To Do: Write More Fan Mail

September 2, 2015 § 8 Comments

When I was quite small, I wrote a letter to Oscar the Grouch.*  I made the editorial decision to sign my first piece of fan mail as “Grungetta” (perhaps believing that Oscar would pay more attention to a letter from someone he knew, but more likely just because Playing Pretend is the best game ever).  I ripped up construction paper to include in the envelope, because it seemed only proper to send him some trash.

And I got a reply:

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I was gleeful that the response addressed me as Grungetta — they believed I was the real deal!  (Clearly I didn’t notice the return address…)   For a very long time after receiving this letter, whenever I saw Oscar’s trashcan on Sesame Street, I wondered if the pieces of paper I’d ripped up were still on his floor.

I also wrote to Mr. Rogers whose typewriter was not full of trash:

IMG_2094I was deeply disappointed he wasn’t able to come over for dinner.  He’s still one of my heroes.

Jumping ahead through years that involved only very occasional fan letter writing (mostly to authors), we arrive in the present day where letter writing is one of my nerdoms and I believe in letting people know they’re appreciated.  This combination is clearly a recipe for writing fan mail.  Accordingly, I recently decided to write to the creative minds behind Pretend Wizards.  It became a fairly elaborate production.  Scissors and glue were involved and there were multiple pieces by the time I finished.

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I had a few moments of wondering if I was going overboard.  But I quickly squashed that thought.  I’ve gotten many, many hours of enjoyment thanks to what this group of people has created and I really wanted to let them know in style.  So, I did.  They subsequently talked about receiving and enjoying my fan mail on the “Mail Bag” section of one of their episodes, which was awesome.

Why am I telling you about these letters I’ve written?  To encourage you to write fan mail to people who do the creative things you love and to the people who inspire you in some way.  It’s win-win.  You get to be unabashedly enthusiastic and the recipient gets tangible appreciation.  Try it — write someone a letter of wholehearted admiration.  As appropriate, include ripped up paper, a dinner invitation, or a selection of teas.  If so inspired, report back.  I predict that both you and your recipient will feel better about humanity in general as a result.

___

*The idea to write to Oscar and Mr. Rogers originated from my mom who has a genius for proposing simple activities that kids adore.  If you have kids, teach kids, hang out with kids, etc., a letter writing project is an excellent undertaking.

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In the spirit of literacy and letter writing

May 21, 2015 § 8 Comments

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you may recall that a while ago I recommended several books for kids featuring letters and sending mail.  Why?  Because books in the hands of children create readers and inspire new interests.  Besides, who among us doesn’t love a good book about mail?  And these have the added bonus of great illustrations!  So, in the spirit of literacy and letter writing, today I recommend four books; three about letter carriers of different flavors, and one about the era when you could mail order a house.


Millie Waits for the Mail by Alexander Steffensmeier

You may think that dogs are the stuff of nightmares for mail carriers, but that’s only because you haven’t yet read about Millie. Oh, yes, she waits for the mail — to be more precise, she lies in wait and takes great glee in scaring the mail carrier. Oh, my.

This book has conflict and a smooshed package, but, fear not, it ends happily.


A Letter for Leo by Sergio Ruzzier

A story about Leo who delivers the mail, makes a friend when he is kind to a stranger, and–finally!–receives a letter of his own.


Mr Griggs’ Work by Cynthia Rylant

Mr. Griggs "spent millions of minutes of his long life shuffling through letters, watching the pictures on the stamps change, punching his First Class puncher, weighting fat brown boxes, and listening to long tales bout 'The Letter That Never Got There.'"

Mr. Griggs “spent millions of minutes of his long life shuffling through letters, watching the pictures on the stamps change, punching his First Class puncher, weighing fat brown boxes, and listening to long tales about ‘The Letter That Never Got There.'” 

Need I say more or is that enough to sell you on getting to know Mr. Griggs?  (I really love this one.)


And the bonus book: The House in the Mail by Rosemary and Tom Wells

This one is less about mail and more about the process of constructing a mail order house, BUT it’s a great slice of history and shows what a wonder mail order merchandise was in the 1920s–something that may not have happened without the USPS’s introduction of Rural Free Delivery in 1896.


Now, run to your library and ask for these books.  Then find a child and share.  Enjoy!

So you can be sure it is a real letter.

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.

DARLING PIPPI,

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

PIPPI

“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?

A Sedate Type-In & Letter Writing Social

September 24, 2013 § 6 Comments

Chestertown’s first Type-In & Letter Writing Social was a rousing event.  The second iteration was a more subdued affair with fewer participants, but no less enthusiasm.  The thing is, people love the nostalgia of being reminded about and the novelty of being introduced to typewriters and letter writing.  As with our first event, the age range of participants spanned about eight decades.

Here is a quick look into the morning:

To encourage those who hadn't written a letter recently, I put together some ideas for getting started and some guidance on postage rates.  (You can download PDFs of these pages from Scribbling Glue's Downloadables page.)

To encourage those who hadn’t written a letter recently, I put together some ideas for getting started and some guidance on postage rates.
(You can download PDFs of these pages from Scribbling Glue’s Downloadables page.)

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Four typewriters ready and waiting to compose.

Typewriter Tips

Lindsay made a tip sheet for each typewriter, explaining its particular quirks of typography and operation.
(“Note: R to L” is a note to herself about which way to wind the ribbon to ensure smooth sailing in case it needed to be replaced mid-event.  Isn’t she clever?)

Typists

At several different points, all four typewriters were clattering away together. The youngest typist in this photo really got into the process and produced a lengthy note to send to a friend.

Mailart sisters

Three sisters and their mom making art and envelopes together.

Stamped & Sealed

Stamped, sealed, and ready to send.

More to come about the Chestertown Book Festival and what I found there…

To Grow More Letter Writers, Just Add Books

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:

Book Cover of Mailing May by Michael O. Tunnell

In 1914, classified as a baby chick and under the care of a railway postal clerk who was also her mother’s cousin, five-year-old May was stamped with 53¢ of postage and mailed to her grandmother.  Based on a true story.

Will the Great never gets any mail until he takes matters into his own hands. Along the way, he eats a lot of cereal and learns how the postal system works. (Added bonus: there’s a checklist in the back of this book to help you get started creating mail magic of your own.)

Book cover of Mule Train Mail by Craig Brown

In the village of Supai, which is located at the bottom of the Grand Canyon, mail is delivered by mule train. Since 1896 skilled muleteers have led mules on the eight mile trip from the top of the canyon to the small village where they deliver mail and other necessities. Based on a true story.

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.

Hand-Delivered from the Heart

December 19, 2012 § 2 Comments

Recently, my sister discovered this note taped amidst all the Christmas cards that have arrived at her house this year.

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Sometimes the best letters are hand-delivered.

 

Success: A Type-In & Letter Writing Social Retrospective

December 9, 2012 § 5 Comments

It finally happened.  The day arrived.  We set up the typewriters and the stationery and supplies for cutting and gluing, then we watched it all unfold.

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It is nothing but the truth to say that the Type-In & Letter Writing Social organized and hosted by Thread Lock Press and Scribbling Glue was a huge success.   The typewriters were in constant use and the mailart table was always full.  Over the course of 3 hours, there were 70+ people who stopped by and walked away with typewritten and handmade creations!

If you couldn’t make it (or you did make it and want to relive the great vibe of the evening), here’s a brief photo overview.

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Checking out the mailart supplies.

The first wave of typists.

The first wave of typists.

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A Royal gets a fresh red ribbon.

Cutting, gluing, writing, and creating.

Cutting, gluing, writing, and creating.

A new set of typists.

A new round of typists.

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Best friends creating together.

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First time with a typewriter.

Another question for Lindsay!

Quick! Where’s the typewriter expert?

 

Every time a typewriter was free, a new typist sat right down.

Every time a typist finished, a new one slid into the seat.

And, yes, the evening even included a visit from Santa.

And, yes, the evening even included a visit from Santa.

There were, I think, eight or nine typewriters that made an appearance during the evening.  They were nostalgic for some, novelty for others, and enjoyed by all.

What I enjoyed most was the scope of the event.  The youngest participant was 2 (and the youngest in attendance, who has not quite developed the fine motor skills to write or type, was 4 months old), the oldest were in their 70s and 80s.  Some people came on purpose, others just happened to wander into Evergrain Bread Company as part of their 1st Friday circuit and stayed to make something.  Out of town friends and family of mine made the trip to Chestertown just so they could be a part of the fun–I’m so very fortunate to have such fantastic people in my life!  People showed up as individuals and couples and families.  A man typed a birthday letter to his mother who was turning 94 the next day.  A girl wrote to a friend from school.  A woman typed letters to two of her oldest friends–the three used to work together as typists.  A little boy created a tremendously be-stamped and colorful card when left to his own devices with a glue stick (I missed a photo op with that one!).  I love thinking about all the letters and cards and poems and thoughts that were created and are now going to be sent and shared; the event is over, but its impact is going to continue as colorful envelopes make their way through the mail and are opened on the other end.  This was definitely a happening that lived up to Scribbling Glue’s mission to celebrate how “handwritten letters, jotted notes, and scrawled miscellany add to the forces of good at work in the world.”

I have an inkling that this was not a one-time event.

Oh! And I also have an inkling from the Letter Writers Alliance:

File under: things that made my day

File under: this made my day 

Hooray for being a part of the creative and fun-loving community of letter writers!

Donovan and Kathy of LWA, thank you for introducing me to the idea of letter writing socials!

Huge thanks are also due to Doug and Kelly at Evergrain who gave an enthusiastic go-ahead when asked about holding this event at the bakery.

And, hey, Lindsay, creative collaboration rocks!  I’m so glad we made this happen.

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