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.
October 27, 2013 § 14 Comments
This is Sanzi.
As you can see, she brought her own mailbox with her.
Next to the mailbox, she had a basket full of self-addressed postcards. She was inviting people to take them and write to her as part of an ongoing postal project she’s been running for the past decade. Did you notice the large and wonderfully folded creations at the front of the table in the first picture? They are collapsible books composed of series of postcards she has received. When the postcards arrive, she sorts, scans, arranges, and finally prints the compiled collections. For more information about this project, take a look at the Installations section of Sanzi’s online galleries.
Sanzi said that when she was living in England she had many more people participate in the project than she does now that she’s in the U.S. I asked if I could take a few extra postcards and give them to people who would be interested in dropping her a note (or sketch or painting or poem or piece of mail art…). I have three left and want to share! If you’re interested, leave a comment by Friday, November 1st. If more than three people are interested, I’ll toss the names into a hat. If your name is drawn, I’ll mail you one of the postcards, along with some mystery postal goodies from my own collection. You will then complete the circle by sending Sanzi’s postcard home. Deal? Excellent — let the creative collaboration begin!
June 11, 2012 § Leave a comment
I love the simplicity of orphaned postcard projects: you choose a post card, wait for it to arrive, write a tiny story about its significance to you, and send it back to the project organizer. It combines the human drive to connect with the spirit of StoryCorp and the fun of sending mail.
I’ve adopted two sets of postcards in recent months.
The first set, courtesy of PostMuse’s Orphaned Postcard Project, arrived in April. I sent one postcard back immediately, but am hanging onto the second one until next month (I haven’t forgotten, PostMuse, I promise!) so I can actually post it from its location of origin (it’s the little things in life that make me clap my hands with glee).
The second set arrived a few days ago from Kate who shares her love of postcards via deltiolog. I requested a postcard that prompted a memory from elementary school that I hadn’t recalled in years. Since Kate sent me an extra postcard, I’ve been having fun wracking my brain to come up with a second story to share.
The process of choosing postcards, then writing stories to explain their significance got me thinking: I should write some postal-style mini memoirs! If the concept appeals to you, too, here are some ideas to get you started.
7 Ideas for Creating Postal-Style Mini Memoirs
- Commit to writing one mini memoir each week and send them serially to one lucky recipient.
- Recount stories you remember being told by older relatives and send them to your younger relatives.
- Choose a theme (e.g., “The Wilderness of Middle School” or “Best Meals I’ve Ever Eaten”) and let it inspire a mini memoir series.
- Borrow a page from the Orphaned Postcard Project and use postcards, greeting cards, or your favorite quotations as memory prompts.
- Raid your photo albums and create mixed-media mail art memoirs.
- Recruit a few friends and write a Round Robin letter* about a shared experience.
- If you like the idea of turning mini memoirs into something larger, copy or scan your missives before you send them. Then gloat over your compiled memoir in private, tuck it away to share with special people, or blog it for the world to enjoy.
Happy writing — I can’t wait to hear about your Postal-Style Mini Memoirs!
*There are apparently several definitions for a “Round Robin” letter. I’m talking about the type of letter that one person starts, then the next adds to and so on until a packet with letters and comments from everyone involved arrives back in the hands of the original sender.
April 13, 2012 § 4 Comments
Yesterday I received an unexpected piece of mail from PostMuse.
When I opened up the gorgeous envelope two things happened.
First, I was tickled to discover that it was made from an old calendar page (note to self: spend some time making envelopes), which made the back of the envelope make sense.
Second, I was reminded that, in fact, this was an expected piece of mail. I had offered to adopt a couple postcards from PostMuse’s Orphaned Postcard Project and she had sent them my way.
If you haven’t heard of this project, here’s the gist. Several years ago, PostMuse decided that she wanted to do something above and beyond accumulating dust with her enormous postcard collection. So, she created an amazing database to inventory her collection and invited people to adopt postcards that they relate to in some way. I trolled through the list, found two that appealed to me, and sent her an adoption request. Now that they have arrived, it’s my job to write and mail them back to PostMuse. One more way to achieve Action #7 for 2012.
Intrigued? You, too, can adopt postcards and be a part of this neat project! Even if you’re not interested in participating, take a look at the Orphaned Postcard Project blog to see a selection of the postcards that have been sent out, had a postal adventure or two, and returned with stories to tell.
January 22, 2012 § 5 Comments
How do you feel about postcards? Are you in the “just for vacations” camp? Do you use them as a postal equivalent to texting? Or do you not give them much thought at all?
In the history of postal systems, postcards are a relatively new innovation. They came into being in the 1870s and quickly became popular as a way to keep in touch, acknowledge new acquaintances, and share travel stories. By the early 1900s, postcards had become big business in the United States; in 1905, postcards were reportedly mailed at a rate of over 2,000,000 per day! Curt Teich became the first person to make a fortune off of the production of postcards with a company that transcended all four eras of postcards: the Golden Age, the White Border Era, the Linen Era, and the Chrome Era. (What? Were you not up on the fact that the humble postcard’s history was divided into eras? You know, it was news to me, too!) At the height of production the Curt Teich Company employed over 1,000 workers to run the company’s 40 postcard presses. During WWI, patriotic-themed postcards were sent by those on the homefront to soldiers who, in return, sent home postcards depicting carefully constructed, staged, and sanitized snapshots of the war. The same era saw the rise of the scantily clad woman as a popular postcard motif (though these cards were less likely to actually be sent through the post). Over the 20th century, postcards continued to play a role in correspondence and the practice of deltiology, the collection and study of postcards, really took off. In addition to appealing to collectors, historic postcards provide a fascinating glimpse into the social history, trends, changing mores, and humor of bygone eras.
Although postcards are no longer being sent at the volume they were a century ago, they shouldn’t be ignored as a way to stay in touch, reach out, and even do some good in the world. If you want to move beyond the “Greetings from…” variety of postcards, try one of these projects!
7 Postcard Projects
- Orphaned Postcard Project. PostMuse is inviting people to adopt postcards from her international collection. She’ll send you the postcard you select, then you write her a note and post it back to her.
- Adopt Penguin Books Postcards. Emilie of Winnie’s Girl was inspired by PostMuse to run her own postcard adoption program. She is sending out postcards from a collection of 100 postcards featuring the covers of Penguin Books titles. Perfect for those of you who are avid readers!
- Pet Postcard Project. A postcard project to help feed homeless pets. You create a postcard and send it in. At the end of the current campaign the postcards are tallied and the sponsor donates to the chosen animal shelter. The more postcards received, the more food and other supplies for homeless pets!
- Postcrossing. Joining this community of international postcrossers is easy and once you send a postcard, you can look forward to receiving one. To date, 9,930,321 postcards have been received thanks to this project!
- Postsecret. Started as a community art project, Postsecret has grown into a global phenomenon. Share your secret anonymously via handmade postcard.
- dawdlr. “Dawdlr is a global community of friends and strangers answering one simple question: what are you doing, you know, more generally?” Put your answer on a postcard and join the community.
- Monday Morning Postcards. Start a personal postcard project by following in the footsteps of Tara Austen Weaver, aka Tea, and committing to write at least one postcard a week.
If you’re in the U.S. and feeling inspired to send a postcard, remember that USPS rates have just gone up. Even with the 3¢ jump on postcard stamps, it’s still a bargain to be able to make someone’s day for 32¢ and a little bit of your time. For more info on the updated USPS rates, check out The Missive Maven’s post.
Sources* for Info about the History of Postcards:
Kelly, Megan. (2009, Nov). Curt Teich. Antiques & Collecting Magazine, 114(9), 20-25. Retrieved from MasterFile Premier.
McCulloch, Ian. (1998, Apr/May). The postcard war. Beaver, 78(2), 4. Retrieved from EBSCO History Reference Center.
Oren, A. (1944, July 29). Postcard parade. Saturday Evening Post, 217(5); 24-37. Retrieved from MasterFile Premier.
*How can I afford to access these resources? Like most public libraries, mine has a virtual collection that includes access to all sorts of premium resources…all available for the cost of a library card, which is FREE. Public libraries are fantastic!
January 11, 2012 § 2 Comments
Look! I’ve been working on one of my Things to Do in 2012:
My entry for Positively Postal’s A-Z of U.K. Mailart Competition is just about ready to be sent! I hadn’t water colored in ages, but this was a lot of fun.
If you’re interested in entering, you still have time. Entries will be accepted until January 31st, 2012.
November 11, 2011 § 4 Comments
Inspiration to write–no matter if you’re working on a story, poem or letter–is everywhere. Putting it to good use is a matter of being tuned in, staying open to possibilities that are out of the ordinary, and following up on the initial spark of an idea. It’s the last bit that is most important. If you don’t go ahead and scribble it down, the words will never appear or be shared. Keep your eyes open and your pen handy so you’re ready to transform inspiration into something tangible when it presents itself.
A couple weeks ago, I had a moment of inspiration that was just too perfect to pass up. My friend Lindsay posted the cover picture from a literary review that recently published (yay!) two of her poems, Vespers and Studies in Still-Life. She wrote about the picture:
Looks like a postcard I’d hope to find in my mailbox.
I could have just read her post and moved on, but instead I saw it as an invitation. I printed out the photo,
glued it to a piece of cardstock, and mailed off my homemade postcard with a note of shameless self-promotion inviting her to visit Scribbling Glue. (In addition to being a poet, she understands the joy of the mail.*)
Of course, most sparks of inspiration will not present themselves in such an explicitly stated way. But once you start looking, you’ll find that inspiration to write to people is all over the place. Some that I have recently encountered:
- a memory of someone I hadn’t been in touch with for a long time
- a friend’s FB post about a rough week
- a magazine article
- red maple leaves**
- an amusing encounter with a young child
I didn’t act on all of them, but they all stood out as possible starting points for creating connection by leaving a note or sending a letter.
As you go about your day, make an effort to really notice those moments that make you think of someone. Then choose one and act on it. See what happens. And if you like the results, try it again!
*I would be willing to wager that there is a positive correlation between those who are poets and those who write letters. What do you think?
** This time of year I have a tendency to enthuse about fall colors. It may not make for the most compelling conversation or letter-writing, but I just love, love, love the brilliant red, flame orange, and deep gold that the trees are wearing these days. ♥