Samara O'Shea

Archive for the ‘Miscellaneous Letters’ Category

Sweet Treat

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

Happy Halloween!

I received a treat today (no tricks but the day isn’t over yet). The Duquesne University Alumni Association sent me a note congratulating me on the book. What a fun little surprise! I hope there are some confections (expected or unexpected/paper or candy) headed your way today, too. [Click on the image to enlarge].

Letter from Duquesne to Samara

The Man Who Threw Away My Book

Thursday, January 10th, 2013

I received a letter recently from a man in Texas who said he enjoyed reading For the Love of Letters very much and then he threw it away.

He wrote, “My fear is that if I place it proudly amongst my other books a child interested in starting a pen pal relationship will find it and be defiled. . .explaining the finer points of copulation is not something I will allow this book to require of me. So as this copy sadly goes into the trash bin would you consider editing the offending sections of your book?”

Mr. Lone Star State, I take no offense at your getting rid of the book if that’s what you feel the need to do, and I’m sorry that the material caught you off guard. The book’s original subtitle was “A 21st-Century Guide to the Art of Letter Writing from the Elegant to the Erotic.” I didn’t want the fact that there’s suggestive material inside to be a secret at all.

When it came time to publish, however, the marketing team wanted to remove the word “erotic” from the title so they could sell the book in gift stores like Papyrus and Kate’s Paperie. I said, “That’s all well and good but the material itself will still be there. What happens if someone buys this for grandma?”

The compromise was to the put the words “The Essentials of Letter Writing–from the Elegant to the Erotic” on the back cover. But who looks at the back cover? I knew the situation described by my friend above would be inevitable.

As far as removing the offending sections of my book–I have no intention of doing that. First of all, I can’t. Maybe Stephen King can call a publisher, tell them to remove a chapter and then reprint the book, but I cannot. Also, while I wish there were a warning on the book’s front cover, I intentionally included sexual material and I don’t take it back. My own writing aside, the James Joyce letters were an amazing find.

Part of my interest in letter writing is my interest in the history of human experience. To read a letter written hundreds or thousands of years ago and be able to identify with what’s being said is extraordinary. Since sex has been part of the human agenda as long as breathing has, it’s an important aspect of our being. I also believe letters can capture and enhance the present day human understanding—sexual adventures obviously included.

At the end of the letter, Mr. Texas went back to saying what he liked about the book. He wrote, “I especially appreciate your explanation of your name’s pronunciation,” and he added a Bible verse: Proverbs 22:1. I was afraid to look up the verse—fearing it would tell me I’m going to Hell. Quite the opposite as it turned out. It’s a lovely verse to conclude a lovely letter. This is solid evidence that people can be polite and civil even when they disagree.

“A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.” ~ Proverbs 22:1

August 1985

Monday, May 14th, 2012

Reader Jim living in Hong Kong sent me a Washington Post article over the weekend. It was written in August 1985, and the author laments the loss of letter writing compared to the phone call. In August 1985 I was a month shy of my sixth birthday, and it was at least ten years before the Internet came to town. I guess we’ve been scared the letter is going away for a long time, and it has yet to finally go away. Here’s the write up: Letters: Treasures No Call Can Equal. Here are some eloquent points the writer makes:

“On the telephone you talk; in a letter you tell. There is a pace to letter writing and reading that doesn`t come from the telephone company but from our own inner rhythm.”

“There is leisure and emotional luxury in letter-writing. There are no obvious silences to fill anxiously. There are no interruptions to brook. There are no nuances and tones of voice to distract. A letter doesn`t take us by surprise in the middle of dinner, or intrude when we are with other people or ambush us in the midst of other thoughts. It waits. There is a private space for thinking between the give and the take.”

Royal Letter

Friday, May 4th, 2012

How fun is this? A friend of mine sat down last spring with her two-year-old daughter and wrote to the Queen (of England) telling her how excited they were to watch the royal wedding. A few months later, they received a letter from Buckingham Palace thanking them for their interest. For a child obsessed with the Disney princess series, this is better than receiving a letter from Santa Claus. (You should be able to view the file if you have Adobe Acrobat).

Speaking Of Celebrities and Cherry Blossoms

Sunday, April 1st, 2012

Speaking of writing letters to celebrities and receiving responses, read this heartwarming letter from Fiona Apple to a fan. And look what I got. . .

Dear Brad & Angie

Monday, March 26th, 2012

A friend once quipped that I forgot to include ransom and suicide notes in my book. Yes, there are several genres of letters that did not make the cut. One of the less morbid types is celebrity letters. While it’s true I love celebrities (or celebrity gossip anyway) and I love letters, I never really put the two together for myself. Although, I have appreciated celebrity letters on more than on occasion. I was at The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville many years ago and saw a letter on display written by Patsy Cline. She sat down and responded to a fan with a long, enthusiastic handwritten letter. I was highly impressed.

Chris Lucas, author of The Actor’s Detective Guide to Writing Celebrity Letters believes it’s still possible to receive that type of attention from celebrities by writing them standout letters. I was skeptical at first. My initial thought was Twitter is the best way to get in touch with a celebrity these days, but he convinced me. (To be clear: it’s not that I think Twitter is a better medium I just don’t know how to get a celebrity address (but Chris does!) and I imagine celebs are way too busy for letters. Again, in some cases I am wrong).

The book’s foreward tells the bittersweet tale of Chris’s father. At the age of twelve he was hit between the eyes with a baseball and declared legally blind. As a way to keep her son’s spirits up, Chris’s grandmother sat beside him in the hospital and wrote letters on his behalf to major league baseball players. Astonishingly, many of them got back in touch. Some of them visited him in the hospital. This obviously had a huge impact on the young man and it ultimately led him to a career in writing and broadcasting.

Chris also makes the excellent point that this is a good way to get children interested in letter writing. Writing to Justin Bieber doesn’t feel like as much of a chore as writing to grandma and thanking her for the sweater.

The closest I’ve come to writing a celebrity is writing fellow authors and asking them to generously provide quotes for the jacket of my books. This worked out very well—especially with authors I hadn’t met. The specific letters the book addresses are as follows:

– Letter to a sports star
– Letter to a director
– Letter to a politician
– Letter to a producer/showrunner
– Letter to a mentor
– Letter to a writer/screenwriter/playwright
– Charity Request Letter
– Letter to a performer
– Letter to a CEO
– Letter to a talk show host/other notable celebrity

Err on the Side of Writing the Letter

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

Recently I found out a friend of mine lost her baby. I was heartbroken to hear the news. We aren’t best friends or even super close friends, but we are certainly friends. We once worked together and had many meaningful girl talks as coworkers. We’ve kept in touch via social media but we’ve never spoken on the phone. For that reason, I didn’t feel calling her was the right course of action, and I wasn’t going to send an “I’m sorry to hear,” through Facebook (the fact that I’ve temporarily given it up notwithstanding). Writing a letter was the obvious thing to do, but it still frightened me. This is a different kind of sympathy card. In sympathy cards I try to celebrate the life that was, and in this case you have to address the life that never was. I faced my fear and I wrote. When it was finished I was still self-conscious. What if it makes her feel worse? I thought. No, not doing anything is by far the worst course. I mailed the letter.

I received an overwhelmingly heartfelt, authentic, joyous thank you for the letter. It had me in tears. Even I need to be reminded sometimes: just write the damn letter. Forget your fears and write.