Tasting Letters

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I am a prolific writer—that has never been a question. I write everyday, if only a few words to further a story. On my Associated Content page (www.associatedcontent.com/christinestoddard), what I consider my online portfolio, I’ve posted nearly 1,000 pieces since August 2006. I would be the first to admit that my AC page doesn’t represent everything I’ve ever written, though. More of my work has appeared in books, magazines, newspapers, literary journals, ‘zines, and other websites. I also have select pieces intended for a very small audience, sometimes only one other person besides me. Certain pieces I reserve exclusively for myself. For someone who recently turned twenty, that is a huge body of work.

But enough of the self-glorification. The more important question, others would argue, is whether the work is high quality. Truthfully, it depends on who you are and where your preferences lie.

Such is the case with all literature, regardless of its length, age, or genre. One man may like the taste of Gwendolyn Brook’s poetry while another would rather opt for a Sarah Ruhl play. A book may attract virtually no audience during its era but, once the author has died, become a publisher’s dream. Die-hard Edgar Allen Poe fans, for instance, know that his work was little known and not especially popular during his days on earth. And yet the miracle is that he is now one of the most revered writers of the English language. He even has three museums (in Richmond, Baltimore, and Philadelphia) dedicated exclusively to him. Obviously his work did not change somehow after he died; societal taste did.

Reading, like writing, is subjective. That is why many libraries poll their patrons to find out what books to order with their available funding. Smaller libraries in smaller neighborhoods are much more likely to reflect their patrons’ tastes than a giant, urban library, which will likely boast a highly varied collection. A library in a tiny Virginian town will predictably own many Christian themed works while the Richmond City Library sixty or eighty miles away will carry a smaller percentage of Christian books (even if in reality the number of Christian books in both libraries is the same.)

Of course, just because someone lives in a certain neighborhood, it doesn’t mean that he thinks exactly like his neighbors and shares the same literary tastes. A bohemian or a religious or ethnic minority living in the same hypothetical Virginian town may drive all the way to Richmond to search for the “right” books; or, more practically speaking, he may simply order his books online.

So, ultimately the only way for you to know whether my writing meets your guidelines for a good read is to explore it for yourself. (After all, you probably didn’t like every book your English teachers ranted about, right?) I invite you to check out my articles, short stories, poetry, plays and more at: www.christinestoddard.com

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