Without our hardworking postal carriers, LetterMo could not be the treasure that it is. So while you’re putting today’s outgoing in the mailbox, show your appreciation and drop in an extra note to say “thanks” to those who allow us to connect with each other.
Ever heard the phrase “we just need your John Hancock” in reference to signing a contract or form? This idiom refers to one of the US’s founding fathers, and his noticeably bold signature on the Declaration of Independence.
Hancock’s signature towers over the names of others present at the signing of the US Declaration of Independence
Born on January 23, 1737, Hancock’s birthday was given a new purpose in 1977, when it was declared National Handwriting Day. The Writing Instrument Manufacturers Association (WIMA) reminds us that “handwriting can add intimacy to a letter and reveal details about the writer’s personality. Throughout history, handwritten documents have sparked love affairs, started wars, established peace, freed slaves, created movements and declared independence.”
The WIMA also has recommendations of how we can celebrate National Handwriting Day:
Write a note. A quick handwritten note can make huge impact on someone’s day, from a note in your child’s lunchbox to a love note to a sweetheart.
Pen a poem.Not everyone is Shakespeare, but poetry is a great way to bring out your innermost thoughts about something you are passionate about.
Jot in your journal. Writing down your deepest thoughts in a private journal can help work through things you with which you may be struggling.
Sign your name. Channel your inner John Hancock and practice your signature, there is still a place today to sign on the dotted line.
And of course our favorite:
Compose a letter. The days of writing a letter on paper and sending it in the mail are not gone, reach out to someone you haven’t communicated with in a while by writing them a letter. Everyone loves getting mail!
So sharpen your pencils, refill your ink wells, and pull out your stationary. Everyone can take advantage of a little practice, whatever form of your LetterMo letters, be they typed, handwritten, or pictorial.
When putting pen to paper, the words convey a story – whether it is a fantastical tale of swashbuckling heroes, or in the thoughts shared with a friend. A series of letters can be a powerful thing, painting an image of an entire world from hints hidden in each envelope.
One of my favorite epistolary books is 84, Charing Cross Road, which is a selection of real correspondence between the author, Helene Hanff, and bookseller Frank Doel.
The collection starts in October 1949, with a letter sent from her New York apartment, in which Helene inquires about used copies of several titles. Her queries to the London based Marks & Co. Booksellers are handled by one FPD. Over the course of her letters and requests for various titles, Helene gets the bookseller, Frank Doel, to open up.
There is great contrast between Helene’s bombastic personality, and Frank’s staid one, but you get the sense of genuine care between the two. This friendship grows over twenty years, over many book orders, and Helene ordering much coveted foodstuffs sent to the shop in the heavily rationed England, making sure to include other shop workers in her generosity.
Her actions cause other staff at the shop to reach out:
“Please don’t let Frank know I’m writing this but every time I send you a bill I’ve been dying to slip in a little note and he might not think it quite proper of me. That sounds stuffy and he’s not, he’s quite nice really, very nice in fact, it’s just that he does rather look on you as his private correspondent as all your letters and parcels are addressed to him.” Cecily Farr, 7th April, 1950
The book contains several letters between Helene and others in Frank’s life, including co-workers, his wife, and even one from a friend who is traveling and visits the bookshop on Helene’s behest, writing back a lovely description of the establishment. Several letters include plans for Helene to travel to London and visit the bookshop herself, though as of the time of the last letter in the book, in 1969, she had not. Marks & Co. closed in 1970, the year the book was published.
It is the little things in the letters, the attitude of Helene when she has not received any books in a while (including the absence of capitalization), the warm responses and small details about the shop included in the invoices from Frank, that draw a reader in, so much that at times it feels more like fiction than non-fiction.
Personal correspondence contributes not only to literary endeavors, but also to history, providing first hand accounts of life – a snapshot in time of the senders’ world. Letters can bring to life events that history books may paint with a broad brush through small details, such as the food rationing in Britain during and after the second world war.
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. agario
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.
Handwritten letters provide not just communication, but an opportunity for real connection.
Plus, our postal service is in peril, help support these vital front-line workers, buy stamps, send letters.
If you are writing to a new pen pal, you can engage by writing about your interests, then asking about theirs.
Postable is a site where you can not only send cards, but also its a free online address book.
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.
There are also sites that match you with folks for exchanges, like postcard swaps.
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.
Blank cards come in many sizes and designs.
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.
Stamps, along with ink or markers, can personalize mass-produced cards, envelopes, or even dress up plain old notebook paper.
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.
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.
Your letter doesn’t have to be the only thing in envelope – share pictures, recipes, tea, seeds for gardens, or whatever you can fit.
What language you use, whether you are formal or more casual, allows you to express yourself – no two people talk alike.
Share what you are passionate about, it will come through in your words.
What you choose to include, from washi tape samples, to art you’ve made also tells a bit more about you.
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.
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.
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
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.