Sunday, December 27, 2015

Sharing news of today's weather

Ruidoso, New Mexico, Dec. 27, 2015.
(Photo by Anna Pilkington)

No matter whether you're snowed in this December day or experiencing unseasonably warm weather, take a few minutes out of your day to write a letter to a friend or relative. The weather has been big news this year all around the globe. Including information about the weather will not only be interesting to your letter's recipient, but it will also preserve your perspective for the future.

For example, almost 150 years later, we know what the weather was like in Texas in December 1869 through the letter of Adela Vick, the daughter of Little Berry Vick and Mary Caroline Boyd Vick, to her aunt Amanda Boyd back in Mississippi. She talks about sleet and rain. The letters were transcribed and analyzed by Jack Landers on the RootsWeb website. The brackets indicate some corrections or information he added to make the letter a little more understandable.

Caldwell Texas

Dec. the 28, 1869

Dear aunt [Amanda Boyd]

I seat myself to write you a few lines to let you know that we are all well
at this time and hope to find you enjoying the same blessing[.] [W]e have
got to Texas[.] We have camped in a mile of Caldwell town[.] [W]e have all
been washing today while the men was looking at some land. We was water
bound about three days. We took a road and went around to head the creek
and we come to a marsh and it was sleeting and they rode through it and
could not find a place to go out and they got a leader and we all followed
him until he could pick the best place and Beeb fell the[n] Fan fell and
they had to come back and help[.] [A]ll the other mules was all down at the
same time and pappa went on out and I was driving Joseph[']s wagon and Fan
fell again and went under the water three times and they pulled the mules
out over the land and got some oxen an[d] pulled them out. When we got to
Delhi we got on the cars and went to Monroe[.] [I]t was about forty miles[.]
[I]t took us until nine oclock in the night and it rained the hardest rain
in the morning that ever fell[,] so they said[.] I was asleep. Mother and
Papa was all sick that morning. I have been sick about half the time[.] I
had one chill[.] Mat had nine and has not got well yet. We camped in ten
miles of cousin Virginia Mathis[Matthews-?][.] [S]he is living in Limestone
County[.] Mr[.] Mathis['s] [Matthew's-?] brother-in-law told us that she was
well and doing well[.] [H]e said that Uncle Young McDowell was still living
in Arkansas. I believe I must come to a close. You must excuse all mistakes
and bad writing[.] I had to write in the wagon on the trunk. I send my love
to aunt Nancy and family.

Adela Vick

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Loving "old school"

I came across this quote and photo on Facebook this morning. It's a great sentiment to keep in mind as we head in to a new year!

words: Idil Ahmed
Posted by Evolver Social Movement on Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Paper vs. Digital

Sometimes, I turn old maps into envelopes, like these in the 365 Letters Etsy shop.
A few weeks ago, I attended a seminar presented by two women from out of town. The seminar was being offered to the citizens of the small community in which I work. The population here is less than 9,000.

It was an evening seminar, starting at 6 p.m. The same team had presented a similar seminar at another small town about 30 miles down the road earlier in the day.

When I arrived for the seminar, I saw two women getting out of a car in the parking lot. As I mentioned, these are small Texas towns, so it's fairly easy to spot the out-of-towners, especially those from the "big city." When I got into the meeting room, I saw that I was correct in guessing that the two women in the parking lot were the presenters. I was curious why they were just getting there. Typically, the presenters would arrive early and be all set-up before any of the guests arrived.

Immediately, the two women started explaining to everyone around them that they had been driving for four hours, trying to find the town. It had taken them four hours to drive 30 miles from one town to the other, a route that has only one turn on it.

It seems they were relying on their GPS device to tell them how to get there, and, in their words, "it kept sending them down non-existent roads."

I suspended logic and refrained from asking them how they got lost on "non-existent roads." And, they were running so far behind, there really wasn't time for them to explain how they took four hours to drive 30 miles. But, the entire incident reinforced the benefits of the seemingly obsessive habit I have of checking and re-checking maps — online and printed versions — before I take a trip. I have an old-fashioned road map in my car, and before I embark on a venture, I usually spend quite a bit of time on online map sites, checking out the various routes and then printing out my final plan. The great thing about the online maps is that I can zoom in to street-level and make sure I know every single detail about my trip.

The situation reminded me of 21st century personal communication. Sometimes, digital (email, texting, social media) is fine. Other times, a handwritten letter on paper is better. And, sometimes, a combination of the two...a computer written letter printed out on paper and sent through the mail best. Choose the method that is most appropriate for each situation!

Happy letter writing!

Friday, June 19, 2015

Love Letter Research

I'm always on the lookout for stories about letter writing. It's always such a joy to see confirmation that handwritten correspondence is still important to people.

This week, I ran across a story about Michelle Janning, a college sociology professor at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington. She has studied the way people keep letters, why they keep them, and so forth.

In a blog post she wrote last year, Michelle said, "I study where people store love letters, whether they are paper or digital, how often they look at them, and whether they are located “on” or “in” things. ... Interestingly, both men and women in my research prefer to save the paper love letters over digital letters like emails and texts. There’s something more gratifying about holding and folding than swiping and pinching, I guess."

You can read more of that blog post here.

You can read more about Michelle Janning's research on her blog.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Help Find Those Who Are Missing

In the small town of Graham, Texas, where I work, a young mother has been missing since the end of May. Leah Martin, 22, went to the local high school graduation and then disappeared within an hour of leaving the event. There's been no sign of her at all. Her family has assured everyone that she never would have left voluntarily, and they've been searching for her since she vanished.

Although Leah is an adult, her disappearance made me think of the new stamps issued by the US Postal Service just 11 days before that graduation night. The "Missing Children" stamp features the words "Forget-Me-Not" and a picture of a bouquet of the purple flowers. At the bottom of the Forever first-class postage stamp is the reminder: Help Find Missing Children.

According to the USPS website, the Postal Service has played a role in the search for missing children for 30 years. Inspired to action by “Adam,”the moving October 1983 television movie about the abduction and murder of 6-year-old Adam Walsh, three organizations — the U.S. Postal Service, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and Valassis Communications, Inc. — cooperated on a program to feature photographs of missing children on advertising materials delivered to millions of American homes. The program officially began in May 1985. To date, about 1,900 of the nearly 3,300 children featured on these mailings have been recovered, including at least 158 as a direct result of this program.

The USPS also publishes photos and information about missing children in the “Postal Bulletin,” a biweekly publication distributed among nearly 32,000 Post Offices, adding some 600,000 employees to the search effort.

The stamps just serve as a reminder to everyone that there are missing kids out there who need to find their way home.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

War Letters Throughout History

Researcher and historian Andrew Carroll has collected thousands of letters that American military troops have sent back home from war, from the Revolutionary War to modern times. His project has led to The Legacy Project, a book, documentaries, a play and collections on display. You may have read about Carroll and his project here on this blog before. To see some of the posts I've written about War Letters before, just type "War Letters" into the search box in the top left corner of this blog and hit your return or "enter" key.

This past Memorial Day, ABC ran a segment of Carroll and the letters. In that interview, Carroll says this about today's troops and their letter writing:
"One of the great misconceptions about letter-writing today, is that the troops aren't creating these incredible correspondences. The way they did back in the civil war. It's not true. You have troops from Iraq and Afghanistan who have composed the most eloquent and poignant and powerful messages that I have ever read. So, you know, that's why we're encouraging families who have had troops serving in these other countries, save those e-mails."

Check out the ABC segment below and go read more about Andrew Carroll and his War Letters project.

ABC News Videos | ABC Entertainment News

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Medal of Honor Stamps

In the United States, this coming Monday, May 25, will be observed as Memorial Day, a day for remembering those who died while serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. It's a federal holiday, and there will be no mail delivery.

But, the U.S. Postal Service will still be hard at work. At 1 p.m., Memorial Day, Monday, May 25, at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, DC, the Postal Service will dedicate the Limited Edition Medal of Honor: Vietnam War Forever Stamps. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund and the National Park Service will host the ceremony, which will be free and open to the public and will include nearly a dozen Vietnam Medal of Honor recipients.

The stamps are presented in a four-page portfolio with the first and fourth pages featuring photographs of the 48 living recipients of the Medal of Honor from the Vietnam War who agreed to be part of the event. The photographs on each of these pages surround a group of 12 Forever  stamps (24 total), consisting of three different designs, one for each version of the Medal of Honor: that of the Army, the Navy (also presented to members of the Marine Corps) and the Air Force. Page two of the portfolio contains a short text and a key to the individuals pictured. Page three features an alphabetical listing of those individuals who agreed to be included and of the deceased Medal of Honor recipients from the Vietnam War.

The stamp package is modeled after the World War II and Korean War Medal of Honor stamp sheets issued in 2013 and 2014 respectively.

The Medal of Honor: Vietnam War Forever Stamps are available in a variety of philatelic products, including a framed art piece, press sheets, digital postmark keepsakes, first day covers and more.

Visit the USPS website or your local post office for more information. 

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Safe Penpalling

One of the great joys of letter writing is the penpal experience.

When I was a teenager, I had penpals from all over the world...China, Germany, Yugoslavia, England, Denmark, West Malaysia, Japan and several other countries. We wrote to each other about all sorts of things, ranging from details about how we lived our lives in our respective corners of the world to typical things teens talk about with each other, dreams for the future, problems in school, boy/girlfriends, etc.

It was a great cultural exchange that took place seemingly everywhere.

As an American, I sometimes received a letter from a new penpal who assumed that all Americans were rich and who thought I could send them money or things. I never did. I spent all my money on air mail stamps...I didn't have any extra to spare!

My penpals and I often exchanged photos of ourselves. They were simple photos that our parents took of us or maybe school photos.

Nowadays, with email scams rampant, TV shows feeding our fears of stalkers and serial killers, and dating sites scattered across the Internet, blindly sending off a kid's name, address and photo -- or even your own -- to someone who says they'll find them a penpal doesn't always seem like the smart thing to do.

Of course, there are legitimate, safe penpal services out there, but here are some tips to make your penpal experience even safer:

1. Enjoy the experience of penpalling but be cautious and smart. Trust your instincts.

2. Get and use a P.O. Box, rather than sending out your home address. A P.O. box at the post office typically costs $20-$30 every six months, maybe more in some communities. Check with your local post office to see what they have available and how much it costs. If that's not an option, try using your office address (or that of your parents).

3. Don't send a photo right off the bat. If you send a photo ever, wait until you've exchanged several letters and feel like you know the penpal better. If you are a teen or younger kid, never ever send any kind of inappropriate photo to anyone, even if they ask you to or send you one of them. If that happens, take the letter to a trusted adult immediatley.

4. Don't give out too much very personal information about yourself immediately. For example, you might say "My birthday is in May" rather than giving out the specific date and year.

5. Never send money. Don't send gift cards, money orders or anything of the sort. And, never send your penpal your bank account information. Not for any reason.

6. Be wary of meeting in person until you've written to your penpal for a long time. And, then, only meet in a public place with lots of people around.

7. Penpals often exchange items, from a package of your favorite gum to bookmarks to little trinkets that represent your country. But, don't be bullied into sending anything you don't want to send, from photos to candy to recipes. Only participate in "swaps" that you're interested in.

I don't write these tips for safe penpalling to scare you off of the hobby. Penpalling is a fun and exciting project. But, it's better to be safe.

Happy letter writing!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

"The Perfect Letter"?

Chris Harrison, the  longtime host of ABC’s The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, has written his first novel. Now, I don't watch those shows, and I haven't read the novel. In fact, I most of the reviews I've seen on the book have not been positive.

However, the book's title is "The Perfect Letter," and, apparently, letters figure into the romance story. So, I thought it was worth mentioning here.

Published by Dey Street Books, an imprint of HarperCollins, the book is available as an ebook, hardcover or paperback. 

Today is the release date for "The Perfect Letter" by Chris Harrison.

Monday, May 18, 2015

How to Write a Thank You Note

These Thank You  and blank cards are available from the USPS

It's that time of year...the season for graduations and engagements and weddings and new babies and new jobs and new homes and all sorts of events for which people give gifts. And, that means, a lot of people are needing to write thank you notes any day now.

Let's get the biggest questions out of the way first. Yes, you need to write "real" thank you notes or letters. No, an email isn't good enough. And, neither is a phone call or simply yelling across the room after you've opened the gifts. No, a generic "Thanks" on Facebook, Twitter or even Blogger isn't enough. You need to sit down with a pen and paper and write a thank you. It can be a long letter or a short note. It can be on a special Thank You card or it can be on some nice stationery. If all you have is notebook paper, that's better than not sending a note at all.

Now, on to the actual note. Your thank you note needs to be personal. The thank you needs to be heartfelt and the note needs to reflect that feeling. So, you need to use a formal or semi-formal greeting, such as "Dear Aunt Milly" or "Hello, Sarah!" Something like that.

Then, you need to get right into the thank you part. That's the reason for this letter, so don't put it off. You can use those exact words, "Thank you..." or you can say something that conveys the same feeling, such as "I appreciate..." or "I am so grateful to you for..." If you choose to use other words than "Thank you," try to use that phrase at least once somewhere in the note, even if it's just in the closing.

Mention the gift by name. That adds to the personalization of the note. And, if you can, add a sentence or two about how you plan to use the gift. Some examples:
Thank you for the fountain pen that you sent for my graduation. As you can see, I'm already putting it to good use. I can't wait to write more letters with it!

You cannot imagine how much I appreciate the case of diapers you gave me at the baby shower Sunday. Soon, it will seem like we never have enough! Thank you!

I greatly appreciate the house-warming gift you brought to the party Saturday night. The candleholders look perfect on the dining room table.
Thank you for the gift card! I can't wait to go shopping!
If, by some stroke of bad luck, the gift is not really something you appreciate or that you can use, still try to be gracious to the giver. Try something like, "Thank you for the candy dish and the giant bag of jelly beans. They sure are colorful!"

If you are tempted to write about something else in your letter, unrelated to the "thank you," keep it brief. If possible, just save the unrelated comments for another letter. But, if you think it's appropriate, go ahead and write another paragraph.

Now, end the letter with a sincere closing. Maybe just simply, "Sincerely, Carla" Or, maybe something a little more wordy, "Again, thank you! ~ Carla"

Many people dread writing thank you notes. But, it's not that difficult once you get started. And, a thank you letter is most impressive to the receiver!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Can letters save a TV show?

I noticed this week that CBS has announce that it's canceling the TV show Battle Creek, a show that just started in March. It comes on Sunday nights, after Madam Secretary and The Good Wife.

I'll admit, Battle Creek got off to a slow start, from my perspective. I wasn't sure I liked it. The show is based in Battle Creek, Michigan, and features an FBI agent who is sent there to work with the local police department. Mostly, he works with one specific police detective. They are the stereotypical odd couple, often at odds with each other over how to handle particular cases. The show stars Josh Duhamel, Dean Winters, Aubrey Dollar, Kal Penn and Janet McTeer, among others, and includes several sidelines, such as a budding office romance.

However, in my opinion, the show has gotten better as it's continued. The characters have been developed, as have the story lines. They're not perfect cops who always have witty things to say or who always do things right. The show is, at the same time, gritty and funny. Sort of like real life.

When I saw the news that CBS had canceled Battle Creek, I started looking around for information about it. I came across a Facebook page for the show. Many fans there were lamenting the demise of a show they like.

Of course, my first reaction was that they should start a letter-writing campaign to save Battle Creek!

According to what I'm reading online, such campaigns have worked for several shows in the past. Fans often send items pertinent to the show along with their letters of support. To get Friday Night Lights renewed, fans sent light bulbs. Arrested Development fans sent crates of bananas to the executives. Those who loved the show Roswell sent bottles of Tabasco sauce to those in charge of deciding which shows live and which ones die.

I don't know what Battle Creek fans would send the CBS executives...doughnuts? It's a cop show, and doughnuts are featured prominently in the opening credits.

I have no idea what the chances of saving a show like that are, but if there are enough fans who create enough media attention, they might succeed. A quick check online shows the CBS Corporation address to be:

CBS Headquarters
51 W. 52nd Street
New York, NY 10019-6188

Couldn't hurt to write a letter, if your favorite show has been canceled.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Gifts of Friendship

Sheet of U.S. "Gifts of Friendship" stamps.
One hundred years ago this year, then-former U.S. President William Howard Taft arranged for the United States to send 50 flowering dogwood trees to Japan. The trees were sent in response to 3,000 cherry trees that had been sent to Washington by Tokyo as a gift in 1912, when Taft was president.

Through the years, the two countries have continued to exchange trees as a sign of our ongoing friendships.

This year, the exchange of flowering trees between the two nations is being honored with a joint postage stamp release by the U.S. Postal Service and Japan Post.

Sheet of Japanese "Gifts of Friendship" stamps.
Four stamps were designed, two by the U.S. and two by Japan, and all four designs have been released in both countries. The U.S.-designed stamps depict the Lincoln Memorial with vibrant cherry trees in the foreground and the U.S. Capitol building surrounded by white and pink dogwood trees. The Japanese-designed stamps feature two prominent buildings in Tokyo: the National Diet Building framed by cherry blossoms, and the clock tower outside the Diet Building rising behind a foreground of white dogwood flowers, according to the USPS.

Each of the postal services has released a special sheet featuring the designs.

In the U.S., the "Gifts of Friendship" stamp comes with a variety of philatelic products, including press sheets with or without die cuts, first day covers, digital postmark sets, notecards, framed art and more. For more information about the stamps or to order any of the Gifts of Friendship products, visit the USPS website at

Friday, May 8, 2015

Letter Carriers' Food Drive scheduled for this Saturday

This Saturday, May 9, letter carriers across the United States will pick up donations for the NALC Stamp Out Hunger National Food Drive — the largest one-day food drive in the nation.

Led by letter carriers represented by the National Association of Letter Carriers (AFL-CIO), with help from rural letter carriers, other postal employees and other volunteers, the drive has delivered more than one billion pounds of food over the past 22 years.

Carriers will collect non-perishable food donations left by mailboxes and in post offices and deliver them to local community food banks, pantries and shelters.

The United States Postal Service, National Association of Letter Carriers, National Rural Letter Carriers’ Association, AFL-CIO, Feeding America, United Way, Valassis and Valpak Direct Marketing Systems are all supporting this year’s Stamp Out Hunger food drive. If you're not sure if your letter carrier is participating, call your local post office.

To donate, just place a box or can of non-perishable food next to your mailbox before your letter carrier delivers mail on the second Saturday in May. The carrier will do the rest. The food is sorted, and delivered to an area food bank or pantry, where it is available for needy families.

With 49 million people facing hunger every day in America, including nearly 16 million children, this drive is one way you can help those in your own city or town who need help.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Finding Penpals on Postcrossing

Postcards Exchange

365 Letters has had blog posts about finding penpals and posts about the postcard exchange site Postcrossing. Today's post is going to combine both of those topics.

If you're a member of Postcrossing or maybe even if you've ever looked into joining, you might know that in your Postcrossing profile you can indicate if you're open to "direct swaps." Direct swaps are postcard exchanges that are in addition to the regular Postcrossing exchanges.

But, there's another aspect to Postcrossing...the forums. There, Postcrossing members post messages about a variety of topics. One of the forum sections is labeled "Pen-Friendships/Penpals." There, members post a little bit of information about themselves and state their interest in finding penpals. Most of them ask potential penpals to send them a Postcrossing message to exchange addresses privately.

So, if you are a letter writer interested in finding people around the world to exchange letters, postcards or small gifts with, try Postcrossing's forums. You'll likely find some kindred spirits there.

Monday, May 4, 2015

A Letter Can be a Beautiful Gift

This coming Sunday, May 10, will be Mother's Day in the United States. If you're in the market for a
Mother's Day gift, consider a letter to your mom!

Whether a letter is the only thing you can afford to give the mother in your life or if it's just one thing among many that you give this weekend, it's almost certain to be cherished.

If you aren't sure what you should say in such a letter, consider some of these ideas:

* Recall a specific memory, a favorite outing the two of you had when you were a kid, even a luncheon the two of you had recently...tell your mom what it meant to you. Share your feelings with her.

* Spill the beans ... was there something that you did when you were a kid, maybe something that caused some stress back then but is funny to look back on now? Come clean! Tell your mom the truth, finally! And, say it with a smile or at least a smiley face drawn at the end of your letter.

* Make it an invitation. Invite your mom over to your house for dinner. Or, plan to visit her and take her out to the movies or theater or even just a drive in the country.

* Include something ... a picture of her grandkids (or grandpets); a CD (or cassette tape or a USB drive) with a recording from you on it — maybe it's you singing her favorite song or just a recording of your voice talking to her; a clipping from the newspaper or a magazine that made you think of her, a recipe, a coupon.

Don't wait too late, especially if you'll be mailing the letter. You'll want it to get there no later than Saturday.

Get to work and write that letter to your mom now!


Thursday, April 30, 2015

Anchored Scraps Address Book now available

Last month, I introduced the readers of this blog to Helen Rittersporn and her Anchored Scraps website. Helen is a certified project manager who blogs about keeping in touch with family and friends through correspondence.

Helen and I have been collaborating to create an Anchored Scraps Address Book, which she debuted yesterday in her website's online store.

But, as many of us do, Helen blogs about more than just letter writing. She writes about carving out time for yourself, for connecting with others, for finding balance in our lives. The "anchor" that is in the Anchored Scraps name and logo and that finds its way into many of Helen's blog posts, represents her father, who passed away earlier this year, and his naval service. It also serves a reminder to stay anchored, or grounded, in our daily lives, remembering what's important to us.

The new Anchored Scraps Address Book can be ordered from Helen's online store. She also features the address book in yesterday's blog post.

If you haven't visited the Anchored Scraps website yet, I encourage you to click on over there. I think you'll like it.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

World Stationery Day

Today, in the middle of Britain's National Stationery Week and at the end of the U.S. National Card and Letter Writing Month is World Stationery Day, April 29, 2015. It's organized by the London Stationery Show (wouldn't that be a great event to attend?!?!) and encourages people worldwide to pick up a pen or pencil and write a letter by hand.

Let's all celebrate!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

She Writes Letters with a Feather and Ink

What a fascinating story The Breeze, James Madison University’s student-run newspaper, ran earlier this week! It's about  Kimberly Heidinger, a sophomore elementary education major from Ridgefield, Connecticut, who writes letters to her family and friends using a fountain pen or a quill made from a feather and a metal tip.

Read more about Kimberly on The Breeze's website.

Monday, April 27, 2015

It's National Stationery Week!

All month long we've been celebrating National Card and Letter Writing Month. Although letter writers are naturally an international group of people, the "national" in this month's designation tends to refer to the United States. Certainly, though, we have invited the whole world to join us in our enthusiasm for letter writing! Now, as we enter the last week National Card and Letter Writing Month, we all get to join Britain in celebrating National Stationery Week, April 27-May 3, 2015.

And the organizers and sponsors are doing it right! There is a website, a Facebook page and Twitter and Instagram accounts and a Pinterest board. National Stationery Week lists its partners as the Greeting Card Association, the National Handwriting Association, the Writing Instrument Association, the British Post Office and Cambridge University Press. There are also many sponsors, which you can see on the official National Stationery Week website.

According to the website, "National Stationery Week celebrates the written word and all things stationery – the wonderful products which make it all possible, and give so much pleasure to so many people."

On the website are activities for kids, polls to take, videos to watch and more! Go check it out! And, then, write some letters!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Write a Meaningful Letter

In the news this week have been several stories from Australia and New Zealand about the Gallipoli Campaign, a campaign of World War I that took place on the Gallipoli peninsula (in modern Turkey) in the Ottoman Empire between April 25, 1915, and January 9, 1916. Several of those stories include tales of letters, lost, rediscovered and remembered.

April 25 is Anzac Day, a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand that commemorates all Australians and New Zealanders who served and died in  wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations. Originally, Anzac Day honored the members of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) who fought at Gallipoli.

A story in The West Australian tells of the family of Donald Shapley McLean. He was killed at Gallipoli, and the family was told that he had left behind a small packet of items, including a letter. But, the family never received the letter. Apparently, it had been inadvertently sent to the family of another fallen soldier with a similar name.

In New Zealand's Timaru Herald, an article shares John Parsloe's story of rediscovering a bundle of World War I letters from his great uncle, Hedley Ferrier, and the interesting information the family discovered within.

Business Insider Australia has pictures of the letters from Eric Whitehead, who was also killed 100 years ago. His letters give his family — and the world —great insight into what life was like in the trenches of Gallipoli.

As we head into the final few days of National (U.S.) Card and Letter Writing Month, take a few minutes to think about the letters you write. Are they of such substance as to provide fascinating details to those who come across the letters 100 years from now? Let's spend the weekend writing letters full of depth and meaning!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Earth Day 2015

In honor of Earth Day 2015, I've decided to breathe some life back into my CAT Productions blog, which is about recycling, repurposing, reusing, eco-living, etc.

In my first post in quite some time, I've blogged about a topic that connects that blog to this one...the practice of reusing paper and cardboard that we often think of as trash, repurposing it into stationery to use in our letter writing.

Of course, I love a brand-new box of fine writing paper as much as the next stationery addict, and I would never suggest that you submit a resumé cover letter written on the back of your electric bill, but I think the concept is something we can have fun with. Take a look at the post by clicking on the link above.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

A Book About a Couple of Letter Writers

I've been reading about an upcoming book, "Mary and Me: A Lasting Link Through Ink." It sounds like a good one.

Authors Mary Potter Kenyon and Mary Jedlicka Humston have been writing letters to each other for 30 years, and their book, which is scheduled to be released in September, is about that and more, according to what I've read on their Facebook pages and on

We'll have to keep an eye out for this one!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Letter Writing With Kids

From the Melissa & Doug website.
Of course letter writers can discover their thrill with mail at any age, but I think many teens and adults enjoy correspondence because of fun they had getting and receiving mail as kids. I don't know of many people who don't get excited about getting a letter (not bills) in the mail. That envelope with your name written on it, just waiting to be exciting!

Several blogs and websites have posted ideas for mail-related projects for kids, including TinkerLab, Sew Liberated, Lasso the Moon and more.

Some items for working on such products can be found in crafts stores and online at places such as, Melissa and Doug and JoAnn.

From JoAnn's website.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Benefits of Saying 'Thanks'

Lately, on the 365 Letters Facebook page, I've posted several items about writing thank-you notes. The topic seems to have been in the news a lot lately, from golfer Jordan Spieth's thank-you letter to the family that started the fund that helped pay for his education, to an article about how thank-you notes can be great business networking tools. Even The American Greetings card company has launched a thank-you campaign.

I recently spotted another mention of the benefits of gratitude, a news release by the American Psychological Association. Although the item doesn't specifically mention writing thank-you notes, it did include journaling. It stands to reason that people who show their gratitude by writing letters of thanks would experience some of the benefits discovered in the research.

According to the report, the study involved 186 men and women who had been diagnosed with asymptomatic heart failure for at least three months. Using standard psychological tests, the researchers obtained scores for gratitude and spiritual well-being. They then compared those scores with the patients’ scores for depressive symptom severity, sleep quality, fatigue, self-efficacy (belief in one’s ability to deal with a situation) and inflammatory markers. They found higher gratitude scores were associated with better mood, higher quality sleep, more self-efficacy and less inflammation. (Inflammation can often worsen heart failure.)

To further test their findings, the researchers asked some of the patients to write down three things for which they were thankful most days of the week for eight weeks. Both groups continued to receive regular clinical care during that time.

“We found that those patients who kept gratitude journals for those eight weeks showed reductions in circulating levels of several important inflammatory biomarkers, as well as an increase in heart rate variability while they wrote. Improved heart rate variability is considered a measure of reduced cardiac risk,” Mills said. “It seems that a more grateful heart is indeed a more healthy heart, and that gratitude journaling is an easy way to support cardiac health.”

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Stamps Continue to Captivate Collectors

Through the years that I've been blogging about letter writing, I've found that there are several other topics that complement the subject, such as stationery, pens, ink and stamps.

When writing about stamps, I've often wondered if anyone still collects stamps. I collected stamps when I was a kid, but I never really got serious about it. I had a bright yellow stamp collecting book that I attached stamps to with the little paper hinges.

Nowadays, I pay more attention to the stamps that I put on letters and to those on the letters that I receive. I rarely save the canceled stamps unless I'm saving the entire envelope.

But, it seems that stamp collecting is, indeed, alive and thriving. I recently ran across a story by Sharon Schlegel on She quotes experts on the matter.

Several auction houses handle high-end collectible stamps, and the rarest stamps can sell for thousands, hundreds of thousands, even millions of dollars. A recent find is an inverted 1875 Russian stamp (pictured at right) that is expected to be auctioned this spring by Daniel F. Kelleher Auctions of Danbury, Conn.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Google Celebrates the Pony Express

Have you seen Google's Doodle today? It's great! The image honors the 155th anniversary of the Pony Express, which started in April 1860. If you go to and click on the Pony Express image, you can play a little game of picking up letters to deliver.

For more information about the Pony Express, visit the Pony Express National Museum in St. Joseph, Missouri, or its website, For more information about Google's Pony Express image and game, visit the Google Doodle page.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Nebraska Museum to Focus on Letters

The The Neihardt Center in Bancroft, Nebraska, will host its 34th annual Neihardt Spring Conference on April 25, and the focus of the day-long event will be on the role of letters in the lives of the people who were living in the Great Plains region in the 19th and 20th centuries.

According to the Center's website, the conference will "explore the correspondence of John Neihardt and Willa Cather and the collections of lesser known individuals whose letters bear witness to the struggles of frontier settlement or of displacement, as in the letters written by Dakota men imprisoned in Iowa after the Dakota Wars of 1862."

The promotional material for the conference includes this inspiring paragraph:

 "Letters are often deeply personal, private exchanges that reflect the complex cultural norms of the time period and the life happenings, both tragic and celebratory, of the subjects who author them. If you’ve ever searched through old postcards in an antique store or come across an old letter bookmarking a worn, leather—bound volume, then you’ve probably been struck by the beautiful handwriting, by turns of phrase poignantly rendered, and by the maneuvering of etiquette and social politics."

The conference will take place at the Neihardt State Historic Site, a branch museum of the Nebraska State Historical Society.

John G. Neihardt (1881-1973) is the Poet Laureate in Perpetuity of Nebraska. Neihardt was a writer, newspaper editor, poet and university lecturer.

The conference's keynote address will be presented by Dr. Pam Gossin, who will speak on “Unhidden Treasures: The Voices and Visions of John G. Neihardt.” Other scheduled topics include:
* “The Dakota Prisoner of War Letters of 1862 - 1868” by Dr. Rev. Clifford Canku
* “Willa Cather’s Life in Letters: The Role of Correspondence in Literary Creation” by Dr. Andrew Jewell
* “Letters of Great Plains Homesteaders: A Lifeline to Family, Friends, the Past and Future” by Steve Kinsella
* “The Art of Calligraphy” by Cheryl Dyer with Calligraphy Envelope Exhibit

For more details on the conference, Neihardt or the museum, click on the links above.

It sounds like a wonderful conference and a great tribute to the value of letter writing!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Weekend Letter Writing Topics

If you lead a busy life, you may have to save up your letter writing for the weekends when you have more leisure time. Still, as you wind down from the hectic work week, you may find yourself at a loss for what to write about. Here are some ideas for this weekend, midway through National Card and Letter Writing Month:

* Write about something that makes you happy. I know it's tempting to complain, to get things off your chest, to share your misery with someone else. But, in truth, it will put you — and the person you're writing to — in a better mood if you write about good things.

For example, it brightens my day and makes me happy to get little drawings from my husband. He takes junk mail envelopes and sketches "envelope people" on them. Then, with his artist pens or sometimes with an app in his phone, he adds color and jazzes them up. Sometimes I get them in text messages, sometimes in email. Sometimes, he leaves one where I'll find it when I get up in the morning. One way or another, they make me smile, and that's something to write about! (See an example of the "envelope people" at right.)

* Write a letter about the weather. It may sound a little cliche, but the weather is big news these days. Whether it's drought or floods, snow or heat, tornadoes or hurricanes, people are talking about it. Add your thoughts to the mix.

* Write a letter about your favorite book. If you haven't had time to read much lately, write about a favorite book from your childhood. Or, write about a book you'd like to read.

* Write a letter about your pet. It tells your letter's recipient a little about yourself, gives them some insight into your life.

* Write about food. Everyone has something to do with food. They buy it; they grow it; they cook it;  they eat it; they love it; or, they hate it. Write about your favorite food — or your least favorite. Write about your cooking skills — or lack thereof. Write about your comfort foods — or your diet foods.

And, while you're writing about yourself and the things in your life, don't forget to ask some questions. That way, your pen pal will have some inspiration when he or she writes back!

Happy Letter Writing!

Wendy Wolff giveaway

Wendy Wolff, author of the book "The Letter Writing Project," is having a giveaway for National Card and Letter Writing Month.

Entrants need to post photos of their letters on Facebook. She will have a drawing for a copy of her book and for some stationery from Kerry Conway Designs.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Another Reason to Write Letters — History

There are a couple of books out right now that illustrate a great reason to write letters — historical record. Of course, we have newspapers that record history. And, many people use various social media sites, email and other electronic resources for marking events in their lives.

But, who knows how long each of the electronic devices will be around and accessible (how many people even remember the passwords to their old social media accounts?). I just found out recently that the little portable USB flash drives for digital data (sometimes they're called "jump drives" or "thumb drives") aren't "forever." Obviously, they can be easily lost or damaged, but, also, the devices are only expected to last 10 at the maximum before they start to deteriorate and you lose your data.  The same holds true for camera cards and most types of personal digital storage devices. Everything we've done — all the pictures we've taken, emails we've written and received, documents we've written — is in danger of vanishing from the digital devices on which we've stored it.

On the other hand, we still have letters and other documents that were written dozens, hundreds,  even thousands of years ago, depending on your definitions of "document" and "writing."

The new books I recently read about tell historical stories based on letters. Please note that I haven't read either of these books; I've only read about them. But, just their existence speaks volumes about the power of the handwritten letter.

According to the Beaver, Pennsylvania, Times Online, former teacher Jay Paisley tells William H. Huffman's story through his eyes via letters he wrote to his family and friends back home in Darlington, Pa., during the Civil War. "The Huffman Letters: Civil War Letters to Beaver County, Pennsylvania," is an in-depth look at the soldier who served in the Union Army with the 100th Regiment of Pennsylvania Volunteers from 1861 to 1865. The newspaper story (click the link at the beginning of this paragraph) gives a little bit of information about where you might be able to find a copy of the book.

The MinnPost website reports that, in “The Crops Look Good” (published by Minnesota Historical Society Press) Sara DeLuca weaves the Williamson family letters into a larger portrait of the war years and Depression, followed by midcentury prosperity and the decline of the family's Wisconsin farm. "The Crops Look Good" is available on and other booksellers.

I hate to sound like a hoarder, but not only should we write letters,  we should save them, as well. We should preserve the letters that we receive, and if we think that there is some significance to the letters that we write, we might want to make copies of them before we mail them and save the copies.

We should write letters full of details about our daily lives and the things that are happening in the world and how they affect us. We need to be specific in our letters, writing complete dates at the top, including place names and people's names. We need to write for the intended recipient but with the idea in mind that others might read the letters, tomorrow, next year, in 100 years.

Write letters for the ages, as well as for one.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Letter Writing is Everywhere

Letter writing seems to be everywhere these days. I'm sure it has to do with the fact that I write about letter writing, but I am constantly coming across references to correspondence. Often it's in commercials on TV or even news segments. All the time, I find newspaper, magazine and website articles about related topics, such as pen pals, handwriting, the mail system, as well as about the basic subject of letter writing.

Currently, I've been seeing an Edward Jones commercial equating some of the company's success to its representatives who write thank you notes to their clients.

Along that same thought-line, the American Greetings card company has started ThankList, a new project to encourage people to write thank you notes to the people they care about. According to the website, the program's purpose is to make the world a more thoughtful and caring place. You can read more about the ThankList by going to the American Greetings website. There are inspirational links, links to free Thank You notes
you can download, and much more.

I must admit a certain, long-time affection for American Greetings. Way back when I was in high school, I worked for American Greetings, taking care of their card display in the variety store my dad managed. I would straighten the cards, putting them back in the proper slots, ordered new cards when they sold out, took down the seasonal displays and put up the new ones. It was one of my first non-babysitting jobs, and I loved it. Maybe it had some impact on my continued love for cards and letters.

I encourage you to visit the ThankList site and make your own list of people you need to thank. Then, during this month, National Card and Letter Writing Month, write some of those thank you notes and put them in the mail!

Happy letter writing!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Letter Writing Ideas

 There are so many great reasons to write letters — they connect us with other people; they can be saved and savored; they can be read over and over again, even in places with no cell phone service or even if the power goes out; they give you the opportunity to send a little something extra, a bookmark, a perfume-scented lace handkerchief, a dried flower...

But, sometimes we run out of ideas for writing letters, especially if we're writing to people we don't really know, at least not yet, such as pen pals, postcard pals, etc.

One of my favorite ways of finding something to write about is to look at the calendar. April is a busy month. It starts with April Fools' Day...send a joke with your letter. Then come the holidays; almost all of the world's religions have springtime holidays. Do you celebrate any of them? If so, write a letter about it! Describe your family's traditions.

Moving on along in the calendar, we can see that April 22 is Earth Day and April 24 is National Arbor Day in the United States. Use those topics as jumping off points. Write about your earth-friendly activities, how you recycle, etc. Or, write about your favorite tree.

Look on your own personal calendar for upcoming birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, etc. Write letters with all of those cards you'll be sending out!

Be sure to spread the word about National Card and Letter Writing Month!

Monday, April 6, 2015

New US Stamp Kicks Off Letter Writing Month

To kick off National Card and Letter Writing Month, the U.S. Postal Service introduced a new stamp, the "From Me to You" stamp. The stamps are bright and colorful and come with a set of stickers for decorating your envelopes.

According to the USPS website, the stamp was dedicated on April 1, and U.S. Postal Service Judicial Officer William Campbell said:
 “Sure, email and texting is quick and convenient, and Facebook has photos and videos, but nothing beats the thrill and excitement of opening your mailbox and finding a personal letter addressed to you. Letter writing improves social and penmanship skills. More importantly, it helps create lasting memories with the people you care about most. That’s what the From Me to You stamps are all about. After all, nothing else cultivates a romance, nurtures a friendship, or helps you stay connected like a hand-written card or letter.”
The limited edition Forever stamps bear the words “From Me To You” in capital letters. Surrounding the four rows of stamps in the center of the sheet are colorful self-adhesive stickers. The 11 labels at the top of the sheet, in the shapes of hearts, circles, and rectangles, carry messages such as “Happy Birthday,” “Miss You,” “Thank You” and “Get Well Soon.” Along the sides and bottom of the sheet are 26 decorative stickers including hearts, envelopes, flowers, mailboxes, and a kiss (red lips).

Stamp artist Michael Osborne of Palo Alto, CA, chose bright jewel tones and primary colors to reflect the happy, playful personality of the stamp design.

A variety of standard philatelic products are available for the stamp design.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

No Foolin' — April is National Card and Letter Writing Month

Let the celebrating begin! Today is the first day of National Card and Letter Writing Month!

I know some of us, including myself, often find ourselves too busy to write proper letters. But, really, when you think about it, we make time for all sorts of less productive things every day. So, how about we take this month to reset our letter writing centerpoints, if necessary.

In the spirit of FlyLady (aka Marla Cilley), even if we have a stacks of unanswered letters sitting on our desks or stuffed in our purses, let's not think of it as being behind in our letter writing. Let's just start from where we're at, to quote FlyLady directly, and write letters this month. Just start with one letter. Open it and re-read it. Get out the appropriate stationery or notecard or even a postcard. Find a pen, and answer that letter! Immediately address the envelope and put a stamp on it. If you can, put it in the mailbox now. If not, put it right on top of everything you'll be dealing with tomorrow so that you'll be sure to mail it then.

If you have a blog, website, Facebook page, etc., spread the word about National Card and Letter writing month! It's an idea worth sharing!

Monday, March 30, 2015

A Literary Journal In Letters

Today, I stumbled across the website for "The Letters Page," described as a "literary journal in

The Letters Page is based at the University of Nottingham in England. The website explains that through the journal, the organizers are "exploring what letter writing means to people - and has meant since writing was invented - in their literary cultures and their personal lives.

"We’ll be publishing essays, memoir, fiction, travelogue, reportage, poetry, criticism, interviews… any creative form of writing, so long as it comes to us framed as a letter."

You can download the journal from the website. It's an interesting take on the letter writing that we all love so much. Take a look!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

New Correspondence Website

Last month, Helen Rittersporn, a project management professional, launched a new website about letter writing and more. This week, is focusing on getting organized with your personal correspondence.

So far, she's blogged about getting your Christmas card list updated and about creating a list of people you'd like to write to regularly. She's written about keeping her letters in an old hat box, finding pen pals and watching a film called "The Letter Writer."

Check out Helen's website. I think you'll like it.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

'Women of Letters' Event in NYC

What better way to celebrate National Women's History Month than by highlighting the international project Women of Letters.

I've been reading everything I can find on Women of Letters since first hearing about the project by Marieke Hardy and Michaela McGuire of Australia. The two women have been hosting Women of Letters events in Australia since 2010 and recently brought it to the United States.

According to an article in Brooklyn Magazine, Hardy describes Women of Letters as "a celebration of women, words, and the lost art of letter writing."

Each month, a carefully selected panel of women read letters on a particular theme. The women are writers, but many are also actors, comedians, singers, etc. On March 13 at Joe's Pub in NYC, a panel of women, including actor/director Kathleen Turner, will read aloud "A letter to the night that changed me." Later in the month, the Australian event will be on the topic of "A letter to my happy accident."

Tickets to the New York events cost $20 each, and the Victoria, Australia, events cost AUD$23.50. All of the money goes to charity. In Australia, they've raised more than 500,000 for an animal rescue shelter, Edgar’s Mission, and the New York events will benefit the New York Women’s Foundation.

Additionally, some of the letters have been curated into books that are available via the Women of Letters website. 

In an article in Elle magazine last month, in response to a comment about whether or not letter writing is a dying art, Hardy said, "If anything, it's enjoying a revival. Nostalgia is definitely a big reason for this, and it's probably as much a rebellion against how digital our lives have become. Most of us spend all day in front of a screen, worrying to varying degrees about our privacy and how much content we're putting online. Sitting down with only a sheet of paper and a pen seems so delightfully simple and quite comforting in comparison."

I am so happy to discover that not only are there a couple of letter writing fans out there curating such events, but also that there are so many interested women that the shows are sold out every month. How lucky we lovers of letters are to have such proponents out there spreading the word. Oh, I do so wish I were going to be in New York this Friday!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Another reason to write more letters!

There's an article today on the Huffington Post about how writing a letter to an old friend can help reduce stress. According to the brief article, the HuffPost's "GPS for the Soul" section and meQuilibrium have teamed up to bring 30 days of stress reduction ideas to HuffPost readers.

meQuilibrium is a book and a website and a blog, maybe it's a movement or a philosphy, or maybe it's a business or an organization, I'm not really sure. Whatever it is, it's all about reducing stress.

And, one of the tips for improving your mood is to write a letter to an old friend. According to the story, "When you write an old friend, you strengthen your social connections. Letter-writing is like journaling with purpose -- in a way, it helps you strengthen your bonds. One study found that feeling disconnected is as damaging to our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day!"

So, in the name of a more peaceful, less stressful, world, write a letter today!
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