Samara O'Shea

Archive for April, 2007

The Written Word Strikes Again

Monday, April 23rd, 2007

A form of letter writing that I believe is equally if not more important then writing to others is writing to yourself. It seems silly and counterproductive to some, I know. I live with myself why would I write to myself? Because unfortunately we end up lying to ourselves a great deal about who we are and what we really seek. We talk ourselves into wanting life the way that it is instead of accepting the challenge of making it what we want it to be. Journaling is a therapeutic act that takes us on tour of the back of our brains. There may be monsters living in our mental dungeons, but there also may be unknown passions, desires, and talents. It’s better to know what’s lurking then to live in denial. Better to unleash unknown anger or frustration safely on the page that can take it rather then inadvertently on the people around us who may not be able to.

Journaling also serves a greater purpose in that it nominates you for immortality. This week The New York Times book review covers a book entitled The Grand Surprise: The Journals of Leo Lerman. Lerman (1914-1994) was an American writer and editor who worked for Condé Nast Publications for more than 50 years. He also wrote for the New York Herald Tribune, Harper’s Bazaar, Dance Magazine, and Playbill. His job allowed him to rub elbows with living legends such as Truman Capote, Anaïs Nin, and Marlene Dietrich. The Times notes that he very much wanted to publish a book, “. . .Lerman never published a novel, memoir or true-crime book, a failure for which he reproached himself throughout his life. ‘Almost all that I have earned is by non-writing. . .’” What he could not accomplish in life he is able to accomplish in death with a robust collection of insightful journal entries. In 1978 he comments on the experience of writing itself, “How different writing is from thinking, even from planning what one is to write.” Writing is different from thinking in that thoughts cannot live on—they die with the individual. Unless someone took the time to transcribe those thoughts, making them a tangible tribute to one’s own life. Leo Lerman did just that.

Read The Times article

The Letters You Keep

Monday, April 16th, 2007

I have a confession: I had absolutely no idea that April was National Card and Letter Writing month. A friend of mine at Crane & Co. informed me last week. Oh well, now I know and am passing along the good word. My friend also informed me that Crane is sponsoring “The Letters You Keep,” which is a contest celebrating memorable handwritten letters treasured over time. . .I think I’ll enter the Summer Camp Letter I’ve held onto for 13 years.

Through April, Crane hopes to receive meaningful letters of all types in order to select one winning letter. The keeper of that letter will be announced in May and be awarded $500 toward building a Crane & Co. stationery wardrobe. The winning letter will be featured on Crane’s website! You can read more about it here:

Love Letter Friday

Friday, April 13th, 2007

One of the most famous and tragic American love stories is that between Zelda Sayre and writer F. Scott Fitzgerald. The love they shared was zealous and tormented—it eventually turned into a competition. Scott would borrow pieces of Zelda’s prose to include in his fiction and she, in turn, accused him of plagiarism. Zelda had dreams of launching a great writing career but was forced to sit on the sidelines while Scott’s soared. In The Book of Love: Writer’s and Their Love Letters (Plume, 1992), editor Cathy N. Davidson writes, “They virtually destroyed each other with excessive love and excessive living.” This letter was written early in their marriage. It is passionate, powerful, and laced with a strange obsession that would eventually contribute to the couple’s demise.

Spring 1919 or 1920

I look down the tracks and see you coming—and out of every haze & mist your darling rumpled trousers are hurrying to me—Without you, dearest, dearest I couldn’t see or hear or feel or think—or live—I love you so and I’m never in all our lives going to let us be apart another night. It’s like begging for mercy of a storm or killing Beauty or growing old, without you. I want to kiss you so—and in the back where your dear hair starts and your chest—I love you—and I can’t tell you how much—To think that I’ll die without your knowing—Goofo, you’ve got to try [to] feel how much I do—how inanimate, I am when you’re gone—I can’t even hate these damnable people—Nobodys got any right to live but us—and they’re dirtying up our world and I can’t hate them because I want you so—Come Quick—Come Quick to me—I could never do without you if you hated me and were covered with sores like a leper—if you ran away with another woman and starved me and beat me—I would still want you I know

Lover, Lover, Darling —
Your Wife

Monday’s Blog: Who knew? April is National Card and Letter Writing Month

It’s About Closure!

Thursday, April 12th, 2007

Today, I had originally planned to give my insights into the letters written to the police during the “Autumn of Terror”—when Jack the Ripper was sprinkling his special brand of horror around the city of London. Then I realized I couldn’t talk about the Jack the Ripper letters without discussing the Zodiac letters as well (coincidentally, two of the most famous serial killers in history who have never been caught both wrote taunting letters to the police on a regular basis). I’m not saying that means anything in particular, I just found it interesting. I then realized that I am not well equipped to comment on either of those (although, I did see Zodiac the movie and it was very good), so I put this topic on hold until I can research a bit further.

What I will do today is point you in the direction of one of my favorite web sites: This is where the break-up / good-bye letter lives on. SoThere has posted a fresh break-up letter everyday since 1998. If you need to wallow in your sorrows, this is a great place to do it. If you’ve got a great break-up letter you want the world to see then they can accommodate you—anonymously or not. It’s not about the other person seeing it as much as it’s about you saying what need to in order to move on. Full disclosure: I did contribute a letter to this site once. I won’t say which day it posted, but it has been in 2007. . .

Tomorrow’s Blog: Love Letter Friday

Letter from a Publishing Legend: Helen Gurley Brown

Friday, April 6th, 2007

Welcome to (gulp) my first blog. I’m such a joiner—I know. I do hereby solemnly swear never to blog about going to the grocery store or dying my roots (although I do have it down to 35 minutes). No, no, none of that. This blog is going to be about letters. The letters I send, receive, and write for people (only with their permission of course!). I’ll also keep you abreast of all that’s going on in the letter-writing world (it’s more than you think).

Onto the first letter: I proudly present my favorite letter of 2006. It’s from the doyenne of publishing and letter writing herself: Helen Gurley Brown. Helen is an author and was the editor-in-chief of Cosmopolitan magazine for 32 years. Helen’s first book, Sex and the Single Girl (Bernard Geis Associates, 1962), was way ahead of its time. The age of innocence wasn’t officially over in 1962. The Beatles hadn’t even performed at Shea Stadium yet, but there was Helen writing an instruction manual for single girls to live whimsically and love freely—it was the inadvertent prerequisite to Sex and the City.

In addition to being an editor and author, Helen is also an avid letter writer. Much of her amusing correspondence has been complied in the book Dear Pussycat: Mash Notes and Missives from the Desk of Cosmopolitan’s Legendary Editor (St. Martin’s Press, 2004). I wrote Ms. Brown a letter toward the end of last year asking if she’d take an early look at my book and consider giving a quote for the back cover. A week later she replied. Sadly, she couldn’t give me a quote (with good reason), but I decided I preferred the letter to the quote anyway. I’m going to frame it. . .

Letter from Mrs. Helen Gurley Brown

Next Blog (Thursday, April 12):
Jack the Ripper: Serial Killer and Letter Writer. . .