A Letter for Posterity – Hettie Ashwin

Author Hettie Ashwin
Author Hettie Ashwin

Letter writing has always figured in my portfolio of life. I write for the joy of fine paper, crisp envelopes and the walk to the post box. There is a certain satisfaction in writing a good 5 pages in one’s own hand. The rules are simple. Chatty, don’t give too much away. Stay away from the weather, unless it pertains to your circumstances, and ask questions.

Recently I have been reading biographies and it seems the research for these interesting tomes is gleaned from letters. This began a train on thought that could only end in one word; narcissism. If I were to become a famous author one day, or should I say, when I become a famous author and someone will want to write my biography, then my emails will be of no use in the trash, my twitters just memories, my facebook just a dull reminder of what I did and didn’t like, but my letters will be a treasure trove.

With this in mind I thought I should smarten up my act and actually write something for posterity. Something that could be used in the future. I can see the dear soul pouring over my prodigious output and finding a reference to a well conceived plot arc or a character trait from the local Scout master. My letters might become national treasures if I plan it properly.

So I thought I would allude to my books, my writings, my musings and forget the weather, the price of bananas or how to remove a grease spot on linen. This line of writing opened up a whole new avenue and I even considered a handy index, but opted for highlighter pens for that bit extra. Sort of like, and I was thinking of making my short story “Come the Revolution” a 3000 word short. I am a stationary tragic and what better excuse to buy pens than my impending fame. I could legitimately blow my own trumpet, and took to the task with a vigour that should have been reserved for my novel writing.

I extolled my virtue as an author, gave titillating hints on my next big thing, skitted about throwing literary references all over the place. I have learnt that if there is one thing that sets you apart, it is how well read you are, or how well read you are perceived to be. If you start a sentence with “And as dear Edgar A Poe said,” it is a cert. You don’t actually have to read the volumes in question, Wikipedia will take care of that, but a well placed quote or observation will get a raised eyebrow or two and someone will comment that you know your onions. Even better if you just use the initials, ‘J.A said’. It denotes a level of familiarity and cosiness. What a wealth of material for my future biographer. I would also add an observation or two for the zeitgeist in me as it dates the information and puts the whole shebang in context.

The next thing to do was to send these gems to other famous people. I know for a fact that the to and fro of letters builds into a full rounded picture of the subject. What better way to get to the top than on the coattails of someone who is already there. I bought several books of stamps and knuckled down to spruik my virtues. How fascinating would I look to my biographer when they see my correspondence to literary figures of the day, politicians, artists, film directors and the odd poet? I can’t imagine it would be construed as name dropping when we authors are all in the same business together.

Then I hit upon the idea of a tragedy in one’s life. Or a crisis. What juicy morsel of gossip should I write to give my biographer that personal interlude, the human touch to the doyen of the literary world? My touch of arthritis could be massaged into a hurdle I courageously overcame. My bunion a source of pain that might be elaborated upon and my crisis has to be writers block. This ghastly phenomenon, this spectre which rears its ugly head, could keep me from my blockbuster novel. The other crisis is alcohol. Either too much or not enough. It is a recurring theme in bios and so I reasoned, to round out my heady career, I needed a spell in the gutter. The letters from this period might be just short postcards, hastily scribbled notes and the occasional telegram. Taking my lead from other literary giants I figured I needed to live in a hotel for a bit, after the gutter. It would be a small matter to purloin some header stationary and it definitely makes me look cosmopolitan – almost de rigueur for the author.

All this seems very possible and really I can only see one hitch. How do I persuade the recipient to actually keep my prodigious output? I guess the obvious answer is to send them to myself and cut out the middle man.

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Hettie Ashwin has been published in anthologies in the UK, USA and Australia. Her short stories have been broadcast on ABC radio and other stations and published on line and in print. Her humorous articles have been widely published in magazines in Australia and her radio play was produced for a local writer’s festival by the ABC. She has written a humorous novel and a collection of short stories.  You can find out more about Hettie on Twitter, Facebook, and her blog.  Her books are available globally and at Amazon.com.

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5 thoughts on “A Letter for Posterity – Hettie Ashwin”

  1. Ditto to Yvonne's comment. My problem would be that no one would read mine because they wouldn't be able to decipher my handwriting. I sometimes can't read it myself! I would pity the biographer who had to write about me from hand-written letters. Heavens, they might have me saying or doing something I never said or never would do at all. It could be OK, but it could also be disastrous. 🙂

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