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Ann Kathleen Otto


Postcards and Letters Guide Stories

Some writers are blessed with old journals and boxes of letters to guide their story.  For Yours in a Hurry I had only a few, but they gave me insight to two main characters.

Locating a Character in a Point in Time

How did I know that Addison traveled a lot? According to the census he was an iron worker boarding in St. Louis in early 1910. In August, he sends a postcard from Washington D.C. (below and left) and notes to his sister in Ohio that he's glad he'd gone to the family reunion the week before. I'll never know if he attended the major U.S. air meets that year, but some of his residence and travel locations make it plausible. Such is the stuff of historical fiction.


Exotic Locations

I'm looking at a postcard from Japan that Purl sent to a sister in 1911. Geisha girls in beautiful kimonos stand among cherry trees in blossom. Quite a lot for a farm kid from Ohio to assimilate. The message on the back says he hopes to be home for the August reunion. There's a photo to prove that he made it.

Purl lost his inheritance as soon as he got it, and joining the army cavalry to help his hero Teddy Roosevelt extend the country's global reach seemed a good idea. I found more about Purl's activities through government records and a first person account of his unit in William Llewellyn Adams's book Exploits and Adventures of a Soldier Ashore and Afloat [1911] , available on line.

Insight Into a Character

Helpful to understanding Addison is a letter that surfaced shortly after his death providing insight to his character. The neighbor who received it gave it to the local newspaper. Addison gives his thoughts on the successful first flight in his new aeroplane, and anticipates flights the next day. According to the post office mark, he mailed it on the way to the airfield on his last day.  

If you don't have a family genealogist, get in touch with older family members now. You never know what someone has in a closet, or what stories they can share. Thanks to Letta, Robert, Pauline and Richard Hartle, some no longer with us, I have the postcards, newspapers, and other materials to help guide my story.  

Learn more about Addison and Purl in former blogs at

Next time: Artwork  defines and era: posters and early aviation meets

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