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Inspired by the Maze
Thanks so much for reminding me of the genius of Joan Didion (“The Light at Dusk” by Kevin Nance, November/December 2011). When I first read her novel Play It as It Lays in the early 1970s, I thought, “This woman writes like Hemingway, that master of the lean, pregnant paragraph.” After I read the novel a second time, I thought, “This woman writes like Hemingway wanted to write.” For over four decades Didion has, in novels and essays, written about subjects that might typically disturb us, squeezing her huge vision into the tiniest word count. I’m glad to know she’s still calling it like she sees it, still intent on playing it as it lays.
R. A. Davis
Why We Write
Many thanks for Lisa Jennifer Selzman’s article “Why We Write: A Necessary Magic” (November/December 2011). Her insight that the making of art is intrinsically tied to a conviction in something transcendent is beautifully illustrated by the story of her experience as a mother. What depletes us can also be exactly what inspires us most.
Thank you for Selzman’s “Why We Write” installment. As a writer with a young child newly diagnosed with a chronic illness, I found my own creative challenges echoed in her story. Instead of words chasing one another through my mind, something I’ve experienced my whole life, it seems I have nothing left to create. I hope this is a temporary phase, and I’m grateful for Selzman’s illumination of the issue.
Thank you for Ellen Sussman’s wonderful article “A Writer’s Daily Habit: Four Steps to Higher Productivity” (November/December 2011). Among many other valuable lessons, she taught me to own the fact that I am a writer. All my life, I’ve earned my living as a writer. But usually when people have asked me what I do, I’ve replied, “Oh, I head the creative department of such and such” or “I work for such and such advertising firm.” Never simply, “I am a writer.” Even though for years I’ve written newsletters, fund-raising appeals, press releases, television spots, and magazine articles as part of my job. And on my own time, I’ve written essays and creative nonfiction, even a poem here and there. To me, being a Writer has always been just about the grandest thing one could imagine, but writing is the cornerstone of my life and always has been. So, finally, I am saying, with confidence and pride, “I am a writer.” Yes, I AM A WRITER!
Kansas City, Missouri
Rejection in Perspective
M. Allen Cunningham’s brilliant, comforting, and inspiring piece on rejection (“In the Absence of Yes: The Sixteenth Rejection Letter,” November/December 2011) was a joy to read. To his painful but undeniably accurate list of grossly unfair reasons why deserving manuscripts are mindlessly rejected—“nepotism,” “insider trading,” “favors,” “fashions,” “hangovers,” “moral presumptions,” “upset tummies,” and so on—I would like to add two more: editors who will not read a manuscript without some professor’s or agent’s stamp of approval, and agents who cannot read unless they foresee a cash cow to milk.
The name of Kathleen Spivack, winner of Carpe Articulum’s 2011 Short Fiction Award, was misspelled in Recent Winners (September/October 2011).