word craft



The Thanks­giv­ing tra­di­tion in my house­hold is to go around the table and allow every­one to say what they are thank­ful for. There will be no such table at my home this year (thanks, Covid) though if the weath­er is decent, we shall share some out­door din­ner with my job­less (thanks, Covid) son and his delight­ful girlfriend.

Thank you

There are all kinds of folks I could put on my thank you list, my wife, my kids, my friends such as my edi­tors, pub­lic­i­ty director…but a writer like me needs to go out of the way to thank his readers.

Not long ago a young lady, hav­ing recent­ly read The True Con­fes­sions of Char­lotte Doyle, wrote to me:

“I fell in love with the sto­ry and with Char­lotte, with the Sea­hawk and her crew. My imag­i­na­tion ran wild. I would pre­tend I was climb­ing the rig­ging with Char­lotte in the storm, cling­ing tight­ly to the ropes so I didn’t slip. I was com­plete­ly immersed by the sto­ry. It was won­der­ful to see Char­lotte defy the gen­der roles of her soci­ety and fol­low her dreams.”

I think it’s impos­si­ble for a writer to get a bet­ter response than that. But I must admit, when I get such let­ters, what comes into my head is, “Did I real­ly write that book?”

I can speak only for myself, but when I write a book my sole goal is to write a good sto­ry, a sto­ry that grabs a reader’s atten­tion, and car­ries them to anoth­er place, anoth­er expe­ri­ence, anoth­er emotion.

Some­times (I’m tru­ly not sure how) I reach that goal. Some­times not. But I always try to live by my mantra, “Writ­ers don’t write writ­ing, they write reading.”

But writ­ers do only half the job. They need read­ers who are will­ing to engage in the sto­ry, who dive ful­ly into the expe­ri­ence, who take joy in the read­ing-ride to … someplace.

I always go back to what I heard Don­ald Hall (our for­mer poet lau­re­ate) once say:

“The writer’s job is to write what is like the let­ter O. But she/he writes the let­ter C. If the gap is too big the read­er can not fill it. If the gap is too small there is no rea­son for the read­er to fill it. But if the gap is just right, the read­er fills the gap with his/her own expe­ri­ence and the cir­cle (O) is complete.”

The writer and read­er are col­lab­o­ra­tors. Think of them as two indi­vid­ual hands. Only when they come togeth­er is there a joy­ful noise.

So, this writer this Thanks­giv­ing gives thanks for his readers—whoever and wher­ev­er you are—for the joy we cre­ate together.

3 thoughts on “Thanksgiving”

  1. Thank YOU for this and all of your oth­er blog posts. I read and love them. Some­times I miss a week but always try to go back. It is one of my absolute favorites as you are a favorite writer who has touched so many. And will con­tin­ue to do so. Safe Thanks­giv­ing and pray­ing for vac­cine and enough Regen­eron for all who need it. Pray­ing for guid­ance to know what is best to do on Thanks­giv­ing din­ner day which for us is not Thurs. but Sat­ur­day this year.

  2. And I am thank­ful for all the advice you have giv­en me and count­less oth­er writ­ers over the years. One of my favorite Avisms to date: “Writ­ing does­n’t lead to good liv­ing, liv­ing leads to good writ­ing.” Have a hap­py, snow-free Thanks­giv­ing this year!


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