Last Saturday, I decided to do something about an empty space in my home. (Heaven forfend there should be such a thing! An empty space, that is. Quick! Fill it up with something now!) Anyway, a new HVAC unit was installed over the winter (as a matter of fact, the process STILL isn’t completed ten months later, but that’s not your problem) and the resulting empty space (where the baby possums were last month?) said, ‘do something with me’ every time I walked by it. It’s an odd shape – approximately 28 inches deep and 19 inches wide, and maybe 6 feet high. The old chimney vent comes down in there in the middle, and when the weather gets itself wound up, some soot occasionally filters through. Not much, however. I did think, however, that shelves in there would be just dandy.
So I went out to the patio to see what I could find – and right there, in front of my face was the perfect thing! It’s only 18 inches deep but otherwise perfect! And most of the shelves were empty – I dimly remember having to move it for the above-mentioned unit to get to its present location. The one rather large box that was there didn’t look at all familiar, but the back end had a sign. “Office – near the phone.” That didn’t ring any bells either, but then the penny dropped. Could it really be unopened since the fall of 2001? Bingo! That was indeed it.
So after I managed to get the shelf thingie in place, I brought the box in. Actually it was too heavy to carry in, thus it came in two installments. Then I started to investigate. Believe me – the title for this piece is only too accurate! Most of these papers dated from 2000 backwards to about 1993 or so. That was the year my first published book Secret Shores was released. It’s a historical romance, set on Mackinac Island, Michigan, between 1861-64. (Note: it’s currently available through bookstores in print (regular or large) or as a Kindle. (I’m working on the NOOK version.) Ten months later, the prequel, Windsong, came out – same setting, but 1837, as the main characters here are the parents of the hero of the first book. (This one should be released before the end of the year. It’s really close!)
These were not the first books I wrote, just the first published. In this box were various mementos of those experiences; reviews, publicity stuff and letters about other things. There were pieces of other books, some of which were not readily identifiable. I suspect they may have been contest entries. But without knowing what they were, exactly, I couldn’t just throw them out. Could you? Of course not. I do have to say, however, it’s very interesting to read something and think – ‘gee, this is pretty good!’ and then realize it’s your own work! Duh.
Mainly, I sorted stuff into different stacks. (I ended up with a keeper file of about 3 inches thick—not too bad!) My stack of recyclable printer paper, however, grew by more than 4 inches! (Any page used only on one side goes back in the box to be used again – but not for good things, just practice, etc.) There was a smaller box of stuff to be shredded. I do NOT need to keep 25-year-old bank statements – even if I do still have that very same account still active 14 years later.
What I found to be the most interesting of all, however, were the myriad newsletters in the box. At various times in my life, I’ve belonged to several organizations, each of them with a newsletter! I’ve certainly done more than my share of the things. Plus, I’ve dabbled in free-lance magazine writing, in addition to the novel writing/editing. I’ve done several different things on the web on various topics, including classical music, photography, history and travel and sports. I think that’s about it – but each of these individual topics has a newsletter or magazine, and I think I tried at least one from each category, and sometimes more.
These things were a total revelation! Unless you consciously think about the last 13-15 years, and ALL the changes in our world during that time, you cannot imagine the shock of reading about sending off a check in order to receive something. And then you wait – for the check to clear, and for the entity to process the order, put your name into their typewriter files, etc.,etc. If you were very lucky – and they were very conscientious about handling their orders – you might get your first whatever within a month. Or not. Most small firms did not even accept credit cards, only checks or money orders. They did NOT do business over the internet either, although it did exist then. But barely.
Stop and consider – Amazon was founded in 1995. And it was NOTHING then like it is now, except perhaps in Mr. Bezos’ dreams. No CreateSpace, no Kindle, no NOOK. Actually, not everyone even had a fax machine! And even fewer folks had a computer!
That was the most amazing part of reading these old newsletters. NO internet location, NO e-mail address. Everything then was done through the mails. No wonder our post office is now in such difficulties! Yes, there were phones, but not cell phones as we know them. What we had then were big bulky things, barely within the concept of portable. And land-line phone service was expensive, even if you weren’t in the habit of making international calls. Domestic long-distance was at least a dollar for the first three minutes, even if you only called the next state over. Unless, that is, you waited until after 8 pm to place the call. For a great number of years, I worked from home making phone calls (not SPAM and not robo-calls, either!) If my phone bill wasn’t between $300. and $500. a month (or more!), I felt like I must have not done anything much during that time frame. Near the end of that job in my life, e-mail was just getting started, but until then, it was all by phone or the occasional fax.
Originally, I thought this week’s topic would be about observation and/or perception. And to be honest, I think it is – just not quite the way I’d originally intended. But stop and think for a moment – if you were to find a box of papers from nearly fifteen years ago, what would you find? I would hope you’d find—and enjoy!—a treasure trove like I did!
By the way. Last time I told you about my contemporary novelette: The Writing Class which is now available through all the Amazon sites– including international everywhere! – for Kindle. Last week, I published a Regency novelette: The Elegant Runaways, under my Regency pseudonym – Hetty St. James. Neither of these had ever been published previously. Each of these shorter pieces are complete as they are; they were never intended to be other than what they are, a self-contained, hopefully enjoyable reading experience. And guess what? They’re only 99¢ USD each! I hope that if you try either/both of them, you’ll be happy that you did!
Please do comment, if you feel like it, or write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Until then – Happy writing – and reading!