Open Letter

An Open Letter to Doritos- “But is it yogurt flavored?”

Dear Doritos,

I imagine right about now you are asking yourselves what happened. Why has your glorious decision of soft-ish chips, directed towards the females of the planet, been targeted by trollish harassment and mockery since its announcement. Somewhere, I imagine there is an R&D specialist who is gazing woefully at the trending hashtags of #LadyDoritos. They lurch every time the phone rings, expecting the call to be from their immediate supervisor, alerting them of their immediate termination over what can only be described as a social and cultural misstep that fails to recognize the needs of specific user groups and imposes values and desires on a specific group without proper consideration.

Somewhere, that R&D specialist is weeping into their bag of chips, making them soggy, gazing malignly at a bowl of orange mush vaguely resembling Donald Trump’s face in both skin and, I imagine, texture, wondering how did we get it so wrong?

                Was it the concept of soft Doritos? No. I know plenty of people who detest the sound of crunching chips. They equate it to a leaf mulcher eating human bones. To them, it is worse than finger nails down a chalkboard. There are others still, who hate the feeling of your equilateral products scraping the delicate corners of their mouths, cutting in like a foodie’s Glasgow smile. Some of us hate the feeling of chip bits falling down our shirts, getting caught in our bras or man girdles. We all have our neurotic likes and dislikes when it comes to our snack foods, but I’ll let you in on a secret for the general population…

Never once, when discussing my snack food choices with my coworkers, loved ones, or strangers on the train, have we ever considered semi-raw potatoes rolled in fake cheese and sodium as an appropriate alternative to our chip problems.

You know why, Doritos?

Because no one fucking cares.

Look around you. Look at the state of the world. Have you seen who the President of the United States is? Did you notice that there is still war and famine across the globe? Did you notice the opioid epidemic on your streets or take into account the rate of homelessness around you? You probably did, but like most corporations, you saw it as a by-product of the time and instead opted to focus your research and energy into a literal half-baked scheme that no one asked for.

                Least of all women.

And there’s your second issue right there. I’m not sure. Maybe your R&D group is a bunch of old white men raised on some cotton farm in southern Alabama where women still wear petticoats and do declare things with appropriately subdued enthusiasm, but the ladies I know are not marching for softer chips for our delicate lady palates.  Unless your Doritos are going to be extra absorbent when it comes to dealing with my period blood, or, I don’t know, fucking yogurt flavored (because apparently we are really into yogurt too), I could quite literally not give a single shit about the crunchy level of your product. I’m too goddamned busy worrying about, and coming to terms with, sexual harassment in the workplace, and the fact that my male coworkers are paid more than me, and the assholes that think me smiling at them is an invitation for them to call me things like “sweet cheeks” and “sexy” that, hey, if I don’t return in kind, suddenly turn into alarming forms of aggression and derogatory comments like the goddamned c-bomb or even fucking grabbing at me

                Who, just tell me who thought women wanted softer Doritos? Who thought, in an age marked by struggles for equality among gender and sexual orientation and race, it would be a great idea to market fucking slightly softer Doritos to an entire group of people. Are you shitting me? No, you’re not, though an over-indulgence in your product would certainly lead to plenty of distressing shits that I wouldn’t wish on my greatest enemy.

Here’s a better question for you.

Who asked you for this? And, follow up question, did they also ask you if you really think you should be vaccinating your kids? Because I’m guessing someone who shows the passion for one probably has enough time to waste on the other.

I understand as a snack product you need to stay on top of things. You have to keep up with trends and constantly be producing the next best thing. In a market saturated with delicious treats and snacks, it is vital that you are always in. Here’s an idea. Try a new flavor. Goddamned novelty flavors are all the rage. People love trying new, stupid flavors that they know will only be around for a short period of time. Hell, Japan has made a name for itself offering up weird-ass chip flavors that we can’t even dream of here in North America. You can be damn sure that if Doritos put out a Seafood Jazz Dorito or Cheesy Enchilada Dorito flavor people would eat that shit up. Again, literally. Lays has made a name for itself having contests about chip flavors! Doesn’t that seem like a good idea? That seems like a good idea to me.  Much better than trying to market an insulting snackfood to half the world who, just to remind you, never asked for it.

Times are changing, Doritos. You have to use a measure of social intelligence and recognize the values of the culture in which you are trying to market your product.

Spoiler alert: our current top ten values do not, and I would guess will never include slightly softer chips.

Sincerely,

Kathleen Sawisky Esq.

An Open Letter to Swanson Steamfresh products “The Age of Sauce Is Upon Us”

Thought: Why do we call them ‘Corn Mazes’? What fool overlooked the hilarious opportunity for it to be a “Maize Maze”?

Dear Swanson Steamfresh,

As I write this I am witnessing my husband’s face contort in a wildly amusing way. I might say I could have told you so to him, but that would only create marital strife, and quite frankly we are only two or three misplaced words away from dueling to the death on the eaves trough of our new house.

His face is contorting partially because, in an effort to rid himself of what is a remarkable and intense, I hesitate to use the word ‘flavour’, he has opted to pour himself a generous portion of scotch whiskey, which I purchased for him after starting my new job as a sort of thank you for being such a loving and supportive husband and refusing my offers to duel on the eaves trough of the house.

He has poured himself this generous portion of whiskey because he just ate a small bite of your “Flavor Full” Barbeque Sweet Corn product and it has not agreed with him.

I understand that we live in the Age of Sauce, Swansons. Much like a Ritolin Riddled Millennial, we ask that all pre-packaged foods come doused in succulent, varied flavours to ensure that we are not bored by the process of eating. Heaven forbid boredom should set in – we might fall asleep, our heads swallowed by our Hungry Man meals, mashed potatoes inhaled into our sinuses and suffocating us before we’d have a chance to reach for the paprika to remedy the sheer, unadulterated boredom that is eating.

But really, does everything need a sauce? Am I so incapable of squeezing a lemon or reaching for that bottle of Artisnal BBQ sauce that I purchased from the local farmer’s market that you must take it upon yourself to slather my frozen vegetables with this shlock? What’s worse is that it isn’t even interesting BBQ sauce. You add it to your product to encourage the eating of vegetables and, I presume, corn. But here’s the thing, Swanson. No one is prepared to admit that corn is the single most god-awful vegetable in the face of the planet. Corn was not made to be consumed in its natural form. Why else have we turned it into syrup and bread? because it’s a fucking disaster of a vegetable! In order to eat it properly the average human requires years of extensive orthodontic and dental intervention, and even then the minute you have one kernel stuck between your teeth it becomes a crisis, with mom piling all the kids into the car at 7:30 at night to make an emergency trip to the dentist just so you can have the damn thing surgically removed.

Corn is not the friend of mankind, and no amount of BBQ sauce will ever make it so. Even  my own special reserve of artisanal sauce made from the blood of wild horses that were slaughtered under the full moon can’t make corn palatable. It’s an impossibility, so please, do us all a favour and stop trying to make sauce-ridden corn happen. It isn’t going to happen. At least when I steam my own corn I can douse it with rye whiskey and set it on fire. that makes it marginally more edible. Try doing that with your saucesational BBQ and Sweet Corn. You can’t, can you? Because whatever is in that BBQ sauce is an affront to nature itself and consumes fire to gain strength. I wouldn’t be surprised to discover that my garbage can has melted into the foundation of the house after my husband disposed of the bag.

I guess what I am getting at here, Swanson, is that you don’t have to douse everything in sauce. Potato wedges can just be potato wedges. Non-specific-type-of-Asian-Medley can just be a non-specific-type-of-Asian-Medley (I’ll save that for another open letter, although my guess is you know what I am going to say, and if you don’t I would suggest you google ‘Asia’ and then ‘regional cuisine’ and tell me how many of those countries actually utilize baby corn in their meals.)

You know what I do like, Swansons? Your Pure & Simple frozen veggies. I don’t feel like in my wild attempts to create a balanced meal I will somehow have to create a meat sensation that somehow compliments the strange, fanciful saucy veg that you have prepackaged for me. If I want to make my Russian Prince Salt Chicken, which is delicious by the way, I will have no concerns about it clashing with your Broccoli Florets because those florets are sauce free. Unlike the Buffalo Cauliflower which, speaking as someone who has never eaten a buffalo before, seems poorly named. I know you worry about us, and you worry that we aren’t eating enough greens, but trust me, we will if you only give us the chance. Like reluctant parents finally giving their 18-year-old the keys to the car, you have to give us some responsibility so we can prove ourselves. Yes, we are capable of seasoning our own vegetables. Yes, we can decide how much salt we want to put on the green beans. Yes, we can. Let us go, Swanson. Let us fly.

And here’s another thing. “Flavour Full”. Really? Really? That’s what you’re going with? Perhaps it is the savvy consumer in me, but I want to know what you’re trying to hide by calling these bags of sauces “Flavour Full” instead of “Flavorful”. Is it because the sauce to vegetable ratio is so lopsided? Is it because what you have included in these products can’t be called ‘flavour’ so much as ‘artificially enhanced spice dollops’?  No one thinks that is witty, Swanson. If anything, the lack of concern for the English language is disturbing. You’re already on thin ice with your Salisbury Steak Hungry Man Meal – don’t push your luck by desicrating a word as simple as ‘flavourful’. You know what would have been a good name for them? Swanson’s Steamfresh Flavour Punched Vegetables. Because then I imagine someone punching an ear of corn and that fills me in a way that frozen vegetables never can.

An Open Letter to Andrew, Who Just Wanted to Share a Quote

You might remember Andrew. Andrew emailed me again, this time to share a quote:

You’ve got to let it go and say it was the best I could do at that time and place in my life. You hope that the thing you’re doing next is a little bit better.”

-Todd McFarlane

Here is Katarina Savatski’s response.

Dear Andrew,

I thank you for your words of encouragement. When last we spoke I was returning to Russia and, I believed, my likely demise at the hands of Putin’s entourage of gnome-like FSB agents. I was certain my cover was blown, especially how Mr. Turd Ferguson, who you remember to be my handler, I’m sure, refused to see me off.

I spent several unfortunate weeks upon the boat, the SS Hipsmasher. One might believe that to be a comical name, a play on the absurdity, but it was indeed a most harrowing ride and I am grateful that I have survived to tell you the tale. I was brought onto the ship under the cover of darkness the night prior to its departure, carried in my faithful potato sack which once acted as a sleeping bag for me during my youth when my father and I traveled with the Trans Siberian Orchestra. Now, my faithful burlap, would accompany back to the old country and, god willing, convince those meeting me on the other side that I was still loyal to Putin, Mother Russia, and perhaps even the ballet.

I was directed to not leave my sack until I was certain the boat had departed. Oh, how those hours wore on! I was tucked among ballasts and boilers, next to a noisy pipe that was either used for transporting water or rats. I made myself as small as possible, which was no small feat given that part of my obligatory ballet training included spending several hours each day on a rack, meant to stretch my limbs so I might achieve maximum ‘willowiness’. After what felt like days and days, curled in the cold corner of the boat, I felt the world shift around me. Praise me to Saint Jude, we were off!

I emerged from my burlap sack and was quickly escorted to the bow where I met the captain, a Mr. Burt Lancaster-Steele. In the old country his arm hair would indicate he was a man of high rank. As it was, he explained he had some sort of allele condition and that I should not use the women’s razors in the ships bathroom, as they were meant specially for him. Captain Lancaster-Steele explained that he had been paid to bring me back to Russia, and that I should not feel even remotely uncomfortable despite the fact that I was the only woman on a ship full of men who would be isolated from the rest of the world for the next month. In hindsight, I suspect Captain Lancaster-Steele was trying to subtly warn me that the crew were not to be trusted.

I spent my days wandering the deck of the ship, making polite conversation with a young shiphand named Daniel who seemed relegated to what I believe you Americans call ‘Charlie Work’, as more often than not he was covered in some form of human excrement or handling rats. Nonetheless, I found Daniel to be a clever conversationalist. He was born in New Jersey, but I do not hold that against him.

Ah, Daniel. Were it not for Daniel, I would have surely perished upon that boat.

It happened the second week. We had been forced to sail into a storm, or else bypass it and add another three weeks onto our journey. Have you ever been trapped on a ship with a group of sweaty, sea-salt licked men, Andrew? It is deeply unpleasant.

During the night, as the SS Hipsmasher was buffeted about by the wind and waves, there came a commotion from outside of my quarters. Since I had volunteered to tend to Captain Lancaster-Steele’s chest hair he had graciously upgraded my living space from a corner in the hull to a broom closet. I was quite content there given I now was able to lock out the rest of the world if I so desired, but with Daniel sleeping down the hall, and frequently suffering nightterrors brought on by his fear of open water, I was never concerned that anyone would be able to sneak up on me.

I called out, thinking it must be Daniel, come to curse Poseidon in his terrified state. Upon opening the door, I was terrified to realize that the second mate, a wormy-like man I had only known as Dwight, was standing at my door. I learned, not long after reaching shore, that Dwight was actually Dimitri, and was, as I suspected, a plant from Putin, sent to kill me. Dwight lunged, his hands wrapping around my neck. Now, I must caution you to not dear for me, Andrew. Do you recall I mentioned my willowy stature? Dwight’s efforts to wrap his fingers around my neck were halted as I was able to deliver several swift blows to his kidneys with my lanky arms. I drove my toned ballerina foot directly into his sternum and managed to haltingly leap over him. Alas, Dwight recovered from my attack and lunged towards, me, tackling me just as the ship lurched to one side. We crashed into the wall of the hallway, and began to kick out fiercely at Dwight, landing blow after blow on his delicate man bits.

Temporarily free, I made my way down the hall, thinking I might make it to the deck and take one of the life rafts to safety. Alas, as I reached the stairs, the SS Hipsmasher at last gave way to the power of the storm, and a torrent of water surged down the stairs, knocking me back down the hallway and into Daniel, who was just emerging from his quarters.

Now, Andrew, I must tell you what happened next is a blur. I recall the sea, cold, empty, and endless. It churned around me, frothing. I recall seeing Daniel and Dwight both grapple for a knife, and the sudden and complete submersion of the boat below the water. I cannot say where I found the pipe or what I thought I was doing, but as I delivered a first, second, and then third blow directly to Dwight’s hip, I knew the SS Hipsmasher had remained true to her name.

But oh, that water, Andrew! So cold! And I say this being Russian! Do you know how much it takes for a Russian to admit they are cold? I would not admit it even if Putin had had my father hung over a bear pit! We Russians are proud people.

I’m not sure how Daniel delivered us from that balmy abyss. When next I woke I was curled on a life raft with Daniel on one side of me and Captain Lancaster-Steele on the other.

And my hands. My glorious, Putin-Oiling hands, bandaged using my faithful burlap sack. The pipe I had grasped, the very same that kept me awake during those first few hours on the boat, had been a steam pipe. Even now, as I write to you, Andrew, my palms blister and pus. The pain is excruciating.

We were not on that raft for long. Land was already in sight when I awoke. But I already knew that I would never be able to return to Russia. Were Putin to see me now, he would surely have me killed. His favorite prima ballerina and chest-oiler, now disfigured, useless. No man wants scarred, lump hands massaging unscented baby oil into their ripped pecs.

I could not go home to Russia, for I would be killed., I could not go to my adopted country of the United States of America, for I betrayed their trust in rigging the election. I was anchorless, homeless, and country-less. And so, when we arrived on the Irish coast I knew at once, Katarina Savatski surely died on that boat.

Kathleen O’Whiskey, on the other hand – oh, hands. It still pains me – Yes, Kathleen O’Whiskey would make a new life for herself on this emerald isle.

Dawn is breaking, Andrew, and I must be off. If I stay in any city too long I run the risk of being spotted by one of Putin’s spies. There is so much I wish to tell you. That your President Trump is not who he seems; that Bannon is not the puppet master you should concern yourself with. There is much you need to know, Andrew. When I am next able to contact you, I will explain much more.

Yours truly,
Katarina Savatski

An Open Letter to Andrew, Who Wants Me to Sign a Petition

Andrew sent me this forward. I don’t think I know Andrew. I know some Andrews but I don’t think I know this one.

Hi,

Today—just one week before the Electoral College meets to formally elect our next president—a bipartisan group of electors sent a letter to the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper demanding an intelligence briefing related to Russia’s impact on our elections in advance of their vote.

CIA analysts have apparently concluded that Russia sought to influence the presidential election in favor of Donald Trump, and that Russia got the result it wanted. But the level of that involvement and what it means for our democracy is unclear because the CIA has not made the evidence public, briefed key members of Congress, nor fully updated members of the Electoral College who are being asked to determine the next president this coming Monday.

The electors and the American public deserve to hear the facts. We cannot presume to know what impact Russia had, whether this should negate the election night results, or what it might mean for future elections until we review the evidence. And while it is unlikely to change the election outcome, Americans deserve the confidence in our electoral system that comes with clearly knowing the threats we faced and whether they had impact.

The president has a responsibility, among his final duties in office, to give Americans the truth, and help us establish confidence in our democracy again. He can and must order the CIA to brief the electors and members of Congress in full before December 19, and declassify and disseminate the evidence for the public to consider as quickly as possible.

That’s why I signed a petition to President Barack Obama, which says:

” The Electoral College has the right and the duty to see the evidence that the CIA has related to Russia’s impact on our elections. Declassify the evidence and brief the electors before they vote on December 19.”

Will you sign the petition too? Click here to add your name:

http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/direct-the-cia-to-declassify?source=s.fwd&r_by=15375497

Thanks!

I replied to Andrew as such:

Dear Andrew,

Thank you for your forward. I regret to inform you, however, that I am in fact a Russian spy and have been for several years. My actions up to this point include cleverly inputting small quantities of nuclear material into every day objects (I would recommend you get rid of that favorite mug of yours), hacking Trump’s personal email (and let me tell you, his tanning technique is far more invasive than anyone could have expected given the end result), and being Putin’s personal chest oiler.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Kathleen, how does one get the position of Chest Oiler Supreme?” or, as we call it back in mother Russia, “Cold Hands, Warm Heart, French-Fried Nipples” (Loosely translated, you must understand). My story begins long ago to when I was a youth who travelled the Trans Siberian railway with my father, who was conductor of the orchestra (you might have hear of them) for a short period of time in the early 90’s. His career wasn’t to last after he lost the use of both his elbows in a freak snow shoeing accident. After that we ended up in Moscow and I kept us alive by stealing rubles from the fur lined pockets of wealthy stereotypes until one day, after marking a certain local official, I was caught with my hand in the figurative cookie jar by none other than Putin himself.
My father, having only a slim understanding of Disney films and parental duty, readily sold me for a ticket to Fiji and some matching luggage which, in hindsight, was probably the best deal he could have gotten given how malnourished I was. I know it seems like this story is going to a weird place but just hold on, okay? So after thirteen years in the Russian Ballet (All young Russian girls are required to join the ballet. It doesn’t matter if you have two left feet or prefer video games. Historically, every woman of Russian origin has been a Ballerina for at least 30% of her life) I was spotted once again by Putin during my solo exhibition performance of Annie. The part of Daddy Warbucks was played by a cardboard standee as my partner had only recently defected and was, I presume, currently being interrogated by Chinese Nationals somewhere outside of Putin’s reach.
So you’d think being a Russian ballerina I would have lovely feet, but in reality it was my hands that Putin was interested in. I have always had lovely hands. My father used to say I had the hands of a youthful Baba Yaga. I never knew what he meant but the man was usually three sheets to the wind on potato vodka so I am left assuming it was a compliment. During the pinnacle moment of the performance where Annie stabs Miss Hannigan in the throat with a knife and proclaims herself to be a daughter of Mother Russia, Putin stood on his chair and forced the performance to stop, declaring me to be the new Chest Oiler. Now, Kim Jun Un, who was visiting at the time, looked a little shocked, so you can imagine how those of us who were not completely psychotic thought of it. It made no difference. After I finished awashing myself in the blood of Miss Hannigan the performance ended and as I was leaving the theatre I was thrown unceremoniously into the trunk of a passing black car. I had, of course, expected this, making the tumble rather gracefully. You can take a ballerina off the stage, but can’t tag the stage from the ballerina.
Some time later after the customary sixty-three days of interrogation, wherein I was challenged to admit my complacency in American Communism (I never did break, praise be to Putin) I was taken to the Kremlin, given a new set of clothes and a tub of car wax and presented with Putin’s fresh shaven chest. This became my life for the next six years until, after having buffed and spit polished Putin’s chest, I was taken by a handler I had come to know as Madame Perdet. Putin had new orders for me. I was to travel to the United States, infiltrate their electoral process and, ultimately, ensure the election of Donald Trump in 2016. This was particularly interesting to me given we had only just begun to see reruns of The Apprentice in Russia and I was interested in the physics of his hairs as well as how he managed to appease his many wives (sexually) with such tiny Vienna sausage fingers. Putin told me I was his oily star, and when the President comes a’callin’ you must answer or else you disappear and everyone you love is told of your treachery.
Fast-forward some years later and I had yet to be activated. While finished my Undergrad in Visual Arts I joined local political protests, and while I am unsure of what I was protesting, I was told it was very important and it involved throwing many buckets of paint. In Russia this is just an average birthday party so it was like being back home. I met a lovely boy named Bobby who decided he wished to couple with me, but my handler in America, Mr. Turd Ferguson (I believe this is an alias, however he demands I call him by his full name) quickly put an end to that, and to Bobby’s promising football career, by breaking both his knees in a bar brawl outside of a Hooters.
After that Bobby succumbed to the drink, as weak willed men are want to do, and I was told by Mr. Turd Ferguson that the time had come to point the ranks of the Republican Party. I was confused, as the values praised by this party seemed very reminiscent of those at home and not at all the sort of values that I had learned during my education in the Liberal Arts. I was assured that this was wholly American, and that I was about to see some, and I quote, real interesting shit go down.
I must admit I was so pleased to see Hillary Clinton as the Democratic Nominee. Back home is a woman ever tried anything like this she would… well, nothing bad would happen to her. It would really depend entirely on her ballet background first and foremost. Ultimately she would probably be passed over for a man, whether or not he was more competent than her. In fact, our general election back home involves six weeks of drinking until the population is in a blackout haze and incapable of even the most basic commands beyond ‘sign here’. On more than one occasion a hungover family man has come from his stupor to discover he has sentenced his entire family to the gulag. Putin finds the whole thing very hilarious.
Where was I? Oh yes. Ultimately I was activated by Turd Ferguson and sent in to corrupt the vote. Over the last two years I have thrown many chairs and hacked many emails, but none ever brought me pleasure. I was frightened, realizing that this country that had adopted me was more home than Russia ever could be, and I was actively contributing to its downfall. I did what I could; I hacked Mr. Trump’s emails, his taxes, all of it, but every time I went to meet with a contact in the news to release the information I would find that individual mysteriously strung up by their own entrails. Quite peculiar.
As I write this to you, Andrew, I am at a loss. Trump is now the President-Elect. Hillary Clinton has not been seen for weeks, and I have been summoned back to Moscow by Madame Perdet. Turd Ferguson would not meet with me prior to my boat leaving New York. I am frightened at what awaits me back home. My hands are not dry and paper cut from weeks of writing letters and stuffy envelopes. What Putin expects to find when I arrive back in Moscow is a young, vivacious young woman with the glistening hands of a Russian child. What he will find is a cynical American woman who has seen the true underbelly of the world and been helpless to stop the impending doom. I pray for you Andrew, as I have prayed for my homeland so many times before.
Yours Sincerely,
Katarina Savatzki

An Open Letter to John Connolly

Dear John Connolly,

I’ll be the first to admit, I should be busy reading A Time of Torment, which was just (mercifully) released in North America. There is a bonus working in a book store, even if it is a mass retailer. The moment I realized Torment was released I was able to leave our lunch room and ravenously search our shelves until, upon realizing I couldn’t find our five copies (Five? Only five! Blasphemy!) demand assistance from my coworkers to whom I promised a shiny quarter to the first person who could hand me a copy. The shiny quarter ended up going to my boss, who located Torment in the mystery section. We generally shelve your books under general fiction because of its beautiful culmination of elements taken from different genres. On more than one occasion I have found it in horror and mentally decried the foolishness of my coworkers. Yes, it is horror; yes, it is mystery; yes, it is paranormal and at times, when Rachel makes her appearance, a tiny bit romantic. It is all that and so much more. Charlie Parker is so much more.

I began following the story of Charlie Parker around the time The Reapers was first released. It was the first of your novels that I read. I am a sucker for assassins and banter and blood splatter. It seemed right up my alley. I loved it enough to hunt down your other work, not realizing that Charlie Parker was the true antihero of the series. I was easily smitten by his sarcasm, his nobility, and oh, the fact that he is being flipping haunted by his dead wife and daughter holy shit this is amazing oh my god oh my god homaigawd. 

Sorry, I lost my head there a bit. I’m a little madly in love with your writing (and your wry Irish wit which, if my Irish relatives are any indication, is a national thing. We Canadians aren’t nearly as exceptional in the biting sarcasm and smarm.) And that is precisely why I write this open letter to you today.

For however many years your writing has accompanied me through my various phases in life. From hospitals to parental divorce to marriage and finally, into my own timid foray into writing. Charlie Parker has accompanied me every step of the way and, perhaps more importantly, challenged me.

No, that isn’t quite right. Parker doesn’t challenge me. At least, not in the way I mean. But you do. Your writing does. I’ve read and reread every book of yours multiple times. Reading them as a teenager, and into very young adulthood, they were just fascinating adventures into the human condition, a remarkable blend of paranormal, supernatural, and violence, which really just rings all my metaphorical bells. But as an adult, now educated and having taken numerous classes where the focus was primarily on analyzing literature, I see so much more in your work.

I see the tiny threads connecting each story. I see the way in which Parker’s fate is predetermined now and he, having died and returned to the natural world, is now an active participant in his own destiny. He has embraced it, or appears to in my mind. Granted, I am only on page 137 of A Time of Torment. Anything could happen.

And his meeting with the Collector at the beginning? Oh my god, I nearly peed myself from the level of badassery that was spilling from the pages.

Since I’ve begun to reread the series, yet again, I’ve taken my time with each novel. I’ve searched for hints of things to come. The exact moment I realized I needed to start paying attention was when Sam, I think in The Wolf in Winter, handed Charlie a cross made of sticks and told him it was to protect him. That was it. I knew it. Never has a series captured my attention and forced me to utilize so much of my memory to try and piece together the what if’s and what’s to come’s.

And you’ve given your readers an honest chance. That’s what I love about the Charlie Parker stories, more than anything. Deep reading aside, any dedicated fan (as I like to call myself) has an honest chance to guess what might happen on the next page, in the next chapter, in the next book.

And yet you continue to shock me, book after book. There is no denying your skill to engage the readers and create beautiful imagery melded with real, honest to god people with faults and hopes and downfalls.

It makes me profoundly jealous. I know your literary prowess didn’t appear overnight; even now I reread Every Dead Thing and some points make me cringe and think Now that might just be a bit too much. Reading your work in order, I can see the transition, and the trepidation as the supernatural and unreal becomes more prolific and the characters begin to test their limits.

It is, for a lack of a better word, glorious. You, sir, are a phenomenal author, and it makes me horribly jealous.

Thank you, for that. No. I mean it. Honestly and without an ounce of sarcasm (which anyone who knows me can tell you is quite remarkable in itself), thank you for making me want to be a better author. Thank you for making me look at my own writing and see the borders I have drawn around it. Thank you for unknowingly telling me to set fire to those borders and draw characters out of flame and ash and send them out into the world.

Thank you for Charlie Parker and all he has suffered. Thank you for Angel and Louis, who are my favorite assassins of all time. Thank you for Sam, for the subtle ways you have made her more than a child needing to be protected, for giving her a greater purpose. Thank you for all the stories, and the many more to come (I hope.)

Thank you so much for making me want to be a better author.

Most sincerely,

Kathleen Sawisky

An Open Letter to Whirlpool CEO, Jeff Fettig

To the Whirlpool CEO, Jeff Fettig,

Dear Sir,

My recent experience with your Whirlpool W10219708A Compact Front Loading Automatic Washer has been, how to put it delicately, something of a bit of a joke. Were I a calm and reasonable person, I might describe it as mildly frustrating, perhaps even undesirable. Instead, I find that the simplest and most effective way to describe said experience is to equate it to that of a Shakespearean tragedy, with more irony than even the Bard himself could possibly muster in this day and age. I am, therefore, obligated to write to you now and express my dissatisfaction with as much vim and vigor as I can muster. Vim, because that is one of the cleaning products I utilized after the A10 error supplied by your clownish machine caused my laundry room to flood, and vigor, because that was the rate I wished to strangle myself after I was able to finally run a successful load of laundry without calling in a local priest to exorcize what I can only assume is the restless spirit of some North American Buffalo God whose golden idol was bulldozed to make way for our condo.

Spoiler alert: The priest was useless and the rabbi has since stopped returning my calls.

But I am getting ahead of myself, as I am want to do when I find I have wasted the majority of my day scooping water out of the bottom of a washing machine with a ladle.

My husband and I purchased our condo just over two years ago, and were most thrilled to learn that appliances such as a washer, dryer, stove, and fridge would all be provided by Whirlpool. There is nothing quite like pulling the plastic off a shiny new brushed steel appliance. I suppose I might equate it to the sensation of peeling the top off a yogurt cup or, to give an example you are more familiar with, unzipping a dufflebag filled with grand wads of cash that you can roll around in naked.

But the good times were not to last. Fairly soon we began to notice several things going awry, least of all the fact that our neighbour down the hall turned out to be absolutely insufferable and, quite frankly, a bit of a dick, as well as the presence of a mad pooper in our building. Those issues were negligible though, when compared to the vicious, insensitive flashing of the A10 error which began to appear on our washer’s display. I’m sure you aren’t aware of what A10 means, given that you probably do not furnish your house with the same appliances that you sell. That would be silly. Why use an itty-bitty stackable washer and dryer when you can pay orphans with baby smooth hands to wash your clothes for you in the local enchanted spring? I am, of course, only assuming your local spring is enchanted. Ours is filled with geese, and thanks to a series of unfortunate events involving the retrieval, and subsequent returning of their eggs, I can confirm they are not enchanted.

A10, sir, means there is a clog. A nasty old boogery clog that is preventing the washer from draining. There is only one solution when an A10 error happens, and it is quite possibly the most aggravating solution your company could have possibly come up with. A10 means taking a flat blade and prying off the bottom bit of the washer (in my case I opted for a butcher knife so I could feel marginally superior to the machine I was servicing) and then proceeding to open the small valve at the bottom to clear out the blockage.

Youtube ensured me that this was very simply, but could get messy as there might be a bit of water in there, so make sure you have a towel nearby to mop up any mess.

No man, woman, child, or god could have predicted the torrential flooding of water that gushed from my washing machine. Indeed, had I not been wearing arm floaties there was a very strong chance that I might have drowned at that moment. Frantically I shoved the plug back into place and raced for more towels as the now soapy, mildew-esque water began to seep into our baseboards, which are now permanently warped, thank you so much. I threw every towel I had at the floor, watching helplessly as they became instantaneously soaked by the deluge of dank washer water.

Now here I must offer kudos. It is very convenient that the means to dry said towels is so close by. Theoretically one might able to toss the ruined towels into the dryer with one hand while sopping up the mess with another. However, I must caution you that towels, when soaked absolutely through, are rather heavy and thus, when attempting to pile them into the dryer, you can expect them to drip to the point where you may slip and fall on the linoleum, only to find yourself being crushed beneath a mountain of towels, quietly whispering ‘why’ as your life flashes before your eyes and the room around you grows dark and cold.

If you manage to struggle free from the pile of death and you manage to get those towels into the dryer, you are still up shit creek, as I learned. Because much like the vagina of your mother, it is still absolutely soaking in there.

That was rude of me. I’m sorry. I’m just so upset that I wasted my own day off doing this whole process over and over again.

Oh, didn’t I mention that? This is not the first time we’ve received the A10 error. It has happened multiple times over the last two years and, fortunately, we have become masters in the art of hastily acquiring towels, bed sheets, and duvet covers to cover the flood in order to prevent even further damage to our walls and baseboards.

Where was I? Oh yes. So you’ve managed to survive the flooding, the crushing, and now the drying, and somewhere a long the way you’ve found a spare dry square of cloth that you can place under the Magical Faucet of Neverending Water. You’ve probably accepted at this point that no amount of specialty fans or emergency clean up will help with this issue, so you might as well let yourself be baptised in the abysmal flood of suds. Miraculously, there is an end to the water. Somewhere between the swearing, crying, and fighting with your spouse, the washing machine does appear to be fully drained and you are able to carefully pick out the microscopic piece of lint that managed to ruin your entire load of laundry, your baseboards, and, at this rate, your marriage. Now you put it all back together, press the cancel button, let the machine finish draining automatically, and do a test run on “Spin/Drain”. Yes, you’ll have clean underwear for work ye-

Are you serious? Are you fucking kidding me? There is another A10 error? There isn’t even anything in the machine! I just cleaned out the trap! There is literally no reason why this machine should not work unless for some reason it is cursed in which case Whirlpool better have a damn exorcist on retainer because apparently I need one!

I’m not going to mince words any more than I already have. I am frustrated. In a wild effort to do several loads of laundry today (because your machine is only slightly bigger than a bread maker and thusly I have to do my four bras in two separate loads) I have soaked, dried, and soaked again the following:

5 towels

2 Duvet Covers

1 King-Sized Fitted sheet

6 rolls of Off-Brand paper towel

7 paper napkins

1 Fuzzy blanket

Untold number of hand towels

 

These are the atrocities of war. The victims of untold flooding. The smell of mildew is now firmly embedded in the above textiles and as such they have been relinquished to a cupboard which we have deemed to be our “Emergency Stupid Washer Is Broken” cupboard where we can grab them, as well as a bottle of vodka, at a moments notice. The duvet covers were unsalvageable even after being washed in a real machine. The off-brand paper towels were as useless as one might expect them to be, however I believe given the amount of fluid ounces of water that was used that day, even Bounty, the Quicker Picker Upper would have had their work cut out for them.

Now let’s talk about the smell. Yes, the smell. I don’t know if you have any idea what it is like to live in a condo, and before you decide to call your pent-house suite a condo let me explain: a condo is a living space where you can stand on either end and long jump to the other side without much effort. Condos are tiny. They are tiny and cramped and they do not come with air conditioning unless you pay extra, which we would have done except that we had already used up our ‘extra’ budget on a washing machine that is probably imbued with the spirit of Mrs. Topechka, an angry Ukrainian Turn-of-the-Century Pioneering Woman who does not care for our new-fangled ways. So there was no room in the budget for an air conditioner, which, given that we live in Alberta, means we rely heavily on fans during the summer. But not all the fans in the world can stop heat and water from crushing together and creating the stench.

Let me tell you, when something stinks in a condo, it really stinks. My husband’s mildewy dress shirts, for one thing, which he put in to wash over night only to wake up and discover an A10 error the next morning. Our towels. The towels we used to clean our bodies with. All of these things, now forever drenched in the scent of mold, mildew, and probably my tears. And the stench in the condo is horrendous. The water sat in the washer for less than 12 hours and yet the smell that culminated in our condo is so ripe that it is literally transcending time. I can feel my eggs shriveling up in my ovaries. My children will be born with a perpetually puckered nose simply because the odor in the condo is clinging to everything. My cats curled up into the corner of the den and projectile vomited everywhere before dying abruptly. My dog has turned rabid and is now locked in the bathroom, which I imagine is making her even more upset given that the bathroom is right across from the laundry room and is probably the second most smelly place in the condo.  They say Vicks Vapor Rub under the nose is a good way to deal with the smell of decaying bodies, but what they don’t tell you is that smearing it all over your face will only serve to help the smell of mold and mildew permeated deeper into your pores. I am actually molding as I sit here and type this.

But yeah, sure, shit happens, right? Roll with the punches. I did try to make a game out of it for a while. I played “What will dry these towels faster: The Majesty of the Sun or This Perpetually Disappointing Whirlpool Appliance?” I am sorry to say by the end of the saga it was Majestic Sun: 4, Whirlpool Appliance: 2. Of course, those games only take you so far, especially as you spend more and more time steeping in the smell of mold, watching water trickle carefully out of a small valve that you have adjusted the perfect amount to avoid more flooding. It makes a person introspective, really gets you thinking about life, the universe, and how goddamned crappy an appliance has to be if the smallest item not classified as a textile in the washer somehow causes it to have a grand mal seizure. I mean, let’s be honest here, I know it’s a small appliance for a small space, but I should be able to leave a receipt for a box of tampons in my pocket without having to worry if the neighbours below us are going to have flooding in their kitchen.

And yeah, cleaning your pockets is always a good plan prior to doing a load of laundry, but give me a fucking break, I actually do have other things to do (aside from today which I dedicated entirely to watching water trickle from a valve, did I mention that yet?) I have a condo to clean, a rabid dog to walk and/or put down, food to make, actual work to do for my actual job which I am actually paid to do, and clothes to pu- Oh, well. I guess I don’t have clothes to put away at the moment, but we know whose fault that is, don’t we? The point is, people generally live very busy lives these days, and worrying about a scrap of lint in a pocket is not on the top of my priority list. If your product cannot sustain itself in those little moments, how can anyone ever expect it to clean the grass stains off of my metaphorical snub-nosed child’s soccer gear? Failure to do its most basic job in the face of slight interruption does not bode well for the longevity of your product.

And before you ask What about warranty? Yeah, that was a year long. And as is tradition with all things produced in the 21st century, it broke roughly 6 minutes after said warranty expired. Of sure, we called in the dealer a couple times, but that was about as useful as nailing a banana to a fruit bat. It was not useful at all, and was incredibly pointless and, in the long term, will probably result in the loss of life.

So what is the point of all this, you might ask, knowing full well that you are going to receive a snarky reply.

The point is I assumed Whirlpool was simply a brand name and not a description of what I could expect draining from my washing machine. The point is I would very much like to know why the Whirpool washer has the constitution of an anti-vaxxers child in a room full of whooping cranes with nasty coughs. The point is, I would very much like my washer to not break down the next time I forget to pick each stray thread off of my jeans with a pair of tweezers prior to washing them. The point is, I am horribly disappointed with your product, with its ability to do its most basic function, with my ruined towels and bed sheets and duvet covers, with my warped baseboards that will detract from the resale price of the condo and, perhaps finally, I am disappointed knowing that it will only be a matter of weeks before A10 comes back and we have to repeat the whole process all over again.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to put my head in our Whirlpool oven. I’m not sure if I’m hoping it will work or not. One thing is certain, the outcome either way is sure to be exciting.

Sincerely,

Kathleen Sawisky

An Open Letter to Gregg Hurwitz “Thank you for the perpetual fear of mantoids”

Sometimes I write open letters to people who annoy me. Sometimes I write letters to people who inspire me. Sometimes I write letters to my openly passive aggressive neighbours. Today’s letter falls into column ‘B’.

Dear Mr. Hurwitz,

Over ten years ago I managed to get my paws on a copy of The Kill Clause.  I was wandering around the local Chapters in Kelowna, searching for books to take with me on my latest hospital stay. Having previously read The Surgeon by Tess Gerritsen before my first surgery, I decided it was in my best interest to not read about anything surgical, but instead focus on my favorite subject: Revenge. The Kill Clause stood out to me because A) It had kill in the title, and B) Clearly involved a vengeful parent, which in my angsty teenage mind was just perfect. Soon enough I had read every book of yours I could get my hands on. I turned to Amazon to find copies of Minutes to Burn and The Tower (and thank you so much for the perpetual, unending fear of mutant praying mantoids. I am never travelling to the Galapagos.)

Your books have accompanied me to the hospital numerous times, have been my go-to when I need something familiar to sink my teeth into. Even now, older and mercifully educated, I open them and discover subtleties that were certainly over my thirteen-year-old head.

By the time I turned seventeen I was, let’s say, a little more… brash. And having taken to writing as a means to not lose my mind in between spinal surgeries and the perpetual angst, I began to suspect that what I was pursuing was not so much a hobby as it was a calling. Who knows?  Years later, as I venture round amateur writing communities I find there is a shared surreal sensibility, that a writers words call to them, that their characters speak  to them. Personally, I just like writing about explosions and a badass female character.

But seventeen-year-old me was in a different state, and she very much wanted to believe that what she was doing was more than just a way to pass the time in between lucid moments, free from (totally legal, honest) drugs. So stupid, idiotic, naive, dumb-dumb me did a stupid dumb-dumb thing, and emailed you for advice. Make no mistake. The minute I pressed send I had instant email regrets. Even to this day I get embarrassed just thinking about it. I very quickly pushed the whole incident from my mind, figuring that you, holy balls favourite author ever would in no way have time to email back a silly person such as myself. I may have even blocked out the entire incident just to protect my own self-respect.

Then something fantastic happened. You emailed silly, dumb-dumb, moronic, teenage me back.

And I may have peed myself with excitement. Just a little bit.

It was a huge moment. Holy SHIT, I thought. I worship the ground this man writes on! Holy flippin’, ass-crackery shit! 

I can’t recall much of what I wrote to you, but I do recall including a vague request for advice on how to pursue writing as a career, and you told me something that I have followed religiously for the last 8, lordy, almost 9 years.

Write every day. Even if it is just a sentence.

At the time it didn’t mean much to me. Write every day? Uh, okay. But I’m already doing that. So…

But I figured, what the hell, if Gregg Hurwitz tells you to write every day, you damn well do it. You take your medicine and you be grateful you live in Canada and the medicine is covered under your provincial health care (sorry.)

I continued to write and read. Every day. A sentence here. A paragraph there. An idea scrawled onto a post-it that has become part of an impressive collection of half-ideas. I never stopped. When I move from my winter to spring jacket, I find the pockets stuffed with scraps of paper, covered in ideas that, quite frankly, may have been written in a drunken haze given how unclear they are.

Still, I wrote, and indeed, write.

And last year, after almost 9 years of working away at it, observing how my own understanding of writing has grown and matured and, in many ways, thrived, I made a desion that is was time to publish. I briefly considered traditional publishing when it occurred to me that I didn’t want the hassle. It was never about fame or fortune, but just getting this damn series out of my head.

Several months ago I ran a GoFundMe to pay for an editor. Two and a half months ago I paid that editor and sent her my manuscript, desperately hoping the end result would not be her calling CSIS on me (so far so good.) Three weeks ago, give or take, I got my manuscript back, filled with changes to be made. Now, today, I am sitting on 42 changes left to be made, each one seemingly more intricate than the last.

This is coming off far too self-congratulatory. It isn’t meant to be. What I wish to say is thank you. Because at a time when a silly, dumb-dumb teenager from a broken household, with a mangy spine, was trying to find her place in the world, you told her that it was okay to keep writing. Without meaning to, you gave me the permission I needed to continue doing something I loved. To those around me, writing was always just the hobby. The something that Overly Awkward Kathleen did during her free time because she couldn’t socialize well with others.

Overly Awkward Kathleen socializes much better, still puts her foot in her mouth, and has learned to adapt to the world around her. Overly Awkward Kathleen never stopped writing, not even for a second. And it never occurred to me what an accomplishment it could be, or how remarkable crafting and honing a story can be until just recently, when I realized the end of my (first) journey was in sight.

I still buy every one of your books on the day they are released, and I always look for inspiration, to see how you yourself have grown as an author from one book to the next. You continue to inspire me each time I reread any of your work. That being said, I always skip the first chapter of The Kill Clause, because it is too sad, and parts of The Tower are just a bit too graphic for my brain to handle. And I won’t ever reread Minutes to Burn because goddamned giant mantoids and an entire Navy SEALS team.

Mantis_silhouette

LOL NOPE

Thank you.

Most sincerely,

Kathleen Sawisky