For the past two Thursdays, Rachel Hall has been sharing the joy of using personal letters as source material in fiction writing. (If you missed her essay, you can find it here and here.)
This is all well and good if we (like Rachel) happen to have a bundle of letters written by some interesting relatives who did interesting things during interesting times. But what if everyone we know was boring!? Or, more likely, simply didn’t write things down? Or, even more likely, didn’t save their letters?
Here’s a wide-ranging list of books of collected letters that Rachel recommends, sure to spark the creative fire and/or add some insight to a current time/place in your own work.
Books of Collected Letters
Compiledby Rachel Hall
Raising a Baby the Government Way: Mothers’ Letters to the Children’s Bureau 1915-1932, ed. Molly Ladd-Taylor
Women’s Letters: America from the Revolutionary War to the Present, ed. Lisa Grunwald and Stephen J. Adler
Letters of the Century: America 1900-1999, ed. Lisa Grunwald and Stephen J. Adler
Since You Went Away: World War II Letters from American Women on the Home Front, ed. Judy Barrett Litoff and David C. Smith
An Uncommon Soldier: The Civil War Letters of Sarah Rosetta Wakeman, alias Pvt. Lyons Wakeman, 153rd Regiment, New York State Volunteers, 1862-1864, ed. Lauren Cook Burgess
Love No Less: More Than Two Centuries of African-American Love Letters, ed. Pamela Newkirk
Dear Mrs. Roosevelt: Letters to Eleanor Roosevelt Through Depression and War, ed. Cathy D. Knepper Ph.D.
Letters of a German American Farmer: Juernjakob Swehn Travels to America, ed. Johannes Gillhoff
To Marry an Indian: The Marriage of Harriett Gold and Elias Boudinot in Letters, 1823-1839, ed. Gaul, Theresa Strouth
Dear Helen: Wartime Letters from a Londoner to Her American Pen Pal, ed. Russell M. Jones and John H. Swanson
Remembering the Boys: A Collection of Letters, a Gathering of Memories, ed.Lynna Piekutowski
Can Anything Beat White? A Black Family’s Letters, ed. Elisabeth Petry and Farah Jasmine Griffin
Letters From the Great Blasket by EibhlísNíShúilleabháin
The GI's Rabbi: World War II Letters Of David Max Eichhorn, ed.David Max Eichhorn, Greg Palmer, Mark S. Zaid, and Doris L. Bergen
Dispatches From the Heart: Love Letters From the Front Line, ed. Max Arthur
Your Fondest Annie: Letters from Annie O'Donnell to James P. Phelan 1901-1904, ed. Maureen Murphy
Between Ourselves: Letters Between Mothers and Daughters 1750-1982, ed. Karen Payne
Down and Out in the Great Depression: Letters from the Forgotten Man, ed. Robert McElvaine
In Their Own Words: Letters from Norwegian Immigrants, ed. Solveig Zempel
Letters from the Trenches: A Soldier of the Great War, ed. Bill Lamin
Talking on Paper: an Anthology of Oregon Letters and Diaries, ed. Shannon Applegate
Dear America: Letters Home from Viet Nam, ed. Bernard Edelman
Remembering Georgy: Letters from the House of Izieu, ed. Serge Klarsfeld
About: Rachel Hall's work has appeared in many literary journals and anthologies, most recently in Crab Orchard Review, Water~Stone, and New Letters ,which awarded her their Cappon Prize in fiction. She is at work on a collection of linked stories entitled HEIRLOOMS, which follows a French Jewish family from the eve of WWII to America where they settle after the war. She teaches at the State University of New York at Geneseo, where she holds the Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Teaching.
You can listen to an audio version of her story that won the Lilith contest: http://www.lilith.org/blog/?p=445