We need money. Sorry for the frankness, but I’m told obfuscation has no place in contemporary literature. I’ve also been dishonest pretty much my entire life, and I’m turning over a new leaf. My wife and I haven’t been able to quit smoking, but we’re trying. I don’t know about her, but it’s one of my goals, a vein off the petiole.

But back to business: We have precisely the minimum amount of money in the bank that you need to keep an account open. All of our bills are, for the most part, paid up, but in a couple weeks, rent will be due, as will the car insurance, expanded cable package, gas and electric, water, financial aid repayments, cellular phones, and extremely high-speed home internet. Not to mention the “miscellaneous” expenses, which I won’t delineate.

Let it be known: I will not get another personal expense loan from the bank. The first one was too humiliating. Meanwhile, the proceeds from cashing out our 401(k) accounts have carried us for only six months (six fewer than we’d forecasted). And we got screwed on state taxes. It’s hilarious that we’ve done all this belly-dragging for years and have nothing. Don’t you think? I laugh all the time about this.

Which leads me to the marrow: I’m doing everything I can to become a famous writer. I’m on the cusp of an MFA. I’ve read Strunk & White’s The Elements of Style and actually own a copy. My mother-in-law gave me a beautiful IBM Selectric II that I sometimes use because a computer keyboard makes no music. I bought a Moleskine notebook. Well, I bought two of these notebooks ($12.65 each) because the first turned out to be a sketchbook, which I had to discard. The pages were unlined and rigid like cardboard. Plus, the covers were so stiff I could not carry it around in my pants without feeling uncomfortable. I should have tested the thing before I bought it.

You’ll be glad to know that the new Moleskine has lined, wispy pages and the covers are quite flexible. It’s not really your problem, but I had been using the old sketchbook Moleskine for some time until I located the new one, so it took me a while to transfer my notes. I use the notebook to record observations. The notebook is necessary because my thoughts disperse like a gas if I don’t write them down. I’ve written much better just because of the note taking (which I formerly didn’t do and that I do know should indicate the seriousness with which I’m approaching this writing business). I’ve sent some new things out to The New Yorker, The Paris Review. I haven’t heard anything back yet, but look for my work in the next issues of each. It’s that good.

Even with the “problem” looming again, it should be clear from the evidence that I’m acting in good faith. Besides, any writer worth a wooden nickel needs a conflict to puzzle out. So this is mine. I’m not enduring it passively. One day I won’t have it, so I’m making writing out of it while it’s here. And I swear it doesn’t interfere with my work habits.

There’s this thing in argumentation called “conditions of rebuttal.” I’ve been addressing them here and there throughout this letter, but I wanted to draw special attention to something: I’m fully aware of the legal doctrine of practical obscurity. I’m pretty sure that once my family reads something of mine in print, they might have the sense of being offended, but they won’t know why. And they shouldn’t. There won’t be anything libelous in there, is what I’m trying to say. So, that should address any liability questions you might have. There will be no lawsuits.

But damn it, there will be art.

Justin D. Anderson lives in West Virginia with his wife and son. New work appears or is forthcoming in PANKCold Mountain ReviewControlled BurnThe Fiction Deskmatchbook and elsewhere.

Illustration by Marc Snyder