Here’s what Carolyn See said in Chapter 4 – Charming Notes:
“…you write one charming note to a novelist, an editor, a journalist, a poet, a sculptor, even an agent whose professional work or reputation you admire, five days a week, for the rest of your life. Then after you write the note, you address it, put a stamp on it, and mail it out. These notes are like paper airplanes sailing around the world, and they accomplish a number of things at once.
“They salute the writer (or editor or agent in question). They say to him or her: Your work is good and admirable! You’re not laboring in a vacuum. There are people out in the world who know what you do and respect it.
“The notes are also saying: I exist, too. In the same world as you. Isn’t that amazing? They can also say: Want to play?”
I don’t write “charming notes” five days a week. But I do make an effort to contact a writer and let him/her know their words touched me. Sometimes, I look up their website and fill out the “contact me form.” Sometimes, I write them an email. Now that I’m on Instagram (@wendykennar), sometimes I comment on one of their photos related to what I just read.
Sometimes I hear back — a simple “thank you,” a longer, several-line email.
And sometimes, I receive no reply. But that’s okay.
Because I know I wrote the notes, and I like to think my “charming notes-paper airplanes” are out in the world, flying about, spreading bits of goodness and positivity.
“As Ryan pierced a slice of cucumber and pushed it around the puddle of French dressing forming at the bottom of his bowl, he said, ‘This is the first time I didn’t miss you when I went back to school.’
I smiled. I knew exactly what he meant.
No parent really wants to hear they’re not missed, but I also knew the larger significance of Ryan’s words. I realized the importance of his statement.”
I’m thrilled to share my personal essay, “I’m Proud My Son Said He Didn’t Miss Me” was recently published on Moms Don’t Have Time to Write.
While the specifics of Ms. Jaouad’s life vary greatly from mine — her travels, her leukemia diagnosis, her epic road trip — so much of what she wrote really touched me. So much so, that my library copy is full of sticky notes.
Allow me to share some of these passages with you:
“How do you react to a cancer diagnosis at age twenty-two? Do you break down in sobs? Do you faint, or scream? In that moment, a feeling flooded through my body, unexpected and perverse: relief. After the bewildering months of misdiagnosis, I finally had an explanation for my itch, for my mouth sores, for my unraveling. I wasn’t a hypochondriac, after all, making up symptoms.”
“While my medical team was intent on saving my life, preserving my chance to be a mother someday hadn’t seemed to be on their radar. It was my first indication that, no matter how brilliant and compassionate my doctors might be, I would have to be proactive and learn to advocate for myself.”
“I understood now why so many writers and artists, while in the thick of illness, became memoirists. It provided a sense of control, a way to reshape your circumstances on your own terms, in your own words.”
“We were both forging unlikely careers: Melissa painted self-portraits from bed; I wrote self-portraits from bed. Watercolors and words were the drugs we preferred for our pain. We were learning that sometimes the only way to endure suffering is to transform it into art.”
“As a patient, there was pressure to perform, to be someone who suffers well, to act with heroism, and to put on a stoic façade all the time.”
“To be a patient is to relinquish control — to your medical team and their decisions, to your body and its unscheduled breakdowns.”
“I used to think healing meant ridding the body and the heart of anything that hurt. It meant putting your pain behind you, leaving it in the past. But I’m learning that’s not how it works. Healing is figuring out how to coexist with the pain that will always live inside of you, without pretending it isn’t there or allowing it to hijack your day. It is learning to confront ghosts and to carry what lingers. It is learning to embrace the people I love now instead of protecting against a future in which I am gutted by their loss.”
I tried to think about how to commemorate the month. So in honor of National Book Month, I’m taking a look back at the books I have read during 2021. I’m sharing one stand-out book from each month. Maybe you’ll find yourself adding to your “want-to-read” list.
Or maybe you’ll find yourself adding to your holiday gift list. Because October also means the holiday season is just around the corner.
A true test that I really enjoyed a book? When I order my own copy after reading a library copy. And that’s what happened with this novel. I just found myself really caring for these characters. And, it’s another good reminder that people are often not what they seem at first glance. You can’t know what someone is really dealing with just by looking at them.
For most of my childhood, actually until my junior year of high school, my career goal was to become an astronaut. And all these years later, I’m still incredibly curious and interested in learning about astronauts’ lives. This isn’t a dry memoir at all. You’ll find lots of humor and fun observations.
Such a delight to read about these two authors and go along on this journey with them. This was my first novel by Ms. Henry, but certainly not my last. (People We Meet on Vacation was published in May and is on my ever-growing want-to-read list.)
I was reading a copy of Bravey I had borrowed from the library. But, I found I was putting sticky notes on so many pages, that I ordered my own copy before I had even finished reading this powerful memoir. Honest, raw, touching.
Mixed within this sweet, original love story are some serious topics – emotional abuse, wrongful incarceration. It’s a story I didn’t want to end. And now I’ve added Ms. O’Leary’s other novels (The Switch, The Road Trip) onto my want-to-read list.
There is no one quite like Anne Lamott. It’s that rare combination of what she says and how she says it. She writes with such warmth and honesty about the big things (climate change) and the small things (like pants not fitting).
I’m still reading the first book of October. Stay tuned!
Readers, have you read any books that blew you away? That touched you? That made you smile? That you can’t stop telling your friends about? Please, do share.