a charming note

In the book Making a Literary Life author Carolyn See suggests writing charming notes (her words) to authors who have inspired you. This exercise is slightly, okay, really intimidating to me, but I can see the benefits of it so I decided to give it a try.

Because of where I live letters are not the best option available– I am very frightened of the post office actually having only gone there once where I saw a mass of people pushing and scrambling to get to the desk. It didn’t seem like something I wanted to be a part of due to my fear of being groped and all, so I decided that the regular post is to be avoided at all costs.

Instead, I opted for an email. I wrote a short but charming note expressing my gratefulness then re-read it about twenty times and agonized over my word choice. Do I sound witty? Or silly? Is it too formal? Too familiar? Seriously. It was five lines, but you would have thought I was sending a letter to Queen Elizabeth the way I fussed over it.

I finally pressed the send button and went to bed. The next morning I checked my inbox as usual. And to my surprise I had gotten a response! A very brief but friendly response. It was the most encouraging thing of the week aside from the fact that no one in my household threw up and we’ve had consistent power. I think I might throw a party tonight.

If you are an aspiring writer or dreamer I highly recommend See’s book mentioned above. Honestly, I hope that some day I’m receiving as well as sending these kinds of notes out. We’ll see. But it’s like my mother-in-law always says, “If you never have a dream, you never have a dream come true.” Exactly.

Have a great weekend!

a little inspiration

“Difficult times have helped me to understand better than before, how infinitely rich and beautiful life is in every way, and that so many things that one goes worrying about are of no importance whatsoever…” – Isak Dinesen

When I was in fourth grade my mother and aunt took me and my cousin to see the movie Out of Africa. It’s not exactly a children’s movie which made me feel a little grown up at the time. Since then it has remained one of my favorite movies–ever. It’s ironic to note that my husband has never actually watched it, even though I’ve seen most of his John Wayne movies. But I digress.

Out of Africa a story about love, loss, and the determination of a woman, Karen Blixen, to make a life for herself in colonial Nairobi in the earlier part of the 1900’s. And even though at ten I was not the intended audience, it left a deep impression on me. Maybe it was the picturesque landscapes that first drew me in—lions, a woman with a gun on a safari, white linen clothing, etc. Though later on it was definitely the story about the storyteller Isak Dinesen that spoke to my heart and has been with me ever since. For several years a copy of Out of Africa has been present on my writing desk for mere encouragement.

“All sorrows can be borne if you put them into a story or tell a story about them.” – Dinesen

At this point a very brief history might be helpful…

In 1914 Karen Blixen, who wrote under the pseudonym Isak Dinesen, moved to Kenya to marry her second cousin Bror. There, she and her new husband purchased a house and land just outside the city where they had hoped to have a thriving coffee plantation. She was in her late twenties when she moved there and spent almost two decades in Africa until a series of tragic events occurred and forced her to return to Denmark. Her memoir, Out of Africa, on which the movie is based, is about her life in Kenya minus most of the messy relationship parts on which she is doesn’t give many details—biographers did that later on.

“When you have a great and difficult task, something perhaps almost impossible, if you only work a little at a time, every day a little, suddenly the work will finish itself.” – Dinesen

Over the years, particularly when I was in college, I did quite a bit of research on Dinesen’s life and work. I love characters in general—both real and literary—and she was certainly fascinating and enigmatic in life and on paper. There’s something about her story that inspires me– her strength as she lived in a country very different than her native land of Denmark; her determination to find happiness, but often experiencing loss and sometimes physical pain; and finally the way she seemed to take life’s joys and disappointments and use them to craft her stories, which is what resonates so much with me now.

So whether it’s Isak Dinesen or Karen Blixen, she has been an inspiration in my life in ways I can’t aptly express in a blog post. If you are interested in further reading she has several collections of beautiful and sometimes haunting stories along with more stories from her experiences in Africa.

“God made the world round so we would never be able to see too far down the road.” – Dinesen