Young Writers Society


12+ Mature Content

Letter to the Guide - Chapter 1

by saadamansayyed


Susan Peterson,

210, Bremen St

Boston, MA - 02128

The Guide,

1612, Columbia Rd

Boston, MA - 02127

July 24th, 1989

Dear Guide,

I read the first chapter of your book. I struggled to get through single paragraphs as my hands trembled on the mention of the older sister. This is because Julia, my older sister and my best friend, died on July 4th from cancer. As I gazed upon her lifeless frame with horror in my eyes, I broke down to the floor. Life would never be the same without her by my side.

In the two weeks since her funeral, life has changed. Dad is gloomy and cold, uttering not a single word. Mom travels to the far side of town more often, and is rarely to be seen at home. Life feels like a desert, barren, harsh and undiscriminating. The cold breeze that Julia was has traversed far away, and I feel left alone and vulnerable.

Seven years ago, when I was eight, she began to fall ill at an unusual rate. She’d have to stay in hospitals for weeks in a row, and fly to New York frequently. Her eyes looked stripped of their glimmer, and her body grew hollower day by day. Then, one evening, a day before a surgery on her, my dad and mom sat down on the couch, gazing me right in the eye.

“Look, it's been tough lately, and I think we should tell you this,” my dad said, sighing aloud.

“What do you mean, Dad?” I said.

“It’s about Julia. Promise me you’ll stay strong no matter what.”“Okay, but please tell me what you mean, Dad.”

“Julia has Stage 2 ALL.”

“What’s that?”

“She has blood cancer,” he said, his voice breaking and his eyes turning moist.

“But, we need you to stay strong and be ready for whatever may happen,” my mom said.

Tears filled my eyes as I began to comprehend what my parents had told me. Visions flashed in front of my dampened eyes of Julia and me. My parents came down, wiping their tears, to embrace me.

“It’ll be okay, they said.”

As the days went on, the sight of Julia slowly turned into a luxury. She stayed nights upon nights in the hospital, with IV fluids and excruciating chemotherapies blowing a little life into her.

But, as time moved forward, she grew frail and fatigued, unable to muster the strength to speak. Yet, she smiled brightly every time I would see her. And then, one day, still sleeping, she just passed away. Her eyes were shut forever, the sound of her voice muted eternally, her smile only to be seen in photos.

This was the end of our story.

Why did it have to be my dear sister? What wrong had she done? She definitely wasn’t at fault. She was the ideal sister, the perfect daughter, and the greatest friend. Then why was she stolen from me? It seemed unfair, like the whole world had lined up against me.

The whole affair seemed like an ever-flowing river had suddenly become still, as if it were a stagnant stream all along — life just didn’t feel the same, or even good to begin with.

For days upon days, I refused to eat, or do anything. I’d shut myself up in the attic, sobbing uncontrollably with her pictures held in my hand. The Fujifilm bearing her image dampened with the tears and they kept on dropping.

Then, my mother gave me your book. It felt weird at first, then hitting too close to home. But in the end, it gave me some kind of comfort from this unforgiving grief, a kind of respite. It worked almost like a drug — whenever I read it, I found some comfort, and a feeling that she was still alive, looking with enthusiasm for me. However, just like drugs, I grew addicted to this book.

I began feeling the uneasy urge to pick this book up again. I couldn’t think of anything else but the older sister looking for the little sister.

I decided to write this letter, honestly, because I wanted to rid myself of two very bad feelings — that of the grief surrounding Julia, and this weird and addictive attachment I had grown to this book.

I hope you can help me, or else, my friend peeks through the window, with free doses ready in their hands….

Susan.

This is just getting started. For the first time, I coming up with a multi-month series, with each chapter being published month-by-month. So, stay tuned and do let me know what you think of this story.


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Fri Dec 16, 2022 11:54 am
KateHardy wrote a review...



Good Morning/Afternoon/Evening/Night(whichever one it is in your part of the world),

Hi! I'm here to leave a quick review!!

First Impression: Well this is quite an interesting idea for a bit of a novel of sorts here. I wonder if given the title this is going to be sort of a series of letters back and forth or if its meant to start with this letter and then go towards something else. Either way this is a very solid start here.

Anyway let's get right to it,

I read the first chapter of your book. I struggled to get through single paragraphs as my hands trembled on the mention of the older sister. This is because Julia, my older sister and my best friend, died on July 4th from cancer. As I gazed upon her lifeless frame with horror in my eyes, I broke down to the floor. Life would never be the same without her by my side.

In the two weeks since her funeral, life has changed. Dad is gloomy and cold, uttering not a single word. Mom travels to the far side of town more often, and is rarely to be seen at home. Life feels like a desert, barren, harsh and undiscriminating. The cold breeze that Julia was has traversed far away, and I feel left alone and vulnerable.


Well this is starting with quite the powerful opening here. We're diving right in with this person having lost someone that was clearly quite close to them and that definitely has quite a bit of power here. I'm very curious to see where this actually manages take us from here especially given how this death seems to have been a particularly tragic one.

Seven years ago, when I was eight, she began to fall ill at an unusual rate. She’d have to stay in hospitals for weeks in a row, and fly to New York frequently. Her eyes looked stripped of their glimmer, and her body grew hollower day by day. Then, one evening, a day before a surgery on her, my dad and mom sat down on the couch, gazing me right in the eye.

“Look, it's been tough lately, and I think we should tell you this,” my dad said, sighing aloud.

“What do you mean, Dad?” I said.

“It’s about Julia. Promise me you’ll stay strong no matter what.”“Okay, but please tell me what you mean, Dad.”


Well that definitely does not seem like the sort of thing you want to have happen to any family member and the way this person manages to bring this point across in this sort of almost professional manner that still ends up very much laced with emotion really brings the whole idea to life quite powerfully here.

“Julia has Stage 2 ALL.”

“What’s that?”

“She has blood cancer,” he said, his voice breaking and his eyes turning moist.

“But, we need you to stay strong and be ready for whatever may happen,” my mom said.

Tears filled my eyes as I began to comprehend what my parents had told me. Visions flashed in front of my dampened eyes of Julia and me. My parents came down, wiping their tears, to embrace me.


Well you can certainly see the anguish coming in fast there. It seems like things have gotten to a really bad stage there if the parents are actually sitting what seems like the youngest of the family down and informing them of the gravity of everything too. You can certainly see how it looks like this long fight here seems to have maybe taken a turn for the worse at this point beyond just what we saw through the descriptions at the very start.

As the days went on, the sight of Julia slowly turned into a luxury. She stayed nights upon nights in the hospital, with IV fluids and excruciating chemotherapies blowing a little life into her.

But, as time moved forward, she grew frail and fatigued, unable to muster the strength to speak. Yet, she smiled brightly every time I would see her. And then, one day, still sleeping, she just passed away. Her eyes were shut forever, the sound of her voice muted eternally, her smile only to be seen in photos.

This was the end of our story.


Ahhh well this is really quite something there. The idea of the sister managing to be so positive and smile all the time for this person despite clearly fighting what appears to have been a losing battle there really drives home some powerful emotions here. And the almost matter of fact declaration of how it ended seals that deal quite beautifully.

Why did it have to be my dear sister? What wrong had she done? She definitely wasn’t at fault. She was the ideal sister, the perfect daughter, and the greatest friend. Then why was she stolen from me? It seemed unfair, like the whole world had lined up against me.

The whole affair seemed like an ever-flowing river had suddenly become still, as if it were a stagnant stream all along — life just didn’t feel the same, or even good to begin with.

For days upon days, I refused to eat, or do anything. I’d shut myself up in the attic, sobbing uncontrollably with her pictures held in my hand. The Fujifilm bearing her image dampened with the tears and they kept on dropping.


Well that seems pretty much inevitable there. I think you paint a pretty solid picture of the kind of grief that tends to follow something as hurtful as that moment and you go through the stages of it pretty well as far as showcasing these person's thoughts are concerned.

Then, my mother gave me your book. It felt weird at first, then hitting too close to home. But in the end, it gave me some kind of comfort from this unforgiving grief, a kind of respite. It worked almost like a drug — whenever I read it, I found some comfort, and a feeling that she was still alive, looking with enthusiasm for me. However, just like drugs, I grew addicted to this book.

I began feeling the uneasy urge to pick this book up again. I couldn’t think of anything else but the older sister looking for the little sister.

I decided to write this letter, honestly, because I wanted to rid myself of two very bad feelings — that of the grief surrounding Julia, and this weird and addictive attachment I had grown to this book.


Well this is an interesting idea there. I'm assuming this means this book was some sort of guide in terms of navigating through grief and that's a pretty interesting way to try and look at this situation. I don't know if I've ever seen something quite like this before.

Aaaaand that's it for this one.

Overall: Overall I think its something quite interesting to explore here. I see that there's a few more parts of this out there so I'm going to be running through those two to see where this goes.

As always remember to take what you think was helpful and forget the rest.

Stay Safe
Harry




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Wed Sep 07, 2022 3:06 am
lliyah wrote a review...



Hey I think this is a really interesting premise for a story - I love the unique set-up and hope you continue to pursue it.

I'm curious if you're going to write it all in letters or if some will be in a more narrative format? You've definitely set up an interesting conflict of the narrator working through grief which is causing them to sort of wither away - and then there's this mysterious book that the narrator has become addicted to but is also making them feel alive.

I'm really curious what this book contains and more details about it's author too.

For a first chapter you did a great job establishing plot as I already mentioned as well as getting the reader to have some emotional empathy for the narrator. Some details about Susan I'd still really like to know 1) A bit deeper into her relationship with her sister - why were they so close, what did that look like 2) Really anything more about Susan! You give her age as 15? by saying "Seven years ago, when I was eight," but that's a little bit of a jump around math problem for the reader to get through, I wonder if that could be a bit more direct?

You've got some nice vivid language throughout -
"The whole affair seemed like an ever-flowing river had suddenly become still, as if it were a stagnant stream all along — life just didn’t feel the same, or even good to begin with."
^ This was particularly poetic I thought and I love to see those sort of flowing metaphors used in prose!

One thing that I wasn't quite as sure about was the metaphor of the book to drugs - I'd like to know a little bit more on why they find it addictive I guess and what that concretely means. Can they not stop reading? Are they sacrificing something for the book? Just explore that metaphor a bit more deeply maybe.

I think the grief for the character was pretty realistic - but the dialogue of the father telling the daughter seemed a little stilted: "“It’s about Julia. Promise me you’ll stay strong no matter what.”“Okay, but please tell me what you mean, Dad.”"

^ It seems extremely cruel that the father would ask his daughter to "stay strong" about that diagnosis, and it really makes me question their relationship too!

Little grammar note - here: "hollower day by day." (I think it's "more hollow" rather than "hollower"). You did a pretty good job editing the piece for grammar / spelling though! The piece seemed fairly polished from that perspective.

Good luck in your writing!

alliyah

ps. happy Review Month!

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Wed May 04, 2022 1:14 pm
PaigeFantasy wrote a review...



hi! i liked this story, it was creative in its own way, and i like the way you have written it. it’s unique. it gives off an eerie, sad feeling. i like that about it!
it gives me a visual, i can kind of just see the story in my mind, the funeral, the grief, the sadness. the way Susan locked herself in the attic.
definitely needs a few edits here and there. some little bits confused me, but that’s ok!
good job with this, and i can’t wait for more!






Thank you so much!



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Tue May 03, 2022 12:59 am
Atticus wrote a review...



Hi there saadamansayyed!

My name is Atticus, and I'm here for a quick review! I've decided this counts as studying for my literature exam, so here I am. Please bear with me, I haven't reviewed in a minute so apologies if this review is disorganized.

First things first, I really enjoyed the premise of this story! The loss of a loved one is a powerful motivator for someone to change. The beginning captured my attention, and I want to keep reading more. I look forward to seeing how Susan overcomes her grief, and how this journal/guide helps her in that. I also found the response of the family beautiful, in a way. Even though what happened was certainly tragic and I wouldn't wish it on anyone, the way Julia is described shows how much they loved her. I think that indicates that her life was well-lived.

However, I do think there are a few ways this could be made even better. I think more and stronger description would help the reader really absorb the weight of all these emotions. For example, you kinda zoom through the grief that the parents are experiencing.

In the two weeks since her funeral, life has changed. Dad is gloomy and cold, uttering not a single word. Mom travels to the far side of town more often, and is rarely to be seen at home. Life feels like a desert, barren, harsh and undiscriminating.

These descriptions in themselves are good and help to build your characterization. I appreciate that the parents are responding to the loss of their daughter in different ways, showing that they are different people. It makes their characters more dynamic. However, I think this description could be strengthened and expanded.

For example, rather than just writing "Dad is gloomy and cold", describe a family dinner in which he doesn't say a single word, picks at his food, and avoids eye contact with everyone. Instead of saying that "Mom travels to the far side of town more often", show her persistent absence from the family. This lets the reader form their own conclusions about these characters, which helps the story come alive. In real life, no one (or, at least, very few people) are constantly narrating their emotions. So humans have developed ways to determine someone's emotional state. We as human beings love to create stories, so give your reader some leash to do that.

Overall, I really enjoyed this story! Your premise was intriguing, and I look forward to seeing how you connect the guide and letters to the storyline of Julia's death. Your story was well-organized and had a nice flow. I think some enhancements to your description would be the cherry on top. If you have any questions about this review please feel free to reach out! I look forward to reading more from you!

~Atticus






Thank you very much for the review! I'll certainly put 'show not tell' to the list of stuff I need to work on! Best of luck on the literature exam!



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Mon May 02, 2022 2:56 pm
MaybeAndrew wrote a review...



Hey! Andrew here for a review!
First off, I really like the Letter style of story writing! Overall, I found this interesting, the metaphors and writing style are good, and the description of the death is powerful.
There are some points which are clunky and need editing, but nothing too huge. My biggest overall complaint is that besides the letter narrative device, this story is not really grabbing me. It's a little cliche, and nothing about the narrative or style of writing really wrenched me and demands I read on. I'd advise editing it so it grabs us a bit more, and is a little less of just a backstory.
But into specifics!

Susan Peterson,

210, Bremen St

Boston, MA - 02128

The Guide,

1612, Columbia Rd

Boston, MA - 02127

July 24th, 1989

Dear Guide,

I like this little detail, I think dates and stuff like this can really add an original detail to the story!
In the two weeks since her funeral, life has changed. Dad is gloomy and cold, uttering not a single word. Mom travels to the far side of town more often, and is rarely to be seen at home. Life feels like a desert, barren, harsh and undiscriminating. The cold breeze that Julia was has traversed far away, and I feel left alone and vulnerable.

The desert metaphor is really good, and it's interesting to see a cold breeze as a good thing.
Seven years ago, when I was eight, she began to fall ill at an unusual rate. She’d have to stay in hospitals for weeks in a row, and fly to New York frequently. Her eyes looked stripped of their glimmer, and her body grew hollower day by day. Then, one evening, a day before a surgery on her, my dad and mom sat down on the couch, gazing me right in the eye.

“Look, it's been tough lately, and I think we should tell you this,” my dad said, sighing aloud.

“What do you mean, Dad?” I said.

“It’s about Julia. Promise me you’ll stay strong no matter what.”“Okay, but please tell me what you mean, Dad.”

“Julia has Stage 2 ALL.”

“What’s that?”

“She has blood cancer,” he said, his voice breaking and his eyes turning moist.

Now, this bit is strange to me. They've been taking her to the hospital for seven years, and he's still caught by surprise at the fact his sister had cancer?

The whole affair seemed like an ever-flowing river had suddenly become still, as if it were a stagnant stream all along — life just didn’t feel the same, or even good to begin with.

The stream metaphor here is also well written.
For days upon days, I refused to eat, or do anything. I’d shut myself up in the attic, sobbing uncontrollably with her pictures held in my hand. The Fujifilm bearing her image dampened with the tears and they kept on dropping.

This feels a bit overdramatic, people dying is really bad, but sobbing for days straight? It kinda took me out of the story. I'd clarify what you mean by the "Sobbing uncontrobbaly with her pictures held in my hand" because I'd assume you wouldn't mean our character was doing that for multiple days on end, with no break?
Then, my mother gave me your book. It felt weird at first, then hitting too close to home. But in the end, it gave me some kind of comfort from this unforgiving grief, a kind of respite. It worked almost like a drug — whenever I read it, I found some comfort, and a feeling that she was still alive, looking with enthusiasm for me. However, just like drugs, I grew addicted to this book.

The idea of a character writing to an author is also interesting. A story within a story.
But that's just my two cents! Hope it helped!
Excited to read future chapters of this story!
Thanks, and keep writing,
Andrew






Hi Andrew, I loved reading your thoughts on my story. Well, yes, the story is overdramatic (in some places, intentionally so). I do understand the point about her knowing after 7 years, and I wanna fix that. So.... Yeah, thanks. Please do read the future chapters :)




But answer me this: how can a story end happily if there is no love?
— Kate DiCamillo, The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane