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October 20, 2017: A Letter to Betty Pierce

Dear Betty,

It was great getting together again and resuming our Hour of Power. It was probably good to take some time off and recharge our creative batteries. As always, I feel energized after talking with you – I always sing on the drive home.

It was also good getting caught up and talking about our current artistic endeavors. I was going to read you a short essay about the dumpster fire at the Alaska State Fair but decided against it. It just wasn’t far enough along. I am again excited about this project – after reading my posted dispatches a month ago, I nearly abandoned ship because I thought what I’d written was entirely too trite. But rereading them a few days ago, I realized that this was indeed a worthy

Betty's goat painting
Betty's goat painting

project. I am needing to put on my journalist hat and interject some more informational material. That’s the writerly problem I’m facing. I am lazy and don’t want to take the required energy to do this.

Every single good piece of writing presents a problem to the writer, one that must be solved before publication. Problem solving is good because it then moves one to the next level as a writer. Mediocracy kills.

The problem with this dispatch is how do I now make the transition to talking about the work that you read me yesterday? I’m going to take the easy way out and just jump off the proverbial diving board.

You pulled forth several sheets of yellow legal paper out of a folder and began reading me the first few pages of what (I hope) in time will be a novel. It was quite good – the detail drew me in and I really took an interest in Asia, the central character. You also had a sound trajectory as far as her future plans go – in the first few pages she left Nova Scotia and was heading for the Dawson City in the Yukon Territory. We talked about her making a trip to Inuvik, which is north of Dawson City.

However, I was dismayed in hearing that you don’t have high hopes for this book. You are calling it a romance novel and intend to get it done quickly and sell it for $1.99 on Amazon. Hearing this, a knot formed in my throat. I wanted to shake you and say “no, no, no, woman come to your senses. Put the time and care into this novel that it deserves and produce a quality work.”

You articulated a counter-argument, which is that you are doing this for fun and to make some pocket change. I have to say that I don’t fully understand why you would want to do this. My perspective, of course, is that of a full-time writer who was taught to value quality in all written work. I had great teachers who had very high standards. And all impressed upon me the importance of arete – Greek for excellence.

Good writing is partially the result of hard work. I know that you are not wanting to work hard at this project, and rather, just have some fun – but I can assure you that this will also be fun. Your character Asia is like you, a kind, generous, and thoughtful individual. And in the process of taking the time to further shaping her character, you are going to have insights that you would not have had otherwise.

Yes, I walked away from our meeting thinking that this is a project that is worth all the time, effort, and care that you have to give to it. You might now be shaking your head and saying “Alys doesn’t get it.” I do get it. It’s just that I sense that you are undervaluing your creative abilities.

I’m willing to give you an assist with this project, first and foremost as a listener. I want to know what’s to become of Asia. This should be proof that you have embarked on a terrific journey and should continue to stay the course.

See you next week,


Next: 291. 10/21/17: Ready for Winter

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