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Writing Letters for Every Girl: An Interview with ‘Found’ Author Isa Garcia

BY LAUSANNE BARLAAN

Letter writing had been tagged ‘outdated’ more than once before, and with the constant surge of new technologies of how people send messages across—email, text, blog and social media, some would consider the claim to be true. Who writes letters anymore? Well..

Dear friend,

I had the opportunity of talking to a letter writer today.

Her name is Isa Garcia, and she just came out with a book called Found, a compilation of letters about life and love she has written over the years.

Let me share with you what she said about this supposedly dying art form and why it is important to keep bringing it back.

 

 

Isa Garcia is a teacher, social advocate and optimist. She has loved writing her whole life and feels that her book, Found: Letters on Life, Love, and God, is the fulfillment of her 11-year-old self’s greatest dream. She is grateful. | Illustration by Gia Leuterio

Hi, Isa! Thank you for taking the time to talk to us. As a start, would you mind telling our readers a little bit about your book?

My book, Found: Letters on Life, Love, and God, is a compilation of letters to young girls, and they touch on different topics such as faith, hope, love and friendship. These are letters I penned when I myself was a young girl, still getting to know the world. They were born from my own losses and struggles and I’m glad to have been given the chance to share them, especially now that I am older.

We love that your book explores different themes that many people can relate to. How did you arrive at the decision to create a book containing letters over essays or fiction?

The book wrote itself, really. I would have typically put together an anthology of essays but… these were things I had written years ago that were begging to have an audience. I have always loved letters—my friends will attest to it—and I knew it would be a beautiful thing to pass some of mine on to others. Not because my letters are beautifully written but because they were written at beautiful points in my life: when I was broken, when I was healing, when I was lost, when I struggled to be found. That lovely, almost extreme, vulnerability needed to be honored. Thus the birth of this book.

What was the reason for including postcards—which we love, by the way!—inside your book?

That was actually suggested by my good friend and illustrator, Crae. We didn’t just want to make a book—we wanted to build something interactive. We wanted to create something hinged on the culture of passing it on and paying it forward. It seemed to us like a beautiful idea: the thought of the words not ending in the book but moving along, moving around, in postcards that could potentially travel the world. A dynamic piece of art was what we were going for.

Another thing we love about your book is it doesn’t shy away from tackling less than happy subjects like loneliness and feeling lost. We hope you don’t mind sharing, but was there a particular letter in the book that was particularly difficult to write?

I’d say the letters about God were the hardest to write only because they were the most honest. Just to be clear, though, all the letters are honest, but the ones about God carried a particular hesitation that the others did not have to go through.

I’m not really known as a ‘religious’ person, and I know talking about the divine puts me in a prime position to be judged or misconstrued, but I don’t think I had ever publicly voiced my spiritual side. Writing that chapter felt as if I was exposing a very personal part of my life. But doing so has also made that part of my life more real. So here it is, laid out for the world: I believe in God. Sometimes, I falter with my faith. I have doubted and felt lost. I have, at times, faked it. But there is this joy in knowing that my heart and soul can rest in the promise of something infinite.

We know that you put in a lot of thought and heart to every letter in your book, but do you have a favorite letter out of your collection? Can you talk about why it is so?

My favorite letter is “Proof.” I wrote it sometime in 2016 so it’s a ‘new’ letter. I was in a coffee shop when I wrote it and I was thinking about my students. I was thinking of the boxes they put themselves in, of how much more they truly are, and how I desperately wished they would wake up and see what I did: glowing kids brimming with unbelievable potential.

If you could write a letter to any person or thing, who/what would it be?

I want to write a letter to employees, to people who work in the service entry, to those who commit themselves to thankless jobs. I want to tell them that I’m grateful and that they matter.

Is there anyone who would you love to receive a letter from?

Lin-Manuel Miranda or Sarah Kay.

We’re excited for your future releases! Any new books or works coming out soon?

Eventually. Aiming for 2018. (But I don’t mind taking my time.)

EXTRA, EXTRA

Favorite books?

This seems to be my default answer and though I am not sure if it is still my actual answer, I’ll state it just the same: The History of Love by Nicole Krauss.

Favorite authors?

This is a terribly difficult question!

The authors I aspire to emulate: Anne Lamott, Shauna Niequist, Cheryl Strayed, Heather Havrilesky and Rica Bolipata-Santos.

Fictionists I think are brilliant: Neil Gaiman, Patrick Ness, Curtis Sittenfeld, Junot Diaz.

I’m missing A LOT but these will do for now.

A quote you live by?

“You are lucky to be one of those people who wishes to build sand castles with words, who is willing to create a place where your imagination can wander. We build this place with the sand of memories; these castles are our memories and inventiveness made tangible. So part of us believes that when the tide starts coming in, we won’t really have lost anything, because actually only a symbol of it was there in the sand. Another part of us thinks we’ll figure out a way to divert the ocean. This is what separates artists from ordinary people: the belief, deep in our hearts, that if we build our castles well enough, somehow the ocean won’t wash them away. I think this is a wonderful kind of person to be.”—Anne Lamott

Found: Letters on Life, Love, and God is available in OMF Literature branches and bookstores nationwide.
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