Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Turn A Letter Into Fiction

I've been enjoying your great thoughts on Monday's post about honesty in writing. Thanks for the discussion!

And for today's topic...

Some may recall I have an interest in antiques. What seems to catch my eye most often of late are old letters and postcards, and I know it's because of the stories - whatever they are - behind those pieces. I love turning possibilities for their existence over in my mind.

Two weekends ago, I attended an antiques show and vintage market with some friends. One booth had a plastic tub full of old envelopes, and I brought two home. My favorite is this one.


Postmarked on February 18th of 1939 (70 years ago today!), it journeyed from San Francisco to Father Flanagan at Boys Town in Nebraska. I just think that's pretty darn cool. Handwritten notes in pencil declare it a personal, first-class letter, and that postage was 3 cents short (for a total of 9 cents). What tugs at me most though, is the ever-so-light script that reads: "Father - chocolate enclosed for Nellie." It's like a playground for my imagination.

And I want you guys to play with me.

You've read pieces of my flash fiction (some of which you can find in the sidebar to the right), but today I'm asking you to write some.

Using any or all of the details above, or even just the picture, write a blurb. (Keep it on the shorter end, though. Let's say as few as you need, but no more than 250 words.) Post it in the comments section - or on your own blog, and let me know you've done so.

I'll take "entries" until Saturday, midnight CST. I'll then deliberate and choose the one that speaks to me most. Come Monday, a "winner" will be announced, and he or she will receive a new, hardbound copy of James Patterson's Sam's Letters to Jennifer. Fitting, eh?

Are you up for the challenge? If so, hop to. And spread the word! The more the merrier on my playground.

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

I just going to comment that I love James Patterson's Sam's Letters to Jennifer. Have a great day. I can't write to save my life. I think this is a great idea! Toodles!

~Heather

Joanne said...

You and I are on the same wavelength Janna. We're writing postcards over at my place today too! Love the vintage letters, the slice of life captured in someone's words in an almost literary photograph. What great inspiration for story ideas!

Melanie Avila said...

What a great idea. I'll let this ferment and see what I come up with. I have to note that the handwriting looks like my grandmother's. :)

Heidi Ashworth said...

I also collect antiques and love old postcards for the same reason. I love your idea but don't have time just now for that (life is so darn stingy with time it kills me!) I hope you get a great response, though!

Jessica said...

Cool challenge! If I have time to play later, I will. :-)
My mom has some old letters from my great-grandma to her family. She was put in an orphanage by her father because her mom died and he couldn't raise all the kids. So sad.

giddymomof6 said...

LOL! Thanks for the plethora of comments on my blog... and sigh! LOL! I'm so seriously jealous over the life-sized cardboard thingy you have NO IDEA! I so would've kissed my Jordan one every night if i had one! LOL! Okay, so maybe not EVERY night.. maybe just every other! LOL! Jenni And I like your contest.. I'll be back!

Janna Qualman said...

Heather - Thank you for the comment about the book!

Joanne - Oh, your phrasing is just perfect!

Melanie - Very cool. I hope something forms for you!

Heidi - Oh gosh, I totally understand. Make sure you come back to see the others' posts, if nothing else. :)

Jessica - Yay! I hope it works out. And what a sad, sad story. I love it, though.

Jenni - Does your husband know about this undying Jordan flame? ;) See you soon!

giddymomof6 said...

LOL! Does Mark know about Jordan??? Hmm... I don't think he has any idea how much my loyalty lies to that man--erm, i meant lied to that man! heheeh!

Okay, so I'm back... And this is my 96 word blurb! LOL!

I hope this is what you meant!


Eleven year old Nelson Eamon thought he was all alone in the world ever since he’d been placed in Father Flanagan’s Boys Town for orphaned and delinquent lads three years earlier—that was, until he received a mysterious letter with a gift. Someone knew he existed. That fact would change his life forever. Join Nellie as he escapes into the most daring adventure of his life from Nebraska to San Francisco, where he vows to find the author of the puzzling letter and brave the wild and free American countryside during the blazing summer of 1939.

It's crazy I know, but now I kind of want to write it! LOL! ACK! Stop the madness! Jenni

Kathryn Magendie said...

Oh! dang it all, I wish I could do this - !!!! I'm about to implode with all I have to do this week and next --

I have never seen old envelopes at antiques shops -ohh! I want to visit one and ask them if they have them - I'm like you, I'd be in heaven looking through them!

I love getting old books with inscriptions, too... *smiling*

Janna Qualman said...

Jenni - Yay, our first piece! Well done. It sounds like a great story! Stay tuned...

Kat - Drat. Wish you had time to join in.
And pictures are another thing I love. My best friend and I could spend hours sifting through old shots.

Angie Ledbetter said...

One letter made it to the mailbox. I'd wrote, "Father - chocolate
enclosed for Nellie," and mailed it off to Boys Town in Nebraska. With goods being scarce as hens teeth, the two pieces of candy was hard to come by, but I managed it, even if some folks would consider my taking them goodies from my lady’s full candy dish a sin.

But I just had to let my Nellie girl know I love her. If I work hard and save ever penny from washing and cleaning for Mrs. Persington, I figure I’ll have enough to brang my baby home before her sixth birthday next June!

I guess you could say it's a blessing Fr. Flannigan took in a few girls after they built that new wing, but some days I have a hard time counting blessings.

Boy, when Nellie and me are reunited, we'll pick up right where we left off before her Paw were killed and I couldn't feed her no more. Then I'll give her the letters I wrote her every day!

Josh said...

thanks Janna :)

Brian and Kelly said...

Wow! I love this! I need to scrapbook it...

Janna Qualman said...

Thank you, Angie! It's wonderful. Off to a great start with you and Jenni.

Josh - Huggles.

Kelly - You can't have it! :P

WendyCinNYC said...

Great idea. I'll have to think about this one.

Kelly said...

I can't believe I'm leaving an address here where someone might actually read what I wrote, but here ya go!

*Deep Breath*

http://designsofminebykm.blogspot.com/2009/02/i-am-scrapbooker.html

kimmirich said...

Jenna, lovely ceative idea.

Janna Qualman said...

Wendy - Come back soon!

Kelly - Very cool. Really, stinkin' cool. :) You ladies are off to a fantastic start!

Thanks, Kimmi!

Vesper said...

http://vesper-vesper.blogspot.com/2009/02/re-turn-letter-into-fiction.html

I hope it's alright! I had to do some serious editing, since I tend to write over the limit. (I think when I was finished it ended up being around 850 words rather than 250!)

Janna Qualman said...

Vesper - Welcome! And thanks so much for joining the party. :) Great entry - and stay tuned for Monday's results.

Melanie Avila said...

Okay, I'll play:


The handwriting caught my eye, and my hand froze over the book. The tattered envelope stood upright between the open pages, beckoning to me. I peeked inside. Would it still be there after all this time?

The brittle seed slid out of the envelope, and I smiled as the scent of roses surrounded me.

As a kid I leapt with joy when a new letter arrived. It wasn't her words that I looked forward to, it was the surprises she'd tuck between the pages. Pieces of cinnamon gum, stickers for my notebook, and my favorite – the helicopter seeds that came from the tree in her backyard. Over and over, I'd throw the seeds into the air, then tilt my head back as they showered down around me, the scent of her roses still clinging to the paper-thin husks. When they'd scattered too far to collect, I'd unfold the letter and feel her presence wash over me.

I wish I could be there with you.

All my love,
Gramma


The surprises changed as I grew older. Five dollar bills replaced the gum, gift cards replaced the stickers. But every so often an envelope would arrive stuffed with helicopter seeds, and I'd race outside to throw them in the air, imagining her by my side.

The letters stopped, as I knew they one day would. Sometimes I'd pass a tree with the seeds still clinging to the branches and I'd lift my face towards them, hoping to bring her back.

Vesper said...

http://vesper-vesper.blogspot.com/2009/02/boys-town.html
Here's the longer version! :]

Barbara said...

Janna- My little story is under your Friday post. Hugs.

Janna Qualman said...

Melanie - Thank you!

Vesper - Thanks for the linky!

Barbara - I saw it! Thanks, lady.

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