On Writing., Uncategorized

The book is ready for pre-order!

To my readers,

I’ve written and rewritten this post about a dozen times.

Every time I think I’ve nailed it I sit on the backspace button and start over. My heart is thudding. My lungs are full of breath that I don’t know how to release. I am more nervous than that time Andrew U. asked me to be his girlfriend in the 8th grade and I fumbled to change my relationship status in my AOL profile (yes, I was severely nervous about that one).

I’ve come to the conclusion that I could either dress this post up in really pretty words or I could just come out, bite down hard of my bottom lip, and just say it:

It’s here.

It’s finally, finally here. 


I am excited to share that my first book If You Find This Letter  (March 10, 2015) is available for pre-order!

Like, today. Like, right now. At all the major outlets where books are sold:

Amazon    B&N   Indiebound   CBD.com   Books a MIllion 

You can order it as a hardcover or ebook.

I’ll be honest: I’ve been crying all week. If you’ve followed along on my book writing journey then you know the truth already: I put my everything into this book. Absolutely everything. And you’re getting all of me when you get this book. It was exhausting & wonderful & a once-in-a-lifetime process to produce this book and I am just now getting the confirmation I prayed for this whole time: It was all so incredibly worth it. Thank you for that. 

So here’s the nitty gritty:

Pre-order sales matter a ton. They show booksellers and publishers that there is interest in what you’ve written. It would mean the world to me if you would preorder a copy of my memoir so that I can keep writing books for all of you. As a thank-you for pre-ordering, I’ll be continuously picking people out of the pre-order pile every month leading up to the release date of the book (March 10, 2015) to meet for half-hour online coffee dates. We will talk life, love, big plans, business, whatever you please! Just you + me + lots of coffee + heart stuff.

You can be eligible for a sweet, little coffee date by sending proof of purchase (a receipt, a screenshot, a selfie with your morning coffee, whatever!) to preorder@hannahbrencher.

And here’s another sweet thang:

I know March is a ways away, but I’ve got another project– a fold-and-mail stationery pad for writing love letters– that hits stores on December 23, 2014. It’s full of fun & funky prompts and it is perfect for the folks who adore snail mail.


You can snag a copy here.

Sappy little side-note that doesn’t seem to fit anywhere else in this post: 

Each of you has no idea how much I’ve been encouraged by your comments, your tweets, your emails, and letters. Thank you for inspiring me to keep writing and keep pushing. I feel so blessed to have you in this community and I don’t know if I say it nearly enough: thank you for taking me just as I am. You are the gold that makes this whole life good.


On Writing.

It was all you had to give when you were asked to give it all.

“I poured my brain and heart into this, and maybe I’ll hate it in two years, because that’s the nature of being my age, but for now, it’s the most powerful thing I can give.”



The ground didn’t shake.

The trees didn’t bend. No earthly element was pushed out of its place when the book was done. The whole week before, I’d been anticipating what would happen when I placed that last period down. Would I crawl up into a ball on the floor and cry? I mean, that wouldn’t be so different from the events of every other day after my writing hours were through. Would I finally feel a sense of peace? I’d been taking Doubt and Insecurity and Fear into the wrestling ring of my mind for the last few months and I wanted to be able to dole out a final punch of Victory that would wipe them all out. 

I had no real idea what would happen, outside of me or inside of me, when I finished my first book. The one I’ve been working on for seven months now. I just knew I had to keep typing, and keep going, and keep trying until I reached the point where I could whisper or scream, “It’s done. It’s over. It’s through.”

It was a Friday night when the first draft of the book was finally, finally finished. I remember it was dark outside already, since it was January. Earlier in the day I’d taken a walk. In the rain. Like a zombie, letting the little water pellets fall all over my skin and not really caring that maybe the neighbors thought I was crazy for walking in the rain in the thick of January. I remember praying to God, deeper prayers than usual— “Please, get this out of me. Please. Let me be finished.” 

That’s what no one ever talks about (or rarely talks about) when it comes to writing a book— it’s painful. So painful. In a way that I don’t actually know how to type but there are words waiting somewhere for me. And this is no disrespect to people who’ve felt other forms of pain, I am not trying to dishonor you. It is only to say that getting a book out of you– resolving a story that is still happening all around you– isn’t a fluffy feeling. It hurts like hell. And some days you don’t leave the room you’re writing inside of for ten hours. And other days you can’t do much more than cry. And then some days you are slamming the keys screaming, Yes, Yes, Yes! because you’ve reached a point of breakthrough— and everyone loves a breakthrough. 

And every so often I would scroll my mouse to click on the notifications for new emails. A mental break from my own words. And I would click the emails with ugly subject lines. And I would read the stories of people I’d never met who told me about loves lost and passions coming back. They left their heartbreak in my inbox like mints on pillows in the hotel room. I couldn’t respond to every single one so I’d just take a sticky note and I’d scribble down their name. I’d post it on my wall. I’d say a quick prayer. And I’d keep going. I’d keep writing with them in the forefront of my mind.

And I can only describe it all– all the hours in the writing room– as this: writing a book is like giving birth. There is the carrying of something inside of you. That something is a precious something. There are the slow and throbbing contractions. There is the heavy labor that leaves you ugly crying on the floor. There is the release— the solid release and assurance that the pushing is over. It is out of you. It is done. You can see it in your hands. You’ve somehow said all you needed to say. And it doesn’t matter if it is pretty, or right, or relevant, or following all the other writer rules— it is true. And it is yours. It is your truth sitting on the outside of you. And it is exactly all you had to give in the moment when you were asked to give it all you had. 

Most days in the book writing, I beat myself up the hardest not for the words but for the numbers.

The age that I was. I beat myself up for being young. For thinking I had anything worth saying at the age of 25. I mean, I’m 25. I’m 25. I’m 25. Can I write that again? I’m 25. And I understood why people would people look at me strange and say I was young to write a memoir. I agreed. And it probably could have been easier to just write a letter and pass it out instead of opening my mouth in agreement every time someone worried alongside me about my age:

Dear everyone, 

I am 25. Yes. 1988 was a great year. I loved being born into it. But I am starting to realize age— old or young— is an excuse. And I won’t be the kind of person who lets a number stand in the way of me knowing that life is fleeting and a lot of times we don’t get promised the things we thought we would be promised. And our loves go away. And our best friends die. And our skin shrivels. And we get sick. And it’s all scary and beautiful and reason enough to start something now. Right now. This second. Don’t even finish the letter, maybe. Go if you have to go. Life is waiting for you. 

Really, there is so much to prove my undeniable youth to the world— I still haven’t mastered the proper use of sunblock or a conventional oven. I still miss my friends from college. I still do some sort of wicked, daily dance with Sallie Mae. A boy in a random coffee shop is still capable of being the most important thing in my orbit. 

I can’t speak for marriage. I can’t speak for divorce. I can’t speak for having enough money to take myself around the world. I can’t speak for a courage I never had to hike a trail on the other side of a country or sell all my belongings and start a new life. I can only speak for the parts of me that ever wanted do something wonderful. I can only speak for how it sometimes feels like you are drowning in a world where everyone is superglued to their devices and their networks. I can only speak for how it feels to be so uneasy with sitting alone with yourself but how I wanted to gain enough confidence to finally be able to say, “I know exactly what sits at the root of me. And I’m not afraid of it any longer.”

I can only write this book from the perspective of a girl who wanted certain things when this story started— to find God, to fall in love, and to do something that mattered in the world. I can speak for that. 

— hb

Like I wrote earlier, the ground didn’t shake when I finished the book.

And nothing really felt different around me. I took a hot shower, ran my fingers through my hair as if the scrubbing motions could wash everything off of me now that it was over. I was finished. I dried my hair and put clothes on and I wore my favorite beanie and I went out to find a burger the size of my head and a glass of wine. It wasn’t what I thought it would be and yet it was all I really wanted. 

I guess I thought I would feel bigness all around me in a moment like that one— one where a first book gets finished and turned into an editor. A lot of times though— excluding weddings, or busy hospital rooms, or parties where we wear a new age— there’s no bigness to the moment that changes your life. There’s just you, in a quiet room, letting something go. There’s just you, in a bustle of a busy restaurant, finally feeling free. 

I didn’t even talk about the book that night. I kept it’s finality in my lips like a secret. I was tired of talking. For five minutes, I just wanted to be in love with a truth I’d been waiting to hold for so long: I did something I never thought I could do and it wasn’t the craziest thing in the world to believe in myself. I was actually right to believe in myself.

That’s who will you lead you in the book.

If you pick it up from a bookstore and hold it in your hands at the start of March, that’s who will wave at you from the very first page and ask you politely to take her hand— a girl who wanted to know that one day she might wake up and actually believe in herself to be something more than a mess in the world. She’ll write about letting go, and holding tighter, and waiting for things. She will write about grief and triumph and the things that have always been bigger than her but she wanted to understand them so badly anyway.  

She’ll be 22. She’ll be unreliable and yet so committed to the journey. She’ll be insecure and yet so eager to find confidence the way you find old socks beneath the bed.

She’ll be a girl who rarely knows what coffee to order, nevermind who to fall in love with. A girl who once thought being “chosen” by a guy was the end goal, the reason to show up and fight. A girl who, when she was 22-years-old, looked down and realized: the world is so incredibly big and my hands are so incredibly small. The two don’t seem to match up. But she was a girl who knew that the world never stopped needing people who were hungry for more, and she needed to not miss her casting call for that. 

A girl who, as cheesy as it seems, wished she could figure out why people sometimes call this whole life a “love letter.” Yes, she wanted those answers. And so she went out into the streets of New York City, and the subways, and the libraries, and the churches, and the coffee shops to answer that one question for herself— how do people ever get to the point of falling in love with their own life? 

On Writing.

Spinning straw into gold: thoughts on writing.


For the last few days, I’ve sat in a dark room giving memories their proper burials.

I can imagine the way the funeral director wrings her hands beneath the hot water faucet as she preps to make settings of “goodbye” for so many. It feels a lot like that; writing a book is like finally saying goodbye to memories and finally having the courage to let go for good as you script just enough to tell your friend over a cup of coffee, “I’ve used up all the words. It’s over now.”

I didn’t imagine writing a book would feel this way. I’m one month into writing a book and I didn’t imagine it would be like this. I’m certain now that I will write a book about writing a book just so I can write the line, “It was the most hauntingly beautiful process I’ve ever experienced, to sit in a room and play with ghosts of what used to be all day.” You feel like you’re living six lifetimes in a single day. It’s like God is asking you to stare at all the moments when you should have been a nobler character and then learn to give grace to yourself somehow. I’m sitting on the floor, thinking of how crazy it is that I’ve worshipped a God who cakes the mountaintops with grace for me, but this is the first time I’m finally gaining enough courage to not withhold it from myself.

And I’ve never felt more human in this moment as God tells me not to stop the heartbreak, not to resolve the heartbreak, but simply to wade out into the middle of it and scream out how deep it really is. We’ve never needed one another to resolve the heartbreak for us, so much as we have needed to know that others have felt the depths of it too.


I thought it would be different than this.

I thought I’d sit square in the middle of a room with the sunlight on my face and the clacking of keys in my ears as the coffee neglected to grow stale and birds that I borrowed from Snow White gathered my hair up into a sock bun. Instead, it’s like somehow braiding flower crowns out of verbs & adjectives & nouns to hush out the ashes of the words you cussed on the day you discovered he didn’t love you like that any longer. Writing is just another form of polishing and prettying up the broken-open moments of this lifetime so that they can go on display for other people to interpret. Writing is just the right eulogy for all the memories we haven’t let go of yet. Enough to coax them out of our hands and onto a page.

I find myself wrapped up in a camo jacket nearly every morning. The coffee grows stale quickly. I forget to eat. I am too busy sifting and sorting words for the day. And there is something so freeing about being unbelievably imperfect on the page within a world where all I’ve ever tried to be for other people is perfect. I’ve breathed in enough gritty stories to say, at last, “screw perfection.” Perfection would mean we never let one another go. And honestly? Now I know it meant everything to unclench my fists and let it happen. Perfection would mean that the pieces always fit. And honestly? It was in the mess of broken pieces that we both learned grace. Perfection would mean it never hurt like hell with a chainsaw in its hand to see you drive away and not come back for me. And honestly? I needed to get the life socked out of me to understand how much courage it takes to get back up on your own two feet.

When I finish this book, I’ll stay there was an anthem sitting behind every word I wrangled and sweet-talked into staying on the page. It’s two single lines from a Jason Mraz song that I cannot help but listen to every single night before the world falls asleep:

And what a beautiful mess this is/ it’s like picking up trash in dresses.

Every morning, I am sitting beside piles of other people’s memories. I’m sifting through the things you’ve called garbage for far too long. It isn’t garbage and you & I both know that those feelings have never been so disposable as you made them seem. You got hurt. You didn’t win. You regretted it. You let her down. You think you cannot possibly be redeemed. And you’re no different from me.

What happened is not everything. What happened isn’t the end to our little stories. It matters more what we do with it all. The memories. The broken middles. The wrecking ball moments. What matters is if we let them keep wrecking us or we spin them into gold.

Step one is realizing that the story never owned you. It never has the power to victimize you if you change the words from the beginning. Step two is realizing that your story is a symphony. Maybe it will be a poem for someone else. A cup of hot chocolate in a styrofoam mug in the heart of October. A light on and a mother standing out on front porch saying, Child, please come home. 

You won’t know what your story will be to someone else until you actually let someone touch it and find their humanity somewhere deep inside of it. You cannot wait to know everything to finally sit down beside the page and sift through the trash of it. You just need to be willing to make piles of the things you’ve never fully understood and, from some of those piles, make sand castles.

You’ll never know what your story could be for someone else until you make that first sandcastle. Until you say to the water, “You won’t wash away these words of mine.”

That is the goal of a writer, maybe. Maybe that is the goal. Maybe this it: If I can somehow make a single sandcastle–just a single one–out of something you’ve never understood but have always felt in the deep of you, then I’ll be a writer. Maybe I’ll be a writer then.

On Writing.

Honesty in the age of catfishing.


Of all the skins I’ve ever slipped into– daughter, dancer, intern, lover, leaver– the skins of the “blogger” have been the hardest for me.

I fumble around on this page. I hide behind syllables. I make you think you’ve got me figured out and then I pull out some crazy post about a girl clawing around on the living room floor and make y’all think my heart got ripped out my chest last week.

Truthfully, I don’t accept the skins of a “blogger.” I deny the fact. I don’t read any books on the topic. I don’t think this little sucker will ever have a penny to her name. I break all the rules of Blogging 101. I don’t come to you every day of the week. I don’t visit other blogs. I am unreliable when I do come to you. I don’t know that I’m even around long enough for you to crave me. And I shrink down ten sizes in any conversation about metrics, and money, and stats. I shrink to a whisper, “I don’t care about any of the way this world operates. I just want to matter to someone while I’m here.”

That is all I think about. It’s all I really care about. I think about death & funerals & last words all too often not because I am morbid but because I realize that we are going so quickly. And I want it to have meant something. I want it to be difficult for and I to sum up.

I don’t do pretty messages. And much of what I write here cannot be tied with resolutions because life has never worked that way. My blog, to me, is exactly how I view this lifetime. It’s beautiful. It’s chaotic. But sometimes it leaves you saying, what just happened here?

I get emails from people all over the world saying, “sorry for your loss” and “hope your heart mends soon.”

They’re meshed in with a tangle of old boyfriends who think I might be Taylor Swifting them on the Internet for all the world to see.  And I can only think to say sorry. Sorry, sorry. Sorry that everything about me is unreliable except for my heart and the direction it is going in. The rest might just be fiction. The rest could be a post I assembled two years ago and never thought to let it see the light until just yesterday.  The rest was probably, certainly never about you. Or me. Or the Us that was three summers ago. (See? See?! I already had you believing that some boy from three summers ago still thinks to read me from his cubicle on days when the sun just don’t feel like shining.)

I have never been honest on this page. Has my heart been true? Yes. But have I given you a depiction of my day-to-day life, or a live stream of my heart at this very moment? No, no.

My blog has never been a roadmap to my life. Not since it started. And jeepers, if it were, you’d all think me Cray with a capital C. The closest to me, the ones who know both my eyes and elbows, take these words with a grain of salt because they understand that the boy in the coffee shop is rarely ever real and that girl waiting by the train is not me or anyone we’ve ever known in this lifetime. The corner of the internet has never been the thing I send over to family and friends to say, “Hey, hey, keep up with all the fun I’m having in this world.” If that were the case, they’d have thought I buried someone on a Monday, broke up with someone on a Wednesday, all while mastering time management on a Friday.

Two years ago, at the height of my depression in New York City (that’s about the one detail that every solid stranger knows about me), I sought the solace of a therapist. He was a nice dude. And I found out that I could not afford him one month into seeing him. I was a fulltime volunteer. I was working and living in the Bronx, New York. I would trot into his office wearing my UN badge and proceed to cry all over his pillows. And when I found out that I could not afford him, that alas, we had no insurance for that, he took me on pro bono.

“You’re doing good in this world,” he told me. “I want to do that too.” And we had this unspoken agreement that he would listen and I would cry and we’d keep our lips zipped when it came to payment.

But the poor, poor man found out that I was a blogger and even he would read my writing. So I led that man on a roller coaster as he imagined me as a single mother one day and a ramshackled vagabond on the next. On occasion, he’d bring up a post or two and I’d have to say, “YO DUDE, I’M A STEEL TRAP. Nothing you read on that blog page is going to give you the lens into how I am feeling now. Half of it is made up. These tears in my eyes are the only real thing you’ve got of me.”

He understood that in time. That not every blogger is outward about their life. That sometimes a blogger is not a blogger but rather just someone who always dreamed of people reading her with cups of tea within their hands and tangles in their hair. And printing her out on nicer paper and folding her up in pocketbooks. But not every writer or blogger or human is the one to tell the truth.

This is me falling through a window while breaking + entering on the day my hands were photographed by that typewriter.

This is me falling through a window while breaking + entering on the day my hands were photographed by that typewriter.

When you enter into this page, you tour the flickering, grainy slide show of a girl who has spent her whole existence stapling the hearts of others to her sleeves. You are touching your fingertips against her creativity, her musings, her pent-up desperation for a world in which we loved one another harder today than yesterday. You are standing in the middle of her muddy grounds and not every published thing you see here is a “blog post” so much as it is this: words strung together to try to get you closer to your own humanity.

I don’t call myself a writer. I don’t call myself a blogger. I’d rather be neither. I’m just a girl. Just a girl with a golden life who is on the cusp of 25 and she is making up new dreams because all her older ones came true in the mystery of a single year. Just a girl who doesn’t come to you in a Monday through Friday sort of way but might show up in your inbox at 1:32am with 700 words that struck her fingers at midnight. A girl who welcomes you to come to her inbox at that time, too, because she’s learned that nothing is more sacred than the feet that bring good news and she will always meet you there. I will always meet you there.

I am just a girl learning how to dance in the middle of a whirlwind. A hurricane of sorts. Just a girl who would spend all her days on hands and knees placing dignity back where it was once lost if only she could. If only she could. That’s all this blog is. That’s all my life is.

And I am fake friends with all the people on General Hospital.  And the Amish.

Disconnect, On Writing.

Skeletons, tutus, and why death is a very sad thing.

My rearview mirror is the hangout spot for two skeletal creatures wearing pouffed tutus and itty bitty plastic Barbie shoes. 

Yes, that is the most frequently asked question upon sliding into the passenger seat and clicking the belt into place, “why do you have skeletons in your car?” Don’t we all get morbid and sassy with our car decor?

I used to nanny three children and every morning, without fail, we’d all pile into the car for the pool or lacrosse practice or ballet. Wherever the day was taking us, it’d be the four of us humans and two skeletons. And when children think you are strange enough, it’s practically nanny-self-sabotage to be rocking the skeletons 4 months before Halloween. There is no blog out there yet called Epic Nanny Fail but I’m sure I would be a favorite member if there were (now go little brain children and create this website). 

It’s called el Dia de los Muertos, Day of the Dead.” I tried to speak my peace one day. ” It is around the same time as Halloween. Many people in Mexico celebrate this holiday, taking the time to honor their dead and remember them.” The whole time I am spewing out words I haven’t been able to use since 11th grade Spanish class, I am thinking in my own head– Pump. The. Brakes. Hannah. Don’t overload them… it is laser tag day. But SO bring up the candy skulls and the cemetery picnics!

Calder, the 7-year-old,  interrupted.

But death is a sad thing.”



Cue crystal-sized car crickets.

“You’re right,” I told him. “Death is a sad thing.” 

We drove in silence for a while after that.

I have yet to come across the person opposed to this little boy’s statement. You could rattle on about celebrations & fiestas & parades but regardless, Death is still a sad thing.

Oddly enough, this post is not about my love for el Dia de los Muertos , my two little skeletons– one of which is named after James Franco (don’t ask),  or the fact that my mother fully stocked my closet with dresses that would be absolutely perfect for any fiesta when I was a little girl, leading to a downward identity spiral when I realized I was utterly culture-less and no Quinceanera was wafting in the distance. (If you ever get to see my school pictures, you would know exactly what I mean.) It is actually about a lady named Dee. A grandmother, if we want to be specific. A woman who taught me that Death is a very sad thing but that Life Well Lived gives Death the uppercut. Every. Time. 

It begins happening around this time of the year.

The Leaves Fall, the Weather Chills & People Begin Googling the word “Cornucopia” and coming up thumbnail images of  those silly bugles full of harvest foods. I start recognizing the pockets of this earth that still keep her. The memories that hide, like rail thin children, behind any Frank Sinatra ballad or song accompanied by bagpipes. A first chord and I am swept into a mess of tears and nostalgia as a swarm of Little Memories tug at my sweater.

It’s as if the air gets colder and we start saying things we never thought to say when the sunscreen was out– I miss you. And I wish you were here. And why can’t you just be here? It’s not fair. It makes no sense. Are you doing ok? I hope you are doing ok. Life is fine. It’s good, even. But I don’t miss you any less. 

I received an email the other day from a reader. She wrote in the email, “How did you become such a good writer?” Was there training? Could I recommend classes?

The question puzzled me.

I picked up my cup of coffee and walked around a bit, wondering how I became a writer, and a supposed “good one” at that. Then it caught my eye, a black and white photo of a strikingly beautiful woman. She is looking towards the camera and she is holding my mother in her arms. My favorite picture.

There was the answer. 

I am a good writer because when I was a very small girl, my grandmother told me that she would see my name at the front of a bookstore one day, my name dancing along the spines and book jackets of hardcovers. She told me of days when strangers would wait for my words, find solitude and peace in my syllables, uncover strength in my stories.

And that is all it takes, folks. It only takes a single person who tells you that you will one day be a very good writer to turn you into a writer who is very good.

If you go back and look closely at all of my writing, from post 1 to 300, she is there– more Hidden than the most Stealthy of Waldos. Behind every word that attempts to weave out “strength” or “love,” she is there. She showed me first that love is an action and a way of life. I am doing my best to pack those actions into the every, every day.

I live a life of love and that will make a writer very good, very good indeed. It will make poetry from places where there once was none.

The lucky ones of us have had someone like this. Someone who makes us believe that we are not so crazy, not falling short, but Perfect. Perfect. Perfect. In this very moment. And as they pass, we learn to celebrate them with our actions. To Eat Delicious Foods For Them. To Do a Little Jig For Them. To Remember Them, not as they are right now but as they were.

To remember the little things: how they loved the color blue. How they found great happiness in filling little notebooks with novels they had just read. How they convinced every person they came across of their Native American roots (it is still up for debate of whether was my grandmother was actually an Indian or not).

To sulk only on the sometimes but to pour the rest of it into making them proud. Letting them know, in a loud & clear kind of way, that you won’t ever plan to let them down. They wouldn’t expect that out of you. It was not a thought in your head.

And to honor them in little ways: by buying ridiculous singing cards, by always dancing to Danny Boy and by having Google updates sent to your email on the JonBenet Ramsey case (even 16 years later) just to stay well-looped on the greatest unsolved mysteries the two of you got all Sherlock Holmes on.

And, of course, by moving forward with the gifts that person helped you foster: a knack for prose, a special talent for story telling.

Because stories & words & memories are that much more powerful when writing for a beautiful woman whose name is still stuck in your lungs, the biggest of big fans– Dee.

On Writing.

Did she use sunshine gold yarn or burgundy thread & did Tickle Me Pink make her yours?

“Just let him go,” she tells me, scraping her spoon around the edge of the dish.

She says it in a “take out the trash” or “turn right at the light” kind of tone. The kind of tone that pricks every time it’s used to discuss matters of the heart.

She doesn’t know it. No, maybe she knows it but she doesn’t get it. The mind of a writer. And the truth that any writer knows: we would trade bones & blood cells for a chance to carry a person less. Stop dropping them into story lines or whistling them into love songs we have yet to write. 

So I tell her simply that I am trying and change the subject.

You see, when I meet a Good Pair of Eyes, a Strong Set of Teeth, I am absolutely doomed. Doomed, doomed, doomed. Then starts some sort of lifetime and a thousand loose leaf pages worth of lining words up like soldiers, words already quivering in their marching boots, for they know they will do no sort of justice to that Good Pair of Eyes. That Strong Set of Teeth.

And let this be a warning: It’s especially worse if you are a) carrying an instrument b) toting some kind of exotic name that only shows up on the rosters of French fashion show lineups or, worst of all, c) translating a lullaby for me out of your laughter.

And if it is d) all of the above, just plop me down on the floor and I’ll accept my new eternity in scraping syllables out from under the bed, looking for a way to keep you perfect and in place with the use of Proper Punctuation.

But that’s the kind of eternity that myself and other writers might expect. I’ve always been one to tie Nouns & Verbs to Red Balloons and set them off floating into a Literary Sky.  A Metaphorical Sunset. Nouns & Verbs cruising over an Alliterated Mountaintop with Allegorical Gulls Flapping Nearby.

Writers, we are the invisible hoarders of this world. The ones who stockpile Prom Memories like canned goods and pluck imagery from the fall foliage as if it were our Six Cats bound to turn into 27 Kittens by the end of December. Hopeless Hoarders who clutch a broken heart long after the other has learned to gather up the pieces and find some kind of beginning.

Don’t ask me about the weather. Don’t offer to buy me a drink. Don’t make a slight movement to prove you are different or quirky or stand out; your guts will get splattered on the pages of this girl’s notebook tonight because of that gin and tonic. Because of that partly cloudy with a chance of thunderstorms.

A nervous wringing of the hands? A single dimple perched to the right?

You. Are. Doomed. Doomed, doomed, doomed.

If you tell me about the sweaters grandma used to knit, I’ll beg you to know if she used sunshine gold yarn or burgundy thread.  

If you tell me about your first grade love who you used to share the crayons with, I’ll want to know her name and if Tickle Me Pink was the prize out of the 64 crayon box.

Be careful when you tell me that at the age of seven you broke your leg or that the cast was neon orange. That your first kiss came in the tree house. She was Korean. That you’ve never learned to like the taste of pickles or that you still wonder if law school was the right choice.

Maybe ask me in advance if I already know the ending for us, if it’s already touched down on fresh paper before you talk about grandma or the crayon box. It could save you all the trouble in the world to know already, upon our first hand shake, that the very last line of the story reads just so:

He had a Good Pair of Eyes and a Strong Set of Teeth and she was already looking for ways to keep him in her memory. Perfectly placed in her memory.It would be November, she decided it would be November. November would be the month she’d begin to carry the lullaby of his laughter less.

On Writing.

In writing, there are no rules. Only words waiting, like restless school children, to be picked up and given purpose.

Oprah and I are just a question and answer away from being neighbors.

I am not sure of many things in life but, of this, I am certain.

It’s the age-old question: “If you could live one place in the world, where would it be?”

My closest friends know that without a doubt I would choose to build my bungalow on one of Toni Morrison’s points of punctuation. Then I could spend my days hopping from letter to letter, jumping along the bridges of the most beautiful words that I have ever read.

And I believe Oprah would feel the same way, her being a total fan of Toni Morrison and the magic that arrives each time Toni places her fingers to the keyboard. Yes, I can see it already, Oprah and I sipping daiquiris, laying in our self-made canopies out of the swooping U’s and O’s scattered throughout Morrison’s greatest novel: Beloved.

Honestly, this post has nothing to do with my new BFF Oprah, or fruity little drinks, but it does have to do with writing and how to write and when to write and where.  And all the reasons why I believe that Toni Morrison would be better fit to write this, for when her sentences sit down on a page before my lucky, lucky eyes, I lose my breath. I cannot speak.

Her poetry swims through my blood and she somehow tells the tangled story of my soul as if it were a mess of knotted Christmas lights I have been trying to plug-in for a lifetime. That, to me, is good writing.

I don’t know how to tell anyone in the world how to be a good writer. I’d say we are all good writers so long as we are open to telling stories and we are adamant in uncovering our own storytelling styles. And so, I would say to anyone longing to let the writer pent-up inside of them out: Live all the days of your life out loud and then leave fifteen minutes after each one to spend some time bringing it to a page.

Oh yes, and a few more tips for those who adore pencils and adventures and waking up at three in the morning to write stories on the back of old Whole Foods receipts.

Five Thoughts on Writing

One) In writing, there are no rules. Only words waiting, like restless school children, to be picked up and given purpose: Writing rules discourage me. Proper nouns and punctuation points often scratch at my door when I sit down to write, panting to be set free and run loose wildly along the storylines.

I graduated college with a degree in English and though I despise individuals who don’t spell out words in text messages, I have abandoned the rules of “proper grammar” in my own ways. So you are off the hook all you “C U L8r” guys and dolls.

I pick out my own proper nouns and I decide when to place the final point of punctuation down. Because sometimes a yellow sweater is really That Yellow Sweater that you were wearing when the two of you first met by the mailroom, and other days a boy is really The Boy who taught you what it really means to laugh at life. And sometimes the story ends here. Or  There. Mid. Sentence.

Never let rules of grammar ruffles the feathers of your story and how you choose to tell it.

Two) Always wear your Cloak of Vulnerability when entering into the writing room: The most difficult aspect of writing, by far, is that first glance at a snow-white document and the realization that follows shortly after: I need to find a way to make my heart beat on this page.

I have been quite honest in my writing through the years but that was not always the case. You are hearing from a recovering perfectionist here, a real life wannabe porcelain doll. But last year a girl that I hardly knew came up to me and handed me a sheet of paper.

“God has really been pressing this word into my heart for you,” she told me.

I looked down at the sheet of paper to see the word “VULNERABILITY” written in pencil.

That one word changed my writing for good. Changed my life for good. Taught me that our words are often most life-giving when we attach our own vulnerability to them, when we put ourselves out there and allow ourselves to be open books to others in need of a story they can identify with.

Three) For all Good, Good Heartbreak there is the Tracy Chapman Pandora station and your notepad: I might be the first one to say this you but…. I really hope you get your heart broken one day. Absolutely Shattered. Decrepit. Itty Bitty Shards & Pieces. And then I hope you have to get down on your knees and pick them up one by one. And learn how to live again with a slightly disfigured heart.

Of course I wish for other things when the Dawn of Heartbreak arrives to you: good friends, tissues, chocolate, all that jazzy heartbreak feel good stuff, resilience and the strength to become whole again.

But what I pray, more than anything, is that you have the courage and capacity to write it down. For a broken heart can be a writer’s best surface to start scrawling upon. It’s a fleshy, awful time, sure. But it is a moment to look back upon, to be able track the time when things broke. And star the time when things looked up again and you found your Two Legs again, and Two Arms, and your Ability to Move On after the storm.

Four) Start writing… Like now. No. Now: This is the most mondo piece of advice that I have to offer. Start writing… now. Ready, set… Whoops, the gun went off five days ago. You should have started then.

Write on the train. Write in waiting rooms. Start a blog. Stop saying, “I want to be a writer” and just out there and Become a Writer. Be a one of a kind, notebook toting, Barnes & Nobles roaming, Shakespeare doting writer.

You know, they say practice makes perfect but all of writing is so imperfect. In fact, all that makes this life crazy and complex and yet so irresistible is imperfect. Your father’s chin. My mother’s nose. The way kids scream out loud when the ice cream truck drives by. So imperfect and yet you don’t want to miss it for a second. Capture that. Practice imperfection with your words. Now.

Five) My Ultimate Cure for Writer’s Block: Lord knows I have done this dozens & dozens & dozens of times, turning myself into the freak that stalks around Target looking for inspiration.

Whenever I am lacking words I head in the direction of the grocery store, the train, or a nearby playground. Any place where people can be found, really, and I examine the way people hold one another. It’s fascinating stuff, I swear. People holding one another is something to watch and marvel at over & over again.

A woman in the Bronx holding the hands of her three children on the rickety subway will give you a writing spell so deep you might feel your feet levitating off the ground. The same with a photo of a young mother from Bangladesh holding her babe close to her chest. There is something about physical touch and how it translates into a more emotional yet foreign tongue that cries out: I need you, I love you, and so I hold you like this.

Just stop and look at that. You will write enough sentences to match each one with a star in the night sky, the Same Night Sky that blankets all its Little Writers and all their Syllables under one roof.