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.
June 25, 2013 § 12 Comments
I recently received a letter from a dear friend. She said she’d been meaning to get around to writing for months and noted, “I need some kind of Scribbling Glue post on how to write a little at a time.”
I started this post with a misleading statement.
When I said “recently received,” I actually meant “received and haven’t yet replied to.”
The letter in question arrived 57 days ago.
I know that casts doubt on my credibility to offer advice about being a more efficient letter writer. Let me add to my dubious credentials by saying something that may be seen as letter writing heresy: it’s okay to be a letter writer who does not reply immediately.
A few weeks ago, PostMuse lamented:
I respectfully disagree — I ask you, who wouldn’t want to write to PostMuse after admiring her amazing orphaned postcard database?! Besides, letter writers love to write letters. And that feeling of guilt over a letter that sits and waits for attention? We’ve been there, too, so we don’t mind waiting a bit for replies to arrive. We write to share and to connect. We write because we enjoy it, not because it’s an obligation. Taking the time to contemplate a response or wait for creative inspiration is okay.*
Now–having fessed up to my own sometimes slowness and shown my solidarity with everyone who’s ever agonized over a letter languishing in the “reply to” pile–on to the requested post!
How to Write a Letter a Little at a Time
- Keep your pens, papers, and other necessaries easily accessible. If you know you’re going to have to run around finding supplies before you can start, it might feel like too much work for just a little bit of writing.
- Make sure you have space to write. My desk currently has a sewing machine sitting on it which renders it useless as a writing surface. While I can (and do) write on the couch, sitting on the floor, and at the dining room table, clutter or other projects-in-progress can derail my intention to write.
- Find and make use of odd minutes here and there. Before you check your email, fold the laundry, read your book, or put on a movie, write a little bit of your letter. Even if you only get down the salutation and your first two sentences, you’ll have accomplished the goal of writing a little bit at a time. Repeat regularly.
- Start, then start again, and again. Eventually, you’ll find the rhythm of a little bit here and a little bit there that works best for you.
And now, I’m off to take my own advice.
* Are there letters that should be answered promptly? Yes, of course. Should you strive to send celebratory notes in advance of special occasions? Absolutely. But it’s also okay to cut yourself some slack when you fail to be a perfect and prompt correspondent. Are there people who will be affronted at a slow response? Sure. As in any type of relationship, not every letter writer will mesh with every other one. If a discrepancy in response time exists and distresses one party, it may be best to address it frankly and make a decision about whether or not to continue corresponding. It’s nothing against either writer, just a gracious acknowledgement that the correspondence isn’t mutually agreeable for both people.
April 13, 2013 § 4 Comments
If you are a letter writer who is a) enthusiastic about books and b) interested in encouraging young letter writers (and potential letter writers), this post is for you! Grab your library card–it is safe to assume that most letter writers have library cards in good standing, isn’t it?–and go find these books:
Once you have the books in hand, find your favorite kids and start reading. Have your papers and your pens, your stamps and your stickers at the ready. There’s a good chance that it won’t be long before inspired letters are waiting to be posted.
September 30, 2012 § 2 Comments
I love this idea so much. So much!
Lexington Park Library has recently implemented a new learning center for kids that is centered around creating and delivering mail. When they visit the library, kids are encouraged to write letters to well-known characters from children’s books. After the letters are written, the writer hand-delivers the letters to the mailboxes that are mounted in different places around the department. There is even a letter carrier costume for kids to wear when they are delivering the letters.
Building literacy skills + writing to story book characters + playing letter carrier = nothing but WIN!
August 4, 2012 § 5 Comments
I am more a writer than an artist. I still marvel at how illustrators, comic book artists, and others with that incredible set of spacial-visual skills can replicate the same character repeatedly. My own forays into art tend to be one-off creations and it’s not uncommon for me to feel like I don’t quite manage to capture how the idea looked inside my head. But I like making stuff.
Here are some of my recent creations:
Cutting and pasting is just my style. What’s yours?
June 19, 2012 § Leave a comment
Lately I’ve come across a number of letter writing-related opportunities to do good in the world. As a result, I’ve added a new page to the blog so I can compile projects into a quick reference for anyone looking to do a daily good deed while also writing notes, sending packages, and generally spreading sunshine.
Without further ado, I am pleased to announce:
Take a look, let me know about other great projects I should add, and make today’s daily good deed a postally inspired one!
December 14, 2011 § 4 Comments
As the season of giving whips into a frenzy and people rush about madly looking for stuff to give, I’m here to suggest that there’s a less stressful option: give a letter.
I know, this may sound weird, especially if you’re currently under the influence of the ubiquitous reminders to Buy!Buy!Buy!, but stay with me with for a minute.
No matter what you’re celebrating, the underlying point is to share a connection, right? Birthdays and anniversaries celebrate personal connections. Religious holidays celebrate shared beliefs and the connections between believers. Secular holidays celebrate ideas or themes that draw people together. You see where I’m going with this?
Celebration = Connection
Letter = Connection
Then, how about:
Celebration = Letter?
Why do you give gifts? I give them because there are people I adore and I want them to know that they’re important, loved, and worth celebrating. I write letters and leave notes for people to find for the same reasons. And I’m fortunate to have family and friends who are on board with doing things that are fun and meaningful, rather than just straight commercial.
Am I advocating replacing all gifts with letters? Not at all. But if you sneak a letter in among the baubles and the bling, you’ll have the thrill of giving a truly one-of-a-kind gift.
It can be done in any number of ways. Here are three ideas to get you started:
- Love Letter. One of my favorite presents from last Christmas came in this envelope:
It was exactly what I’d said I wanted. ♥ ♥ ♥And don’t limit yourself by thinking love letters are only for romance. Parents, siblings, children, friends, aunts, uncles, grandparents–you can write a love letter to anyone you love.
- Letter of the Month. Several years ago, my grandmother announced that she absolutely did not want any more stuff for Christmas, so I gave her a card letting her know that I’d be sending her at least one letter each month of the following year. She was thrilled and I was on the hook to deliver–it worked out to be a huge win-win.
- Little Thoughts. One year for my birthday, a lovely friend of mine sent me a card accompanied by a handful of slips of paper. On each slip she had written something she enjoyed about me as a friend. I kept those slips of paper in my desk drawer for years and smiled every time I saw them.The great thing about this idea (in addition to the fact that it will make someone incredibly happy) is that it’s easy to do even if writing isn’t usually your thing. You don’t have to wax poetic or even use sentences! Pick a theme–best sister ever, reasons you’re cute, why I love you, remember when, top moments of the year–and jot down a handful of words, sentences, or ideas that capture the essence of what you want that person to know about how you feel.
If you’re feeling stressed about finding the perfect gift to convey your feelings, go ahead and skip the whole material object part of the equation. Go for simplicity and get right to the heart of why you’re giving by scribbling a present or two this year.
November 27, 2011 § Leave a comment
When you write, the words you use are all for you.
Well, all for you and the lucky person who will receive what you’re writing. But you get to choose them.
My point is, you don’t have to follow any “rules” when you write. There are any number of authors and bloggers who are dedicated to telling you how to write a letter. Not me. I’m just encouraging you to write one! And if you do, you’re the one doing the scribbling, so you get to make your own rules. I was recently flipping through a book about letter writing and came across a section where the author talked about people–in her words, “You know who you are”–who would choose to start a letter with “Yo!” or “Hey, dude!” She heartily disapproved and deemed such greetings to be un-letterly (that’s my made-up word, not hers).
To me, that’s equivalent to someone declaring that science fiction isn’t literature because it isn’t what he enjoys reading. Just because that author wouldn’t want to be greeted with “Yo!” doesn’t mean that everyone else feels the same.
When you are writing, use whatever words you want. If “Hey, dude,” seems like the right greeting, go with it. Following formalities is not what makes a good letter. Communicating is. Find your style and work it.
7 Styles for Letter-Writing
- txtspk. This may be a good choice if you are a 100-texts-a-day type. You can transition to a new format (pen and paper) while maintaining your language of fluency. :)
- Transcribe an imaginary conversation. Between whom, you ask? The possibilities are endless! You and your recipient. You and yourself. Pets. Babies. Celebrities. Inanimate objects.
- Letter list. Intimated by the idea of writing large blocks of words? Try a Letter List!
- Create a persona.* Think of it as a mash-up between letter-writing and role-playing. Excellent fun if you enjoy creative writing, improv or D&D-esque character development. In rare cases, this approach to letter-writing has even been known to lead to publication.
- Tell a story. Real or made-up. Short or long. Funny, pathetic, tender or bawdy.
- Write in rhyme. Ooooh! This could be fun. And the possible styles are so varied–think Dr. Seuss, Common, Shakespeake, Gwendolyn Brooks, Mother Goose–that you can certainly find inspiration for your own rhyme schemes.
- Follow a formal style manual to the letter. Sometimes following the rules is the right choice. The could be because you’re writing to someone who cares a great deal for propriety and etiquette. Or it could be because you want to poke fun at convention. Mixing formal style with informal or off-color content can produce hilarious results.
In short, write however you want to write. Focus on the person who will be reading your letter and what you want to communicate. Feel free to ignore the rules of “proper” letter-writing. Don’t be afraid to play!
*In order to avoid confusion, it might be best to warn your recipient beforehand if you’re writing under the guise of someone other than yourself.