premature but also overdue
My favorite part of a book usually comes after the last line, the last period. Regardless of how much I love a book or how moving it is, it’s the page after the final page that affects me the most. I always have and always will eagerly read the acknowledgments, that last page that could be passed by. Each author writes them differently, in their own style, sometimes reflective of the rest of the book, sometimes not. Either way, they nearly always make me cry. I find it so moving, hearing the author thank their support network that helped them write and produce the book you just finished and are holding in your hands. And they teach you something about the author1 and their process, too. It’s like a peak behind the curtains after the final act. It’s where the author returns for the encore2 and takes their final bow.3
Usually, the acknowledgements are written at the end. This isn’t the end of this newsletter project, exactly, but it is the end of this chapter of it. It’s the end of this chapter of my writing life. I’m no longer an autodidact, after all. Somewhere along the way I realized I’d learned all I could on my own. Or realized I’m not cut out to learn all on my own. So here I go back to school to learn how to do this thing I’m doing here, but better, from people who know how to do it better. I’m not sure how this newsletter will change, if at all, while I’m in this program (and I don’t yet have a new name picked out, if I need one). It’s been an experiment this whole time and will continue to be so. But hopefully my writing will change and grow, at least. It’s not the end of my writing here, for now.
But sometimes, sometimes, the acknowledgments are on the first page instead4. It’s funny, to see them there at the very beginning, before starting the work itself, but sometimes the thank yous come first.
I’m putting mine first. I start my MFA program tomorrow. Finally. I hope I’ll write a thesis I’m proud of with an acknowledgment page full of thanks yous after the last line. But I want to thank the support network that got me here, to the MFA itself, to this starting line. And secretly, like an actor who might have always wanted to give an Oscars speech, I’ve always wanted to write an acknowledgment page. It’s premature of me to do so now, but indulge me. Let’s call it practice for what is hopefully to come. So here’s my first page, before the rest of the story begins to unfold.
Thank you to you, for reading this, and any other of these newsletters of mine you may have read or skimmed or clicked on. Thank you for engaging with this writing, being part of its audience, and making it feel real. I mean it, truly.
Thank you to my all writing teachers and classmates for fostering a space that made me say “I think I can do this” and “I want more of this.”
Thank you to my 826 Valencia network and eco-system for making writing feel whimsical, magic, powerful, and worth chasing.
Thank you to my friends who let me embody them on the page and paraphrase our conversations and steal their stories. I’m sure it’s odd to read yourself in my writing, but it’s a true privilege to know you well enough to try to write you. I just hope I do you justice.
Thank you to my SF home girls for creating the home in which I did much of this previous writing, the home in which I could dream up this plan and write my way to it, the home we now have written on our skin. Eleanor, the first of these started as an email to you; Lauren, my first night at home you helped me edit one of these; Estella, you sat by me as I decided that all I really wanted was more writing. For all that and everything else, thank you.
Thank you to my NYC home bases for helping me picture myself here and giving me a very soft landing in this new home of mine. You make this place home already.
Thank you to my aunts for always encouraging my writing. To Laurie, for always being a razor sharp proof-reader. To Margie, for saying “Sarah Lawrence will let you in and will want you to attend,” and for being right. To Dana, for reading one of these and hearing what it called for and responding by having me over for some needed sunshine. To Hilary, for the phone calls, the email responses, the packing, the moving, the re-packing; for so much, for everything.
Thank you to my brother, who texts me immediately after reading these, who moved here first and paved the way. Thank you to my dad, who when I said I wanted to get an MFA in Writing said: “That makes a lot more sense.” Thank you to my mom, my first and last reader, always.
Thank you to everyone and anyone who has ever let me read something I’m working on out loud to you. It helps to hear these words out loud, to have someone hear them. Thank you to everyone and anyone who has ever quoted my writing back to me. It surprises and stuns me every time. Thank you to everyone and anyone who ever said they liked what I’d written, that I should write more, that one day they’d want to read my novel. You know who you are. I remember each one. Those comments carried me here, and will carry me forward. I still have a hard time believing them at times, and yet they gave me the courage to begin. I just hope to do them justice. Thank you.
It was in the acknowledgments to Beautiful World, Where Are You that I learned Sally Rooney is married. Which helps elucidate the controversial epilogue of Beautiful World, I like to think.
It’s where Cheryl Strayed, after finishing Dear Sugar with a devastating story about the winter coat her mother bought her at her last Christmas, writes the devastating last line: “She was right: the coat was perfect for me.” A thank you she could never tell her mother.
It’s where Jia Talentino, after writing a long final essay about how she doesn’t believe in the institution of marriage, writes to her (now) husband: “In truth, I’ve always felt married to you.” I wonder when she first told him as much.
Zadie Smith puts hers first in Autograph Man, a lean two paragraphs of professional thank yous and nothing more.