Friday, March 08, 2013

Stacks and stacks of letters

This is going to sound dumb, but one of the big, big obstacles to me sending out submissions for the first time was the fact that it's been a long time since I've had to deal with mailing anything. I was worried about pulling together addresses and writing cover letters and getting the right envelopes and postage and... I don't know, messing that up somehow.

Let's consider that I haven't applied for a job since I was 21 years old, and before that, the only mailing I did en masse was my college application stuff. And I am pretty darn sure that Dad had a heavy hand in making sure I didn't forget something and shame the family by not getting into any schools. I don't know, I just don't like those kinds of details. We pay pretty much all of our bills online, and I don't really send mail unless it's, like, one thing at a time for work, and I put it off for a really long time first. And if I'm being honest, about 85% of the time I make someone in the office help me get the right postage on it. I don't have much occasion to do mail. Most of what we get in our mailbox at home--MOST--is pure crap. The mail is an annoyance. When we moved to this house about eight years ago, we hit the junk mail jackpot. If you ever want to know where all the deforested trees went, you're welcome to come take a peek in our recycle can.

But I had to figure this shit out, or I was going to continue to write stories that exactly three people read. And I did, and like all things I fear (well, except airplanes, guns, mean people, and ski lifts), this turned out to be not as bad as I made it out to be. NO I DIDN'T FEAR THE US POSTAL SERVICE, I AM BEING FUNNY. But I just didn't want to do it, it wasn't fun.

But I'm saying I did it, and the world kept turning. Look at me, I'm as responsible as any person who can lick a stamp.

Anyway, my friend Lizi, (humblebrag: homegirl is in my program, and was nominated for a 2012 Pushcart Prize in poetry) posted on Facebook about six months ago that she was feeling nostalgic for some old-school mail and she wanted a pen pal. I said yeah, sign me up, and away we went.


I started to remember that I actually really used to like sending mail. I really liked getting mail. Long mail. The kind that feels like it's going to take you a while to read. I loved getting it from the mailbox, taking it back into the house, carrying it into my room where I could open it. It was a thing, and I was pretty into it. Mail used to be so innocent and fun. Before I paid taxes. Before I started getting those damn coupon books for carpet cleaning and pizza places nobody wants to visit. Before realtors started making envelopes for a refi look like they were hand-addressed to trick you into opening them. I was pen pals with my second cousin once removed for a long time as a kid, and I loved it. I was all about buying stationery and finding the perfect pen.

(Some things don't change.)

Once Lizi and I started writing letters, I had the bug. After touring schools, I sent letters to a handful of students from my class last year who are now away at college. And, in fact, like most things involving words, among the MFA nerds the letter-writing is becoming a thing. There's a whole separate Facebook group for people in my program for people who want snail mail, all trading addresses and old-timey communication.

I've been trying to make an effort to put things into the mailbox on a regular basis, and just waiting to see what comes back to me. Today it paid off. I had two letters on the same day.


Two completely different letters, but both wonderful. One joyful, silly letter from a kid, another sad expression of grief and a poem from a writer friend. Both exactly the kind of words that needed to get to me after a long, stressful week.

I love mail. I can't wait to write back.

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