Writing about writing

Archive for May, 2016

Writing (and receiving) letters

When I was younger and email was not even a thing yet, I wrote letters to loved ones, especially to my grandparents. Before cell phones became “the thing,” my boyfriend and I wrote letters back and forth. I’ve saved them all, by the way. Throughout most of my younger years, my parents almost always sent my siblings and I either to summer camp and/or to spend a few weeks with our grandparents; my mom always sent cards to us. We were the only ones who actually received mail every day.

Soon after my husband and I moved to Missouri in the early nineties, faxing was the thing. My mom and I faxed letters back and forth at least once a week. I still wrote to my grandparents, but letters between my mom and I became faxes instead. My college friends and I completely lost touch as we moved into the digital age as we had never exchanged email addresses and never thought to do so because we simply quit writing letters.

Throughout the past 8 to 10 years, Facebook has become one of the two main means of communication with texting via cell phones the other. And I love Facebook. I am “friends” on Facebook with many of my friends from elementary school, most of whom I haven’t seen since the 6th grade!!! I’m currently “friends” with almost every single student I had during my first two years of teaching, almost twenty years ago. It is so wonderful being able to connect, by any means, with so many beloved friends and family.

But….you knew it was coming….I miss getting letters in the mail. Every so often, my mom and my sister both have sent me cards and letters and I have loved and appreciated every single one. Another pastor’s wife sent me a very sweet card a few weeks ago and has done so every so often over the years. (Thank you, sweet Nancy.) The other week, I received a very sweet card in the mail from a friend of mine. (Thank you, Dr. Laurie!!!)

It is simply so incredibly wonderful to open my mailbox and actually have a LETTER (or card) HAND-WRITTEN from a loved one. Do you remember that thrill we used to get when our computers would ding “You’ve got mail!”? I feel that and then some whenever I see a letter in my mailbox!

K230537.1020.Aevin Costner did a movie in 1997 called The Postman. It was panned by critics and did not do well in the theaters, but from the first viewing, it’s been on my list of one of my all-time favorite movies. I simply love it! In a nutshell, it’s a futuristic movie about the importance of letters. My favorite scene in the movie comes when one of the main characters, as he is standing in line to be shot, holds his hand high in the air with a precious letter held tightly between his fingers while his dying scream rings loud and clear: “Ride, Postman! Ride! Do you hear me?! I said, ‘Ride’!” (Even writing this I’m choked up.)

I will readily admit that I do love the ease and wonder of using modern technology as a means of communication, but I sincerely miss the incredible thrill of receiving a letter in the mail……

So, to my beloved friends and family, keep a weathered eye on your mail in your snail-mailbox for a letter and/or card from me. I can not possibly write to everyone at once, so please be patient….your letter/card will come.

And if you decide to write to me, that’s okay, too! (Please, no junk mail and don’t sell my address to places that send junk mail.)

Polly Anna Watson

75 Donald Rufty Road

Taylorsville, NC 28681

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To finish or not to finish….

Early in this past Spring semester, a student of mine recommended a book to me. She was so excited, “Oh! You’ll love it, Mrs. Watson! I’ll bring you my copy so you can read it! I just know you’ll love it!” It took most of the semester, but she finally brought the book for me. Because the end of the semester is so busy for me, it was after the semester was over before I was finally able to begin reading it.

Unfortunately, my student’s prediction that I would love the book did not come true. From the very first chapter, I was grossed out, disgusted, and just plain and simply disappointed. The book is a so-called “modern” interpretation on a great British classic. This modern version failed to capture my attention and it was, plain and simply, just awful.

In spite of that fact, I determinedly plowed through the novel until I finished it. A number of friends of mine told me that they would never force themselves to finish a book they so clearly disliked and that they would not waste their precious time on such drivel. I almost didn’t finish reading the book because it was so bad.

But something inside me compelled me to finish the book. There are very few books in my life that I have begun and not finished. One of them was a book I learned was written by a cult leader after I started reading it. Once I learned that about the author, I quickly got rid of that particular book. The only other books I’ve never finished are coloring books. I’ve almost always finished every single book I have ever started reading, whether I liked the book or not.

There have been plenty of books I have not enjoyed in the slightest, but I have finished every single one. A few of those books are:

  • Needful Things by Stephen King
  • Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Graham-Smith
  • All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
  • The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins
  • The House of Night series by P. C. and Kristin Cast

Why? Because I read. It’s what I do. Regardless of whether I like what I’m reading or not.

In a small way, I feel like if I don’t like something, I need to be able to say exactly why I don’t like that particular something. I can’t stand having discussions with people about books who haven’t even read the book they’re discussing, especially when such people so adamantly dislike the book. Well, why do you dislike the book? If you didn’t read it, how can you possibly know whether or not the book is any good. The typical response is, “Well, I read the first chapter and hated it, so I just quit reading it” or I hear, “Well, so-and-so told me it isn’t a good book, so I just never read it.”

UGH!!!!

Politically, don’t tell me which candidate I should vote for unless you have REAL knowledge–truth–about the candidates. Don’t spout off information you learned from Grandpa or Uncle Joe or from something you read on the internet.

Parents love hearing from someone who has 0 children how to raise their kids. Yeah. Right. That goes over real well. Not.

Or movies….I know hundreds of people who love movies like Talladega Nights and I honestly and truly can’t stand it.

But that is the beauty of the world we live in. It’s why there are hundreds of thousands of books, movies, tv shows, and a variety of political parties, and even a hundred different churches in a 10-mile square radius. And the list goes on.

We don’t all like the same thing. What you like, I might not like. What I like, you might not like. Look at the number of editors who rejected the Harry Potter series as an example of what I mean!!!!

You will never know, though, whether or not you like something for yourself unless you read it (watch it, learn about it, study it, etc.) yourself. I love it when someone tells me about a book he/she read that he/she just loved. I love the person’s enthusiasm. I’ve gotten excited enough because someone else was excited about a book that I’ve bought the book and started reading it within an hour of talking to the person who recommended the book!

I haven’t always liked the book as the first person did, and the people who read books I recommend don’t always like the books I recommend. But it is so much fun sharing what we enjoyed or didn’t enjoy about a story and being able to discuss the book intelligently rather than because one of us “heard about” the book or read the SparkNotes.

Critical thinking, at its heart, is being able to take in information, read, ruminate on it, research as needed, discuss with others, maybe even write about it, and come to a clear, logical, intellectual conclusion. When we haven’t done the necessary research, reading, etc., we can’t possibly formulate a logical or intellectual conclusion, especially not one that is our own.

So I have gone all the way around my arm to get to my elbow to say this: I read books all the way through to the ending even if I don’t like them.

What about you????

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