I get a lot of letters from readers, and I do try to answer them all. Sometimes, however, I have a problem, because for one reason or another theres no address to reply to.
For instance I had a very long and interesting essay from 17-year-old Blake Knutson, whose letter got separated from its envelope before I saw it. The American habit is to write the address on the envelope, which is normally OK, but sometimes the letter comes to me via publishers or agents and they just throw the envelope away without making a note of the address. Consequently I cant reply to Blake, about whom all I know is that he is is Mr Lochers class, but in which school, or where, I have no idea.
Less excusable is a letter from a teacher in the UK whose name I cant read, but which might be C. Howard or C.T. Coward (Mrs). Mrs Howard or Coward has asked her class to write letters to me, and fourteen or so of them have, and very nice letters they are. Mrs Howard or Coward has marked them all in detail, saying things like Think about Mr Pullman (who will read your letter). Communicate with him you have to imagine you are him receiving your letter.
Thats all very well, but the one thing you leave out, Mrs C or H, is your address. None of the children has put the school address at the top of the page, and neither have you. That is a basic requirement of a proper letter absolutely fundamental if you want a reply at all. How on earth do you expect me to know how to write back if you dont do that? You talk about communication Id love to write and thank your pupils for their letters, but I cant do it if I dont know where they are. Do you want your pupils to think Im a rude man who cant be bothered to write back to them?
Oh, and in your letter you say I think letter writing really is a dying art … I wonder why that could be.
Please, if you write to me and youd like a reply, dont forget to include your address. If youre in the USA, please write your address on the letter itself as well as the envelope.