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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

"a sweet stranger"

Have I told you how much I love the open letter? The open love letter especially. I've been working on one for several months now, to an author and artist whose work changed my life for the better. It's not a romantic thing, more like a fan letter filled with blood. Actually, if you've ever heard me talk about this woman before, you probably know the short version of my experience. The hardest parts of the letter, fleshing it out beyond the handful of short, sharp sentences that proclaim my gratitude, are taking more time than I thought they would. But what doesn't?

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I've linked to a ton of Sugar columns here. I've often thought of writing Sugar a letter myself, not for help, but to tell her how important her writing has been to me. It was Sugar columns that inspired me to start writing again for myself and to embrace failure as part of growing as a writer. Her words got me excited to do the hard and boring work and the decision to do so has made this year different from any other. Even though I am 98% sure that I know the real name of the person behind the pseudonym, the fact that Sugar will soon be revealed makes me really sad. Once her real name is given, she belongs to everything she's ever written, everything she has ever lived. As Sugar, she belongs to all of us and I selfishly want to keep her for myself.

Published on The Rumpus today is an open letter to Sugar from one of her readers that lays bare the influence that one compassionate writer can have. [Whoa, wait! It is not an open letter at all. Simply an essay from one regular Sugar reader to all of us. My mischaracterization is likely a case of simple projection. Sorry!]

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Friend of Try Harder, Amy Shearn, has a great essay about what her grandmother's letters to Martha Gelhorn meant to her as a writer: A Thousand Words: My Grandmother and Me. A few years ago, I got to see Amy read another piece about these letters. Both touched on the messiness and uncertainty of being a writer, how correspondence with an author you love can change you, loneliness and work and being a creator. Amy lived with those letters for a long while and I'm so glad that she shared her thoughts about them with me (and you).

Have you ever written to an author who inspired you? What happened?

*Photo from The NYPL Digital Gallery

2 comments:

householdwords said...

Oh hey hi thanks! I have just been thinking of revisiting that essay and trying to better it. Also, writing letters. Also, you. This is a great post. Thanks for it.

Carrie said...

Do it, lady. I want to see you soon, too.

I hope you are doing a contest entry!