Here’s a pdf of the LetterMo 2017 planning calendar
Do you have your stationary and your stamps all ready?
Here’s a pdf of the LetterMo 2017 planning calendar
Do you have your stationary and your stamps all ready?
June 15, 2016 in Journal
You and I, we know the power of letters. If there’s ever a time that you are going to write to your representative, this is it. That time you have carved out for a pen pal, take time to write a letter and express your grief that people continue to be murdered because legislators won’t even study the problem.
I have my own, very strong views, about actions that our government should take regarding guns. I’m not going to push those on you. But if you are heartsick, know that we, as letter writers, have a power. Letters are taken more seriously than emails or Facebook or Twitter.
I am heartsick about the shootings that keep happening. Orlando was the most recent, and largest, but by no means unique. I want my government to make this stop by passing comprehensive gun control laws.
When you consider what it takes to own a car, which has other purposes, is it too much to ask that we are as stringent with firearms? While there are legitimate uses for guns, most Americans own them as a hobby and are improperly trained. Any other hobby, with this high of a death rate, would have been banned long ago.
Please. Please make sure that there is never another Columbine, or Sandy Hook, or Virginia Tech, or Orlando. Please step up and make this stop. It’s why we elected you.
You and I? We understand the power of letters. So please…. Please write a letter today.
*I will note that Postable.com allows you to write one letter and send it to multiple addresses. Before writing, simply choose “More options” and then “Carbon Copy.” The letter will look handwritten and they will put it in an envelope and send it to your senator for you. All you have to do is supply the address and the content.
February 29, 2016 in Journal
Some of you managed to send mail everyday this month, which is fantastic. That’s at least 24 packets of joy you sent in the mail, and from what I can tell, some of you sent a lot more than that. Make sure you get your Winner badge.
Some of you managed only a couple of pieces. I don’t want to hear you say that you “failed” at Month of Letters. This challenge is about making connections and slowing down to think about just one person at a time. Any step towards that is a good thing. You made someone’s day brighter and that can never be considered a failure. So focus on what you did achieve.
And it is also Leap Day, so… we have a special leap day badge for you. If you take your mail to the post office and ask them to hand-cancel it, then you’ll wind up with the rare February 29th date.
So… Since this is all about connections, share the connection that made you happiest.
February 27, 2016 in Journal
Hello everyone, as Mary mentioned yesterday I’m doing a tiny bit of guest posting here in the last days of LetterMo. I actually spent the first part of the month in her wonderful company and was inspired to even greater letter writing heights by her example.
Jumping off the Day 20 post about time delays, I find myself fascinated by the variance in the time delay between when I send a letter and when the recipient receives it. Before I started Month of Letters, I had a vague idea that first class mail took three or four days, maybe a day or two longer if I sent it all the way to another coast. However, as I get in reports from people who get my letters, I realized that mail is taking longer than I assumed. Sometimes up to a week and maybe a few days more.
When I mentioned my surprise on Twitter, I learned that the difference in time depends on many factors, including where one mails their letters. Most of my letters from earlier in the month went to the mailbox for the postman to pick up on his normal route. That probably means that the letters didn’t get processed until the day after I mailed them, which delays their journey. This same issue can crop up even if you drop a letter in a public mailbox depending on the time of day. The way to assure that your letter is processed faster seems to be taking it to the post office directly, but even that is subject to variance unless you head to your city or town’s central post office.
None of this is particularly bad, mind you. That letters take a while to get to their destination is part of the fun. I just had to adjust my own expectations. Since I recently took a long trip and wrote to people back home, a few times I saw the person I wrote to before their letter came!
I now pay a great deal of attention to postmarks and dates to see how long it was between when the letter left the writer’s hand and it appeared at my doorstep.
How long are your letters taking to arrive? And how long are they taking to get to you?
February 25, 2016 in Journal
Do you need one more person to write to?
PostPals is a service in the U.K. where people can write to a seriously ill child. That letter, postcard, or gift will be forwarded to the child. This is a letter that you probably won’t get a reply to, but one that you can know has made someone happy. The website has a list of children, each of which has a page with their photo and story. I warn you, it is difficult to visit and read about how much they have had to endure.
“It is a very wonderful thing that people who do not know you, have never spoken to you, can take the time and trouble to make a difference to your life in such a special and significant way. It is not just about receiving a card, so many other things are within it- compassion, warmth, friendship, support and love and we can never truly explain how that helps”, Kelly Mum to Chloe G, 7 ALL
A letter seems like a very small thing to send, but worth the little bit of time that it takes.
February 24, 2016 in Journal
Ellen Kushner taught me to play the Letter Game when we were in college.
What is the Letter Game? I checked just now and there is a Wikipedia entry for it. Here’s part of the entry:
A letter game involves the exchange of written letters, or e-mails, between two or more participants. The first player writes a letter in the voice of a newly created character; in this first letter, the writer should establish their own identity and that of their correspondent, should set the scene, and should explain why they and their correspondent must communicate in written fashion. In subsequent letters, plot and character can be developed, but the writers should not talk about plot outside of the letters and the characters should never meet.
I play a slightly looser version of the game, in that the first letter writer isn’t necessarily correct–the second letter writer could be someone who intercepted a letter intended for someone else, for example.
When Patricia C. Wrede and I were writing Sorcery and Cecelia, we allowed ourselves to gossip about the characters but we agreed never to discuss the plot. I’d played the Letter Game before (and have since), but the sheer delight of playing the game with Pat comes through in those letters. We didn’t know we were writing a novel. We were just playing the game.
According to my recollections (Pat may see things quite differently) once we finished up the last letters, we felt confident we had a book on our hands. Pat, the consummate professional, had been keying her letters into a file on her computer all along. (I didn’t yet have a computer.) She made certain the manuscript was complete and presentable. Before we sent it to our literary agent (we had the same agent in those days), Pat and I made a few changes, mainly to remove some loose ends that didn’t contribute to the plot. Terri Windling purchased the novel for Berkeley Books. Due to circumstances beyond anyone’s control, it went out of print almost instantly. Harcourt Brace bought it and its two sequels, The Grand Tour and The Mislaid Magician, years later and reissued it in hardcover. Digital editions are available from Open Road Media.
Since we didn’t realize we were were writing a novel until we were nearly finished, it is tricky to talk about the writing process. I said before, we were just playing the game. But this Letter Game was set in a place and time we both knew well, the intersection between Georgette Heyer, Jane Austen, and all the fantasy we’d both read all our lives. The regency romance provided a clear template to follow.
In both sequels, we had gone beyond the regency romance template. We had characters who were in established relationships. More difficult still, in The Grand Tour we had characters who were in the same place at the same time. We got around that difficulty by alternating between extracts from Kate’s journal and portions of Cecy’s legal deposition recounting the events they’d been embroiled in.
TL;DR: The Letter Game is great. Give it a try. (Bend the rules.)
P.S. Pat adds: Speaking of bending the rules… Since Sorcery and Cecelia came out, I have had mail from all sorts of people who’ve played the game in different ways, including a pair of eighth graders who used it as a history class project (each playing a cousin from opposite sides in the American Civil War), a group of about ten people playing a cross-universe version in which none of the characters were able to meet physically, and another couple who each played multiple characters who were all corresponding with each other (and most of them were lying to some characters and conspiring with others). The game is very adaptable.
February 23, 2016 in Journal
As I mentioned last year, I start out each Month of Letters by sending people postcards because they’re low pressure and I like sending beautiful art and photos along with my correspondence. This year I’m doing the same, but with another specific goal. The idea sparked when I read this NY Times column by Mandy Len Catron. It’s about how to fall in love with anyone, though this is the part I found very compelling:
The moments I found most uncomfortable were not when I had to make confessions about myself, but had to venture opinions about my partner. For example: … “Tell your partner what you like about them; be very honest this time saying things you might not say to someone you’ve just met” (Question 28).
Much of Dr. Aron’s research focuses on creating interpersonal closeness. In particular, several studies investigate the ways we incorporate others into our sense of self. It’s easy to see how the questions encourage what they call “self-expansion.” Saying things like, “I like your voice, your taste in beer, the way all your friends seem to admire you,” makes certain positive qualities belonging to one person explicitly valuable to the other.
It’s astounding, really, to hear what someone admires in you. I don’t know why we don’t go around thoughtfully complimenting one another all the time.
Yeah, why don’t we?
I’ve decided to make an effort to compliment my friends and loved ones more over the next year and hope to turn that into a habit. And what better way to do so than via a postcard?
I fill the small space on the back of each with what I like about the recipient: the ways in which they’re awesome, why I admire them, how much better the world is because they’re in it. A small rectangle of love and happiness.
My goal is to send out at least three of these a week on top of my regular letter writing activities. Too bad there’s no badge for that 😉
February 21, 2016 in Journal
I am now 44 years of age and from around the age of 10 years old I have always had penpals, I cannot remember a time when I didn’t. I started off by writing to friends in the area that we moved from in 1979 (see I am showing my age!) then I saw penpal adverts in weekly comics/magazines and it all started from there.
I used my pocket money to buy my stationery and stamps. In those days a first class postage stamp was around 15 pence. On my morning walk to school I passed the post box, which was very handy indeed as I could post my letters of a morning on the way to school! Returning home from school to find mail most days was fantastic.
A very dear friend of mine saw an advertisement in a magazine about an organisation that could match you up with a penpal abroad. Well imagine my excitement!! She gave me the page from the magazine (checking there were no hunky pop starts on the reverse side haha!). So I sent off for the information package and form to fill in. The organisation, which was called the International Youth Service (IYS) If I remember rightly, charged 40p for every pen-pal they matched you with.
I could choose the age and nationality of my penpal. Wow, amazing! My penpalling went on from there and every year or so I would use this service to find a new pen pal and I haven’t looked back since.
It was so exciting sending letters abroad and way back then (the “olden days”). I used aerogrammes to write to my penpals abroad. They were great for short and quick replies but since nothing was allowed to be enclosed in them they did restrict my letter writing. Have any of you heard of them or even used them?
They were basically a sheet of airmail paper that once written on folded up a certain way then stuck together to make an envelope. When you bought the aerogramme the postage was included in the price which was why nothing was allowed to be enclosed. I used them for a short while then started using ‘proper’ paper and envelopes so I could add little extras in with my letters or over the envelope in stickers. I still do that today.
I still write to many of my penpals that I have had for years. It has been great growing up with them and watching each other’s family grow. I have even met a number of my penpals, one is now a very good friend via social media. Another penpal, from Australia, came and stayed in our house for a week as he was doing a tour around Europe. I still write and email him very often. He has “watched” my children grow up. He came to stay a few months after I had my first child so it is fantastic that he has met most of my family.
Some of my children are showing a great interest in penpals, particularly now as I start to get ready for LetterMo, and my youngest girls have a penpal or two each and are looking to expand their letter writing and picture drawing. I think it’s important they learn the art of letter writing and written communication.
This day and age it’s all about the computer and e-mail–both of which I do not let them use too often without supervision–plus letter writing is a great activity to do together. The children really enjoy coming home from school to find a letter or postcard waiting for them… I understand that feeling very well! It is like watching myself in a mirror.
I really take great pleasure in taking over the dining room table when I write my letters. I keep the letters I need to reply to in a folder which is in my “penpal basket”. That is where I keep all my stationery; these days itt’s getting harder and harder to find good quality paper at great prices. I know when I buy paper I always have to buy extra as my girls always pinch some off me!
During my many years of penpalling I have met some brilliant people and I hope over the next 30 years I meet many more. I hope that we have all received many letters and cards during February and that we form lasting friendships.
February 20, 2016 in Journal
I was thinking about you this week, while I was off at a writer’s retreat. Besides all of the novels and short stories that were in process, a number of the guests were also Month of Letters participants. Even some who weren’t got into the fun and wrote a couple of letters while there. As we start the last full week of the Month of Letters Challenge, it occurred to me that one of the wonderful things that a letter will allow you to do is to reconnect with someone from your past. Perhaps this is a teacher that influenced you, or maybe a friend that you’ve just fallen out of touch with.
Why not take a moment to get back in touch?
Does that feel awkward? Perhaps. So allow me to offer some suggestions.
Don’t feel like you have to open with an apology for the long silence. Everyone knows that life happens. Start out, instead, by letting them know that you were thinking about them. Be specific. “I’m having a cup of coffee and remember how we used to hang out at our favorite coffee spot” or “It’s snowing outside right now. Remember how we used to have snow ball fights?”
Tell them a little of what’s been happening in your life, but don’t feel like you need to cover everything. There will be time for that later. Pick one or two highlights that you wished you’d had the opportunity to share at the time. “I finished editing the UK edition of Shades of Milk and Honey this week” or “I went to Grandma’s 108th birthday party, which was such fun.”
And then– this is important — ask them questions. “I’ve been wondering about you since your move. How do you like Seattle?” or “You used to give the best book recommendations. Read anything good lately?” or “How’s your mom?”
Finally, don’t be disappointed if they don’t write a letter back. In fact, include alternate contact information to make it easy for them to get back in touch with you. A letter is a wonderful thing, but it can be intimidating too. You remember that, don’t you? The purpose of your letter is to reestablish contact, so do your best to make it easy for them.
So how was your week while I was away? I was thinking about you.
February 19, 2016 in Journal
When I was a teenager, I was an obsessed letter writer. We’d moved from Orlando, Florida to Los Angeles and writing (coupled with the occasional expensive long distance phone call) was the only way I could stay in touch with my friends.
Obviously, this was before the advent of the internet and email–yes, I’m old–and though it required more effort to buy paper and envelopes and stamps, there was a real joy in putting my thoughts down in such a tactile way. You had to really think about what you were going to say and it made me feel closer to my friends than writing an email ever has.
The real art to writing a letter–for me, at least–was in the addressing of the envelope. As evidenced in these pictures, we spent a lot of time and energy entertaining ourselves with our ‘art’––and annoying the crap out of the post office.