Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Looking for a last-minute gift?

If you're still shopping for holiday gifts for your favorite stamp collector, consider the 2009 Stamp Yearbook or the updated 36th Postal Service Guide to U.S. Stamps. Both should (might?) be available at your local U.S. Post Office.



According to USPS.com, The Guide to U.S. Stamps costs $19.95 and is a fully illustrated, four–color guide providing the most comprehensive information available about the U.S. stamp program and its vivid history. Beginning with the first stamps issued in 1847, The Postal Service Guide to U.S. Stamps covers more than 4,000 stamps issued up to the present, as well as:
  • An updated Stamp Series section that lists stamps categorized by their respective series, such as Legends of Hollywood, Black Heritage, and Nature of America.
  • Every category of U.S. Stamp — definitive, commemorative, airmail, duck stamps, stamped envelopes, and more — all organized into easy-to-use, color-coded sections for quick access.
  • Detailed listings for each stamp, with color illustrations, Scott catalog numbers, dates of issue, used and unused prices, quantities issued (when known), and separate listings for design variations.
  • A complete guide to the 2009 commemorative stamp program.
  • Advice on how to start your own stamp collection.
  • A resource section, a glossary of important terms, and much more.

A little more pricey is the 2009 Stamp Yearbook. At $59.95, it highlights an array of men and women who helped fulfill the promise of America. From entertainment icons Bob Hope and Gary Cooper, to educator and activist Anna Julia Cooper, and a host of brave civil rights pioneers and visionary leaders such as Abraham Lincoln, this year’s honorees represent our nation at its best. Their stories, retold on stamps and in the 64–pages of the hardcover book, are sure to fascinate and inspire.

The yearbook also includes profiles of stamp artists as well as timelines and quotes. Plus, for the first time, a special section designated for collecting mail–use stamps has been created. The yearbook comes with 61 stamps plus mounts from this year’s collectible program.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Just a quick letter

Sometimes, it takes more effort to write a quick note than it does to pen a massive missive. To write a short letter, you have to organize your thoughts and edit your words.

Here's one quote on the topic:

"I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead."
-- Mark Twain
Long or short, write a letter today.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Another "month"?

Earlier this year, we celebrated National Card and Letter Writing Month in April. Now, I'm seeing references to January being "National Letter Writing Month" and the second week in January as being "Letter Writing Week." So, it looks like we get to celebrate again!  

Of course, according to what I read, January is also National Soup Month, National Thank You Month and  Reaching Your Potential Month. So, we can all eat soup while we write thank you letters and make plans for reaching our potential. Oh! I can't wait for January to get here!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Christmas Postmark


I've been getting mail with an unusual postmark. The first one or two letters that came had smudged postmarks, so I wasn't sure who that was...I thought it looked like The Grinch at first. Then, as more letters and Christmas cards arrived, I was able to see a clearer image and decided it was Kermit the Frog.

So, I did some checking into it...sure enough...that's Kermit.

According to the US Postal Service press release, Kermit the Frog said, “We’re excited to be helping the Postal Service make the holiday special for kids across the country. It’s the perfect way to celebrate.”

The postmark of Kermit the Frog will appear in the upper right-hand corner of holiday cards and letters mailed throughout the month of December.

“Helping Santa Claus is always a good idea, especially at this time of year,” added Fozzie Bear, who joined Kermit and Postmaster General John E. Potter in announcing the postmark earlier this month. Fozzie Bear saluted the Postal Service for 234 years of delivering holiday cheer — and saluted Santa, too, just to be on the safe side.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Pony Express Envelope

Last week, my Dad e-mailed to let me know about a story he'd seen on a Pony Express envelope that sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars at a recent auction.



A little bit of research led me to the Robert A. Siegel Auction Galleries Web site and the information on two envelopes that sold for $550,000 each. The envelopes were in the multi-million dollar collection owned by retired Hawaii business executive, Thurston Twigg-Smith, 88, former publisher of the Honolulu Advertiser newspaper. His favorite item in the collection was also one of the most valuable — one of only two known surviving Pony Express letters that originated from Hawaii, and is described as “one of the most important covers in United States postal history.”  Additionally, another envelope sold for $550,00. That one is one of only six Pony Express covers addressed to foreign addresses. The one in this collection was sent to Switzerland and featured a unique combination of stamps. Overall, the 63 items in the collection sold for almost three and a half million dollars.

Also selling for a high price, was one of only three surviving covers from the first day of the Pony Express service. The envelope, pictured at right, courtesy of Siegel Auction Galleries, sold for $400,000.


The Pony Express envelopes are quite interesting, and you can view each envelope and read all about them on the Web site. Equally interesting is the rest of the site, if you find stamps, postal history, autographs and other ephemera of interest.



Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Letter That Barney Wrote

After I posted Aunt Bee's quote about Barney's letter (characters from "The Andy Griffith Show) earlier this week, JarieLyn wondered what the letter said. We have the show on video, so I watched it again to make sure I had the words right.

Barney Fife is writing from Raleigh where he has moved to work as a detective in the police department. When the scene opens, Mayberry Sheriff Andy Taylor is reading the letter to Aunt Bee:

Things are going along swimmingly in the department. Do you remember Miss Clark? She was that sharp little number that sat at the desk as you entered. She and I have been getting a little chummy of late. As a matter of fact, I'm taking her to the policeman's ball. It's a masquerade. I'm going as Jack, and she's going as Jill. We wanted to do something different.

Well, that's all for now. Give my love to Opie, Aunt Bee and Helen.

Your Buddy,
Barney
That's when Aunt Bee says, "He writes a nice letter, doesn't he?" And Andy answers, "He sure does."

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

How Much Is a Letter Worth?


How much is a letter worth? Well, I guess it depends on whether you're talking about money or sentimentality. And, I guess it depends on who wrote it.

If you're talking about money, apparently a letter can be worth $3.2 million if it's written by the first president of the United States.

A letter written by George Washington sold for that much -- $3,200,000.00 -- on Friday at Christie's auction in New York. You can read more about it at the Washington Post.

A Good Letter Writer on TV

"He writes a nice letter, doesn't he?"
            - Aunt Bee
            "Andy Griffith Show," episode: "Barney Comes to Mayberry"
She said it about Barney Fife, after Barney had left Mayberry and was writing a letter back to Andy and Aunt Bee about his life in Raleigh.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Letter Writing Concerto


I'm sure a lot of people listen to music while they write letters, and we've even discussed on this blog songs about letters, but did you know that you could listen to a four-movement concerto for violin and orchestra that is titled "The Lost Art of Letter Writing"?

About a year ago, Australian composer Brett Dean won the 2009 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition for the work, which was commissioned by the Cologne Philharmonie and Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra for violinist Frank Peter Zimmerman, was chosen for the prize from among 145 entries worldwide.

According to the information released about the concerto, each movement in the half-hour concerto is based on a 19th-century letter, with a violin evoking the mood of each letter as it plays the alternate roles of writer and recipient. Authors of the letters include composers Johannes Brahms and Hugo Wolf, artist Vincent Van Gogh and Australian outlaw Ned Kelly.

You can read more about the concerto at the Boosey & Hawkes Web site, and you can listen to a sample of the music here.

From the Boosey & Hawkes' site, here are some of the composer's notes:

Not only is letter writing becoming a lost art, but one could argue that handwriting itself is an endangered skill. Aspects of my daughters’ education, in particular its heavy reliance on electronic stimuli, have reinforced my view that we are genuinely losing touch with the tactile element of written communication. A recent article in an Australian newspaper points out that the proportion of personal letters amongst the total number of sent articles handled by the national postal authority, Australia Post, has declined from 50% in 1960 to 13% nowadays. Sure, we stay in touch arguably more than ever, via telephone, email and messaging, but that too has undoubtedly changed the nature of communicating.
These were then the initiating thoughts behind my Violin Concerto, ‘The Lost Art of Letter Writing’, co-commissioned by the Cologne Philharmonie and the Stockholm Philharmonic for the esteemed soloist Frank Peter Zimmermann, to whom the work is dedicated with my great admiration. Each movement is prefaced by an excerpt from a 19th Century letter of one kind or another, ranging from private love-letter to public manifesto. Each title refers to the place and year the letter was written. The violin plays the alternate roles of both an author and a recipient of letters, but perhaps more importantly, the solo part conjures something of the mood of each of the different letters.

Indeed, this news came out about a year ago, and if you read Wendy's A Passion for Letter Writing blog, you might have read about Brett Dean and this concerto earlier this year, but it's an interesting piece, so I think it bears mentioning again.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Holiday Postal Greetings

The Smithsonian's National Postal Museum features an exhibit on U.S. Postal Service employees that includes a 1915 holiday postcard left by a letter carrier. It's a brief entry, only one part of an impressive online exhibit about U.S. postal employees, but it is quite interesting.

Friday, December 4, 2009

"Night Mail" documentary

Earlier this morning, Kevin left a comment on a February blog post I'd written about the W.H. Auden poem "Night Mail." Kevin let me know that the 1936, black and white documentary about the London, Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS) mail train from London to Scotland is online at YouTube.

The documentary is in three parts. Part one is here; part two is here; and, part three is here. It's interesting to watch and see how the mail was handled just 70 years ago. If you don't have time to watch the entire 22-minute film, click here and watch just the part with the poem. It's great! It is often recited to the cadence of the train chugging down the tracks.

Thanks to Kevin for pointing it out to me.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Reasons to Write Letters

Why write a letter? Here are a few reasons to write a letter:

~ To share some good news with a friend or loved one
~ To wish someone a happy birthday, a joyous Hanukkah, merry Christmas, happy New Year, a good day, etc.
~ To introduce yourself to a new friend/penpal
~ To respond to a letter you've received
~ To thank someone for something
~ To apologize for something...maybe that it's taken you so long to write back
~ To offer an encouraging word to someone who needs a little boost


Those are just a few ideas. Why do you write letters? Do you have other reasons?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A Letter Can Make A Difference

Those of us who write letters usually think that our letters can make a difference. Maybe we'll brighten a friend's day, or lend support to someone who needs a friend to lean on.

Sometimes, if we've written the right letter, we might make a more wide-spread difference. A complaint to a manufacturer might result in a problem being fixed or a faulty product being improved. A compliment letter to a boss might get a raise or at least some praise for a diligent employee. Often it takes more than one letter to change a politician's vote, but each letter counts.

A story from Colorado Springs, Colo., tells of a little boy's letter that made a difference. According to the story on KKTV.com, Quinn Cunningham wrote a letter to the city's street department. It seems the sidewalks at his sister's school did not have ramps for people with disabilities. Quinn knew that many students at the school have special needs, including his sister, although she's now a former student.

It's quite a story. There's a video interview at the site, too.

Have you ever written a letter that made a difference? Have you ever received a letter that made a difference in your life? Tell me about it!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Great article on letter writing

On the Wall Street Journal's Web site is an article by Bob Davis about his seven-year correspondence with his 93-year-old cousin Sam Fink. The article, Through Letters: A Family History Unveiled, is quite interesting. I recommend it for letter-writing inspiration.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Christmas Stamps




The Smithsonian's National Postal Museum Web site has a history of the traditional Christmas stamp and the art on which the stamps are based. It is an interesting look back in time.

Visit The Art of Christmas Stamps at the Web site. Using the arrow on the bottom right, scroll over until you see the exhibit listed. Then, just click to see the exhibit.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Voting is Open in Love Letter Contest

The Bright Star Love Letter Contest that I mentioned in an earlier blog post has moved on to the voting stage. The general public can register and vote for their favorite letter and their favorite "tweet." I will warn you...when I tried to register, the system kept rejecting my e-mail address, saying that it was invalid. I just happened to have more than one e-mail address, so I used another one, and that worked. Hopefully the process will work for you.

Even if you don't want to vote, you might register and take a look at the letters; they have photos of the actual letters, and many are quite creative.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Christmas cards and letters

This week in the United States, many people will be celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday. Here, many people who celebrate Christmas wait until after Thanksgiving to start decorating for Christmas or sending out Christmas cards and letters. (Although, I have already seen Christmas decorations on several houses in the area, and the stores have had Christmas stuff for sale since Halloween or earlier.)

I'm curious about Christmas greetings in other countries. Here, we have the day after Thanksgiving as the unofficial start of the Christmas season, and I'm wondering when people in other countries start preparing for Christmas. Do you start earlier than us, beginning with Halloween, instead of Thanksgiving. Or, do you start later than us, waiting until Dec. 1 or later to start sending out the Christmas cards and letters?

I'd love to see some comments on this topic!

Monday, November 23, 2009

"Changing the World for the Better, One Letter at a Time"

I've just discovered another great Web site! The Love Letter Squad is made up of Janet Gallin and Tresa Eyres, who describe themselves on the Web site as "two San Francisco women on a mission to change the world for the better, one letter at a time."

They have a regular column at Examiner.com and a radio show on San Francisco's KUSF.  If you're not available to listen to the show live (Tuesdays from 7:30-8 p.m. Pacific Standard Time), you can listen to the archives of the show on their Web site.

They also have a "Dear Squad" question-and-answer column and offer love letter-writing workshops.

The love letters discussed on the Web site aren't just between sweethearts; these love letters seem to be from anyone who wants to express a loving thought to someone else.

It's an interesting Web site that I think you'll enjoy.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Letters of Thanks

With the American holiday Thanksgiving coming up next week, I've been thinking about letters of thanks. While doing some research, I came across the "A Million Thanks" organization. I haven't had time to completely check it out, but it appears to still be active.

The organization was started by Shauna Fleming in 2004 when she was a high school student. The purpose of the program is to send thank you letters to people serving in the U.S. military. The Web site has the address to send the letters to, as well as sample letters, photos and more.

Check it out.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Inspiring words


"After (my father) died, I realized that no one writes to me anymore. Handwriting is a disappearing art. I'm all for email, and thinking while typing, but why give up old habits for new? Why can't we have letter writing and email exchange in our lives? There are times when I want to trade all those years that I was too busy to sit with my dad and chat with him, and trade all those years for one hug. But too late. But that's when I take out his letters and I read them, and the paper that touched his hand is in mine, and I feel connected to him."
                    — Lakshmi Pratury
                    At the TED conference, a nonprofit conference devoted to Ideas Worth  Spreading.

Lakshmi Pratury gives a wonderful talk about letter writing and leaving a legacy. To see the entire, but short, talk, visit the TED Web site. (Just a note: it took a little while for the video to load on my computer, but it's worth waiting a few seconds.)

Monday, November 16, 2009

For a Little Letter-Writing Inspiration...


This weekend, I was lost in the Internet, jumping from link to link, just looking at interesting things. I came across this article, "The 101 Most Useful Websites" on the Daily Telegraph's online newspaper. (Note: All 101 Web sites aren't listed in the online article.)

One of the Web sites listed was "Letters of Note," a blog featuring copies of interesting correspondence. Today's post is a 1964 letter from British children's book author Enid Blyton to the Australian Prime Minister, who had apparently made some derogatory comments about one of her books. Letters of Note has a copy of the original letter and a transcription, making it easier to read.

Letters of Note often includes links to collections of letters, too.

It's a great letter-writing site! Visit it and enjoy perusing the many letters there.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Write a Letter - Freud Style


"I consider it a good rule for letter writing to leave un-mentioned what the recipient already knows, and instead tell him something new."
According to the  Psychoanalytical Electronic Publishing Web site, neurologist and psychologist Sigmund Freud wrote the above sentence to his friend and fellow doctor Wilhelm Fliess on April 14, 1898. It may or may not take an expert to determine why he wrote this immediately following that sentence:

"I shall therefore not comment on what I heard: that you had a bad time at Easter; you know this anyway. I would rather tell you about my Easter vacation, which I spent in a grumpy mood but from which I returned refreshed."
It seems a little mean, to me, to mention Fliess' bad time. In my opinion, he adds insult to injury by going on to describe his own delightful trip at Easter.

Of course, I don't know the whole story. I just came across the quote of Freud's about letter writing and found the rest of the letter while doing a bit of research. The quote about writing something new seems like a good idea, though.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

No US Mail today - It's Veterans Day

Today is Veterans Day in the United States, a day when we honor military veterans.  Some other countries  also celebrate a similar holiday today, Armistice Day or Remembrance Day.

In honor of the holiday, our post offices are closed and regular mail service is discontinued for the day.

If you're not getting mail today, take some time to visit the Smithsonian's National Postal Museum online.  Of special interest today may be the Victory Mail exhibit. It is all about how the U.S. dealt with the great volumes of mail during World War II. If you don't already know about it, the V-Mail story may surprise you.

You might also be interested in the War Letters: Lost and Found exhibit, which I discussed in an earlier blog post. Be sure to click through to the exhibit; it is fascinating with copies of the letters and the stories to go along with them.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Return to Sender



Shortly after I started this project, I realized that my project was just that...MY project, not everyone else's project. Although the letter writing process takes considerably more time than phone calls, e-mailing and texting, in the long run, it all happens fairly quickly. I write a letter and mail it off. A friend or family member gets the letter and writes me back...it all takes a week or two. Especially if we haven't seen or talked to one another for awhile, we generally catch up our lives in those two letters. Then what?


Like I said, this is my project. Just because I wanted to write a lot of letters this year, doesn't mean everyone I know wants to write a lot of letters or that they have time to do so. If I send off a speedy second letter, my letter's recipient might feel obligated to write again, even if he or she doesn't have time or much to say.

As I searched for more and more people to write to, I tracked down the addresses of "old" friends and acquaintances, many of whom I've never heard back from. Maybe my letters were lost in the system; maybe they just didn't have anything to say in reply. In all fairness, some of the letters went to people I haven't seen or heard from since high school.

All that is to say that I soon began looking for other people to write letters to. That's how I found the pen pal blogs, Web sites and forums. I've made some lovely new friends this way and have written a lot of letters without overburdening my close friends and family with too many letters.

Yesterday, after all these months of writing letters, I got a "Return to Sender" notice. I sent out a card and an introductory note to a girl whose name and address I found on sendsomething.net. She's probably been too busy with her life to update her profile, and I know that's always a chance I take when send off a letter to a stranger.

The most amazing thing to me (besides the fact that the old-fashioned "Return to Sender" rubber stamp is still used) is that I've only received one such notice. I've sent out so much mail, I wouldn't have been surprised to have gotten more returned letters.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Of books and letters

Rechelle at My Sister's Farmhouse blog has a great post about epistolary books, that is, books that are written in a letter format. Check out today's post about Helene Hanff, and then go back and read a previous blog post she wrote about epistolary books. The topic is fascinating, and Rechelle is a great writer!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Cursive Writing

All bundled up in a drawer at my house are some very old letters. They were written at the beginning of the last century, in the early 1900s, by my ancestors. Some were written by my great-great-grandfather; some were written by my great-great-great-grandmother to my great-great-grandfather.

To tell the truth, it takes a little bit of work to read the letters. The handwriting is very flowery with lots of flourishes. They were obviously written with a fountain pen and are just beautiful, but the 100-year-old writing is quite a bit different from what I learned.

And, I did learn to write cursive. I don't remember when...third grade or so, it seems. I remember it was a big deal. For so many years (and to a 9-year-old, one or two years is a long time!), we kids had been forced to write in the babyish "print." We couldn't wait to learn to write — and read — cursive. Finally! We'd be able to figure out what our parents were writing.

From the looks of it, I learned to write cursive in the D'Nealian style. Although, I never was very good at slanting my letters. And, as I got older, I started adjusting the standard handwriting I was first taught, morphing it into something with my own style. Now, I'm not saying it was artistic or anything like that, but back in high school, we thought our way of writing was much more "cool" than the standard way. Nowadays, I suppose I write in some hybrid of cursive and print, a simplified handwriting that uses a print-style Q and S, for example.

Within the past few years, there have been several articles and studies done about how today's youth isn't learning how to write cursive. One Associated Press article in the past few months details the decline in cursive writing and explains some of the reasons and discusses the potential future of handwriting.

I've read such articles but never really thought the topic had much of an effect on my life. I know how to read and write cursive, and my 9-year-old daughter practices her handwriting at home, no matter whether or not they teach it at her school. But, earlier this week, I received a letter from a young, high school-age pen pal I met online through one of the letter writing blogs. She commented that she had some trouble reading some of my last letter to her — because she doesn't read cursive handwriting very well.

Wow. That kind of jolted me a little bit. I didn't expect my way of communicating to be obsolete so quickly. I do write some letters in print, especially to pen pals whose first language isn't English, in an effort to make sure my words are readable. Maybe I should write them all that way...

I do wonder what the future of handwriting is. I used to be a "Star Trek" fan, especially the "Next Generation" episodes of the sci-fi TV series, and I don't remember much handwriting going on there. It will be an interesting experience to witness first-hand the rapid evolution of written communication.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Creating Mail Art



Someone commented on my last blog post, asking how to make the Mail Art envelopes. Well, I'm certainly no expert, but Mail Art seems to be like most any other art form...the details are up to the artist. The one above came in the swap packet from the recent Mail Art swap my daughter and I participated in.

Here's what we do at our house: We either start with a store-bought envelope or we make our own envelopes. Then, we use a variety of art materials to adorn the envelope. We use markers, rubber stamps and ink, words or phrases we print out or clip from magazines, pictures we clip from books or magazines, glitter, etc. We try to match the words or art to the envelope. For example, if we made an envelope from a page of a fashion magazine, we might paste down the words "Let's Go Shopping!" (Sort of like the notecards and fashion envelopes in my Etsy shop — see the link on the left, if you're interested.) Some envelopes are simple with just one or two elements; others are covered in images, words, glitter, stickers, etc. It's up to the artist.

Now, to make our own envelopes from art paper, magazine pages, newspaper, etc., we start with a template. There are plenty of free templates you can download on the Internet, or you can simply carefully deconstruct one of your favorite envelopes, flatten it out and use it as a template. I often trace the template onto an old file folder and use the heavier weight template for my envelope making.

There also is a template that you can buy, the Kreate-a-Lope, that looks easy to use. I've been interested in getting one, but I don't see them in stores. And to order just the basic template, the shipping is almost double the cost of the item. So, I've been putting that off. Maybe someday.

But, no matter how you make the envelope or the Mail Art, the point, I think, is to have fun and to make the letter-receiving fun, too.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Fun Mail Art



My daughter and I both participated in Barb Nelis' latest mail art swap...what fun! We made and decorated all sorts of envelopes and then received a big packet of envelopes in the mail! Lots of new envelopes to send my letters out in!

I can't wait for the next one!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Letter-writing Quote



"A friendship can weather most things and thrive in thin soil; but it needs a little mulch of letters and phone calls and small, silly presents every so often - just to save it from drying out completely." ~Pam Brown

I must admit, I found this quote, attributed to "Pam Brown" on quite a few online quote sites, but none tell who Pam Brown is. There are Internet references to an Australian poet named Pam Brown; perhaps it is she who said these words.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

"The Tyranny of E-mail: The Four-Thousand-Year Journey to Your Inbox"



Last week, a fellow letter writer, Jeremy, alerted me to an NPR segment I had missed. John Freeman, author of "The Tyranny of E-mail: The Four-Thousand-Year Journey to Your Inbox," was on the Diane Rehm show on Oct. 19, and you can still listen to the interview online! Just click here and then scroll down a little and choose your choice of audio programs under the "Listen to this segment" link on the page.

In the interview, Freeman talks about how he exchanged letters with his grandmother for many years, before she passed away last year.

"It was just the most wonderful way to spend time with her without being with her. The way that she wrote to me, it sort of taught me how to become a person and eventually an adult. Correspondence isn't just about sharing what happened in your day and other information ... especially to a young person, it's a way of teaching them ... how to experience and observe the world. So, I miss those letters quite a bit."
Freeman goes on to discuss how he uses e-mail and how important it is in everyday life. But, he also discusses how often the intended tone of an e-mail is misunderstood and how, in many cases, a letter written in your own handwriting is received as a gift.

"The nice thing about letters is that they move slowly and they have space and they have a kind of texture to them that, almost, novels do...I think there's a speed at which the mind works, which moves with the hand and travels at the speed of letters and that I sort of miss now that people don't send letters quite as much."
It's a great interview, and it sounds like a wonderful book!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

And the winner is...

....Melody (aka M&M) from S.mail ~ A Penpal Experiments. She and her friend Meg started the blog not long ago.

For the record, Melody's name was drawn randomly by an online randomizer. I entered all of the names of the people who left messages since the beginning of the contest and then clicked the "next" button, and Melody's name came up as the winner.

Knowing how much she likes to write letters, I'm sure she'll enjoy the Mary Engelbreit note cards!

Thanks everyone for participating!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Don't forget the giveaway!

I'll draw a name for the Mary Engelbreit note cards (see previous blog entry) at noon (central daylight time) today. I'll announce the winner tomorrow (Tuesday).

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Don't forget the giveaway!

Check out my post from two days ago for a chance to win a little packet of Mary Engelbreit note cards. If you haven't already left a comment, leave one now for a chance to win! I'll draw a winner on Monday, Oct. 26.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Love Letter Contest



A fellow blogger and writer has alerted me to a letter contest I think you'll find interesting. The deadline is quickly approaching, though, so if you want to enter, you'll have to hurry!

The contest is related to the movie Bright Star about poet John Keats and his sweetheart, Fanny Brawne. The movie was released last month and was written and directed by Academy Award winner Jane Campion.

Keats, who died at the age of 25, was not only a poet but also a letter writer. Although he lived only a short while, Keats left behind many letters, according to a Web site featuring The Life and Works of John Keats, more than 240 of those letters survive today. Several of them are reproduced at the Web site.

There are two ways to enter...one by Twitter and the other with an old-fashioned love letter, but you must choose one or the other. The complete rules are on the Bright Star Web site. Look for the "Love Letter Contest" link on the main page. You'll also want to click on the "Contest Rules" for more details.

The letters will be judged on content, creativity/originality and presentation/artistic expression of idea. The selection of a winner is a three-part process. First, finalists will be chosen. Then, there will be a public vote, and, finally, celebrity judges will determine the winners and alternates.

Get out your pens, put on your romance hats and start writing! Good luck!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Giveaway!



I've decided to have a small giveaway. I'll have a drawing for the package of Mary Engelbreit note cards pictured above.

How do you enter? Just leave me a comment, and I'll put the names of all those who comment between now and noon (Texas time) Monday, Oct. 26, into the drawing. Feel free to leave as many comments as you'd like, but I'll put each name in just once.

Happy letter writing!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Letters vs. E-mail

Why do I write letters?

I write letters to friends and family because I'm thinking of them and I want them to know that. I write letters because when I think of something I have to say to someone far away, my mind just automatically says, "Write it down!" I write letters because it's somehow soothing to sit, pen in hand, stationery in lap, and put down my thoughts. I write letters because I like traditions. I write letters because generations of humans before me have written letters. I write letters because people like to receive letters.

I write letters to strangers because I have found them through pen pal services/sites and they, like me, hate an empty mailbox. I write letters to them because they will write me back and tell me about life in their locations, giving me a better knowledge of the world. I write letters to them because I can share something of myself with others.

Why do I write e-mails?

I write e-mails because they are quick. I can send out a question and get back an answer in a matter of minutes. I write e-mails because some people don't answer the letters that I send them. I write e-mails because I am sometimes impatient and don't want to wait the 24 hours or several days or weeks for a letter to be delivered, near or far; I want my news to be heard immediately. I write e-mails because it's cheaper than a long-distance phone call.

Why do you write letters? Why do you write e-mails?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Today is our day! National Day on Writing

Earlier this month, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution declaring today, Oct. 20, 2009, as the National Day on Writing.

According to the Web site of the National Council of Teachers of English,
"People in every walk of life, in every kind of work, and at every age write more than ever before for personal, professional, and civic purposes. They write through text messages and IMs, they use video cameras and cell phones, and, yes, even traditional pen and paper. The social nature of writing invites people in every walk of life, in every kind of work, and at every age to make meaning through composing. More and more people in all occupations deem writing as essential and influential in their work."

"In light of the significance of writing in our national life, to draw attention to the remarkable variety of writing we engage in, and to help writers from all walks of life recognize how important writing is to their lives, October 20, 2009, will be celebrated as The National Day on Writing."
 Of course, letter writing is one of the many ways that we write. Let's make sure we honor the National Day on Writing by writing a letter today!

To be honest, I missed the news announcement back when the Senate made the declaration. I had no knowledge of this event until I logged online this morning and saw the news. But, there is so much information out there about this! Do an Internet search of "National Day on Writing" and just browse some of the links that come up.  There's a Facebook page, a "Gallery of Writing," contests and more.

Have fun!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Stationery Giveaway on Another Blog

We Love Snail Mail is having a stationery giveaway. Hop over to the blog and leave a comment to be entered in the giveaway.

And, if you're looking for a new penpal, join the group at We Love Snail Mail and find a few people to write to!

Happy Letter Writing!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Why the interest in letter writing?

As I read articles that are of interest to me or this blog, I sometimes wonder, "Why am I so interested in letter writing?"

But, I don't really know the answer to that question. Part of it probably has to do with my interest in "old" things. I love to collect vintage or antique things. My kitchen is decorated with vintage kitchen utensils, cookie cutters, red-handled spoons and ladles and such. At Christmas, I decorate with vintage ornaments and Santas, some of which are old and some that just look old. I can't pass up a vintage or antique magazine or book. Somewhere in the back of my mind are thoughts that seem to range from "If I don't love this, who will?" to "Surely there's a use for this."

We often cook from scratch at our house, making our own bread (sure, we use a bread machine, but...still...), canning hot sauce, growing and drying herbs, etc. We even like to sew — by hand and by machine — but we don't always have enough time for that.

I don't just like the writing part of letter writing. I enjoy using a fountain pen, decorating the paper with rubber stamps, putting a wax seal on the back of the envelope, etc.

A fellow letter writer sent me a postcard, on which he wrote that he likes my blog but finds it ironic that I blog about old-fasioned paper and ink mail. I don't think it's so much ironic. Now, if I sent everyone e-mails saying they should write me letters...that would be ironic. I see this blog, and all the other letter writing blogs, as simply using one means of communication to discuss another form of communication.

I do see that e-mail, cell phones, texting, etc. may well be the death of letter writing, but I doubt blogging will affect correspondence much.

I wonder about the future of letter writing. I was a "Star Trek: Next Generation" fan...I can't remember Starship Enterprise inhabitants writing with pen and paper. Even as far back as the first "Star Wars" movie, I suppose the writers had written off hand-written communications.

So, why cling to it? I don't know. Doing away with pen and paper correspondence seems like we're losing a big part of our culture, our history.

It's something to ponder, anyway.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Stamp Collecting Month

According to the Smithsonian's National Postal Museum, October is National Stamp Collecting Month. The museum has a variety of activities and events planned for the month, including A Postal Party on the Hill for those who are in the Washington, D.C., area tomorrow, Oct. 16.

If you can't get to the museum, take a look at some of the online exhibits, including the Alphabetilately exhibit, which is on display for the next year at the museum, but is also viewable online. From "Advertising Covers" to "Zeppelin Post," the exhibit shares stamps from A to Z.

The museum Web site features all sorts of fun and interesting information about stamps. For example, the site has a little boxed  called "This Day in Postal History." For Oct. 15, it says,
"October 15, 1920
Inaugural airmail service begins between Seattle and Victoria, Canada. The service is operated by Hubbard Air Transport and was set up to expedite mail from the far east."
 Looks like they have a couple of items for today's date, so it may be a little different when you log on.

To tell you the truth, I hadn't given much thought to stamps in a long time, before I started this letter writing project. Well, I always liked to get holiday stamps for my Christmas cards, but otherwise, I didn't  pay much attention to the stamps. Then, I started finding pen pals who are interested in the stamps, so I started looking for interesting stamps.

I remember when we lived in Winnsboro, Louisiana, when I was a teenager and had several international pen pals...the post office clerk would ask if I wanted some "purty" (pretty) stamps. I always did.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Future of Letter Writing?

My "Reader's Digest" magazine came yesterday, and on page 25 was a list of "8 Thinks Being Killed by the Internet." The list was credited to Matthew Moore of the London Daily Telegraph.

I'm sure you're not surprised to know that "Letter writing" was on the list. I looked up Mr. Moore's article in the Daily Telegraph, and the original is quite a bit longer. "50 things that are being killed by the Internet" (FYI: I had to use Firefox to access the article; my other browsers wouldn't show the article) includes a variety of formerly common activities and items, such as "Listening to an album all the way through" and "Photo albums and slide shows."

Mr. Moore's full comment on letter writing says:
12) Letter writing/pen pals
Email is quicker, cheaper and more convenient; receiving a handwritten letter from a friend has become a rare, even nostalgic, pleasure. As a result, formal valedictions like "Yours faithfully" are being replaced by "Best" and "Thanks".
 The comments left by readers vary, with some being saddened by the loss of letter writing, and others happy to see it go. One commenter wrote: "an email is much less personal then a hand written letter dropped in the corner mailbox." And another posted this comment:
I wish people wrote more letters - I'm 24 and know that the small pile of letters I have received isn't likely to grow by much. And what are historical records going to consist of in the future?
 I wanted to leave a comment myself, but I couldn't get the system to work.

I don't know what the future of letter writing is. I suppose we'll just have to wait and see, while we keep writing letters.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Funny letter scene

We were watching a DVD of "The Lucy Show" from the 1960s. In this episode ("Lucy the Bean Queen"), Mr. Mooney gets mad at Lucy for putting 6 cents worth of postage on letters that only required 5 cents. Mr. Mooney, of course, was a banker, and that 1-cent difference was important to him.

Lucy explained that she was out of 5-cent stamps and was using two 3-cent stamps on each envelope. "It's only a penny," Lucy says, to Mr. Mooney's dismay,

I have to admit to being as loose with my pennies sometimes. When I'm out of the exact postage, I have resorted to putting more than the required amount of stamps on letters, just to get them in the mail. I try not to do that very often, though.

Happy letter writing!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

More Letter Writing Comments on the Internet

Last week, Candelaria Silva wrote "Letter Writing is not a dead art" at BlogHer.com. She wrote about writing love letters to her friends and about the many people writing about letter writing. It's a good column! Go take a look.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Too Much Bad News





Professionally, I'm in the news business. I write features articles for newspapers. Now, traditionally, "features" have been the upbeat, happy, fluffy side of the "news." But, still, I, like many people, am more or less addicted to the hardcore news of the day. I read the Associated Press wire stories that are posted every day. And, the stories are so depressing nowadays. There are mass murders and rapes in the news every day, along with stories of horrible child abuse and animal abuse.

It's really getting to be just too upsetting. Let's try to change the atmosphere a little bit. Write a letter today with only good, happy news in it. And then, mail it to someone you think could use an uplifting thought!

Don't have any good news of your own to share? Look around the Internet...there really is a lot of good news out there. Here are some sites: HappyNews, the GoodNewsNetwork (requires a low-cost subscription), GoodNewsDaily has mostly positive articles, the GoodNewsBroadcast seeks out good news, but I'm not sure the "Millions of Tax Refunds May Be Delayed" story is all that positive, Tonic has lots of good news, too, and the GoodNewsGazette says "Happiness is contagious."

So, let's share some good, happy news today!

(I found the smiley face at the top of the page at Smiley-Faces.org with lots of smileys to download or hotlink to.)

Monday, September 28, 2009

U.S. Stamp News



According to news released last week, the U.S. Postal Service is now offering first class postage stamps featuring four U.S. Supreme Court Justices.

The stamps are on a four-stamp souvenir sheet that features images of the Supreme Court building and a detail from the first page of the United States Constitution.

The four justices on the stamps are Joseph Story (1779-1845), Louis D. Brandeis (1856-1941), Felix Frankfurter (1882-1965) and William J. Brennan Jr. (1906-1997).

For more information, visit the U.S. Postal Service Web site or a U.S. post office.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Letter writing humor




I found this book at a thrift store, it seems. When I bought it, I had never heard of it and didn't quite understand the type of book it was. It's titled "Letters of Thanks: A Christmas Tale," so I thought it was about writing thank-you letters.

How fun it was when I sat down and read it! Written by Manghanita Kempadoo and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury in 1969, the small book is a series of letters from Lady Katherine Huntington to Lord Gilbert, thanking him for all the gifts he keeps sending her... a partridge in a pear tree, two turtle doves, three French hens, etc. I won't give away the story, but just imagine what you'd do with six geese, seven swans, nine fiddlers, ten drummers, eleven dancing ladies, and so on.

I see the book is available online at a variety of prices. If you love Christmas, as well as letter writing, you might find this book amusing.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A Different Kind of Letter

While doing some research on letter writing, I came across a Web site that has topics such as "The Art of Writing Letters" and "12 Rules for Writing GREAT Letters," both written by Pamela Wright.

The Web site is WrightsLaw, and it's an advocacy Web site for parents of children with disabilities. The letter writing articles all focus on writing letters of complaint or concern and attempting to remedy a bad situation.

Even if you don't have a child with disabilities or if you don't have a complaint, the letter writing tips are interesting to read. Many of the "12 Rules for Writing GREAT Letters" can be applied to most any letter writing situation. For example, the first rule is before you start writing, know why you are writing and what you hope to accomplish. This is a good rule to follow, whether or not you're seeking justice for disable child or you're simply writing a note to your best friend. Having an idea of what you want to write about makes your letter easier to read.

"The Art of Writing Letters" suggests using a story-telling approach to writing letters. Again, this works for complaint letters or personal missives.

I think it's an interesting site.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Not feeling like yourself?

In case you missed it, Saturday was International Talk Like a Pirate Day. You know, "Arrrrrr!" and "Ahoy, matey!"

I must say, I forgot to "talk like a pirate" on Saturday, but it did get me to thinking...has anyone ever written a letter like a pirate? Assuming you're not really a pirate, that would take some imagination and a little bit of role-playing, I guess.

Sort of like "ghost-letter writing." I've never written a ghost letter, but I've read about them online. At first, I thought "ghost letters" were related to "ghostwriting," which involves a writer writing something for someone else who presents it as their own. I think a lot of celebrities hire ghostwriters to write their autobiographies for them.

But, that's not what ghost letters are all about. Ghost letters are letters people write as if they were written by a historical or fictional character. For example, what would Nancy Drew have written to the Hardy Boys? Or, maybe, what advice would George Washington have given Abraham Lincoln?

Have you ever written a ghost letter? Who did you pretend to be? Who did you send the letter to? Did they write back? As who? I'm curious. Tell me about it!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Quote of the day

This quote is attributed, on the Internet, to Sydney Smith, an English writer (1771-1845):
"Correspondences are like small clothes before the invention of suspenders; it is impossible to keep them up."
Of course, I wouldn't say correspondences are "impossible" to keep up, but it does take some work. In this project, I have found that it is easier to write a letter to a stranger, someone I've never written to before, such as the many letter writers on the the penpal sites, than it is to write to a friend or even an established penpal.

With my friends, I want to say something important, something meaningful, so I put off writing those letters until I have time to devote to the art of crafting a letter. With new penpals, or even just fellow snail mailers who may never become penpals, the letters are often simple letters of introduction, which are fairly easy to write.

However, I do believe, it is worth the effort to keep up the correspondences. Good friends are so important.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Not exactly a letter, but...



I like to hide little notes in my daughter's lunch box from time to time. One day recently, I opened my lunch box at work to find this note that Anna had put in my lunch.

I gotta tell you...it made my day!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Fan letter?

After the news that one of my favorite actors, Patrick Swayze, has died from pancreatic cancer, I got to thinking about celebrities.

As far as I can remember, I've never written a fan letter. Now, I won't guarantee that statement. There's a chance I could've written a fan letter when I was a young girl, but I'm sure I've never written one as an adult.

Have you written a fan letter? Do you have any fan letter tips to share? Did you get a response?

I'd like to hear what you think!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Letter Writing Contest

The Universal Postal Union hosts a letter writing contest every year for young people up to the age of 15. To participate, a young letter writer must first enter and win a letter writing contest by UPU-member country. The top three winners of the international contest will receive medals.

There are lots of details online, but the one thing I don't see is how to find out if and when your country is hosting such a contest. If you've heard of this contest or have more information on how to enter, please let me know and I'll post the updated information.

Each year, the UPU letter writing contest has a theme on which the writers have to write. Next year's topic is: "Write a letter to someone to explain why it is important to talk about AIDS and to protect oneself against the disease."

For the 2009 contest, the winner was 14-year-old Dominika Koflerova of the Czech Republic. The contest's topic was “How decent working conditions can lead to a better life," and Dominika wrote about a chocolate bar and how fair trade can improve working conditions in developing countries.

It sounds like a great contest to encourage letter writing!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The thing you leave undone



Don't forget to write a letter today.

The Sin Of Omission

by Margaret Sangster

It isn't the thing you do, dear;
It's the thing you leave undone,
Which gives you a bit of heartache
At the setting of the sun.
The tender word forgotten,
The letter you did not write,
The flower you might have sent, dear,
Are your haunting ghosts to-night.

The stone you might have lifted
Out of brother's way,
The bit of heartsome counsel
You were hurried too much to say;
The loving touch of the hand, dear,
The gentle and winsome tone,
That you had no time nor thought for,
With troubles enough of your own.

The little acts of kindness,
So easily out of mind;
Those chances to be angels
Which every one may find
They come in night and silence
Each chill, reproachful wraith
When hope is faint and flagging
And a blight has dropped on faith.

For life is all too short, dear,
And sorrow is all too great;
To suffer our great compassion
That tarries until too late;
And it's not the thing you do, dear,
It's the thing you leave undone,
Which gives you the bit of heartache
At the setting of the sun.

Margaret Elizabeth Sangster was an American author, poet and editor who lived from 1838 to 1912.


Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Cool notecards


We took a box full of stuff to Goodwill last weekend, and, while we were there, I was looking around to see if there was any good stuff there. I found several vintage books and these great notecards!

Unfortunately, I've looked around on the Internet, and apparently they were only available at retail stores until earlier this year. They aren't available any more.

These Karma Cards by New Leaf Paper are made from 100 percent post-consumer recycled paper. Additionally, after you write on the inside of the card and mail it to someone, the recipient can then tear off the front of the card and send it as a postcard. Of course, you can do that with any card, I suppose, but this one is pre-printed with a postcard form on the inside of the front of the card, and the center crease of the card is slightly perforated for easy separation.

Maybe you can find some on clearance somewhere, like I did. Or, maybe New Leaf Paper will print some more.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Another letter in the news

If you've paid any attention to any news in the past few days, you've probably heard/read about Sen. Edward (Ted) Kennedy's letter to the Pope. The text of the letter was read aloud at Kennedy's funeral Saturday.

According to the news reports, Kennedy wrote the letter and asked President Obama to hand-deliver the letter to Pope Benedict XVI in July. When it came down to one of the most important messages in his life, Ted Kennedy wrote a letter, not an e-mail or a phone call, but a letter.

Interesting.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Interesting Perspective on Letter Writing

Author Elizabeth A. Drew (1887-1965), not to be confused with the modern-day journalist and author Elizabeth Drew (born in 1935), wrote about letter writing in at least two books, "The Enjoyment of Literature," published in 1935, and "The Literature of Gossip," published in 1964.

Here's a quote from "The Enjoyment of Literature":

It is the directness and immediacy of the appeal of letters and journals which make them so dear to the reader. Perhaps it is because letters, above all forms of writing, spring from the affections. Their writers are, in general, single-minded, disinterested folk who pursue their occupation partly from the simple wish to give pleasure to others, partly from their sheer love of what they are doing. They have no thought of fame or futurity, and none of the conscious, unswerving quest of the artist for perfection of form. They write at a particular day and hour for the eyes of a particular reader, and their creations are the literature of leisure, of love and of friendship, the literature of intimacy and of inessentials.

There is, moreover, a feeling of fragility and destructibility about letters which belongs to no other form of writing, and which gives them a value of their own. Books are sturdy things, which soon change the impermanence of manuscript for the persistence of print, and remain thenceforth invulnerable. But letters can be hidden for years, for centuries even, at the mercy of a chance accident, and survive or are destroyed by the operations of fortune.

She goes on to describe in detail a variety of letters, some dating back to the 1600s. "The Enjoyment of Literature" can be downloaded from the "Internet Archive" at no charge, if you're interested in reading more.

Note: It looks like several Internet sources attribute a quote from "The Literature of Gossip" to the current-day Elizabeth Drew, but I'm not sure that's correct.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Collecting Postmarks



As a kid, I collected stamps. If I remember correctly, I ordered one or more of those packages of international stamps and sorted through many of the standard stamps that come in such collections, many of the same stamps over and over again. But, it was fun.

However, I must admit, I never gave much thought to postmarks until last week when I came across the Web site for the Postmark Museum, also known as the Margie Pfund Memorial Postmark Museum, located near Bellevue, Ohio.

The museum is affiliated with the Post Mark Collectors Club, which I also did not know existed.

But, when I discovered the hobby of postmark collecting, I started wondering what kind of special postmarks had been coming in the mail. I picked up a collection of old envelopes that I had stored for several years and started paying attention to the postmarks. These particular envelopes were from the late 1980s, early 1990s.

Right away, I noticed that several envelopes that had more than the traditional postmark. My favorite is one that says "Journey to a New Frontier...Collect Stamps." In the scan to the right, I've darkened it up a little so that you can see the postmark better. If you look closely, you can see a picture of the USS Enterprise from the TV show "Star Trek."

In looking around on the Post Mark Collectors Club Web site, I found a list that describes the different kinds of postmarks that people collect. These are called "Slogans," and the few I found in this one stack of envelopes also promote Goodwill, children's dental health and the 1992 Olympics, as well as stamp collecting. One from New York, N.Y., encourages citizens to "Include Your Apt. # for Better Service."

I did a quick check of the new mail I've been getting...not very many slogans. One from January says "Happy Holidays," and another has a quote by John Adams:
"Let us dare to read, think, speak and write"

The newer postmarks look like they were applied digitally and are more difficult to read, in my opinion.

Now that I know about postmark collecting, I'll have to take a look and see what all I have.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Saving the Art of Letter Writing

I, for one, won’t let letter-writing become a lost art. After all, there is nothing better than getting a letter from someone in the mailbox instead of the bills and flyers one normally receives.

That comes from Tara Seel, city editor of the Daily Graphic newspaper in Portage la Prairie in the Central Plains region of Manitoba, Canada.

She wrote a column this week called "Lost Art of Letter Writing," in which she details a lovely conversation she had with her Aunt Jean. Tara vows to write more letters to Aunt Jean, and she invites her readers to write letters, too. In fact, she says she's more than happy to get some letters at the newspaper office.

I clicked on over to the "Contact Us" tab on the Web site, and here's her address:

Tara Seel
The Daily Graphic/Central Plains Herald-Leader
P.O. Box 130, 1941 Saskatchewan Ave. West
Portage la Prairie, Manitoba
R1N 3B4
Canada

If you have some time and are looking for someone to write to, send Tara a cheery note. She sounds like she'll appreciate it! You might even let her know that there are many of us letter writing fans out here!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Roosevelt's Stamp Collection

U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt started collecting stamps as a child and continued with the hobby throughout his life.

During his years in the White House (1933-1945), he was greatly involved in the design of about 200 stamps that were issued, according to the Smithsonian Institution.

There's a great video, The Stamp Collector in Chief, that you can watch online. It's an interesting story.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

What are letters to you?

According to the online world of quotes, American journalist Shana Alexander (1925-2005) once said:

Letters are expectation packaged in an envelope.

What do letters mean to you? Share a thought or two, and then go write a letter!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

When you focus on letter writing...

...it seems there is letter writing everywhere!

For lunch today, I tried something new, a frozen Marie Callender's Al Dente meal, "Tortellini Romano." As I sat waiting for the 3 to 4 minutes of microwave time to pass, I noticed the package is decorated with handwriting. I looked closer and saw that it said, "My Dear Amy," so I examined the package more.

On the front is a "postmark," and in several places on the package are portions of the letter. Part of the design on the back looks like an envelope, with the same "Italy" postmark. Portions of the letter to Amy are scattered across the box, with the letter writer praising the food of Tuscany.

(By the way, the Tortellini Romano was great!)

...and in other news, in a story out of Vienna, Austrian authorities have been sent twice this week to rescue boys who got stuck in mail boxes. I'm curious to see these Austrian mail boxes!

Keep on writing!

Monday, August 17, 2009

What a delight!

This weekend, I received a letter from a friend I've known for quite a few years. It was a surprise and a delight...I'm sure I owe her a letter, so I wasn't expecting anything in the mail from her.

But, here it was...just a letter letting me know that she was thinking about me. She mentioned a movie that she knew I'd like and a writer she's recently discovered.

That makes at least two "old" friends I've reconnected with through this letter-writing projects. In both situations, we still kept in touch intermittently, but we're now writing quite regularly. I've also made a lot of new penpal friends, and a few friends are now e-mailing more often!

What fun!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Women on Stamps: Part 2



There's a new online exhibit at the Smithsonian's National Postal Museum: Women on Stamps: Part 2.

From nurses and educators to aviators and Girl Scouts, the exhibit features dozens of stamps and the history of the women pictured on them. This is the second part of a series of four exhibits on Women on Stamps.

Currently, Anna Julia Cooper is on a First Class stamp. She was an educator, scholar, feminist, and activist who gave voice to the African–American community during the 19th and 20th centuries, from the end of slavery to the beginning of the Civil Rights movement.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

New Letter-writing Sites

I've recently found a couple of new letter-writing Web sites/blogs that you might find interesting.

We Love Snail Mail offers a chance for fellow letter writers to connect with each other. Once you join (no charge), you can post your mailing address in the Forum section, as well as see the addresses of the other members. Then, you can start sending and, hopefully, receiving mail.

Over at the blog Save Our USPS, Linda is offering up suggestions for helping the U.S. Postal Service stay in business. After yesterday and today's news about the Post Office (closings, dramatic financial losses), it seems the USPS might, indeed, need saving. I'm sure Linda will appreciate it if you visit her site and leave a comment or two with some more suggestions for helping out the Post Office.

If you like sending and receiving "real" mail, these two sites are worth your time!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

What a great quote!

I received an e-mail recently from Nancy Pope, curator and historian at the National Postal Museum, which, by the way, has a great Web site to visit! Maybe some day I'll make it to the brick-and-mortar museum, which is part of the Smithsonian Institute.

The quote at the end of Nancy's e-mail is so great...I just have to share it with you:
"Don't you like to write letters. I do because it's such a swell way to keep from working and yet you feel you've done something."

— Ernest Hemingway to F. Scott Fitzgerald, July 1, 1925

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Air Mail

After our experience with the "pony express" last week, I thought it would be interesting to learn a little about what seems to be the opposite of the Pony Express...Air Mail.

For our family's entertainment one night last week, I chose a video of The Waltons TV show. The episode, "The Air-Mail Man," focuses on an airplane pilot who delivers mail. The Walton family is enthralled with the pilot and his very important job. His first concern upon an almost-crash landing is to get the bags of mail delivered.

U.S. Air Mail service began in 1918. At the time, Air Mail was a special delivery-type of mail, and postage was for an Air Mailed letter was much more than than non-Air Mail service. At the time, it cost 2 cents to mail a one-ounce letter. A one-ounce Air Mailed letter cost 24 cents, initially, but the cost quickly dropped to 6 cents per ounce.

In 1977, all mail sent within the US was transported between cities by plane. By 1995, all mail, domestic and international, was delivered by plane, and the designation of "Air Mail" was eliminated. With that decision, the words "Air Mail" were deleted from stamps.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Pony Express delivery

The Pony Express has been delivering letters and packages to us this week.

Of course, our regular mail carrier has been depositing our U.S. Mail in the mailbox out by the highway, but inside the house, special deliveries are being made by our own little Pony Express rider. When our daughter was at camp a couple of weeks ago, one day the "Pony Express" delivered the mail to the cabins. Girls who were attending the horse riding portion of the camp delivered the letters from home.

So, that piqued my daughter's interest and imagination, and she's been saddling up her stuffed pony and riding it through the house, delivering letters and packages (most of which she's created herself).

I did a little research...the Pony Express delivered U.S. Mail cross-country from April 1860 to October 1861. From St. Joseph, Missouri, to Sacramento, California, there were about 190 stations, spaced about 10 miles apart. Ten miles was the accepted distance that a horse could travel at a full gallop. At each station, the riders switched horses. The riders changed about every 70 to 100 miles. They rode day and night, all year long.

The Pony Express ended in 1861, immediately after the completion of the Transcontinental Telegraph connected California with the rest of the country.

The route has been designated a National Historic Trail. There are several sites along the way that have memorials, monuments, statues, etc., dedicated to the Pony Express.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Turning snail mail into e-mail

The New York Times had a story last week about the Swiss postal service offering a program that lets citizens subscribe and have their mail scanned and e-mailed to them instead of having it delivered the traditional way.

The Swiss Post is using a business that offers such services worldwide, but, according to the story, this is the first time the company has licensed its technology to a postal service.

This is the way it works, very basically -- instead of being delivered to your home, the outsides of the envelopes that are mailed to you are scanned (by the post office, if you live in Switzerland, or by the company you've hired, if you don't live in Switzerland) and the scans are e-mailed to you. Then, you look at the envelopes and choose from your options: having the mail recycled; shredded; opened and scanned and e-mailed to you; or delivered to you unopened.

I hadn't heard of this service before. Now, I have to wonder...are my letters really being opened and read, or are they being scanned by strangers. My Granny never had to worry about such things!

Friday, July 17, 2009

New National Postal Museum online exhibit

The Smithsonian's National Postal Museum has a new online exhibit, "One Giant Leap for Mankind: Celebrating NASA and Apollo 11 Through Stamps." (I can't get Blogger's linking to work, but the exhibit is at: http://www.postalmuseum.si.edu/ I'll try to update the link later, if it's working.)

It is an interesting exhibit, with pictures of a variety of space exploration-related stamps, as well as some photos of the actual events that the stamps were based on. Additionally, there is some explanatory history.

It's worth a look.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Letter from camp


Finally, seven days after she wrote it, we received our daughter's letter from camp. Of course, she'd been home for five days already, but still, we were excited to get it.

It is a classic letter from camp, complete with 9-year-old spellings and stories of horseback riding, tie dying and forgotten items. There is one scary story for the parents...about a fellow camper who fell and hit her head and was taken to the hospital. I'm glad we didn't hear about that story until the week-long camp was over. The girl was OK but went home early.

Anna even included a couple of extras with her letter...a little note referencing a joke on a postcard we sent and a picture that she embellished.

The envelope was beautifully decorated with stickers of all sorts.

What a wonderful letter!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Letters TO camp

My daughter is safe and sound in the air conditioning of home sweet home after a week at Girl Scout camp, where the temperatures reached 107 degrees and the cabins had no electricity, which means no A/C.

She received all of our postcards, letters and e-mails, and she even saved them all, re-reading them at home and asking me questions about what I'd written. "Where is this book you said you bought me?" and "What was that about Junior (the cat) catching a rat?"

The girls received their mail every day at lunch, she said. On Wednesday, the "Pony Express" (the girls attending the horse-themed camp at the same time and place as Anna's "Glitz and Glam" camp session) delivered the mail to their cabins.

The e-mails were sent via a service, and the camp counselors printed out the e-mails and handed them out, along with the postal mail.

Following the directions in the Parents Guide for the camp, I tried to write upbeat letters that gave her a little news from home without making her homesick. The hardest part was coming up with news from home...without her here, it was a quiet house. There was the cat with a rat incident, and we did stop by a bookstore on the way home from dropping her off. But, otherwise, not much was going on.

Still, I managed to write her a letter and/or e-mail each day she was gone, letting her know that we were thinking about her and that we knew she was having a good time.

Anna assures me that she was happy to hear her named called out at lunch to pick up her mail. And, happily, she said most of the girls she was around, likewise, received mail almost every day. Hurrah for letters to camp!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Update

Some other projects have kept me too busy to blog much this week, but I'm still writing letters.

To tell the truth, I don't get many letters of reply in the mail. But I guess all of you dedicated letter writers expected that. I'm sure you, too, send out more letters than you receive. Seems as if most people are just too busy nowadays to sit down and write a letter. I wonder if the replies will pick up when the weather isn't so warm.

So that I'm not inundating family and long-time friends with too many letters, I've been writing letters to people I've found through this blog, on sendsomething.net and at anysoldier.com. I'm not getting so many replies to those letters, either, but at least I'm writing to new people. I'd say my new blog-found penpals and one high school friend are the best at writing back.

Still no letter from my daughter who's away at camp. But, there's still today and tomorrow's mail. We'll pick her up tomorrow evening. We've sent her several letters, as well as e-mail every day. The e-mails are supposed to be delivered along with the postal mail, but there's no opportunity for the girls to send a reply e-mail.

But, despite mostly bills and junk in the mailbox, I'm persisting with the letter writing, aiming to keep the goal!

Happy Letter Writing!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

"Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh" -- Camp Letters

We're busy packing for my daughter's week at Girl Scout camp. I know what you're thinking...tents, campfires, mosquitoes, roughing it.... Oh, no. Think again. My daughter chose "Glitz and Glam" camp with manicures, pedicures, massages and a fashion show. I'm sure there will be swimming, maybe some hiking, and surely some camp chores. And, the cabins and tents aren't air conditioned, so it's not really as spa-like as the brochure makes it sound.

When she went to Girl Scout camp a couple of years ago, we thought they'd have post cards and other letter writing materials in the camp store. Alas, no letters arrived. Of course, she was only gone for three days last time.

But, this year, she'll be away for a week, so I'm putting together a camp letter writing kit. We'll pick out some paper for her to write on and some matching envelopes. I know the risk in losing some money on the deal, but I figure I'll even help her address and stamp the envelopes before she leaves home. That way, she'll have it all ready to go and won't have to worry about keeping up with stamps and an address list.

Maybe this year I'll at least get one letter from camp.

The camp's "Parent Guide" warns, "If you receive homesick letters, please realize that the feeling your camper had when she wrote the letter have probably passed."

That made me think of the old Alan Sherman song, "Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh (A Letter From Camp)." In the beginning of the song, it's raining, and the letter writer is begging to come home. By the end of the song, the rain has stopped, and the campers are swimming and playing baseball. "Muddah Fadduh please disregard this letter," ths song ends.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Chocolate Letter Writing

Today as I savored my little piece of Dove Extra Dark Chocolate after lunch, I looked inside the foil wrapper to see what words of wisdom were written there.

The little piece of foil said:
Discover something new about chocolate.
Hmmm. That's an interesting thought. So, I did an Internet search for "Chocolate" and "Letters." Well, that got me lots of hits for Dutch Saint Nicholas Chocolate Letters. That's something I never knew about chocolate, but not what I was looking for.

So, I searched "chocolate" and "letter writing." (Yes, I know. At some point, this letter writing thing becomes an obsession.) And, that took me to the Victoria and Albert Museum Shop Web site. The museum is located in London, and the online shop has stationery, rubber stamps, notecards and lots more!

But, here was my connection...the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Writing Set.

Chocolate Letter Writing!

The set features envelopes and writing paper featuring Quentin Blake's original illustrations for "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" by Roald Dahl. The set also includes a sheet of Chocolate Factory-themed stickers. Oh, what fun awaits everyone who purchases this delightful letter writing set!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Stationery Print-outs


If you've ever searched online for something cute to print out for kids...coloring pages, paper dolls, etc., you've probably come across Activity Village.

I recently discovered the writing paper and stationery print-outs on the Web site. It says they're for kids, but I think they could also be used to send letters to children. Aunts, uncles, grandparents, even parents can print out the stationery sheets and use them to write letters to the kids in their lives. As an added bonus, print out a few extras and send them (blank) to the kids so that they have something to write back on.

Activity Village has many different cute designs online! Check them out!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Letters in the news


In today's news: Letters link Son of Sam and victims' advocate

The article by Associated Press Writer Monica Rhor features Andy Kahan, a crime victim advocate for the city of Houston, and David Berkowitz, aka the Son of Sam serial killer, who have been communicating via letters for several years.

It's an interesting story.


Letter-writing Quote

To send a letter is a good way to go somewhere without moving anything but your heart. — Phyllis Theroux

Thursday, June 25, 2009

"Dear Bess: Love Letters From the President"

Through the U.S. Government's National Archives Web site, I came across an online exhibit of Harry Truman's love letters to his wife, Bess.

The letters were originally in an exhibit titled "Dear Bess: Love Letters From the President," on display at the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum in 1998-1999. Now, the exhibit is closed, but the letters can be viewed online at the library's Web site.

According to the library's introduction to the exhibit, "(The exhibit)highlighted the personal relationship between Harry and Bess Truman as illustrated in almost 50 years of handwritten personal letters. The exhibition included original letters, photographs, and personal objects of the Trumans from the Library's collections. The focus of the exhibition was not only the personal loving relationship between Harry and Bess, but the President's efforts to use his wife as a sounding board for the issues of state also will play as a background theme."

Truman was the 33rd president of the United States. He became Vice President in 1945 and then became President when Franklin D. Roosevelt died 82 days into his fourth term as president.

The collection of letters spans almost 50 years. One of my favorites is dated June 12, 1945, two months after he became president. It is on White House stationery and starts like this:
"Dear Bess, Just two months ago today, I was a reasonably happy and contented Vice-President. Maybe you can remember that far back too. But things have changed so much it hardly seems real.
I sit there in this old house and work on foreign affairs, read reports and work on speeches — all the while listening to the ghosts walk up and down the hallway and even right here in the study. The floors pop and the drapes move back and forth..."

He wraps the letter up with
"Write me when you can – I hope every day, Lots of love, Harry"

Check out the letters! They are a great look at American history.
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