Letters from a Young Writer


Recently I’ve been revisiting some stories that I wrote back in the 80s and 90s. To help myself get in the mood, I’ve been reading letters that I wrote to my friend, Helene, who has saved them all these years. I realize that even then, I was writing for posterity. I believed in my future as a writer, and so did Helene, bless her heart.

I came across this passage in a letter written (in very messy handwriting!) when I was twenty years old:

“I’m working on a short story. I’m trying to inject some Southernness into it. It’s set in a wasteland. No hope, whatsoever. There’s no reason to believe in anything, but idealism persists. I can’t decide if the statement I’m making is that you should hope no matter what, and avoid cynicism or the only way to keep yourself safe and alive is to shield yourself from reality.  I prefer to believe that it’s an optimistic piece. I’ll send it to you later for critique.  It’s based on real things – things that really happened – dead girls, doomed love, a lost dog.

“In other news, I have a cold, and I’ve lost five pounds since I saw you last.”

The story that I wrote about here is actually one of the first that I ever published. It was called “Waiting,” and it appeared in the journal Grasslands Review and also in The Abiko Literary Quarterly Rag here in Japan.

I’ve actually been tinkering with it again over the past couple of years, trying to turn it into a verse novel. We’ll see how that goes. And by the way, it is about hope.





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