Dear 26

Would Eeyore and Ebeneezer Scrooge make good pen pals? What would Frankenstein and Fido discuss, given the chance? Soon enough, we’re going to be treated to a whole host of literary pairings, thanks to one of our latest projects, Dear 26. Paul White shares the inspiration behind the project.

from left to right: NZ 26ers Jayne Workman, Jane Berney and Paul White working hard to come up with the Dear 26, project idea.

It was a dark and stormy night. No really, it was. It was also a great beginning, for once. Warming myself on the inside with a glass of Clare Valley’s finest Shiraz, the idea of writing a letter to a character in a novel swam into my midwinter brain. Quick as an email, I bounced the idea off John Simmons 12,000 miles away. John warmed to it immediately, so I bounced the idea off my somewhat nearer, fellow New Zealand 26ers – Jane Berney and Jayne Workman. They liked it too. And so began the Dear 26, project

Thanks to John’s and the two J’s input Dear 26, launched this month, and it’s already got us excited. Us now being 13 writers from NZ, and 13 writers from around the world (UK, USA, India, Ireland – Dublin and Belfast, Switzerland, Prague, and Australia).

The inspiration behind Dear 26, is that talented writers are also avid readers. And we all know what happens when we’re engrossed in a good book: we often become totally engaged with the characters that while we’re reading the book, those characters are as real as our closest friends and relatives.

The Dear 26, concept is that each writer is allocated a letter of the alphabet and then chooses two fictional characters whose names (first or last names) begin with that same letter.

Each of our Dear 26, writers will create a letter written by a character in one book and addressed to a character in an entirely different book.  It doesn’t matter if the books are not contemporaneous, but they can be. Thus, if anyone had wanted have Bridget Jones write to Betsy Trotwood they could.

But we have ended up with more interesting correspondents than that. Ebeneezer Scrooge and Eeyore, Quasimodo and the Queen of Hearts, Frankenstein and Fido, for a start.

And although we pitied the three writers who drew X, Y and Z, they each came up with six fantastic correspondents: Xaphania (The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman) and Xanthe (Indigo by Marina Warner); Yunioshi (Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote) & Yorick (Hamlet by W. Shakespeare); Zorro (Don Deigo Vega, The Curse of Capistrano by Johnston McCulley) and Zaphod Beeblebrox (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams).

There’s still a lot of work for us all to do but in October we’re aiming to publish Dear 26, online in a website gallery before publishing a book of all the letters. And we’re aiming to to launch the book at the Auckland International Writers Festival in May 2021.

Meanwhile, I shall remain your humble and most obedient servant,

– Paul White

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