The Benediction of Place

I’ll turn forty in three years.

I recognize upon approaching this third score of years that the initial two have been largely peripatetic. The first score’s wanderings were undetermined by me, contingent upon my parents’ choices—graduate school, better jobs, a new house. Before the age of sixteen, I’d lived in ten different homes. My second score echoed the first for similar reasons, though its upheavals were at least ostensibly of my own choosing—the beginnings and ends of marriages, jobs, graduate schools.

Of all the places I’ve stopped and started, Mississippi will always be my home, a sort of default way of being as much as a place.

On sleepless nights, I close my eyes and trace the geography of the small town where my family spent the last twenty-five years, where I lived from fifth grade to high school graduation, and to which I have returned countless times, sometimes for months at a stretch. I map the homes along Grand Avenue in Yazoo City on the flat edge of the Delta, bestriding the last loess bluffs drenched with the new-grape smell of kudzu blossoms and the magenta extravagance of azaleas. [Read more...]

On Plumber’s Block and the Birth Process, Part 2

Guest Post

Yesterday, I asked a question that I will now attempt to answer. That question was: Are writers truly alone when they enter their private writing spaces?

My answer is no. Or at least no, they are not alone most of the time.

Who goes with them, you ask? Oh, lots of people.

I will tell you who goes with me:

For starters, in this year as the Milton Fellow, provided with the all but unfathomable luxuries of time and money and space for my writing, most days when I sit down to write, my editor and friend, Greg Wolfe, enters the room with me. Not because he ever actually enters the room or because he’s constantly checking up on me. He’s been as kind and generous and open-handed with this gift as anyone could be. In fact, Greg is one of the kindest people I know and one of the most universally supportive of my writing, but don’t tell him I told you so. [Read more...]

On Plumber’s Block and the Birth Process, Part 1

Guest Post

Recently, I watched a documentary that featured famous Irish writers giving advice about writing. When asked about writer’s block, one famous Irish writer scoffed, “Writer’s block? There’s no such thing. I mean you don’t hear plumber’s talking about plumber’s block. You just have to get over yourself, take up a pen, and write.”

If you are reading this and thinking to yourself, “Hear, hear! Well said, Mr. Famous Irish Writer,” then just know before I proceed that I see where you are coming from and am not wholly unsympathetic. But I submit, as a thoroughly un-famous American writer, that perhaps it’s more complicated than that, not the least because I actually know some plumbers and there is absolutely such a thing as plumber’s block.

Allow me to illustrate. [Read more...]

A Reading with Kelly Foster

If you’re a Good Letters reader in the Seattle era, blogger emerita Kelly Foster, now Image’s 2012-2013 Milton Fellow in Creative Nonfiction, will be reading her work at the Seattle Pacific Art Center Gallery on Friday, February 8, 2013, at 7 pm. Find out more event details here, and go here to sign up for our local events list and receive occasional updates on arts and faith events in the Seattle area.

An excerpt from “Blood Roses,” an essay by Kelly Foster:

“He doesn’t leave. But I must. I must go back to my cabin, and I must go alone. I close the door behind me on the way out, and I count out the minutes until dinner without even realizing I am counting them. Fifteen. Fifteen minutes in which I will not be seeing him and he will not be seeing me and we will not be listening to music. And that will be the measure I use to measure time for the next two months of camp. Thirty minutes till I see him. Thirty minutes since I saw him. Fifteen minutes until dinner. [Read more...]

Staking My Life on Farm Boys

A Farewell: Kelly Foster is retiring from the Good Letters blogging team with this post. She will soon marry, relocate to Seattle, and spend the next year writing as Image’s Milton Fellow. We thank her for the gift of words and faith she has shared here.

My grandfather’s death came surprisingly quickly, and I witnessed his rapid decline over the three consecutive Sundays leading up to it.

On the first Sunday, he was still at home, refusing help when sitting up or adjusting his still powerful body on the bed. Years of throat cancer had left his voice barely audible, but he managed to tell us, as he always did during our visits, how proud he was we’d stopped by. When my mother showed him my engagement ring, he marveled over the craftsmanship. [Read more...]


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