Earlier this year I was asked if I would be interested to present a seminar to a local writers’ group. The assigned subject: telling story through writing letters.
Although I haven’t written a whole book using letters, I have used the odd letter in my novels over the years. And to my way of thinking, the medium of letter writing is just that – a vehicle for telling story. So when I was asked, of course I said, “Yes!”
In preparing my seminar I researched about the history of letter writing which, by all accounts, dates back as far as 500 BC with Persian Queen Atossa (daughter of Cyrus the Great) being the first recorded author of a handwritten letter.
I also added in the fact that modern historians have noted that our move away from handwritten letters in favour of email probably means the loss of information that might be of interest to future generations since email is generally not retained on paper. My own correspondence with a good friend in Canada effectively ended in a formal sense when the Internet came along. I have saved all her letters up to this point.
Modern readers are able to peruse the letters of literary greats such as Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte and Oscar Wilde. We can even read letters of more recent greats like John Lennon or J R R Tolkien. These letters provide snippets of the authors’ lives: how they lived, what they thought, what they did.
In the case of Charlotte Bronte, in her correspondence with her childhood friend, Ellen Nussey - captured in voice over in the BBC’s biopic To Walk Invisible - we learn much about Charlotte’s thoughts and particularly her grief over the loss of her sisters.
It seems to me that a whole art form is in danger of being lost. But maybe it doesn’t need to be that way. Maybe it’s time to go retro and return to pen and paper, envelope and post. After all, who knows what treasures this might provide for those in the future?
And if you want to write to me the old fashioned way, feel free!
P O Box 34 209
Coming soon. . .