A Letter to the Woman Who Taught Me to Keep Writing

I love Man Repeller‘s monthly Writers Club prompts — they’re a good exercise even when I don’t come up with anything worth sending in. Last month’s was a fan letter; I addressed mine to Shirley Jackson (whose ability to write in her head continues to amaze and inspire me).

Dear Shirley Jackson,

I first read the story that made you famous-famous in my eighth-grade English class. It wrapped me in a full-body dread that took weeks to shake. That age was, for me, one of wild imaginations rarely realized. What happened after the first stone was cast? I filled it in despite myself.

Many years later, I escaped from a too-long Thanksgiving with your collection and devoured it in one sitting. The stories, the short, rictal gems, were each, in some way, about the effects of oppressive expectations — to be a good wife, a good mother, a good housekeeper, a good neighbor. You took the mundane and slowly inched it into the macabre. By the end of each, I thought, Of course, and also, How awful. From this, I learned that there is infinite possibility in the familiar.

[You can read the rest on Man Repeller!]

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