January is National Thank You Month

You have nearly two weeks left to send off your thanks for the many kindnesses folks have done recently–holiday gifts, parties, errands, or for just being your friend.  If you need a refresher on the basics on writing a thank you note, here you go.

And if you really want to say thank you, you can send a bottle of bubbly in a beautiful mailbox.  Veuve Clicquot has recently had a design contest to redesign their mailboxes.  Check out these babies.  My favorite is the play on words–“chain mail box.”

Design by: Lars Wannop, Australia winner

P.S. Thank YOU for reading!

Resolutions for the New Year

Have you made any resolutions?  I usually welcome a new year as an opportunity to revamp absolutely everything about myself–health, friendships, house cleaning, artistic endeavors, flossing routines.  I figure if I try to change everything, something good will stick.  This usually works out and is also more fun than choosing just one big thing and being disappointed when it doesn’t.

In case you’re looking for more resolutions to add to your list (or just one good one), you might consider adding more letter writing to your life.  Snail mail enthusiasts (which I assume you, dear reader, are) might already write a lot of letters.  But in case you are more of a postal voyeur, or you are looking for a bit of encouragement to put pen to paper, you might consider what Emily did. She wrote a letter a week for a year to someone important in her life, extolling their virtues and her thankfullness for having them in her life.  I think this is 1) a reasonable pace and 2) a good way of reminding yourself to consciously appreciate what people bring into your life.  Friends, coworkers, family and near-strangers might bring joy, a sense of humor, good cooking, or a keen eye for detail.  And people like being recognized for the unique gifts they bring to others.  It’s a win-win.

Image: Crane & Co.

If you are feeling really frisky–you could to a thank you note a day like John Kralik.  He says all that focus on the good things he experienced every day (to which he had to pay attention so he could send a thank you note) changed his life!

In the post-holiday lull, it’s a good time to send those notes of gratitude for holiday kindnesses and it’s a nice way to brighten up a cold, dreary month.  Happy writing!

With thanks,

Dana

Stationery Week AND the start of Card & Letter Writing Month

How time flies!  Here we are again, with national stationery week (in Britain) and April being National Card and Letter Writing Month in the U.S.  Both wonderful reasons to celebrate!

I hope you send cards and handwritten letters year round, but if the beautiful spring weather has you feeling hopeful and energetic, maybe it can boost your letter-writing rate this month.  Go outside and write (one of my favorite ways to enjoy the sunshine) and don’t forget to share the joys of letter writing with your friends and family who may not remember how wonderful it is!

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Instructions for Writing a Letter

I just saw this quote and loved it:

Instructions for living a life.

Pay attention

Be astonished.

Tell about it.

–Mary Oliver

I think the same instructions apply for creating engaging, newsy letters.  Some of the best letters I receive–and the best letters I write–share wonderful details about a particular experience and the writer’s reactions.  It’s easy enough to jot down a list of recent happenings, but it’s far more enjoyable to write about something that astonished or excited you.  And it’s much more fun to read as well!

J.D. Salinger’s Letters to a Lady

(image from NYTimes)

Check out this New York Times article about Salinger’s letters to a Toronto woman years before Catcher in the Rye.  The woman he wrote to is still alive and 95 years old.

As we document every moment of our lives through social media, I find there’s something elegant in how a few letters can bring to life a moment in time 70 years ago and leave a little room for the imagination.  Will we sift through 70-year old Facebook posts in the year 2083? Or will the internet as we know it even exist then?  I’ll stick with the letters, thank you.

The Happy Mail Season

Remember how I disappeared for a while?  Sorry about that. It’s not you, it’s me.  I’m still always thinking about sharing mail-related ideas with you. To get me back in the groove, I thought I’d post a few random mail bits. And I promise to feature some fun stationery, pen and ink, and mail art acquisitions  from New Orleans, Asheville, and NYC soon!

Holiday Mail
It’s that time of year when people send cards and packages and the humble mailbox has a better chance of holding something delightful for its owner.  Every day from now until the new year, I will approach my mailbox with even more anticipation than usual.  It’s the most wonderful time of the year!  Do you still send cards? Do you make them or buy them or send the now-ubiquitous photo “cards”?

Happy Mail
A woman in Denver has started a Happy Mail campaign–encouraging people to send letters to connect to loved ones.  Sound familiar?  These campaigns pop up regularly.  This woman created “Happy Mail” stickers to put on envelopes and alert the recipient that it’s something special.  This started when she and her grandmother sent letters to each other and called it “happy mail.”  I like it.  Of course, you can decorate your envelopes with whatever you would like to alert folks to the fun awaiting inside. Make some mail art and make both yourself and your recipient happy!

2013 Stamps
In USPS news, I’ve been enjoying the daily unveiling of the 2013 stamps over at Beyond the Perf.  It’s a nice treat each day.  The history nerd in me loves the Emancipation Proclamation broadside stamp and the wax seal on the envelope is self-referential and would make me want to put wax seals on the envelopes I used them on even though I risk a fire every time I do them.  I don’t think I’m doing them properly.  But I digress.  I can’t wait to see what else pops up in the 2013 lineup!

I hope you all are enjoying the chilly weather, sparkling lights, and omnipresent cookie platters, and of course mailboxes filled with happy mail!

 

 

Letters from Summer Camp

This article made me smile. It reports that many sleep-away summer camps for kids have a no-tech policy which allows kids to unplug. The kids stay busy with crafts and socializing and developing outdoors skills.  They are apparently also reflecting on their adventures and relaying them to their parents in the time-honored camp tradition of writing a letter home.

I’m glad places like this still exist in the world. They give me hope for another generation of people who have an appreciation for the unplugged things in life–like star gazing, marshmallow roasting, and letter writing.

 

 

Letter-Generating Event

Recently, a U.S. postal worker sent me two sheets of stamps because she was inspired by my blog and wanted to help me in my efforts to save snail mail.  I wanted to pay the gift forward, so I used the stamps to make letter sets with postage-paid envelopes, grabbed some pens and table decorations (including my Write More Handwritten Letters sign by Mary Kate McDevitt), and headed off to the Really Really Free Market!

Carrboro, North Carolina has a Really, Really Free Market once a month at the town commons area.  People bring items to give away, make food–like sandwiches or pancakes–to share, play music or offer services. I provided ready-to-send letter sets so folks could drop a letter in the mail.

It was so nice to see people’s faces light up when they realized what I was doing.  Some sat in the sun and wrote a letter right there.  Others asked if they could take a letter kit with them and write someone later.  Many said they hadn’t written a letter in quite some time.  So even though I showed up a bit late and missed the initial rush, I was able to put 35 letters out there as a result of one woman’s gift and a little bit of my time.

It was nice to enjoy the beautiful weather, connect with folks in my community and help them connect with others.  Thank you, Andrea, for the stamps.  I hope I did your gift justice.

 

They Knew Letter Enthusiasts Would Arise from the Ashes

I read this blog entry by Joel Achenbach on the Washington Post the other day about Facebook’s purchase of Instagram.  Wondering what the future held for such new-fangled inventions like Instagram, Achenbach looked back at his 1993 article about the rise of email. He appended, in full, the almost 20-year-old piece. It reminded me how we used to use email (to send letters to one another rather than to exchange quick bits of info).  It also included his prognostications about the rise of us snail mail devotees enamored with vintage writing implements and the slower pace that letter writing affords. Here’s how he ends his 1993 article:

He says there has been a 15 percent increase in traffic on the Internet every month — the greatest leap in letter-writing since the end of the 1700s, the age of Samuel Johnson, who would think nothing of writing a letter to his neighbor across the street.

Says Saffo, “The people who are on the cutting edge of the electronic frontier are the most avid letter-writers on the planet today. It’s just they don’t use paper. They use screens and electrons.”

Someday, perhaps, the computer revolution that has given us so much velocity in our communication will cause a backlash. A new subculture will emerge that will use inkwells and quill pens. It will champion slow communication, the burdensome writing tools that encourage contemplation and reflection. It will say that handwritten letters have dignity. It will argue that thoughts need time to steep, like a cup of tea.

This will surely happen first in California.

Smart man.  I think I’ll go write a letter while my tea steeps.