Everyone says networking is the key to success. For me, it’s been notes to perfect strangers.
talk about a feel good story to start the day, fun read and great writing. it's nice to read something positive in a day and age where stories of callous behavior dominate
May you live long and prosper at The Free Press. I enjoyed this piece about almost nothing, except for the very valuable advice to communicate rather than ruminate. Can’t wait for your next piece.
I can't quite explain why, but this introduction that Olivia has written for herself made me emotional - a bit weepy - but in such a good way. I suspect it's because of how genuine and earnest she is and how rare that seems to be in this wicked cancel culture era. I look forward to reading everything she writes now! The Free Press is restoring my faith in journalism bit by bit. And I love that I don't agree with every single thing that I read on here. I also love the irony that Bari's refusal to be cancelled was the springboard for TFP.
I am an illiterate (but learning) physician. I could not have told you who Gay Talese was, only that I knew he was famous for something and had an odd name. I am also a wannabe writer and admire good writing. This is good writing. I have always believed that it often pays to go to the top when you seek something, or have a problem. I bought my dream car, a new Jeep Cherokee Laredo, in 1989 (a bad year for Jeeps because of a defective electrical system) and it was a lemon. In the first six months it was in the shop more often than not. The dealer refused to take it back under the Florida Lemon Laws. So, I sat down and wrote a letter to Lee Iacocca, then President of Chrysler. He did not answer personally, but within days I received a letter from Chrysler headquarters directing me to another dealership to which Chrysler sent a mechanic to fix my car. I drove that Jeep for 13 years and 196,000 miles. When I decided to become a plastic surgeon I chose to seek a position in the residency program of D. Ralph Millard, Jr. I did this for two reasons. The practical one was that his program was in Miami, where I grew up and went to medical school. The other was because he was then arguably the most lauded plastic surgeon in the world for his seminal work in repairing cleft lips and palates in children and for his body of work since then. I did not interview anywhere else. He told me he would not accept me because I was from Miami and had indicated an intention to remain there. He wanted his trainees to go elsewhere and carry on his work. In 1989, I completed my training under him and went on to a practice for 34 years. The story of that interview and my two years training under him are chronicled in The Making of Plastic Surgeon- Two Years in the Crucible Learning the Art and Science, my eBook on Amazon. In 2021, I was banned for life in the Amercian College of Surgeons in which I have been a member for over thirty years because I am a white male and objected to the ACS leadership claims that the ACS is racist, I am a racist, and surgery is racist. That is a perfect story for the Free Press and I would love to tell it.
I sent email, late 1990s, to Sulzberger at NYTimes!
Previous day I had come across Neimann Report (Harvard?) which demonstrated how a specific NYTimes court room report on White Water was a blatant lie. I let him have it, without making mention of Neimann Report.
Sub to a’ Star Reporter’ called me! He was surprised to hear about Neimann Report. Was not too keen on getting copy of the report. I pressured him and sent the 5Kb from my floppy disc.
Never heard back. Never saw a retraction. Never trusted NYTimes after that!
I loved this essay. Thank you for a lovely start to the day. I've been married for 22 years to and have two children with someone that I met because he cold-called me in 1998. (Too long a story for here.) He's also the type of guy to email the CEO when he wants satisfaction. I've also been known to email former teachers years later to let them know how much they meant to me.
I wrote a letter to Bukowski 40 years ago just because. Astonished when I received a reply. It was a short correspondence as he had recently renewed a relationship with a girlfriend and she didn’t want him writing to other women.
Dear Olivia Reingold,
And this is why I read TFP. What a lovely way to wake up.
Will you please be my spirit animal?
I'm glad you sent that letter to Bari. Your contributions have been edifying and entertaining.
What a lovely way to start the day! Olivia, as a fellow sender of e-mails to writers who’s work has moved me, I can relate. I’ve received some kind replies but you (deservedly) hit the jackpot!
What I find striking about your story is that you always go after what you want. We should all be living our lives that way but it is a rarity in these uber judgmental times.
My doorbell rang a few years ago and a 10 year old girl said “Hi, I’m Amelia and I just moved into the neighborhood and I’m obsessed with your house. I love modern!” I invited her in for a tour, leaving the front door open. Soon I heard the squeaky voice of her younger sister “Can I come in too?” Soon thereafter, I met their parents and we became friends. Your essay reminded me of Amelia.
One of the things I did not realise until I became a published author is how much letters/emails from readers mean to an author.
Unlike Olivia, I did not cold write my writing heroes or indeed just authors whose work I had enjoyed. Then in 2006 shortly after it was published, I received this letter from a woman who worked in a casino in Las Vegas and who had read my debut Harlequin-- The Gladiator's Honour and wrote to say that it gave her hope. I burst into tears. I still have that email (printed out and in my scrapbook which I use to chase the Crows of Doubt away).
The Crows of Doubt are real and can cause Writer's Block through their incessant cawing and carping and knowing that others have appreciated your work does assist.
Since then, I do write to authors and explain how much their work means to me and how grateful I am that they took the time to write it.
After all writers ultimately write for the people who get their work and it is always gratifying to hear that someone else enjoyed something which came from your imagination.
I loved this essay! It’s my favorite among everything I’ve read via the Free Press, and that’s a high bar to clear. Olivia: keep writing! A cold email landed me my husband, a writer whose work I admired. Five years - and one darling little boy later - and we’re more in love than ever.
I am going to ask my teenagers - a HS senior and a freshman - to read this piece, and I am saving it for the younger two when they’re old enough to absorb it. I hope that it will inspire them. Last week, my senior and I spent a few days touring colleges. We had pre-scheduled admissions tours at most, but a few were cold calls for a variety of reasons. The cold calls were by far our most rewarding experiences. At one school, we were given a cook’s tour of the engineering department; at another, a gracious admissions counselor sat down with us for 30 minutes and imparted endless amounts of wisdom not only on the school but on how to ace the college admissions process. This essay is beautifully timed for my senior in particular, as though to put the exclamation point on that experience.
This resonates with my soul. I cannot count the number of times a well-timed thank you note after a job interview, an inquiry about a position disguised as a chance to sell myself, passive aggressive hate mail to ex lovers, etc. have all served me well. Well done, Olivia.
Most people do what they think other people expect them to do, most of the time. And if most people are doing this, then you get circular idiocy. People who really don't give a [rhymes with duck, tuck, muck and suck], or who can at least put their fears on hold for a moment, tend to stand out.
That has been my experience.
There are many quotes on individuality, but my two favorites are "you may as well be yourself; everyone else is already taken", by Oscar Wilde; and "you may as well be yourself: no one can tell you you are doing it wrong", by Charles Schultz.
It seems unlikely we ever WERE a nation of rugged individualists, but it does seem clear we used to value such a thing vastly more, at least rhetorically. And our Founding Fathers genuinely were their own men. They thought for themselves, spoke for themselves, and had opinions they held firmly enough to negotiate about with others peacefully.