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A Denney for Your Thoughts – The art is not lost!

By Connie Denney

Yes, the art of letter-writing is alive and well! Sarah’s letter is evidence.

Sarah Wolfe is a twenty-something friend who lived most of her life in Erwin. After moving (not far away, thankfully), she asked if we could exchange letters – handwritten letters.

She has a master’s degree in English, loves to write and is right up with the rest of the modern world using electronic devices. How refreshing to see electronic communications viewed as additional means, rather than replacements for keeping in touch through face-to-face conversations, letters, etc.

This attention to letters brought to mind two very different books. “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” is a historical novel by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. This story of the German occupation of the English Channel Islands is told entirely through letters.

“A Salty Piece of Land” (Parrotheads, as Jimmy Buffett fans are known, may recognize this as a song title also), is a fun read. Letters from a friend of the main character help fill in the details in this novel by the beach-loving author-songwriter-musician.

When I asked Sarah if she had encountered letters in books that were memorable, she mentioned the Guernsey book, which “is all about letters back and forth between the characters.” But, mostly, she thinks of “The Letterbook of Eliza Lucas Pinckney.” She now has started her own – well, literally, it’s a box.

Discussions with her friend Amber, with whom she corresponds, and reading Jane Austen’s Letters influenced Sarah to write letters. She enjoyed Austen’s detail about life in Regency England and loves how letters, especially from the 18th and 19th centuries, are the voice of people long gone. “It’s like peeking in on them.”

As to how inventions and technology have influenced communication, in general; letter-writing, in particular, she thinks people in their late 20s-30s are “reacting against technology and going back to letter-writing and other things as well, such as needlepoint or macramé.

I think that people now want something that is more personal and fulfilling than just a simple or quick text or email to each other. Letter-writing truly does make you slow down and think, you savor the other person’s writing and it’s exciting to write back and forth with them, as well as look forward to receiving their letter.”

Thank you, Sarah, for reminding me of the importance of letter-writing in our history and, certainly, in our present. As for the near future, I’m thinking of a box of letters from family members. I know where it’s stored, but have not opened in a long time. They bear re-reading, perhaps sharing with others who would find them meaningful.

Here’s hoping that you may have a handwritten letter from a friend on the way. Or, perhaps, you could write one!