Samara O'Shea

Greetings from Wausau, WI

I landed on a snowy runway yesterday—a fitting welcome for my first extended stay in the great state of Wisconsin. I did drive through a number of years ago to attend a wedding in Minneapolis, but that doesn’t really count. So . . . I’ve been invited here by the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum. They have a wonderful exhibit called More than Words: Illustrated Letters from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art. It features evocatively illustrated letters of Thomas Eakins, Andy Warhol, and Fredia Kalo (among many others). I’ll be lecturing tomorrow evening at 6:30 and Thursday evening at 6:30 also.

During the day, however, the museum has asked me to go around to area high schools and talk to the teenagers about letter writing in the digital age. I headed over to DC Everest Senior High at 7:45 this morning, and I had five classes to talk to. Truth be told I was terrified. Teenagers are scary. Or so I thought. As soon as first period began I was reminded that teenagers are actually thoughtful, insightful, funny, underestimated, self-conscious bundles of joy. I know. I was one. I remembered that soon after I got started. I had a blast and got a lot of great feedback. I asked them to write me letters at the end of each session. Many of them (get this!) agreed with me in that letters are more meaningful than careless texts or Facebook messages. Of course we’re all proponents of digital communication, but I think I convinced many of them to consider whipping out pen and paper once in a while. And they reminded me that teenagers are always the same (i.e. charming and endlessly amusing)—past, present, and future. Tomorrow I’ll be at Wausau East High all day—leaving at 7:15 a.m. Lord have mercy!

To break the ice with the kiddies today, I started each session by reading some of the notes that were passed to me in class when I was in high school. This one (a favorite) is from my friend Jordan:

Junior Yearish 1995

Samara,
Yes hello! How is the doll? I’m in English with Mrs. Lloyd.

Well, I have some good news, Jeff is in love with you. He told Jamie and she told me I could tell you if I wanted and I did! I think you should go for it. He’s really nice and he’s tall too.

I like Ed but I don’t think he’s into me that much. I think he’s just using me to have someone to make out with during the band season and when band’s over then so are we. I need someone to find out (hint, hint) you don’t have to though. I just figured since you talk to him maybe you’d be the right person.

Where the hell are my CD’s ya bitch! (just kidding) I miss Janis and Jim*. Well I better go. Write back!

Love always,
Jordan

*She’s talking about Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison.