Postmarked: Dear Jen (28)

Dear Jen

I write this to you sitting in a hotel room in downtown Nashville, getting ready to go hand out ARCs of my upcoming novel, These Nameless Things, to librarians at the PLA conference. Hawking my book to strangers isn’t my favorite thing in the world, but I do love the story—it’s been in my head since 2011ish—so I’m pumping myself up.

As of Wednesday last week, I was completely prepared to write this letter to you. Maile and I left on Wednesday for our annual pilgrimage to Kentucky to spend time with a small group of writers we love. I use the word love in the deepest sense, not in a passing kind of “Oh! I love that book!” but in a way meant to communicate a deep sense of caring and belonging and hoping for. These are writers who not only write beautifully but who also live beautifully. They inspire me to care even more about the craft, the words, the people to whom I’m writing. It is a good, good group.

So, for about three days we ate together, shared our writing with one another, had conversations about downward mobility, publishing, and the desire to be read. We also laughed a lot.

I’ve come away from that meeting, our third time together, thinking quite a bit about the role of community in the writer’s life. And when I say community, I’m talking about writers who gather more or less as equals to encourage, critique, and share about their lives. I don’t think I could keep going without my writing community—not only those writers we met with last week, but my online writer friends, the people who listen to Maile and I on our podcast, and friends like you.

Writing is hard, hard work. Yes, it is fun. Yes, there are few places I’d rather be than perched in front of my laptop with a few blank hours to work on my next novel. Yes, the encouragement, the contracts, the very occasional awards, the positive feedback…these are all nice parts of the writing life. But without the people, without the other writers, I would soon lose myself in an endless feedback loop of self-criticism or self-aggrandizement.

So, thank you. Thanks for being part of my writing community, for coming alongside me for this season, for taking the time to write every other week (or a little less often than that, when I forget to keep the chain going!).

Well, I guess I’d better start polishing my one sentence description of my book for these librarians. They really are some of my favorite people in the world, librarians. They seem to me to be like the sacred keepers of lost worlds. I would never have read Tolkien or Susan Cooper or Madeleine L’Engle at such a young age if it weren’t for my middle school librarian. They really do change our communities for the good.

I hope February is coming to a satisfactory end for you and your family, and that you are charging into the home stretch with your upcoming book due date.

All the best, my friend. Thanks again for your companionship on this writing journey