:: Article

Miranda

By Jessica Wallace.

Dear Miranda July,

You are my hero. And I want to say first off – I don’t write a lot of fan letters. I don’t call a lot of people my heroes. Well, my first English teacher, Mr. Schaan, is my other hero, but that’s it. Just the two of you, and I’ve never even sent him a letter, so right away, you should feel really honoured.

And anyway, this isn’t really a fan letter.

I’m writing because yesterday I picked up a copy of your short story collection in a charity shop. Don’t be too offended by that – it was the only copy. A while ago I bought The Hours by Michael Cunningham, and then I noticed it in every charity shop I went into for, like, a week. People really seem to want to donate that one. But there was just one of yours – a shelf over from Cunningham’s. And it was still 2.95, which is a lot for a charity shop.

Anyway, so then I came up with this Really Wonderful Idea while I was reading your stories. I should tell you – I’m a writer too. I just finished this course that I was taking in the evenings, so I know all about making characters and keeping the reader interested.

So, I was thinking I could write you letters and you could write back and we could make it into this Really Wonderful short story where we get to know each other and you help me get a writing job.

So, I’ll go first, I guess. That would make sense, plot wise. And then you can write back as whatever character you want to be. I know all about that stuff. My character is this struggling writer living in her mother’s basement. She’s short and has brown hair, and her finger nails are always dirty because she picks the paint off the dresser in her basement bedroom.

Anyway, my character’s first question is, what do your favourite pyjamas look like? Do you ever write in your pyjamas?

Your fan and business partner,

Jill

Dear Jill,

Thank you so much for your letter. It’s always a pleasure to know someone new is enjoying my short stories. I think it’s great that you took a writing course. Good luck with all of your future writing endeavours.

Yours sincerely,

Miranda July

Dear Miranda July,

I don’t want to sound like a know-it-all, because you’ve probably taken a writing course too, but I didn’t really get much of your character from your letter. I was told that readers always want to know what a character looks like, which is why I put in that part about my hair and my fingernails. Even that much is usually enough to hold the reader’s attention.

Maybe you didn’t notice that I gave you an opening with the question about pyjamas. If you had described them, the reader could probably picture you writing, especially since your character would be based on you, and people have probably seen you in that movie. I know all about making characters based on yourself. I know it wouldn’t really be You, but just a character who looks like you and talks like you.

Anyway, for the story we can just edit that part out.

So, tell me Miranda July, do you have a dog?

Your fan,

Jill

Dear Jill,

Thank you for your second letter. My schedule is very busy at the moment, and I’m not looking to take up any new writing projects. Thank you for watching my movie.

Sincerely,

Miranda July

Dear Miranda July,

I understand that you’re really busy. There must be a lot of writing jobs in Hollywood. Is that where you live? I noticed that your website didn’t have your address. There aren’t so many writing jobs here in Iowa, so I’ve been working at this café and trying to write poems and short stories on my breaks. It’s kind of hard because the break room is really small and I usually have to go at the same time as the dishwasher. His apron is always really dirty and he likes to talk.

But don’t worry about passing up this opportunity. I can just write the letters from your point of view, and all you have to do is sign them to make it look authentic. I mean, you can look through them, of course, to see if anything seems out of character, or if your ‘voice’ doesn’t sound right. I know all about voice.

I hope you still have time to enjoy the sun in Hollywood. We don’t have much of that here either.

Your fan,

Jill

Dear Jill,

You are my favourite fan so far. I love when my fans bring me writing projects. You also sound like a really good person because you go to charity shops a lot. I really admire that in a fan.

I wouldn’t worry too much about living in your mother’s basement. I know several successful writers who still live in the houses of people they know. Mostly in the basements of those houses.

My favourite pyjamas, in answer to your very original question, are yellow flannel with tiny flecks of pink and blue. Yes, there are often days where I don’t leave my bedroom at all, and just have someone put food on a tray outside my door and knock twice and then go back upstairs. That is a Very Normal Thing for a writer to do.

That was also a very good question about the dog. Yes, I do have a dog. If you’re going to be a writer, having a dog is practically essential. Probably because writers are alone most of the time. That is also Very Normal.

It’s probably also essential that you quit your job at the café. It doesn’t sound like the best place for a writer to work. When you quit, just explain that you’ve taken a writing course, and that your writing project with me, Miranda July, is really taking up a lot of your time. This is especially true if the dishwasher eats really fast and makes smacking noises with his mouth when he chews. That’s really gross.

I can tell from your letter that you learned a lot from your course, especially about voice and making characters. It sounds like it was a really good way to spend your time, which is actually the opposite of a Waste of Time. I’m sure all your future endeavours will go Really Well.

With Love,

Miranda July

jessicawallace

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jessica Wallace recently completed an MA in Creative Writing and Personal Development at the University of Sussex. Her work has been published in Quills, Misunderstandings and The Antigonish Review, and she was a runner-up in Mslexia‘s 2010 poetry competition. Jessica is currently working on her first novel.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Tuesday, October 26th, 2010.