Hiraeth 10

August 14, 2010
Conwy, North Wales

Dear Lainie,

I got your letter fax when we came in after our time at Mt. Snowdon. I only had a short time to read it before we needed to leave for Ruthin to go to the medieval banquet that looked like such a hoot in the Rick Steves travel video. Lainie, I couldn’t take it in then or now. I am both too keyed up and exhausted. I need time to think before I react. Do you have any idea of the implications of what you said?

So instead I am going to indulge myself in reliving the highlights of our trip thus far not recorded, and your penance is to read it. Romans! Have you ever considered how many pages of words are summed up in that single one? Caesars! Gladiators! Empire! Togas! Legions! Aqueducts! Senators! Spartacus! Pilate! Antony and Cleopatra! The Forum! I think I’ve made my point. Personally I’ve always thought of them as thugs with genius for building (including bureaucracy) and a genius for being world class thugs with an intellectual class of sour old men who were incapable of a middle ground. They were Greek wannabes who could not even come up with their own pantheon of gods.

Going to Caerleon, Fortress of the Legions (Caer Lligion), didn’t change my reaction exactly as much as it did finally force me to admire what they did well. Only three ruins remain, one set of legionary barracks, the arena just outside the fortress walls and the excavated Roman bath within the walls, over which they’ve built a museum. These are impressive, but what awed me was the scale and size. A small town (I wouldn’t mind living here; a sinfully sublime bakery) sits directly on top of where the fortress was, but they have done a remarkable job of marking the limits of the walls and various gates, so the town itself serves to stress that this was a Roman town as bustling with the everyday amenities as the modern one.

The two museums are worth seeing, but best of all are the period impersonators. Not just soldiers, but healers, metal workers, gardeners and cooks whom we could watch go about their work with the instruments and supplies of first century Roman Britain. Two of them, when they realized I was researching a book, took me to each craftsperson and had them demonstrate and explain exactly how the work was done. They were patient, informative and funny, and a tight-knit group of people who enjoy each other. I think I will introduce a metal worker and a healer with a set of old (and fiendishly sadistic) instruments handed down in his family from the early days of the legions in Britain into the time travel portion of my second novel. Which character’s skull should I have my healer drill a hole in for medicinal purposes (trepan)? You don’t even want to see the instruments they used on the private parts. This is almost as happy a find as the medieval Welsh law that has the woman who accuses rape holding the man’s ‘member’ in court and swearing on it. Victor Frankenstein move over.

Today was pure fun, and Yr Wyddfa (Mt. Snowdon), the grand old giant of Wales, may have had the last laugh, but we pulled up a chair and joined him. Harry and I only had a few hours so we took the lazy person’s friend, the Snowdon Mountain Railway. It was a gray, drizzly morning. We went to Llanberis on a dice throw. The website said they had no more tickets available, but we were at the door waiting at 9 a.m. and on our way up by 9:30. The scenery was dramatic the first third of the way up, but Wyddfa was playing with us, reeling us in. By halfway up we ogled the sheep pastures and neighboring peaks through a dewy gauze. By the top Wyddfa had wrapped himself up good and tight in his best hooded cloak of tightly-woven cloudy wool. Visibility zero, and was he ever passing wind from every orifice.

One man we rode up with had brought his 6-year-old son from Leicester on his sixth trip up. Wyddfa 6-Andrew 0. Once we passengers knew our fate, the trip took on a carnival atmosphere. The nine of us laughed and told our funniest travel disasters. Harry and I stood at the peak tip around the brass disc that points out the sights holding each other in a fit of giggles trying not to blow away.  The mother of three with us was actually happy as a lark to be walking around in a cloud. She was afraid of heights. Not seeing the glories of Eryri/Snowdonia just may have been the better part.

The people are so warm, and we have had great conversations everywhere we go. I realize how much I have missed that as part of my days–meeting new people and hearing their stories. The medieval feast tonight was a case in point. An Annapolis couple told us of their meeting in the U.K. and that they were back for their 30th anniversary. The Rhuddlan couple who shared our meal was also there for their anniversary, a present from their teenage children. We heard about each children, and then we plunged into a discussion about modern Wales and the struggle to preserve the land and culture with the influx of ‘outsiders’ buying up so much property for summer and retirement homes.

No one can keep help laughing while downing mead libations (sadly, mead has joined Guinness and English meat pies on my list of things that were romantically appealing than tasty. Mayhap, I am simply taste bud-challenged.) to eating poultry legs in veggie stew and lamb with sides armed only with fingers and a small serrated knife. SH did not mind the sweet, pretty maiden flirting with him as she tied the full torso snowy linen napkin around his neck either.

The MCs were note perfect, managing the feast with exuberant humor bawdy to sardonic (wink! wink!). My worry that the perspective would be very English (Ruthin was built as an English royal castle and remained so into the 17th century, if memory serves). Yay, Edward I! Boo, the native princes! It was just the opposite, and the music was glorious! We had wanted to hear a Welsh Men’s Choir, but the all-female ensemble that sang for us were professional caliber voices. The rich-dessert-harmonies wove lovingly about the melody, from Welsh language folk and patriot songs to naughty medieval lyrics. But none of that would have been enough to make it one of those rare perfect, self-contained experiences without our fellow hundred guests who entered in with merry abandon. I did not understand how uncommon a thing it is they did until I was part of it, not a person hanging on to pride or appearances, childlike but not childish.

What a gift to be here! Fifty-some people gave me this day and themselves if only for a few minutes, and they will never know that because of them I sit here tonight with pockets, hands and a heart sloppy with joy.

Good night, my friend.

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Hiraeth 9

To: “Em Forrester” <EmmaForrester@mailer.com
From: “Elaine McKenzie” <ElaineMcKenzie@DolbartonMcKenzieAngency.com>

I should address this snitch, but as your godmother I suppose I should take the high road and applaud your loyalty and more developed conscience. Between you and me, I should not have asked you to lie to your mom, even by omission. You have probably noticed by now I have some issues with your grandmother. It is not my story to tell, and it is long past time I let go of the anger. Anger is a funny thing. You’ve probably heard the platitude that it hurts the angry person more than the object of that anger. (I am not sure that is always true, btw.) You may even have heard the psychological version that underneath all anger is a person who is hurt. (That I buy, more or less; at least it’s true in this case.) But what I believe most is that at the core of any anger is an unshakable belief that our anger will change the other person or the situation, or at least make someone behave the way we want them to behave. It almost never does, and if it hasn’t happened in the first year, it is time to hang it up.

So much for my godmotherly wisdom. Brandon and I will be at the Saturday performance as promised. Micah and Kat are coming as well, so please reserve four tickets at the box office. Break a leg, kid!

Aunt Lainie

——————————————————————————————- FROM: “Elaine McKenzie” <ElaineMcKenzie@DolbartonMcKenzieAgency.com>
TO: “Thomas Czekalski” <ThomasKCzekalski@DamionandSons.com>


As per our conversation, I am forwarding the first three chapters of Carolyn Davies Forrester’s new novel Hiraeth. I understand your company’s marketing and character development issues in Carolyn’s fantasy novel series,, while admiring the writing and storytelling. I appreciate your continued faith in her and that project and agree with your idea that in the meantime a different genre might be a better vehicle to establish her as a writer. Let me know what you think.

Elaine McKenzie
Senior Partner
Dolbarton-McKenzie Literary Agency
1220 Market Street Suite 220
Philadelphia, PA 19118


August 14, 2010

Dear Carrie,

Surprise! My own handwritten letter sent Fed-Ex to arrive overnight. Good idea faxing your last two letters. I think I have them all now.

I am sorry I have not written much. First I apologize about my reaction to your mother’s troubles. I should not have interfered with your relationship with Em. I will in the future try to put behind me the days your mother disappeared for days on end leaving her young teenage daughter and even younger son to fend for themselves, or the times I had to watch you put her to bed dead-drunk and weepy leaving you to clean up her vomit, or sit with you at the hospital and police station because she’d wrapped her car around various obstacles while driving drunk. She never hit anyone, but she left you a legacy of worry that all too often kept you awake at night. Forgive me for seeing red that a woman who inherited enough money to live comfortably for life burned every cent, and now is likely to end up on your doorstep sick and destitute. I have undoubtedly made you furious saying these things.

This is the perfect example of why you had to ask if you could really trust me with your heart, but Carrie, your dream! Since that first day in kindergarten, when you told me the story of the old-man-in-the-tree at the corner of the playground who invited you to tea and fed you a different birthday cake with candles each day because little girls should always be full of wishes, I have watched you spin stories and worlds with the ease that most of us tie our shoes. Reading and writing stories were as natural and constant for you as breathing. I think my favorite is the Abe Lincoln as Santa Claus at the orphanage one. I’m sorry I stopped you from mailing it to Walt Disney. They probably would have made it into a movie exactly as you foresaw, and you would have been discovered as both writer and actor at the age of 11. I did not want to be left behind in my ordinary black and white world.

It’s taken thirty years of twists and turns and sacrifices, important ones though they were, that allowed you no room to write except for your journal, but now you are so close. I know no one so full of wishes, as you, but seeing a published book of yours is the wish at the root of you. Don’t sacrifice it. You are so close.

You say I’ve always made fun. Guilty. It’s because when you go to worlds where I am not equipped to follow I get scared and so jealous at times I could spit. I am not a good person, Carrie. I don’t understand your faith or how you can bear to feel things so deeply, or see such fine things when the world is more dark than light. It makes you so vulnerable.You know that. But you love me anyway.

Your letters are beautiful and funny. Keep writing. Brandon sends his best.

All my love,

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Hiraeth 8

August 13, 2010
Conwy, North Wales

Dear Lainie,

The Welsh have a word, hiraeth. It is one of those words that doesn’t fully translate, but if I understand its closest equivalents are longing and homesicknessHiraeth is both those things super-strength. Those who experience hiraeth experience it at the cellular level. They can never be whole anywhere else. Their roots won’t hold anywhere else.

I am no stranger to longing. It may even be my curse, except that this lifelong nameless longing is what drives me to my knees. I understand C.S. Lewis’s description of joy in his spiritual autobiography better (did you know his father was Welsh?). It is hiraeth, because hiraeth also includes the joy and completeness that comes only in the place where your heart lives. I have been homesick as well, but only spiritually or relationally, never for a place. I honestly don’t think that will be true any longer when I leave here.

You have made fun of me for years for what you consider my ridiculous attachment to North Wales “all because an old boyfriend told me Davies was Welsh thirty years ago, which [I’ve] never been able to prove.” The attachment for the record came much later, but the suggestion did appeal to that part of me that wants to be anything but a WASP. It makes absolutely no sense to me that it isn’t Ireland, Highland Scotland or Germany that I feel this visceral, passionate attraction to, if I am going to feel this way at all (which in itself seems odd). I have ample documented ancestors from all three, and two of them are equally Celtic. I am related to Robert Burns, for heaven’s sake!

Coming here I was anxious. How could Gwynedd possibly live up to thirty years of imagining and romanticizing? I tried to prepare myself. I did my best to get in a purely academic frame of mind with a willingness to appreciate North Wales on its own terms.

It was all for nothing. I can’t explain it. I won’t even try. It has exceeded everything I imagined. It feels like coming home. I am in a constant state of wonder. Parts of the topography remind me of Western Pennsylvania, but it is largely unique (the closest I can get is the Rockies and the Appalachians mated and had kids). The mountains rise steeply (all under 4000 ft.): the valleys are narrow. I have never seen so many gradients of green and gray. The mountains and sky behave like tempestuous lovers, clouds and mists rising and falling, twisting and curling, changing mood within seconds. When the shifting light and visibility is right, standing in the ruins of Dolwyddelan or Dolbadarn Castles, looking down into the fields and passes where they have stood sentinel for hundreds of years, it is hard not to believe that out of the corner of your eye you see Llywelyn Fawr and his people at their daily business when these were living places.

A lovely man Rhys Williams, the incarnation of Welsh hospitality, took us on a day with the Princes (the native princes of Gwynedd as opposed to Princes of Wales, heir to the British throne). We went to Garth Celyn where the Llywelyns had their main royal seat, to Aber Falls (another climb) nearby, into Snowdonia (Eryri-Place of Eagles) to see all the major peaks and the two native castles mentioned above (more climbing), visiting where the church in Llanrwst that preserves Llywelyn Fawr’s stone coffin (upon the conquest the body was thrown into the Conwy River), into Caernarfon where I boycotted Edward I’s castle but needed to see Segontium’s ruins, and a handful of other drive-bys. Not the least of his gifts was that he drove, so Harry and I both got gawk at the scenery.

I need to write about this place, but it isn’t quite time. This day was just a seed planting. Tomorrow we head out to Anglesey, with our primary goal finding a location for my Grail Castle, home of the 58th hereditary Fisher King and Grail Keeper, Huw Ripsgodyn (and Earl of Mon). Rhys told us of a place he thinks would fit all my criteria.

I think this is the longest we have ever gone without talking. I miss it. Harry says hello. He says he’s not missing you bossing him around. He is considering building a curtain wall around our house to ensure this continued state of blissful quiet.


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Hiraeth 7

To: “Lainie McKenzie” <ElaineMcKenzie@DolbartonMcKenzieAgency.com
From: “Carolyn Forrester” <CRDF@mailer.com>


Do not ever tell one of my kids not to tell me something that concerns my family again. Will talk when I get back.


August 10, 2010
Caerleon, South Wales


This writing real letters may be good for you, but it is getting more and more frustrating for me. They take so long to reach you, and with no response from you I begin to feel like I’m writing to the wall. It doesn’t help that I am more furious with you than I’ve ever been. That much you should know by now, and while I genuinely want it to wait till I get home to discuss it, writing longhand does comes from a different place. I don’t know how to blithely write a newsy letter about our travels while I am churning inside. I just can’t ignore that you crossed the one boundary that no one gets to cross but Harry. Since we were little you have not allowed me one corner of my life that you didn’t think was your business. For the few times you bulled through my defenses, and in truth knew better than I that I needed saving, I have tolerated and usually laughed at your sense of entitlement. But not with my children, and not about my mother. I can picture you reading this, and the smirk you always get when you think someone is making a mountain out of a mole hill. I don’t know if it is in you to understand, but please, Lainie, please, this once honor my wishes.

As for our travels, driving continues to be nerve-wracking, and the locations for my novel continue to add weeks of rewriting to my already behind schedule final edit. Nothing is as I thought. Harry keeps commenting about the sense of history being overwhelming, and it is, but the preservation of it has been carved from the living present. Dozmary Pool where I thought JD would find Excalibur is surrounded by barbed wire-fenced farms with only a hidden cow path where livestock are herded to get a drink. It is not close to being dry like one website said, but it is shallow, not somewhere any self-respecting Lady of the Lake would set up shop.

Glastonbury Tor, too, is amidst farm fields except on one side where the town crowds up under its skirts. Sheep are kept on the tor to crop the grass, and sheep dung is everywhere (do sheep have dung, or only horses and cows?) The climb rivaled Tintagel, and it is steps, very steep ones, going up both sides not paths as I’d thought. How will I get Jack who is on crutches up there? I certainly would not have made it without Harry. I was wheezing like an antique vacuum twenty steps up. No parking lots either though the Lonely Planet guidebook assured me there were. But don’t get me wrong, there is an austere majesty about it, rising up from the flats topped by St. Michael’s Tower. We saw it from miles away. If ever there was a place with a doorway to magical ancient worlds this is a keeper. The shape seems impossible for nature, and yet it is.

The town of Glastonbury surrounds the Glastonbury Abbey ruins where Arthur was supposedly buried, right up to the walls enclosing it. Though they are only blocks from each other, I could not see the Abbey from the tor or the tor from the abbey. In one spot in the whole enclosure I could spot the tip of St. Michael’s. That in itself seems mysterious, but more importantly problematic for the action that needs to take place there in both the 6th and 21st centuries.

Chalice Well Garden is a pretty little secluded spot at the foot of the tor (but we would not have gone in except we heard they had a good bathroom, and I really had to go. Turns out they are the 2010 winner of the Best Loo, national division). This place has more to do with Joseph of Arimathea and the Grail legend. I am still not sure if I will use it. All in all, many problems to solve, but some good new ideas, too.

I will enclose a final picture to give you a taste for the town itself and leave you with a smile (I hope). There were quite a few shop windows like this, but in other ways it is a quaint but business-as-usual old English town. I will save Caerleon for the next letter. I am tired, and I’ve ignored Harry too long. I really am the most blessed of women (what’s a little snoring and flatulence).

Love, Carrie

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Hiraeth 6

To:”Mom” <CRDF@mailer.com>
From: “Emmeline Forrester” <EmmaForrester@mailer.com>


Nothing’s wrong. At least I think not. Uncle Rick called to say they had to take Gram to the ER because she got scraped up from a fall. He said not to worry, but I know you will, so since I have a break from rehearsals and am only a couple hours away I thought I’d drive over and check on her. I’m a little short on cash, so I called Aunt Lainie, and she said absolutely not. She ordered me to stay put and not to tell you. I get that she’s afraid you might board the next plane. That’s why I was going to check first, but doesn’t she know how furious you’d be if no one told you? She acts like this is some sacred pilgrimage you’re on, and the world will cave in if you don’t stay put. Mom, what happened between Gram and Aunt Lainie? She’s always bossy and quick-tempered, but she turns into Medusa at the mention of Gram, and this trip . . . Well, she’s just being very weird.

I don’t know if I should have written, but at least you can call Gram and/or Uncle Rick. Things are good here. Sorry you won’t be here for the final production of the season, but I don’t think you will be missing anything (except me). Geoffrey isn’t the director Adam and Meghan are. I’ve loved doing summer stock, but it is exhausting. I’ll be glad to have the week with Micah and Kat at the shore to unwind before I run them to Llanhurst and head to New York. Hard to believe this time a year ago it was me heading to Llanhurst for my senior year, and now it’s Micah and Kat.

By the itinerary you e-mailed you should be in Caerleon, Wales by now! I am so happy you are finally getting to be there after all these years. Have you gotten to use your Welsh? Give Dad my love. From what I can tell from Facebook, texts and e-mails the sibs are well and Kat says every week Micah has had a harem of teenage girls drooling over him between driving the ski boat and playing guitar at night. Of course, he says she’s just jealous. Will they ever outgrow this?

Love you,


To: “Emmeline Forrester” <EmmaForrester@mailer.com>
From: “Carolyn Forrester” <CRDF@mailer.com>


Thanks for the heads up. I called both your uncle and grandmother, and it sounds like the fall itself did no lasting harm. Still when I get home I will have to drive out. From what Gram said she has fallen a few times in the last six months and never bothered to mention it. As for Lainie, I agree that she is acting stranger than normal, but she balls up like a porcupine aiming her needles at me if I comment upon it let alone ask why.

As for her and Grams, let’s just say that for someone who intends never to have children, your aunt has had a ferocious maternal instinct from the womb, and when she upgraded from earthworms, tadpoles and mice to humans at the age of 8 or 9 she lavished (or should I say drowned) me with her vast reservoirs of vigilance and protectiveness. While more than half the time I wanted to slug her, I have to admit the rest of the time I was deeply touched and grateful. The simplest way to explain is she thought I deserved better in my parents, but don’t we all (though your dad is close to perfect). You and your brother and sister certainly deserve a better mother. All I can say is that when I broke she was always there to help pick up the pieces, so by God’s grace, often by way of Lainie, you have a better mother than you would have. (That doesn’t mean I am not going to pin her to the wall for being so high-handed). She can’t forgive your grandmother for being who she is. Maybe that is why I could, but I pray not. I have never been able to convince Lainie that it is none of her business, one way or the other.

Break a leg on your performance this weekend! Will they film one of the performances? Oops! Just looked at my watch. We have to be checked out of our room in 30 minutes, and I still have to shower. Dad says he’ll write this evening. Yes, I am thrilled to be in Wales. No, I haven’t used my Welsh. and unless I can find someone who will converse with me as scripted in my Welsh language book, I think I better stick with English.

Love you, too sweetheart!

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Hiraeth 5

August 8, 2010
Tintagel, Cornwall (pronounced Tin-TA-gel, g is soft and all vowels are short)


I have been staring at blank paper for an hour now, and it is midnight. I am not sure why I find it so hard to start. It would be too easy to write all the funny things about the tiny village of Tintagel with three buildings named for every major character and place in the Arthurian lexicon including Merlin’s Pasties (pronounced PAST-ies with a short a like the word past. Cornish pasties are quite tasty by the way.) All the possible ways for the Fitzroy teens to needle their father and Merlin as they walk these streets will keep me madly giggling at my computer for a happy afternoon.

I could wax about our driving misadventures among teensy one-track but two-way traffic roads among the most breathtaking landscapes you can imagine. I could write that the photographs of the wild glory of the Cornish coast that have enthralled me since I was kid do not do it justice. More importantly I should fill half a page about my distress at my first sight of Tintagel itself, that almost island, jutting pugnaciously into the sea, because it disintegrated 50 pages of manuscript. Photographs and satellite pictures had misled me entirely. I couldn’t have gotten the topography more wrong. It is massive and it is high.

But writing those things would be dishonest because none of that communicates my experience here. I saw it, and I was terrified. I am not sure you who have always been able to count on your body can really understand that moment of black, all-encompassing fear that opens a pit at your feet. I felt so precarious. I had come all this way to explore this place, but seeing it, I knew it was impossible. It was physically impossible. Some of it had to do with not being fit enough to climb the hundreds of steep stairs built into the cliff sides, but not really. Ten steps up I would have to fight my asthma every step the rest of the way, even using my inhaler, and a quarter of the way, or maybe even halfway up, I would lose. It has always been that way with climbing as you know, but I’ve avoided situations in recent years that would set off an attack. Standing at the bottom looking up I realized I never again wanted to experience that squeezing pressure in my lungs, that struggle for air and the wheezing, rasping frightening sounds I make in the effort. Even more than the drowning need for air, I was afraid to fail. I’ve done so much of that these past couple years, especially in my ability to achieve what I conceive to do. Maybe in that moment it became symbolic of ever getting the novels right. Who knows? Only one way I would I ever know. I had to try. I couldn’t write what I intended to happen at Tintagel–the story of Arthur’s birth, and the ambush of his daughter 15 centuries later–if I did not explore every inch myself. It was every bit as hard as I imagined, but when my lungs said quit, instead I stopped and rested at the nearest spot people could pass me.

Lainie, I did it! I did it, and when I reached the top of the island (about 300-400 feet above the entrance) I thought I might actually fly. I’d made Harry stay down near the lower gate of the 13th-century castle ruin to take a picture as I waved from the top (picture on left). I’m a mere speck, but I’m absurdly proud of it.

I did my due diligence photographing and video-taping every square inch so I could remember and write the pivotal scenes that happen here while I waited for Harry to finish the climb. We wondered around then to get the history bits and various ruins lined up with the guide book. People have lived on this place since before the Romans, and it was the dwelling of some well-to-do ruler in the 6th century, contemporary with my Arthur. We could have left then. I had all I needed, or so I thought. The wind was constant, and rain fell in fits and starts, never quite sure what to do. But we didn’t, and I am so grateful.

We moved to the edge of the cliff closest to the sea and sat. We didn’t talk. We watched the clouds plunge and thrust and crack open to the light. We gazed at the calico sea, shifting always in shade and color, singing at any place the sun touched. We tasted the wind and the salt. We smelled the earth and moss. The other people seemed to fade away, and I was quiet inside for the first time in days. My heart swelled in gratitude knowing this time, this place, this trip, the man beside me were gifts unlooked for and undeserved from the God who loves us more than I can ever believe except in small doses and who calls me his.  For a moment, and you may call it my fevered imagination, or some shiver of vestigial memory inherited from my ancestors, but for a glimmer of a moment I had a sense of all the life that had gone on in this place, hundreds of generations and maybe more, with loves and labors and griefs as real as mine.

As if the Lord had not been profligate enough in grace, Harry touched my arm and pointed. A tiny kestrel floated absolutely still in the air not twenty feet from us, aloft on an updraft from the crag to our right. He did not move for a full three minutes, and then the wind shifted, and he soared with the elegance of a swift, caught another and held again. He reminded me of all that can be lost if we are not fully present, fully being in the moment where we are. That is our promise and our calling, and if we let it, like the kestrel it is more than enough.

I don’t know, Lainie. I am too prone to see signs and meanings, and over-think and read into things. And it is not exactly that I saw any of those things in my experience on Tintagel, but it did feel like a specific promise from God about my writing. The promise has no words. Only the assurance that this is the journey, and however uncertain it feels, I am still on the road, and I must keep following it.

You wanted my heart. Here it is, at least as much as I can know. Can I trust you with it?

Love, Carrie

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Hiraeth 4

To: ‘Carolyn Forrester’ <CRDF@mailer.com>
From: ‘Elaine McKenzie’ <ElaineMcKenzie@DolbartonMcKenzieAgency.com>

Carolyn Rhiana Davies Forrester, you are such a twit! I do have a life when you aren’t around. Brandon breezed into town, arrived at the office with my packed bag (one of these days I am going to fire Sophie for colluding with him) in order to sweep me off for one of his romantic interludes. You’d think he’d realize by now that all his tried-and-true methods to woo and make hearts melt to slop don’t work with me, but I suppose that is part of the reason he keeps coming back. The Challenge. What I can’t figure out is why I don’t send him packing.

As for this melodrama over my final remark at the airport is a bunch of hooey! Carrie, you’re stuck! You’ve lost your voice and changing your novel every which way possible until it is unrecognizable isn’t working. You know that! I know that! One of the problems is that overheated imagination of yours can spin a dozen new plotlines at once, and writing on your laptop allows you to write fast enough so you don’t consider whether these new ideas fit, work, and/or are what you really want to say. You get so enamored with spinning the tale that you lose all sense of size and pattern. You need to find your voice again, Bug, and I honestly think writing with pen and paper may let your thoughts and inner-you catch up with your fingers and imagination. Stop fussing and get to work! The editors won’t stay interested forever.

Elaine McKenzie
Dolbarton-McKenzie Literary Agency
1220 Market Street Suite 220
Philadelphia, PA 19118

P.S. Charlemagne misses you, but he is eating and shitting and rolling in things I wish he wouldn’t on our walks, so I think all is well. I did love the color of swallowed outrage on Brandon’s face when I said that Charlie would be coming with us.

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