I am way ahead of myself reading the February book selection for the Garden Bloggers’ Book Club, Two Gardeners: Katharine S. White & Elizabeth Lawrence–A Friendship in Letters (Paperback) edited by Emily Herring Wilson. I really must open the book and begin reading some of the entries in My Favorite Plant edited by Jamaica Kincaid, because that is the December book and we already have one post about it!
But I can’t seem to help myself. I have discovered that I love to read books like this, letters back and forth between two people, not originally written for publication. It’s a more personal writing style and you get a better sense of the writers, the time they were living in, the environment around them.
Another such book is 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff, a book of letters between a writer in New York and a bookseller in London. Their letters span nearly 20 years and you can sense their deepening friendship and increasing respect for each other through the years as you read the letters, even though they never met in person.
I know there are other books of letters, some between gardeners. I just ordered a used copy of A Year in Our Gardens: Letters by Nancy Goodwin and Allen Lacy. I solemnly promise NOT to read it until I have read through the December book club selection and the January book club selection (Teaming with Microbes: A Gardener’s Guide to the Soil Food Web by Jeff Lowenfels and Wayne Lewis).
As I was thinking about this style of writing, letters between two people, I wondered if letter writing be combined with blogging? I could write a blog entry as a letter, but without it being a letter to someone specific, it would seem contrived. And would there be a response back, in the same sense that people wrote letters back and forth to one another? How could that be done in a blogging world? I think it could be done in two ways… through one blog by giving someone else the right to also post or through two blogs linked.
Would you like a blogging pen pal? Someone specifically to exchange letters with, published on a letter sharing blog? Letters would be done as I described above, either in two blogs linked or through one blog. These would not be daily letters, but letters exchanged when there is something to write about, or when time has passed and it is just time to write a letter back, like when letter writers had to wait on the US mail and wrote their letters out by hand. The difference is we would publish the letters on the web for others to also read.
When I write on my blog, I already do feel like I am writing a letter. Book reviews may not seem like a letter writing topic, but I have sent some in letters before! Sometimes when I write a post, I am imagining myself talking to a certain person. But I think once a writer knows that others are going to read it, a certain amount of self-editing creeps in, and the letters won’t ever be the same as a private exchange between two people. Some plant societies have what is called a round robin, where one letter is passed around to several people and each adds more to the letter.
I personally find that blogging in itself is like recieving an answer back…we put thought and time into communicating through our blog post and we get comments…a form of communication specific to what you said from persons in the blog community!
Now that you mention it, I think blogging has taken the place of letter writing, but to a wider audience! I was thinking the other day about the boxes of correspondence from my family and friends that I’ve saved over the years and how I haven’t added any letters to it in years. Coincindentally, the same number of years since everyone went to email!
The books consisting of letters back and forth are a favorite of mine too, and I’ve often wondered if we’ve seen the last of them, considering the dearth of letter-writing nowadays.
Carol, I’ve never heard of some of this – and I’m particularly interested in “Teaming with Microbes: A Gardener’s Guide to the Soil Food Web” – please do a review when you’re done! I enjoy letter exchanges too, and from a science perspective if you haven’t read Galileo’s Daughter (by Dava Sobel), you might like it – it’s based on letters written between Galileo and his daughter (not many letters are presented, but the personal touches are definitely there). Another one for the garden book club, if you haven’t gotten to it, is “The Wild Braid” by Stanley Kunitz (former US poet laureate). It’s short and a very nice simple read – I really liked it.
The blogging pen pal thing is a great idea – I’ve often thought how fun it would be to start a novel on-line, and allow others to contribute. I could just start a paragraph or two or three, setting the stage – and then it would go on from there. How fun would that be?
Letter-writing has always been my favorite form of writing, both to do and to read. In fact, when I began blogging I found it very difficult writing to the world at large. I prefer the focus provided by a specific recipient…which may explain why I spend more time commenting on other people’s blogs than writing on my own.
Another garden letters book that might interest you is The 3000 Mile Garden by Leslie Land, who gardens in Maine, and Roger Phillips, who gardens in London.
Petunia's Gardener says
I remember a PSB special on that 3000 Mile Garden. I have always enjoyed personal stories including correspondence, your grandmother’s diaries and everyday people’s autobiographies. I’m preparing my in-law’s written stories for distribution in the family. I do find blogging has replaced e-mailing about general stuff going on. I might write other stuff personally, but blogging has been a great way to share some of my day to day life with those further away. It would be interesting to have a blog with back & forth between several writters or to link blogs. Maybe a round robin when each blogger posts their letter with a link back to other sites. Start with a topic and see how it migrates to other topics or have a topic of the month. It may or may not be that different from other posts, though.