word count: 41,149
For all the times people have heard me say "I am so writing a letter!" they might be surprised to hear I just wrote my first letter to an editor this summer. I've written plenty of letters, positive and negative, to the customer service departments of many companies but I've never followed through on writing and mailing a letter to a publication until this summer. In April I read an article in Poets & Writers about Janice Erlbaum and her book "Girlbomb" and called the bookstore from the coffee shop to see how soon they could get it ordered for me. I love that book. I thought about writing a letter but you know, got busy or whatever. I figured surely someone else would write in to acknowledge what a great article and book it was. So I was shocked when I picked up the May/June issue to find the letter posted here. WTF? I was so pissed I filled the letters page with handwritten notes and meant to write a letter the second I got home. And then - again - I didn't. But it nagged at me and transferred from to do list to to do list until I finally sat down and wrote it. I don't know if it'll get published or not, but I felt better having sent it off. This mentality that our good is limited and only a select few can be successful is so infuriating.
Here's my letter:
Dear Editor, I was surprised and disappointed with Mary Bem's letter "Down and Dirty Memoir" in response to Amy Rosenberg's article featuring Janice Erlbaum's memoir Girlbomb. ("First" by Amy Rosenberg, March/April 2006). I am compelled to take issue with the letter writer’s sarcastic, disparaging, dismissive tone. It seems that she made a judgment based on a pull-quote and slammed Erlbaum as a greedy memoirist with nothing but a dirty tale to spin. I admit the pull quote got my attention. I went immediately back to the bookstore where I purchased my Poets & Writers and ordered the book. It is now among my favorite books, in large part due to Erlbaum’s honesty, irreverence and her bravery in telling the truth about her experience. I also enjoyed it because she’s a talented, witty and clever writer. Though we’re all entitled to our opinion, I encourage Ms. Bem to recognize there’s room in the publishing industry for a range of experiences and styles of writing. To respond so bitterly to a fellow writer’s success is a shame. The suggestion that memoir writing is a “game of one-upmanship” is ludicrous. To imply that Erlbaum engaged in said game is offensive. Respectfully, Nathalie Hardy