All posts by Mary Robinette Kowal

Mary Robinette Kowal is the author of SHADES OF MILK AND HONEY and GLAMOUR IN GLASS. In 2008 she received the Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and in 2011, her short story “For Want of a Nail” won the Hugo Award for Short Story. Her work has been nominated for the Hugo, Nebula and Locus awards. Mary, a professional puppeteer, also performs as a voice actor, recording fiction for authors such as Elizabeth Bear, Cory Doctorow and John Scalzi. She lives in Portland, OR with her husband Rob and over a dozen manual typewriters. You may write to her at: P.O. Box 221298 Chicago, IL 60622

Day 2 of LetterMo and the Quests are back!

parcelToday is the first day that mail ran in February. Did you manage to get out and mail something?

If you did… You can hop over to the Quests and Badges page and see if you met any of the quest items. Right now, there are just a few but I’ll try to get some more up by the end of the month. Meanwhile, have fun and write another letter.

Welcome to the first day of Month of Letters!

 

20140203_spot-of-mail1This year starts off easy, since the post doesn’t run today.

I’m sitting at home, safely ensconced by the fire as the snow comes blustering into Chicago. I have a hot cocoa and my writing supplies. As we launch into the month, it occurred to me to talk about what to expect as the month goes on. Sometimes, people feel discouraged because they are sending out letters and getting nothing back.

When I started the project, I thought one of the points was to encourage people to send me mail. I’ve realized over the years, that it’s really and truly not about that. It’s about taking time out of your day to think about and connect with one other person. We spend so much time on the internet being partly in performance mode, that the intimacy of letters, and the audience of one, is a rare luxury.

Even if you don’t receive a single letter in return, I can promise you that the items you mail out this month have an impact. If you get a text, or a facebook message, or a phone call, or a bigger smile then you’ve made a connection there. You’ve made your day and the world a little bit brighter, just by taking time to slow down.

Now… if you’ll excuse me. I have some letters to write. I’ll see you at the post office.

So why was the site down the last two days?

The condensed version… My host sent me an email on January 25 saying that my site was due to expire in the next 30 days. Apparently, “in the next 30 days” meant January 26th, but the email didn’t actually list an expiration date. I was on the road and the site went down.

The last forty-eight hours have been me trying to get the website turned back on. Tech support at host couldn’t get it turned on either, which was a little maddening. Until about five minutes ago!

Hurrah!

So, welcome back, and please accept my apologies for the outage.

Plans for this year’s Month of Letters, in which I admit that I have a problem.

We’re less than a month away from the beginning of Month of Letters!

I’ll bet you’re wondering why there haven’t been posts leading up to the month the way I’ve done in previous years. I’m going to be honest about this, and this will be my first time mentioning this on the internets. I’ve been dealing with depression for much of the past year, and only started treatment last summer.

The reason I’m telling you this is that I’m trying really, really hard to treat this as no more shameful than a broken arm or a cold. The social stigma on mental illness is much less than it was when I was a kid, but I’m still hampered by those early beliefs. I don’t want to reinforce that by hiding my own struggle and, frankly, that struggle is about to affect you.

Here’s the deal. WordPress upgraded the software that I run the site with, which is great. Unfortunately, the new version breaks the badges. My webmaster let me know in plenty of time to have it fixed. Plenty of time. At the same time, she also let me know that she was going to need to step down. Both of which would have been fine, but they coincided with the period right before I finally admitted that I was ill. So, we’re a less than a month from the beginning of Month of Letters and this major thing is still broken.

I’m better than I was last summer, but using the broken arm analogy, I still can’t lift this thing. I’ve decided that rather than frantically trying to pick up the thing that I’ve dropped and cobble something together, I am going to focus on the point of the Month of Letters, which is the letters and the connections that come from that.

The challenges will still be there this year BUT the badges are going to be on the honor system. When you win a challenge, you’ll be able to add that badge (I think) to your profile.

I’m streamlining other parts of the site for this year, because that’s manageable. And breaking it into smaller tasks means that I, with my broken arm, can still carry it. Next year… next year, I’m hoping that everything, everything, will be in a better place.

And if I can just also add… If you’re struggling, too, it’s not shameful. Just do what you can do, and know that it’s okay to ask for help with the rest.

Introducing Michi Trota, our new community liaison

This is our third year and we appear to have about 7000 people signed up for Month of Letters. Unlike the first two years, I’m having to travel this year so I decided to bring in some help. Allow me to introduce Michi Trota, the Month of Letters new community liaison. What does that mean? Michi is going to help me keep an eye on the forums and troubleshoot participant problems.

Michi blogs about all things geek (and occasionally bacon) at GeekMelange. She’s a member of the Board of Organizers and Facebook moderator for the Chicago Nerd Social Club, and in her spare time writes personal essay/memoir, spins fire (sometimes in cosplay) and manages communications & event organizing for the Chicago Full Moon Jams.

In short, she’s exactly the sort of person you want in your corner.

To contact her with questions, use the contact form , which will go straight to her mailbox. She’ll either answer the question or route it to the right person.

And where am I? Well… This week, I’ve got my puppeteer hat on and I’m at a Sesame Street workshop.

Postable is partnering with us this year!

Postable BannerLast year, I suggested using Postable.com as an easy way to exchange mailing addresses with other members. It’s a super-easy and free service that’s designed to make collecting addresses simple. It’s designed for people getting married, and I actually wound up recommending it to my brand-new sister-in-law when she and my brother got married last year.

This year, they contacted me and said they wanted to be involved, because they also love mail. Which is fantastic and really kind. And… they’ve also added a new thing since last year. They can print and mail cards for you.

But doesn’t that defeat the point of Month of Letters?

Actually, no. The point is to think about one person at a time and to put something in that person’s mailbox that will make them smile. Now, personally, I enjoy writing with a fountain pen, but there are folks who have carpal tunnel, arthritis, or other things that make handwriting hard. There shouldn’t be an entry barrier to participating. So having someone else print and send the card for you is totally fine.

It also, to be totally honest, will help the site because they are contributing a portion of sales that come in through this link. http://www.postable.com/partner/lettermo

But just to be completely clear — you don’t have to send cards through them to use postable.com. It remains the easiest way I’ve found to collect addresses. Check them out!

Welcome to February! The Month of Letters begins!

Let’s start easy, shall we? It’s Saturday and all you have to do is put one thing in the mail today.

You can write a long breathless letter to an old friend that you haven’t talked to in far too long, or just jot a quick note on a postcard. The key isn’t to dazzle with your wit — though feel free to do that if the mood strikes you — but to make a thought tangible. Whatever you put in the mail today represents the moment when you were thinking about a specific someone. Think of this a a month of sending 23 tiny gifts, and the gifts are you. 

And to encourage you, we have badges. You don’t have to play for these, but if you enjoy side challenges, then you can log what you sent on our “What have you sent?” form. 

One caution — only fill out the form once per day.

Now, go mail something.