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A Writer's Jottings

What Do You Do With Letters?

Stack of old letters tied with twine

It's a wintertime undertaking: getting rid of papers and other possessions while snow is on the ground and the garden is dormant. Lacking the instincts of a collector, I like to pare down and give away things to those who might use or enjoy them.


When it comes to papers, I've given research materials about Georgia O'Keeffe and Louise Nevelson to the Archives of American Art after writing their biographies. Now I'm thinking about donating some of my papers--early feminist materials and maybe my journals--to an archive interested in American women's lives.


 The most difficult things to give away are letters written to me. They were invaluable when writing my memoir, but now I want to return them to those who wrote them, but it is not always easy.


Writer friends like their letters back, but artists are more indifferent. When I told a long-ago boyfriend that I still had his letters, he turned ashen with shock. I guess I'll throw his away.


Giving away letters and throwing out papers is a little like eliminating extra words and paragraphs in a piece of writing. It also feels like a way to make space for new possibilities.


With warm wishes,


News About Word for Word



I'm pleased to announce that Word for Word: A Writer's Life has been named a finalist for the 2021 Story Circle Network women's book award for memoir. Called the Sarton Award in recognition of memoirist, novelist, and poet May Sarton, the award is given to books that are "distinguished by the compelling ways they honor the lives of women." The winner will be announced in early April. Keep your fingers crossed.



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