During the last five weeks of our writing class (“Jumpstart Your Writing”) here on Sanibel, we’ve used the metaphor of a “note in a bottle” to talk about writing: the note as the words we write and the bottle as the container for the words. This bottle can come in many shapes. It could be in the shape of a single poem, story, or essay. It could be a collection of poems, stories, or essays. It could be a novel or a memoir. What about a blog entry? an editorial in a newspaper? a carefully constructed letter to a granddaughter? So the bottle is the shape we give to our writing.
When we’ve written and shaped our pieces into some sort of container, it is time to toss that note and bottle into the sea. (This is particularly apt because Sanibel is a slip of an island on the Gulf of Mexico.) In other words, it is time to send our writing out into the world.
The very act of bringing our shaped final piece to the class, then reading it, and passing out copies to each other is the simplest and most basic way of throwing our bottles into the sea. We’ve taken our words out of the notebooks, shaped them into some form, and sent them on their way.
Some of us may send our “notes in bottles” beyond a class or writers’ group. Maybe we’ll publish one of our poems or short essays in the local newspaper; maybe we’ll send a piece to our families; maybe we’ll submit our writing to a contest or a magazine. We don’t always know where our writing will end up, or who will read it, for that matter.
Janet Sunderland, one of the contributors to the anthology, When Last Mountain: The View from Writers over Fifty, is about to toss her note in a bottle into the sea. We’ve stayed in touch since the anthology was published, and she wrote to tell me that her chapbook of poems, At the Boundary, will be forthcoming from Finishing LIne Press. She writes: “That goal [of publishing a book] has been elusive to me and perhaps for a good reason. Perhaps I simply wasn’t ready to take on the daunting task of marketing and selling a book. As writers, we love to write. Marketing? Well, not so much.” So sometimes it takes a bit more of an effort to get that bottle out there. But Janet has done it.
And so have the writers in the class.
Getting our work out of notebooks and into the world isn’t always easy, but then we can move on to create more notes in more bottles for more people to discover.
“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” –Maya Angelou
To find Janet’s book, go to Finishing Line Press, PREORDER FORTHCOMING TITLES. You can read her bio and reviews of her chapbook. Congratulations, Janet!