The first few weeks working of my new job working in a school library were a bit of a whirl wind, it was the end of the semester and things were winding down. But after the end of term I spent an afternoon cleaning out my desk from the previous tenant and going through old papers (I do love a good chuck out). I had a lot to get through so I was working at a fairly speedy pace, filling up the paper recycling bin very quickly
But one paper stopped me. It was a typed letter, typed on a real typewriter, on heavy paper that one might use for a wedding invitation or important resume.
It was a letter from children’s author Roald Dahl. Turns out a class had written a fan letter to Mr Dahl in the 80’s and this letter was his response. I was thrilled! Here in my hands was a letter from Roald Dahl! Author of James and the Giant Peach, The Witches, and Matilda. I felt the impressions of each letter on the paper, I ran my finger over his elaborate signature. Unfortunately the teacher librarian who was their teacher at the time no longer worked at the library so couldn’t get the whole story but I was imagined what it must have been like for that class to have received this letter in the post. They must have been so excited. (the letter pictured on the left is not the one I found, but it looked similar)
Then I thought about how this wasn’t really happening anymore, children really don’t write many ‘fan letters’ these days, to authors or anyone else. And while we all have more access to famous people on things like Twitter and Facebook the art of actually writing a letter is going away, and exchanges like this one are quickly becoming relics. Call me old fashioned, but I do find that a bit sad. Classes don’t receive the joy of opening an envelope posted by the hands of their beloved author.
As it turns out, Roald Dahl was a very prolific letter writer. So much so that there is a book of his letters coming out in 2016 which will coincide with the 100th anniversary of his birth. The letter now sits in the school’s archive (kinda sad I didn’t take a photo of it for myself) and is brought out occasionally for Roald Dahl Day or if students are studying his work. For me, I’m glad I had the chance to salvage it and make sure the students would have it for years to come.
Amy Barker ILN Program Coordinator