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NPR Arts and Life

Roald Dahl, A Bottle Of Dreams And A 'Letter Of Note'

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Before celebrities had Twitter and Facebook accounts, some of them wrote letters - actual letters to their fans. And especially if you were a kid, it was a thrill to get one. It meant that somebody who was somebody knew you existed and that's what happened to Amy Corcoran. She was 7 when her favorite author, Roald Dahl, wrote to her.

AMY CORCORAN: It was really nice. I mean, he's so well-regarded, especially in the U.K. he's a hero really, of my childhood.

CORNISH: Roald Dahl's letter was featured in a blog and now a book called "Letters Of Note." This week we're flipping through it to hear how a few of those notable letters came to be. So back to Amy Corcoran. It's 1989. She's growing up in England and reading Dahl's book "The BFG."

CORCORAN: The plot of the book is around a big friendly giant who collects dreams in his dream-collecting net - that dreams are kind of always floating throughout the air. And he goes out with a big net and he catches them to try and get rid of all of the bad dreams that are floating around, to make sure that they don't get into any heads of any children and make sure the good ones do.

CORNISH: So you end up sending a dream to Roald Dahl. Tell us about the day that this plan came together. What was the weather like, you know, what was happening?

CORCORAN: It was a rainy day and I think my dad was trying to figure out what he was going to do with two kids in the house. Him being an art teacher always had a lot of great ideas on what we could do. And he had the idea - because we were reading "The BFG" at the time - to create our version of a dream in a bottle. So just a bit of background around "The BFG" - he used to store all of the bad dreams in the bottle so they wouldn't get away.

But we decided to make a good dream made out of oil and some colored water and some bits of glitter and things like that.

CORNISH: Whose idea was it to actually send it to Roald Dahl?

CORCORAN: That was my dad's idea. I'm not quite sure how he found the address of who to send it to, but we packaged it up. Lots and lots of kind of bubble wrap and things like that. Taped all around the top of the jar to make sure it didn't leak on the way. I was really worried that it was going to leak all over the postman's bag. And then I didn't really think anything more of it. We sent it away and then all of a sudden, I just got this letter through, addressed to me and you know, being aged 7, you don't really receive many letters so it was quite exciting.

CORNISH: Now, I'd like you to read the letter and you can start right through with the address. Take your time.

CORCORAN: OK. It says Gypsy House, Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire. I remember it was on really - I've got a printout version here, but it was on really thick and fancy paper. It says (reading) dear Amy, I must write a special letter and thank you for the dream in the bottle. You are the first person in the world who has sent me one of these and it intrigued me very much. I also liked the dream. Tonight I shall go down to the village and blow it through the bedroom window of some sleeping child and see if it works. With love from - and then he signed it - Roald Dahl.

CORNISH: Can you remember when you sat down and opened this? Was your dad there? What was it like?

CORCORAN: Yeah, I think we were all together. I think - I vaguely remember Dad obviously knew that it was an important letter so he didn't just rip it open. We used a knife to open it properly so the envelope's still intact. And I was just over the moon to receive a letter from Roald Dahl. I was desperate to take it into school, to show my school friends and he wouldn't let me 'cause he said it was too important, too precious to take into school.

So I just had to tell them about it and to be honest, no one believed me that I'd received a letter from Roald Dahl.

CORNISH: Oh, no (laughter). You were so excited and they didn't buy it.

CORCORAN: Now - now they know.

CORNISH: Well, Amy Corcoran thank you so much for sharing the story of your dream and for sharing the story of this letter.

CORCORAN: You're welcome.

CORNISH: Amy Corcoran's 1989 letter from Roald Dahl is featured in the book of "Letters Of Note." Dahl died the following year in 1990. Tomorrow, a letter that couldn't be more different.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: I never would've released it. I would've been afraid that my mother would've thought it was terrible of me, using bad language so I didn't tell anybody that I wrote it.

CORNISH: A two-line letter from Montgomery, Alabama. That's tomorrow in our series Letters of Note. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.