alethea kontis

[Guest Post] The Princess and the Pens – Alethea Kontis

Today’s guest blogger is Alethea Kontis, a princess, author, fairy godmother, and geek. She’s the author of the award-winning Books of Arilland fairytale series, multiple picture books, including The Wonderland Alphabet and Diary of a Mad Scientist Garden Gnome, and a myriad of poems, essays, and short stories. She lives and writes on the Space Coast of Florida with her teddy bear, Charlie.

I once received pens as a bridesmaid gift.

I you’re reading this post, you probably don’t find this as shocking as the rest of the attendees of that particular rehearsal dinner. Bridesmaids are supposed to get shiny, pretty things (and this was long before wearing tiaras was a regular occurrence). I opened the bag, gasped with joy, and proudly showed off my bounty…of office supplies. Where there had been oohs and aahs for the other girls in the wedding party, my display was met with complete silence.

“You just have to know her,” Margo explained to her guests while I giddily skipped back to my seat.

Margo and Casey and I found each other in the seventh grade. The Three Musketeers. Best friends forever. We were misfits of the mid-eighties, when it was *almost* cool to be an outcast. Our trio loved to write almost as much as we loved to read, and our correspondence reflected this.

We didn’t pass notes in class, we passed a NOTEBOOK.

It was really, quite clever, if you think about it. What teacher will stop you from passing a notebook to your friend in class, or stop you from writing in it? As a result, our letters often looked like class notes: jotted down in all sorts of different directions, highlighted in different colors, and bullet-pointed, complete with doodles in the margins. There were no rules—anything went.

I sign my books with some of those same doodles.

alethea kontis signature

Margo’s handwriting was messy and scrawly. Casey’s was happy and round. Mine was that of an engineer’s daughter: often small and printed. The creativity came out in my pens. I loved experimenting with colors and thicknesses. Eventually I settled on a favorite—the Uniball ONYX. And then I received my first fountain pen.

Different colored ink was best thing about fountain pens. Where my D&D-playing friends had dice bags, I always had a bag full of ink cartridges. I liked writing in blue, then switching it out to green and watching as the ink transitioned through my writing. Granted, the transition switching to red was always a muddy brown, but I had too much fun writing my way through the rainbow to mind.

Switching unfinished cartridges also left its mark—hands stained with ink were always proof that I had been hard at work. These days I do most of my fiction writing on the computer, but after a book signing I’m often covered in a myriad of colors, and it makes me smile.

I reached the height of my letter-writing game the summer during high school that Casey was accepted to Governor’ School for the Arts and I wasn’t. Unlike the “anything goes” scattershot notebook of yesteryear, these letters were more formal and cohesive. Our trio had evolved to higher levels of expression…and boy, did we have some complicated, real-life emotions to express.

I wrote to Casey once or twice a week all summer, each letter in my trademark shifting ink. I then folded the paper, lit a candle, and melted crayons to make a wax seal. I forget what I used as a stamp for the impression—a ring? I didn’t wear many rings in those days, and I still don’t. I put the fancy sealed letter into the envelope, and then properly decorated the envelope before licking the stamps and sending it off.

Casey still has that stack of letters in her hope chest, a beautiful time capsule of days gone by in this modern age of ephemeral, ethereal emails.

I was actually thrilled at the advent of email—think of all the letters I could send! Instantaneously! Imagine the possibilities! I do miss those days of crayon wax seals, but I appreciate being able to write 30 emails and receive 10 replies in the time it would take to craft one of my Works of Letter Art. What makes me wistful is the thought of my fountain pens, dusty in a drawer somewhere with a dozen random cartridges of decades-old ink, a testament to bygone days and a reminder of something I’ve never stopped loving.

The Princess and the Pens: Best Friends Forever.

21 thoughts on “[Wayback Repost] Why do letters seem more daunting than email?”

  1. Having been a letter writer for several years now, I don’t particularly find this challenge all that difficult, other than remembering to do it every day instead of when the whim takes me to write. And since I may not have a penpal’s letter to answer, then I need to think outside my normal circle of penpals and write to others. I saw this as an opportunity to reconnect with a few old penpals that had lapsed, family members that live outside of the city, friends I haven’t seen in a while, and strangers or persons of stature. I think it’s a great challenge and maybe it will even boost the joy of those who process all this mail and deliver it to us. 🙂

  2. I love your post. And I totally agree.

    Email, tweets n twitters, FB comments all have their place and moment in time where they are the appropriate way to respond.

    However, sending a letter, postcard, or notecard is the only way to connect with someone on a more personal, even intimate, level.

    The act of sending a missive does take time, but more importantly it takes thought. What paper will I use? What will I add (stickers, washi, etc.)? What will I say? Combined these choices will be a bright spot in someone’s day. Added bonus? It was created specifically for them.

  3. Great article on postcard apps but you should also take a look at Postsnap’s easy to use postcard app.
    The app offers a number of unique features compared to the other apps reviewed including:
    – Guest checkout with Apple Pay
    – Extensive personalization options including collage layouts, stylish borders which can be adjusted in size with a slider and the option to add editable text in a variety of font types and colors and position it anywhere on the cards
    – iPhone and iPad support
    – Apple Pencil support
    – Facebook and Instagram integration
    – US postal address verification and UK postcode lookup
    Cards are printed and posted in our facilities in the UK, USA and Australia on the same or next working day and so cards typically arrive quickly. Enjoy!
    Stephen Homer

  4. I have been writing letters for several years now. My go to paper is Rhodia Premium or Rhodia Ice pads. I also Life pads too. I like them because they are not quite as slick as the Rhodia.

  5. I love Tomoe River paper for letter writing. I buy 100 sheets at a time and print my own mermaid stationery. I found an envelope that I like and ordered a mermaid address stamp and finish it off with mermaid washi tape.

  6. I too love journals to pull apart for writing. For me the most important aspect of the paper is the pattern. I love to have some colour and some design on the paper. I’ve managed to find a number of nice colours and designs at one of my local “Home Sense” discount stores in the book section. Most of the small journals are a perfect size to fit in the envelopes I use. If not I just give one edge a bit of a trim (but sometimes I really like the ripped edge look too!) ;P

  7. Hi, Christmas cards & more recently a letter (a bill) from the UK to Australia have taken 3 weeks to arrive. The exterior of these envelopes were stamped with a mark such as this from the latest envelope:
    DLC 992-4
    The example quoted arrived at the Australian address on 28/07/2017, unfortunately it contained a bill dated 06/07/2017 which had to be paid within 14 days, by 20/07/2017.
    Why is the post so slow? What does the DLC 992-4 stamp signify? Would appreciate your feedback.

  8. My letter that I wrote was in September. The person who it was for still hasn’t gotten it and it’s now November….
    I don’t understand why it’s taking this long. I live in AZ and he lives in NY. I want answers.

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