Friday, November 23, 2018

Letter writing is a great way to celebrate the International Day of Words

Today, November 23, is the International Day of Words, an initiative of the Cesar Egido Serrano Foundation of Spain. The organization aims to share the idea of "The word as a link of humanity, and against all forms of violence."

According to the foundation's Facebook page, "On this day, more than ever, words will become the bond of humankind where people with the same ideals of using words and dialogue as a tool for understanding between different cultures and religions will gather."

That sounds like, to me, a great concept to combine with letter writing. Through writing letters, especially with international penpals, we can better understand the people of the world and their various cultures. 

So, if you've been waiting for the right time to start writing more letters, to seek out penpals or to reconnect with people you used to communicate with, today is a great day to put that in motion. Write a letter today and then carry on the spirit of International Day of Words every day with your letter writing. 

Get to know people through correspondence. Share information about your life and your culture. Ask questions about their lives and cultures. Open your mind to new ideas; learn everything you can about the world beyond your mailbox.

Happy International Day of Words, and happy letter writing! 

Monday, April 30, 2018

Holocaust victim's note illustrates the power of a handwritten letter

Vilma Grunwald's letter, from the U.S. Holocaust Museum
Hello fellow letter writers!

It has been months since I have had the time to blog and almost as long since I have had a chance to write letters. I have been working on an extensive project/job that takes up much of my daily time.

Just about every day, I think, "This is the day I'm going to blog again," and, yet, the end of the day comes and I never got around to it. I still love letter writing and follow letter writing news and blogs with great interest.

That's what prompted me to finally find the time to blog today...a news story about a letter. The article is on the Indianapolis Star newspaper's website,, and was written by Will Higgins.

It is a testimony to the power that a simple letter can hold.

I encourage you to read the article. But, I'll give you a brief overview of the letter and the story: Frank Grunwald was 11 years old when his mother and brother were sent to the gas chamber Auschwitz. As she was about to be killed, Vilma Grunwald scribbled down a few sentences in a letter to her husband. Amazingly, the guard she gave the letter to delivered it to Kurt Grunwald, a fellow concentration camp prisoner.

The letter has survived all of these years and has been donated to the United States Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. The museum's chief acquisitions curator thinks that it could be the only one of its kind in existence.

The letter is powerful. It is poignant. It is, at once, heartbreaking and inspiring.

The story is something we all need to keep in mind when we think a text or even an email is good enough to get our point across.

Read the story. Then, write a letter.


Monday, August 7, 2017

Friendship Day

"Gifts of Friendship" notecards from the USPS.
Oops. Looks like I missed Friendship Day yesterday. Fortunately for letter writers, Friendship Day can be any day you choose to write a letter to a friend!

This year, the U.S. Postal Service released a set of stamps featuring Disney's villains. But, in 2004, the Disney stamps featured Disney friends. I looked around online, and it looks like you can still find a few of the friends stamps, if you're willing to pay more than face value.

Still for sale in the USPS online shop are the "Gifts of Friendship" notecards and matching stamps. That set celebrates the bond between the United States and Japan on the centennial of the gift of dogwood trees from the United States to Japan in 1915. I wrote in detail about those stamps on this blog last year (click here to read that post). The USPS also issued related stamps in 2012.

No matter what kind of stamps or notecards you use, go ahead and write a letter to a friend today. Keep in mind, friends don't have to be only friends; they can be relatives or in-laws, too.

Happy belated Friendship Day!

Friday, July 21, 2017

USPS explores the wonder of sharks

Forty-two years after the movie "Jaws" hit the big screen and 101 years after a series of real shark attacks terrorized the Jersey Shore, the USPS is introducing a set of postage stamps featuring five species of sharks. The First Class Forever (49 cents) stamps showcase images of the mako, thresher, great white, hammerhead and whale sharks. All of those sharks are known to inhabit U.S. waters.

According to the USPS news release, there will be a First-Day-of-Issue ceremony at 8 a.m. July 26 at the Newport Aquarium in Newport, Kentucky. It will be a ticketed event. Tickets are limited to a first-come, first-served basis. Anyone interested may request free tickets by sending an email to

Art director Derry Noyes designed the sheet with original artwork by Sam Weber. The sheet includes four stamps each of Weber’s five shark illustrations. The stamps can be pre-ordered in the USPS shop online.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Lincoln's 'Bixby Letter' in the News

From the Alfred Whital Stern Collection of Lincolniana
in the Library of Congress
More than 150 years ago, a letter was hand-delivered to Mrs. Lydia Bixby of Boston by the adjutant general of Massachusetts. The letter was presented as correspondence from President Abraham Lincoln, offering his condolences on the deaths of her five sons in the Civil War. Controversy has surrounded the letter since it was first received. And this week, Time magazine's website features an article by Lily Rothman, Time history and archives editor, regarding the latest research on the letter.

According to Time, a working group at the Center for Forensic Linguistics at Aston University in Birmingham, England, has been using forensic linguistics to solve the mystery about who really wrote the letter.

As a 1995 article in the "Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association" explains, the situation was full of drama from the beginning. Not only did Mrs. Bixby not have five sons die in the war, but she was a Southern sympathizer and reportedly tore up the letter shortly after receiving it. Apparently, before it was delivered to Mrs. Bixby, though, the letter was shared with the Boston Evening Transcript and the Boston Evening Traveller, which published it. That's how we know about it today. The copy that is known today, pictured above, is thought to be a copy of a forgery.

But, the issue that has brought 21st century technology together with 19th or 20th century handwriting is the true author of that letter. It is possible -- and even likely, according to the Time article -- that Lincoln's secretary, John Hay wrote the letter. The group that has been researching the letter will present a paper on the topic at the ninth International Corpus Linguistics Conference at the University of Birmingham in Birmingham, England, on Wednesday, July 26.

They compared the writing of Lincoln and Hay to that of the letter to determine who actually wrote it. Although that concept has been around for quite some time, the use of computer technology makes it even more certain that Hay wrote the letter for Lincoln.

You can read the Time article here and the Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association article here. They are both interesting reads.

Regardless of whether the author of the letter was Lincoln or Hay, it is an elegant example of a sympathy letter. The letter says, "I feel how weak and fruitless must be any words of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming." And, "I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of Freedom."

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Jane Austen letter shows her satirical nature

A letter written by author Jane Austen sold yesterday at Sotheby’s in London for quite a bit more than the estimated 100,000 British pounds ($128,820 USD) it was expected to bring in. According to the Sotheby’s website, the letter written to Austen’s niece sold for 162,500 pounds ($209,333).

The 1812 letter highlights the writer’s satirical tendencies with its commentary about a fellow author’s recent book. Written in third person, the letter was sent to Anna Austen but is written as if it were addressing the other writer, Rachel Hunter, whose Gothic novel “Lady Maclairn, the Victim of Villainy” Jane Austen deemed to be “most tiresome and prosy”

A second piece, a fragment of a letter written to the same niece in 1814, was auctioned off at the same time for 17,500 pounds ($22,544). Another letter fragment was also offered, but the auction site had not yet listed the final sale price of it when I checked this morning.

For more details on the letters, visit the Sotheby’s site. There is a news release and three auction listings.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Wyeth to be honored with U.S. postage stamp set

On Wednesday, July 12, the U.S. Postal service will have a First-Day-of-Issue dedication ceremony for the Andrew Wyeth stamps that commemorate the 100th anniversary of his birth.It will be at the Brandywine River Museum of Art in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania, Wyeth's home town. His son, Jamie Wyeth, is expected to be at the ceremony.

According to the USPS, the pane of 12 Forever stamps celebrates the centennial of the birth of Andrew Wyeth (July 12, 1917 – Jan. 16, 2009), one of the most prominent American artists of the 20th century. "Working in a realistic style that defied artistic trends, Wyeth created haunting and enigmatic paintings based largely on people and places in his life, a body of work that continues to resist easy or comfortable interpretation," the USPS news release states.

The set of stamps each features a detail from a different Andrew Wyeth painting. The paintings are: “Wind from the Sea” (1947), “Big Room” (1988), “Christina’s World” (1948), “Alvaro and Christina” (1968), “Frostbitten” (1962), “Sailor’s Valentine” (1985), “Soaring” (1942–1950), “North Light” (1984), “Spring Fed” (1967), “The Carry” (2003), “Young Bull” (1960), and “My Studio” (1974). The selvage, or area outside of the stamp images, shows a photograph of Wyeth from the 1930s. Art director Derry Noyes of Washington, DC, designed the pane.

Wyeth, who finished his last completed painting just a few months before his death, received the Congressional Gold Medal in 1990 and the National Medal of Arts in 2007. Sites in Pennsylvania and Maine that influenced his work were recently designated National Historic Landmarks.

The stamps are available for pre-order on the USPS website.
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