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William Steig Letters to Paul Heins (May 1970)

William Steig letter page 1

William Steig letter page 2

May 10, ’70

Dear Mr. Heins,

Bob Kraus just read your letter to me (the one about my Caldecott acceptance speech) over the phone. I’m afraid now that in addition to having to make a speech, which for me will be like walking on red hot embers & broken glass, I will have the additional burden of feeling that my speech will leave people dissatisfied & make me seem both ungracious & ungrateful. I sincerely meant what I indicated in the opening of my speech: I would almost rather die than have to formally address a group of people larger than two in number. I’ve successfully avoided doing so for 50 years; I’ve been depressed ever since January & will not realize happiness again until after June 30th when my trial is over. I’ve told this to many people, but no one believes me & I feel like a character in a Kafka novel. Please believe me when I say that speaking only a few words will require a superhuman effort for me; that I can no longer, in my sixties, hope to change my character; that I am making this effort only out of genuine gratitude; and also because I worry about my publisher, who could be an innocent victim of my neurosis.

I want to make more books, books good enough to win prizes, & I’m hoping that my inability to make speeches will not hamper my progress.

Sincerely yours

William Steig

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