Rachel’s email about ending Kindred arrived four days into the new year. She described both the sadness of farewell and “yielding to a natural rhythm; this organic living thing is coming to the end of its life, and we will bear witness to its passing as we have borne witness to its years of flourishing.”
The chance to flourish is the gift that Kindred and Rachel gave me and many others, perhaps never knowing the extent of their gift.
Three years ago I quit my job, after 30 years of writing the stories of others, so I could write my own stories. Deep inside, despite the fears and the loudness of life, I heard it—that spark fighting not to be neglected, challenging whether I’d have the guts to write before it was too late.
I landed a spot in the Seattle central library writers’ room, perched on the ninth floor of the wondrous glass geometric Rem Koolhaus skyscraper, writing amidst grey skies surrounded by millions of books, the energy of other writers at work, and photos of Amy Tan, Toni Morrison, and Gloria Steinem.
I took classes. I joined the Hugo House and the Pacific Northwest Writers Association. I went to a conference, pitched agents though I was nowhere near ready, and met a group of women who invited me to join their weekly writing sessions. I considered myself an apprentice working on my craft. Eventually, I found the courage to say, “I am a writer” instead of “I’m working on my writing.”
Labor Day weekend I camped on the Olympic Peninsula with my family and friends. Within an hour, my daughter was playing with the kids next door and, by evening, we were sitting around the neighbors’ campfire. Over s’mores, the mother mentioned that she was a writer and that she edited an online magazine. She described Kindred and said the upcoming issue was about the Danish concept of hygge. I laughed and told her that back in Atlanta, where I grew up, our family called that feeling of coziness hoogly. The editor’s husband said, “Sounds like you’ve got yourself a piece for Kindred.”
Writing it was easy. Submitting it was not.
It’s one thing to create. It’s another to put your heart into the world and hope it won’t be broken.
Nine days passed.
Then I got Rachel’s reply. “My friend loved your piece and wants to include it in the issue.”
With that email, a writer was born. One with a byline and a bio and a piece for all the world to see. I wrote more. I submitted more, to all kinds of outlets. Some got rejected. Some got accepted. With time, I believed it when I said, “I am a writer.”
The last piece I wrote for Kindred was about grappling with whether to stay in Seattle. Over nine years, from starting with no friends, it became a place that slowly but suddenly felt like home. A place we had deep community ties and friends we loved. Many of those years had been hard for me, at times feeling both stuck and unmoored. In the piece, I described the pull between the life we’d built in Seattle and the life we left behind in Atlanta.
I ended the essay like this: “I should take none of it for granted.”
That was September 2019. I write now from Atlanta, where we moved in the middle of the pandemic. Where our home has a welcome mat that reads “hygge.”
I seek happy endings in stories and in life, wanting to tie things up with a tidy bow.
That’s not how it works.
None of it has been tidy. But all of it—the Seattle years, the writing journey, the move, ending and starting life chapters, and the people who appear over campfires to nudge when you need to be nudged—all of it is magical.
And I too will bear witness.
E. Lynn Heinisch
January 18, 2021
E. LYNN HEINISCH’S career has included reporting from Africa, Asia, and the Middle East for humanitarian agencies, and working as a journalist, speechwriter for CEOs, communications director, and high-tech media relations officer. Now she’s writing her own stories.