Montrose’s Gabby Landry ’18 Wins Letters About Literature Honors at the MA State House

Montrose's Gabby Landry '18 Wins Letters About Literature Honors at the MA State House

Montrose’s Gabby Landry ‘18 was honored at the Massachusetts State House on May 16, 2017 as one of the top 10 upper school essay-writers in the state for the 2017 Letters About Literature competition. Gabby was among 50,000 students who participated in this year’s contest. Amidst the elegance of the State House Library, the recipients were each called forward, and the speaker described their essay and read a part of their pieces.

Gabby found inspiration to pursue her dream to become a professional writer while recalling those sublime moments of connection that author Marina Keegan inspired in her post-humous collected essays titled The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan (Scribner 2014). Keegan died at age 22, shortly after graduating from Yale University. Gabby found inspiration both in Keegan’s writing and in her tragic life story.

Gabby gave permission for The Looking Glass to reprint her letter:

Dear Marina,

Your words took my breath away. How did you articulate, so clearly and with so much insight, the name of the feeling that remained mysterious for so long in my life?  Your essay “The Opposite of Loneliness” ingrained itself in my mind for days, weeks, months after I first read it.  I reread the opening lines three times, letting the beauty and truth of the words sink in.  “We don’t have a word for the opposite of loneliness,” you wrote.  “But if we did, I could say that’s what I want in life.”

The first time I remember pinpointing the feeling was back in eighth grade.  I was at Christmas Choir rehearsal, standing with the other eighth graders on the top step of metal bleachers.  Our voices vibrated off the high ceilings and filtered through the stained-glass windows of the church.  Green music folders in hand, we began singing “Somewhere In My Memory.”  As the first notes swelled, the feeling washed over me.  I felt it so strongly as the piano perfectly blended with our voices that I nearly stopped singing.  I wasn’t sure what to call it.  It felt like the feelings of Christmas: warmth, love, community, togetherness.  But not quite any one of those.

I’m sure I felt that nameless emotion again over the next few months and years, but not as strongly—just flare-ups every now and then.  A moment shared with my little siblings, Jack and Danielle, as we cocoon ourselves in blankets on the couch to watch some movie or show; their unstoppable giggles and smiling faces that light up the room call the feeling back out—if only for a moment.  Or at family dinners when everyone’s home, and all ten kids and my parents gather around our two black, rectangular tables in the dining room to share a meal together.  The chaos of dinner ensues as we shout for the bread or the salt and connect in lively conversation; yet, amidst the flurry of activity, there is an underlying calm: my mom’s soft smile, the pause for grace before eating, all twelve of us in our seats.  The feeling emerges again, unexpected and warm: a sense of security, peace, and belonging.


You understood this feeling, Marina.  You captured it, gave it a name, and revealed it for the world to see.  You unmasked that mystery which had drifted within and around me since it first filled me at that rehearsal.  The “opposite of loneliness.”  I’ll never see those beautiful moments in the same way again.  

Your words infused new life into my own writing.  Your other nonfiction works in The Opposite of Loneliness showed me the forms of writing I love, but better.  Better narrative.  Better journalism.  Better description, word choice, voice.  “Stability in Motion” showed me how to take an object (like a car, as you did) and make it an expression of myself—simply reading this essay was a better lesson in personification than any English class example.  

You infused hope and inspiration into your words, which, in turn, filled me with inspiration and hope.  Your words take ordinary people and reveal their extraordinary stories, exposing the beauty of humanity for the world to see.  I dove into your story, enchanted as you took Tommy Hart, a lighthearted and hardworking exterminator, and revealed that social stereotypes are just that: stereotypes.  That piece, “I Kill For Money,” reminded me to look beyond the surface whenever I meet someone new.

In their dedication, your parents reminded me of your life philosophy: “Our hope is that Marina’s message of love will inspire readers to imagine the possibilities and make a difference in the world.”

Believe me—it certainly did.

Through your writing, I got to know you, Marina—the you you showed the world in your short 22 years on this planet—and in the process, I got to know myself.  I finished The Opposite of Loneliness and picked up a pen and my journal.  I started writing almost daily, and I haven’t stopped.  

Thank you, Marina, for giving me the hope, inspiration, and determination to become the writer I one day hope to be.

Gabrielle Landry