While a few of the things that happened in my novel Whispers in the Wiring were later played out in real life in unexpected ways, the initial premise of the story was very much based on real events. Following the sudden and untimely death of a family member, I struggled to reconcile a loose-fitting belief in an after-life with an increasing conviction that I was deluding myself. Rupert and Athena, central characters in the novel were initially 'born' to provide a vehicle for conversation existing 'outside' my head (of course it was still inside my head!!). The process was cathartic; no news to those who write. Among many other reasons it's why we write - to make sense of the insensible, to connect with our deepest dark and light places, and to disconnect from those same places. And so it goes with reading. In a recent creative writing class I asked the students what value did they think a writer had in society. I think the question arose from my decision to leave the very noble profession of full-time teaching to follow my dream to be a writer. How self-indulgent! Had I lost my place in society? Was I no longer being of service? How could I compare my contribution with those who comfort the sick, the dying, the drug-affected, the battered .... We had a great conversation, my wonderful class and I and I realised that, apart from the love and support of family and friends, it was reading that helped carried me through life's dark times. Sadly, in this last week I have cause to put it to the test once again. The death of a loved one takes you to dark places. I scanned my book shelf searching for relief. I by-passed tomes full of weighty words and deep philosophies and instead picked out one that I might normally 'hide' from serious literature-minded friends. Light and bright, food, love, good times and, pretty shallow. I thank that author for the comfort and the release from the heavy reality of my loss, for the half hours at a time where I was liberated and felt a return of joy. She may never know the effect of her 'self-indulgent' profession, but it's answered the question for me. Do writers have a valuable role in society. Absolutely.