Note to readers: This post is part of a series of letters between me and my friend and author Lauren Faulkenberry. I publish our letters here on my blog, and she also publishes our letters on her blog. You can read Letter #1 here. Check out Lauren’s latest novel.
That summer we met, I was 24. It was my second time attending the writers’ conference that changed the course of my life. (In my first summer there, the conference lady paired me with a roommate who snored and woke herself up by falling out of bed and crashing to the floor. I had no idea what would be in store for me when I returned the second summer.)
When I arrived the second summer, the conference lady said, “I just put the two youngest people together.” Meaning you and me. Often in my life, being paired based on age ended in frustration and hurt feelings. I was not like other girls my age. So of course, I was skeptical.
Then we met. You were a couple years older. What I saw: statuesque, bold, beautiful. Just like ever other girl who had ever made me feel invisible. For the entire length of my life. And I thought: No guy here will talk to me if she’s within fifty yards. Probably no one at all.
It was such a stupid thought to have. And I was so wrong.
You were not like those other girls I had known. You did not make me feel invisible. Did you make a room spin when you walked into it? Yes. Did you rock the boat of fancy writers? Yes. Did I admire you for it? Hell, yes. You were a force of nature, and over the years, you’ve made me feel like one, too. You were brilliant, dynamic, made no apologies for what you wanted. You made me think: I have been too quiet for too long.
I wanted to be like that writer with the mason jars: soft-spoken, mysterious, drawing people nearer with kindness and wit. But I also wanted to be like you.
Would the conference lady have put us together if we had gone to that retreat five years later? Or ten? Maybe. Maybe not. In our twenties, we were outliers: the odd girls out she didn’t know what to do with. I’m glad we both took a chance on that little unknown place hidden in the mountains, and that we happened to find that place at the same time. Because really, what are the chances? If we had met under any other circumstance, would we have even talked to each other? Me in my flannel and you in your high heels?
I’m glad we don’t fit neatly into those boxes on the conference form. But for the record, you forgot my middle name:
Lauren Elizabeth Faulkenberry = 28 characters
Katie Rose Guest Pryal = 22 characters
I still have you beat. I have to use everything I’ve got, remember?
But look, now we get to see our names on book jackets. And I have you to thank for that, at least in part. Writing may be a solitary task at times, but I’ve come to realize that it can’t always be. Like a lot of things in this world, it’s better with a partner. One who gets you. One who makes your world a better one. One who nudges you forward when you want to give up.
I did not picture any of this fourteen summers ago. Your book series, my book series, calling ourselves novelists at last. We’ve had some good plot twists along the way. I propose we go back to that porch at the writers’ retreat and toast our 15th summer in mason jars.
[Note to readers from Katie: Lauren called me beautiful! She’s so NICE!]