March 5, 2015 § 2 Comments
The challenge of a Month of Letters is to 1) mail at least one item each day the post runs during February (this works out to 23 items for those of us in the U.S. after accounting for four Sundays and one federal holiday); and 2) to write back to everyone who writes to you.
I accomplished neither of these goals.
However, during the month of February, I sent 24 pieces of mail and had only two unanswered letters in my queue on the 1st of March. For me, this is an accomplishment. Therefore, I’m declaring Month of Letters 2015 as a success since I found the (often elusive and definitely variable) letter-writing rhythm that worked for me.
I was already feeling good about Month of Letters, but it was nice to learn that I’m not alone in measuring success using unofficial metrics:
As the founder [of Month of Letters], I should totally have been able to send that much mail. I didn’t and I don’t feel badly about it because I still sent more mail than I would have without the Challenge. So I might not have won the challenge, but it was still successful for me.
Well said, don’t you think? (That is hardly a surprise, though, given that Mary Robinette Kowal is very good at saying things.)
If you participated, I hope you, too, had a successful experience by whatever reckoning method suits for you.
I found postcards very helpful for increasing the amount of mail I sent last month. As promised, I even put my art supplies to use and watercolored a set. It was my first attempt at using masking fluid (inspired by Lindsey at The Postman’s Knock) and I was pretty pleased with the result. I’ll definitely be refining my technique and making more.
Continuing the postcard fun, I found this gem second-hand, with only one postcard missing.
Whether you’re trending elegant or tacky today, keep scribbling.
February 10, 2015 § 4 Comments
It’s day ten of A Month of Letters. I’m writing my 11th letter of the month tonight, so I’m in good shape to meet the challenge of mailing 23 items by the end of February. I’ve written every day and posted something every day the mail has run – several birthday cards, a sympathy note, replies to a few letters that have been patiently waiting, a couple postcards with slice-of-life stories, and a “thank-you” for a lovely visit with a lovely friend.
For the next round of letters, the art supplies are coming out. Lindsey of Postman’s Knock inspired me to buy some art masking fluid and it has arrived. A new art adventure for me! Fun will be had by all, which is to say me and, hopefully, whoever finds my creations in their mailboxes.
January 31, 2015 § 2 Comments
I’ve recently discovered two letter-based podcasts and a PBS program featuring one of the world’s most unique post offices. I found them all interesting and thought you might, too.
Titanic Letters – In 2012, the BBC recorded a podcast series featuring letters written by some of those involved in the Titanic disaster. Some are written prior to the ship sinking, others in the chaotic aftermath. Each is read by a different personality. They’re very poignant. [Note: You’ll probably want to start at the bottom of the list so that you’re listening chronologically.]
John Adams Letters from the Front – The grandchildren and great-grandchildren of British WWI solider John Adams are collaborating on the creation of this podcast which shares his experiences in the war as told through the letters he wrote home. This series began in the fall of 2014 and will continue over the next few years with episodes being released 100 years to the month after the letters were written. Part of what I love about this project is that these hundred-year-old letters that connected a solider to his family are continuing to bring his family together.
Penguin Post Office – This is a recent episode of the PBS show Nature. Because it is a nature program, the main focus is on the colony of 3,000 gentoo penguins that take up summer residence next at Antarctica’s Port Lockroy, but the Port Lockroy post office is also featured. If the brutality of nature makes you squeamish, you may want to skip the Nature episode (spoiler alert: not all the penguins survive) and instead watch the Port Lockroy briefing film to learn a little bit about the world’s southern-most post office, which is a major Antarctic tourist attraction.
December 29, 2014 § 2 Comments
I received a love letter for Christmas.
That man of mine is adorable. Love letter + postal theme + repurposed materials = just my kind of present. (If you’re thinking it’s just your kind of present, too, a very limited supply is available from TnBC designs.)
I’m mulling over where to put the post box and how to use it. You may recall, I’ve been enamored of the personal P.O. for decades and love the idea of using it to exchange messages. I don’t anticipate that the one currently sitting on my bookshelf will be utilized that way, but perhaps it will end up housing something particularly special.
Christmas was a pretty scribble-icious celebration:
So much kindness, creativity, and good humor in my family — I’m so very fortunate to know these people.
What creative gifts made your heart sing?
November 14, 2014 § 4 Comments
Just then the mailman came by Villa Villekulla.
“Well, sometimes one does have good luck,” exclaimed Pippi, “and meets a mailman just when one needs him!”
She ran out into the street. “Will you please be so kind as to deliver this to Miss Pippi Longstocking at once?” she said. “It’s urgent.”
The mailman looked first at the letter and then at Pippi. “Aren’t you Pippi Longstocking yourself?” he asked.
“Sure. Who did you think I was, the Empress of Abyssinia?”
“But why don’t you take the letter yourself?”
“Why don’t I take the letter myself?” said Pippi. “Should I be delivering the letter myself? No, that’s going too far. Do you mean to say that people have to deliver their letters themselves nowadays? What do we have mailmen for, then? We might as well get rid of them. I’ve never in my life heard anything so foolish. No, my lad, if that’s the way you do your work, they’ll never make a postmaster out of you, you can be sure of that.”
The mailman decided it was just as well to do what she wished, so he dropped the letter in the mailbox at Villa Villekulla. It had scarcely landed before Pippi eagerly pulled it out again.
“Oh, how curious I am!” she said to Tommy and Annika. “This is the first letter I ever got in my life.”
All three children sat down on the porch steps, and Pippi slit open the envelope. Tommy and Annika looked over her shoulder and read.
I SIRTINLEE HOP U R NOT SIK. IT WOOD BE 2 BAD 4 U 2 BE SIK. MYSELF I AM JUST FIN. THER IS 0 RONG WITH THE WHETHER ETHER. YESTERDAY TOMY KILT 1 BIG RAT. YES.
THAT IS WHAT HE DID.
BEST WISHIS FORM
“Oh,” said Pippi, delighted, “it says exactly the same things in my letter that it does in the one you wrote to your grandmother, Tommy. So you can be sure it is a real letter. I’ll keep it as long as I live.”
from Pippi Goes on Board by Astrid Lindgren, translated by Florence Lamborn
While Pippi may disagree and etiquette books will instruct you differently, the construction of letters is a wide open field of possiblities. Having a variety of correspondents means encountering different approaches to letter writing and repeated opportunities to expand my own ideas on what constitutes a “real” letter.
I used to rate long letters as more real than any other kind. Over the years, I’ve developed an appreciation for compact letters, postcards, and things that are not letters at all. In part, I think my new definition of what constitutes a real letter has developed as I changed my thinking on whether letters need to be a 1:1 exchange.
In addition to writing to people I know only through letters, I also like to send letters to people who I know in real life. Not all of those people are letter-writers. Sometimes I mail a note to a friend and get a text in reply or a Facebook post saying “thank you!” I think that’s great, because even though it’s a different medium, it brings the connection started by the letter full circle. And in my book, regardless of length or construction, the realest letters are the ones that create connections.
How do you define a real letter?
July 15, 2014 § 10 Comments
On Saturday I bought peaches at the farmers’ market. They were juicy ripe and everything fresh local peaches should be.
When I approached White Marsh Orchard‘s table, I was surprised to be greeted by name. This isn’t an unusual occurrence in my small town, but I didn’t remember the orchard owners knowing my name last summer.
Then she said, “It was so lovely to get your note,” and he chimed in, “Really thoughtful of you.”
And I suddenly remembered that last fall, when reflecting with some sadness that peaches wouldn’t be in season again for many months, I had been inspired to look up the orchard’s address so I could write and say how much I enjoyed their peaches all summer. I’d signed my name, of course, and made mention of my red market basket so they’d have a clue who I was.
They clearly figured it out.
We talked a couple minutes about our mutual appreciation of both peaches and real letters. It got me thinking (not for the first time) about making the choice to express appreciation and what a positive impact it can have. As a result, I’m challenging myself to write more notes of thanks for the little things that make life better.
What are you enjoying these days? Do you ever send unexpected thank you notes?
February 1, 2014 § 4 Comments
A few days before the new year, my grandmother made the difficult decision to go on Hospice care. As a result, January has been a time of mixed sadness and lovely moments and gratitude for family and reminiscing. I’ve been fortunate to be able to visit with my grandmother nearly every week since the end of December, but one day out of seven hasn’t felt like enough. So, I’ve been writing letters to her. Not every day, but more days than not, I’ve mailed off postcards, cards, and letters most of which have recounted memories of visiting her house over the years. She’s been enjoying receiving them, I’ve been enjoying writing them, and they’ve sparked points of connection that extend beyond the two of us. A couple weeks ago when I was visiting, a cousin of mine told me that she’d read one of my letters in which I’d described the things in our grandmother’s front hallway that I’d loved when I was growing up. She said it was like reading something she’d written, because her childhood memories of the points of interest in that hallway are very similar to mine. Upon hearing this, my grandmother beamed at us and said how nice it was for everyone to be able to share memories and get to know each other better at the same time. Isn’t that a lovely truth?
January was a beautiful month of letters for me personally.
February, as you may know, is A Month of Letters in a much larger way.
In past years, while this brainchild of Mary Robinette Kowal has inspired me to sit down to letter writing more consistently, I’ve never quite met the challenge of sending a letter each day the mail runs in February. This year, I think it’s going to happen. As well as continuing to write to my grandmother, I plan to write reminiscing letters to other people who are dear to me. And, in keeping with the rules of the challenge, I’ll catch up–and keep caught up–on my replies, too.
In preparation for A Month of Letters, I’ve spent part of this afternoon sorting out my stack of letters awaiting responses and organizing my writing supplies (they’d fallen into a rather catawampus state). I unlocked my first two achievements and I’m ready to fill the month with letters. Anyone else playing along this year?