In Real Life: On Friendships and Words Becoming Flesh



Something strange happened in my life over the last couple of years, something I wasn’t sure was possible: I’ve made friends — on the internet.  


Facebook started in 2004. Twitter, 2006. Instagram: 2010. (And for reference,, an online dating site, started in 1995 — a year before I graduated high school.) And yes, along with dating, the online world has changed how we connect, stay connected, and become genuine friends with people.


If you’ve followed along here, you know I had a big birthday this week. So, I’m of a certain age where I didn’t grow up online. I made (and kept) friends IRL. We called. Wrote letters. Visited each other. I saw their face, gave them a hug. Heard their real laugh instead of my brain processing my own version of their written LOL or cry-laugh emoji.


Yet, that’s changed. And part of my life (many of our lives) is now on the internet.


In the early summer of 2015, I stood on a stage and read a five-minute essay to an audience made up (mostly) of people I didn’t know. Afterwards, the cast (past and present) celebrated another year in the books at a fancy bar in DC. As I was making my rounds to say Hello and Goodbye, I met Callie.


She was a cast member from the previous year, sitting with a group of women that included one of my cast-mates, and it looked like she’d been crying. Were we introduced? I don’t even remember — but we met and Callie told me my essay meant something to her, like the words I spoke shook something loose inside. Her openness and honesty and — I don’t know what it was exactly — but it connected us. Looking back, something seems ordained about our meeting.  


What happened after that? Did we Facebook friend each other? Did I Google her? Who knows, there’s any number of ways we could have connected online — and it doesn’t really matter — because in the last two and a half years, even though most of our interactions haven’t been IRL, we’ve become real-life friends.


Callie is the person who introduced me to an entire writing world I didn’t know existed.


Namely, that there were women writing (not “blogging”) on the internet. People who are writing essays, crafting stories out of real-life experiences, sharing their hearts — not just for clicks and followers, but because of a passion within them to use their gifts of creating beauty with words (see: Coffee+Crumbs).


Callie’s one of those women who encourages you to lean into the hard, write the stuff that’s making you uncomfortable — because that is where you find out what’s really happening, what’s really underneath. She believes that we’re created in the image of God, and since God’s the great Creator, we’re also called to create.


Callie is a storyteller of the highest order. She can take running away from summer camp, a spider living on her front porch, or even playing tennis — and weave it with motherhood or childhood or love — into a tapestry you can’t help but stare at and say, “How did she do that? It’s … beautiful.”


Her words are love stories. Not the romantic kind (although there is some of that) and it’s not all about being a mother or a teacher (although who can separate that part of yourself once you are one?) — but the divine Love. Where beauty and gifting and grace meet and marry and something like Life takes shape.


Becomes Flesh.


Today, after writing for 12 years, after going back to school for her MFA, after teaching middle-school kids (her favorite age!), and after so much more we’ll never know (because writing a book, it turns out, is less fame and fortune and more like literal labor, even if it is done with love) — her first book comes out!


Honestly, I feel just a little bit like I did when my sister had her babies: oh my goodness — a part of this person I love is going to be living out in the world! (Although I’ve most definitely kissed my nieces a million times more than I’ll kiss this book.)  I can’t wait to get my hands on it though, read and turn each page, as if I were examining a baby toe, finger, gently caressing fuzzy hair over a temple. I feel like a proud aunt.


The book is called The Teacher Diaries: Romeo & Juliet. It’s a series of essays — part memoir, part creative non-fiction, part what it’s like to teach Romeo and Juliet to middle schoolers and see your life and theirs and the characters’ and how they all interact. It’s not a teaching guide. It’s a gift. 


I’ve read two chapters of the book already and what I can say is this:  it’s writing that leaves you wanting more.


Do you know what I mean? Like writing where you remember why you like to read. Writing that makes you stop and say the sentence out loud, because you just enjoy the way it feels when you say it. Or you read a line twice, three times, because there are words that evoke emotions and tastes and sounds and your own memories you simply don’t want to let pass by too quickly.


My online and IRL friend wrote a book. It comes out today. Words in her heart become flesh. 



Click here to check it out (buy!) the book on Amazon.


((((**** This is not a sponsored post! I get no money or free copies of this book or meetings with her agent or publisher or anything like that. Although, Callie, if you can swing any of that …  (juuuust kidding). I just wanted to share because I’m genuinely thrilled for her and she’s taught me so much and I think it’s a thing of beauty when you put yourself out into the world, and you work at something for so long, and real-life takes you on twists and turns and changes course but you end up with something tangible, proof almost. And I love how God’s given me this gift — like it’s His grace, in the form of an in-the-flesh friendship.))))

Coffee+Crumbs “Grandma Club”

(me with my too-big crazy laugh, Callie, and Melanie Dale)

– we’re now all 40 and itdon’tmatter, we still know how to have a good time.

Sonya Spillmann

One Comment

  1. Look at that fun picture! I think those smiles pretty much summarize how I feel about hanging out with my wonderful friends and sharing our stories.
    Thank you for this lovely, generous piece, Sonya. I feel the same way about you and your writing, and I can’t wait for your first book and it’s first steps into the world. XO!

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