Monday, June 23, 2014

Making friends with a letter

When a little kid wants to make a new friend, it's usually not a big deal for him or her to just walk up to another youngster on the playground and say, "Hi! Wanna play?" Then, they run off toward the seesaws or swings. Even shy children are often approached by other kids and quickly find themselves in the middle of a group of new friends.

It's not always so easy for adults to make new friends. By the time we're grown, we've developed a layer of self-consciousness that makes us second-guess ourselves. Before we have a chance to greet someone, we often hear a little voice in our heads saying, "What if they say no? What if they don't like me? What if I have broccoli stuck in my teeth?" Sometimes, what should be a ready-made friend pool, such as an office at work or a classroom at college seems full of cliques and people who already know each other.

Here's how I reconnected with an old acquaintance several years ago and developed a long-time friendship....I wrote her a letter. Specifically, I wrote her a short note inviting her to coffee.

We had gone to college together and then worked at the same place for a couple of years. But, at the time I wrote the letter, we were both freelance writing from home. I was feeling rather isolated from the working world and wanted to connect with someone...make a friend. Even though I was accustomed to calling up strangers and interviewing them over the phone, I was suddenly shy when thinking about calling up this old friend I had grown apart from.

So, even though we lived in the same city, I wrote her a letter. I don't remember exactly what I wrote. I know I invited her to meet me for coffee sometime soon to catch up on our lives and talk about writing. I think I probably included my phone number in the note, and I'm pretty sure she called me to schedule a "date."

We live in different towns now, but we still get together from time to time, to talk over old times, discuss our careers and families, etc.

If you're looking for a friend but think the art of adult friend-making is kind of awkward, consider writing a letter. You might even explain that awkwardness in the letter:

Dear Jane,

Twenty years ago, I would've just said, "You wanna come over and play?" but that doesn't seem appropriate for adults, does it? However, I've noticed your interest in art and was wondering if you'd like to meet for coffee sometime and then take in that new exhibit at the museum. My husband doesn't enjoy modern art, and my daughter would probably be texting the whole time. If you're interested, please give me a call at (123) 456-7890 or email me at, if you'd prefer.

I hope to hear from you soon!


Monday, June 16, 2014

World-wide Postal Woes

Many who write letters today are aware of the troubles their local postal services are facing. As fewer people write and mail letters, and as fewer bills, advertisements and other information are sent by mail, the post offices are struggling — and often failing — to stay relevant and solvent.

Here in the U.S., some proposed solutions include reducing mail delivery from six days a week to five or fewer, doing away with house-by-house delivery and replacing the personal mailboxes with large, neighborhood boxes.

Despite our 21st century access to worldwide news 24-hours a day, we often don't see the news that similar issues are going on all over the globe. The Sydney Morning Herald recently printed an article about how "Snail Mail is crawling to a standstill" in Australia.

Aside from all of the statistics and data listed in the article, one of the most interesting things was the part about the Australia Post's Education website section. The page aimed at students offers tips for letter writing; some history of the alphabet, paper, pens and more; an interactive letter writing tool; and much more.

It would be nice if the U.S. Postal Service offered some educational information like that on its website, some proactive marketing. What a fun job that would be...helping to save the postal service by teaching the younger generation the joys of letter writing!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Rarest stamp in the world

The British Guiana at Sotheby's.
Although the sending of written messages from one person to another surely has been around since about the time the written language was invented and formal delivery systems have existed for more than 2,000 years, the concept of the postage stamp is relatively new. Based on historical accounts, the modern stamp came about in the early- to mid-1800s.

One of the earliest and most rare postage stamps, the One-Cent Black on Magenta British Guiana stamp is scheduled to be auctioned off at 7 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time Tuesday, June 17, 2014, in New York by Sotheby's.

It is estimated to be purchased for $10,000,000 to $20,000,000. No, you did not read that wrong. Ten to twenty million U.S. dollars.

As far as anyone knows, this is the only copy of this stamp to exist in the world. The entire history of the stamp is detailed on the Sotheby's website, along with a couple of short videos on the history of the British Guiana.

If you have an interest in the history of stamps, this is a fascinating story. I encourage you to visit the site and read the entire story.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Summer Letter Writing Ideas

As those of us in the northern hemisphere are heading in to summer, many will have more time for writing letters. The days are longer, some are on long vacations, etc.

If you find yourself facing letterwriter's block, here are some ideas to get your next missive off to a good start:

1. Write about summer vacations -- your favorite vacation from the past, your dream vacation, etc. If you're not the vacationing type, write about why you're not taking a vacation. What do you do instead? Have you ever planned a "staycation"? Write about it in a letter!

2. Keeping cool -- Do you live in a hot climate, or is it more moderate where you live? Do you have air conditioning? What else do you do to keep cool? Go swimming, visit the museum, drink ice-cold lemonade?

3. Speaking of lemonade...write about your favorite summer snacks and beverages. What's your favorite ice cream? Cold drink? Do you have a recipe? Send it in the letter!

4. Outdoor activities — With warmer days and better weather, many people spend extra hours outdoors during the summer. What are some of your favorite outdoor activities? Softball? Tennis? Sunbathing? Gardening? Seeking shade?

5. The big picture — Summer is the time that many big, so-called block-buster movies are released. What are your favorite types of movies? Do you like action films or romances? Animation or documentary? Tell your letter's recipient all about it (just don't give away the ending!).

If your summer is jam-packed with activities, buy some postcards or small notecards for jotting off quick notes that let you stay in touch with your penpals all summer long.

(Clip art courtesy of

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Letters from Camp

For those kids who are lucky enough to get to go to summer camp, the letter home is a rite of passage. Often, camps have a time of the day set aside for resting, reading and writing letters.

Nowadays, many camps have password-protected websites that parents can go to and see photos of their kids participating in various camp activities. That helps to ease the anxiety many parents feel, but it doesn't really take the place of a handwritten letter from your child.

If your child is going off to camp this summer, check to see what the options for letterwriting are. Some camps have stores with accounts that parents can put money on, so that your child can buy stamps, postcards, etc. But, there's no guarantee they won't spend all the money on T-shirts and baseball caps.

Another idea is to pack a letter writing kit, complete with stamps, stationery and envelopes pre-addressed with your address on them. Even that's no guarantee you'll get a letter, but it may increase the odds.

Maybe you'll get a letter as entertaining as the one Liesl Testwuide writes about on her website, Hairpin Turns Ahead.
Liesl Testwuide
Liesl Testwuide
Liesl Testwuide
Liesl Testwuide
Liesl Testwuide

Monday, June 9, 2014

Another article supporting handwriting

Screenshot of The New York Times article.
The New York Times recently published an extensive article. "What's Lost as Handwriting Fades?" by Maria Konnikova, citing scientific research to support the benefits of writing by hand.

In part, the story states:
When the children composed text by hand, they not only consistently produced more words more quickly than they did on a keyboard, but expressed more ideas. And brain imaging in the oldest subjects suggested that the connection between writing and idea generation went even further. When these children were asked to come up with ideas for a composition, the ones with better handwriting exhibited greater neural activation in areas associated with working memory — and increased overall activation in the reading and writing networks.
 Not everyone in the article puts as much importance on handwriting, but most of the research suggests great benefits from handwriting.

It's an interesting article that, while not about letterwriting, complements many of the things letter writers are interested in. Take a look at the complete article!

Monday, June 2, 2014

Mike Myers stamp

Mike Myers on the CBS Sunday Morning Show

According to the CBS Sunday Morning show, comedian/actor/filmmaker Mike Myers of "Saturday Night Live" and "Austin Powers" fame will be featured on a Canada Post stamp. On the segment that aired Sunday, June 1, it looked like CBS briefly showed a picture of the new stamp. But, I can't find any other news or images about it online. And, CBS doesn't seem to have a video of the full segment loaded up. But, you can read a story version of the interview online. They talk about the stamp at the end of the story.

Although the story and some comments I've seen online indicate there are no other people on Canadian stamps besides Queen Elizabeth II and Mike Myers, a quick look at Canada Post reveals that to be untrue. There seem to be several other people on Canadian stamps.

Update: Thanks to James who posted a link to the Sunday Morning Show's Google+ page, we can get a good look at that stamp (see the embedded file below):

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