Thursday, December 15, 2016

Thursday Thirteen

Yesterday I lost a friend and mentor to a freak accident. She was a writer and someone I greatly admired and respected.

I am not naming her out of respect for her family, but I will definitely miss her.

Twenty years ago, before email ate up our correspondence, we were pen pals. Here are few words of wisdom about writing from some of those long-ago letters.

1. “There’s nothing like having real readers out there waiting for you, even if they’re largely silent.”

2. “Writing’s not easy no matter what happens in your life. You could be independently wealthy and writing would still be a bitch.”

3. “Real writers keep their eyes on the right goal, and that isn’t money or publication or fame. It’s just good writing and nothing more.”

4. “Anyway, one of the things I wanted to suggest you think about re: your writing: Are you really writing what you want to write, or are you writing what you think you ought to want to write?”

5. “Any writing feeds all the writing.”

6. “The SOBs at Sewanee Review, though, just sent back my mss., without even so much as a pre-printed card. The SOBs! The jerks! The cutthroat duffus idiots! (I’ve decided to call editors names whenever I can, because it makes me feel more in control of the situation. Which, of course, there’s no control over at all.)"

7. “I keep notes (even if they’re only mental ones) on absolutely everything, just naturally assuming that it will all – all! – go in a novel someday."

8. “First drafts are always open to misinterpretation.”

9. “If they don’t like this revision, I think I’ll burn it.”

10. “I want to write – have always wanted to write – a kind of moving and spiritual prose (some would say sentimental prose) for which [mutual alma mater] has no respect.”

11. “I can’t say writing is fun, but I sure do like having written.”

12. “A good part of what makes a writer a writer is the ability to recognize a good story when she hears it. And by that I mean, the ability to recognize a story that will reverberate through her own voice, her own words, her own sense of what makes the world work. Once a writer has found such a story, she’ll steal it without a backward glance.”

13. “Go and sit in your writing place every day, just in case something comes to you. (Of course, it will.).”


Thursday Thirteen is played by lots of people; there is a list here if you want to read other Thursday Thirteens and/or play along. I've been playing for a while and this is my 478th time to do a list of 13 on a Thursday.


  1. She had a lot of widsom to share. I'm always surprised when new authors come the the National Novel Writing Month write-ins thinking that simply signing up means writing will suddenly become easy.

  2. That was great. The column she wrote that I most remember was when she smashed her old full canning jars in the dumpster. It kind of shocked me.

  3. So sorry for your loss -- what treasures you have in her letters. My T13


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