Poets & Writers Magazine welcomes letters 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.
For Every Action
I found the interview with Eric Simonoff by Michael Szczerban (“Agents & Editors,” July/August 2013) to be both enjoyable and valuable. This is the best piece of advice I have read in decades: “The dangerous thing about almost any office job is that it’s very easy to become merely reactive. If I’ve learned anything from my clients, it’s that you do have to make your own day.” Many writers come to writing while, or after, holding down an office job (as I did, after twenty years in corporate America), and being “merely reactive” was indeed the hardest habit to break.
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Worth a Thousand Words
When I received the July/August 2013 issue of Poets & Writers Magazine, I was completely taken by the cover photo of Neil Gaiman (“Locked in the Sweetshop” by Michele Filgate). I’ve never read a book by Gaiman, and though I know he is wildly popular, I didn’t have him on my to-read list. Who knows why? But after studying his portrait, I became certain that I had erred in my neglect of him. Jon Crispin’s incredibly powerful portrait of the author drew me in and spoke to me. He captured Gaiman’s heart and soul in a way that cast a spell on me. I will add his latest book, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, to my list. The fantastic photography in Poets & Writers Magazine is just one more reason to renew my subscription.
I have learned more from the Why We Write column than from anything else in the magazine. Nancy Méndez-Booth’s excellent essay, “Why We Write: Tilted Naked Weirdo” (July/August 2013), on how to write what you truly know and be true to yourself, and Mary Potter Kenyon’s “Why We Write: A Mother’s Masterpiece” (January/February 2013) on writing to relieve your pain are wonderful lessons on writing and life. I thank you for them, and all that you do for writers. We appreciate it.
Mike R. James
A Matter of Context
Dan Barden’s “The Art of Conflict: Why Your Characters Should Struggle” (July/August 2013) is too simplistic. It does little to advance the creation of compelling and touching stories to which readers can relate. It may actually hinder powerful storytelling. Barden writes, “Story=Conflict, that’s the thing.” I am not claiming to be the world’s expert on the topic, but I certainly love a good story. And for me a story, like a life, contains many facets, including situation, characters, conflict, and resolution. Without all of these there can be little hope for context, and context is where insight and honesty thrive.
Enjoy the Silence
When my copy of Poets & Writers Magazine arrives, I flip through the pages, then I put it aside until I can find several hours to devote to the articles. I unfailingly find words from your contributors that inspire me to improve my craft, give me new marketing ideas, or expose me to the richness of our literary world. I found Ruth Ozeki’s “A Crucial Collaboration: Reader–Writer–Character–Book” and Daphne Kalotay’s “The Calm Before the Calm: Silence and the Creative Writer,” both in the May/June 2013 issue, particularly appealing. My family is in a state of flux as we relocate from one city to another. These articles not only capture much of what I need, but they are also good reminders that all of us need silence.
Weston Lakes, Texas