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.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

'I wrote you 365 letters!'

A while back, I was trying to think of movies that had to do with letter writing. I forgot all about the letter-writing aspect of "The Notebook."

It's a tear-jerker of a movie, but one of my favorites. (I loved the book, too.)

There are several clips from the movie online. This is the scene where Noah tells Allie that he wrote to her every day for a year. And this is the one where she reads his letter.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Send an encouraging note

Are you having problems thinking of who to write to? Do you have a friend or relative who has lost his or her job? Send them a cheery note.

You don't even have to mention the job loss, if you don't want to. Just let them know that you're thinking of them. Maybe share a magazine clipping or print something off of the Internet to include.

If you can, suggest a lunch together. Be specific. Say something like, "I'd love to have lunch with you next week. I've been wanting to try that new sandwich shop down on Main Street. I'll call you this weekend to see when our schedules match-up."

Of course, put it in your own words. Whatever works for you. "Hey, Dude! Let's grab a burger at Joe's next week. I'll text you this weekend to set a time."

If you're comfortable offering advice, do it gently. "If I can help with your job search, just let me know. I helped my cousin with his resume last month." Or, maybe, "I have a lot of information left over from my job hunt last year; I'd be happy to share it with you, if you're interested."

Even though this blog is about letter writing, if you think this particular friend won't write back via snail mail, be sure to provide your e-mail address, cell phone number, etc. Give him/her some way of getting in touch with you.

Things to avoid: Pity, depressing stories about how your nephew has been out of work for three years, unsolicited advice, "I told you so" phrases, blame, etc.

Things to include: Normal conversations and news, friendly tone, compassion, understanding, an offer to help, etc.

The main thing is to just get a letter in the mail.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Letter writing challenging

Katy Wolk-Stanley over at The Non-Consumer Advocate blog posted a challenge a few weeks ago. She's asking everyone to write a real letter...with pen and paper... and then post a comment about it on her blog.

Here's what she has to say about letter writing:

Nothing feels quite like picking up the pile of daily mail and pulling out a real handwritten letter.

The anticipation, the honor that someone took the time to construct a letter.

Ahh . . . .

I like Katy. Why don't you stop in on her blog and leave a comment about letter writing!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Organizing your supplies

If you're the crafty type, you might find this project interesting: It's the Family Connection Letter Writing Center at Craftzine.com.

The authors of the article and creators of the project have this to say about letter writing:

One of the tools we're big fans of for building lifelong connection is maintaining ties via the written word. Letters and postcards sent to family and friends far and wide make us feel attached for now and for the long haul. And who doesn't love to get a handwritten letter in the mailbox, amidst all of the bills and bulk mail?

The letter writing center hangs on the wall and has spaces for stamps, envelopes, address book, cards, ideas and pens.

It surely would keep it all organized!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Fun finds

In snooping around for letter writing stuff, I came across a Web site I hadn't seen before: LetterWriting.com.

It's mostly a collection of links to several sites. There are great writing-related rubber stamps at The Rubber Stamp Queen and a collection of Alice in Wonderland-themed electronic postcards.

Another link takes you to the beautiful note cards featuring Deborah Marchant's artwork at Simple Minds, aka DeWit-Marchant Fine Art and Graphics, Web site. The note cards are divided into categories: Writers, Readers, The Cat and Connections. I think my favorite is the note card titled "Messages of Spring," which depicts a rural mailbox with its red flag up and a girl walking back to the house down a long country driveway. The quote that is under the note card on the Web site says:

"As long as there are postmen, life will have zest." William James

The LetterWriting Web site also has a link to a book-buying Web site called Cash4Books.net.
All in all, it was an interesting visit to LetterWriting.com. Make a visit yourself.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Father's Day

This coming Sunday, June 21, will be Father's Day in many countries around the world.

Did you send your mom a letter for Mother's Day? Are you looking for a great gift for Dad? You know, a letter will be a cherished present for him, too.

What to say? Oh, tell him you love him. Recount a tale of one of your children. Recall a memory from your past that involves the two of you together. Tell him you love him.

Oh, sure. Get him a card with pictures of fishing gear or snow-capped mountains. Buy him a new flashlight, a striped tie or new barbecue grill utensils. And, then, personalize it all with a handwritten letter.

Don't forget...Father's Day is just a few days away.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Writing to our children

I don't know if all kids are like my daughter, but sometimes she seems embarrassed when I tell her how proud I am of her. I think maybe a lot of people are like that.

Now, of course, that doesn't mean I'm going to stop telling her that. I think she needs to hear it.

But, just in case she's not listening when I say it out loud, I try to take the time to write those sentiments in a letter every now and then. That way, she'll have the words "I'm proud of you" around long after our conversation has faded.

I hope that she'll save the letters and have them to look back on throughout her lifetime. Not to make me look good, but so that she'll always know how loved she is.

Are there children in your life that you can write to today? Here are a few tips:

* Keep it on the appropriate age level. Write simply and sweetly.
* Be specific. If you're telling them that you're proud of them, tell them why.
* Use "proper" letter-writing format so they'll learn how to write a letter. Put the date at the top, use a nice salutation (Dear Susie,), end with an appropriate closing (Love, Mom; Thinking of you, Aunt Bee).
* Let them know you've been thinking about them and why.
* Share a little something from your life...mention how happy you were to see some flowers blooming today or how it's been gloomy and rainy for days and you're looking forward to some sunshine.
* Get a little nostalgic, but not too much. Share a memory from your childhood, but don't get preachy about it.
* Ask some questions...give them something to write back about.
* Write a P.S. Make it something fun.
* Include something...a bookmark, a cartoon, a puzzle, a photo.

Happy letter writing!

Friday, June 12, 2009

"...good souls who write letters..."

More from my files....

... In 1999, I printed out an article from the Internet titled "Letter-Writing--A Dying Art?" According to the notes at the top of the page, it was on the Beloit College Web site, possibly it was something posted by a student, maybe a student named Morrow. I'm not sure.

Anyway, the article quoted another article in a 1990 issue of the magazine "World Literature Today." That article from almost 20 years ago was "The Letter: A Dying Art?" by Ivar Ivask (1927-1992), the editor-in-chief of WLT at the time.

Ivask quoted Spanish poet Pedro Salinas (1891-1951):

Why are you capable of imagining a world without
letters? Without good souls who write letters, with­
out other souls who read and enjoy them, without
those third-party souls who take them from this
person to that person -- that is, a world without
senders, addressees, and letter carriers? A universe
in which all is said dryly, in abbreviated fashion,
hurriedly and on the run, without art and without

Pedro Salinas, "Defense of the Missive Letter
and of Epistolary Correspondence" ( 1948 )

All of the writers involved in the articles champion the importance of letters and letter writing in our society.

I think one of the most important things we can do to keep letter writing alive is to keep writing letters and teaching the younger generation the joys of receiving a letter in the mail.

Here are some links, if you're interested in reading more:

"Letter Writing--A Dying Art" — originally published in 1996 at www.beloit.edu

An excerpt from "The Letter: A Dying Art?" by Ivar Ivask, originally published in World Literature Today

More on Pedro Salinas

Another take on letter writing: A World Without Letters?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Vintage advice

"To put one's thoughts in a letter neatly and correctly is possible for anyone. To write fluently and gracefully is the result of training. To touch the heart of the reader, to make him chuckle, to make words paint pictures that transport another to distant scenes — these are gifts. But we can all express ourselves kindly, naturally, and in good taste. Our written words are permanent witnesses of our character. We can try to have the tone of our letters agreeable and appropriate. If one takes time to write he can make the letter an expression of his best self."
— By Edna Ingalls, co-author of "How to write letters for all occasions"

In my collection of writing books, I came across "How to Write Letters for all Occasions" by Alexander L. Sheff and Edna Ingalls (with revisions by Mary S. Allen), published in 1942.

It's divided into two sections: Business Letters and Social Letters. I found the Social Letters section quite interesting, especially the part on writing letters of condolence, which always seem difficult to pen.

Here is an example, from the book, of "a brief note of sympathy."

My Dear Susan,

Please accept my sincere sympathy for you in your sorrow.

Mary Walter

For "a longer not of sympathy":

Dear Susan,

The news of your sorrow has just reached me. I think I can realize your loss because I know how empty my world seemed when I heard of the passing of your mother. It will be very hard for all of us who knew her well to carry on without her, but we can be glad it was our privilege to have come in contact as long as we did with such a very lovely person. I shall always remember her kindness and cleverness.

Very sincerely,

The book has hundreds of sample letters on topics such as "Letters That Ask For Payment" and "Notes of Congratulations." It is still useful, some 67 years after it was first published.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


Letter-writing Quote:

It seems that email has taken away what was the best part of the letter writing process- waiting.
- Edurne Scott, Suite101.com Contributing Writer

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Who paid the postage?

There's an interesting bit of postal history detailed on the HMS Richmond Web site, dedicated to the historical re-creation of a British ship's company from the American War for Independence time period (18th century).

According to the section of the Web site titled "Letter Writing Style of 1775," at that time, the recipient paid the postage due and the amount of postage was based on the number of sheets of paper in the letter.

I guess the friends and family of those of us who can be a bit long-winded in our letter writing are happy that this practice has changed. Fortunately for those with a lot to say, mailing a letter today is quite economical.

Now, go write a letter!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Fun discovery

Sometimes, I am just amazed at how things link together, providing us with more information and enlightenment.

For me, this letter writing thing isn't something new. From letters to and from friends and relatives when I was a kid, to world-wide pen pals when I was a teenager, I've always been interested in communicating with other people.

While working on the 365 Letters project, I keep coming across newspaper clippings that I've saved through the years.

Recently I found an undated but yellowed newspaper article by Mike Harden with the Scripps Howard News Service. It was clipped from the Dallas Morning News, and the headline reads: "Letter-writing leader seeks pals, not lovers."

The article is all about Steve Sikora, who at the time lived in Albany, Calif. He published a three-times-a-year magazine called "The Letter Exchange."

According to the article, Mr. Sikora never intended for the pen pal service to be a match-making service. In fact, he's quoted as saying, "Meet minds through these pages, not bodies... Writing to at total stranger is both exciting and risky... Don't get caught up in a fantasy world."

However, the article goes on to explain, sometimes love bloomed after all. At the time the article was written, Mr. Sikora said "a couple dozen" of the thousands of pen pals he had connected had married each other.

After all these years, I still found the article interesting. And, now, with Google so handy, I checked to see of "The Letter Exchange" was still being published.

What a nice surprise! Although Mr. Sikora retired from the magazine in the year 2000, just three years later, it was revived by Gary and Lonna, who were involved with what is known as LEX in its earlier years. They are still publishing the magazine, with the next issue slated to come out later this month. And, they have a Web site for The Letter Exchange now. And, I see from some information on the LEX Web site that some of my fellow letter-writing bloggers know about LEX.

Here's the gist of the magazine....you subscribe and send in a listing about yourself. Your listing is published in the magazine without your name or address; you're identified by a LEX number. Then, other people who read the magazine, pick out listings that they're interested in and send letters to LEX. The letters are then forwarded to the appropriate person, and a penfriendship is established.

The Web site lists the current subscription prices as ranging from $21.50 to $26.50, depending on the type of delivery you want and where you live.

It looks like a great project!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Looking for some new stationery?

I came across this Web site today for making a self-mailer that doesn't require scissors, tape or glue.

It's a cute little mailer, and the site has templates that you can print out.

Have some fun this weekend and send out some letters!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Quote of the Week

I hold that the parentheses are by far the most important parts of a non-business letter.

~D.H. Lawrence

I use lots of parentheses when I write letters, and I often use ellipses (...), too.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

First postcard!

About a week ago, I mentioned that I had sent some postcards to people I found at Postcrossing. This week, I received my first postcard!

It's an interesting postcard, shaped like a bookmark and sent from a girl in Poland.

And, it looks like two of my postcards have now reached their destinations!

What international fun!

I still have four postcards en route, and I'm looking forward to receiving more postcards in the mailbox!

This is a fun complement to my letter writing project.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Making more letter writing friends

A few weeks ago, I responded to the "Receive Free Post" offer at Post Letters! It's a blog campaign to promote better letter writing.

According to the blog,
"Post Letters is a UK-based, worldwide movement to encourage, promote and take delight in the activity of writing letters and sending post. Both a call to action and a description of our time, Post Letters needs your help.

We bring people together to think about Post in the Twenty First Century, organise letter readings and writings, present you with new ideas for your post, commission artists and writers to produce new mail art, produce Post Events and much more besides."

I received my mailing last week...a sheet of paper decorated with leaves cut out of a variety of papers. It was quite elegant.

Since the purpose of Post Letters! is to encourage people to write more letters, I used that paper to write a letter to a person I found on sendsomething.net, an online list of "Mail Enthusiasts" who love to receive things in the mail. I let the recipient know where the paper came from. I even recycled the envelope from Post Letters! and used it to mail my letter to the sendsomething.net pen pal.

I just find it so interesting that there are so many sites out there dedicated to letter writing!

Monday, June 1, 2009

My stamps arrived!

As I've ventured more and more into the 21st century penpal world, I've remembered some things from the past. When I was in high school and had penpals from all over the globe, I often used the less expensive self-mailers that the post office sold. The postage was pre-printed on the all-in-one stationery/envelope. If I didn't use one of those blue mailers, I most likely used a standard U.S. Postal Service airmail/international postage stamp.

Maybe I didn't realize I didn't have to use those particular stamps; maybe I just didn't fully comprehend the popularity of "stamp art." I remember one penpal writing and asking me to use some different stamps. I'm sure he or she was collecting stamps and wanted something new for the collection.

After reading some comments on letter writing blogs and forums, I've once again realized the fun in using a variety of stamps. So, I logged on to the U.S. Postal Service's Web site and ordered some stamps.

What fun it was! I calculated all sorts of postage rates and picked out stamps in several different amounts.

It took my order a week to arrive, but to be fair, I did place the order on the Friday of a three-day weekend. Now, I'm having fun choosing just the right stamp for each envelope.
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