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.
Rochelle Spencer’s profile of Tayari Jones (“She Is Ready,” May/June 2011), a serious literary author who wants her readers to have fun, was inspirational. It was great to see Jones’s smiling face and read about her wish to give her readers “a delicious time” in Leaving Atlanta, The Untelling, and now Silver Sparrow. The excerpt from Silver Sparrow piqued my curiosity—the last line, “With daughters, the situation is a bit more complicated,” has me wanting more. I can’t wait to purchase my summer reading!
Jacqueline Miller Byrd
Craft of Cruelty
I read with interest Benjamin Percy and Aaron Gwyn’s examination of writing violence (“Spilling Blood: The Art of Writing Violence,” May/June 2011), which is not an easy craft. On the contrary, as the authors point out, there are layers of psychology that a writer must consider. I have found that writing “exploitation” or “splatter” narratives is not the way to go; I want to frighten and give goose bumps to my readers, not make them physically ill and turn them away. I want to thank Percy and Gwyn for doing an outstanding job in researching this piece, and kudos to Poets & Writers Magazine for presenting such a marvelous look at something most literary magazines snub.
West Hollywood, California
Percy and Gwyn’s article was interesting and
informative, but the authors’ example concerning the Alfred Hitchcock film Frenzy
is misleading. The character Bob Rusk does not lead a barmaid into
his apartment to murder her “at the beginning” of the film; this event occurs
halfway through. Hitchcock certainly did know “the imagination has a darker
power than anything he can show us,” but it is important to realize that the
killing of the barmaid is the second murder in the film.
murder, of a woman who runs a dating service, occurs in a graphic scene that
leaves nothing to the imagination. It is because of this first display that
Hitchcock can later pull back his camera.
Silver Spring, Maryland
Thank you for Michael Klein’s article “After-Hours Author: The Working Writer’s Advantage” (May/June 2011). Since losing my job a few months ago, I’ve been living my “dream” of being a full-time writer. Though having hours to write was what I yearned for, I have actually gotten less writing done in these months than when I was working full-time. I’m a very organized person and yet I’ve found it extremely difficult to structure my day. Pretending that writing is my new job, leaving the apartment as though going to work, and penciling in writing time on my calendar are seemingly helpful strategies, but none of them has gotten me through the revision my novel needs. I go to bed feeling guilty and fear I’ll regret frittering away this great gift of time. But after I read Klein’s article, I felt relief; I understood what was missing from my new writing life—a job. I need that center. Once I’m working again, will I complain that I don’t get enough time to write? Probably. But at least I’ll be using what precious little extra time I have to write.
New York, New York
I found myself spontaneously annotating Klein’s essay
on my commute home from my day job. Like Klein, I work full-time, and I know
myself enough to know that removing structure from my life would be
self-destructive. My job frustrates, but not having one would frustrate more,
and would also leave me isolated. I sometimes resent the job for stealing
my time and youth, slowing down my writing, and usurping the
problem-solving part of my brain, but Klein reminds us that slowing down and
shifting attention are not necessarily bad for writing. My favorite line:
“Writers who are in a hurry, I’ve noticed, tend to write the same book twice.”
Klein’s fresh perspective and lesson in patience are very much appreciated.
New York, New York