The Letter All Writers Should Write

Write a letter to a person who supported your writing career, whether that be a friend, a family member, a teacher (even one that supported you at a very young age before you knew that it would blossom into a writing career), an author you’ve never met but have been inspired by his or her writing. Do you thank them? Do you blame them? Take the letter in any direction you want.

Post your response (500 words or fewer) in the comments below.

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165 thoughts on “The Letter All Writers Should Write

  1. jhowe

    Dear Diary,

    Words alone can’t begin to express my appreciation/disdain for all you’ve done for me over the years. You’ve been there for me through it all; and by all I mean not much. I don’t blame you directly for my problems – you’ve tried valiantly. Valiantly may not be the right term. I may change that later. I write my heart out for you, and what’s it gotten me? No, don’t answer that. Why break an unwavering tradition?

    And speaking of tradition – how’s that mold problem coming along? Yeah, don’t play coy with me. I see the discolored pages. I suppose you think that’s my fault, you know, storing you in the basement during that year long sabbatical. Now that I think of it, I should probably take a portion of the responsibility for that. Especially after the flood. Who knew you’d be so sensitive to moisture.

    So now I’m back. You’re dry and functional again. You’d think there’d be a semblance of gratitude. Sure, you smell like rotted pine pulp and your spine is a little punky, but you’re the recipient of potential greatness. The Coupe de Ville of modern stationary byproducts. Where would I be without you? Probably rich and famous, but loyalty trumps fame any day. (This is where you make amends….)

    I thought as much. I even started a new paragraph for your inaugural concession. What more can I ask of you that you won’t grant? It’s back to the basement for you. See you in 2018. Maybe by then you’ll be ready to make this a two-way street. See what I mean? You let me use that well-worn cliché without even a blink. I hope you use your alone time wisely.

    Jhowe

    1. Tysheena Jackson

      Jhowe, this is great! You and your diary will forever be old pals. No matter how many years pass by, you know that you can always recover them again and read over past secrets. Great job on this one!

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I liked. This a lot, I have blank diaries all over the house and never use them.
        Your writing a note to your diary hmmm. Did you write in your diary and what did they think about it?
        Your two foot friend

  2. rle

    Dear everyone I’ve ever met,

    My sincerest wish is that I could thank each of you personally, but since that would prove next to impossible, I’ll thank you in small groups(in no particular order).

    To my grade school classmates, thank you for making me the butt of your jokes. Thank you for poking fun of me because of my stuttering. It was your constant heckling that made me withdraw from most of you and begin putting words on paper. It was because of you that I began creating stories–you planted the first seed. I know many of you might feel bad for treating me so poorly back then, but I forgive you.

    Thank you to my parents for teaching me the value of hard work. Although I often resented those long days in the field, they gave me countless hours to hammer out characters and plots. Thank you for always reading everything I ever wrote, and for continuing to encourage me, even though you never saw much future for me as a writer.

    Thank you to Mr. R, my high school English teacher who was the first person genuinely believed in my writing, and to Tom, the editor who accepted my first magazine article when I was only fifteen. If not for the two of you, I might have eventually let the ‘writing thing’ fade into obscurity, but instead I pushed on.

    Thanks to the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism for not accepting me into your program. Had I gone off to school and not ended up attending community college, I would have likely never met my wife and been blessed with my three wonderful and amazingly talented daughters. At the time, your rejection seemed like the end of my
    world, but as it turns out, it was only the beginning.

    To my wife and daughters, your undying love and support inspires me every day. Though we occasionally butt heads on a number of things, without you all I would be nothing, not only as a writer, but as a human being. Even if I never end up publishing anything significant, because of you, my life has been a smashing success.

    To anyone who has ever taken the time to read my writing, whether it be my prompt responses, Facebook posts, or my recently completed novel manuscript, thank you so very much. Often, it’s you’re comments and encouragement that keeps the fire lit under me. It’s so nice to have a circle of folks whose passion for writing so closely mirrors my own.

    So, pretty much, thanks to everyone I’ve ever met. Whether we know it or not, I think each and every person we meet, crosses our path for a reason. We might not understand it at the time, but eventually we’ll all realize that they’ve shaped, encouraged, or influenced us in some way, and ultimately they help mold us into the very best versions of ourselves.

    Sincerely,

    Rle

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Great minds travel parallel roads. At ten this morning, my wife and I tuned into Joel Olsteen’s message this morning. His sermon followed your letter completely. I thought the sermon inspired and I also tell you the same thing. It is not just close mind you, it follows his sermon point by.point. So you see there is a plan for all of us and Joel ,Olsteen also repeated you thought on not understanding disturbing things that happen to all of us. He refers it to traveling toward what God has in plan for us
        At my age, I’m beginning to understand the journey.

    1. Tysheena Jackson

      Right you are, Rle. Every person we meet we walk away with a little piece of them, and they us. I think this is a wonderful letter that you’ve written. Congrats on the finished manuscript, by the way! How exciting– I can’t wait to support you, fellow writer! 🙂

  3. Angela Death

    To My Children:
    When I was young, I used to write all the time.  From poems, to journal passages, to short stories.  It came as effortlessly as breathing.  One day, when I was 24, you both entered my world.  My life transformed.  All things revolved around taking care of you and watching you grow into the magnificent young adults you are today.
    I didn’t stop writing, but my style changed.  I could no long write the dark, sad poetry of my youth.  In part because of lack of sleep from taking care of two young children, but it was also because I no longer had cause to write in such a way.  You have brought so much joy and laughter into my world that the need to write dark and depressing things no longer existed.
    But you have both challenged me to write again.  Daughter, you push me to write every day no matter what the subject.  Son, you inspire me by telling me the tales that exist in your head that you want to get on paper.
    You are both amazing creatures that inspire me to do better with my life and my writing.  I love you and you mean the world to me.

    1. Kerry Charlton

      What an honor and wonderful piece of luck your children received from you. Your joy in having both transfers to your children and in turn will transfer to your grand children
      What a legacy you have given your children
      A wonderful story to read on a spring afternoon. Thank you.for the post.

  4. pinkbamboo

    At first I wanted to skip this prompt because I’m not a professional writer but then I decided throughout these years, I have never actually let her know .. well now she knows 🙂

    ****

    Dear Diana (pronounced Dee-ya-na),

    It’s been years since I last saw you, I think the last was during your wedding few years ago. I remembered we used to sit in thansportation van and made stupid jokes after class. Remember ‘running nose’? When we questioned why is it called running nose and we laughed ourselves silly? Good times.

    Anyways, I just want you to know you were the one who made me discover how much I love writing. On my birthday that year, you gave me an empty book with the Donald Duck painting on the cover. Even though I appreciated it, I didn’t know what to do with it until someone suggested that I write some stories in it. I thought hey, why not … since I loved reading. I started writing a silly love triangle 3 pages story and I never looked back.

    I don’t know if you had her as a teacher but she always comes in class and reads “fill in the blanks” question for us and we had to quickly write it out as she reads them. I remembered being excited as I scribbled along in my book, the feeling of pure adrenaline as I managed to catch up with her.

    I went on to boyband fantasy stories in high school (since we can’t bring story book to school anyway so why not create my own entertainment, right .. prefect? *wink* ) and back then, classmates were rushing to read what I wrote daily. I did “collaboration” with another two girls but that only lasted half book. All the way till the end of high school, I kept writing and experimenting with different romances, plots all plucked from cheesy cliche movies that I saw.

    In school, I was probably the weird kid who loved writing reports and essays. I answered the front part of the exam first and slowly savored the back portion as I connected each points I wanted to say with words. How wonderful it was to weave pages worth of words.

    Then I went to 3 months camp, my writing moved on to daily diaries to preserve these precious memories and when I went to university, I started blogging – ranting and documenting a student’s life at first but that slowly transformed to more opinionated pieces alongside memories in life. I was still writing short romance stories but my audience were no longer my peers, it was the internet.

    I copied romantic quotes from the internet and write them down in two books because I love love and I wanted to write beautiful things which came from the heart. I wanted to collect them all and put them in one place where I can refer back anytime.

    I tried my hands on paid writing assignment about technology once but I quit within a month. I couldn’t write about something that my heart had no passion for and I refused to do it under persistent pressure of deadline. Therefore I decided not to make writing a career, instead to keep it as my treasured hobby.

    As my blog slowed down, I started replying to weekly prompts. I had started working and I had no time drone on and on with lengthy stories anymore so instead I wrote short replies. This in turn gave me the chance to be creative since details were not needed so I can explore the dark side. The love and laughter in my life are reflected in my sweet romantic stories but now I can express pain and sadness through words.

    Writing has also spill outside of stories for me. I am using a physical book planner and I still use paper to prepare my checklist. Simply because, I just want the opportunity to jot things down instead of relying on apps and technology. It made me feel in control of these aspects.

    It has also been three years since I started daily three line journal-ling. It started with one book and last year, I added two more. I just want to write, to feel the pen between my fingers and the words forming on the paper. Currently, I’m re writing one of my older piece which I didn’t finish the first round.

    Oh, I never finished any of my stories cause I could never say goodbye to them but this time, I want them to have a proper resolution. I don’t have a good grip of words or tenses but man, I love to just pick up the pen and go crazy – in my own way.

    So thank you Diana for giving me that Donald Duck book years back. It set me rolling until now, hopefully forever.

    Love,
    Running Nose

    1. calinamircea

      That was so heart warming and sweet, pinkbamboo! You seem to have a pretty good grip of words and tenses to me. And the running nose thing made me giggle..

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I was captured from the get with your story. It was light, fun and interesting to read. I felt as if I was across a small table from you listening, just two of us and I holding on to my thought of how I was going to reply to you.. An interesting conversation between two people. I call that style ‘delicious’.

  5. TheAwkwardLlama

    Dear You,
    In the most cliché way possible, you’re the reason I am who am. You’re my excuse to still listen to emo music although my high school days are long past. You gave that extra hint of bitterness to my jokes. You’re the reason I’m always singing that song from Les Miserables in the shower at your place, you know the one. You made me love you, and then you turned me down. I lie to you almost every day and tell you that I love being your friend, since I am not allowed to be in pain. To love someone is to desire their happiness above my own, and I love you, and so I must accept that I will never make you happy. And so I turn to pen and paper (or, when not being melodramatic, keyboard and laptop).
    God requires a burnt offering of pain before lowly humans are allowed to participate in the mystery of creation, and this goes for both art and childbirth. Every time I return to writing after a dry spell, it’s due to some pain in my life which I can’t express in any other way. If I had experienced more happiness in life, my writings would be much sparser. And you, my dear, you’re the wound which still hasn’t healed. Every time I touch it, and the pain becomes unbearable, I pour it out in words. I torment nearly every one of my protagonists with unrequited love, and I tell our story over and over. I revisit words which I said to you, and your replies, in just about everything I write.
    The only revenge I want is to someday write something good, something that’s published and maybe even talked about a bit. Because anything I write will be the story of you and me, and you will always be fond of me, I see it in your eyes whenever I see you, and you will certainly be the first person in line to buy something I’ve created. How proud you’ll be of me! And I wonder if I’ll disguise the story well enough, and if you’ll see an echo of you and me in the characters and in the subplots, and the thought that maybe you’ll finally hear me, that thought will comfort me a little.
    Love always,
    Me

    1. calinamircea

      Hey Awkward Llama, this really touched me. I hope you allow yourself to let go of the pain without feeling you’re letting go of yourself. I hope you allow yourself to also love someone who loves you. I hope you allow yourself to create from a good place and discover there’s value in that.

  6. Tysheena Jackson

    Dear Younger Me,

    You will be someone. I promise you. And things won’t always hurt the way they do. Words will become important to you, more important than they are now, and you will find your voice. Right now you feel defeated, you feel like no one really understands you. And maybe they don’t. Not everyone will understand you but don’t beat yourself up over it. You’re a child who, at a tender age, had been thrown the weight of the world. And though you caught it, it is slowly slipping through your little fingers. But that’s OK, my dear, because I can tell you that it won’t last a lifetime. You will find your voice in the roaring waves. When you put pen to paper, people will FEEL what you’ve felt all of those years. They will SEE the very things that haunted you. And they will look at you with compassion and with a deeper understanding of who you are… who we are. But I tell you this: Write. Write and never stop doing it. Write about everything. The journals that Mama gave you, fill them up with your words and never ever regret what is written. Continue writing notes to God because He adores it and in them, though you might not know it yet, He will reveal much about yourself and your path to you. Get lost in books—get caught up in the clouds. You’re not a nobody, or overly sensitive, or weak. You’re a warrior child and one day, when you’re 21 and living the life that you never thought you could, you’ll look back on your former years and appreciate the pain you’ve endured. Because without having known the pain, you would never have a story to tell, and also, you wouldn’t be able to tell the stories of the walking silent.

    With Love,

    Older Me.

    1. calinamircea

      Oh that’s beautiful! You know what? I think younger you has gotten this note in one of the darker days, hence, here you are, writing it down wisely, kindly to close the circle.

    2. Peri Winkle

      Hi Tysheena. You write with great feeling, heart and courage. This piece resonated with me on so many levels, I just had to stop and tell you so. Thanks for sharing this.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Hello Tysheena. This story is so loaded with you, I feel I know a good bit of ewhat you are. The last sentence…………”Because without knowing the pain, you wouldn’t have a story to tell and also, you wouldn’t be able to tell the stories of the walking silent”,. is powerful and poetic at the same time.

        1. Tysheena Jackson

          Hi, Kerry!

          I believe it is a soul thing! A soul to soul acquaintance that some of us fortunate ones have the ability to experience at prominent points in our lives. And then, I know pain and suffering are the two to unite people… from all walks of life. They are two things every person on this earth will have experienced at some point in their life, though the extent of them differ. I am so happy to be a part of a community of wonderful souls as yourself who are transparent with others– with complete strangers! It isn’t the easiest thing to do, being open to people whom you do not know from Eden but how very healing it is once you do! I feel as if I’ve received deliverance during this prompt. Healing. And I can’t thank you enough for your affirming words of power and encouragement.

          Thank you, Kerry!

      1. Tysheena Jackson

        Reatha, I think you’re onto something. I’ll have to make sure to make this my “thing”. I want my future kids and grandkids to be able to read back on my past experiences and understand why I am the way I am. Thank you for reading and commenting. Xx

  7. Kerry Charlton

    A LETTER TO LESLIE

    Good morning sweetheart,

    Through San Antonio last night, a vicious thunderstorm rolled by. Now at dawn, the mist has hung over the meadow, so to speak, the air spoke only of silence, not a leaf had moved and I thought of Camelot, Camelot and you. It hardly seemed like nine years ago we parted. My inspiration to life disappeared for a long while. They said time would heal, but it didn’t happen to me and I’m sorry I broke my word to you in the grief department. I’m not as strong as you thought I was..

    But through all the pain, I didn’t break my second promise to you, to start to write. I knew you looked over my shoulder as I struggled through my autobiography from my earliest memories as a child through my first year in college. I felt you presence as you peered over my shoulder and told yourself, ‘he will learn to write’. Well Leslie, I’m still working on it. Sometimes it’s okay, mostly it’s uninspired and then I remind myself, ‘I can do better than I think I can, my daughter told me I could.’ .

    The letters I had written to you through the years had helped ease the pain of your loss some, I felt closer to you. When I would hear a beautiful melody or watch a sunset in spectacular colors of a rainbow, I thought first of you, the beauty I called my daughter. Then I would get a push for I felt your guidance upon my shoulder as you pointed me into the right direction. I asked God one question when you passed, ‘Why or why do you always take the very best, the cream of the crop? Do you not have enough beauty surrounding you in heaven, to add my daughter to your collection?

    An answer avoided me like a plague. My faith crumbled then you would repair it when I thought about what you constantly told me,

    “I’ll be all right Dad, for I’ll be in the arms of Jesus and he’ll make sure.”.

    Your courage and wisdom through forty four years of life had amazed me long ago even as a child and refurbished my joy of life. It served as a beacon which lit the pathway I had journeyed on through my life. And then I stumbled again on my third promise to trust my Savior. My spirit had waffled back and forth for nine years, first not trusting Him then it fell to ignoring the promise and occasionally condemning. My heart broke when I realized I caused you pain as I swung toward and then away from my Savior.

    I sat next to your hospital bed for four days watching first you mind dying, your breathing becoming shallow and finally stopping. I felt so useless standing by for those miserable four days. You sisters stood with me but they couldn’t understand my pain, even though they tried.

    So looking over the beautiful back yard this morning without a breath of movement and the stillness of the cardinal’s love songs to each other, I make a pledge I can keep now and that is to return to the Savior, ask Him to forgive and add me to His flock This I promise tp you with what is left in my heart and I shall not waiver.

    If I could ask for one thing in my life, it would be to sit by your bedside, you as a small child, your face full of wonderment as I read a story to you. Is it not to much to ask Him to put me in a dream that I can remember and cherish?

    Goodbye for now Leslie, I will see you in my dreams sweetheart……..

    Love, Dad

    1. calinamircea

      Kerry, I cried. Now I’m feeling like a fool for believing I can understand a pain that I couldn’t possibly understand. But still there it is, clenching my stomach, calcifying my lungs. You learned to write.

    2. Beebles

      Lost for words, Kerry. What Calinamircea said. I will just say, I too fix on that moment at the child’s bedside – I wanted to write a story about what I would give to be there again – maybe I will. There. Words afterall.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you Beebles, you should write this story, post it and send to your family. I have sent to my children, a copy of everything I’ve ever written. So far, none have pleaded for me to stop. I had no idea I had so many polite daughters!

    3. Tysheena Jackson

      My deepest condolences for your lost, Kerry. My parents lost a child when I was 12, my sister, and to this day– nearly ten years later– they still hurt. We all do. In a way, she felt like my child, too. We’d wake up very early on weekends and I’d cook her pancakes then we’d sit downstairs and munch on them as we watched her favorite cartoons. Every time I look up at the sky I’m reminded of her and I think about one day joining her and being with her for all eternity; just as you will one day be with your sweet baby again. It hurts but I can assure you that it won’t always be that way. What hope you have left, I pray, will be restored to fullness one day. Keep your eyes on the skies, Kerry, because one of these days you too will be caught up in the clouds with our precious Savior! Xx

      1. rle

        Kerry, I don’t think I can conjure up the right string of words to describe exactly how this makes me feel. This may have moved me more than anything I have ever seen written here. Did it make me cry? Absolutely, but it also gave me a warm sense of complete peace, much like the stillness of the morning you described. You see, I too have felt myself wavering in my faith. Some days I feel so alienated from God that I might as well be on the dark side of the moon, but then there are days when He sends me a little nugget(like your story) and I realize He is right there with me, in my triumphs and in my darkest hours.

        I was never a man of strong faith, in fact, I probably spent the biggest part of my life as what some would call agnostic, never completely denying the existence of God, but never fully embracing it either. However, in my early twenties I did have the good fortune of meeting a good Christian lady who eventually became my wife. Slowly, over the years, between her gentle nudging and my own reading, I began to truly see the light. Now, ten months into the fight of her life, I find myself needing him more than ever. He constantly sends us little reminders that he’s right here with us even though we can’t see Him or reach out and touch Him. I’m stone cold convinced that cancer is pure evil, but I know in my heart regardless of the outcome, it will make us(me in particular) better people.

        So yes Mr. Charlton, you have really struck a nerve in me with this one and it will be a long time before I can forget your words. Thank you, my friend, and God bless.

      2. Kerry Charlton

        I am in awe at your response, I had no idea how this little story would touch so many people. This website is like family to me. Your care and support is so warmly accepted. Thank you, from my heart.

        1. Kerry Charlton

          Rle, I wanted to talk to you again. I know the battle you and your wife are fighting and the trick that Leslie used to fight stage four melanioma for over eight years and impossible odds is simple. When she’d receive a visitor or many visitors her response was something like this………. “Come on in girls, let’s party.” Her attitude was the key to her survival for those 8 years. So remember her for that

      3. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you Tysheena, your care and thoughts are so valued by me. I assume you’re in your early 20’s. To have this kind of wisdom at your age is a remarkable thing. That you care and take time to write this kind of message is even more remarkable. My very best wishes to you as you walk through your life. Mat we both see our loved ones in the skies above.

      4. Kerry Charlton

        Hi Tysheena, my response to you, ended up under rle’s. I’m having trouble seeing the keys this morning, Well, I guess I’m lucky to see anything.

        1. Tysheena Jackson

          I was thinking of your words all weekend, Kerry. I think they will forever stick with me. And, yes. I’m just getting started with this whole “adult” thing here. But I have a feeling that it won’t be too much that I can’t handle. Just knowing that there are others who have not quit the race of life, they keep me going! Many blessings to you, Kerry!

          1. Kerry Charlton

            Thank you Tysheena, It’s so wonderful to read my responses this week. I’m sure Leslie is enjoying them also. There are days when I feel very close to her. I just get a feeling she’s watching over me. Heaven knows I sure need it.

    4. Bushkill

      Wow

      Just wow.

      I can’t see keys through my tears well enough to type anything more profound. And, really, you covered profound six ways from Sunday already.

      I bow, Master.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you Bushkill, you’re not the only one writing through tears. I do appreciate your response and all your stories as well. I love this place, you know.

    5. Peri Winkle

      It doesn’t get any more real or honest or heartfelt than that, Kerry. Such a stunning piece of writing, and a beautiful testament to the transcendent power of love. Leslie did good, and so did you. ❤️ Miss you and your writing. – JM

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you JM, we’ve all missed you. Thank you for your heartfelt response. I’ve never been called stunning before. There’s always a first, I guess, Thank you.

    6. ReathaThomasOakley

      Ah, Kerry, we are on the road so am just getting back to comments. How beautifully you wrote this letter, Leslie’s influence is very evident. How wonderful you have been able to take your grief and create so much that moves your readers, that makes us laugh, that takes us to fantasy worlds, that makes us remember our own youthful years. As you know, I enjoy everything you write, this moved me beyond enjoyment.

      BTW, we must have been in San Antonio about the same time as you.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you Reatha for the wonderful comments. Gosh. You do a lot of traveling in your world
        My wife’s cousin is off to Australia and exploring the North and East part of the continent, then taking a ship to Singapore for several days. While they are gone. We plan to travel to the grocery store and Walgreens and be perfectly happy at home in this jewel of a house. The two trips will make all four of us happy
        You can.be sure that Leslie helped me with this letter to her. Kerry

        1. ReathaThomasOakley

          Kerry, i sent you a little message on the other story i posted this week. We are now in Denver, lots of snow, freezing temps, Wyoming tomorrow, cat will be happy.

    7. jhowe

      I think you set a record for number of responses. It seems you’ve touched all our hearts with this one, KC. I applaud your bravery for sharing your heartbreak. I, along with the rest, are honored to be included in your most intimate of feelings that you expressed so eloquently.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Thank you John. When I started to type the letter, I had not planned for it to be about myself, but rather Leslie. Then I went automatic and spilled out the hurt I carry with me. You can imagine my thoight as I first read the post. I felt bad about spreading the burden, but then the responses came and they were so sincere and uplifting, I changed my mind. Some of the things I wrote, no one has ever heard from me, but this site is so full of wonderful, caring souls, I feel totally circled by friendship and people who care for the first time in my life. I wish to thank all of you wonderful people.

  8. Bushkill

    Hey Jay, you helped me with a post and getting it through moderators a couple weeks ago. My daughter, SummerStars, is having trouble getting her stuff through to the point where she can’t post anything at all. Any suggestions?

    1. Jay

      The only thing she can do at this point is email Brian Klems. If she can’t post anything, then her account might be awaiting moderator approval, which is Brian himself. However, if she can post something, just not her story, I’d be happy to look at it to see why it might not be posting.

  9. Pete

    The letter came without a return address. Tossed in my box with the usual forms and I nearly chucked it in the recycling bin with the rest of the junk. I’d just come from a meeting with downtown and now faced the twenty or so urgent situations that required my immediate attention.

    I was so used to seeing the word “Principal” near my name that its absence caught my attention. I tore into the envelope and fell into my chair. Because it was a letter from Garrett C. Maddox, Doyle County’s very own world renown author of three #1 New York Times bestselling novels.

    I stood up, my eyes never leaving the letter as I locked my door and set my phone in a drawer. I glanced at the envelope again.

    Somehow he knew I’d still be here.

    “Dear Mr. Garcia,”

    My name in his hand. How he took the time to pick up a pen and set it to this paper was enough to put off my calls, stare at the window, talk to myself and recall that mousy boy who slipped into my classroom twenty some years ago.

    Garrett the invisible boy.

    “…without your encouragement, I never would have realized my capabilities…”

    I wiped my smiling face. The desk phone blasted into my thoughts and I silenced the ringer. I chuckled, thinking about the cat novel. How it began with an essay. Three hundred words. Describe your biggest fear. Why do you fear it? What will you do to conquer your fear?

    I was only in my third year but the essays were always the same. The Struggle to Three Hundred, I called it. Always the standard fare. War. Famine. Disease. Big picture stuff. Death. Then I read Garrett’s.

    This kid with the quiet eyes and a rash of acne on his chin wrote about his neighbor’s cat. This monster watching him with yellow eyes. A satanic stalker with a whispering hiss, trailing him, calling after him, waiting for him. It was different. It was excellent. It was scary as hell.

    I asked Garrett to stay back. He was less than thrilled. The kid had uttered maybe ten words all year. Mostly nods as he passed out an assignment. But this essay…

    He shrugged and said he made it all up. That he liked to read, mostly magazines he found around the house. He’d finished our literature textbook back in October. I leaped from my chair to the shelves—being a young man myself back then—and proceeded to fill his skinny arms with books.

    After that he was in my personal stash. Stephen King. Raymond Carver. John Updike. Boxes of paperbacks for this kid who never spoke and from what I knew was flunking Geometry. But he wrote. I’d assign five hundred words and the class would groan. Garrett would quietly hand me two thousand words of gold. I wanted more about the cat and soon his first novel was born. Then he was gone.

    Later, I’d see him in the halls we’d nod. He’d ask if I’d read this or that and we’d exchange titles. But he remained in the shadows. I never saw him in the cafeteria at lunch or the lobby before class. I never saw him chatting up girls or chucking it up with the guys. He skipped graduation and no one noticed. I went back to reading the Struggle to Three Hundred, hoping to find another gem.

    With Garrett’s runaway success, the locals scratched their heads. They nodded and claimed to remember him. When the novel was optioned by Dreamworks, their roles expanded. Teachers, coaches, even former bus drivers told fond stories of Garrett L. Maddox. He was no longer a kid in the shadows, but the shining star of Doyle County High. His name was added to the *notable alumna section of the school website.

    “…I hope you understand my reasons…”

    I smiled at his defiance, even now as principal, fully ingrained as part of the system nearly stubbed him out. I sat up straight, my feet tapping beneath my desk, my head shaking with respect. I knew why he never returned to speak and motivate. Why he would never do the pep talks with the students. And I applauded him for it.

    “…Your friend, Garrett…”

    I read the letter once more, hanging on his words again. I found relief that Garrett didn’t view me as one of them. That his memory remained true.

    Outside my door, amidst the usual humdrum of the school day, the school awaited my direction. My discipline. My leadership. But I was back in my classroom, in the shadows, filling Garrett’s arms with books.

    Behind the letter was a second page. Browned and creased and soft from wear. I bowed my head, then read the essay about the cat. The one Garrett C. Maddox had kept all these years. I saw my notes at the bottom.

    “Garrett, this is excellent. I’m blown away. You have a gift.”

    Under it, in bright blue ink, he had written.

    “As do you, Mr. Garcia.”

    1. Tysheena Jackson

      This is such an uplifting piece! Thankfully, many of my english teachers in the past pushed me to keep going, their words of criticism and encouragement still ringing true to this day. Great story!

  10. SummerStars

    Sorry if this shows up more than once, I’m having issues posting:

    Dear Daddy,

    I never knew it was for me. You see, I thought you wrote for your Beloved (I’ve been learning in Shakespeare that that’s what we call the poet’s true love in sonnets. Beloved.), and I never thought to be inspiration for anyone. I had all this inside me, a soul-song, a heart-song, and I thought if I kept my own flame burning bright, well, somehow that was going to work out. I didn’t know (I still don’t know) how you could go from point A to point B while I was simply content to think about the journey. You needed to learn; I need some old-fashioned, shove-the-baby-bird-out-of-the-nest prodding.

    Once upon a time, not quite so very long ago, I was a child. It was always just stories at first, because they were lovely and I was fascinated with the concept that I could make lovely things, and in these lovely things I was everything: princess, adventurer, fae-child, queen. Stories to me were not something to learn; they were simply in me, and quite possibly due to you. You may recall the devotion with which I read as a child; thank you for not insisting that I do sports instead.

    Anyway, did you know that it started with you? The different part of stories, I mean; because I can’t ever recall wanting to write something that really mattered until one day when it was snowing. It was snowing and the trees were all hung with white and you came upstairs and gave me several story ideas. You also gave me license to use the family dragon. Do you remember? You’ll be proud to know that he was the co-star of my first dedicated story, which I wrote as I crossed the bridge from middle school to high school.

    I do not like sharing what I write, because it feels as if I am giving away pieces of myself. But you are right. So, I have many things for which to thank you. For teaching me how to cast a rod; for giving me the wisdom to see stories as more than just lovely; for teaching me how to bake. But two last things, now:

    Thank you for showing me I must share. Thank you for making me brave, through your own sharing. Here’s my first gift, then; I wrote it yesterday. It’s just a sentence, but you may like it, all the same:

    I would I were as the sea is to the earth, sparkling and mysterious and full of music.

    Love,
    RiRi
    P.S. I’ve never seen you spell that nickname; do you do it with e’s instead?

    1. Tysheena Jackson

      This is stunning, SummerStars! Father’s are very important to a young girl’s life. And I’m sure your daddy is just so very proud of you! 🙂

  11. Phoenix Wilde

    (I am at work. I had only 15 minutes. This is my first go. I was not able to edit properly. Yes, I am aware this is not in true letter form. I just wrote what came to mind.)
    Dear Fellow Tormented Soul,
    There are many I can credit with the honour of inspiring. At a young age I tackled Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë. Charlotte Brontë and Anne Brontë soon followed. Then came the Jane Austen, Henry James, H.G. Wells, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Charles Dickens, Anne Rice, George Orwell, Harper Lee, J.K Rowling, J.R.R Tolkein, Bram Stoker, Ayn Rand, Nathaniel Hawthorne, J.D. Salinger, Alexandre Dumas, Ralph Ellison, Leo Tolstoy, Mary Shelley and countless more. I became addicted. Addicted to the thrill and the rush of being lost in the imagination of someone else. I have read books in nearly every genre. Despite so much versatile influence there is one author that holds a place deep within me. He beckons me time and time again with the alluringly haunting melody of his words, the flow of his prose, and even the sloping of his enlarged forehead. My dearest and most beloved Poe. Edgar Allan Poe. He was the first writer I enjoyed that expressed so much emotion within small works. Everyone’s first (for some only) Poe poem is “The Raven”. My first poem was A dream within a dream. I was awed, amazed and felt just an indescribable feeling within me. From that first poem I consumed everything written by the man. The Tell-Tale Heart, The Black Cat, The Pit and the Pendulum, The Fall of the House of Usher, The Cask of Amontillado, The Gold Bug, The Purloined Letter, The Masque of the Red Death, The Premature Burial, The Raven, Annabel Lee, The Haunted Palace, The Sleeper, To The River, Spirits of the Dead and The Valley of Unrest are pieces I read over quite often, finding a new perspective each time. Poe wrote the very essence of himself on the page and I strive to have enough of me to give to my readers everyday. Though well known for his horror, Poe has breached every genre known (From romance to crime). Edgar Allan Poe lets me know that any man, woman or child has the fire burning within and if not released it can consume. I received criticism from family all the time regarding writing as a career and I caved to societal expectations. So, my writing continues as nothing more than a hobby of necessity. I write because I must for it is in my soul. Edgar Allan Poe’s tormented soul gave me hope that one day my pain and torment would be for naught. One day I would be able to inspire and bask with a generation I was never alive to see.
    Thank You Poe for just being.
    Sincerely,

    Phoenix

  12. Jay

    Author’s note: Jhowe wrote a story, and I decided to write some inspirational work. Read his story to fully understand this, but you don’t need to because it should stand on it’s own. However, there will be greater depth to the character and story if you read his first.

    Publishers of Gore
    by The Barista

    The coffee rolled from the center of the counter, passed through a pool of blood, and then dripped from the edge. The tick tick tick could be heard in the now silent cafe. Blaine Carver looked at his work, smiled, and tilted his head ever so slightly as he thought about how much better he could do. He then left through the double-paned glass doors leaving the bodies of the customers and employees to stew in this hot summer weather.

    After quitting at the cafe and before leaving, he had washed his machete. He did this because he knew no one would understand what he’d done. The bloody weapon would likely set off more alarms than merely the act walking down the street with a clean one in his hand, and although the walk wasn’t too far, he didn’t want to take the chances.

    The other reason he wiped her down was that Lacy deserved the pampering. She was the epitome of craftsmanship. The black anodize accentuated the polished edge of this perfectly ground blade. He couldn’t let people see her in any condition other than pure perfection when he wasn’t busy slicing or dicing.

    Not surprisingly, no one noticed the 18-inch blade in his hand, or if they did, they didn’t say anything. This wasn’t anything he thought as unusual. In the past, he’d seen and heard people ignoring the brutality of life simply so they wouldn’t have to get involved. From a wife getting beat on in the middle of the street to the local Kroger being robbed at gunpoint to rape to murder. He knew no one cared, and if they did, it was because they were busybodies that needed the attention.

    As he entered the publisher’s building, the first thing Blaine noticed how beautiful the woman at the front desk was, and he even caught himself trying to hide the machete behind his leg. This, of course, made Lucy all the more obvious, and the secretary immediately became terrified. Blaine didn’t waste time. He ran up to her, and she screamed as she picked up the phone. It didn’t take long for her to register that calling for help was going to take too long, so she got up to run. She didn’t make it far. He planted Lucy right between her neck and shoulder as hard as he possibly could.

    He tried to pull it free, but he buried it too deep. The blood poured out of her neck, wetting her clothes as she gurgled for help. The wound of mangled, torn flesh reminded him of barbecue roast beef. It was his favorite dish growing up, not by choice but because it the was only meal his father would eat. For this reason, his stomach gurgled. God, did he hate his father.

    He wiggled Lucy a couple times but she was stubborn. So, he resorted to putting his foot on her back and pushed. Lucy finally released her bite, and he pulled the wedged weapon free.

    As the receptionist fought for her life, he considered giving her another whack to the back of her skull just to end it. After all, she was beautiful. She didn’t deserve this, but he thought it might expend too much energy. He needed more if he was to pull back on at least another forty people.

    She’ll die anyway, he thought as he went to her computer. Perhaps maybe she deserves to suffer. Who’s to say otherwise?

    Blaine wasn’t familiar with the internal mainframe, but he was able to navigate well enough to find the number to the office of the man who made him do this, the man who took away his future.

    The receptionist was an early casualty, he had planned to kill Frank Villas first and then kill as many people as he could on his way out. He had also suspected, however, that he would have to do some bad things on the way to Franks office, and that was okay as long as he got his chance to kill him.

    The elevator dinged a few times, and the slow-moving car finally made it to the first floor. When the doors opened, there were three people inside. An attractive man in his 40s stood to the right of two women. He was the kind of man that needed attention, and he didn’t care from who he got it. One of ladies was almost too heavy to agree with the internal weight management system of the elevator, but she was still too big for comfort. The other woman was slender, but boring. Probably a religious freak who couldn’t be bothered to show a little skin once in a while.

    I can’t let them leave, he thought, knowing full well if they saw what he did to the receptionist, they’d call the police and end it all for him.

    They tried to push past him, but he didn’t let them. The obese woman took a whack to the head, and her skull split clean in two. The man tried to grab Blaine, but with quicker movements, Blaine was able to hack of one of the man’s hands, which dangled loosely by nary a thread of skin. He stabbed him through the neck. Ashe pulled Lucy free, the slender woman tripped over the larger one, and when she went down, Blaine held Lucy against the woman’s neck.

    He knelt down close enough to talk into her ear, and he said, “Why are you so prude?”

    She only whimpered, unable to comprehend his question in the face of all the fear and confusion.

    He continued, “Such a pretty church whore like you, I’ll bet you’d have made some skunky f*ckwit a happy man.”

    She started to scream for help, but he quickly stabbed her in the back. It was difficult the first time, but after the second stab, the blade broke through her ribs and punctured her lungs. She gasped for air for a short while until he hacked her neck a few times to fully decapitate her.

    He stood, a little woozy and out of breath. Looking at the aftermath, he realized he have to move the bodies. More work.

    One by one, he dragged the bodies away from he elevator. The doors sliced through the thick pool of blood on the floor, and he rode a smooth ride all the way to floor ‘M’, the publishing house’s code for floor 13.

    In the hallway, he looked around and found a gold plate that the company had riveted to the wall. On it was Frank Villabos’s name, under which was the office number M213 and an arrow pointing down the hallway.

    It couldn’t be any easier, he thought.

    No one bothered him as he made his way through the corridors. When he finally reached Frank’s office, the door was ajar. Sitting in one of the seats was a little girl who couldn’t reach the floor. Frank was laughing and telling her a joke about some Disney character. Blaine stepped inside and closed the door.

    “Who are you?” Frank asked, and his face went ghost white when he saw Lucy. He had no idea who was in his office, but he certainly knew what the bloody machete meant. He said, “Please, leave my daughter out of this. For the love of God, let her go.”

    Blaine walked to the girl, looked down, and smiled. She was crying by then, her tears wetting the sides of her face. He smoothed her golden-brown hair out of the way, and said, “It’s okay, I won’t hurt you.”

    He stepped back and pointed at the door with Lucy. The girl hesitated, and Blaine screamed, “Now!”

    She hopped off the chair, and started across the room. She tripped over her own feet, struggled to get up, and rant to the door. She struggled again to open the heavy door, but she finally got it open. She ran screaming down the hall and Blaine approached Frank.

    Frank said, “What do you want, man?”

    “I want your head in my refrigerator.”

    “What the f—” Frank started to say, but Blaine hacked the man’s head off. It took a few tries more than the woman on the first floor did, but Frank was considerably meatier.

    He set Frank’s head on the desk, and right next to it he noticed a small letter written in crayon by Frank’s daughter.

    Dear Daddy,

    I love you very much. You are the best daddy. You always make me laff. Even when I am sad you make me feel happy. My teacher telled me to write this letter to you. You are a good daddy. I hope you have a good day. I hope we can go to the playground when you get home.

    Love,

    Natalie

    It was at that moment, something changed in Blaine. He thought about how that little girl loved her father, and how good he must have treated her in order to get that kind of affection in return. This was a love Blaine never knew. His father was an abusive drunk and his mother was a literal whore. There was no love at his house growing up. The only thing he could find to make himself feel better was writing, and that all came crashing down when Frank Villas took it away from him.

    Blaine stretched his arms, wiped the blade clean with his shirt, took Franks head by the hair, and left the office. Today would be his day to show everyone his pain. Today would be his day to teach the world they can’t mess with Blaine Carver, for this day he would finally shine.

    1. calinamircea

      It crosses my mind you’ve actually decapitated a man or two, considering the level of detail and not only of the visual variety! I appreciated this very much. Loved the depth of the character and the glimpse into his motifs as he becomes a little more understandable. The line that stood out for me was “In the past, he’d seen and heard people ignoring the brutality of life simply so they wouldn’t have to get involved.”

    2. jhowe

      This is a great lesson in character building. You showed us the way into Blaine’s head and what a head it was. Sheer brutality, but then the coherent thought that he had to conserve his strength so he could kill some more. While I suspect some will cringe at the gore, I loved it. I’m really flattered you were inspired by the barista. Now I know what happened when he ventured to New York, plus I found out how this guy would quit a job.

    3. ReathaThomasOakley

      Jay, I think you’ve outdone yourself in the gore category, which you handled very well. The crayoned note did make me sad, victims’ stories are often overlooked.

    4. Beebles

      Oooh, there is no redemption here. nice pick up Jhowe’s excellent story (yeah, I’m jumping around a bit I know). You are Mr Gore and I am left with the sensation of Lucy’s keen edge down the back of my skull, like a linea nigra. Euwwgh.

  13. SummerStars

    *I’m having trouble posting, sorry if this shows up more than once!

    Dear Daddy,

    I never knew it was for me. You see, I thought you wrote for your Beloved (I’ve been learning in Shakespeare that that’s what we call the poet’s true love in sonnets. Beloved.), and I never thought to be inspiration for anyone. I had all this inside me, a soul-song, a heart-song, and I thought if I kept my own flame burning bright, well, somehow that was going to work out. I didn’t know (I still don’t know) how you could go from point A to point B while I was simply content to think about the journey. You needed to learn; I need some old-fashioned, shove-the-baby-bird-out-of-the-nest prodding.

    Once upon a time, not quite so very long ago, I was a child. It was always just stories at first, because they were lovely and I was fascinated with the concept that I could make lovely things, and in these lovely things I was everything: princess, adventurer, fae-child, queen. Stories to me were not something to learn; they were simply in me, and quite possibly due to you. You may recall the devotion with which I read as a child; thank you for not insisting that I do sports instead.

    Anyway, did you know that it started with you? The different part of stories, I mean; because I can’t ever recall wanting to write something that really mattered until one day when it was snowing. It was snowing and the trees were all hung with white and you came upstairs and gave me several story ideas. You also gave me license to use the family dragon. Do you remember? You’ll be proud to know that he was the co-star of my first dedicated story, which I wrote as I crossed the bridge from middle school to high school.

    I do not like sharing what I write, because it feels as if I am giving away pieces of my soul. But you are right. So, I have many things for which to thank you. For teaching me how to cast a rod; for giving me the wisdom to see stories as more than just lovely; for teaching me how to bake. But two last things, now:

    Thank you for showing me I must share. Thank you for making me brave, through your own sharing. Here’s my first gift, then; I wrote it yesterday. It’s just a sentence, but you may like it, all the same:

    I would I were as the sea is to the earth, sparkling and mysterious and full of music.

    Love,
    RiRi
    P.S. I’ve never seen you spell that nickname; do you do it with e’s instead?

  14. SummerStars

    Dear Daddy,

    I never knew it was for me. You see, I thought you wrote for your Beloved (I’ve been learning in Shakespeare that that’s what we call the poet’s True Love in sonnets. Beloved.), and I never thought to be inspiration for anyone. I had all this inside me, a soul-song, a heart-song, and I thought if I kept my own flame burning bright, well, somehow that was going to work out. I didn’t know (I still don’t know) how you could go from point A to point B while I was simply content to dream about the journey. You needed to learn; I need some old-fashioned, shove-the-baby-bird-out-of-the-nest prodding.

    Once upon a time, not quite so very long ago, I was a child. It was always just stories at first, because they were lovely and I was fascinated with the concept that I could make lovely things, and in these lovely things I was everything: princess, adventurer, fae-child, queen. Stories to me were not something to learn; they were simply in me, and quite possibly due to you. You may recall the devotion with which I read as a child; thank you for not insisting that I do sports instead.

    Anyway, did you know that it started with you? The different part of stories, I mean; because I can’t ever recall wanting to write something that really mattered until one day when it was snowing. It was snowing and the trees were all hung with white and you came upstairs and gave me several story ideas. You also gave me license to use the family dragon. Do you remember? You’ll be proud to know that he was the co-star of my first dedicated story, which I wrote as I crossed the bridge from middle school to high school.

    I do not like sharing what I write, because it feels as if I am giving away pieces of my soul. But you are right. So, I have many things for which to thank you. For teaching me how to cast a rod; for giving me the wisdom to see stories as more than just lovely; for teaching me how to bake. But two last things, now:

    Thank you for showing me I must share. Thank you for making me brave, through your own sharing. Here’s my first gift, then; I wrote it yesterday. It’s just a sentence, but you may like it, all the same:

    I would I were as the sea is to the earth, sparkling and mysterious and full of music.

    Love,
    RiRi
    P.S. I’ve never seen you spell that nickname; do you do it with e’s instead?

  15. ReathaThomasOakley

    Dear Mrs. Kaler

    I should have written long ago, because for decades I’ve credited you with showing me a different path for my life. By the time I was in your fifth grade classroom, I was writing little bits of poetry, and reading just about anything I could get my hands on in the school and public libraries.

    You, and your stacks of old, musty books in the cloak room, broadened and deepened my knowledge base. You let me hurry through assigned work, then spend hours in the floor, squinting because of the dim light, wondering about cloaks, devouring Charles and Mary Lamb’s Tales from Shakespeare, Frazer’s The Golden Bough, lots of Dickens, and the Elizabethan poets. There were many more books, those are just what I remember.

    You encouraged me to write more poetry; I have, tucked safely away in my cedar chest, the poem, Dream of Death, blue ribbon still attached, that you entered in the county fair. I think the judges might have wondered about that title.

    I was fascinated by your stories of The Little Theater, and you encouraged me to write, produce, and direct a play, which was a parody of the then popular TV quiz shows. I was also impressed by your ability to knit while teaching, my first whiff of real multitasking.

    Sixth grade was horrible, and I spent time banished, without books, at my desk that had been moved out into the hall. Just a few years ago, while talking with my sixth grade teacher’s daughter, I learned that her mother never considered Mrs. Kaler a “real” teacher, just a person who had no discipline, who allowed students to do whatever they wanted. Funny how opinions can differ.

    Sincerely,
    Reatha

        1. Kerry Charlton

          A story running totally on truth and the remembrance after shall we say about 40 years. Most people would say you couldn’t remember the detail you write about but I happen tp know better, for it was my sixth grade homeroom teacher who showed me the way through most of my life, for which I will be eternally grateful. I love the detail and inner thoughts of you as a child. I might be guessing but I would think you rose to a higher pathway that probably your parents were totally unaware of. And for that you should carry your pride all the way through your life for I know you passed it along to the next generation, maybe two.

  16. MoiraiTQ

    Ladies and Gentlemen of the Academy, thank you very much! However, the real thanks goes to my family. My family has dealt with my rants about writer’s block, talking incessantly about my characters and plot lines, innumerable readings of my chapters, and my late nights of burning the midnight oil.

    My husband is not a reader, but was fond of my story line. At least until it was the 15th time he had to read it. He jokingly told me to get the lead out and get if finished. You know, poop or get off the pot! So, I banged away on my laptop for nights on end. He’d say, “When are you coming to bed???” “One more paragraph! One more page!” The words kept flowing, so I stayed up and wrote. Next thing I’d know, the sun was coming up! He’d be coming down the stairs to feed the dogs.

    My daughter just wanted to make sure that the princess got her prince. Not sure what book she was reading, but it wasn’t mine. LOL! I don’t have a princess or prince in my book. OK, she just wanted a happy ending. The End!

    My poor dog, Toby. He loves to cuddle up to me when we’re in bed. It’s hard to do that when I’m not in the bed, but on my laptop writing the book. He’d look at me like he was lost and didn’t know what to do with his life. He’d been replaced by a machine. Little did he know, but he was sitting right next to me in my head while I was writing the lines, the paragraphs, the chapters. We both watched and cheered as the characters came to life in front of us. We got drenched in the rain, dried off when the sun came out, and slept when the characters slept.

    Without all of my family, I wouldn’t have had the guts and determination to finish my book, get it published, and have it optioned for a screenplay.

    Thank you my family, I love you very much!

    1. jhowe

      When you watch the Academy Awards, you don’t get to hear the screenwriter give a speech. But if we did, I’d hope it would be like this one. Very nice.

    2. calinamircea

      Poop or get off the pot, I like your husband! Nice of him to support you like this! I feel sorry about the dog. I have a cat and she runs across my keyboard all the time. I think it makes for a very gentle feat massage for her. I wish I had a dog.

      1. MoiraiTQ

        Thank you!

        That phrase is actually more me, than him. But everything else is all him. He’s not a reader, but he did really like the parts of my novel that I did write. Most is still in my head.

  17. ReathaThomasOakley

    (Forgive me for posting a story from a previous prompt I had written in my head after seeing “Clarence” at a service station some place on I-10 on our way from Florida to Wyoming as we abandoned our snowbird life. Kerry, we thought of you when we saw the sign for Pascagoula.)

    This isn’t a drill

    Clarence stopped at the convenience store door, looked back at the curb where he’d been sitting, then looked through the glass.

    Lordy, Lordy, he thought, what I’m gonna do, what I’m gonna do. His boy, Reggie, stood behind the counter, head bent over a stack of papers, a pencil behind each ear. Clarence laughed, that boy hadn’t changed that much since he was ten, frettin’ over long division. That thought, of Reggie as a child, caused Clarence to pull his cap more firmly on his head and open the door. At the sound of the bell Reggie looked up.

    “Pops, what you doing here?,” the dirty undershirt, the cinched up jeans made him sad. “You know I told you–”

    “Yeah, Boy, I know, I know, I jest gotta tell you…” Clarence stopped and stared at Reggie’s shirt front, then hooted. “Reginald? You usin’ that high-falutin’ name yore no good mama give you? Reggie, what me and yore dead granny called you ain’t good enough? After we took you in, raised you up?” Clarence shook his head, he couldn’t waste time on that now, he had to make Reggie listen.

    “Pops, you want a hot dog, some nachos, a Coca Cola? I’m real busy here, district manager coming later, I been too busy to get these numbers done. ‘Sides, I told you–”

    “Yeah, I know, I been outside watchin’ but I gotta tell you, somethin’ real important, gotta warn you.”

    “Oh, Pops, this time is it a tornado, hail storm, Tameesha cheating on me? Hurry up, then, I got work to do. You wouldn’t come in on me if this was an office.” Reggie told himself to calm down, that Clarence couldn’t help it, couldn’t understand. “Pops, this is my office, my job…”

    “Boy, listen,” Clarence moved toward the right side of the counter, “you know I got the gift, even if it ain’t always right on.” He moved behind the counter, close to Reggie.

    “Pops!” Reggie put his hands on Clarence’s shoulders, “you can’t be back here, I got rules, regulations.” Suddenly, without warning, Clarence slumped to the floor. As Reggie bent down he almost gagged from the stench of stale sweat and old beer. “Pops, Pops!” Clarence opened his eyes.

    “Boy,” he whispered, “this ain’t no drill.” Reggie had his hands under his grandfather’s bone-thin arms when the door bell rang.

    “Sorry,” Reggie said as he stood, then stopped when he saw the revolver in the boy’s hand. Protocol, training, he thought, as he pressed the silent alarm under the counter. “Yes?” he asked as calmly as he could.

    “You know what I want, open up that drawer,” the boy’s voice broke, “fill up one them plastic bags.”

    He ain’t but a kid, Reggie thought as he opened the drawer and got a bag from under the counter. Then, when the bag was nearly full, of mainly tens and twenties, he looked back at the boy and saw he was now holding the weapon with two hands, both shaking.

    “You know you ain’t got to do this, you could just walk on out.”

    “Shut up, just shut up, I’m tired of folks telling me what to do.” The boy swallowed. “Drop that bag over the counter.”

    As he did so, Reggie knew the boy was going to shoot, but before he could move, Clarence stood, as if propelled, just as the boy fired.

    “What the…” the boy yelled, as he ran out the door, money forgotten. Reggie knelt beside his grandfather.

    “Tole ya,” Clarence coughed and smiled as sirens wailed in the distance, “tole ya this weren’t no drill.”

    1. calinamircea

      I run across all the prompts to read your stories, Reatha! I read them to my boyfriend in the evening, before we go to bed and I try to read in what I believe is a southern accent. It’s OK, he don’t know the difference anymore than I do!

    2. Bushkill

      Again, your characterizations are spot on. your language and drawl are so accurate that I feel i’m standing in an aisle and this is happening on the other side of the chips and pretzels. Unbelievable.

        1. Kerry Charlton

          Pasagoula ha! You know I’ve never been there and if I was, I’ve forgotten all about it. This is marvelous, language perfect as usual and I enjoyed the plot Reatha. Be careful as you finish your drive. Kerry

  18. A.S.P.

    It’s early and I’m in a boat
    It’s cold and I’m in a boat
    Holy smokes! Is that a fish or a goat?

    Don’t think you’d remember that one if you were here now, pops, but I do. You laughed so hard you coughed out smoke. Or maybe that was a sign of the lung cancer you never told us about. How the hell was I supposed to know? I was ten.

    The only thing I knew was I was sh*t at rhyming. Sh*t at poetry. But that’s what you wanted from us those freezing cold mornings on the lake, in the quiet time between bites.

    Create something, you’d say. Be something. Something more than this old man will ever be.

    Well we tried that, Sylver and me. Tried to be decent men. Started a business to give kids a place to go when home didn’t cut it.

    Then that two-faced prick had one of his lackeys burn it to the ground and all I can think about is how bad I wanna burn him to the ground.

    It’s f*cked up, I know. You didn’t want me ending up like you.

    Yeah? Well what’s so damned wrong with being like you? Somebody hurt you, you didn’t sit around filing insurance claims. You hurt them back. Worse.

    If Sylver’s so f*cking eager, he can deal with insurance paperwork. But that’s not what you would’ve done.

    It’s not what I’m about to do.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        Jhowe had the correct word for this,gritty. It reads real, the type of emotion between a father and son. Looks like the younger is going to follow in his dad_’s footprints. The scene settings seem to follow a certain pathway on this prompt, I find that unusual, writers being affected in similiar fashion. This did a great job on this

  19. calinamircea

    I’m not respecting the word count, but… it just must be said
    —-
    It’s four in the morning, the end of March, I’m writing you now, because I never thought to write to you before, and I probably should have.

    I guess that I miss you, but let’s not talk about that, you know all that. I need to talk to you about why I write.

    “When I write a poem,
    My mind bubbles like lava
    From it a suave phrase emerges
    And flies away like a lark

    But with my pencil I pin it to the paper
    And my mind bubbles again
    And something about spring comes up
    Which floats away like dandelion fluff”

    I was 8 when I wrote that. Well it’s a rough translation of my poem, but I assure you, it sounds better in Romanian and it even rhymes. It probably is the best thing I’ve written yet, even after 22 years. You see I had already written two poems, 1 to mom, 1 about a pigeon so it was naturally time for Ars Poetica.

    “You need to take this to your teacher so she can publish it in the school paper!”

    “Why?”

    “So that your colleagues can read it and admire it!”

    “But I’ve shown it to my classmates!”

    “Yes, but everybody in school can read it if you publish it and they will all say how great it is”

    “Everybody, who?… I don’t know them!”

    “Well, do you care about all people?”

    “I.. I do!”

    “Even if you don’t know them?”

    “Yes..”

    “Do you think this is a nice poem?”

    “I guess”

    “So why shouldn’t everybody enjoy it then, just because you haven’t met them yet?”

    That was my mom, fine lady, right? Oh, you would’ve liked her and she would’ve scared you away.
    My teacher did not publish my poem because I “didn’t respect the measure and rhythm!”. I inquired as to what that was and when she clarified I brought up two of my favorite poets at the time that were not having the same number of syllables in each verse and I think by my quoting of their work she figured out that the poem was written by me and not by my mom as she had initially suspected. But it was too late to back out so my work was rejected.

    My heart was light, because I didn’t understand either the purpose of being published, nor the process itself so it didn’t feel like a rejection in any way. Apparently, the poems need to follow certain guidelines to be published. OK, so be it. I had decided that after writing my next poems, I will check to see if they follow the guidelines or not. My mom was furious though.

    I guess I kept writing under my mom’s encouragement, sometimes poems would come out, sometimes short stories would get pinned to the paper, I loved it. I would just hear words in my head and put them down, and then read them and get so excited. They never felt like my words. Not the best ones, anyway. I would enjoy the lines as much as I was enjoying any of the books or poems I was reading at the time.

    I didn’t write often though and towards puberty it all took a very dramatic, subjective and cynical turn and I didn’t see much value in that, the words felt too much like my words, they didn’t come from the other place.

    I first laid eyes on you when I was in high school, but I didn’t care for your looks, your nose was too big, I guess, and you seemed rather short. My dad was short and my mom never forgave him for it.
    Oh, but I could listen to you whisper the same thing over and over again for hours at the time. Your words put me in this delicate place between earth and not-earth, you spoke of bad things from a good place and good things from a bad place you were honest, too honest and in your stories, good and bad did not compete, they were just there, dancing somehow. The intimacy we shared…

    I can’t, see, I can’t! These words feel so much like my words now, they don’t come from the other place. You know all that…

    After university, I got a job, and then I changed to another one and then I kept busy all the time. Words still played around in my head but I stopped pinning them down. One of those busy times was volunteering for TEDx Bucharest. I got to work on people’s speeches, their stories and the words would just come to me again. They weren’t my words, they were their words, their stories and sometimes I would just switch a paragraph and the story would pop so brightly. Other times I would take down a few words and leave the audience guessing, allow them to put two and two together. Other times there was nothing to do but enjoy..

    One time a speaker asked me:

    “But what if I’m nervous?”

    “It’s ok, you should still be able to speak!”

    “But what if I forget my words, what if I babel?”

    “You stop for a moment, you remember your words, you start you sentence again and you continue. If this needs to be said, you find a way, you stay there, tall, until you’ve said it. If it’s not important enough to make you stop worrying about how you look, you don’t need to say it.”

    That’s what I said, but those weren’t my words, no. They just needed to be said.

    I fell in-love a few times… a few times too many. There was one man who had met you as well, we spent some time talking about you and through him I guess I got to know you better, I thought more of all you’ve said.

    But then I fell in love again, I moved and then I moved again. I’m by the sea now, you know? It’s nice. My world has slowed down, enough to listen, enough to write. I found a new voice and new joy in writing, I feel I can easier tell the difference between my words and the words from the other place, the ones that must be said. I pin them down, then I read them joyously, like they were written for me, not by me.

    (That’s not it, by the way, what I’m doing now, that barely feels like it.) I haven’t shared much, I don’t know how and to whom. I don’t know why. I don’t know if it’s any good, I guess I used to wonder, but not anymore.

    I met a lady in a train once, she was talking a lot. Among all her confessions she told me that one of her kids wants to become a painter and she is actively discouraging him. I ask why.

    “There’s so many great painters out there…”

    “So?”

    “He’ll never be that good”

    Something rose up in me:

    “But… imagine only the world’s best painter would paint! And imagine he would only paint his best painting. What world would that be?”

    Those words were for me. I never much wondered if I’m any good ever since. I even painted some dandelions and I said to myself that if ever I am categorized as the world’s 3,899,342,214th painter, then that’s good enough. There’s an extra paining in the world and that’s pretty damn worth it.

    Last November I was on the phone with mom:

    “Did you hear Leonard Cohen died?”

    I think it was a Tuesday? I thought to myself “Damn you, 2016!”. Then I went about my day. In the evening, my lover came home and we had dinner. We started to watch a movie but I was drowned in the tablet.

    “Don’t you like the movie?”
    “I’m reading Leonard Cohen quotes” I said.
    “Would you like to read to me?”
    He stopped the movie
    “Can you put on some of his songs?”
    We spent the next three hours reading quotes, listening to music while tears were pouring out of me.

    “There’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.”
    “You look beautiful when you’re tired, you look like you could go on for ever.”
    “But let’s not talk of love, or chains, or things we can’t untie.”

    Between tears and sighs, I told my boyfriend:

    “I’m not… I’ve never been a fan of anyone, I’ve never felt sad for a celebrity passing away, but it just hit me, two things just hit me:

    I will have never been at any of his concerts. In 2010 I didn’t have money when his concert was announced. Well, I could’ve probably peel my pockets enough to get the cheapest ticket. But then they had the VIP version that included a pre-concert for 30 people the evening before, in a beautiful room of a palace where he would sing and I could see me at the table, not fully facing him, with a drink in my hand and him whispering in my ear as I let the music take over… I thought that’s how he should be enjoyed and I’ll go see him when I’ll afford that…” Sadness makes my body shake and muffles my voice.

    “What’s the other thing that hit you?”

    “He will never… there will never be any new songs, any new poems. That’s it. These are all we get from him! I have to write, I have to write, I have to write!” I said it neurotically.

    I have to write, you see, I won’t write like you, I would never dare. The lord of words whispers different lines to me and that’s ok. I’ll just listen and be grateful.

    I’ll listen, my man, and pin the words down and then learn to listen more. I’ll get myself out of the way and keep writing and I’ll never worry if I’m good enough, do you know why?

    Because my job is to bring the words from the other place, to this place. And for this I must listen, write and find a way to share. If I’m going to be the world’s 5,278,993,880th writer and my words would only touch 12 people, then it’s totally worth it! It is not my job to count, no, it is not my job to measure. There’s people who have that job and they do it just fine and dandy.

    I’ll write the words that must be written, I’ll be one of the people working hard to close the gap you’ve left and there’ll be new poems and stories in the world and that’s worth it, Leonard, that’s what counts.

    1. jhowe

      It was a touch long, but I enjoyed reading it. I could feel your MC’s emotions throughout. My favorite line was: My dad was short and my mom never forgave him for it. Nice tribute to Leonard.

    2. ReathaThomasOakley

      I read this, allowed it to sit for a while, then read it again. Your words versus the “other” words, wow. Leonard Cohen brought how I felt when he died. Thank you so much for sharing this, I look forward to more.

    3. Tysheena Jackson

      Wow, how very touching. Lenghty or not, this touches home for me. I feel this way when great artists of any sort pass before their time. Especially the ones who’ve inspired me during my darkest times. Great story you’ve written here!

  20. SonYamuri

    To Mr. Stephen King;

    I grew up as the lonely, freak girl. I knew I was different, starting with my name. I used to think “why my parents didn’t gave me a normal name so my classmates would not laugh of?”. Then I read the intro of Nightmares and Dreamscapes and I felt… that someone besides my father understood me. I started to love my name and accept those weird things that I love. Now I’m the weird, freak girl that not many wants to be around, but the one that is loved by the right people. Thank you.

    Yours,
    Your Constant Reader.

  21. Not-Only But-Also Riley

    I just tried to post a response to this about 4 times with no luck, so if it shows up a thousand times later, I apologize for my impatience in clicking submit continuously. But, in the case that it does not show up, I have posted it on my blog, called “Letter to Holmes”, if anyone wants to bother to check it out. As always, feedback is appreciated if you do take the time to read it!
    Here is the link to it on my blog if you’re interested: http://loadedbook.blogspot.com/2017/03/letter-to-holmes.html

    1. jhowe

      I read your story and could find no reason for it not to post. Frustrating. But I’m glad I was still able to read it. Very nice language skills you possess.

  22. LuckyOne

    Dear High School English Teachers,

    Miss MacDonald, thank you for the introduction to short stories. I still remember the first period on the first day of high school, September, 1978. You had us read Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery.” What a great story. I particularly appreciated your love for the written word and your enthusiasm in discussing the themes of the various stories we read.

    Sister Rosalyn, thank you for allowing me the freedom to criticize The Red Badge of Courage and The Scarlet Letter in American Lit. You taught me that it was ok to not like something as long as I could articulate and defend why I didn’t care for assigned reading. For the record, I re-read both books as an adult. I still hold that Courage is a heavy-handed, overly symbolic mess, but absolutely LOVED the message in Scarlet.

    Miss King, I owe you a long-overdue apology. I know that my classroom antics were a large part of the reason why my senior year was the last year you taught AP English. I always looked forward to your class. Your love of English Literature, particularly Tomas Hardy, was infectious. You were great. I regret that future classes didn’t get to benefit from your love of literature. By the way, I met up with my old nemesis Steve Pangori last year. Believe it or not, he’s grown up to be a wonderful person. On behalf of both of us, I’m sorry that our squabbles got out of hand and sent you out of the room in tears on more than one occasion.

    Even 35 years later, I’m still shocked that when awards were given out at the Baccalaureate Mass, my name was called as the recipient of the English Department Award. I know that it was a competitive field. The award was particularly gratifying, given that in 8th grade, the same award was bestowed upon my arch rival, who was now headed to Notre Dame while I was merely headed to Michigan State!

    After decades of consuming literature, a mid-life health crisis made me determined to become a producer of literature. I’m currently trying to get my debut novel published. I’m guessing that the fact that I chose to write about a gay protagonist probably wouldn’t surprise any of you. In our Catholic school environment, we learned, mostly indirectly, that the handful of acts that define people like me to the rest of the world are wrong, terrible sins. Were you to read my book, you might find that within the boundaries of a loving relationship, those acts can, in fact, be beautiful.

    Love to you all, wherever you may be,

    Andrew

  23. Judythe

    To the Sisters of Saint Joseph in Cleveland, Ohio:

    When my third-grade teacher approached my parents toward the end of the school year, little did I know my life would turn topsy-turvy. Although it was never clear to me what I might have done to precipitate the change, Mom and Dad allowed me to skip the fourth grade and go directly to fifth grade. I didn’t even get to pass go or pick up an extra $200 or anything. In fact, I had nothing to say about the decision at all.

    For the next year, I became the family gerbil on its little wheel. I ran and ran, all in a frantic effort to catch up with the strangers who became my classmates. Looking back, I imagine myself standing on the playground, watching my former friends playing hopscotch, while my new friends teased me. Physically small, I had already been the youngest kid in my class before I took the escalator up to floor five. A perfect target.

    At my current age of 77 my perspective about that upheaval is much less dramatic. It reminds me when, as a young mother of three little ones in diapers, someone stated that by the time my youngest turned 21, I wouldn’t even remember how old they were when they became potty-trained.
    Somewhere between September of grade three and January of grade four, I’d accepted the challenge the sisters had offered when they officially christened me a fifth grader. Verbal, and feisty, to keep up, I constantly sought ways to surpass.

    In sixth grade, the opportunity presented itself. As the topic for a report in my geography class, I chose The Amazon and the River Nile. Over-achiever that I was striving to be, I became a frequent visitor to my local Carnegie Library. Already an avid reader, the librarians knew me and happily stacked geography books in front of me for my research.

    The day the assignments were due, I was more than ready. Sr. Joseph Marie asked for volunteers to read their work. Picture Hermione in Harry Potter, hand waving in the air. To distinguish me from her, I was the girl with quieter curls and glasses, which I had worn since I was three.

    Sister loved my report. Apparently, she bragged about it to the seventh and eighth grade teachers and, before I could say ‘Alohomora,’ I was on the speaker’s circuit, making the rounds of the ‘upper classmen.’ If I was nervous, I suspect it passed quickly, as I still relish public speaking.
    Did this do anything for my reputation on the playground? A new label marred my popularity—teacher’s pet.

    What these experiences did awaken in me, though, was a love of learning, writing, speaking. As I finished an hour-long interview the other day about my novel, Twenty-Nine Sneezes: A Journey of Healing, I offered a thank you to the sisters who saw a spark in me and nurtured it.

  24. Mizuwolf

    Dear the authors of every book I’ve ever read,

    Thank you all so much for writing your stories and creating your worlds. Writing a book for someone else to read is like putting a piece of yourself out into the universe and hoping that it turns out well. Thank you for being brave enough to do that. Thank you for imagining the amazing places that I love to escape into. Thank you for being the only ones who could ever have those specific ideas. Most of all, thank you for making me want to create my own worlds. Thank you for helping me realize that everyone has a story to tell. Thank you for inspiring me. I will carry bits and pieces of your legacies with me forever.

    Sincerely,
    Your reader

  25. jhowe

    The barista walked home from his job at River Edge Café with coffee stained fingernails. He approached the crosswalk at Tenth Street and held up his hand as he crossed against the light. A driver braked hard, laying on the horn and rolled down the window. The barista stopped and stared blankly into the car, tilting his head. The driver rolled the window up and waited for him to be on his way.

    In his small house he removed the well-worn letter from his jacket pocket. He shook it open, ignored the headings and read the first line.

    Thank you for submitting your manuscript entitled, ‘Maidens of Gore.’

    The barista opened the door to the basement and walked down the steps. At the workbench he turned on the grinder and began to work on the machete’s edge. The letter was face up on the bench.

    While we enjoyed the opportunity to read your work, we will be unable to use it at this time. Good luck placing your manuscript elsewhere.

    Sparks cascaded from the blade to the bench, creating tiny black marks on the paper. A hand written note in blue ink was scrawled at the bottom of the page.

    Our guidelines specifically state (1) we do not accept unsolicited material, (2) we require a sample submission of two chapters and most importantly, (3) we are a YA publisher and do not accept material in the horror genre. Three strikes, Mr. Camp. You’re out!

    The barista carefully ran a thumb across the blade, raising a thin red line that began to drip on the letter. He walked up the steps and removed an identical manuscript from a desk drawer. He picked up a green Sharpie and crossed out the title. Above it he wrote, “Publishers of Gore.”

    Under the desk, he found the pre-addressed cardboard box. He dropped in the manuscript and the blood stained letter before sealing it shut. Tomorrow he’d mail it at Gone Postal and quit his job at the café. He checked his train ticket to New York. All seemed to be in order.

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      Oh, my, I fear for that editor, however, I do believe this illustrates why everyone should read the guidelines. Very creative take on the prompt.

    2. Judythe

      jhowe,
      Thanks for the kind words. So glad you checked out my book. If you know of someone who suffered abuse, you might steer them toward my book. I wrote it as a support for those who have, hoping he or she can relate to Emily’s struggles and successes, like a support group on paper. After all, the struggle goes on long after the abuse ends.

      Judythe

    3. Judythe

      jhowe, is that what they call ‘sweet revenge?’ Fun way to address the pain of those pesky rejection letters.

      By the way, I belong to a writing organization. At our general meetings, they ask for kudos. We are encouraged to announce rejection letters, as well as acceptance–proves we’re writing and out there submitting.
      Judythe

      1. Kerry Charlton

        I read Jay’s first and your story second. Your version of horror belongs to the imagination of the reader. The fact thst your reader does not know and only assumes what he thinks will happens expands the strength of your story msybe ten fold. In particular to me, it will haunt me for an entire week until I can complete it in my mind. Good job, John.

  26. Bushkill

    Dear Daughter,

    Did you know it was all for you? Did you know that the reason I started in the first place was that this was the career you wanted for yourself? I didn’t know how to help you. Your love, focus, and passion eluded me. In order to show you, in order to share with you, I needed to learn.

    Sure, I could teach you to drag a bunt or slap-hit your way to first. I could show you how to tie a uni to uni knot. I could teach you how to wait for the fish to pick up the bait and what it feels like when they do. I could show you patience and persistence while working the same lure ceaselessly until the rod jars in your hand and your quarry takes off.

    I could show you how to prep a roast or chops or fancy cut of meat for the grill, the oven, or the crockpot. I could teach you how to roast vegetables. Or blanch them. I could teach you what a soufflé is why so much care is needed in their making. I could teach you how to toss a pizza and prep the stone its cooked on and I could show you how to make a worthy pasta sauce, even if we don’t have the slightest touch of Italian in us.

    But … I couldn’t show you how to write a query letter, or write for purpose or passion. I haven’t any clue of the hurdles and pitfalls that await you until I go crashing through and falling into them.

    I taught you baking well enough, and you make awesome cookies. You aren’t afraid of the complexities and nuances that are inherent with that strange culinary chemistry that is an art unto itself.

    And yet, writing is your passion. Writing is your heart song and vision in life. There are stories in you that you want to tell. How do I unlock them for you? Can you share them on your own? What story would you tell of beaches or far away fallen kingdoms? Have you tried?

    There isn’t any easy way for me to explain, you’re the English Major. I do Math. I don’t get any of that English stuff. Passive voice? I don’t even understand what that means. And I’ve tried. But all the descriptions come back to nouns and verbs and I don’t understand that either. For me, I have found that the simplest approach, the most direct and unadultered path, is the one where you share.

    Share the vision and the view, share the pain and the passion, share the edge of time and space, and dabble and dance along the rainbow. There is much you have that is worthy of words. You need only make the choice. My best advice for your journey forward?

    Just write.

    Love,
    Dad

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      What a heartfelt letter. It is so difficult to know exactly what to teach our children, and I fear we often figure it out after they are grown. I enjoyed this.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        She has to register first, pick a name and password, atleast I think so, just to respond to your story. I am very interested in what she tells you.

      1. Kerry Charlton

        It is a passionate letter you have written to your daughter and she should be excited beyond means to have a father who is that dedicated to her pathway through life. You did a beautiful job here. Any talent I posses falls in math also, yet my degree is in business. WhaT i CAN DO, IS WALK INTO A FIRM i KNOW NOTHING ABOUT, STUDY TWO MONTHS WORTH OF ACCOUNTING AND TELL WHAT IS RIGHT AND WHAT IS WRONG JUST BY THE NUMBERS. AND HERE I AM FINISHING OUT STORES AND RESTORING ANTIQUE HOUSES. GO FIGURE?

        1. Bushkill

          I manage both the math and English departments and have way more fun in English classes than math classes. I did math for 20 years. Times to see the rest of the world.

  27. Beebles

    Wow, found some time. Not exactly what the prompt requires but it reflects my latest reading habits.
    ————————————————
    One of two unopened letters found among the possessions of Colonel William Penderly on the occasions of his death in India, 1824.

    My Dear Colonel Penderly,

    I trust this letter finds you in good health and most specifically recovered from the cough you described as ‘irritating’ and which cut our last meeting so unhappily short. I do remember that afternoon with great fondness, despite the constant interruptions from your ailment and your swift departure, and it is such recollections that give me strength in my current trying circumstances.

    You must forgive me if this correspondence is curtailed, or ceases quite suddenly, for I have spent the past hour composing a letter to Emilie, who, as I am sure you understand, occupies my thoughts with a much greater urgency than do those of your good self. I think that you would agree that this is right and proper, even if you have previously frowned upon my acquaintance with your daughter. It is in this latter occupation that I have used the last inch of this candle, almost to the pewter, and I am left with only the guttering in which to scribe these last words.

    But scribble them I must, for it would be unforgivable if I did not extend to you my most heartfelt thanks and appreciation for your sudden change of heart and thence your support in these last few days. I am particularly grateful, as I do hope I made perfectly clear at our meeting, for the financial assistance you provided in the publication of my pamphlet and I urge you to feel no regret or embarrassment that its publication has brought about my current unhappy state.

    You might find some small satisfaction in the remembrance that you warned me of the potential consequences of my insistence on pursuing the publication not long after we first met, and that you have been proved correct, in that the authorities have found the material seditious and treasonous, while I only attempted to highlight some contemptible wrongs in our society that need bringing urgently to the fore. I only wish that I could have succeeded in some distribution before the authorities descended upon me in such untimely fashion at the printing shop. I hold little optimism for an acquittal and can hope only that I avoid the noose.

    My letter to Emilie, which I hope will arrive with this, conveys to her my farewell and fondest regards, and rest assured that, in accordance with our conversation, I have broached no detail of your involvement. I agree that it is for the best, as I would not wish her to misconstrue your intentions in this matter, there having been sufficient harsh exchanges between the both of you following our initial triste. I can only thank you again for your benevolence and magnanimity in permitting our relationship to extend beyond the borders of your initial objections; age and circumstance having separated us ideologically perhaps, but we have been united in the deepest love and respect for your most divine daughter.

    I had hoped that my attorney was to attend this evening and bring another candle, but alas, he has not appeared, in which case I must draw this missive to an end.

    I remain forever your most humble and grateful servant,

    Samuel Hardy

    Esqui

        1. Kerry Charlton

          Beebles, the formality of the language used in the letter matches perfectly with the time period and I’m pretty sure it was a pain in the neck to write this way after learning to write tight on this site. You did an excellent job and here’s hoping he finds not the neerness of the noose!

  28. JRSimmang

    Dear Mr Pennypine,

    What is your name? I never thought to ask. Perhaps it was the 5-year old shyness that hangs about our necks, dragging us into the folds of our parents’ cool shadows. Perhaps it was the big red nose or the greying mustache. At least, that’s what I think you looked like then.

    What I remember is a shabby jacket, tweed or herringbone, brown, mostly brown, with little golden threads running through it, running around it, enclosing you in it, making you shine on that park bench a quarter of a century ago. I remember matching pants, chinos, so that the break above your loafers sat there content and bent and not going anywhere. And what were those shoes? Were they brand new, or hand-me-downs? Hand-me-downs would make your story so much better.

    I remember your smile at the pigeons, or balloons, or that your were selling balloons to balloon-faced children and they lifted off with the strings tied tightly, just like you warned them would happen, that the balloons could take them to their dreams. So many dreams. So many balloons.

    I think you fed the pigeons. Not that they needed to be fed. They were already fattened from the trash on the roads, and the sloughed off fantasies of the feet shufflers and the suit wearers. Or, maybe it was you. Maybe you were the reason they came back day after day after day.

    Like I did. You were fascinating, with your moonface and starry eyes, your half-tilted porkpie and elbow pads. Day after day, you sat on that bench, until you had to go off to save the world from devouring itself, from imploding from the weight of the dreamless, from burning in a conflagration of disbelief. You walked on the moon, too, right? You had to, because that’s how you carved your face into it.

    Sitting here now, you must have finally grown wings and flown off to your princess. That bench still has a little of your golden thread woven in between the slats. The playground now has a slide and one of those geodesic domes, and everything is coated in plastic and rubber, and kids no longer get scraped knees and run to their parents for their cool, loving shadows and hands. There’s a new grove of trees, and the running path is now a cycling path too. But, your bench is there. And, now, I might have to take a sit to see what you saw in the pigeons.

    Sincerely,
    Someone You Know

  29. Rebecca

    Dear Haley,

    It’s been a few years, huh? The last time we “talked” was when you commented on a picture on my Facebook—the one my sister and I had taken professionally as part of a Christmas present to our family. I really wish I had the courage to speak with you again. You were one of my best friends when we were kids. I remember getting the “best friends forever” T-shirt with you, Annie, and Chelsea. I haven’t spoken to either of them in a long time, either. I lost contact with Annie several years ago, and Chelsea… well, I screwed up our friendship because of my then-boyfriend. I wish I’d chosen her instead of that emotionally abusive prick. I wonder if I can ever make amends… or if I’d even be brave enough.

    Do you remember when we were nine years old and you convinced me to help you write a “book” about the fairies in Kirby 64? I was so reluctant at first. I didn’t think it’d be any fun. But you wore me down, and we made our little book: I wrote the story about the fairies having to find the crystal shards and get home before dinner, and you drew the pictures. Do you still draw? I hope you do. I still have the cut-out Starry Scorchio you gave me on my closet door. I’d like to say I still write, but… gods, it’s been so long since I’ve actually sat down to write anything. I do online and forum roleplays, and I love them, but it’s been months since I last tried to write a proper story. I want to, though. Not just because I went to school to get a degree in creative writing and don’t want it to go to waste, but because it reminds me of that time we spent together as kids. All those times we spent the night at each others’ houses and watched anime and played video games. That time that you convinced me to write a silly little story that sparked my desire to write. More innocent times when I wasn’t bogged down by anxiety and self-esteem issues and could just write whatever, whenever, and not give a crap.

    You know, I’ve got something of a habit of naming characters “Hailey.” I’d feel bad stealing your name, but I want to pay homage to you in some way. I want to thank you for inspiring me to write all those years ago. And I want to start writing again because I feel like this entire letter would be pointless if I didn’t. So I’m making a promise, right here and right now. I will write something every day. Even if it’s just stupid rambling, I’ll write. Because I don’t want that inspiration that you gave me all those years ago to fizzle out.

    Hope you’re well,
    Rebecca

    1. calinamircea

      Oh, I like that so much! There’s a few people in my life, a handful, that feel part of me now. I find myself thinking “Hmmm, this sounds like a problem for Ramona, what would Ramona do or say?” And it just activates a part of my personalty that was not there before a type of energy that was inaccessible before and now it’s clear and has contour and I can channel it. I hope you bring Hailey out more and you keep that promise, I’ll hold you to it if I have to!

  30. E.C

    Dear Parents,
    I am here to tell you, thanks for nothing. In the sixteen years I spent living, never have you once thought that my words would amount to anything. In the third grade, nearly eight years ago, you told me that writing was dumb and that words wouldn’t get me anywhere. In the fifth grade, when I told you I wanted to pursue writing, you told me it wouldn’t make any money, and it was too hard for me.

    I didn’t understand why you told me that my dreams were childish, when my teachers said that my words flowed so naturally and that I was a great writer. Were they lying? Naturally, I believed in you and not my teachers. The way that most children believe their parents.

    So I stopped writing. I maybe spent long weekend nights on a writing binge and finishing off 20 or so pages. But I never got your damn words out of my head. I let your words drown out mine, because I was only 12, what did I know about writing? So I trashed them all, dozens of stories I started but deleted anyway, all washed away by your discouraging words that crashed down on me over and over again. Hundreds of pages, lost at sea.

    But in the seventh grade, I got carried away by the waves of my own words. I was presented with a project. A writing project. The idea of this life changing project was to insert yourself into the world of fiction, more specifically the world of the books we had just finished reading as part of the “independent reading” program. I was more than happy to immerse myself into the Victorian Era from a book I no longer recall the name of. However, I remember look on my teacher’s face when I handed in my 25 page project.

    I spent the entirety of a Saturday staring at my glaring computer screen, letting the words wash me away into a time of cobblestones and corsets, men with fancy hats and women in lavish dresses with too many frills and lace. I had started with nearly thirty pages, a whopping 28, and I spent my Sunday editing it.

    My teacher and classmates were all shaken. How could this tiny, five foot tall, 13 year old girl produce 25 pages in two days? Admittedly I handed in the project a week early, eager to hear some feedback. The friends who had known me since elementary all laughed and nodded. “Emily likes to write,” is all they’d say. After receiving what I thought was a well deserved 98, my passion for writing grew.

    Now it is 2017, I’m almost 17 and writing is still my passion. But there is a line in the sand. My dreams of one day writing a book is still an ambitious task. And I’m still not the best writer, but I’m working on that.

    Sincerely,
    Your (almost) 17 year old daughter.

    1. ReathaThomasOakley

      Emily, right now I have little time for much of a reply, but I’m moved by this post. Many decades ago I was in your frame of mind, parents not quite so harsh, mainly didn’t understand. However, my youngest son’s father actively discouraged him from pursuing a career in music, had all the reasons he’d never make it, would die broke, etc., etc. Son is now assistant concertmaster for the top South American orchestra in a country that appreciates the arts, etc. Stick with your dream, find mentors, never doubt your ability. I’m back to my dream after many wonderful years of other professions, but I’m back. You will find great folks here who will encourage and guide. Keep writing.

    2. Bushkill

      Brilliantly penned. In education, we tell people all the time that they can be whatever they want and then spend the rest of the year turning them into what we want them to be. it doesn’t seem to make any sense at all. I feel for the student that wants to be a writer, the one that wants to be an engineer, and the one that wants to be a farmer. At one point or another, in twenty years of teaching, I’ve had them sitting next to each other in my math class. Be yourself and chase your passion. Life is crushingly hard trying to live another’s dreams as your own.

      1. Jay

        Generally, what really happens is we spend time telling people that we can be whatever they want, but when they come to us excited about the prospect of doing something they really want to do, we always end up telling them, “Except that.”

        I was in E.C.’s position growing up. My father told me that writing would amount to nothing, and maybe he was right. While I do sell works often, I do not make enough to live entirely off my publishing credits. However, and maybe I sound entirely cliche, I still managed to accumulate plenty from my writing.

        My father said it would never amount to nothing, but here’s a list of things amounting to something:

        1. I love to write, and there is nothing that can take the amazing feeling I get writing a story down, whether someone reads it or not.
        2. There was nothing more satisfying that the day I proved to my father that people love my writing and are willing to pay for it… and that eve if only one person moves my work besides me, then I’m a huge success.
        3. I learned so much about people, life, experiences, how to look at the world different than other mortals do, and so much more simply because I’ve lived the lives of so many people through so many characters that I am a better person than I was one story ago, two stories ago, and fifty stories ago.
        4. I have a passion that never gets old, and whether or not people read my work, my passion will always be there ready for me to enjoy the moment I sit down with my coffee, coke, or whatever and start hammering away the next scene. That’s something they can never take away from me.
        5. First and foremost, I do it for me. I do it for my wife. I do it for my daughter. I do it for my readers. I DO NOT do it for the naysayers. I DO NOT do it for the people who don’t like my work. I do it for the people that matter.

        If all of these things are you in some way or another, then you’re already more successful than you realize.

    3. JRSimmang

      Remember, your words are yours and will always be. When all else fails, when the computers die and the sun dims, your words will remain and carry us into the future.

      Plus, you can always write your own endings (cliche as that sounds). Every one I’ve met winds up in a story of mine in one way or another.

      1. E.C

        I wanted to say thank you, to you all. I really appreciate the words of encouragement and understanding, something that has not yet reached me here. As a teenage writer I get bashed a lot and without an outlet for my writing I was really saddened that my stories couldn’t reach other people. I was upset that my ideas would never be seen and heard, or digested (no pun intended). I came across Writer’s Digest multiple times and thought to myself “It’s too sophisticated for me.” I finally decided to at least try it out. and now I find that I made a very good decision. I’m more motivated than ever now, and I’m grateful for the time you put in to read this letter.

      1. calinamircea

        I think you are very brave Emily, but you know that! I enjoyed so much the honesty you put in those lines. “I let your words drown mine…” I’m still having a hard time getting my parents’ words out of my head, they still come up in new and surprising ways. I find myself saying them in conversations and then I look around confused: “what’s that, who said that?”

    4. Judythe

      E.C., good for you. It sounds as though you do, indeed have talent. Follow in the footsteps of the many writers who, like you did not receive encouragement from their parents. Thank heavens for your teachers who do.
      I have written all my life and finally published my first novel at the age of 77. I have little doubt that you will achieve that long before I did.

      Listen to your heart and do what you love.
      Judy, a fellow writer.

    5. Beebles

      Oh, you’ll write that book alright. I think your letter has struck a chord with many here, as we’ve all been knocked back at somepoint, by others or oursevles. And we are all striving to be better. Best advice that helped me – just write. Be a little selfish and just write. Polishing is for later. Once you’ve finished a 50k word novel, the next one will be easier because you know you can do it.

    6. Tysheena Jackson

      E.C.,

      Reading your letter reminded me so much of myself! I’m just a few years older than you and let me tell you, you’ve got it! The wisdom leaking off of your words and the ambition alone lets me know that you will never give up on your dreams. At 16, (or 17, perhaps, with your birthday nearing) you are told that you cannot be MANY things! Some things are realistic enough to accept but when it comes to things that make your heart beat– never ever take no for an answer! Keep your head above the noise and write about whatever makes you breathe!

      As you grow older you will realize that the opinions of others can do little to what you were made to do. But it’s all a choice. And you know what, it looks like you’re already realizing it. Wishful future, Emily!

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