Recently I started following the YA Muses blog, after I met Katy Longshore at a local get-together. The prompt is this: “At a used book sale, you purchase a leather-bound volume. At home, you thumb through the pages and an old letter tumbles out. What does it say? Write the letter.”
Here’s my response to the prompt.
I knew you would find this letter if I hid it here, among the books you call friends. You can’t look at a book without picking it up, thumbing through it, getting pulled into story.
You call these books “friends” and I imagine your surprise when one of them betrays you with this note.
Because the stories are the problem. A woman obsessed, you cannot stop. You paused briefly to give birth, but before your daughter was even weaned, already the pen, the paper, and the book were there, open before you while she slept at your breast.
No one needs to tell you these years are fleeting. You watch them scream past, measuring them in unsellable manuscripts, pausing to breathe and scream back only if something, or some little person, dares to disrupt your solitude, silence, sanctuary.
The guilt of the time you take for your failings is heavy indeed. No wonder you take photographs, evidence of what time you do spend with her, hoping that those frozen memories will be enough to convince her, when she’s older, that everything you did, you did for her. That it was always about her, never you.
Let me tell you a secret: the dedication at the beginning of your manuscript – published, unpublished – will never be a substitute for you.
Put down the pen, and play with your daughter.