleasantly surprised to see the #247challenge by the creative writing charity First Story for their National Writing Day, to write a story in 24 words within seven minutes. The First Story team managing their Twitter handle were as kind and encouraging as Rowling was to the children who sent in their entries, with many of the little stories being quite astonishing in their insights, imagination and maturity.

What I loved the most about reading the NWD entries was the group submissions from students writing in teams, and families writing together. Writing being an essentially solitary activity, there is something unbearably beautiful about a family sitting down to write together. I was reminded of the lovely scene in Tanizaki’s The Makioka Sisters in which Sachiko and the rest of her family in Osaka, including her ten year old daughter Etsuko and the maid O-Haru write haikus about the autumn moon and post it to her younger sister Yukiko who was away in Tokyo.

“Suppose we each write something,” said Teinosuke [Sachiko’s husband]. It was some twenty days later, on the night of the autumn full moon. Everyone thought this an excellent idea, and after dinner Teinosuke, Sachiko, Taeko, and Etsuko gathered near the veranda of a Japanese-style room downstairs. The traditional moon-viewing flowers and fruit had been set out. When O-haru had ground the ink, Teinosuke, Sachiko, and Etsuko each composed a poem. Taeko, who was not good at poetry, did a quick ink wash of the moon coming through pine branches.

The clouds are passing.
The pines reach out for the moon.
— Teinosuke

The night of the full moon.
Here, one shadow is missing.
— Sachiko

The moon tonight–
Yukiko sees it in Tokyo.
— Etsuko

The autumn moon shows itself
There among the clouds.
— Haru

Sachiko took a plume of autumn grass from a vase and folded it into the letter.
Junichiro Tanizaki, The Makioka Sisters, trans. Edward Seidensticker.