Craft Column, Part 1: On Our Earliest Writing

Mar 28th, 2009

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photo by: Jason Nicholls

photo by: Jason Nicholls

Meditations on Early Writing:
….On Camp Letters

(…an excerpt from an unpublished novel, about a writer…but that’s another story…)

Back in the day, before we were virtual, we used to keep postcards and letters in shoeboxes. The girls would write on stationery, cool yellow sheets about the size of a paperback. Sometimes cute white dots would frame the page, matching in a profound way the very round, bubbly handwriting of the girls whose notes you copied.

The boys scribbled and drew cartoons right in the middle of sentences. They were Vonnegut-style letters, before any of us had ever read Vonnegut, disjointed and scrawled and somehow fitting together into a personality, if not a coherent series of thoughts.

We sent these to each other during the summer, when one of us was away at camp, the other bored to death at home. We equaled roughly the sum of the letters we received, how many people missed us enough to write us doodle-y notes about nothing.

And we kept them. In shoeboxes that some of us are just now collecting from our mothers, who are unexpectedly sick of playing hostess to our childhoods. We sometimes read these letters now and we are shocked, not at how far away it all seems, but at how close, how similar.

We are sweetly familiar to ourselves, and it dawns on us that perhaps we always have been.

…And now, the letters somehow mean something more than the friend or more-than-friend ever did; the admirer who saw fit to imagine us once is today the same as the ink. Incubating in those shoeboxes are echoes of us, chaotic scraps of becoming something.

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