A letter writer’s quandary

Dear wondering reader,

During the past few days, I’ve had a few messages and comments from friends wondering if everything is OK because I haven’t written in a while. So here I am, sitting at our kitchen table and looking out at a quiet, rainy summer morning here in Alaska and wondering  — why do writers sometimes run out of things to say?

Maybe because at times life is too intense, or too dull, too overwhelming, or underwhelming, to know what to make of it. Writing, even if it’s just a letter to friends, requires you to say something that you hope is at least slightly interesting or important. And that isn’t always easy.

As I mentioned in my last letter, part of my distraction is seasonal. This time of year, I find such joy working in the greenhouse or garden or taking a walk at 9 p.m. around our property with my husband as we talk over dreams of a log-cabin sauna here and an apple orchard there. Writing is a reflective act that requires us to live in our heads, to reprocess the past and imagine other times and places. Sometimes it feels good to live here and now. It feels good to get my hands dirty and think of nothing but how many shovelfuls it’s going to take to fill this wheelbarrow.

In truth, part of my distraction comes from the sort of challenges we all face at one time or another in our lives — the unexpected heartbreaks and wonders that knock us off our feet and make us question what is important and how we can best spend our time.

And part of it might be a bit of social networking overload. Without any prompting from editor or agent or colleague, I jumped with both feet into Facebook, Twitter, and blogging more than a year ago, and I’ve spent quite a bit of time each day doing it. Maybe I’m trying to find a balance now between this new life as a published author and my old life of seclusion.

I am still doing other kinds of writing. As we gear up for the paperback release of The Snow Child in the US and the UK this fall, I’ve been writing essays and articles and short stories. I have an article about the art of picking blueberries that will come out in the next issue of Alaska Magazine, and I’m working on a short story for a UK publication that I’m really excited about.

It feels good to write these kind of pieces, reworking the structure and themes and sentences to make something new. So I guess I am writing, just not as many letters or tweets.

Even sitting here, though, I have thought of a few letters I’ve been meaning to send to you. (Thanks to my book club Betties for some of these ideas.) Maybe a photo of our backyard in broad daylight at midnight. Or thoughts on some amazing and frustrating books I’ve recently read. Or maybe a recipe for rhubarb jam.




  • I, too, love seasonal distractions like getting outside whenever the sun shines in Southeastern Alaska. 🙂

  • oliviaobryon says:

    I know what you’re saying about writing sometimes feeling so in your head that you aren’t living the real life around you. Cheers to enjoying the world out there! (And, btw, I’m a few chapters into Snow Child and loving the cadence of your writing, happy to have found your blog too!)

  • NathanDunbar says:

    Thanks for the update! And no worries about taking a break, glad you’ve taken time for you.

  • I can well understand the time between your posts. Summer in Alaska is totally outside time. I sometimes feel guilty when I curl up with a good book during summer, thinking there must be something I could/should be doing outside. After a busy spring planting season, feeling a bit anemic, I finally got out in the float tube to fly fish, what a wonderful way to revitalize my soul and have since gone two more times. I can also commiserate with your comment on letter writing. I try to do an email a week with my brother and sister and I really want to make it interesting, but sometimes I just can’t get into the flow. Some of my best writing has come during lawn mowing or snow blowing, mundane tasks that let my mind dream up great letters and stories, of which I rarely ever get down on paper. Oh well, enjoy the summer, try not to let your wonderful daughters drive you to distraction. Jenny and I rued that we didn’t invite them to go hiking with us last Sunday to Mushroom Rock. Time to freeze the rhubarb, I can’t believe I just wrote that as rhubarb was never on my favorites list, but the rhubarb pie we had at your house inspired my to make one and it was a success!

  • Fra says:

    Hello Eowyn.
    I’m Fra, I’m Italian. I’m writing to you for the first time because… I just wanted to share something.
    I have just finished reading the Snow Child. I wanted to read it in English but found the book in Italian first and decided to start it. I finished it like 15 minutes ago. I immediately liked your style and your writing and fell pretty soon for Jack, Mabel and their world. Alaska, the world you live in and that you describe in your book is so distant from my own reality and you describe it so vividly you make me want to see it.
    I finished the book a few moments ago and, I imagine you’ve had people telling this to you many times so, I’m sure it’s no news, I burst into tears. Not the tiny little sobs and a couple of tears falling down my cheeks kind of thing. No. I cried. This story connects with the reader in a powerful way and I am glad I found out about this book a few weeks back and decided to read it. Yet, despite the tears and the now red face I have, I am glad. This is a beautiful story, a rare story, and I could often see the scenes you described.
    You are talented and I thank you for sharing your story.
    Enough for now. I am an emotional mess 😉
    This blog looks visually beautiful, by the way.

    • Eowyn Ivey says:

      Dear Fra,
      Thank you so much! It is so wonderful and amazing to me, imagining you reading my story in Italy and connecting with it like this. It means a lot to me.
      Very best wishes to you,

  • sarah davis says:

    Hi Ewoyn
    we are all too busy today!
    as they say there is just not enough hours in the day!
    I myself feel that i could do with a few extra hours as i seem to be juggling work, home and a part-time open university course
    best wishes Sarah

  • Donna Braendel says:

    Eowyn, we just read the piece you had published in Alaska Magazine. Karl read it first and was really impressed. “She uses words very well.” I think was part of the comment. As for me, you captured that feeling and imagery of the moments I spend while picking in my imagination perfectly. I was right there again. Beautiful work.
    The recipe, by the by, is yours whenever you want it. I will try to put it down in cups measured the next time I make it, instead of the “that looks/tastes about right” method the way I have always done it. That pie is somewhat like life. It stared out long ago, as one thing, and ended up in another place entirely.
    Love to you all, and thank you.