Friday, October 28, 2011

Updates and a few favors:

Hey all!

So just a quick update on my book: Dear Mr. President is still going to be printed, the editing process was stalled when my lovely and very very talented copy editor and friend got a new job at The Stranger. (Yay Anna!!) I'm looking for a new editor (my lovely and very very talented graphic designer and friend who is responsible for the beautiful cover art is helping me out in this area- Yay Kitri!!) and when it is finished the book will be infinitely better and more readable because of Kitri and Anna's help, so thanks for being patient and I promise you I will let you know as soon as you can buy it.

My mother recently brought to my attention that the campaign to re-elect President Obama is hiring writers and editors. (For more info check out the listing on I'm planning to apply but I need several writing samples to send in. I'll be combing the blogs I've kept, the school assignments and writer's group pieces I've done, but if you happen to recall a letter/post that you thought was particularly well-written, I could really use some suggestions. Also, despite the clown car that is the Republican primary, I think 2012 is going to be a tough campaign and will need great writers! If you or any one you know is right for this campaign, pass along the listing and encourage others to apply!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The book!

A first look at the lovely cover art by Kitri Wood:


Right now the printer that will make the inside of the book is down, so I'll be posting ordering details, pricing and all that jazz as soon as it is back online....

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Reflection, FAQ, and Espresso

I'm not sure that I've been away from my blog long enough to really reflect effectively. For one thing, these last two days have been full of work adventures and more than my share of celebration New Year's Eve. But I do want to sum up the experience for those who are interested, and offer some suggestions for those who'd like to read other blogs. I thought I'd start by answering a few questions I hear pretty often:

Q: Does the President write back?

A: Sadly, no. I've gotten about 40 form-letter responses ("Dear Friend, Thank you for writing about _____. The President thinks _____ is important/complicated/challenging/essential. blah blah blah. Signed, The Autopen") I don't mind this, actually. The President gets 40,000 e-mails and letters every day. If mine never made it past the secretary's secretary's desk, that's not entirely surprising.

Q: Are you going to keep blogging?

A: Maybe? I'm certainly not going to continue with Dear Mr. President, if only because I can't commit to writing every day with school and work and my 2011 resolution to train for a marathon. That being said, I don't imagine I'll be able to give it up entirely, and maybe in a month or so I'll start a new blog. If that's the case, I will post it here.

Q: What is an Espresso Book? Do I want one? Can I get one?

A: The lovely University Bookstore has a machine named Homer, also called an Espresso Book Machine. This small press is used to self-publish or to print public domain titles. Because I'm a bibliophile and because the internet won't fit on my bookshelf, I'm going to print an Espresso book containing every letter I wrote this year. It will have no extras, nothing that you cannot get 100% free on this site. That being said, if any one does want a copy (and if you are my mother or my sister or taught me in Elementary school you are already getting one and no you cannot pay for it,) please e-mail me at I'm going to charge whatever the cost of printing is ($20-40 depending on the number of pages and the number of copies)- I won't be making a single dime on this, I promise- and the more copies I print the less each one costs. It probably won't be ready until February. It will not hurt my feelings if you do not want to order one so please don't feel obligated by friendship to order.

If you are interested in the EBM I encourage you to check out the Shelf Life Blog for more information.

Q: Are you happy or sad to be done?

A: So much of both. I've never completed anything like this before, and while I'm tremendously proud of what I have written, I'm also exhausted and ready for a break. I think this has more to do with the obsessive political news-reading routine I had going. It can really take it out of you to read some of these stories and some of this spin over and over again every day. That being said, I'm not a big fan of "story fatigue"- it has to be way worse to live some of these stories than it is to read them. So, while I am taking a break from seeking out the tragedy, the outrage, the injustice, I'm not going to live in ignorance of it. I just need a week or so to be a student. And about 36 straight hours of sleep.

Q: I need new reading material!

A: My suggestions for daily/frequent reading:

Daily Kos is a very mainstream democratic blog that has some very talented writers, diaries from dozens or hundreds of fellow dems every day. The site can be too conservative for me on some issues and recently the Israel/Palestine censorship issue stirred a boycott from many pro-Palestinian bloggers. For all of its faults, Dkos offers insight and analysis that you won't find in the mainstream media as well as many powerful personal stories from bloggers around the world. I encourage all of you to check it out. If you're interested in political blogging this is a great site to get started on- you'll get honest feedback and tons of support from the community.

Wild Wild Left is a smaller community than Dkos, and much further to the political left. This site is managed by a really remarkable woman who supports a family, struggles with a really appallingly unfair amount of tragedy for one life, and still manages to maintain her blog and promote other bloggers. She's been incredibly supportive of me and my writing and I'm always grateful for her comments and opinion (even when we don't agree.) This site is home to a number of eloquent, impassioned writers and a great place for debate and discussion.

My friend George is working on his own 365 project, called 365 spins. He listens to one album a day and writes about it. Music lovers of all stripes will enjoy his reactions to everything from Nick Cave to Mariah Carey.

Book-lovers should check out my friend Brad's blog UsedBuyer 2.0. Reviews, readings, quotations, essays, and caricatures from life and literature- what more could you possibly ask for?

Jason Vanhee is a great writer. His short story blog, A thousand stories and one story, is updated twice weekly (Monday/Thursday) and always a good read. He encourages reader suggestions for story ideas and also has more than a few great novels up his sleeve.

My blog list of links in the side bar --> has a number of other great writers, great news sites and interesting things to check out. Enjoy!


A: Oh yeah. I got a great letter from a lovely guest blogger, which I'd planned to use to give myself a night off around the Holidays. That felt too much like cheating, so I decided to post it here. Please enjoy this letter from Chev, a frequent subject in my writing herself, and if you enjoy it check out her blog at Jesuis un vagabond.

Dear Mr. President,

My best friend has written a letter to you every single day this year. I find this an amazing feat. In a country where we are actually allowed to criticize as well as praise our leaders, too few of us take advantage of that right. Some think she's crazy for choosing to "thinking about politics all the time" (I'll bet you wish you had the luxury of that choice, huh?), but I'd argue that she's taking claim of her rights and managing to stay on top of what's happening in this world. Which is not always easy.

I'm emulating her with my own letter to you. I'm not sure of my ability to comment on current events or offer intelligent policy suggestions, the way my friend does. The most recent news article I read was in a Time Magazine from August. What I do feel qualified to write about is my identity as an American, and how you've impacted that. In fact, I think I spend more time thinking about "America," the ideal and the reality, than most politicians.

I work for you, though you don't know me. I'm a Peace Corps volunteer in West Africa. Being so far from home, in a country that can feel so different than home, I think endlessly about home. I am surrounded by people who are obsessed with America. They all have shirts adorned with your face. They don't always know that America isn't in Europe or that we don't speak French. What they know is that America is a magical, wonderful place in which there are endless jobs and money. That America is a place where people don't have malaria and babies don't die from diarrhea. I spend a lot of time arguing for reality, explaining that we don't all have multiple cars and TVs and we don't all live like Akon (the eternal symbol of West African success in America). I've been trying to explain the abomination of health insurance. I spend a lot of time insisting that this country has a lot that America can't offer; neither one is "better", they're just so different.

But the truth is, I miss America. A part of me is glad that I get to live here just for two years and that I have America to return to as my home when it's all done. Some of it is because the grass is always greener on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. Some of it is simply because, in a way I never could have imagined before one fateful night in November of 2008, I love my country.

The country I currently live in is about to have an election. The people don't really have a choice. This is a complex issue with a lot to be said about it but it comes down to this: we all know who's going to win. However heartbroken I was by the 2004 election, however ashamed I am of my country people for how they used their choice in this last midterm election, I have always remained proud that we have a choice.

Your election represents to me a moment when Americans made the right choice. No amount of CNN analyses or Glenn Beck rants or disappointing midterm elections can take that away. It brought to me the idealism and joy and energy that made me truly fall in love with my country. In your election I discovered within myself an overwhelming optimism and hope for our world which I thought had died. I discovered in others shared dreams.

I voted for you not because I expected you to fix everything or because I expected to agree with everything you do. In fact, I knew very well we disagree on some major issues. I voted for you because you are an intelligent, reasonable man who can defend his beliefs. Because I knew that when I was halfway around the world I'd be proud instead of ashamed to tell people "I'm American" if you were my president.

Clearly, it hasn't been easy. It's a tough time for our country. It's a tough time for the world. There's been a lot of criticism - some of it justified, most of it not. I don't want to dwell on what's been good and what's been bad at this moment. Maybe I'm just in more of a position to gloss over the imperfections than most. It's like the relationship most young adults have with our parents: maybe we're embarrassed to say "I love you", maybe their habits get on our nerves and we roll our eyes at them, but when we're away from home, when we're sick or scared, we just want the comfort and protection of them more than anything. That is how I now feel about America. Time and an ocean have given me perspective on what it means for me to be an American, what it means to be patriotic. I now can realize that I have a culture, and I miss it. I miss the American people, I miss the ease of interactions with people from my country. I miss my land.

If I am to make any entreaty it would be to ask you to never lose your remarkable ability to treat the American public like people capable of making decisions who deserve to know the truth. Sometimes we don't act the part, but we're grown-ups. When I walk into my bureau in the capital city, I see a picture of you. It always fills me with pride. You aren't perfect, your presidency can't be perfect, but I respect you and, finally, I feel able to respect my country.

What I really wrote to you to say, then, was this: Thank you.

As we say here when facing something formidable, "Bon courage."

Most sincerely,


Well said, friend. I miss you more than words can say. Stay safe.

I suppose that's all I have to say. I really can't thank all of you enough for reading, commenting and supporting me while I did this. I hope that you write your own letters (or e-mails) to President Obama or to any of your elected officials the next time you want them to know they're screwing up or doing a good job. The most important thing we can do for our country is to participate in our democracy and communicating with our leaders on the 364 non-election days every year is just as important as showing up to vote.

Thank you so much. It has been a truly amazing year.

Yours with love, respect and gratitude,



If you're a reader in the Seattle area, you should know that frequent-commenter (and Libertarian, but we won't hold that against him) Matt has offered to bring beer to blog party to celebrate this all being over. I won't hold him to his promise, but he does have a point about the occasion for celebration. I'll post details for that when I get it planned-perhaps once the book is done? Anyway, I'd be honored to have you all in one room and share a few drinks. I'll feed you all well, I promise.

Friday, December 31, 2010

Day 365- The last letter

Dear Mr. President,

After 365 letters I suppose I should be running out of things to say. Is a year enough distance to gain any perspective on all that has changed and all that still waits to? Tonight I hoped to make sense of it all; the personal and the political, the minutiae, the mundane, the profound, all of the things I've written about this year. As I look back through this year of letters, of one-sided conversations about issues and actions that defined 2010, I don't have any clue what it all means. I am still tired, still frustrated, still impatient with the progress we've made and the way you govern. But I'm still more like the girl I was in November 2008- stone sober and still too drunk off of election night euphoria- than I ever thought I could be. For all of the disappointments and frustration I have been so proud this year to call you my President. I don't imagine your job is easy, nor do I think I could do it better myself. I am often wrong. I am often too emotional. I use far too many commas.

For all of my shortcomings, I am still a voter and still a citizen and still, I believe, entitled to tell you what I think. Personally, I feel that the great tragedy of the disconnect between the people and our government in this country is not the disparity of money or even power but the way we converse. You do not speak or listen to people like me. When you do talk to me it is in form letters and speeches and talking points- language so polished as to be devoid of any real meaning. We do not have frank conversations. We do not hear one another. I listen to your Sunday addresses, your press conferences and your speeches and all I can say I know for sure is what you want me to think or feel, not what you actually think or feel. Perhaps the most important domestic issue is what you called the deficit of trust. This year has shown me, more clearly than I ever might have seen otherwise, how little trust our government has in the people or we have in it and how damaging this deficit is to all involved.

Deep down I still think that you are well-intentioned. If your caution and moderation do not always sit well with my hot head or bleeding heart, I can accept that you at least believe you are doing the right thing. That is what prompted me to vote for you, to phone bank for you, to write you 365 letters and to hope that I might cast my ballot in 2012 for you, again. Beyond your good intentions, I believe that you are capable of great things, that, should you overcome your fear and find the courage to make really the necessary, difficult decisions that will save this country from some of our worst tendencies, you will be re-elected and likely remembered well. I would not say that I'm a person with any tremendous amount of faith in anything, but I do have faith in you. 2010 didn't change that, and I hope to say the same about 2011.

Happy New Year, Mr. President. Good Luck.

Respectfully yours,


To all of my awesome readers:

Thank you so much for all of your support this year. I will have a much more articulate and coherent reflective piece in the coming days, as well as some suggestions for reading, a bonus letter to President Obama from a guest blogger and information about the Espresso book I'll be making. I hope you all have a fun and safe New Year's Eve! See you in 2011!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Day 364- The things you miss from the motorcade

Dear Mr. President,

Tonight when I got on the bus to go home the driver saw the book in my hand and said "The two highest compliments I get from any one who rides my bus is falling asleep and reading." He said he'd try to drive smoothly so I'd have an easier time with it. I've never seen this bus driver before (or, maybe I have and, like so many bus riders let my eyes slide past him without committing anything to memory) so I don't know if he enjoys his job or hates it, if he's gay or straight, republican, democrat or anarchist. The only thing I know about him is that he is kind and approves of my two favorite activities (sleeping and reading) and seemed to approve of me, as well. This remark buoyed my work-weary and cold little spirit, a small kindness that made my whole night a little brighter.

Lately my friend's trip home for the holidays has made me the temporary owner of a car. The freedom that comes with this is incredible; I can drive where I want to go without concern for route or schedules or fare or transfers, I can play music and sing (badly) as loud as I like, I can transport really amazing amounts of groceries. But I usually wind up angry at the rest of the drivers on the road, drivers who go too slowly or break rules or don't use turn signals. While riding King County Metro doesn't always give me hope for humanity- smelly drunks, screaming children, twitchy addicts and the general impoliteness of high school kids in large numbers are just a few of mankind's shortcomings I've been known to complain about- I do at least have to keep my anger to myself, as we're not all insulated by our little glass and metal vehicular bubbles. Reluctantly, often grudgingly, I connect with people on the bus; from the young aspiring DJ asking for my number (and mistaking my right-hand ring for a wedding band when I said no) to the tiny girl playing peek-a-boo with pink plastic beads in her fuzzy braids, to the old man who wanted to discuss international humanitarian law after seeing my textbooks, I find myself having conversations, interactions or observations of strangers every time I ride the bus. I think that, even at its most tedious, riding the bus leaves me feeling a little more connected to my community.

While I will continue to take advantage of Eric's car as long as he lets me, I think I will forever be a bus rider rather than a car owner. This isn't just because I can't imagine attaining the financial security necessary for car ownership in a city, or even because of my environmental objections to frequent driving, but because I think relying upon the bus keeps me from isolating myself behind my ideas of other people and forces me to observe and interact with individuals of ages and backgrounds I might never otherwise encounter. I'm surely romanticizing the entire experience (and will laugh at this, the next time I'm crammed into a standing-room only commuter route through the tunnel with eight teenagers blaring music through their headphones or a crazy crackhead lighting up in the aisle) but for now I'm smiling to myself at the kind words of an old man who approves of me, even if he doesn't know a thing about me, not even my name, except that I read on busses.

Mr. President, I know this seems like a strange thing to tell you on the second to the last night of my year of letters to you, but I started this project for a number of reasons and among them was this; I wanted to share with you the only thing I can offer that no one else can, and that is the small experiences of my average existence. You will probably never ride a public bus again, especially not as a stranger, and so I like to imagine that you might find some value in the story of a girl, feet aching from work and caught in a surprise cold front without a coat, boarding a city bus and being thanked just for doing the thing she loves most. That you might understand why such an experience matters. Maybe it's just the optimistic holiday spirit sweeping me up, but tonight I think the world is not so bad. I hope you think so, too.

Respectfully yours,


Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Day 363- "On the brink of genocide"

Dear Mr. President,

The Cote d'Ivoire is, according to UN ambassador Youssoufou Bamba, on the brink of genocide. Ideally, I would think that the impending social implosion of an African nation a good reason to use US military power to protect civilians caught up in the violence. Of course, as we've overextended ourselves in Afghanistan, Iraq and our forays into Yemen and Pakistan, we simply don't have the military assistance to offer. We can hope that the UN or the African Union are able to keep peace and protect the innocent, but there is little, practically, that the US can do.

Perhaps it is naive of me to think that we should only use our troops to protect civillians, avoid genocide and keep peace. Perhaps chasing Bin Laden & the Taliban through caves is, in fact, a more effective use of our might, but I don't think our current military strategy has made us safer- indeed the number and complexity of our military engagements abroad seem to have left us in a strategically weakened position.

I'll admit that the proximity of The Cote d'Ivoire to Burkina Faso is heightening my anxiety about the crumbling political situation. I might not be so afraid if my best friend wasn't right next door. Still, I think that military force is best used to protect the weak preyed upon by the strong, to prevent the innocent from suffering whenever possible. I would rather see our troops in Cote d'Ivoire and Haiti than in Afghanistan and Iraq, where more stability could be achieved through education and infrastructure investment than any amount of troops and bombs.

I will hope that the Ambassador Bamba is incorrect in his assessment of the outlook for The Cote d'Ivoire, but should he prove correct it will be all the more frustrating to watch, helplessly, while my country is able to do nothing to stop it.

Respectfully yours,


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Day 362- Two years later

Dear Mr. President,

It's been two years since Operation Cast Lead, since the Gaza war, since the brutal asymmetrical violence that left thousands dead, injured or homeless. This will likely be my last letter to you about Gaza, at least for 2010. I haven't heard any practical solutions for the people of Gaza from your administration, nor have I heard much in the way of insistence that Israel find an alternative to the utterly unlivable status quo. The peace talks that have now fallen apart, at their most ambitious, their most hopeful, did not include a framework for Gaza. The people of Gaza cannot continue living as they have been, they cannot be expected to raise yet another generation to call a prison camp home. Two years of endless stalemate haven't made Israel safer and they haven't made Gaza any more livable.

I wonder if you have asked yourself how this ends. How it will look when the war is finally over and the lines on the map are final. When every one has a flag and a seat at the UN. What will that entail? What will it look like, how will it be fair, what role will we play? Most importantly- how do we get there? If we already know these things, why aren't we doing it? It will be hard. People will be upset, compromise will not be easy. Friends and allies will be offended and alienated and you will be called any number of nasty names for your trouble. But it has to be done. Progress has to be made. The situation cannot stand.

Looking into 2011 and 2012, I know that re-election will overshadow any foreign policy goals that might not play well on FOX news. I wonder what you would do if no one were watching, if what they said didn't matter, if all the voices were silenced and you had only your own conscience to answer to. At some point, it isn't about the past, it isn't about politics, it isn't even about racism, it's just people; people killing, hurting, starving, oppressing other people and the people who look the other way and let it happen.

I don't want to be one of those people. I don't believe that you do, either.

Respectfully yours,