February 7th, 20–

by Mary Woodard

Microsoft Word - Mary_Woodard-Letter.docx

Mary Woodard is a Sophomore at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, where she is a proud sibling of the St. Anthony Hall literary fraternity. Currently she’s working on what she hopes will be her breakout novel. When not in college she returns to her home in Oklahoma with her parents and small menagerie of animals.

What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “February 7th, 20–“?

    I have a reluctance to reveal my inspiration for any of my writing. Usually this is because I don’t think authorial intent really matters and I don’t like to influence the reader’s unique perception of my work. This piece though leaves me feeling a little more like Basil Hallward in The Picture of Dorian Grey — “I’ve put too much of myself into it.”

    I originally wrote this for a Fiction II assignment my freshman year of college. I hated the original, but felt like there was a glimmer of potential in the cliché-laden love letter I wrote. I started trying to edit it, begging a good (tolerant) friend of mine to act as a proofreader for every subsequent edition. All of them. (Thanks, B.) Because of how many versions I’ve gone through, I somewhat affectionately refer to the original piece as “The Letter of a Thousand Edits.”

    I think I like this version the best, though, specifically because I put too much of myself into the original — I could never fully remove myself from it, no matter how much I edit or remove from it. There’s a lot missing here. There’s a lot I’ve hidden. It still feels raw, though, and in some ways more honest than the original even was. The fat’s been cut away from the meat, as my Dad would say. And, yes, I’d say it’s better.

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