Articles like “The Necessity of Failure: An Examination of the Writing Life” (March/April 2017) by Kevin Wilson hearten and encourage writers to forge ahead in the face of rejections. Whenever I see the words “Thank you, but…” instead of “Congratulations!” in my inbox, I feel my stomach drop and tell myself it doesn’t matter. But when I read an article like the one in your last issue, I realize that failure does matter because each time I go back to the board, I will try harder to, as Wilson says, “fail better than the last time.” Thank you for the push to keep going.
The Natural World
Thank you for “The Time Is Now: Writing Prompts and Exercises” (March/April 2017), especially for the nonfiction prompt, “The Natural World.” This single paragraph says more than entire articles or chapters on nature writing, and it ignites my literary passions not only for the essay, but also for poetry. It leads me to think of essayists and poets like Mary Oliver. I am putting these suggestions to immediate use.
Short but Sweet
Sensational! One of the best issues ever (March/April 2017). Thanks for all you do for writers and readers.
Deborah J. Hunter
The All-Baffling Brain
I happened to turn to Nancy M. Williams’s article, “The Long Thaw: How a Concussion Revolutionized My Writing Life” (January/February 2017), while literally recovering from my own concussion. With my head swimming and one eye closed, I worked my way through her piece about how walking outside and writing restored her mind and transformed her writing life. Thanks for modeling a way to overcome brain injury and coping with what Walt Whitman called “the all-baffling brain.”
University Heights, Ohio
Don’t Give Up
Elizabeth Nunez’s article “Widening the Path: The Importance of Publishing Black Writers” (January/February 2017) was comforting and disheartening. I, too, am “struggling to keep up my spirits,” as Nunez wrote. Her article reminded me of an instance from graduate school when, in an African American literature class, we were assigned Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man. I was surprised to learn how many of my classmates had not read the book. As a black woman raised in rural East Texas, I was expected to relate to Faulkner, Austen, Joyce, and Proust. Was Ellison too exotic for my white classmates to access? I presented the book in class and was complimented on how well I discussed its various elements. Some of my classmates said I should be teaching the class because after my presentation they were able to connect Ellison to “conventional” (read: white) literature. I am sixty-seven years old and earned my MFA twenty years ago. After few awards and minimal publishing success, I took teaching jobs to help support my family. I have certainly contemplated giving up writing altogether; my age and the uphill battle Nunez describes make the struggle difficult to justify.
“Singapore Unbound” (March/April 2017) by Melynda Fuller incorrectly stated that the 2016 Singapore Literature Festival included both a performance of Alfian Sa’at’s play Hotel in English and a panel organized by Jeremy Tiang. Alfian Sa’at’s play is actually multilingual and Jeremy Tiang organized a panel at the 2014 festival, not the 2016 festival.
Nat Hentoff was misspelled as Nate Hentoff in “In Memoriam” (March/April 2017). We sincerely regret the error.