the help

I’m reading The Help (if you haven’t read it yet, you need to pick up a copy immediately). In it is a woman right out of college who wants to be a writer. She applies to Harper and Row Publishers and receives the following response:

Dear Miss Phelan,
I am responding personally to your résumé because I found it admirable that a young lady with absolutely no work experience would apply for an editing job at a publisher as prestigious as ours. A minimum of five years in the business is mandatory for such a job. You’d know this if you’d done any amount of research on the business.

Having once been an ambitious young lady myself, however, I’ve decided to offer you some advice: go to your local newspaper and get an entry-level job. You included in your letter that you “immensely enjoy writing.” When you’re not making mimeographs or fixing your boss’s coffee, look around, investigate, and write. Don’t waste your time on the obvious things. Write about what disturbs you, particularly if it bothers no one else.

Yours sincerely,
Elaine Stein, Senior Editor, Adult Book Division

I love writing about what disturbs me. So the next few posts will be dedicated to just that. Maybe more than a few. A lot of things upset or disgust or disturb me.

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