Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Penpals for 70+ Years Reunite in England

Three penpals who have been corresponding for 72 years met recently in Rotherham, England.

Dee Gray (83), of Wickersley, England; Charlotte Boyd (83), of Duluth, Minnesota; and Margaret Barker (82), of Killamarsh, England, met recently. Charlotte and Dee have met a couple of times before.

“It’s sad that people don’t write letters now,” Margaret said about the digital communication trends.

Read more about the story in the Rotherham Advertiser.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Columbus Day reminder

Remember...Monday, Oct. 10, is Columbus Day in the United States. It's an official postal holiday here, so there will be no regular mail delivery and the post offices will be closed.

If you have something that needs to get there early next week, you'd better mail it early!

Happy letter writing!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

USPS has holiday stamps galore!

This fall and winter, the U.S. Postal Service is offering a variety of holiday stamps for all sorts of celebrations! On Thursday, the new Holiday Windows stamps will be issued, and on Monday the new Kwanzaa stamp was released.

The Holiday Windows stamp booklet has four designs featuring a candle, a wreath, a star and a lighted tree. Two stamps show a scene looking out a window, and two show a scene looking in. They join the Songbirds in Snow, showing winter's beauty.

The Kwanzaa stamp  honors the 50th anniversary of the annual non-religious holiday, which takes
place over seven days from Dec. 26 to Jan. 1, brings family, community, and culture together for many African Americans.

Next month, a new Hanukkah stamp will be issued on Nov. 1. The stamp features a menorah in the window of a home. This year, Hanukkah begins at at sundown on Dec. 24.

Tomorrow, Oct. 5, the U.S. Postal Service will commemorate the festival of Diwali, one of the most important annual Hindu events. The holiday celebrates the triumph of good over evil. Spanning five days each autumn, it is considered by some to be the start of the new year. According to the USPS website, on the Hindu calendar, Diwali falls on the eve of or on the new moon that occurs between mid-October and mid-November. This year, the main day of the festival will be celebrated on Oct. 29 (for South Indians) and Oct. 30 (for North Indians).

Another October holiday is being celebrated with a stamp for the first time this year: Halloween. The stamps feature photos of four different jack-o’-lanterns, symbols of Halloween in the United States since the late 19th century. Halloween is celebrated on Oct. 31. They are on sale now.

Also, for Christmas the Florentine Madonna and Child stamp will be released on Oct. 18. The stamp features a detail of Madonna and Child, a 15th-century tempera-on-panel painting.

Earlier this year, the USPS issued new Eid Greetings stamps in honor of  the two most important festivals — or eids — in the Islamic calendar: Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha. Eid al-Fitr was celebrated July 6 in North America and Eid al-Adha was celebrated Sept. 12. In 2017, Eid al-Fitr will be celebrated June 25 in North America and Eid al-Adha will be celebrated Sept. 1. These dates, which are based on geographical location and predicted sightings of the moon, are preliminary and may vary slightly as each festival approaches.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

US Letter Writing Contest Open to Kids in Grades 4-12

The U.S. Library of Congress and its Center for the Book are hosting the 24th annual Letters About Literature contest for kids in fourth through 12th grades.

To enter the contest, students must read a book, poem or speech and then write to the author (living or dead) about how the book affected them personally. The contest information lists the theme as "How did an author's work change your view of the world or yourself?"

 Letters are judged on state and national levels in each of three age group categories -- 4-6, 7-8 and 9-12. The state winners in each category are awarded $200 each, and their entries are forwarded to the national level. The national winner in each category will be awarded $1,000.

For more details on how to enter, the criteria, etc., visit the Letters About Literature website, . You'll especially want this PDF of entry guidelines and entry coupon .

If you are an adult, encourage the children in your life to enter this great contest! If you're a kid, find a great book to read and then write that letter! Good luck!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Great Air Mail Sticky Notes!

There’s a recognized phenomena that involves “coincidence.” And, it happens to me all of the time.

Have you ever been thinking about someone and then they call or text? Have you ever seen something on Facebook and then the topic is everywhere, even in non-social media places?  It could be that the topic is just trending in the world, but it also could be synchronicity or “Baader-Meinhof phenomenon” or frequency illusion.

Whatever you call it, I find that once I focus on letter writing, I see related things everywhere. TV shows and songs mention letters; even my daughter’s high school recently had the kids write thank you letters to the community’s first responders. 

Last weekend, I was wandering around Walmart, waiting on the pharmacy to fill a prescription, when I came across these air mail-themed Sticky Notes. They start out opened up flat, but the directions show how to fold them into a mini-envelope, about 2x3.5 inches.
How could I resist? Check at your local store that carries Casemate products.

Happy letter writing!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

USPS launches Star Trek stamps

Last week, the U.S. Postal Service dedicated the Star Trek Forever stamps in New York City. The first-day-of-issue ceremony launched a three-day celebration that drew thousands of Star Trek fans.
“The Postal Service is proud to commemorate ‘Star Trek’ on the eve of its 50th anniversary,” said Postmaster General Megan J. Brennan in a USPS news release, referring to the iconic television program’s Sept. 8, 1966, debut. “Star Trek’s intricate futuristic setting, multicultural cast and story lines touched on social issues and pushed past the boundaries of popular science fiction becoming a worldwide phenomenon.”
Joining Brennan in dedicating the stamps were actor and humanitarian Walter Koenig, who portrayed U.S.S. Enterprise’s navigation officer Pavel Chekov in the series; NASA Deputy Director of Science for Communication Michelle Thaller; CBS Consumer Products Executive Vice President and General Manager Liz Kaloduer; and, U.S. Postal Service Chief Postal Inspector Guy Cottrell.
“With the chaos in today’s world, hopefully the stamps and what they signify can inspire a better future for us all,” Koenig said, in the release.
“’Star Trek’ gave us a universe that we could explore in our imagination,” Thaller said. “In this universe we pioneered not only new technology and new worlds, but — more importantly — new social rules and new definitions of tolerance and diversity. In Star Trek’s universe, we found better ways to be human.”
The stamps, under license by CBS Consumer Products, showcase four digital illustrations inspired by classic elements of the television program:
  • The Starship Enterprise inside the outline of a Starfleet insignia against a gold background;
  • The silhouette of a crewman in a transporter against a red background;
  • The silhouette of the Enterprise from above against a green background; and,
  • The Enterprise inside the outline of the Vulcan salute (Spock’s iconic hand gesture) against a blue background.
The words “SPACE… THE FINAL FRONTIER,” from Captain Kirk’s famous voice-over appears beneath the stamps against a background of stars. The stamp images were created by the design firm Heads of State of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, under the art direction of Antonio Alcalá of Alexandria, Virginia.
“Star Trek” celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2016. Created by Gene Roddenberry, the original “Star Trek” series aired for three seasons. It spawned five more television series and 13 feature films spanning the course of half a century.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Great piece of letter-writing history going up for auction

A wonderful letter handwritten by Bonnie Parker for Clyde Barrow, who then signed it, is going up for auction in September at RR Auction, headquartered in Boston.

The letter from Barrow was sent to fellow gangster Raymond Hamilton, who was incarcerated at the Dallas (Texas) County Jail. According to RR Auction, the letter is not dated but is known to have arrived at the jail on April 30, 1934.

The auction house's website also shows a newspaper article from that time that explains how law enforcement confirmed the letter's authenticity. Some of Bonnie Parker's relatives identified her handwriting, and she was known to have written letters for Barrow.

The letter provides great detail about the lives of the gangsters. Hamilton had been a part of the Barrow Gang but had split with them a few weeks before the letter was written. In the letter, Barrow derides Hamilton's tendency to "live like a king" by sleeping in hotels and taking passenger trains. He also gets in a dig at Hamilton's girlfriend, referring to her as his "Prostitute Sweetheart."

You can read the entire text of the letter and see several pages of it at the auction company's website.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Weekend Letter Writing Tip

"The Love Letter" by
Raimundo de Madrazo y Garreta

For many letter writers, the weekend offers the most free time, which is exactly what you need for writing letters. 

Oh, to be sure, you can jot off a quick note and get it in the mail on your lunch break or after work during the week. But, the typically more relaxed weekend offers the opportunity to sit down and write a truly heartfelt letter to someone who would love to hear from you.

This weekend, make plans to write at least one good letter that you will mail on Monday. 

The first thing you need to do is gather all of your letter writing supplies – stationery, a good pen, envelopes, address book and stamps. Look around for a box or maybe even a tote bag to keep all those things handy.

Look at your schedule for the weekend and plan to give yourself a quiet hour to sit down and write that letter. 

Then, as you go about your weekend chores, start thinking about the person to whom you will be writing. Remember the last time you saw him or her and what you talked about. Think of some good times you’ve shared together. Come up with a few things you’d really like to tell them. If you need to, carry a mini notebook in your pocket and jot down notes on what you want to write in your letter.

When your designated letter writing time comes, sit in a quiet corner, maybe put on some of your favorite music. Relax and write that letter.

Go ahead and get it ready to go in the mailbox. If you have errands to run this weekend, drive past a mail box and drop that letter in.

Happy letter writing!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Musical Letter Writing History

On this day in 1961, the Motown record label released "Please Mr. Postman" by the Marvelettes. It was written by written by Georgia Dobbins, William Garrett, Freddie Gorman, Brian Holland and Robert Bateman.

At the time of the recording, the Marvelettes included Gladys Horton, Katherine Anderson (now Schaffner), Georgeanna Tillman (later Gordon), Juanita Cowart (now Cowart Motley), and Wanda Young (now Rogers).

The lyrics include:
"Please Mister Postman, look and see
 If there's a letter in your bag for me
 Why's it takin' such a long time
 For me to hear from that boy of mine"
 Thanks to the CBS Sunday Morning Show for reminding us of this date in letter writing history on this morning's show! See more here.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Great Book: The Little Paris Bookshop

Last week, my daughter and I went to a bookstore. She needed to get a copy of “The Scarlet Letter,” and I was looking for a couple of mystery novels to take to my mom. We filled both of those orders, but along the way, I also found a novel for myself.

With the busy schedule I keep, I often don’t have time to read fiction. It’s almost as if it’s a luxury that I can’t afford the minutes for.

And, yet, when I came across “The Little Paris Bookshop” by Nina George, I couldn’t resist it. 

The cover caught my eye, with its image of a slightly tattered postcard atop a scene of Paris. 

Then, I read the back cover snippet, which reads, in part:

“Monsieur Perdu is a literary apothecary. From his floating bookstore in a barge on the Seine, he prescribes novels for the hardships of life. Using his intuitive feel for the exact book a reader needs, Perdu mends broken hearts and souls. The only person he can’t seem to heal is himself: he’s still haunted by heartbreak after his great love disappeared. She left him with only a letter that he has never opened.”

So, of course, I bought a copy. It was a great buy! I just finished “The Little Paris Bookshop,” which was published in Germany under the name “Das Lavendelzimmer” and was translated by Simon Pare, and I loved every word of it. 

“The Little Paris Bookshop” is the type of book that draws the reader into the lives of the characters so completely that when you have to put the book down for a few minutes to take care of your real-life obligations, such as feeding your family, you miss the characters and can’t wait to get back to them. Jean Perdu loves books, makes quirky friends, always has a cat or two hanging around … and he writes letters.

Nina George has such a way with words that, no matter where you are or what’s going on around you, you are effortlessly transported to the scenes she describes, seeing what the characters see, feeling what they feel.

Here’s a paragraph:

Young Jean had gazed out into the depths of space, watching in raptures as the heavens continued to turn. He had felt safe, ensconced in the heart of that endless summer night. For those few hours, Jean Perdu had grasped life’s secrets and purposes. He had been at peace with himself, everything in its rightful place. He had known that nothing ever ends, that everything in life flows into everything else and that he could do no wrong.

If you love books or letters or travel or France or love, if you are the least bit sentimental or enjoy a good escape from everyday life every now and then, find a copy of “The Little Paris Bookshop” by Nina George.  I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Stamps Honor the Olympics

As millions of people across the globe watch the 2016 Olympics in Rio this week, several countries have released postage stamps honoring the games.

Although the U.S. Postal Service didn't release a new Olympics stamp this year, they have several times in the past. And the International Stamp News website has a list of stories about the stamps that have been issued this year by various countries. Click here for more information.

A US stamp from the past.
The Olympics offer a great way for people of all different nationalities to connect with one another...just like letter writing and penpalling does. The games also provide great topics to write letters about! Write to your penpals about your favorite Summer Olympics sport, how your country's teams are doing, what sport you play or wish you played, etc. The ideas are practically endless!

Enjoy watching the games, and write some letters while you watch.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Undelivered letters reveal 17th century life

A treasure trunk full of letters is shedding light on 17th century life.
Thanks to The Literacy Site for sharing the story of a trunk full of letters from the 1600s that are now shedding light on what life was like then.

According to a news release from the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, the letters had been stored by a postmaster and his wife in The Hague. At that time, the postage was paid by the recipient, rather than by the sender, as it is now. Many of the letters were refused by the recipients, but others couldn't be delivered because the recipient had either moved or was deceased. The couple hoped that eventually someone would come pick up the letters. That never happened for 2,600 missives.

Researchers from Leiden University, the University of Groningen, The University of Oxford, Yale University and MIT were the first to read and analyze the letters. They are not only taking note of the content of the correspondence, but also the way that the letters were folded and sealed.Dr. David van der Linden from the University of Groningen said: "People had a very personal way of folding letters, rather like their own signature. We call this 'letter locking': folding and sealing a letter so that nobody could secretly read it. This is a revolutionary new research field – and the letters in this collection form a golden opportunity to study and analyse these different styles of folding."

The sealed letters will not be opened. Thanks to x-ray computed tomography, an advanced scanning technique which was also used to study the Dead Sea Scrolls, the letters can be read without breaking the seals, leaving the material evidence of letter sealing untouched.

The letters will also shed light on the life and times of ordinary people from the past, particularly Huguenot families forced to flee their homes. Van der Linden said, "A lot of Huguenots fled religious persecution under Louis XIV, while others remained in France. Letters were their only way of staying in touch. The letters in this collection show the high emotional price that these families had to pay for separation."

(Photos from the University of Groningen in the Netherlands)

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