Postmarked: Dear Jen (38)

Dear Jen,

Winter is hanging on for dear life this year, isn’t it? This past weekend, practically the middle of May, we had to cover our garden plants because of a freeze, and some people in the county reported snow flurries! But this morning, Spring peeks down the alley behind our house—I can see a narrow strip of blue sky, the trees that overhang the lot are a darker green, and the rising sun glances off the top of the brick apartment building.

You are right to address the privilege inherent in a slower, simpler life. If the pandemic has done anything, it has revealed the financial and racial fault lines that remain in our society, and in even starker relief. When infection and death rates are so much higher in poor communities of color; when those who are required to go to work are overwhelmingly people living in poverty; when the benefits that go out seem to prop up the biggest businesses in the world…it can seem so overwhelming.

The phrase you shared from Jill Briscoe’s sermon seems more applicable now than ever before: “Go where you’re sent. Stay where you’re at. Give all you got.” It helps to clarify what I’ve always meant by my own motto, “Tend to your own garden.” We’ve all been given a tiny little corner of the planet to steward, with its people and its sense of community and its resources. I wonder what this means during a pandemic. I wonder what I’m being called to steward—trapped in one’s house, it can require quite a bit of imagination to find anything besides the daily dullness to take care of and tend.

Speaking of “my own garden,” I finished the second draft of a novel I’m working on, one that is scheduled to come out next summer and is the last book I currently have under contract…and I was immediately struck with another idea and began furiously writing. It seems a foolish time to start another novel—These Nameless Things releases in about six weeks, I’ll need to work on revisions for the novel I have to hand in to my editor in July, I’m supposed to be writing a screenplay this summer, and then there are the projects I’m collaborating on with others. And the podcast. And these letters. But sometimes a story won’t wait for a convenient time to reveal itself, so I’m pounding the keys in the off hours, taking notes, writing up character sketches, and getting down the words in the margins of time I can find. My dream is that one day I would be able to support my family on writing fiction alone, but I know that’s unlikely, so I keep everything else going, too.

How is your writing coming along? The work on your next book? How is your family continuing to cope with life during a pandemic? For the first four or five weeks of the stay-at-home order, everything felt strange and new, and we craved for life to return to normal, but after nearly two months, this is beginning to feel normal. Which is strange and a bit scary in itself. How quickly life can change. What seemed to run-of-the-mill eight weeks ago now feels completely foreign.

Wishing you all the best from Lancaster! May you find grace and peace in all the seasons of your life.

Kind Regards

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What began as a Twitter conversation between two writers on creative work and family life has become an exchange of letters. Here is where Postmarked began:

Postmarked: Dear Shawn (1)