Andi Cumbo - Writer, Editor, Online Writing Courses, Classes & Lessons

With Grace, not Chagrin – A Review of Letters to Me

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One of the things I love best about having friends who are writers is getting to see their work in print. It gives me joy for them, and I’ve worked hard for that joy, to put aside competition and jealous to achieve it. So their success is particular rewarding to me. 

So when I saw that Shawn Smucker, Lore Ferguson, Eric Sheridan Wyatt, and Tamára Lunardo were all in a book together – well, I was excited.  The book is called Letters to Me: Conversations with a Younger Self, and the basic premise is that each of these writers is writing a letter to themselves at crucial time earlier in their lives. Sometimes, the writers go back just a couple of years; sometimes, they’re writing back 20 years.  But each letter hopes to encourage that younger version of themselves through a tough time.

The premise seems rather basic, but the way these writers have handled the concept complicates it. None of them write with huge regrets or even nostalgia. There is just honesty and a wish to clarify – for their older selves, perhaps – why they made that choice or acted that way and why that moment, those steps of their journey were okay.  It’s lovely really.

A few of the pieces are too abstract for me, and I feel a bit like the writer is afraid to give detail – either because s/he will seem foolish or because she forgets that we don’t know all the stories of their lives. At times, I was really eager to know what exactly had happened and found myself bored when I didn’t get specifics.

But some of the pieces – Shawn, and Tamára’s, and Brian McLaren’s come to mind in particular – left me in tears because of their grace and their honesty.  I won’t give away the last line of Shawn’s essay, but let’s just say it was one of the best closing lines I have ever read in an essay.

So if you, like me, have some moments in life that you’d like to see more clearly, if you’d like to imagine what you might have said to encourage or guide your younger self at times, if you can look back on your life – the painful moments and the glorious ones – and still be glad that they all brought you to this moment, right now, today . . . then, back up Letters to Me. I think you may just find yourself there a bit . . . I know I did.

What would you say to your younger self if you could?

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Author: Andi

I am a writer, editor, and writing teacher whose most recent book, The Slaves Have Names, tells the story of the people who were enslaved on the plantation where I was raised. When I'm not working, my husband and I are working to make our small farm - God's Whisper Farm - a retreat here at the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

  • http://deuceology.wordpress.com LarryTheDeuce

    For the age I would write to myself about I would tell my younger self that period influences my life, but doesn’t define it.
    LarryTheDeuce recently posted…Resignation, Part 15My Profile

    • http://www.andilit.com Andi

      Good wisdom, Larry.

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