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Poets & Writers Magazine welcomes feedback from its readers. Please post a comment on select articles at www.pw.org/magazine, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to Editor, Poets & Writers Magazine, 90 Broad Street, Suite 2100, New York, NY 10004. Letters accepted for publication may be edited for clarity and length.
EMBODYING THE DREAM
I admire and applaud Jenny Shank’s affirmation (“Why We Write: The Ham-and-Egger,” January/February 2011). No matter what happens after she publishes her novel, no one can take it away from her. I am one of Shank’s “hookers in ratty furs” à la Fellini’s Cabiria, who for nearly six decades has not shaken the dream of being a writer despite limited publishing success—I choose not to count my self-published- book, Cathie Beck’s advice (“The Online Book Launch: Self-Publishing Your Way to a Book Deal,” January/February 2011) notwithstanding. Put me down for four of Shank’s books, and thanks for ushering in the New Year with a cheerful and honest message.
Franklin Lakes, New Jersey
WRITERS IN THEIR PRIME
I enjoyed the January/February 2011 issue, chock-full of stories on young writers. Now how about an issue featuring writers over forty, or, for that matter, fifty, sixty, and up? I teach writing to students above fifty in the Bay Area and have worked with many fine writers—as a matter of fact, I know two serious writers older than ninety.
Walnut Creek, California
In light of Katherine Hill’s “New Tree-Free Submission Services” (January/February 2011) and Kevin Nance’s previous discussion on pieces that are accepted, then later rejected (“The New Broom,” November/December 2010), I find my recent experience of mistaken acceptance and subsequent rejection by an editor using one of the submission--management services mentioned in Hill’s article even more troubling. Electronic submission allows for complete dehumanization of the process. Even an acceptance can now be a form letter, and rejecting a piece is as simple as pushing a key; no one need fumble to attach a rejection slip to a manuscript or worry about what to say. The careless way technology allows people to do their jobs—labors of love included—also allows them to be slipshod with how they express regret for what is actually an insensitive mistake.
In response to “Digital Digest: Writers Rolling Back the Revolution” by Adrian Versteegh (November/December 2010), why stop rolling back at software? Maybe if you typed on a Royal, you could write like Hemingway. If you scrawled longhand, you could digress like Proust. Use a quill, and you could become Shakespeare. Writers who find that the Web distracts them from their stories should probably seek more interesting themes. When I’m immersed in the act of composition, neither browser sidebars nor the dogs barking outside my window nor CNN blasting from the next room has the slightest effect on my focus. It’s when I do my best writing.
San Francisco, California
Stephen Morison Jr. brought humor, insight, and journalistic play to his story on an increasingly grim political and cultural border (“The Broken Bridge: Report From Literary North Korea,” November/December 2010). Adopting his own third-person self as narrator, Morison reminds us that North Korean writers must suppress individual complexity, and that only Western journalists willing to take a “neutral tone…with only limited authorial interference” may enter the country. Both positions are, however, ultimately unacceptable for Morison. His literary point of view cannot be restrained—thank goodness.
In Literary MagNet (January/February 2011), Arkansas was mistakenly included and Alaska was mistakenly omitted from the list of states whose writers may submit to ZYZZYVA. In “Writers and Their Obsessions: A Field Guide to the Curious Mind” by Jean Hartig (January/February 2011), the photograph of Tan Lin should have been credited to Lawrence Schwartzwald.