"Hello!" she wrote on my wall the next day. "Your blog is sunshine-y goodness. Thanks for bein' a friend!"
Now. I am naturally standoffish around people I don't know, but how could I resist that message? Instantly I knew that Teri--or TB, as she went by on Blogger--was good people. Her (now semi-defunct) blog, Year 31, was quirky, smart, funny, and unfailingly polite, which was I think what hooked me most. Here was a nice Midwestern girl who was super cool without using expletives. I mean, what the fuck, right?
Over the course of a few months, Teri and I began exchanging blog and Facebook comments and then personal emails. It was the first time that a blog reader started to become a real-life friend, and it was both thrilling and totally anxiety-producing. I never had pen pals as a child (SHOCKER), and since Jeff and I started dating at 23, I never looked for love online. So this was my first digital relationship with someone I had never actually met.
Fast-forward a few years. TB, her husband Rick, and their adorable son move to the Philly area, where it just so happens Jeff and I have a wedding to attend (and a disgusting number of cheesesteaks to stuff into our heads). We pick a time and a place to meet. It's just like You've Got Mail, except we both have our husbands with us and neither of us can pull off a shag bob. (OK, fine, I can only speak for myself.)
So there, in the City Where the Fresh Prince Was Born and Raised--in a playground, no less, where he reportedly spent most of his days!--we became official BFF (blog friends forever, or until we delete them out of shame).
Teri has a new blog, but more importantly she just published a book, Dear Rick, Dear Teri, which is climbing the Amazon memoir charts.
What Teri did, which is both deceptively simple and incredibly brave, is transcribe all of the long-distance love letters that she and Rick wrote to one another in the late nineties--before anyone had cell phones or email addresses--after they met by chance at a Missouri Days Inn. Teri was a sheltered seventeen year-old from Kansas City; Rick was an exotic twenty-something Californian with a past. Her account of their meeting feels impossibly magical, like a scene from a movie, but the ensuing correspondence is so endearingly real (I would venture to call it adorkable) that it gives you that thrill of first love all over again--not just the perfect sweetness, but also the embarrassing honesty and insecurity.
TB agreed to let us in on how and why she turned her letters into literature:
UL: What made you decide to turn your correspondence with your now-husband Rick into a book?
TB: I've always known that I wanted to tell our story, because it's so unique, but I've struggled with finding a way to do it. Last fall, a friend suggested that I read 84 Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff (which is all the correspondence between an American writer and a British bookseller over 20 years), and I loved it. When I began reading through all of my own letters, I realized that the story pretty much told itself in the same way and something just clicked.
UL: How did you publish it?
TB: I decided to self-publish through CreateSpace (Amazon's self-publishing subsidiary) since I'm a terribly impatient person. I considered submitting to agents and big publishing houses, but that process somehow felt more intimidating than doing it all by myself. I will say, however, now that I've been through the process, I envy writers like you who have a team of people working on the book with you! Having to design my own cover, do most of my own editing, and do all of my own promotion is a tedious job--and I still really have no idea what I'm doing. I'm learning as I go. [Ed. note: I also have no idea what I'm doing, but yes, having people who DO know is comforting :)]
UL: What were your feelings transcribing those letters? You seem to have left every word--even the painfully, ever-so-relatably cringe-worthy ones--in tact. Did you edit them at all?
TB: It was really fun to transcribe all the letters and basically relive it all. There were details I forgot in there--like the date we met. All these years, I had it in my head that we met on July 12th, but it was July 11th! That seems insignificant, until you find out that our son was born on July 11th. How could I have overlooked that?? I did a little bit of editing--mostly spell-check and changing names of people I didn't want to embarrass as much as I've embarrassed myself (because OH MY GOD I AM SO EMBARRASSED BY MY OWN WORDS), but I thought it was important to keep the integrity of the letters intact. I haven't read it again since I published it, and I probably won't since I get a rash every time I start to think about how the whole world is basically reading my diary from that year. I'm keeping my dermatologist in business right now.
|Vomit from the cuteness, and the awkwardness.|
TB: Well, I didn't know if people would identify with it, but I figured it was worth a shot to publish and find out. Since then, I've gotten a steady stream of emails from readers who have written to me to say that it did resonate with them, and I really enjoy hearing that. It's good to know that my humiliation wasn't all for naught!
UL: Do you and Rick still write each other letters?
TB: We haven't in a long time. Most of our correspondence these days is "the repairman is coming on Saturday!" through email or "NO PLASTIC WRAP IN THE RECYCLING BIN!" on a note over the recycling bin (seriously, why can't he remember this??). Sometimes I'll write him a letter or a note, but it's pretty rare these days. That's so sad!
On the contrary, the fact that these letters are rare make them extra valuable, so stock up now!
You cam buy the paperback or Kindle version on Amazon. The paperback is also available on Barnes & Noble's website.
And as a special promotion, readers of The Sassy Curmudgeon can download a FREE Kindle version of Dear Rick, Dear Teri TODAY. So what are you waiting for? Go get it!
Speaking of giveaways, check the blog tomorrow for the first Five Summers sweepstakes. I don't say "woot" as a rule, because it sounds like a drunk sorority girl noise crossed with a bodily function but fuck it, what the hell. WOOT. LaMarche, out.