It’s highly likely this piece will end up lost in your slush pile.
What to say to an editor of an anthology about traveling during a year when international borders were closed? How to differentiate my story from the others? I suppose I’ll just tell you the truth. Despite all the horror of the last year, I published something in the genre of travel writing. This postage stamp may be total waste, but I have taken you up on the invitation to send published work from 2020. Here it is. What joy! Look at little me accomplishing life goals as society around me collapses! I used to wonder if I would have danced to the violins on the Titanic, and now I know. Yes, I would have been there for the encore.
This year, your anthology arrived at my house in a blue and white envelope in my mailbox. Usually I purchase ________________ in airport souvenir stores. Or I read one piece at a time standing in airport bookstores while I am on a layover. Little rituals of my life that ended this year as a result of the Covid pandemic. Like many people, 2020 marked a year where I did not travel. I have been 30 miles from my house by bicycle, and I’ve learned every walking path in the five mile radius from my front door. I’ve watched sunrises from my home office feeling thankful that I have a job. As the full moon crossed my condo skylight, I have blinked tears of gratitude for my home. This year has been remarkable because I’ve read more books than I ever have in one year—142 at the time of this letter. I’m hoping to get to 145 by the end of the year. The words of others have saved me. For as long as I can remember, if I’m honest.
I used to work in a bookstore and I would introduce visiting authors on tour. I sat in the front row and listened to them read and take questions from the audience. Most writers said something along the lines that they wrote their book because it was a story that they needed to read. Fantasy writers said this. Memoirists held back tears when they said this. Romance novelists smiled as they said this. Nature writers. Historians. Fiction writers. A story that I needed to read, they said.
I’ve thought quite a bit about authors this year.
I’ve thought about travel writers and all of the people who have lost their livelihoods. Have the words of others saved them? What books do they need now? What art is being created in the midst of so much grief?
What I’m attempting to do with the piece that you are holding in your hands (quite possIbly poised over the recycling bin) is a chapter from a book that I’ve been writing for quite some time. Four editors turned it into something way better than my original. This past year I had planned to figure out how to finish my book but then Covid hit, as we say. After work, in The Before Times, I used to write. This year, I took up painting and I read the words of others when the sun set.
Being a writer felt too hard this year, so I carved out a predictable life in so much unpredictability. I learned how to enjoy my backyard, new trails, and the horizons close to my home. The girl I was in this story thought pandemics were a thing of other centuries, and if I remember correctly, books saved her too. Even if you don’t select my piece, I have printed two copies just now. One for you and one that I’ll use as a bookmark for the 2021 anthology. I’ll tuck it in between my favorites stories that I will keep close to home.
May the wind be at your back,
*This is how not to write a letter to an editor, by the way, but I decided to just say fuck it and send this stranger a letter in a hand painted envelope. Think Zodiac Killer sans the murders and with watercolor paint and better spelling. Forgive the vagueness of this post, but I really wanted to get at least one post per month this year, and well here it is. I removed the name of the editor and the title of the anthology so this horror won’t match up with the Internet Robot that pulls all our thoughts together. Forthcoming in the new year is my historical fiction novel about the woman Wallace Hartley left behind. She’s a time traveler and I’ll meet her at a Siouxsie and the Banshee concert. We’ll bond over both knowing all of the lyrics to “Night Shift” and we’ll smoke clove cigarettes. She’ll tell me how she begged him not to go. Never travel by ship, she’ll say, right before she wishes me a happy new year and tells me that I should really finish that book before I start another one.