Hi-Lee Cottage at Lake Ripley,
February 4, 1927.
My dear Mr. Salg:
How bully to get a letter from you!
It seems that our combined work on JERRY TODD and POPPY OTT is getting across to the gang in pretty good shape; and my only regret is that you get your pay on the job but once. For certainly your part in the popularizing of the books is important.
It always pleases me to have a kid write and tell me of the fun he got out of a certain book; and it out to please you to know that every time a new book comes in we all jump through it to see the pictures; and the hilarious laughs that we’ve had as you used our own ideas in picturing certain characters. I’m sure I never had quite such ideas of the characters when I scribbled about them; and the fun to us was that you saw humor away beyond what had been put onto paper. So far be it from me ever to try and guide you definitely in the illustrating of my books—not for worlds would I spoil that fun that we have of EXPECTING something GOOD when a new book arrives. Yesterday we got our gratis copies of the SNAIL book; and how I laughed when I saw that big geezer trying to boss the little old lady. I notice you put the kids to bed on the floor, instead of in a bed, and I can see why you did it. It’s funnier. And that’s all right. But now that we know each other’s address, you might want to drop me a line when you make such changes so that I can twist a few words or sentences of the copy around to jibe up with the pictures.
I take it that you already have illustrated the WHISPERING CAVE book. There was a story, I thought, that held big possibilities for you. And I DID want to give you some ideas about the drawings; but I felt I hadn’t better. I wanted one picture to show the kids in the tub raft; and I wanted one picture to show the “cannibal” scene. Now, I wonder how your ideas and mine jibed! Please don’t tell me. I don’t want to spoil the surprise of the book.
If I have any ideas I surely will write to you about them. And you must always feel free to ditch them if you see nothing promising in them. You must never handicap your own imagination. That must have free swing. I really think the most we can do, together, is, as I say, for you to do what you think is right, and then, if changes are needed in the copy, to write me accordingly. An in every case I can assure you in advance that changes will be made not only willingly, but mightily cheerfully. I have high regard for your work. I hope you will feel that we, too, meaning the Lees, are trying to do what is right. It is, I might say, a handicap to me in my writing that I never had a chance to go to school beyond my 12th year. That may show in my stories. If so, you have the secret, and will be charitable, I know. I’m doing the best I can.
I well remember the first work of ours that I way in Boy’s Life. It was the Roy Blakely’s Camp on Wheels serial. I was stopped by the illustrations. And I remember how disappointed I was, in reading the installment, to learn how sadly less humorous the text was than the drawings. Still, those books are pretty good. They have a lot of fun in them. My own boy, though, he’s fourteen now and in his first year of high, soon got sick of them. He had a run on Blakely, then Pee-Wee, and then in picked up Slade. But he has little interest now in any of those books. He’s ready [for] Don Sturdy, and I notice he’s bringing home books of an older tone.
There is just the three of us in the family. We’re pretty much home people. Our home was originally a summer cottage, on the wooded hilly shore of Lake Ripley, but we spent a lot of jack fixing it up for year-around use, and it sure is a glorious place to work, so quiet and clean in the winter time. I loaf pretty much through the summer, and we have a lot of fun here, as the lake is a darb. Do you ever get west? We’ll shake your down in a fairly good bed and find a place for you at the table any time you drift in. Do that this coming summer, if the chance offers. We have open house all summer; parties for the kids; some of the noisiest fun you can imagine.
The coming job, that I’m working on, is Poppy Ott’s Pedigreed Pickles. It’s like the STILT book. To tell the truth I’m dead tired from seven months of steady writing, and while I have promised the complete script by the 20th, I’m afraid it’s going to take longer. But by then I can give you about four-fifths of the book, and you can get to work on it. I’ll write you then if I have any suggestions. But it’s crammed full of fun, lots of action, and I’m sure you’ll find scads of ideas as you run through it.
And thanks again for writing.
A good friend,
Edward Edson Lee
P.S. I’m sending you Beanie’s copy of the SNAIL book for you to autograph, please, as it will tickle him; and I’m sending, too, a copy with my autograph for your library.