Text Patterns - by Alan Jacobs

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

"Please do not write to me again."

while we’re on the subject of the difficulties of the writing life, here’s another great Letters of Note entry, this one reproducing the form letter that Robert A. Heinlein sent in reply to every letter he received:

Robert A. Heinlein

Care of Mr. Lurton Blassirigame

60 East 42nd Street, Suite 1131

New York, N.Y. 10017

Dear Sir/Madam/Ms./Miss

An ever-increasing flood of mail forced me to choose between writing letters and writing fiction. But I read each letter sent to me and check its answer.

( ) Thanks for your kind words. You have made my day brighter.

( ) You say that you have enjoyed my stories for years. Why did you wait until you disliked one story before writing to me?

( ) Renshaw: Saturday Evening Post, You’re Not As Smart As You Could Be, April 17th, 24th, and May 1st, 1948.

( ) Essay Mental Telegraphy, Mark Twain’s Works, Harper & Brothers

( ) Don’t send books to be autographed; too many have failed to reach me. Registering or insuring is no answer; the post office is a 30-mile round trip.

( ) Story ideas come from everywhere and anything & writers are self-taught. The book WRITER’S MARKET tells how to prepare manuscripts & lists markets.

( ) My agent handles all business; your letter has been sent to him.

( ) I don’t discuss my colleagues' works or my own. A novelist writes from many viewpoints; opinions expressed even by a first-person character are not necessarily those of the author. Fiction is sold as entertainment, not as fact.

( ) The item you want is herewith/not available/: Ask your reference librarian.

( ) I don’t sell books. All my books are in print & can be bought or ordered at any bookstore or directly from publishers. Bookstores have “in-print“ lists.

( ) I get 4 or 5 or more requests each week for help in class assignments, term papers, theses, or dissertations. I can't cope with so many & have quit trying.

( ) It is not just for a student’s grade to depend on the willingness or capacity of a stranger to help him with his homework. I am ready to discuss this with your teacher, principal, or school board.

( ) Science fiction: stories that would cease to exist if elements involving science or technology were omitted. For full discussion see my lecture in THE SCIENCE FICTION NOVEL, Advent:Publishers. Chicago.

( ) Who’s Who in America; Encyclopaedia Britannica 1974; IN SEARCH OF WONDER, chapter 7, Damon Knight, Advent:Publishers; SEEKERS OF TOMORROW, chapter 11, Sam Moskowitz, World Publishing Company; Current Biography magazine; reference books about authors. I don’t discuss private life, politics, religion, philosophy

( ) Your question: Yes/No/No comment/My publishers announce new works/

( ) Please do not write to me again.

( ) Thanks for the stamped & addressed envelope — a rare courtesy today.

( ) Pressure of work causes me to avoid interviews, questionnaires, radio & television appearances, public speaking.

( ) For legal reasons I do not read unpublished manuscripts.

( ) Don’t plan to call at our home; we work very long hours every day of the year.

( ) Your letter was most welcome! — loaded with friendliness and with no requests or demands. You suggested that no answer was expected but I must tell you how much it pleased me. I wish you calm seas, following winds, and a happy voyage through life.

Sincerely Yours,

Robert A. Heinlein, by __

Note that even missives in the final category, which elicited such gusts of praise from Heinlein, still got no personal response. This is even better than "Edmund Wilson regrets."

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