The other day I was doing some painting around the house – this time walls — when I came across one of my favorite books of all time, A Woman of Independent Means.    This book was written more than 30 years ago, but it is one that I go back to time and time again.  It’s a beautiful collection of letters from one woman, spanning most of her adult life.

I am very drawn to books written in letter or journal form. The Diary of Anne Frank was one of the first books I truly fell in love with — and most recently The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen originally included some twenty pages of letters back and forth from Catherine Grace and Martha Ann.  My editor felt that the voice was too similar in the sisters’ letters and suggested I return those belonging to Catherine Grace to first-person narrative.

Lately, I’ve been asking myself why I am so drawn to this form of writing, and I think the answer is very simple.  His name was Nolan Nuckles.  He was a family friend, and when I was a very little girl, he was already well into his eighties.  Oh, but Mr. Nuckles would write me the most wonderful letters, full of information and stories and scribed with a penmanship that was nothing short of artistic.  I remember feeling so special that he had taken the time to write me.  I saved each and every one of of his letters for years, and unfortunately in one of my many moves, they disappeared.

But that’s just it.  In a letter, we all have the opportunity to become story teller — to share with our reader a part of our life that has been worthy of writing down.  And receiving that letter is, in my opinion, an honor — especially now in the age of emails and texting and tweeting when writing by hand seems like a laborious task.

I, too, love a good 140-keystroke message message and sometimes forget to stop and take the time to write a friend a letter.  (Although a few years ago I wrote my 7th-grade teacher, Lee Smith, a very long letter inside an exam blue book — only seemed appropriate!)  But as my head spins with ideas for a fourth and fifth book, don’t be surprised if it’s a collection of letters — each one a special moment shared between a writer and her reader.

Posted February 4, 2010 at 7:50 pm · 4 comments · Leave a Comment


  1. Kathy R (Bermudaonion), February 4th, 2010, 10:16 pm

    I love A Woman of Independent Means too. I recently read The Recipe Club which is written in epistolary form as well. It's good, but not as good as the books you mentioned.
  2. Randal Patrick, February 5th, 2010, 9:48 am

    As long as you've got your brush out.... we could use some touching up around here. RP
  3. Charlotte Rains Dixon, February 5th, 2010, 9:51 am

    Maybe writing a blog post is a modern version of writing a letter? My favorite posts have that quality to them. Of course, we're writing to an audience, not just one person. I loved "A Woman of Independent Means." I vividly remember devouring that book. And I also loved "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society." The epistolary novel is one of my favorite forms; hard to find these days.
  4. Mary Addison Hackett, February 22nd, 2010, 10:12 am

    Looking forward to it! Mr. Church was my 80 some-odd year old pen pal. When I was a kid, he gave me stationery with my name printed on it. We exchanged letters throughout my childhood. He was also responsible for fostering my love of taxonomy by sending me Golden Nature Guides. I'd love to find those letters, and given the state of the union, I'm sure I eventually will.

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Susan Gregg Gilmore