Correspond

When was the last time you wrote letters?  I don’t mean the occasional thank you note, or postcard.  I mean proper letters, back and forth, between you and another human.  For me it was high school.  Shoe boxes full.  My dad cut off the phone calls, and we had no option but paper.  She had gorgeous handwriting. Small, tight letters, the paper battered from being carted between classes and dorm rooms.  The envelopes smelled of cigarettes.

I’d sit on the windowsill to write mine. Try not to be maudlin. It’s the deliberateness that makes letters different from chats.  The fact that you have to think through your paragraphs.  Develop a tone.  And you have nothing to play against.  Only your own ability to amuse or arouse or engage.  It’s an art.  Beyond the weight of paper, and the lines of your pen, there’s an art to the seduction of the letter.  To the way it exposes your brain and heart.

I come home now, and check the mailbox without breathing.  It’s thrilling.  Those small rectangles with her shorthand. The crazy freaking stamps. She always forgets the apartment number but the letters get to me anyhow.  And I tear them open with concentration, remind myself not to hop up and down.  I unfold the paper and make myself wait.  Breathe.  Wait.  Breathe.

I see a different kind of clever here.  In her hook, in her transitions.  I get to shoulder these around with me.  These declarations.  These sheets addressed to me.

And I get to answer them. Or incite them. Her son calls them feminist poetry. Because that’s the other thing about letters.  They can be discovered, and read by anyone.  That’s part of the risk.  An aspect of love.  The way your expression gives you away.

5 thoughts on “Correspond”

  1. I love writing letters. Email is not the same thing. I like mailing a letter, waiting for it to arrive at its destination, wondering if the recipient will open that day or the next, calculating how long I might have to wait for a response. I like thinking about what I’m going to say.
    What I don’t like is when people find out that I am not as clever or funny or engaging in person as I am on paper. Because I don’t have that weight of the pen in my hand, don’t have the time to think, or the privacy to be spontaneous or nervy or smart.
    I wrote my sister a letter just the other day, a sister to whom I have not spoken in almost two years, except once on the phone when she hung up on me. I wonder if she’s read the letter yet, and what she thinks about it, and whether I got through to her. I wonder whether she’ll answer it.

  2. I love this about Spokane. I’m wasting time at work on Facebook and realize that my downstairs neighbor has published not one, but two novels and is working on her third. Crazy. We should have a BBQ.

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Jill Malone

Jill Malone grew up in a military family, went to German kindergarten, and lived across from a bakery that made gummi bears the size of mice. She has lived on the East Coast and in Hawaii, and for the last seventeen years in Spokane with her son, two dogs, a hedgehog, and a lot of outdoor gear. She looks for any excuse to play guitar. Jill is married to a performance artist and addiction counselor who makes the best risotto on the planet.

Giraffe People is her third novel. Her first novel, Red Audrey and the Roping, was a Lambda finalist and won the third annual Bywater Prize for Fiction. A Field Guide to Deception, her second novel, was a finalist for the Ferro-Grumley, and won the Lambda Literary Award and the Great Northwest Book Festival.

Giraffe People

Giraffe People

Between God and the army, fifteen-year-old Cole Peters has more than enough to rebel against. But this Chaplain’s daughter isn’t resorting to drugs or craziness. Truth to tell, she’s content with her soccer team and her band and her white bread boyfriend.

And then, of course, there’s Meghan.

Meghan is eighteen years old and preparing for entry into West Point. For this she has sponsors: Cole’s parents. They’re delighted their daughter is finally looking up to someone. Someone who can tutor her and be a friend.

But one night that relationship changes and Cole’s world flips.

Giraffe People is a potent reminder of the rites of passage and passion that we all endure on our road to growing up and growing strong. Award-winning author Jill Malone tells a story of coming out and coming of age, giving us a take that is both subtle and fresh.

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A Field Guide to Deception

A Field Guide to Deception

In Jill Malone’s second novel, A Field Guide to Deception, nothing is as simple as it appears: community, notions of motherhood, the nature of goodness, nor even compelling love. Revelations are punctured and then revisited with deeper insight, alliances shift, and heroes turn anti-hero—and vice versa.

With her aunt’s death Claire Bernard loses her best companion, her livelihood, and her son’s co-parent. Malone’s smart, intriguing writing beguiles the reader into this taut, compelling story of a makeshift family and the reawakening of a past they’d hoped to outrun. Claire’s journey is the unifying tension in this book of layered and shifting alliances.

A Field Guide to Deception is a serious novel filled with snappy dialogue, quick-moving and funny incidents, compelling characterizations, mysterious plot twists, and an unexpected climax. It is a rich, complex tale for literary readers.

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Red Audrey and the Roping

Red Audrey and the Roping

Occasionally a debut novel comes along that rocks its readers back on their heels. Red Audrey and the Roping is one of that rare and remarkable breed. With storytelling as accomplished as successful literary novelists like Margaret Atwood and Sarah Waters, Jill Malone takes us on a journey through the heart of Latin professor Jane Elliot.

Set against the dramatic landscapes and seascapes of Hawaii, this is the deeply moving story of a young woman traumatized by her mother’s death. Scarred by guilt, she struggles to find the nerve to let love into her life again. Afraid to love herself or anyone else, Jane falls in love with risk, pitting herself against the world with dogged, destructive courage. But finally she reaches a point where there is only one danger left worth facing. The sole remaining question for Jane is whether she is willing to accept her history, embrace her damage, and take a chance on love.

As well as a gripping and emotional story, Red Audrey and the Roping is a remarkable literary achievement. The breathtaking prose evokes setting, characters, and relationships with equal grace. The dialogue sparks and sparkles. Splintered fragments of narrative come together to form a seamless suspenseful story that flows effortlessly to its dramatic conclusion.

Winner of the Bywater Prize for Fiction, Red Audrey and the Roping is one of the most memorable first novels you will ever read.

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