Lacy Johnson & Lily Mills

“Here is my advice to you: write what is urgent, what you have never said out loud before, what is, in fact, the most impossible to say.”


Junior Creative Writing major, Lily Mills, sent an email to Lacy Johnson after reading Johnson’s essay, “The Other Side,” published in Tin House.

Dear Ms. Lacy Johnson,

My name is Lillian Mills and I am a junior studying Creative Writing at Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio. I am writing to tell you how taken away I am with the excerpts of your memoir, The Other Side. I stumbled upon your writing sifting through literary journals online and found Tin House.  As soon as I found your first excerpt I was taken away and had to find any others. The impulse of emotion and raw intensity in which you write with is something that I strive for. The humility you display in your writing is inspiring and humbling and the way you make everyday details so profound is beautiful. You seem to say so much about the relationship between you and your daughter and you and your boyfriend without saying much at all. This is a trait that I hope I can adopt from you and work on as well. I also like these excerpts because they test the boundaries between human relationships and how these relationships are a mirror of how we treat ourselves, and this is something oftentimes we oversee. The craziness and chaos of life you write about does harden us and it is beautiful when we find ourselves again, and this raw honesty is beautiful. I thank you for this.

You test the boundaries between the stereotypical mother/daughter relationships that is often portrayed in writing. Writing sentimentally and also meaningfully about relationships is so abstract yet the way that you seem to explain something in-explainable seems effortless. This is something I was hoping you could maybe give some advice on. I was also wondering if you could help me dive into how to choose between what topics and ideas to write about now and which to save and put away for later? You could have dove into so many more things in your memoir I’m sure, yet you chose the right things to say to get your point across, and this is something I struggle with. I try to tangle too many life experiences too many memories into one piece of writing that what I want to say oftentimes gets lost.

Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to indulge me and read this little bit of fan mail! I admire your work and your efforts greatly, hope to hear from you soon!

A world of gratitude,
Lily Mills

Dear Lillian,

Thank you so much for this email. I’m so glad that you found something in my work that speaks to you.

Here is my advice to you: write what is urgent, what you have never said out loud before, what is, in fact, the most impossible to say.

I sincerely wish you the very best, and I hope you’ll keep me updated on how things are going. Big love and good vibes coming at you from Texas.

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