As a part of my new job, I am reading and editing letters to the editor for the newspaper. It is a singular experience to have to read a letter calling you an idiot, then call the person who wrote it to verify their identity. Then, when that letter runs in the paper, your friends say, “Oh I saw that letter about you in the paper! That person is the worst!” And I say, “Sure, but I read that letter. Edited it. And talked to the person who wrote it.”
The reason we call people to verify their identities because we have a cap on how many letters a person can get published in the paper in a month. That cap is one. We tend to see the same letter writers over and over. So, the cap makes sense. The purpose of the call is to make sure they have a local address and are the person they are claiming to be. Recently, I called a woman who had written that I was the worst thing that happened to the Gazette since they started running Leonard Pitts column. She was very polite on the phone.
“Oh hi, Lyz!” she said. “Yes that was me! You have a good day.”
One man, who had written to say I was a baby murderer, told me in a very angry voice, “Yes, I did write that, what of it?” I explained why we called and told him to “be best!” and hung up. He immediately sent an email, “revoking permission” to publish his letter. And no one really cared, except the space needs words so sometimes we scrape the bottom of the barrel.
I don’t hate this part of the job. In fact, I like it. I ask to call up the letter writers who hate me. I think a lot about my cheery voice, “Hello, this is Lyz Lenz calling from the Gazette” and how it must feel to have the person you hate so much that you’d write a letter, a hand-written letter, and spend money on a stamp, to mail it to a newspaper, in hopes that someone will publish it so everyone can know, how it feels to have that person call you on the phone. To say, “hi, how are you, we are gonna publish your letter!”
It’s a singular joy to force someone who can’t see you as a person, to see you.
Also, if you are not a subscriber, I wrote a huge newsletter about the Biden incident and if you want to read it, it’s a good one.
And if you remember, I promised October would be my month of crying and sleeping. Well, I’m right on track!
If you live in Iowa, you should definitely come see me talk to Josh Gondelman about his new book!!’
If you don’t live in Iowa, you should come see me at the Texas Book Festival. That link has links to further information about where I will be.
If you don’t live in any place, too bad. I’m mostly done with travel for God Land (unless someone wants to pay me to come somewhere, but I and my publisher are out of money). But I’ll be on the road again NEXT AUGUST, when my book Belabored comes out and I am pretty freaking sure, I’ll be announcing the cover and everything very soon. You know, once I finish my month of crying and sleeping.
Here is what I’ve been writing:
Things I’ve been thinking about lately:
A friend of mine has been making me buy art books because he is a jerk. But I really love this one by Klea McKenna about textiles, colonialism, and women’s sexuality
My friend Cameron Dezen Hammond wrote a book and it has a lot about sex and bodies and faith and if you are interested in those things, you should buy the book. It’s out October 22