An Introduction to the Victorian Letter Writers Guild

LetterMo pal and ECL Society of Letter Writers founder Denise provides insight into one of the writing groups she and some members her society are part of if you are looking for additional pen pals after February. This one is for Ladies only.

“Do people still write letters?”

That was my reply to a patron at the library where I work when she suggested that we start a letter writing social.  Of course, now I know the answer is yes!   To begin gathering information for a letter writing social, I decided I should first find myself pen pal.  I searched the internet to find a pen pal matching site that didn’t involve a fee and was for females only and that is when I found the Victorian Letter Writers Guild.  

The Victorian Letter Writers Guild was started in May of 2017 by Sarah Coller, who believed “scattered amongst our fast-paced, stressed-out society, there is a special kind of people hiding in plain sight who come from all walks of life and possess varied interests and goals, but all hold one desire in common—a longing for a more relaxed and thoughtful way of life.”  Sarah now has hundreds of ladies who apply for pen friends both domestically and internationally.  

Sign up at victorianletterwritersguild.blogspot.com not only to be notified of quarterly pen pal matches but also for birthday and holiday card exchanges. 

However, you may be wondering, “Does my letter have to be Victorian themed/decorated/written with a fountain or quill/worded with flowery 19th century language?

Sarah says this is not necessary. The term “Victorian” is used in reference to the “old fashioned” art of letter writing – not so much to the style of letters or art work employed. Of course, many who join the exchanges enjoy this aesthetic, as well, but using it is not mandatory. She doesn’t want people to be intimidated by believing one must be a fantastic artist or eloquent speaker to participate in our exchanges. She further confirms, “We are average women with average lives who share a love for simplicity and beauty. If you can relate, you belong here!”

Her blog also features: 

  • Creative ideas for designing extra-special correspondence
  • Mail art techniques
  • Historical information regarding letter writing, Victorians, etiquette, and more
  • Quarterly pen friend exchanges
  • Writing-related swaps and giveaways

Getting a pen pal is easy!  Once you’ve signed up for her blog, simply wait for the quarterly pen pal match up to arrive via email and fill out the short questionnaire about yourself and what you hope for in a pen friend.  The VLWG pen pal match is quick and free.  Sarah hand matches everyone and within days you’ll receive an email with your new pen pal.  You can get yourself a new pen pal every quarter if you like.  How many pen pals is really ever enough?  Over the years, I have received many pen pals and treasure every one Sarah hand matched just for me.  

You can also follow along on Instagram @victorianletterwritersguild.  

If you enjoy handwritten correspondence with like-minded people, The Victorian Letter Writers Guild may be for you!

Dear Friend,

Thanks to longtime LetterMo member @oliviarrow for
sharing her own personal experience with uplifting words from “secret friends” that started her on a lifelong journey paying it forward and sending kind words to stranger.

In this part of the LetterMo challenge, maybe you’re running out of people to write who you already know or have written before. You might want to send notes to folks you don’t know, but you feel a little funny writing to strangers. What do you say? How do you know what they like? What if you say the wrong thing? 

I’m here to tell you to get over the fear and DO IT

Like many LetterMo participants, I was introduced to letter writing as a young person and have been the grateful recipient of innumerable mailings ever since. As a teenager, there was a period when I was struggling a lot and had body issues and depression. That’s when I first got a card signed “Your Secret Friends” with a message of encouragement, love and support.

I received a few of them and they were written in different penmanship with no return address except for “Y.S.F.” To this day, I do not know who sent me those love letters, but I have kept them for over 25 years because they made me feel like I had value and was loved at a time when I didn’t think that was possible. 

Those cards remind me how easy and accessible it is to uplift others with a stamp and a few kind words.

Since I received those wonderful surprises from my secret friends, I have sent many letters and cards to countless strangers around the world, simply to spread love and encouragement. I am happy to help you get started on your own journey to spread kindness!    

A great place to start is lettermo’s very own #MailMission post in the Resources section, where you will find links to send mail to troops, children in hospitals, and senior citizens, to name a few. From that list, I have done More Love Letters, where letter requests are posted on the first of every month with short paragraphs about why the recipient could use your support.

Another site I have used in the past is Girls Love Mail, for women newly diagnosed with breast cancer. The site offers pointers on what to say or avoid if you need a little help composing your letter. This year they have a campaign to collect 25,000 letters called 2021 MILES OF MAIL.

Then there’s The Letter Project, which I only just learned about. The Letter Project is a faith-based organization for women and girls to write and receive encouraging mail. 

As if those weren’t enough resources to choose from, there are still more ways for you to spread kindness through the mail and letters.

  • You might take a more grassroots approach and try contacting a local care home about reaching out to seniors and people who are isolated in your area.
  • You can send a love letter to your favorite local restaurant
  • Maybe fan mail to performers or businesses you love who have been struggling due to the pandemic.

This has been a particularly tough time for so many people, so don’t underestimate how valuable your encouragement can be, even anonymously. Maybe you can send some cards to Spread Joy 24-7 to leave around in public spaces for strangers to find.

You get the idea, there are more resources than I can list here, but you have plenty to get started with whatever route speaks to you. Do you have a favourite #MailMission that you are dedicated to? Please share in the comments below.

84, Charing Cross Road

epistolary adj
epis·to·lary | \ i-ˈpi-stə-ˌler-ē  , ˌe-pi-ˈstȯ-lə-rē  \
1: of, relating to, or suitable to a letter
2: contained in or carried on by letters
3: written in the form of a series of letters
Merriam-Webster  https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/epistolary

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. 

Other epistolary stories I’ve enjoyed include Bram Stokers Dracula, The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank, and Ella Minnow Pea: A Novel in Letters by Mark Dunn.

Do you have a favorite tale conveyed via correspondence? Perhaps you and a pen pal may find something to talk about in this unique form of literature.

Dudes Write Too

Photo: Francis Scott Fitzgerald, c. 1920 (Bettman/Getty Images)

Thanks to LetterMo pal, Dario for giving us an inside look
into an elusive segment of the snail-mail community,
the male letter writers.  😊 
We Admins are always happy when we see new guys sign up!

Dudes Who Write is a global community of guys who enjoy handwritten or typewritten correspondence sent through the postal system. Our goal is to make it easier for guys who love snail mail to find each other, to increase our visibility within the global snail-mail community, to share resources about anything postal, and to promote analog correspondence among fellow gentlemen.

Guys who enjoy postal correspondence are like mirages, they are heard of through shared pen pals or found through Russian-doll-like chases across Instagram accounts, so I thought that in this day and age there should be an easier way to connect us.

I knew of multiple letter-writing groups but none where you could easily spot guys, who seem to be fewer, less visible, and less outspoken than women about their passion for mail. In the social media wilderness, the more common male species of potential snail-mail writers are philatelists and fountain-pen lovers with a few typewriter aficionados thrown in for good measure. For some of them their obsession of choice does overlap with the pleasure of corresponding by snail mail, but it’s not a given.

I wanted to create a safe space to find and be found by like-minded guys of all races, religions, and sexual orientations, and on September 20, 2020, Dudes Who Write was born on Instagram. It has been exciting and rewarding to see many guys who love all things postal join our community and use our platform to find other guys to exchange mail with.

The way our community works is very simple; by following the Dudes Who Write account, our members are always in the loop about anything new, and they can interact with the community in whatever capacity they feel like:

  • Sharing their experiences about the topic of a given post (which gives them visibility within our community so that other guys who are interested can contact them)
  • Commenting with an intro and a request for correspondents on the latest post on the grid
  • Reading the existing comments on any of the posts to find a suitable postal pal and contacting that person directly in a reply to the comment or with a DM.

We also have a Facebook account for whoever is not on Instagram, and on both platforms the members of our global community can post their introductions/pen pal requests in English as well as in whatever language they want to correspond in.

Exchanging mail is such a powerful tool to bring people together. To gay guys who might be without family support or feel alienated within their own circles of friends, for example in remote/rural areas where LGBTQ visibility and acceptance can be challenging, connecting by mail with other guys who might understand what they’re going through can be a lifeline that sustains them until better days arrive.

Life can be a solitary affair, indeed, but it doesn’t have to. Having a pal you can write to will undoubtedly bring solace to your days. Guys can be guarded about their feelings and fall prey to anxiety and isolation, but mail/letter writing represents an opportunity to pause, collect your thoughts, and share your daily life with a friendly like-minded person open to receive such a gift and to reciprocate it.

In these times of widespread lockdown, even guys who are not used to writing mail might feel more inclined to give it a try, and I hope that Dudes Who Write can help create connections and bridge such needs.

Dario

Links:

Frank Sinatra Stamp, USPS 2008

PenPalentine’s Day

We love the letter writing community who are creative in
so many ways! We were thrilled to discover a new holiday
which we fully support! Thanks to Sarah of the
Mojave Correspondence Club who tells you all about it.  😊 

Cast your mind back to late January 2020, I, like many other letter writers, began seeing numerous Valentine’s Day and Galentine’s Day posts and themed mail.  While absorbing all the amazing content I had a play-on-words brainwave, PenPalentine’s Day.  Really, there was almost no further thought put into the entire holiday.  Last year as I was sending out all my Valentine’s mail I made a couple of fun PenPalentine’s Day cards and sent them along too, and declared February 15th PenPalentine’s Day.  

A year, and many many letters later, I decided to resurrect my fun play-on-words holiday and found to my amazement that people loved the idea!  So, I finally put some thought into what the holiday means to me.  I wanted a holiday to celebrate my lovely penpals, and all those who keep the world of snail mail alive and thriving.  No one has to write to me, and it’s a hobby that takes time and money and effort, and for all of that I am so thankful for every single person who has ever sent me something in the mail. 

So, I hope that this February you will take a moment and thank your penpals and the small businesses that create all the cards, postcards, washi tape, wax seals, stickers, and vintage postage that brings a smile to your face every time.  

I never expected to invent a holiday, yet here we are celebrating the second year of PenPalentine’s Day, so tag me in photos and posts and show me how you are celebrating! #PenPalentinesDay

Happy PenPalentine’s Day,

Sarah 
@mojavecorrespondenceclub 

Thankful Thursday #1

In the Looking for A Reason Write post, you will see that today, February 4, is a special day for Letter Writers! It is
THANK A MAIL CARRIER DAY!

We’re so very thankful for carriers who bring us and in some cases, pick up, our happy mail to start it on its journey to the next town or around the world. During these pandemic times, the mail service has helped to keep people connected and feel less isolated while we are unable to get out and see our friends and family.

We discovered this activity and wanted to share with you as it is perfect for today, especially if you have some littles that could use a distraction! Show your gratitude for the mail and package carriers working hard to keep us connected with this colouring page. Display your finished sign on your window, mailbox or door as a message of support and thanks, not just today, but every day.

For a full size print out, click the image for a link to the Smithsonian Winter At Home Guide and print page 39. (We’re sure there is lots in the magazine that is interesting so you may want to print the entire thing!) Smithsonian Magazine adapted this from an activity created by the National Postal Museum.

Photograph of boy mailing letter, National Postal Museum, Curatorial Photographic Collection Photographer: Unknown, c. 1880. Mr. ZIP standing cut-out, Courtesy of National Postal Museum.

Last week, we shared some of the stickers and cards we have seen around the internet on how you can show appreciation in and on your mail (scroll left and all the vendors have been tagged).

We have shared the same items on our Facebook page with the vendors tagged so you can contact them if you are interested in any of the items.

Have you seen any other Thank A Mail Carrier stickers or cards? Did you do anything to celebrate your postie?

Welcome to A Month Of Letters 2021

Hello Letter Moians!

It’s finally February 1 and Day 1 of A Month of Letters Challenge. We would not be here without the hard work of the dedicated volunteer Admin team so a GREAT BIG THANK YOU to them!

You can still sign up to participate but please be aware there are real live humans who review and approve each registration to keep spam bots out of the site.

We are aware there is an email glitch and some people are getting notifications while some are not.

  • If you have registered up and haven’t received approval within 36 hours, try to log in with the information you registered with. 
    • If you still have problems or need to reset your password, contact via contact form or DM on Facebook. Again, there are real humans trying to help so please be kind and patient.

If you have not yet done so, please log in and head to members only forums and the Introduction thread and say hello! It is also a good time to check your profile settings – new members should be accepting penpal requests and please indicate when you write: in February only (but mindful of the LetterMo pledge, see below) or year round.

A quick reminder of LetterMo etiquette and pledge:

  • Those who request a friend should write first
  • Reply to every letter you receive even if it takes you past February and beyond.

If you want to share your happy mail, please apply to join our private Facebook Group A Month of Letters Challenge 2021 (you will need your username to apply; real humans check this) and post your outgoing/incoming mail in the Daily Mail Call or if you are on social media, tag #LetterMo2021 on Twitter @LetterMonth or Instagram @MonthOfLetters. Please cover up addresses of sender/recipient to respect everyone’s privacy.

Happy Letter Writing and Have Fun!

Stay safe and kind out there!

LetterMo Postmaster

Here’s some fun from LetterMo member Christy!

🎶 Letters will go out, tomorrow
Bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow
there’ll be mail.
Just writing a friend, tomorrow,

with your own words, or words that you’ve borrowed, or share a tale.
When I’m stuck with a day, that’s gray and lonely
I just pick up a pen, write a friend and say:
Oh
The post’ll arrive, tomorrow
So just write back, day after tomorrow, to convey
You like mail
You make friends
You share things
and then send – your reply’s only a day away!

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.


space

Overview of Topics

ace


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.


space

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.


space

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.


space

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.


pace

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.


s

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.


space

Beyond the Word: Cards / post cards

Blank cards come in many sizes and designs.


space

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.


space

Beyond the Word: Stamps

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


space

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.


space

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.


space

Express Yourself: Language

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


space

Express Yourself: Interests

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


spac

Express Yourself: Inserts

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


spac

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.


s

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.


space

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.


sp

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!

REVISED: February 1, 2021 to include Lunar New Year (Ox) on the 12th and PenPalentine’s Day on the 15th.

Click on the image for a full size 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 February, mail one item every day it runs. #lettermo Sign up to find Lettermo Penpals!