by Carollyne Hutter
I have to confess: every once in awhile I buy a book about some element of writing, either at a writers’ conference or at Barnes and Noble. Then I make myself some tea, sit down with the book, and prepare to read it, but I usually don’t actually read it. Instead, I skim the table of contents and read the back blurb and think how good it would be for me to read this book, sort of like eating Brussel sprouts, and then I sigh, reach for a novel to read and put the writing book on my bookshelf in the writing book section, where it lives with all the other never-to-read, good-for-me books on writing.
When I heard Andi Cumbo-Floyd had written a book on writing, LOVE LETTERS TO WRITERS: ENCOURAGEMENT, ACCOUNTABILITY, AND TRUTH-TELLING, I sadly assumed that the book would just live on the moribund writing book section of my book shelf, but to my surprise, I am actually reading this book. It comes with me in my backpack, living right next to my laptop, and when I have a free moment, I’ll read a chapter or two.
Why is this writing book different for me? First, Andi has a warm, engaging way of writing that draws me in and it feels like we are chatting over coffee about writing and her life on the farm. Second, Andi really understands what it’s like to be a writer and has wise advice and, more importantly, great encouragement. Three, the book is composed of 52 short chapters, which works nicely for me as I can read a chapter or two in a few minutes and muse on what she is saying.
I was curious about LOVE LETTERS TO WRITERS: ENCOURAGEMENT, ACCOUNTABILITY, AND TRUTH-TELLING and Andi was kind enough to answer my questions.
Q: What inspired you to write this book?
Well, I’ve been writing letters to a community of writers that I coordinate for over two years now. Because I know those people, because I love them, and because I know some of their individual struggles with writing, my letters to them come from a very personal place inside myself. So, when one of the community members suggested I compile some of the letters into a book, I listened and compiled 52 of the letters into this book.
Q: You said the letters come from your weekly letters to your online writing community. How did you select which letters to include and which ones to leave out?
It was a highly scientific process. Ha!! Like everyone, I have good writing days and bad ones, good ideas and poor ones, so when I read through the two years of letters I’d compiled, I looked for the letters that had elicited large responses from the community members, the ones that still evoked some emotion or deeper thought in me, or the ones that seemed to align with what I was seeing other people in the writing world talk about. Letters that were too pedantic, too set in a specific time, or too boring got left out.
Q: Which of your chapters have been the most popular and why?
There’s a chapter on the way strong emotion can lead you into a deeper truth, a chapter drawn from seeing an infant after my miscarriage. That one gets a lot of commentary. The chapter on sales and writing also gets a lot of response since so many of us really struggle with marketing as part of our work as writers, especially in the 21st century.
Q; Which is your favorite chapter and why? (My favorite is “When We Feel Guilty for Writing.”)
Oh, I have lots of chapters I really like (is it arrogant to say that?), but at least today, my favorite is “The Call to Bravery” because one of the hardest things for me to do as a writer (and a person in general) is to ask for help. Yet, as much as the act of writing is solitary, the writing life cannot be. . . and so we need to reach out and ask for people for assistance with our work. It’s an act of courage, but a necessary one.
Q: If you could give just one advice to writers (both newbie and established writers) what would it be?
Be true to yourself while staying open to learn new things. Not all of us are going to get a million Instagram followers and not all of us want to write romance novels. Not all of us can go on national book tours and not all of us can write every day at 5am. We have to do what works for us, even as we try out new things, consider lessons from other writers, and stretch our muscles in places that are uncomfortable, like marketing. In the end, though, we answer most to ourselves and need to honor who we are in the world in our writing lives.
Q: How do you get the ideas to write your weekly letters? Do you have them planned out ahead of time?
Oh gracious, planning—what’s that? No, I’m really very much a seat of the pantser when it comes to all things writing. So usually, on Sunday evening—the letters go out on Mondays—I spend a few minutes pondering what has “stuck in my craw” about writing the previous week. It might be something someone mentioned in a blog or shared in our community online space. It might be something that’s coming in my own writing life. It might be something I draw from one of the writing books on my own shelves. I look around a bit and find what feels like it has the most energy for me that week, and I write about that thing.
Q: Where can people buy your book, LOVE LETTERS TO WRITERS: ENCOURAGE, ACCOUNTABILITY, AND TRUTH-TELLING?
Oh, thanks for asking. The book is available everywhere books are sold—Barnes and Noble https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/love-letters-to-writers-andi-cumbo-floyd/1127414141?ean=9780692960806 , OverDrive https://www.overdrive.com/media/3643373/love-letters-to-writers , IndieBound https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780692960806 , iBooks, Amazon, and . . pretty much everywhere.
Andi Cumbo-Floyd is a writer, editor, and farmer who lives at the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains with her husband, four dogs, four cats, six goats, and thirty-five chickens. She writes regularly about writing at andilit.com.
Carollyne Hutter, www.HutterWriter.com, regularly writes on environmental, international, and scientific topics for both adults and children.