Save that email!

Yesterday Hilary McKay said in a comment here that lovely letters from friends and fans are a problem, from the point of view of hanging on to them. Or getting rid of them, as the case may be. And I agree, apart from the fact that I have no fans. While smaller than books, letters can be harder to store. How do you file them so they can be found again?

Hilary’s books will be found on the shelf with the other M books. But a letter from someone whose name you might not remember later on? Can’t even do the alphabetical filing. (It’s pretty much like all the rubbish I have kept because it might come in handy one day. And when you accidentally come across it ten years later, you neither recall you had it, nor would have known where to look for it.)

Anyway, letters and cards are one thing, and I do hang on to some of the best and prettiest. But emails. Do you keep them?

And by keep, I don’t necessarily mean whether you let them sit in your inbox, or in a mail folder carefully labelled Hilary McKay (sorry to be using you as an example, Hilary), to be unearthed at a later point. I mean print them out and keep them as though they’re letters (which many are, in some way).

I tidied the filing cabinet some time ago. This was long overdue, and I pruned the contents much harder, being quite ruthless. I was somewhat taken aback when I came across a thick wad of authors’ emails on paper. They were from the olden days, when emails were longer and less frequent, and I was less jaded and treasured them immensely. Hence the printing out and keeping.

Well, I don’t do that anymore, I can assure you. I don’t necessarily believe that cyberspace will safeguard correspondence any more than I did then, but I’ll risk it. (Obviously I treasure every last scrap of email from real people.)

Also, I am not keeping the stash of print-outs. They have been shredded. Could have turned into bedding for the hamster, if I had one.

But I do wonder what happens to any future books about a person, where in the past letters have been one of the ways to learn about someone. Michael Faraday wrote so many letters during his lifetime that they fill six volumes of very hefty books. When a biographer comes to write about Hilary McKay, how will they find the material? I’m sure there will be lots of letters, but will any researcher know to ask me to make my inbox available? And should I do so? I mean, you never know what might turn up.

4 responses to “Save that email!

  1. I wonder this too. And I don’t think I’ve ever printed out an email and saved it, although there are a few cases where I wish I had. But those were the days when I actually downloaded them on to my hard drive, and of course the hard drive or drives got fried irretrievably. Now it will be some server that goes down, not my antivirus software.

  2. I printed one once, but it when to recycling last week.
    I file friends and other special writers by name. When Joseff and Sian (yes, you two!) become famous I have their collected works since they were 8 and 10 inc. first books, art work, sculptures etc. all ready to flog on ebay. Not long to wait now, they are all grown up.
    I used to have a wonderful US editor (Margaret McElderry) who sent good reviews by fax, bad ones by sea. How understanding is that?! Very hard to recycle those faxes. I flinched as I shoved them in.

    What do you mean, no fans? What about the silent innumerable, who log in here morning after morning, to read a bit of pleasantness and sense before starting the day’s work? When are you going to put us in a book?

  3. went to recycling

    crikey i dont know

    writers these days

  4. Silly me. Of course I have fans. Thank you.

    I’ll have to put all of us into a book. Maybe I ought to email back to this person who wanted to know if I had a book in me, and I said no. I can explain I have authors in me. Larger but softer than a book.

    Will have to decide whether I go with the scandalous content or the middle of the road stuff.

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