New York City
New York City
New York City ©Jan M. Smith

I often wonder if anyone actually reads the travel, food, and wine stories I write. With stiff competition to capture attention, and with over 2 million blogs (and countless other stories) posted each day, it’s no surprise the question of reaching and impacting an audience is on a writer’s mind. Have you ever wondered the same about something you have posted?

Without feedback via social media or website, it’s realistic to think a posted story is merely floating in a sea of content on the worldwide web. According to WordPress, over 409 million people read more than 20 billion pages on WordPress each month. These excessive numbers elevate my belief there’s a small chance anyone will ever read what I post. 

I was fortunate to receive a gift at the end of last year that encouraged me to continue writing, regardless of the potential impact my story may have. The gift was in the form of an email, received a few days after Christmas. It was a memorandum with a message, confirming someone is indeed reading my work. Specifically, a story I posted years ago about an experience in New York City at the 9/11 Memorial. The nature of the email was steeped in serendipity. 

With permission, I’m sharing excerpts of this email to encourage fellow writers to continue sharing their wonderful stories online and through print magazines, newspapers, and books. Even when the statistics suggest a glut of content already exists.

NYC 911 Memorial Norma Lang Steuerle ©Jan M. Smith

Dear Jan, 

My name is Christine, and I am the sister of Norma Lang Steuerle, whom you mentioned in your piece about the 9/11 Memorial entitled, “A Single White Meaningful Rose in New York City.”  As it happens, Norma’s granddaughter, (whom she never met), turned 13 last December, and her grandmother and I took her to New York City for that special occasion. On the day we visited the Memorial, my brand-new iPhone was not working. It was frozen, so I was unable to take any photos of my own.

I am in the process of making a family book from our trip and came across your article (miraculously, I think), as I Googled my sister’s name, hoping that maybe the Memorial itself had a picture I could use. What came up though, was your blog entry! I am wondering if I might use the picture you took of her name with the rose as an addition to my book. 

What adds to the surprise of finding your piece is that my other sister, who died before Norma, was named Janice. Also, I have an identical scarf to the one you are wearing on your website. A scarf I wore the weekend of our New York sojourn.

Anyway, you can now know with certainty that Norma was indeed a wife, mother, daughter, sister, cousin, aunt, neighbor, and friend.

PS: As a writer of nonfiction, I find this whole coincidence rather compelling. We never know where or to whom our writing will take us. 

As you can imagine, receiving this email took my breath away. Out of 3,000 names on the 9/11 Memorial, I inexplicably focused on only one during my visit: Norma Lang Steuerle. Seems as though it was fate that years later, Norma’s family would visit the Memorial and need a picture of the one I had taken and used in my story. 

My post shared information about the Memorial and how Norma Lang Steuerle was not just a name on a wall, that likely she was a wife, mother, daughter, sister, cousin, aunt, neighbor, and friend. Norma’s sister quoted this sentence in her email, which will forever remind me the reach of the written word.

Writers never really know how their work will influence others. Having been contacted by a family member who lost someone on 9/11, to let me know how my story impacted their family, is compelling enough to continue sharing more of my experiences in 2020.

Cheers to a great year of writing and impacting others. 

My new mantra for 2020 comes from Norma’s sister, “We never know where or to whom our writing will take us.

Happy New Year!