Dead letters are letters that were never delivered on time. They got lost, or sent to the wrong place and bounced back and forth. The sender intended for them to be read as soon as possible, but they never were. As such, your letter must speak to the time it was written in, not the time it was opened. If a letter were sent ten years ago and opened today in 2014, there shouldn’t be any mention of social media, for example. Use contextual clues to give your letter a setting, such as “My dearest love, I watched the Moon Landing today – what a wonderful day it is for humankind”.
What kind of letter should I send?
We are looking for letters clearly set in a specific time, unknowingly undelivered. They could hold vital information, they could be musing on the great events of the day, they could be the quiet exchanges between families, the impassioned declarations of lovers. Pick a topic, set it in a time (it could be yesterday, it could be 1976, it could be 1652) and send it to us written in your hand.
I really want the prize, but I’m not that great a writer – what’s the point of entering?
Letter-writing, indeed writing in general, should never be confined to just great writers. Letters are an honest, everyday form of communication. If a letter is heartfelt, the writing takes care of itself. And who knows? The letter you write may be the best letter of them all. Don’t be shy – send your letter in!
Why is there a minimum age?
In order to make sure the prize is claimed sooner rather than later, the minimum age is 16. The winner must turn 16 in 2014. There is no maximum age – should someone wish to go to university at 30, 40 or 60, who are we to argue?
Tell me more about the prize!
At Exclusive Books, education is very near and dear to our hearts. We’re also aware of the soaring costs of tertiary education, and would love to help someone realise their dream of a university education. We will pay for three years of any undergraduate course, diploma or degree at a South African institute of learning, but it must be accredited with the department of education.
This prize covers tuition and books. It DOES NOT cover residence, transport, printing, equipment or miscellaneous fees and costs.
Can’t I use this to get my masters or phd?
The reason we stipulate an undergraduate degree is so that we can give someone the precious gift of a tertiary education. It seems unfair to award a degree to someone who has already had the opportunity to study.
How do I get my letter to you if I am not near a store?
We welcome entries from all over the country, and look forward to receiving your letter at our head office. Since we are currently moving offices, we ask that you check the website for our address to make sure you’re sending it to the right place. Please address it to the marketing department.
What is the entry procedure?
All you need to do is put your handwritten letter in an envelope, write your name, email or phone number on the back and post it in either one of our store postboxes or send it to our head office, addressed to Marketing.
Can I write on any topic?
In order to keep the judging of the letters on a fairer footing and more manageable in terms of sheer volume, we ask that writers stick to the topics at hand. The adherence to the topic doesn’t have to be super strict, but it will help your letter rise to the top of the pile.
Can I donate the prize to someone else?
Due to legal issues, prizes cannot be transferrable in order to prevent any fraud. However, we encourage you to share the competition with someone who you think could win the prize.
How long should my letter be?
There’s a great rule of thumb to writing, and it’s called the miniskirt rule. It should be long enough to cover everything important, but short enough to be interesting. For the sake of numbers, letters should be around 500 – 2500 words. Each letter will be considered on its own merit.
When and how will the prize be announced?
The winning letter will be printed in the Sunday Times towards the end of August once we are satisfied that all due diligence has been carried out. We will also share the winning letter on our social media channels. We will contact the winner two days prior to the announcement.
How are these letters being judged?
Once the letters make it to head office, they are checked to see if they meet three points of criteria: one, they are handwritten. Two, they are addressed to a person and not Exclusive Books. Three, they follow one of the topics set out on the blog, bookmarks and pamphlets. Once these three criteria are met, each letter is read by three different people at head office, all of which have degrees in literature and publishing, as well as copywriting experience. We also have an auditor monitoring proceedings. The top one hundred will make it into an anthology. The final winning letter will be determined from this collection.
Should you have any more questions, please feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org.