Enjoy Part 2 of PennsValleyFamily.com’s interview with local author Amy Andrews about her recently published book Love & Salt: A Spiritual Friendship Shared in Letters. (Did you miss something? Read the Introduction and Part 1 of the Interview.)
When/ how did you and Jess decide to turn your letters into Love & Salt? How much editing was required to shape your correspondence into a book that tells your stories so seamlessly and weaves such beautiful themes throughout?
In 2009 we decided to photocopy and collate all of the letters to create a bound record of our correspondence. At that point, we read through everything and were actually shocked to find such a coherent story with clear narrative drive. But we did have over 1000 pages, so it was quite a task not only transcribing all the handwritten letters but figuring out which to cut, which to combine, etcetera.
It really is rather odd that our letters became a book. Most published collections of letters, however fascinating, are just an assemblage, not a story, and stand rather as an adjunct to a famous literary or public career. But ours actually did become a story. This happened, I think, for two reasons. First, from very early on in our lives a common question pressed on both of us: the question of how to live in the face of mortality (which quickly brings up questions of God and eternity). This question shaped our correspondence, giving it a natural thematic unity. And second, in the middle of these intense letter-writing years, we encountered a real tragedy together, and then all these questions of mortality, God and eternity took on a living, pressing reality. Rather than just kicking around ideas we had to live out the consequences of our beliefs.
Do you have any tips for people who are interested in corresponding with someone over many years?
It was absolutely worth it to handwrite the letters. Handwriting really changes the content. There is less self-editing and more meandering, so the result is often a surprise. Getting letters in the mail was so thrilling – it can’t even compare to email. Somehow the physicality and slow pace of it made it seem set apart, private, and truly special. We saved every one and still are writing, so the boxes keep filling.
The best advice I can give any hopeful letter-writer is to start with an intense run. We wrote a letter-a-day for forty days and that really created a habit in both of us (don’t they say it takes at least 30 days to create a new habit?). It is hard to write – to write anything – so forcing yourself to do it on a regular basis, makes it a less overwhelming task. After Lent we always ease up the pace, but every year when Lent comes around again, we attempt to return to one-a-day.
If your letters had not led to a published book, what would their worth be to you?
Goethe once said that letters are “the most immediate breath of life,” and I think he must have meant that letters bring the soul of a friend closer than almost anything else, closer sometimes than even their physical presence. We both feel that so deeply. So yes, absolutely, without a doubt we would do it again; we are still doing it.
Thank you, Amy, for doing the hard work of writing Love & Salt.
Be sure to look for Part 3 next Tuesday when we’ll continue our interview with Amy Andrews. In the meantime, begin reading Love & Salt today.Enjoy your home,