the Paulie Letters

Beautiful Things that Happen to Ugly People is being self-published this spring for a mid-summer release, and I’d like you to be part of the creative process!

I’m looking for about a dozen people to write a letter to Paulie, the main character/narrator of Beautiful Things, and carry it around for a month.

What you write is completely up to you.  It can be a love letter from his youth, a note taped to the door from an angry neighbour because his parties are too loud, a post-it from a co-worker asking to use his stapler, a post card, a I-had-to-leave-for-work-but-I-made-you-breakfast note left on the pillow, a birthday card from one of his kids; you can make Paulie whoever you want him to be.

In fact, you don’t even have to call him Paulie. He can be Paul, Dad, Babe, Fuck Face, The Yellow Dart*, or just Hey Man!  The only thing you can’t do is give him a last name, as he doesn’t have one.

The note doesn’t even have to be from you.  You can sign off using a fake name, make up a character and discuss ‘that crazy thing that happened last night’ or the baby your sister is expecting.  The note doesn’t have to be about Paulie at all, the only important thing is that it’s written to him.  You could sit down and write as yourself and tell him about your real day, or it could be complete fiction and take place in the 70s–1970s, 1870s, 1070s.  You have complete freedom of content.

Once it’s written to your satisfaction, fold it up and put it somewhere where it’ll get worn.  Slip it in your wallet, the back pocket of your favourite jeans, your shoe, keep it in your bra, leave it lose in your purse, tack it on the outside of the house and let it get sun faded and rained on, let it go through the wash.  Give it some life — however much you like.  It can be torn down the middle — missing half the words, or ripped to pieces and taped back together, stained, or you can leave it un-creased and pristine.

Then, when it’s all loved up, mail it to me.  I’ll scan the beast and it’ll end up in Beautiful Things.  It may have its own page, or share a page with completely unrelated note or two.

So why are we doing all this?  Well, Beautiful Things is about Paulie, all the vignettes (and most of the poems) are from his point of view, and what we’re doing is giving a face to the external, third person, view of Paulie.  You are helping me create new identities for this ever-changing character, making new moulds for him to fill.  He is a collection of human consciousness and I am, in a sense, collecting your conscious.  The more versions of Paulie exist, the more ways we can relate to him.

There are only a few guidelines.  One, this must be hand-written, and two, it must be on some form paper.  Don’t be afraid to write on the back of a receipt, but all the same, don’t be afraid to use just lined paper.  Go ahead and use the ugly cat stationary you got for Christmas five years ago or just a piece of printer paper torn in half.  It is preferable that the writing only takes up one side of the paper, but if you feel inclined, you may do double sided.  You can write in whatever you like as well, sharpie, glitter pens, ball point; it doesn’t have to be exotic, just whatever you feel like using.  Remember that graphite smudges — and you can use this to your advantage, as it will make a note look older.

It doesn’t have to be an exceptionally witty piece or teeming with moving prose.  You can copy something from your own life or make it as boring or vague as you like.  These bits of paper are being presented as things Paulie has collected and kept over his life, but that doesn’t mean it has to be important (you wouldn’t believe the random things I’ve held on to).

Here’s an example of something I did:

you have to click on it!

(but that’s just an example. I’m not participating in this project, or at least, am not planning on it. And that’s my handwriting upside-down, hence the backwards &)

If you want some inspiration, read through some of the Beautiful Things posts.  Who is Paulie to you in each piece?  Or you can completely ignore every person he’s ever been and create something new.  Check out the Found Magazine for ideas:

The due date for these is early March.  If you’re interested in participating in this project, hop on over to my blog (I’m linking you to the Art page where my email is listed) and email me.  If you have an idea of what you’re going to do, let me know.  I’ll give you my address when it’s time to mail the piece to me.

Comment below if you have questions (or if you don’t and just want to say something).  And thanks in advance!

*don’t use The Yellow Dart as a nickname.  It’s from something rather well known and they might sue me.  Or you.

~ by yearzerowriters on January 14, 2010.

25 Responses to “the Paulie Letters”

  1. I’ve sent you an e-mail already. Amazing idea. I want in

  2. Really great idea. I had just been trying to get some inspiration to write something (sitting for the last fifteen minutes trying) so this was perfect timing!

    Will email you now…

  3. i’m in.

  4. I will be happy to help as well.


  5. I’d love to do it.

  6. How could I possibly pass up an opportunity to get in on something like this? (I am unreasonably excited by this.)

    • you should be on my end of the project! I have to wait a whole MONTH to see what I’m going to be putting in my book. I shall surely expire from such excitement and tension.
      But I’m glad everyone’s as enthused about it as I am. I love nothing more than collaborative works

    • I’m SO stoked you’re going to do something, Eric!

  7. Sarah, I’d love to contribute but would understand if you passed. I couldn’t click open your image by the way (mac issues?)


    • I don’t know what’s wrong with the image. It’s there in the draft, and yet it doesn’t work in published mode.
      All you’re missing out on is a post it note that says “Paulie – here is money to pick up fruit on your way home. Apples & pears please! -M” in my child-like, up-side down writing. It’s kind of cute, I guess.
      I emailed you back. Of course you can participate. Don’t know why I wouldn’t want you to!

  8. I would love to participate, but cannot promise anything this month due to previous engagements. What kind of schedule are you thinking of?

  9. Sarah, did you get an e-mail from Moxie? he’s tweeted in.

    • didn’t get an email yet! I’ve been meaning to ask him about that, because I did see the tweet.

  10. Sarah? Can I send you a fax? If yes, email me the number.

    • you know, you could send me a fax, actually! You’d have to send it to my father’s work, and it would have to be on monday when he has work again. I’ll get the fax number for you by then. And it’s a private business, so don’t worry, we’re not breaking rules here.

  11. This is a great idea, Sarah. I’ll have a good think about it before I commit myself.
    By-the-way, your letter isn’t showing up.
    Anne LG

    • Thanks. Yes, take your time about it. Wouldn’t want to rush anything.
      I think wordpress has emotional problems and chooses to take them out on me. That’s how it usually goes, at least. The picture’s not that exciting anyway. Just a post it about fruit.

  12. I am in. Thanks Sarah. My letter is done. Now, I just need to get it all “loved up.” If I haven’t said so already, this is a genius idea and I love it.

  13. […] for an audience of one 2010 January 25 by kate m Recently I signed up to this project overseen by Sarah Melville. While playing with ideas, I rifled my letter drawer for inspiration. […]

  14. Sarah – if you’d like my fax for Paulie, please send me the fax number.


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