Writing to strangers

It hasn’t been a month since I sent this letter, but I’m feeling apprehensive. I’m feeling frantic.

Because of my personal connection with the house, because one of my sisters met a (former?) resident a few years ago who offered her to stop by anytime, because I feel so ready to write this story, I let one possibility slide out and away–what if they don’t let me in?

Late last week I took the kids to the park we used to walk to. It was so hot and I’d always loved that wading pool. I had an excuse to drive through the neighborhood and elicit odd looks from a next door neighbor. I imagine what he was thinking, Creepy, what are they looking for? Nobody drives through here. Man, I look buff in these shorts.

Or not.

Honestly, I’m always shocked to see any life on the outside, everything about the neighborhood looks closed up tight and snug. Out of everything I remember, I remember kids. Freeze tag. Flashlight tag. Sprinklers. Swimming suits and bare feet splashing along the gutters in the street. Waiting out the storm with the garage door open. Lawn chairs. The green fishin’ boat with the leaping bass on the side. The smell of gasoline. That astonishing feeling the air has just after the storm as the sun comes out–half the sky still lead gray.

Someone asked me, What’s plan B? And I don’t know. I hadn’t realized I needed one. Right deep down in my writing bones I am certain of this one thing, my story. I’m too chicken to go knocking on doors.

Maybe they’re just away on vacation.

Go ahead, tell me I’m wrong. What do you think, kitty cat?


About E. Victoria Flynn

E. Victoria Flynn is a mother and a writer living in Southern Wisconsin. Published in a variety of venues, Victoria is currently writing the first in a series of three fantasy novels based on Cornish folklore. When not taking part in a shrieking dance party or engrossed in her own little fictions, Victoria is keen on art, the natural world and people unafraid to explore their own brilliance.
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13 Responses to Writing to strangers

  1. Lisa says:

    Victoria, I’ve been thinking about this for awhile, and I do have a perspective to consider. I know that I sometimes set up obstacles that keep me from doing what I say I want to do (this needs to change, or that needs to happen). However, when my writing does go well is when I let go and trust that if I show up (re: Elizabeth Gilbert’s ole! http://www.ted.com/talks/elizabeth_gilbert_on_genius.html), the universe will act not only as my muse but my agent, putting in place a plan that I don’t at the time understand.

    While I would love to read here soon that you have heard from the family and that they invite you in with open arms (and that still may happen), I can also see very clearly how their not responding is also part of your story; in fact, it may be just what needs to happen.

    You don’t need them to do anything specific for what you have to do. You are all you need. Believe it with all your heart.

    • pennyjars says:

      And I’ve thought this and thought this and thought this again. As much as I want to feel the Huzzah of walking through those doors, and terror, I know too how I can lay the entire place out from front door to basement bath in my mind. And the way things move in precision when the writing is true and right…Absolutely. And the setting myself up to depend on outside circumstances before I can start…I was hoping nobody would notice.

      Thank you, Lisa, for calling my hand.

  2. Beth Hoffman says:

    I love Lisa’s response, in fact, she voiced something I was thinking when you initially wrote the letter. If, for whatever reason, you don’t hear from them, then your story just might take a twist that you hadn’t imagined. And maybe, just maybe, that twist will lead you to write something you’ve never considered. XO!

  3. I don’t know the answer, but I’m eager to hear what happens next.

  4. I love Lisa’s response, too. Taking action and writing that letter may have just been the catalyst to get you going. In your mind and memory, you have everything you need. The way you write, I don’t even need a photo of the house for you to take me there.

  5. The Girl says:

    Oh, I love the idea of the lack of the response becoming part of the story, though I hope for what you hope for: that you can get back in there and revel in that experience. I grew up on a farm and the place where I lived has long since been demolished, but I think a whole lot about asking to go back and run in familiar woods, climb old trees, wander fields and wade in creeks. You’re brave! I haven’t asked yet.

  6. Eglentyne says:

    Victoria, We have lived in our house for about six years. Several families have lived in this house. The previous family lived here only three years, but they were close friends with the next door neighbors, with whom they keep in touch. The other day when my husband wandered out to the front yard, the previous neighbor, (let’s call her Jill, who lives in Washington now), was standing with the next door neighbor in her yard. The three of them chatted for a few minutes, and when Dan came back inside to tell me about how they talked about some of the changes we’d made to the house, my first emotion was a flare of jealousy. I laughed at myself right after that. Jealousy? Really? The feeling surprised me.

    As I thought about my reaction, I wondered if meeting a previous resident of your home is a little bit like meeting a previous lover of your partner. Someone who has intimate knowledge of a person or place that is really important to you.

    My jealousy was only momentary, and I’m sure that if Jill had asked to take a look around the house, I would have invited her in. But I can imagine that if I could have that little flare of jealousy, another person might have stronger feelings. Just tossing in that perspective for you. 🙂

    xo Dani

    • pennyjars says:

      “I wondered if meeting a previous resident of your home is a little bit like meeting a previous lover of your partner.”

      Wow, Dani. Thanks for this.

  7. Karen Sosnoski says:

    I think you struck a nerve with this post. Your well written anxiety made me anxious–I could all too easily identify with it. And I love what your friend Lisa said since it is soooo easy to set up some outside circumstance as the “sign” we need to give up or go on as writers….I’ve been doing it all week.

    You could knock on the door though, right? Because at the very least that would break the stasis and thicken the plot.

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