Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Small Delights of Handwritten Correspondence

"When you open your mailbox and there is an envelope inside, there's an immediate thrill of discovery. Then during the walk back home, the curiosity begins. 'What is inside?' Then you get to open it and read it and that is its own pleasure. If the letter is handwritten, often a person's state of mind shows in the tumble of letters or the crossed-out words. You can include artefacts. For instance, I can send a fabric swatch of the dress I'm working on which communicates so much more than even a photograph."
~Mary Robinette Kowal

I don't know about you, but I head to the mailbox every day with a heart full of optimism.  Usually I only get bills or circulars, unless I've ordered something, but just now & then there will be a postcard or a greeting card.  I love to get postcards (I am a member of Postcrossing, so if I'm lucky I'll find a random card from somewhere around the world), but sometimes I miss getting a letter.  I used to have correspondents.  We used to send each other multiple-page letters in funky decorated envelopes. One friend, out of the blue, sent me a hard-carved spoon with his note. In this age of of Facebook & Twitter, that never happens.  I'm tired of 140 characters & status updates.  I want my snail mail back!

With that in mind, I'm delighted to see not one, not two, but three attempts to "revive the lost art of letter-writing".  They are:
  • Letters in the Mail: The online magazine The Rumpus is offering a print subscription!  "It’s called Letters in the Mail. Almost every week you’ll receive a letter, in the mail. Letter writers will include Dave Eggers, Tao Lin, Stephen Elliott, Janet Fitch, Nick Flynn, Margaret Cho, Cheryl Strayed, Marc Maron, Elissa Schappel, Wendy MacNaughton, Emily Gould, and Jonathan Ames. Think of it as the letters you used to get from your creative friends, before this whole internet/email thing. Most of the letters will include return addresses (at the author’s discretion) in case you want to write the author back.And it’s only $5 a month, cheap."

  • The Month of Letters Challenge: “I have a simple challenge for you. In the month of February, mail at least one item through the post every day it runs. Write a postcard, a letter, send a picture, or a cutting from a newspaper, or a fabric swatch. Write back to everyone who writes to you. This can count as one of your mailed items. All you are committing to is to mail 24 items. Why 24? There are four Sundays and one US holiday. In fact, you might send more than 24 items. You might develop a correspondence that extends beyond the month. You might enjoy going to the mail box again.”

  • The Handwritten Project: "Here's how it works. I will write to anyone who wants to hear from me. It may be a postcard, a short note, or even a long-winded letter, but it will most certainly be in my own fair hand. The recipient does not have to write back but is more than welcome to do so. Simple. I mentioned this on Twitter as the old year came to a close and quickly collected over 60 addresses from people who wanted to be involved. Naturally, I would like to extend this offer to the fine people who actually bother to visit my blog. If you want something in the post from me then drop me a line and I will get something out to you just as soon as I can."
Interested?  Need help getting started?  Consider taking a look at letter writing guides or check out collections of correspondence, all available in the ABC Libraries' catalog!  I just read Four Letter Word: Invented Correspondence from the Edge of Modern Romance, which, though fictional, contained some really beautiful love letters.  Other fictional inspiration might be found by revisiting Griffin & Sabine: An Extraordinary Correspondence, or something off our Epistolary Novels booklist.

1 comment:

donnaj said...

Great post! In addition to the three suggested sites and challenges, I also found which has a link to get addresses for people willing to write letters, penpals, etc...,a lot of people seem to love mail art the most, but I am sure they will love getting any kind of correspondence. Click the link on the left that says "2012 CALL FOR CORRESPONDENTS".