From Our Authors | December 06, 2017

I spent my twenties, in the 1990s, learning how to write. I didn’t always realize that’s what I was doing. I’d ride the bus or go to the movies or sit at my job in an air-conditioned office feeling part of the world but also separate from it. Solitude was delicious, because something was at work in me. No matter what I was doing, some part of me was always sculpting sentences in my head.

A writer’s first nice rejection note can buoy the heart, and my first came from The Missouri Review. In 2000 (2001?) someone reading the slush pile for TMR called me extremely gifted. I kept that note above my desk for a decade. L. S., wherever you are, thank you.

I’m in my forties now—a decade that in so many ways feels like the B-side to my twenties—and I’ve had the chance to see a lot of my twenty-something dreams materialize. I published a book of short stories, and Anne Lamott, whose book Bird by Bird was my apprentice writer’s bible in those years, said she liked it in The New York Times. I watched from the audience, incredulous, as famous actors performed my stories onstage. I’ve been to elegant awards dinners and intimate bookstore readings where people I didn’t know told me they’d found my work and been moved by it.

But in the end, I know I’ll always be that girl sitting alone on the bus, chasing the rhythm of the sentences. I wouldn’t want to be anyone else.

How fitting that The Missouri Review, who gave me my first words of encouragement, should be publishing the first story from a memoir where I look back on those early years so full of passion and yearning. You’ve Been So Lucky Already, forthcoming in 2018, is a book in which I try to look suffering in the eye but also show what can be on the other side of it. Because our love is always a lopsided thing stitched together out of hope and pain and dental floss. And it is always magnificent.♦


Alethea Black was born in Boston and graduated from Harvard in 1991. Her first book, I Knew You’d Be Lovely (Broadway, 2011) is in its seventh printing and was chosen by and for the Barnes & Noble ‘Discover Great New Writers’ program. “A Place in the World” is part of a new collection of true stories—You’ve Been So Lucky Already—forthcoming in 2018.