Fanmail – Beth Ann Fennelly

Dear Beth Ann Fennelly,

Thank you, thank you. Your book, Heating & Cooling: 52 Micro-Memoirs, makes me want to write. I am beginning this before I have even finished the book.

In addition to being grateful—so few things I read make me want to write—I am, of course, also a little mad at you. You have written a book very much like one I want to write. In this book, you do so many things I want to do in my own writing. The sentences with their conversational rhythm, always ending in poetry. The scenes laid out more like a poet would do it than a prose writer, without quotation marks and always with an eye towards explanation, the interest more in what the scene means than merely what’s being said. The memories that seem to surface and sink again without the writer’s control.

And you do all this so beautifully that part of me thinks it shouldn’t be done again. “It’s been done,” editors sometimes say. I heard it at a panel at the AWP conference, a person who judges poetry contests saying, “Sometimes it’s been done before, and better, by another poet.”

It was at AWP that I bought this book, or rather, this book was purchased for me. I got my husband, who’s an engineer, to come to AWP with me and the one panel he got to—when he wasn’t manning our table in the bookfair, charming people with his English accent—was the Brevity 20th anniversary reading. We loved your reading, and it reminded me that I’d heard about this book and really wanted to read it. When we got back to the Sweet table, I was swamped by passersby and so tired, and AWP was ending, and I hadn’t gotten around to buying your book yet. He asked if I’d gotten all the books I wanted, and when I said no, he asked what he could get for me. He found the Norton book table and lo and behold, you were there signing.

I would have gotten your book anyway, but what a sweet story to have attached to it, as well as your lovely inscription: For Katie, With the hopes that you enjoy this book! Lots of “Married Love” inside here. Beth Ann

But really, back to gratitude, because more than having “done it” already, you’ve given me what I need, what so many writers need, what we often read for: permission. Permission to try something in our own writing. Permission to be brave. Thank you, thank you for that. For this book.

Your fan,

Katie Riegel


 … return to Issue 10.3 Table of Contents.