#scintilla: thank you note

No one does it alone. Write a letter to your rescuer or mentor (be it a person, book, film, record, anything). Share the way they lit up your path.


I have had many great teachers in my life. I consider myself lucky to feel so connected to people, but there are times when no one can do or say anything, when no one can even listen to you because you have no words for what you are experiencing. When words of my own have failed, I turn to others. There are too many albums or songs to consider, and I have many favorite films and books, but when I think about a text that rescued me, really and truly brought me out of a time full of doubt, the only text I could write about is Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.

Dear Mary Shelley,

I feel as though I know you I have done so much research about your life. You were only 19 when you traveled with Percy to Switzerland and met Lord Byron and John Polidori. Even then, you'd been through enough tragedy for a lifetime. I suppose that all you experienced influenced your writing. The evening you wrote ghost stories with Byron and the other guests, you said you had a terrible dream where you imagined Viktor working on his creation, saw it come to life in all its horror and beauty. 

The story you write in that strange, unbearable summer becomes a lifeline for me as a Ph.D. student. In 2005-2006, I was experiencing a kind of writer's block that was unlike any doubt I'd ever experienced. I had no confidence in my ability to write, conduct research or formulate theories. It was an incredibly dark time in my writing life, exacerbated by a professor who took every chance she could to criticize or be cruel toward me. I was drained emotionally from the constant critique and my ego was certainly bruised. For months, I proved this professor right as I turned in essays that were not best work, thrown together at the last minute and not well thought out, as you might imagine. 

I hadn't intended to take a class in Postmodern theory; I was convinced by my very good friend, Oren, to take the class for credit instead of auditing it, which meant I had to write a paper at the end of the course. At the same time, I was teaching your novel to sophomores in a class on technology and ethics. It had been a very long time since I read your novel and I was engrossed as I read, taught and discussed it in class. All kinds of possible research topics began to emerge and I even, like you, began to dream about Frankenstein and his monster. 

I decided to write my final paper on your novel and I was immersed in all kinds of research about carnival acts and freak shows to medical horror and psychoanalysis. Like Viktor brings his creation to life, this novel electrified me. It entered my life again at the exact right moment and I presented papers on it at national conferences and got an A in the class. 

I don't think any author can imagine where her work will take her or the life it will have as it hits the shelves or the legacy long after she is gone. I think you would be amazed at the life Frankenstein's creature has taken on in our cultural imagination. 

I would have liked to been able to tell you how amazing your work is, how it has been the novel that changed my life, pulled me out of despair and gave me my voice back. It has taken my places and I have a feeling will continue to do so, places I could never dreamed of. I hope to see your letters and manuscripts one day, see the places you traveled. But even if I do not, I will be forever grateful that your imagination and your culture and experiences converged in a novel that captured my attention, that saved me and put me back together again. 

What else is there to say: you completely rock!