I’ve been listening to books lately, usually while walking. Not new books, but old ones. Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin. A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway. Stet by Diane Athill (which isn’t so much an old book as it is a book about old times). It’s been the antidote to the other thing I’ve been doing: endless scrolling on my various social media platforms, even while telling myself I’d feel better if I stopped.
I’m worried about things. You are probably also worried about things. There are so many things we can do—should do, must do—in real, actual life to address the things we’re all worried about, but one of the things I’ve done and I implore you do as well is to read (or listen to) an old book. It will make you worry less. Not because you will think, My word, life was so much easier/better/less vicious back then!, but because reading will assure you that it was not.
There is comfort in the truth and telling the truth is what literature does best. It reminds us that life is hard, that suffering is involved, but so is beauty, so is ease, so is love. Reading has always been the thing that balanced me out, because it shows me (us) the beauty and the ugliness, the loss and the gain, the transcendent and the horrible.
As many of you know, I’m bringing Dear Sugar back. The reason I chose to do so now has everything to do with what I just wrote. In Dear Sugar your stories (or at least the stories of the people who wrote me) layered over my stories and together—in our public epistolary exchange—we made some sense of the most confounding, painful, wretched and glorious things. I’m ready to do it again.
What a fascinating surprise it’s been to see where “being Sugar” has led me over the past decade. When I took on the (unpaid) “job” of writing the Dear Sugar column on The Rumpus in March of 2010, I did it as something of a lark—an experiment in anonymity, an interesting way to finally know everyone’s secrets (my life-long dream!). But over time it has become perhaps the most meaningful work I’ve done as a writer.
The new version will be a Dear Sugar Letter once a month by email subscription. If you’ve already subscribed, thank you so dang much. The first letter will be landing in your inbox before month’s end. If you want to subscribe, you can do so here.
If you’d like to send Dear Sugar a letter, email it to me here: email@example.com
Okay, so now here’s the newsy part of the newsletter where I tell you about events I have coming up (only two, thanks to COVID) as well as the two things I have to hawk (hello, holiday shopping!).
The first one is this:
When the folks at Workman Publishing approached me back in 2019 about their wish to make a 2021 wall calendar of my quotes, I didn’t imagine what a difficult year 2020 would turn out to be. I’m so happy to report that all the quotes they chose for the calendar are about moving forward with optimism, about our ability to overcome difficulty, about seeking joy and finding beauty. It’s available wherever calendars are sold, but if you’d like me to sign your copy, you can order it from my beloved local independent bookstore, Broadway Books. As always, all of my books are also available to order through them. If you want me to personalize your items, just write the name of the person the book/calendar should be signed to and I will do it at my kitchen table very soon. You’ll find the order page here.
The second thing are these lovely pieces made by the fine folks at Waxing Poetic. I’m proud to say that all net proceeds from the sale of these items will be donated to an amazing nonprofit organization called Outdoor Afro, which “celebrates and supports Black connections and leadership in nature.”
You can read more about Outdoor Afro’s work here and you can order these items from Waxing Poetic here. In addition to the bookmarks and necklace, they’ll be offering a couple bracelets soon too.
Onward to the things I’m doing.
I’ll be interviewed by the brilliant, wonderful writer Pico Iyer in a “House Calls Virtual Event” hosted by UC, Santa Barbara on Thursday, December 3 at 5pm PST (8pm EST). Tickets are $10 and you can purchase yours here. I’ve been a fan of Pico’s writing for decades and those of you who’ve listened to my interview with him on my Sugar Calling podcast know what a wise, kind, deep soul he is (if you didn’t catch it, you can find it wherever you get your podcasts, or listen to it online here).
Speaking of wise and deep souls, I’m SUPER excited to tell you that I’ll be co-teaching a writing workshop with the wonderful Roda Ahmed at The Art of Living Retreat Center in Boone, North Carolina. The workshop it scheduled for October 1-3, 2021, by which date I dearly hope we’ll get to do things like travel and gather again. Roda and I want to make the workshop feel like a wild awakening after we’ve emerged from the worst of the pandemic. The workshop is for writers at all levels—and even for people who don’t consider themselves writers. Roda and I will share the truest things we know about writing and creativity, we’ll lead participants in writing exercises, and we’ll have a lot of inspiring, heart-opening fun. You can learn more about it and register here.
Thank you for reading my newsletter. I’m going do it more often going forward, but I promise not to deluge you. (And if you’re a Dear Sugar Letters subscriber, you’ll get an additional email from me once a month, starting later this month.)
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Wishing you inward peace as the world outside of us rages on.
I can't wait to be gut-punched by your badass benevolence once again!
Thank you for bringing back the sugar and launching this newsletter. You truly have no idea how relieved I am. Thank you.