The Art of Letter Writing in a digital age

With most of the employees at the library where I work suddenly working from home last year, one of our administrators began hosting a bi-monthly “Kindness in Crisis” Zoom meeting. Staff were invited to come and share topics that they were passionate about. This enabled opportunities for more meaningful connections with our colleagues when we were physically separated.

As most of my writing during the quarantine consisted of letters, and as it is such a beautiful way for people who are separated to connect, I presented on the art of letter writing. Below I share my slides with my talking points.

This is a presentation I created for our "Practicing Kindness in Crisis" series at work.


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Overview of Topics

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How to Find Pen Pals: Reconnect with family, friends - Postable (screenshot of Postable Address Book.

Handwritten letters provide not just communication, but an opportunity for real connection.


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Why Write Letters - image of USPS logo.

Plus, our postal service is in peril, help support these vital front-line workers, buy stamps, send letters.


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What to write: Date and greeting; introduction; about self/ pepper with questions, what do you know about them?, If from site, check profile; Closing - word cloud of different hobbies and interests.

If you are writing to a new pen pal, you can engage by writing about your interests, then asking about theirs.


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How to Find Pen Pals: Reconnect with family, friends - Postable (screenshot of Postable Address Book.

Postable is a site where you can not only send cards, but also its a free online address book.


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How to find pen pals: Online letter writing groups / challenges - LetterMo (www.lettermo.com), InCoWriMo (incowrimo.org). Images - banner from LetterMo.com and banner from InCoWriMo 2020 Facebook group page.

There are several challenges, such as LetterMo – where the goal is to mail something each day the post runs in February. That’s how I got started.


How to find pen pals: Online postcard writing groups / challenges - postcrossing (www.postcrossing.com); image of PostCrossing website, image of 5 postcards from various cities.

There are also sites that match you with folks for exchanges, like postcard swaps.


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Beyond the Word: Stationery

A handwritten letter, unlike electric correspondence, is more than just the words on the page. You get to customize it in so many ways, such as stationery.


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Beyond the Word: Cards / post cards

Blank cards come in many sizes and designs.


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Beyond the Word: Pens / typewriter / etc.

How you put the words to page can be as interesting as what you say. Whether you’re a fountain pen aficionado, or prefer a simple ball-point, your writing implement gives others a sense of who you are.


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Beyond the Word: Stamps

Stamps, along with ink or markers, can personalize mass-produced cards, envelopes, or even dress up plain old notebook paper.


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Beyond the Word: Postage Stamps

Of course, don’t forget that postage stamps come in many styles, as well. Domestic or international, most stamps sold now-a-days are “forever” stamps, and will be good even after any future rate changes.


Beyond the Word: Washi tape

Paper washi tape is easy to apply and remove, and makes an excellent accent and, given current circumstances, can be used to seal envelopes, rather than licking the adhesive.


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Beyond the Word: Inserts

Your letter doesn’t have to be the only thing in envelope – share pictures, recipes, tea, seeds for gardens, or whatever you can fit.


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Express Yourself: Language

What language you use, whether you are formal or more casual, allows you to express yourself – no two people talk alike.


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Express Yourself: Interests

Share what you are passionate about, it will come through in your words.


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Express Yourself: Inserts

What you choose to include, from washi tape samples, to art you’ve made also tells a bit more about you.


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Express Yourself: Letter / Envelope Art

And the letter doesn’t end when you seal the envelope. Stickers, stamps, washi tape, etc. can be used to jazz up the envelope – or you can make your own out of sturdy paper.


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Letter / Envelope Art - Image of various decorative paper, Image of a variety of stickers, image of "do-dads," including buttons, cutouts, blank recipe card, worn playing card, among others.

Stickers, interesting paper, stencils, stamps, and do-dads can all be used (or even repurposed) to decorate or make cards or envelopes, or even art to include inside.


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Letter / Envelope Art - images of hand decorated cards, and a poem made of phrase stickers on the back of a mass-market card.

You don’t have to have someone specific in mind when you make a unique card, but if you do know them, you can certainly find things that remind you of them.


Hopefully this post has given you some ideas, and raises your excitement for February and the official start of LetterMo. There is no wrong way to write a letter, so play around and figure out what feels most authentic to you. And maybe share what you love about letter writing, and help this beautiful form of communication to continue to thrive. pace


Resources

There are many, many, many resources on the Internet (like with all things.) Many organizations for letter writers to connect, to meet folks, and to talk about what is most important/ valuable to them in letter writing.


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Flynn, large orange tabby, laying on a half-written letter, with a folded paper fan between his paws
Flynn loves to help with letter writing.

Looking for a Reason to Write?

Just 10 days to LetterMo 2021! If you haven’t registered yet, do it as soon as possible so you can get started on February 1 and find some new pen pals if needed. Are you trying to fill your planning calendar with people and reasons to write?

If you feel like you need an occasion to write someone, here are some fun days of the month for you to get in touch. Perhaps you can tell your pen pal why you started playing the ukulele (2nd) or why something is one of your favourite foods – whether it’s pizza (9th), gum drops (15th), or sticky buns (21st). There are a lot of fun greeting cards, stickers and washi tape that you can show your love. Perhaps you can share your favourite home made soup (4th) or margarita recipe. With the list below, you can likely find something interesting that you can put pen to paper to write about.

Happy writing!

Click on the image above for a full size printable PDF.

Welcome to LetterMo 2021!

Hello!
Welcome to A Month of Letters aka LetterMo, the 2021 edition! Thanks for being interested and wanting to be part of the growing movement to revive the art of letter writing.

Wonder how this annual celebration of snail mail got started? Find out here or check out the FAQ if you have questions about how this works.

Sound fun? Want to join us? Sign up here. Some things to keep in mind:

  • A more complete profile will help you find a better match
  • Be patient with approvals – there are real humans who approve each application; don’t re-apply as it will make you look a spam account and get banned.
  • When you receive your approval, LOG IN (next to the sign up button) and check out the member only FORUMS where you will find a START HERE post with guidelines
  • Ensure you have a secure password.

Check in at your post office or online to order your stamps as well as find, order or make stationery and get ready for February 1!

We would not be here with out the vision of our founder and the hard work of our wonderful Admin team. There is a lot of behind the scenes work and they have volunteered their time to keep this program running and also those who have contributed their design skills.

Happy letter writing and have fun!

In the meantime…

While we wait for the technology to be updated, here are some past posts that are good reviews especially if you are new to letter writing.

LetterMo 2021

Hello – A happy and healthy new year to all!

We’re happy to confirm that the 2021 edition of A Month of Letters is a go.

However, the small volunteer admin team is still in the process of setting things up.

There is still some technical work to be done before we start approving new members regularly. This is a process that is done by real humans, and one at a time to ensure our members don’t get spammed. There is no need to apply multiple times, it make the address look like spam.

Thanks for being kind and patient.

The links still need to be updated and the site might be inaccessible from time to time as the technical work goes on.

There will be an announcement when we’re ready!

Thank you,
LetterMo Admins

Insider’s look into the Arizona Correspondence Society

Thanks to Letter Moian Renée for writing this insider’s look into a starting up a club!

I’ve been a letter writer for a long time – more than a few decades.  I was 11 when I wrote to my first pen pal. If I wasn’t writing to a pen pal, I was keeping a journal, which I consider to be nothing more than a letter to myself.  I have experienced the benefits of letter writing that we all have read or heard about at one time or another.  If you are reading this, chances are you have written a few letters in your lifetime and experienced and know the benefits too.  And, if you ask around, you are not alone.   

A couple of years ago, I started working from home and had more time to surf the internet.  I discovered a variety of online pen pal organizations, stationery aficionados, pen clubs, and letter writing communities.  The abundance of postings of images of letters being sent out and/or received made me gleeful to know I am part of a broader community of letter writers; so much so, that I wanted to know who in my immediate community is a fellow epistler, and could we have regular meetups much like any other social club?  

There are numerous letter-writing societies around the world.  If you are interested in finding a local society, check out the Directory of Letter Writing Societies’ website.  The listings are by country and by state.  You can also search on Meetup for a group near you.  While I discovered there are many groups and all with a variety of agendas, there was nothing in Arizona.  Hence, I decided to start my own society and named it the Arizona Correspondence Society, an organization whose mission is to facilitate the enrichment and deepening of human connections via handwritten letters. We received our nonprofit status in December of 2019.  

And up till this March when we began following social distancing guidelines, we were pretty productive. We were holding two letter socials a month, facilitating letter writing at an elementary school, answered ‘Dear Santa’ letters, and held our first calligraphy workshop.  We had plans to work with a local adult care center for letter socials, but for now, we are providing letter writing supplies for their use until we do have their first letter social. We have been fortunate to receive donations of letter supplies, fountain pens, and stamps which have kept the letter socials free.  I maintain our website and our Instagram account to promote our events. Not all letter writing societies are nonprofits, but many are facilitated by businesses that specialize in writing supplies. There are plenty of community groups that are facilitated by neither, but all of the letter societies are facilitated by someone passionate about letters.

While we are uncertain when letter socials can take place again, the Arizona Correspondence Society will be ready when it becomes safe.  Until then, letters will still be written and delivered, and letter socials may be happening online.  

In the meantime, you may find yourself with some extra time to spend on research. So, drawing from my own experience, allow me to share the steps taken and lessons learned to start a local correspondence society. It is a long post, but if you want a successful group and events, you need to consider all the angles.


How to Start a Letter Writing Group

Find your squad, your posse, like-minded people:

I started posting on my Facebook page to get an estimate of how many people would be interested.  I posted on my page and also various community pages such as neighborhood groups, women groups, fountain pen groups… you get the idea.  I received a very positive response from letter writers and from those who were interested in starting the practice.  

Set a date and time:

Here is where I made a big mistake.  I queried those who responded to my posts regarding a date and time.  The response was all over the calendar. Trying to figure out a date and time that would work for the majority just wasn’t happening.  After a month of trying, I had to become the “PostMaster” and choose the time and date that worked best for me (especially since I was going to have to facilitate the group).  If some people could not attend, I figured they could attend a future letter social.

Find a location:

Since I did not have a budget for this endeavor, and I wanted to make it as inexpensive as possible, I started calling libraries, local bookstores, and free community rooms.  I was looking for a place where I could hold a meeting regularly. I learned that if you schedule far enough in advance, this was a possibility. I was lucky to find my local library had a community room available.  My back up plan was to utilize a coffee shop or an eatery, but some places will expect you to order a minimum amount of food or drink – something to consider when choosing a location. Other things to take into consideration are travel time, public transit, and parking availability.    Sometimes a location will dictate your time and date. You will have to be flexible. I choose time and date based on my schedule and the availability of the library room.

Publicize the Letter Social:

Publicizing really is the key to success, and there are many ways to go about it.  I posted on all my social media accounts and then some. I sent out personal invites to everyone who had previously said they were interested and to some of my business acquaintances.  I also did a bit of advertising at local stationery stores, libraries, coffee shops, and community calendars, as well as creating a Meetup group. Keep in mind that there is a cost to Meetup, but I was able to find a discount code to make it a bit more affordable.  If you publicize blindly via all avenues, you don’t really know how many people will show up. That’s why, for the first two letter socials, I asked for RSVPs. While I wanted to be prepared for the potential stampede of people, truthfully, I figured for every ten people who said they would come, maybe one would show up. I received 10 RSVPs, and four showed up – not including the librarians that came in and out of the room.  Once you’re established, you’ll have a better idea of what to expect for numbers, and then I don’t think it’s necessary to have an RSVP unless you have room restrictions. For example, if you are at a coffee shop or such, you are going to need to know how big a table to reserve.

Meeting fellow epistlers:

I always make sure that all attendees sign my address book.  I will send them a snail mail and an email reminder of future socials.  I always get questions as to what happens at letter socials. It is just a bunch of people who get together and write letters typically in silence.  Every now and then, there is small talk about stationery, writing tools (we have someone who writes entire letters with a dip pen), where to find interesting postcards, and we all “ooh” and “ahh” over vintage stamps and washi tape.   Some like to showcase their handwriting and envelope art. Every now and then, someone brings a typewriter for people to use, and we have jokingly said we will have a speed typing test at a future meeting. I may not get a chance to do a lot of letter writing at the socials.  I make myself available to help anyone with letter writing prompts, or a letter recipient, or formatting an envelope. I will bring a few books to inspire letter writing.

Since we were at the library, I brought light snacks and bottled water.  I also brought supplies for anyone in need of them. As a thank you for coming, I gave them a stamp for their first letter written at the social (something I do at every social).   I am sure none of that was necessary, but I was taught to feed your guests. There was always someone offering to share their supplies too.

Challenges

After a while, I noticed a general waning in new faces at the letter socials, so I took a break from the library scene to figure out what it was I was genuinely trying to obtain from this.  I didn’t give up letter socials completely, as I held a “pop-up” letter social at coffee shops and eateries whenever I could. I considered it research. What I discovered was people enjoy receiving letters, and most think letter writing is a “cool” notion.  But not many want to invest in the art form by purchasing supplies, or they just prefer the instant gratification of electronic communications. I have also discovered from the community letter socials that some people don’t know how to write a letter, or how to address an envelope, or didn’t have anyone to write to.  The more I spoke to people, the more I realized that letter writing might be a dying form of communication (yes, I said it).

If you have any questions, you can contact Renée here.


Perhaps in this time of social distancing and isolation, people will pick up the pen again. Instead of another Zoom meeting or hours of screen time, they will discover or rediscover the art of letter writing, whether it is to a friend or family member that could be far or near away, or perhaps some kind words to a senior that is socially isolated during this pandemic. Reach out to your local seniors centre or care facility to see if you can help by sending a letter.

Ready to Write_On?

As we’re sure you all know, April is National Letter and Card Writing Month. In 2001, it was officially designated by the U.S. Postal Service as National Card and Letter Writing Month “to raise awareness of the importance and historical significance of card and letter writing.”

Egg Press in Portland started the Write_On campaign in 2014 to challenge their family and friends to write 30 letters/cards in 30 days. Check out the website for a list of great resources from trackers, envelope liners, reasons to write and tools. Follow @EggPress and the #Write_On tag on Instagram so you don’t miss out on inspiration, letter-writing prompts, and some fun giveaways* of Sakura pens! They also have an active Write_On Facebook group full of friendly folks (including several Letter Moians!) to link up with new pen pals, share your favourite stamps, and cheer each other on throughout the month’s challenge!

Did you finish writing to all of your LetterMo penpals and are looking for someone else to write? Perhaps check out our #MailMission page, and write a letter or card to someone who would appreciate a smile in the mail. Write_On also has a list of people in need of some kind words.

Please share and tag your mail-errific efforts this April on your posts on Instagram or in the daily mail call in the LetterMo Facebook group so we can cheer you on:
#write_on #lettermo #happymail #snailmail #nationalcardletterwritingmonth

Snail Mail Small Business Savings & Shout Outs

During this unprecedented time of business closures around the world due to the pandemic, we wanted to give a shout out to those small businesses who love and create beautiful cards and stationery for us snail mail lovers. While we do our best to revive the art of letter writing, we’re lucky that we can find beautiful things to send in the mail.

These are a collection of offers that have been spotted on social media, and range from free shipping to percentage off. Some of them are favourites recommended by Letter Moians. Support them if you can – whether it’s to re-stock your stationery stash for National Card and Letter Writing Month in April or beyond, or to share this post with your friends and family who also love stationery. Don’t need anything for yourself? Some shops offer giftcards too! Let’s try to help keep these awesome and creative stationery – and sometimes sassy and salty! – suppliers around. ♥

If you know of any others, from anywhere in the world, please comment below with a link to their online shop.

* Please note: I haven’t had time to check out the details of all the offers. I have included expiry dates if I could easily find them; free shipping may only refer to local areas only, and dollar limits in local currency.
~ Irene

Constellation & Co
Home of the Snail Mail Superstar.
Free shipping on all orders until April 30, 2020

Paper Pastries
20% off until March 31, 2020 with the code: STAYSAFE20
Free shipping for orders over $50

Regional Assembly of Text
Until March 31, 2020, save 40% off everything in their Stationery category with special code Stationery=Paper
Sign up for their quarterly newsletter to so you can find out any new products and other future offers.

Steel Petal Press
Lots of sassy and salty cards 😀 and Corona Care packages .
Free shipping until April 7 with code: VIRTUALHUGS

TAY HAM
20% off all orders for the next month. with code: GOODVIBES

Some other of our letter writers’ small biz faves*:

2impressshop
Custom return address rubber stamps.
Free shipping.

One-Per-Week
Curated monthly subscription service among other lovely stationery including vintage stamps.

Carpe Diem Papers
Free shipping within US for greeting card orders.

Egg Press
Originator of the Write_On Campaign!

Graphic Anthology
Cards ship free.
Subscribe to their newsletter and get 15% off your first order in addition to birthday discounts.

I Loot Paperie
Very punny and cute cards and washi tapes.

Paper Wilderness
Whimsical watercolour paper goods and fantastic animal puns.

Postmark’d Studio
Premium monthly stationery subscription and other snail mail goodies.

Pretty by Post
Curated Greeting Cards For The Snail Mail Lover. Free shipping on first order and monthly contests in the Facebook group.

Rhubarb Paper Co.
“Not Yo’ Grandma’s Greeting Cards”

Wit & Whistle
“Pretty funny paper goods” – cards and rubber stamps.

(*not all verified*)

Keep Mailing, Snail Mailers!

I don’t think anyone could have imagined that the world would be facing a global pandemic this year. During this time of heightened anxiety and feelings of isolation, we wanted to share that it’s safe to continue to send mail.

In an interview, Dr. Michael Merson, a dean’s special adviser at the New York University School of Global Public Health, told CBS News:

“I have not seen any evidence to support transmission of the new coronavirus through mail and experts universally feel that the risk of spread from mail or packaging that is shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient temperatures is remote.”

“No, you won’t contract corona virus from a package you receive in the mail” By Sophie Lewis – March 5, 2020 / 5:11 PM  / CBS NEWS

While some international borders have closed, it is mainly the restriction of people crossing, not goods nor mail. With the exception of mailing/receiving from some points in Asia, most postal systems state that it’s mostly business as usual with the exception of some personal handling (e.g. delivery signatures) and guaranteed delivery times in the USA, Canada, UK, and Germany (top locations of Letter Moians). Check with your national postal service and let us know in the comments.

In fact, during this time of “social distancing,” perhaps there has never been a better time to return to the art of writing letters and help people from feeling isolated.

Keep on writing, Letter Moians!

Mail Mission Accomplished!

It was wonderful to read that many of you participated in Mail Missions during LetterMo.

In chatting in one of my Facebook Groups, a member of the Braid Mission mentioned that they had received several “Cards of Hope” from LetterMo members and hearing that news really warmed the cockles of my heart. YAY for you kind-hearted people!

Another Mail Mission that many of your undertook was to send World War II veteran Fred Arsenault a birthday card for his 100th birthday. Cards were sent from Canada, USA and from around the world.

Fred Arsenault with his original request. Fred with his daughter-in-law at his birthday party on March 5, 2020, announcing how many cards he received.

We are happy to report that Fred Arsenault achieved his request to receive 100 cards for his 100th birthday. He just received an extra 90,000 of them! Click this link to see scenes from his birthday party.

Thanks to all of you kind snailmailers! <3
🎉🎂💌📮 

In February, mail one item every day it runs. #lettermo Sign up to find Lettermo Penpals!