Intro to “Love Letters”

The “universal chord” theme of Issue 9 referred to the process of turning the private into the public, the personal and mundane into something universal and meaningful. In keeping with our goal of publishing new, untried authors, this issue included pieces by Megan Foss and Priscilla Hodgkins, both being published for the first time. Their stories captured emotionally fraught slices of life—and ways that life is lost—from very, very different vantage points. Hodgkins’s “Einstein Didn’t Dream of My Mother” is made of story fragments about the author’s experience caring for her elderly mother.

But Foss’s “Love Letters” resonated particularly strongly for me. It remains one of my most exciting reading experiences—not only from the early years of CNF, but in my reading life.

You have to understand: hundreds of hard-copy manuscripts flowed over the transom in the days before online submissions; there were piles on every flat surface, waiting to be read. And then: a story not only so raw, compelling, and human, but also so perfectly exemplifying the power of the genre. Fifteen years later, I retain a distinct memory of how it made me sit up straighter and pay closer attention, and how sad I felt when it ended.

As Foss describes her writing experience, she is simultaneously keeping several plates in the air with a perfect, subtle balance that combines personal history, social commentary, emotional pain, and psychological truth. The shifting between her vernacular and the “words and structures designed to make it palatable to the rest of the world” thrills me, still, after many readings.

Well before we became familiar with otherness, and even inured to its allure through Tony Soprano and Walter White, that theme is explicated and heightened here, not from some cinematic or observational remove, but because Foss herself is the Other. The circumstances and consequences of Foss’s life, which most of us view—and often, judge—from a great distance, are the propelling forces in this story of awakening and transformation.

True stories, well told, indeed.

And using gonna and hermeneutics in the same sentence, to boot.

– Patricia Park

About the Author

Patricia Park

Patricia Park co-founded Creative Nonfiction and has been involved in the running of virtually every aspect of the magazine over its twenty years—depending on who else was or wasn’t available. She continues to act as general business manager and is a member of both the editorial and foundation boards.

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