Friday, December 30, 2011

Happy New Year!

I'm looking forward to 2012 being a great year full of wonderful letterwriting activities!

Have a happy and safe New Year!

No U.S. Mail on Monday, Jan. 2

In honor of the New Year's holiday, the U.S. Postal Service has announced that there will be no mail service on Monday, Jan. 2. Additionally, mail should be deposited in blue collection mailboxes before noon for early pickup on Saturday, Dec. 31, New Year's Eve. If you have any questions, call your local postmaster.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

USPS delaying post office closings

According to a news release on the USPS website, the U.S. Postal Service, in response to a request made by multiple U.S. Senators, has agreed to delay the closing or consolidation of any post office or mail processing facility until May 15, 2012. 

A Reuters story on Yahoo.com has more information, as does the Washington Post.


This may be good news for some post offices and the people who use them, or it could just be delaying the inevitable.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Combining digital and snail mail

Red Stamp is an app that you can download to your iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad device and use it to design postcards, using the photos you take with the iPhone, et al. Then, the Red Stamp service prints the postcard and mails it to the people you list.

It's free to download the app, and many of the designs are free. Depending on how many postcards you send, they cost anywhere from $1.99 (for one) to 49 cents (for 1,000 or more). However, you can send the postcard electronically for no charge.

The app can be used for postcards, invitations, greeting cards, notecards and more.

Take a look at what they have going on at Red Stamp.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Writing Letters...it's not just fun...it's good for you!

According to research, writing letters of gratitude can improve your level of happiness and decrease feelings of depression that you may have.


Steve Toepfer, associate professor in Human Development and Family Studies at Kent State University at Salem, conducted a study and published the results, that showed that writing a series of letters expressing real gratitude improves levels of happiness and that improvement increases with each letter.

“We know people who receive letters of gratitude benefit, but what about the authors? Will you feel better by writing letters of gratitude? Are multiple letters better than a single composition? That’s what we examined here," he said.

According to information released by Kent State, Toepfer said, “What we come away from this study is that if you are looking to increase your well-being through intentional activities, take 15 minutes three times over three weeks and write letters of gratitude to someone. You’ll feel better on those three variables. There is a cumulative effect, too. If you write over time, you’ll feel happier, you’ll feel more satisfied, and if you’re suffering from depressive symptoms, your symptoms will decrease.”

Toepfer said people have a store of gratitude that they carry with them all the time, and by simply using it, they can improve their well-being in significant ways.

“We have this powerful resource we’re carrying with us, but we need to tap into it in order to let it work for us,” he said.

To read the complete information from Kent Sate, click here. To read the online article from the Journal of Happiness Studies, click on this link: Letters of Gratitude:  Further Evidence for Author Benefits.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Nothing is new

According to the website Futility Closet, even "spam," those pesky emails trying to convince you that someone desperately needs your money or has money they need to send you, etc., has been around for about 200 years.

Greg Ross posted "Antique Spam" about scammers who sent handwritten letters to wealthy people in England, pretending to be needy people.

The Futility Closet is an interesting site with little bits and pieces of fascinating information. Check it out.

Great story about the impact of letters

Claire Martin of The Denver Post wrote a great story about how letters written by school children impact U.S. soldiers.

Take a look at the story, and don't forget to watch the accompanying video:


Letters a link to home: Afghan GI, Sgt. Kennedy James, thanks students for project




Not just letters...LOVE letters!


Have you seen this yet?

Hannah K. Brencher founded "The World Needs More Love Letters" website and project after she started writing and leaving love letters to strangers on the train in New York. She and others now write and send anonymous love letters to strangers.

It's not as weird as it sounds like it could be. The letters are uplifting and inspirational, a voice of kindness to someone who needs it. The website has suggestions for writing and "delivering" the letters, even examples of love letters that have been written. There's also a blog attached to the website.

The "Twelve Days of Love Letter Writing" is a project to collect love letters from letter writers like us and send them to people who need a boost. If you're interested in participating, click the link above and sign up and then follow through.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Holiday Stamps and Postmarks

If you are sending out any type of holiday greetings this winter, you might want to consider USPS holiday stamps and special postmarks.

For specific holidays, there are two Christmas-oriented stamps, the Madonna of the Candelabra by Raphael and the Holiday Baubles stamps; for Hanukkah, there is a colorful stamp with a dreidel on it; and for Kwanzaa, the stamp features a family celebrating the holiday. The 2011 stamps are all Forever stamps and may be used as First Class 1-ounce postage now and in the future.


From the past are Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa stamps marked 44-cents, which are good for First Class 1-ounce envelopes this year and until the postage rates increase. After that, they may be used in combination with additional postage.


For New Year's greetings or other winter holidays, the Holiday Evergreens, Celebrate! or Love stamps might be appropriate. 


Additionally, holiday mailers can request special postmarks from towns with festive-sounding names. For example, you can have your holiday cards postmarked in Rudolph, WI; Santa Claus, IN; or The North Pole. 



According to the USPS website, you can get a North Pole postmark on a letter from Santa or on your holiday greeting cards.  Click on the link above for a PDF document from the USPS about the service. The letters from Santa and the greeting cards need to be sent to Anchorage by Dec. 10. 


If you'd like other postmarks, write to a specific post offices for postmarks to keep or to share with friends. Enclose a stamped, addressed card or letter in another envelope or box labeled “Christmas re-mailing” and address it to the postmaster of one of the towns listed below. Allow enough time for
postmarking, re-mailing, and delivery. You can have your cards and letters postmarked in Christmas, Florida, or Christmas, Michigan.



For non-Christmas holiday or winter cards, consider Star, Texas, or any of the towns named Hope, Faith, Frost, Snow, etc. For a list of towns with holiday names, check out the USPS list.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Yikes! The U.S. Postal Service shows $5.1 billion loss!

Have you seen this story yet? The U.S. Postal Service looks to be in serious trouble.

According to the U.S.P.S. website, the Postal Service ended its 2011 fiscal year (Oct. 1, 2010 – Sept. 30, 2011) with a net loss of $5.1 billion. 


A big part of the problem is that people aren't mailing letters and other First Class mail:




Total 2011 mail volume declined by 3 billion pieces, or 1.7 percent, from 2010. The Postal Service’s largest and most profitable product, First-Class Mail, continued its year-over-year decline, from $34.2 billion in 2010 to $32.2 billion in 2011 (5.8 percent), which dwarfed continued growth in its more competitive products, packages and Standard Mail.
There's a news release on the website, if you want to read all the details here.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Turning your letters into a journal

Rachael of KitchenCourses.com wrote a guest post for the Making This Home blog (Katie writes that one). Rachael writes about turning the letters from her grandparents into a storytelling journal.

She gives step-by-step instructions in the "Writing Your Stories Via Snail Mail" post.

It's a lovely piece.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Mailman Movies?

Back in the early days of this blog, we listed some movies that were about letter writing. This past weekend, my family and I watched an old movie that isn't exactly about letter writing, but one of the main characters is a mailman.

In "The Shaggy Dog" (the old, 1959, black and white version), Fred MacMurray plays Wilson Daniels, a mailman who hates dogs. It is just his bad luck that his son, Wilby, uses an ancient spell to turn himself into a dog.

Do you know of other movies that feature letter carriers or postal workers? Tell me about them!

Friday, November 4, 2011

He wrote 15,000 letters - How many have you written?

Voltaire  
According to Stanford University, 18th century writer and philosopher Voltaire wrote 15,000 during a period of time when Europeans wrote letters almost as often as Tweets are posted today. In fact, the network formed by the letter writers, mostly scholars and intellectuals, is called the "Republic of Letters," and researchers at Stanford have been studying what they wrote about.

The researchers used modern technology to "map" the letters. According to Dan Edelstein, assistant professor of French at Stanford, "We tend to think of networks as a modern invention, something that only emerged in the Age of Information. In fact, going all the way back to the Renaissance, scholars have established themselves into networks in order to receive the latest news, find out the latest discoveries and circulate the ideas of others."

For more information about the project, visit the Stanford website or the Mapping the Republic of Letters site.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

So, penmanship DOES matter!


Here's a video by The Wall Street Journal about what happens to letters with addresses that neither the computer nor the people can decipher.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

How to get more mail in your mailbox


10 Ways to Get More Mail

1. Write more letters. The more you send out, the more you'll get in.
2. Write to people who will write you back. You know which friends will write back. Write to them more often.
3. Join a penpal club. Click on some of the links on the left side of this blog; many of the bloggers post their mailing addresses online so that you can write to them. Or search "penpals" online. The blog Penpalling and Letters has a great list, too.
4. Join a swap, postcard or mailart group. (Use the same resources I listed in #3 above.)
5. Request freebies to sent to your mailbox. Search "freebies" online. There are many websites and blogs that post freebies daily. Here's a hint: if you don't want your email inbox flooded with sales pitches from the companies you request freebies from, create a new, free email address just for putting on freebie forms.
6. Order catalogs from companies that you like to buy from. To make this more environmentally friendly, share the catalogs when you are finished with them. If you don't have any nearby friends who share the same interests, donate the catalogs to resale shops, nursing homes, etc. Or, mail them to penpals!
7. Make donations to nonprofit organizations. Many organizations send out literature, address labels, etc. to donors.
8. Write to celebrities, artists, authors, musicians and others whose artistic work you admire. Ask for an autograph.
9. Write to businesses whose products you enjoy. Be specific about why you like the product and maybe even make a suggestion for an improvement.
10. Write to politicians about a relevant topic.


(Mailbox clipart courtesy of http://cliparts101.com/)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Three Biographies Based on Letters

With "P.G. Wodehouse: A Life in Letters" scheduled to be released this week, I was researching the book when I came across two additional books created by compiling the subjects' letters. I'm sure there are more, but today, I'll share these three, all published by The Random House Group publishing companies.

According the website, the Wodehouse book is "the definitive edition of P.G. Wodehouse's letters, edited with a commentary by Oxford academic Sophie Ratcliffe.  One of the funniest and most admired writers of the twentieth century, P. G. Wodehouse always shied away from the idea of a biography. A quiet, retiring man, he expressed himself through the written word. His letters - collected and expertly edited here - provide an illuminating biographical accompaniment to legendary comic creations such as Jeeves, Bertie Wooster, Psmith and the Empress of Blandings."

"Orwell: A Life in Letters," published last year, features previously unpublished material, including letters which shed new light on a love that would haunt George Orwell for his whole life, as well as revealing the inspiration for some of his most famous characters. Presented for the first time in a dedicated volume, the selection of Orwell's letters is a companion to his diaries.

According to the publisher's notes, "Orwell's letters afford a unique and fascinating view of his thoughts on matters both personal, political and much in between, from poltergeists, to girls' school songs and the art of playing croquet. In a note home to his mother from school, he reports having 'aufel fun after tea'; much later he writes of choosing a pseudonym and smuggling a copy of Ulysses into the country."


Francisco Goya was an artist in the 1700s and 1800s. According to the publisher's information about the book, "Goya: A Life in Letters," from an early age Goya was anxious to preserve a record of his life, but few of his writings have survived and his most personal records appear in his letters. He corresponded regularly with the aristocracy and the monarchy, as well as with friends. Goya's surviving letters reveal a highly emotional man, prepared to state his feelings as passionately to the authorities of a Cathedral as to a close friend. His letters make few concessions and are literary works in their own right. Uniquely individual, they signal a new attitude on the part of a fine artist towards his profession, his social position and his sources of inspiration.

Monday, October 31, 2011

White House ornament for sale at U.S. post offices



Last week, when I was at an area post office, I noticed a display advertising the official 2011 White House Christmas ornament. I thought it was a particularly nice design, especially since I collect Santa Claus items.

The front of the ornament shows Santa in front of the White House saying, "I hear that there are some kids in the White House this year!" The ornament is a tribute to the 26th president of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt, also known as "Teddy." He and his wife, Edith, brought six children to live with them in the White House from 1901 to 1909.

I think the ornament is especially appropriate, since there are children living in the White House now, as well. Malia and Sasha Obama are the daughters of President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle.

According to the USPS website, the Postal Service has teamed with one of the nation’s leading companies producing decorative and commercial products to sell the ornament at about 7,000 Post Offices across the country.  ChemArt of Lincoln, Rhode Island, has been the sole manufacturer of the annual White House Christmas ornament since the program inception in 1981 and was given exclusive retail distribution rights by the White House Historical Association. The website says the ornaments cost $24.99 at the post offices.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Letter Writing Contest!

Letters About Literature is a national reading and writing program for young readers, sponsored by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress. 

According to the LAL website, the mission of the center is to promote lifelong literacy and libraries. LAL understands that children who read, write better; children who write, read more. But simply putting books in the hands of children does not guarantee successful reading experiences. LAL focuses on reader response and reflective writing, and in this way promotes personal relationship between the reader and the author or book.

Young readers write to an author — living or not — describing how that author’s work somehow changed the reader’s view of the world or himself/herself. Readers respond to the book they’ve read by exploring the personal relationship between themselves, the author and the book’s characters or themes.

The contest is open to kids in grades 4 through 12, and children may enter as individuals or through their school. For all the details on the contest, visit the website.

The LAL team of readers who assess the entries each year include librarians and former classroom teachers as well as graduate students in the field of English/Education.
 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Ellen proposes new stamps

Here is Ellen's funny proposal for a couple of new stamps:

A paper kind of girl in a digital world

For as long as I can remember, paper has fascinated me. I don't know why.

My dad used to bring home odd pieces of paperwork when I was a kid, old forms that weren't needed at the store where he worked. And, there were at least two aunts who likewise shared their scrap-paper with me. From time to time, as I dig through a box of mementos, I come across a drawing or note sketched out on the back of an old office form or some old school paper.

I think I liked paper before I learned to read or write. But once I learned to do more than scribble, my paper needs increased.

I know that that there are others out there in the world like me. I married a man who can't resist a notebook, journal or sketchpad. We're raising a daughter for whom paper just seems to spill out of her room.

That love of paper is entwined with a love of letter writing. It's hard to have one without the other.

Of course, I use computers and printers and email. But, there's still a joy that I get from putting pen (and often pencil) to paper and handwriting a letter or a note or even a grocery list (even though I've downloaded an app for that).

How about you? Do other letter writers have a similar love for paper? I'd enjoy hearing what you think about it.




Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Stamps for a Good Cause

The Save Vanishing Species stamps, which were introduced last month, cost a little bit more (55 cents each, as opposed to 44 cents for First Class mail), but the extra benefits the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to support the Multinational Species Conservation Funds, specifically tigers, African and Asian elephants, rhinos, great apes and marine turtles.

As you can see by the picture to the right, the stamp features an illustration of a tiger cub by artist Nancy Stahl. What a great expression she has captured with her picture!

I just bought a full sheet today, and the artwork is dark green and includes silhouettes of a rhinoceros, a tiger, a gorilla, Asian and African elephants and a marine turtle. According to the U.S.P.S. website, Stahl based both the stamp art and the silhouettes on photographs of wildlife. The phrases “Save Vanishing Species” and “Amur tiger cub” appear on the left side of the stamp. 

There is an interesting article about the artwork in the latest issue of "USA Philatelic" magazine/catalog. The design is also available on a boxed set of notecards.

The Multinational Species Coalition is an alliance of conservationists, zoos, veterinarians, animal welfare groups, circuses and sportsmen. The coalition was created to advocate for the Multinational Species Conservation Funds and is committed to bringing greater attention to this stamp and the funds it was designed to support. The funds will be divided among the African Elephant Conservation Fund, Asian Elephant Conservation Fund, Great Ape Conservation Fund, Rhinoceros and Tiger Conservation Fund and Marine Turtle Conservation Fund.





Tuesday, October 25, 2011

National Mail a Hand Written Letter Day

A fellow blogger at Natural Selections:: has declared next Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2011, National Mail a Hand Written Letter Day.

The goal of the day, according to the blog:
Your goal should be to write to someone who has never had this experience to receive one. I'm not talking about a greeting card, I'm referring to a pen and a sheet of paper...complete with stamps and addresses. Our demographic to reach should be someone 24 or younger. 
There's even a Facebook page for the newly declared "day." And, once you start looking, you'll find there are quite a few letter writing Facebook pages out there.

With the U.S. Postal Service suffering so much lately, this seems as good a time a any to launch a new day celebrating correspondence! Write a letter today, and especially next Tuesday!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Loving Snail Mail

Chelsea McMahon at the website In Her Twenties recently wrote a piece about Why Letters Are Worth Waiting For. She has some nice ideas on the topic of snail mail. Pop in and see what she has to say.


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Ray LaMontagne's "Write You a Letter" song

I know it's rather irrational, but sometimes I get mad when I find a great musician who's been around a while. I think, "Why have I never heard this before????"

I felt that way today when I heard Ray LaMontagne for the first time. The first song of his that I came across was "All the Wild Horses." Then, over in the sidebar on YouTube, I noticed one titled "Write You a Letter," which is why, of course, I'm posting about it on this blog.

Apparently, "Write You a Letter" was on an album titled "Green" that was only available for a short while. But, you can listen to the brief song online by clicking on the link above. While you're listening, you might as well listen to "All the Wild Horses" and "You Are the Best Thing," too. I've only heard a few of his songs, but I have a feeling there are many more Ray LaMontagne songs out there that I'm going to like!

I'm certainly glad I came across this artist today, but I'm sad it took me this long to find him!

Write a letter today...the National Day on Writing

Today, Oct. 20, is the National Day on Writing, established and celebrated by the National Council of Teachers of English, and I think that makes it an especially nice day to write a letter!

If you need an idea about what to write about or who to write to, use the search box at the top left of this page and search for the word "idea," and you'll get several posts that you might can use.

Or, for the easiest idea of all...write a letter about the National Day on Writing.


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Ben Stein suggests raising postage rates

Did you happen to catch Ben Stein's commentary on CBS's "The Sunday Morning Show" this past Sunday? He was talking about how cheap it is to send a letter and how much he appreciates mail.

He said:
But just for me, email will never replace a printed or handwritten letter on an actual piece of paper. The most cunning email, with moving angels and dolphins and music attached, is not as touching to me as a letter some kindly soul sat down and wrote to me.

I guess it's because I am 66 years old, and I can remember the anticipation of getting letters and cards from relatives - mostly now long gone - and girls I had mad crushes on in high school.
  To see how much he suggests they raise postage (hint: it's much more than the proposed penny), watch the video on CBS.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

U.S. First Class postage to increase Jan. 22

The U.S. Postal Service announced today that First-Class Mail costs will increase by one penny to 45 cents for the first ounce. The change, along with several other price increases, will take place Jan. 22, 2012.

This is the first increase in the price of a First-Class stamp since May 2009.

According to a news release that was posted on the USPS website earlier today, the new prices were filed with the Postal Regulatory Commission today, Oct. 18, 2011. The commission has 45 days to review the prices to verify that they comply with a 2.1 percent price cap set by law.

Other increases include:
Postcards — 3-cent increase to 32 cents
Letters to Canada or Mexico (1 ounce) — 5-cent increase to 85 cents
Letter to other international destinations — 7-cent increase to $1.05

Another change is that post office boxes will be available on a three-month plan, instead of only six months or a year.



Thursday, October 13, 2011

Have you entered this giveaway?

Have you been to the Letters & Journals website lately? Jackie has lots of good information there, and she's hosting an October Stationery Giveaway. To enter, visit the site (or blog) and leave a comment.

On the Letters & Journals website you need to log into the Wordpress system to leave a message. The Letters & Journals blog is on blogger, and you can enter there, instead, if you prefer.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Simply Embellished

I came across the information for my previous post about the Doth Brands' Red newsletter on handwritten notes through Cole Imperi's website/blog Simply Embellished. She wrote the newsletter articles on letter writing and linked to it on her personal site.

Simply Embellished is a lovely website. There, Cole writes about crafts and gardening and food and letter writing. She reviews pens and paper and wax seals. Drop by and see what she has to say!

Download Free Stationery

Doth Brands is a "branding and identity studio" based in Cincinnati, Ohio, that seems to appreciate the value of a handwritten letter. The Autumn 2011 issue of Red: Doth Brands' Quarterly Journal is dedicated to the handwritten letter.

The online newsletter has articles on handwriting, letter samples and even free stationery to download and print yourself. (Note: The stationery is in pdf form, and the customizing you'll want to do works best if you have Adobe Reader. If you don't already have Adobe Reader, you can download it for free.)

Reviving the art of letter writing

At the Electric Literature website, each month, Anna Knoebel posts "letters from prominent writers and other artists." This must be a new series, because I can only find two letters posted...one from September and one from earlier this month.

My favorite is the letter by Harper Lee, but maybe that's because "To Kill a Mockingbird" is probably my favorite book. 

The stories Knoebel has written are well worth your time to read. I enjoyed them!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Great Column About Letter Writing

In "Remember When We Used to Write?" David Bangert writes about the letters he used to write to his friend Tom. Bangert is a columnist for the Journal & Courier in Lafayette, Indiana. His address is listed at the end of the column, in case you're interested in writing him a letter.

Saving the U.S. Postal Service

If you're interested in writing and mailing letters, postcards, mailart, packages, etc., you've probably heard about the issues the U.S. Postal Service is facing. According to a postal service representative who spoke at a small post office in a nearby town last week, the USPS is looking at closing 3,700 post offices this year. You can read the local story in the Lake Country Sun newspaper (you may have to scroll down a little bit).

The plan also includes the elimination of thousands of USPS jobs, city carrier routes and rural routes. There's a real possibility that this could affect you and maybe even your business, if you depend on the postal service for mailing products, invoices, etc.

There are a few blogs and websites that are staying on top of the situation. Check them out when you can:

Save the Postal Service White House Petition
Save the Post Office blog
Save America's Postal Service website
Send the Love support and idea page

(Photo from the USPS.com site's Newsroom)


Monday, October 10, 2011

In your letter - Reo Speedwagon







Back when this blog first started, we tried to think of songs, books, movies, etc. that were about letter writing. Here's a "classic" letter song! Enjoy the trip back to 1980.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Article discusses results of less letter writing

An article released today by the Associated Press addresses the issue of the decline in letter writing (for a slightly different version of the story, look here). Writer Randolph E. Schmid looks at the topic from the aspect of the post office, as well as from a historical perspective.

In part, one version of the article says:
The loss to what people in the future know about us today may be incalculable.

In earlier times the "art" of letter writing was formally taught, explained Webster Newbold, a professor of English at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind.

"Letters were the prime medium of communication among individuals and even important in communities as letters were shared, read aloud and published," he said. "Letters did the cultural work that academic journals, book reviews, magazines, legal documents, business memos, diplomatic cables, etc. do now. They were also obviously important in more intimate senses, among family, close friends, lovers, and suitors in initiating and preserving personal relationships and holding things together when distance was a real and unsurmountable obstacle."
The full article is an interesting read.

I do wonder...how will the decline in letter writing affect future generations' comprehension of the past. What do you think?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

U.S. Postal Service in danger

According to a recent article in the New York Times, the U.S. Postal Service is in danger of having to shut down this winter. To save money, some of the proposed solutions include closing some post offices, eliminating Saturday delivery and laying off employees.

Have the USPS problems affected your local post office(s)? How? What do you think of the problem and proposed solutions?

Chime in with your ideas today!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Top 40 Reasons to Write a Letter (Numbers 16-20)

We're counting down the Top 40 Reasons to Write a Letter:

#20 To express your creativity.

#19 To send good wishes of celebration.

#18 To take a break from digital.

#17 To share your new mail art skills.

#16 To make amends.

New Items in 365 Letters Etsy Shop

I've been adding a few new things to the Etsy shop...some vintage postcards and some stationery sets with handmade envelopes, mostly. If you get a chance, drop by.


 




Thursday, July 21, 2011

Top 40 Reasons to Write a Letter (Numbers 21-25)

We're counting down the top 40 reasons to write a letter. Here are reasons number 21 through 25:

#25 To reminisce with an old friend or family member

#24 To say the things you could never say in person

#23 To show your kids how it's done

#22 To personalize a greeting card

#21 To share your new mailart skills

Happy Letter Writing!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Celebrating Science with Stamps


Last month, the U.S. Postal Service released a set of stamps honoring four American scientists. This is the third American Scientists stamp set.

This set honors chemist Melvin Calvin, botanist Asa Gray, physicist Maria Goeppert Mayer, and biochemist Severo Ochoa.

Melvin Calvin was the first scientist to trace in detail the process of photosynthesis and conducted pioneering research on using plants as an alternative energy source. He won the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 1961.

Asa Gray, one of the first professional botanists in the United States, advanced the specialized field of plant geography and became the principal American advocate of evolutionary theory in the mid-nineteenth century.

Maria Goeppert Mayer developed a theoretical model that helped explain the structure of the atomic nucleus; for this work she became the only woman other than Marie Curie to win a Nobel Prize in physics.

Severo Ochoa, a biochemist, was the first scientist to synthesize ribonucleic acid (RNA) and competed in the race to decipher the genetic code. Ochoa won the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine in 1959.

For each stamp in this block of four, art director Ethel Kessler collaborated with Greg Berger of Bethesda, MD, to create a collage featuring a photograph and signature of the scientist, along with items such as equations and diagrams that are associated with the scientist’s research.

For more information about the stamps, visit the U.S.P.S. website story about the stamps.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Letter to Yourself Tips

The Madame Noire website has a nice article by Veronica Wells about Writing a Letter to Yourself.  Check out what she has to say about the letter she wrote to herself and the tips she offers for writing your own letter.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Top 40 Reasons to Write a Letter (Numbers 26-30)

We're counting down the top 40 reasons to write a letter, and so far, we're up to Number 30.

#30 To ease someone's lonliness.

#29 So that you might get a letter in return.

#28 To connect with an older or younger generation.

#27 To accompany something that you need to mail to someone, clippings, a book, etc.

#26 To express your opinion.

Happy letterwriting!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Cute article about envelopes, mail art, etc.

I get "Deliver" magazine, a publication by the U.S. Postal Service for people who do marketing, specifically direct mail marketing. The "Last Word" column in the latest issue in "The Envelope Opens Up: Interview with an Icon."

It's an interview with "the noble business envelope," aka "Enny." By the way, he speaks with a British accent, since Edwin Hill and Warren de la Rue, who patented the first machine to cut and crease envelopes way back in 1845, were British.

My favorite parts of the "interview":

DELIVER: What’s your opinion of Mail Art?

ENNY: Love it, love it, mate! I’ve got an ego like anyone else, ya know. I like to be special, colorful, to stand out from the pile. And the more distinctive I am, the more effective I can be as a prospecting tool. Hey, I’m like a pickaxe! A “prospecting tool,” get it?

DELIVER: Oh, we got it. Enny, what are some of your favorite things?

ENNY: Let’s see… Celebrity stamps. Pen pals. Successful marketing campaigns where I get to seal the deal. Windows — I’m the trans parent type, ya know? Barcodes. Thank-you letters. ESD, Electronic Stamp Distribution. Messaging on me outside. Being certified or registered — what power being all official! Being spritzed with cologne or some other pretty scent. Oh, and definitely, recycling.

DELIVER: And your dislikes?

ENNY: Too much saliva. E-mail strings. Poison pen letters. “Return to Sender.” Hot wax seals — how’d you like to have something all heated up and sticky pressed onto your backside, eh? Oh, and shredders. We lost Uncle Henry to a crosscut, high-speed job back in ’06. Me aunt went all to pieces.

If you want to download "Deliver," visit the website www.delivermagazine.com.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Kind of funny

As a letter writer, as well as an emailer and "social media" user, I found this article on the Financial Post website a little amusing.

It ponders whether or not email is "going the way of snail mail." For those of us who have been battling those who call "letter writing" anachronistic, old fashioned, out-dated, etc., it's an interesting situation to suddenly have emailers clamoring to get in our lifeboat.

The main (but short) article includes a link to another post listing the best alternatives to email.

Sherwood Schwartz's Goodbye Letter

Maybe you recognize his name or maybe you don't. If you're old enough, or even if you're younger but have watched a lot of old TV re-runs, you'd definitely recognize some of his work.... "Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip..." or maybe... "Here's the story of a lovely lady, who was bringing up three very lovely girls...."

Sherwood Schwartz, who created the TV shows "Gilligan's Island" and "The Brady Bunch," died Tuesday, July 12, 2011. He was a writer, and he made arrangements so that after his death, a letter that he had written would be published in The Hollywood Reporter publication.

You can read Schwartz's farewell letter to his family and fans on the THR website.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Delightful Canadian Essay about Letter Writing

I came across a great essay by Paige Raymond Kovach on The Globe and Mail website. "If you want a letter, you have to write one first" chronicles her interest in letter writing, especially her correspondence with her Auntie Anne.

Paige writes:
"I caught the letter-writing bug. While still home in Victoria and studying at university, I wrote to friends who were studying and living in France and China. We shared our hopes and travels, and chronicled our love lives. I have boxes filled with their letters, too."

 Paige is now teaching her kids to write letters, too, passing along the do's and don'ts of letter writing:
"We need to always use the formal salutation “dear” and formal closing “love.” Because being dear to someone and telling them we love them is what we all want to get in the mail, especially when the sentiment is handwritten."
Click on that link above to read the entire, lovely essay.

Mark Twain Honored with U.S. Stamp

A few weeks ago, U.S. author and humorist Mark Twain (1835-1910) was honored with a first-class (Forever) U.S. postage stamp.

The postage stamp features a portrait of an older Twain with a steamboat in the background, evoking a way of life along the Mississippi River that played a huge role in many of Twain’s works, as well as in his own life. Art director and stamp designer Phil Jordan collaborated with stamp artist Gregory Manchess, who based his portrait of Twain on a photograph taken around 1907.

The stamps cost 44 cents each and are available in panes of 20 or blocks of 10 and 4. Additionally, related products, such as first day covers, ceremony programs, etc. are available.

For more information about the stamp and the ceremony introducing the stamp, visit the U.S. Postal Service website.

Five More Reasons to Write Letters (31-35 of 40 Reasons)

We're counting down the Top 40 reasons to write a letter. Here are the next five:

#35 As a random act of kindness.

#34 To exchange items of interest

#33 To introduce someone to the joys of letter writing

#32 To vent your frustrations about something (this type of letter may or may not be mailed)

#31 To practice your penmanship

Monday, July 11, 2011

Counting Down 40 Reasons to Write a Letter (36-40)

We'll do this backwards, like David Letterman does.

Top 40 Reasons to Write a Letter

Reason #40: Because you love to write letters.

Reason #39: To request something.

Reason #38: To brag...about someone else.

Reason #37: To spread joy.

Reason #36: To share stories and photos from your vacation.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

New stamp set features typewriter

 
Today, at the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in New York, the U.S. Postal Service introduced a new sheet of first class postage stamps featuring 12 of the nation’s most important and influential industrial designers.

The designers who are honored on individual stamps include Peter Müller-Munk, Frederick Hurten Rhead, Raymond Loewy, Donald Deskey, Walter Dorwin Teague, Henry Dreyfuss, Norman Bel Geddes, Dave Chapman, Greta von Nessen, Eliot Noyes, Russel Wright and Gilbert Rohde.

“Encompassing everything from furniture and electric kitchen appliances to corporate office buildings and passenger trains, the work of these designers defined the look of modern America, and in doing, revolutionized the way we live and work,” said Dean Granholm, Postal Service vice president of Delivery and Post Office Operations, at today’s ceremony.

One stamp showcases an item that might be of particular interest to letter writers — the 1961 Selectric typewriter, designed by Eliot Noyes. The USPS also released some information about each of the designers. Here's what they had to say about Noyes:

Eliot Noyes 
(b. Aug. 12, 1910, Boston, MA; d. Jul. 18, 1977, New Canaan, CT) Eliot Noyes bridged the gap between business and art, transforming the industrial design profession into more than just a commercial venture. Rather than continue the practice of changing a product’s design every year, Noyes persuaded his corporate clients to adopt long-lasting design principles instead. He is best remembered for his long working relationship with IBM, for whom he designed buildings, interiors and a range of office equipment, like the iconic 1961 “Selectric” typewriter pictured on the stamp. He also helped IBM and other companies develop a distinct and consistent identity.

In 1940, two years after earning a master’s degree in architecture from Harvard University, Noyes became the first director of industrial design at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. His relationship with IBM began after World War II, when he designed the company’s 1947 Model A electric typewriter as design director for the Norman Bel Geddes design firm. When the Bel Geddes office closed, IBM retained Noyes as a consultant designer, eventually appointing him the consulting director of corporate design in 1956, a position he held until his death in 1977. Noyes also ran his own office in New Canaan, Connecticut, serving as consulting director of design for Westinghouse and Mobil. He served as advisor to the president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1972 to 1977.
For more information, visit the USPS website.

US Postal Service seeking financial assistance

It's no surprise to anyone who's been following news of the U.S. Postal Service that the post office is in financial trouble. If you're a letter writer, you know how few of us there are out there, compared to past generations. 

Here's some information from a recent USPS news release:

The U.S. Postal Service (USPS) has asked members of Congress to enact legislation to return the organization to financial stability.

In a letter signed jointly by Board of Governors Chairman Louis Giuliano and Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe, USPS urged Senator Hutchison to support action to:

·         Eliminate current mandates requiring $5.5 billion annual retiree health benefit pre-payments;
·         Allow the Postal Service to access Civil Service Retirement System and Federal Employee Retiree System (FERS) surpluses; and
·         Give the Postal Service the authority to determine the frequency of mail delivery.

USPS is in “a dire financial predicament” according to Giuliano and Donahoe, despite ongoing aggressive cost-reduction initiatives. Over the last four fiscal years, the Postal Service has reduced its size by 110,000 career positions and saved $12 billion in costs.

Absent legislation this fiscal year, Giuliano and Donahoe said making the mandated $5.5 billion pre-payment due Sept. 30 will not be possible. “This pre-payment for future retiree health benefits is no longer tenable given present-day financial challenges,” they said.

Federal retirement law also has resulted in a $6.9 billion surplus for Postal Service contributions into the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS). The letter calls for these funds to be restored to the Postal Service to help avoid insolvency. The Postal Service informed the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) that it is suspending employer contributions for the defined benefit portion of FERS annuities effective June 24.

The Postal Service will continue to transmit employees’ FERS contributions to OPM, as well as employer automatic and matching contributions and employee contributions to the Thrift Savings Plan, and employees will continue to receive service credit. The annuity payment suspension is an emergency cash conservation measure expected to free about $800 million in the current fiscal year.

The letter states a cash shortfall is projected to occur as early as October: “The Postal Service is facing the real prospect that it will not be able to meet payroll next (fiscal) year, thus disrupting mail delivery.”

The Postal Service has been communicating regularly with Congress and the Administration about its serious financial position, expressing support for provisions of two separate pieces of legislation introduced by Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE) and by Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), respectively. 

“The need for legislative change is immediate,” Giuliano and Donahoe said. “We urge your support of this vital postal legislation and ask that you work for immediate enactment this fiscal year to avoid the possibility of mail and package delivery disruptions.”

The Postal Service receives no tax dollars for operating expenses, and relies on the sale of postage, products and services to fund its operations.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

"Love Letter" Song/Video

Just when the old-timers get to thinking that the younger generation doesn't even know what a pen and paper are, something like this comes out.

Rapper Shwayze and hip-hop duo The Cataracs team up in a video for the song "Love Letter," which features a love letter being written in the background. The website Pop Crush has an article about the video, "Shwayze 'Love Letter' Video Explores Lost Art of Letter Writing."

And, the video is online in several places, including YouTube. For my more conservative readers, I will warn you, the song does include a potentially objectionable word and some love-is-like-a-drug references, but overall, it's a cute song. And, it's about writing love letters!


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Letters in the News

Before she was the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton wrote a letter to the All England Club, thanking the club for its hospitality during her trip to Wimbledon. The letter was written in 2008 but has recently been put on display at the club.

Unfortunately, the letter contained a couple of spelling mistakes, and that is garnering all of the attention now. I hope all of the negative publicity doesn't discourage Kate or anyone else from writing letters.

I'm a professional editor, but I take that hat off when I'm reading and writing letters. OK, so maybe back in my younger days I might have said something to my brother about a spelling or grammar mistake he may or may not have made in a letter he wrote to me. But that was just the big sister in me. And, as a mom, I do try to convince my 11-year-old to read over emails and text messages before she sends them out. But, I'm sure even my own letters, emails, text messages and even blog posts have mistakes in them. So, I try not to judge others harshly.

Friday, June 17, 2011

More reasons to hand-write letters

Despite the many reasons we have nowadays for communicating in non-handwriting ways — the speed of a text message, the convenience of a phone call, the ease of an email — there are a few good reasons to keep on writing by hand and to encourage youngsters to do the same.

According to a recent LA Times article, The Many Perks of Good Handwriting, "handwriting increases brain activity, hones fine motor skills, and can predict a child's academic success..." Additionally, the article states, handwriting instills confidence and improves memory. All good reasons to keep writing those letters!

If you're interested in practicing your handwriting or helping someone else with their handwriting, do an internet search for "handwriting practice sheets" or some similar phrase. The website handwritingworksheets.com lets you make practice worksheets using any word(s) you want to practice.

If you're looking for some examples of some old-fashioned handwriting styles, visit the website of the International Association of Master Penmen, Engrossers and Teachers of Handwriting. There are all sorts of styles of handwriting illustrated there, as well as some lined pages you can print out to practice on.


(Clip art courtesy of http://www.free-clipart-pictures.net)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Goin' Green with the Mail

In April, the U.S. Postal Service released the new "Go Green" postage stamps, along with a wide variety of great items to complement the stamps.

There's even a special section of the U.S.P.S. online store dedicated to the "Go Green" line of products.


According to the "USA Philatelic" publication, the development of the "Go Green" stamps and other products was a major undertaking. After considering many different designs and options for the stamps, the U.S.P.S. decided on 16 different stamp designs, each showing an action you can take to "reduce our environmental footprint."


“We’re creating a culture of conservation at the Postal Service that will have a lasting impact in our workplace and our communities,” said Ronald A. Stroman, Deputy Postmaster General. “The Go Green stamps carry 16 simple, green messages that have the power to help make the world a better place for us and future generations.”

The stamps are "Forever" stamps, for use on First Class mail. The stamps and philatelic products can be ordered online at usps.com/green.



The U.S.P.S. has been environmentally friendly since 1899 when it tested the first electric vehicle in Buffalo, NY. Today, the agency operates more than 44,000 alternative fuel capable mail delivery vehicles across the country, including ethanol, biodiesel, compressed natural gas and electric. Since 2005, USPS has increased its use of alternative fuels 133 percent, and since 2003, has reduced its facility energy use 28 percent. To learn more about USPS sustainability initiatives, visit the USPS green newsroom and usps.com/green.

The Postal Service chose the Go Green stamps as this year’s social awareness stamps to help raise awareness about helping the environment.

In addition to offering the stamps and the typical philatelic products (first day covers, digital postmarks, etc.), the Go Green line also includes tote bags, postcards, playing cards and a family activity kit, which includes stamps, a poster, fold-and-mail stationery and access to online games.








Monday, June 13, 2011

Letters in the News

The BBC published a story today about an upcoming auction of a letter written by Elvis Presley. If you click on the link, there's a picture of the letter.

It seems that a British woman who was a long-time Elvis fan kept the letter in her handbag for many years. After she died, the family discovered the letter.

What an impact that letter must have had on her life!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Stories about Letters

I recently came across a little paperback that I couldn't resist buying. With a title like "Across the Miles: Tales of Correspondence" and an author like Lucy Maud Montgomery, author of "Anne of Green Gables," how could I turn it down?

I've been reading a little bit every night, and I've been enjoying it. Too often, I read non-fiction in an attempt to solve some problem or further educate myself on a topic, but this little book is just a collection of fun to read, happy ending short stories.

From what I've read online, Rea Wilmshurst compiled a collection of Montgomery's previously published short stories into a small book. The 18 stories all deal with letters, journals, messages, etc. You can read more on the very interesting website LMM-Anne.net . There are links to the stories there. You can also read those and other Montgomery stories online at The Project Gutenberg.

If you're looking for some light reading and enjoy happy endings and stories about letter writing, I'd suggest "Across the Miles" for your summer reading list.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Beautiful New Love Stamps

Last month, the U.S. Postal Service released another set of stamps in its Love series, which started in 1973. The "Garden of Love" stamps feature an abstract garden of bright flowers, a butterfly, a strawberry and doves, interlaced with vines that run from one stamp to another. Each prominent element of the design is in the shape of a heart. The deep blue background is reminiscent of a brilliant summer sky. The word “Love” sits on top each stamp.

The stamp was designed by award-winning illustrator José Ortega of New York City and Toronto. He said, "Garden of Love depicts the abundance of life, its generosity, whose spirit is to be shared by all its creatures. Love's definition is broader than romantic love. Love is that colorful, full feeling you get when you enjoy being a part of and sharing in the generosity of life."

The stamps are appropriate for Father's Day cards, love letters, birthday wishes...anytime the sender wants to add an extra message of love.

“At the Postal Service, we understand the power our stamps have in helping to celebrate special events that require a special stamp of approval,” said Ellen Williams, a member of the Postal Service’s Board of Governors, who dedicated the stamps during a special ceremony held at the Yew Dell Botanical Gardens. 

“As you celebrate all of the wonderful events of spring — Father’s Day, graduations and weddings, or whatever the occasion, remember the Garden of Love stamps,” Williams said. “They’re a nice little extra on everything you mail. They’ll also serve as a reminder that no matter what the season or what the reason, the Garden of Love stamps are the perfect way to send love, spread cheer, say congratulations or show you care.”

The Garden of Love stamps are being issued as Forever stamps. Forever stamps are always equal in value to the current First-Class Mail one-ounce rate.

In addition to being available as a pane of 20 or a block of 10, the new stamps are offered in five philatelic products:
  • 576163, First-Day Cover Set of 10, $8.80
  • 576168, Digital Color Postmark Set of 10, $16.00 (at right)
  • 576191, Ceremony Program, $6.95
  • 576194, Notecards Set of 10, $14.95 (pictured below)
  • 576199, Keepsake Pane and Digital Color Postmark Set of 10, $24.95
 


 

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Looking for some new stationery?

The Smithsonian's National Postal Museum has a "create your own stationery" page. Visitors to the website can choose themes, such as "Airmail" or "Pony Express," as well as a border and background color. Once the stationery is designed to your liking, print it out and write a letter!

To get started, go to the Write a Letter page on the museum's website.


Interesting story about communicating with soldiers

Since I mentioned the American Experience episode "War Letters" earlier this week, I thought today I would point you in the direction of another article about writing letters to soldiers. Doug Zellmer wrote "Communication from the frontlines: Letters used to rule, but now troops are just a click away from home" for The Northwestern in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. It's interesting to read Zellmer's story about how communication has changed over the decades. (Note: I'm having a little trouble with the link, but it seems to work from time to time. Keep trying, if it doesn't work the first time.)

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Saving the Vanishing Species Stamps

Earlier this month, the U.S. Postal Service released a new stamp that will benefit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to support the Multinational Species Conservation Funds. Net proceeds from the sales of the stamp will be divided among the African Elephant Conservation Fund, Asian Elephant Conservation Fund, Great Ape Conservation Fund, Rhinoceros and Tiger Conservation Fund and Marine Turtle Conservation Fund.

The stamp features  an illustration of a tiger cub by artist Nancy Stahl. The artwork on the full sheet of 20 stamps is dark green and includes silhouettes of a rhinoceros, a tiger, a gorilla, Asian and African elephants and a marine turtle. Stahl based both the stamp art and the silhouettes on photographs of wildlife. The phrases “Save Vanishing Species” and “Amur tiger cub” appear on the left side of the stamp. Derry Noyes served as the art director, designer and typographer for the stamp.

This is a "semipostal," a stamp that is sold at a cost higher than the rate required for a first class letter; the excess money collected is used to benefit a specific cause. In the past, semipostal stamps have benefited breast cancer research, FEMA and programs to stop family violence.

The Vanishing Species stamp costs 55-cents each but is a first class letter stamp, worth 44-cents in postage.

For more information, visit www.usps.com.



War Letters

The PBS program "American Experience" showed a segment on "War Letters." It is a documentary-style film that features actors and actresses reading the real letters written to and from Americans serving during wartime, from the Revolutionary War to the Persian Gulf War.

I just watched the 52-minute film online, and I can tell you that it is heart-wrenching and, at times, heart-breaking. Additionally, some of the things they write about and some of the pictures and videos that accompany the letters show the graphic violence that is war.

I think the film also illustrates the importance of writing letters, especially to those at war, as well as the benefits of saving letters. Like few other formats, letters preserve what someone is thinking at a specific time and place. Reading them years later gives us more insight into history than the text books can possibly offer.

But, I think the lessons learned from the film can be carried over beyond soldiers and wartime. Writing,  saving, reading and re-reading letters from and about all aspects of life is something that our society needs to keep everyday life in perspective.

You can watch "American Experience: War Letters" online. There's also a website with additional video and interviews, a book, a related initiative to preserve correspondence from U.S. veterans — The Legacy Project, information about preserving your letters, and much more. Follow the links on the two main websites (PBS and The Legacy Project). 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


 On April 21, 2011, in Washington, DC, the U.S. Postal Service issued the Wedding Roses commemorative stamp, which shows two white roses resting atop a piece of wedding correspondence. A white ribbon is visible in the background.



The new stamp is a “Forever” stamp, priced at 44 cents. in one design in a pane of 20 stamps. It is also available as a block of 10 stamps or a block of four stamps. For collectors, the stamp is available as a First Day Cover for  88 cents, as a Digital Color Postmark for $1.60, and as a Keepsake package that includes the Digital Color Postmark and a pane of 20 stamps for a total of $10.95. You can order online now.

Designed by Ethel Kessler from Bethesda, Maryland, the Wedding Roses stamp features a photograph taken by Renée Comet of Washington, DC.

The stamp is meant for use on the RSVP envelope often enclosed with a wedding invitation and on announcements, thank-you notes and other correspondence.

Wedding Roses can be combined with the Postal Service’s other wedding-themed stamps, including the 44-cent Wedding Rings stamp and the 61-cent Wedding Cake stamp (for letters up to two ounces, such as wedding invitations). There are also several custom stamps with wedding themes, but they are priced higher.
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