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#0295: Willa Cather to Ferris Greenslet, March 28, 1915

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I am sending you by far the greater part of th the novel4. The remainder, which is nearly all done, will not run more than twenty thousand words. I think so well of this book that I had probably not better not confide to you my own opinion of it. I will say, however, that I don't believe you publish a story like this every day. I beg you to put it by for a reading until you can take it up with some sense of leisure, for I am hoping that, although you have to read so much, you will have a good time with this manuscript. The manuscript is untidy, but the story is not. I have not had it copied by a typist stenographer because I did not want to take the time to go over it again and correct the copyist's mistakes, but I apologize for sending you such messy pages.

My old friend Mr. Hendrick5, who is now with Doubleday6, came to see me several weeks ago and told me such attractive things about their book-selling methods that I feel rather wistful. They are getting such astonishing results from even "high-brow" slow sellers--- a lot that they took over from McClure's7, of which I know the history.


I was well satisfied with the advertising you gave "O Pioneers!"8, but I think this book ought to be pushed a good deal harder, because I think it has more momentum in it and will go farther. I want to sell a good many copies. The next novel9 will be a New York2 story, will be long and hard to do. I don't think it will be as fine as this is at its best; certainly not so lyrical. But if I can write it under good conditions it ought to be very interesting. I shall need money and time, and after I once get it under way, I do not want to stop to write articles and short stori stories to replenish my bank account. I did not expect a large sale for "O Pioneers!", but I think this one ought to go thirty thousand. As to length, it will run something ove over two hundred thousand words10, but not much over, I think; say two hundred and twenty ten thousand. It has been a long job, and I am eager to know what you think of the result. I have never had such a good time with any piece of work before. Goodness knows this ought to be cheerful enough for you, happy ending and all.! It seems, as I go over it this last time, better than cheerful to me. It seems to have a lot of the kind of warmth and kindliness that can't be made NUMBER FIVE BANK STREETto order, and that you can only get into a story when the places and the people lie near your heart; when you write o of things that, under all the thousand things you like or t think you like, have the most persistent and unquenchable r reality. The death of the noble brakeman11 was the original germ of the story, I suppose. It happened12 when I was about thirteen, and I was "on the spot" as the Red Cloud13 paper14 udes to used to say. Ever since then this story has been in the back of my head in one form or another. It has gone through many incarnations, but the germ of it, the feeling of it, has never changed. Long before I knew any singers except the kind described in Bowers15' studio in Chicago16, the heroine was a singer. Unless you had lived all over the West, I don't believe you could possibly know how much of the West this story has in it. I can't work over it so much that I ever blunt the "My country, 'tis of thee"17 feeling that it always gives me. When I am old and can't run about the desert anymore, it will always be here in this book for me; I'll only have to lift the lid.

Did you ever hear me talk like a travelling salesman about my own works before? I tell you I've got it, this time!

Faithfully Willa Cather