The Art of Letter Writing

The Art of Letter Writing In a Digital Age - by Christy Shorey
This is a presentation I created for our “Practicing Kindness in Crisis” series at work.

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Overview: Why write letters; What to write; How to find pen pals; Beyond the word; Express yourself; Resources
Overview of topics

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Why Write Letters: A letter is the most basic—yet the most flexible—mode of correspondence, regardless of its subject matter. Scribendi;
To send a letter is a good way to go somewhere without moving anything but your heart.  Phyllis Theroux;
Or don't you like to write letters? I do because it's such a swell way to keep from working and yet feel you've done something. Ernest Hemingway;
Letters are something from you. It's a different kind of intention than writing an e-mail. Keanu Reeves;
To write is human, to receive a letter: Devine! Susan Lendroth
Handwritten letters provide not just communication, but an opportunity for real connection.

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Why Write Letters - image of USPS logo.
Plus, our post office is in peril, help support these vital front-line workers, buy stamps, send letters.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Beyond the word: Stationary - image of various stationary sets.
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 stationary.

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Beyond the word: Cards / post cards. Image of various cards.
Blank cards come in many sizes and designs.

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Beyond the Word - Pens / typewriter / etc. Image of a feather quill, three fountain pens, bottles of ink, neon colored ball-point pens, and multicolored sharpie fine point pens.
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.

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Beyond the Word: Stamps - image of rubber stamps, in pads and markers.
Stamps, along with ink or markers, can personalize mass-produced cards, envelopes, or even dress up plain old notebook paper.

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Beyond the Word: Postage Stamps - image of a variety of postage stamp designs.
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.

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Beyond the Word: Washi tape - image of 3 dozen rolls of washi tape and a sheet of 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.

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Beyond the Word: Inserts - image of two bags of tea, a recipe card, a quote card, photos of pets, and a gift card wrapped with washi tape.
Your letter doesn’t have to be the only thing in envelope – share pictures, recipes, tea, seeds for gardens, or whatever you can fit.

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Express yourself: Language; Dear, Hello, Greetings, Nice to meet you, My dear, Hi; Kind regards, Warm regards, Sincerely, Best wishes, With love, Write when you have the chance.
What language you use, whether you are formal or more casual, allows you to express yourself – no two people talk alike.

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Express yourself: Interests: word bubble with different hobbies.
Share what you are passionate about, it will come through in your words.

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Beyond the Word: Inserts - image of two bags of tea, a recipe card, a quote card, photos of pets, travel photos, and a gift card wrapped with washi tape.
What you choose to include, from washi tape samples, to art you’ve made also tells a bit more about you.

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Express yourself: Letter / Envelope Art; image of an envelope with washi tape, stickers, and drawn on flowers.
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.

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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.

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Letter / Envelope Art - images of hand decorated cards, and a poem made of phrase stickers on the back of a mass-market card.
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Resources: 
Address Book: Postable,         www.postable.com;
Online writing challenges: 
LetterMo, lettermo.com; 
InCoWriMo, https://incowrimo.org; 
Write on,  www.writeoncampaign.com; 
Postcrossing, www.postcrossing.com;
"Mail art" makes a comeback during quarantine: https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/mail-art-from-quarantine;
Other Resources: Handwritten Letter Appreciation Society, http://thehandwrittenletterappreciationsociety.org; Victorian Letter Writers Guild, http://victorianletterwritersguild.blogspot.com/; International Postcard Week; National Postcard week;
Pals Over 50, https://www.womenoverfiftynetwork.com/pen-pals-women-over-fifty/ 
Supplies: Papyrus Stationary (online only)
Postable will create/ send cards
Michael’s
JoAnn’s
Repurpose Project
Office Supply stores
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.

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Image of letters, envelopes spread across a table; link - www.postable.com/christyshorey
If you’d like to receive a card, add your address to my Postable account, and include “blog” at the end of your address, so I know how you got there. Except for website captures, and the USPS logo, all images in this presentation are of my own creation.

Life in the time of Pandemic – part 2

Continued from Life in the time of pandemic – part 1

Context – Updated

Okay, so I started writing this post two days after I posted Part 1. Two and a half weeks later, I realized why I was getting stalled in finishing it. I was going to parallel this portion of the blog with another gallery, screen captures of maps, and stats, and the whole nine yards. I did that. I did that several times, actually, because each day I didn’t write this post, but tried to, was another change in the numbers as the virus spread.

So, I’m just going to start by saying pandemics suck. 1 of 5 stars, would not do again.1 star rating image

Let’s Break It Down (April 10)

  • U.S. has the most number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the world with a total of 459,165, with 16,570 deaths (981,246 cases; 55,258 deaths – Update 4/29)
  • Worldwide there are 1,524,161 confirmed cases, 92,941 confirmed deaths (Update 4/29: 2,995,758 cases, 204,987 deaths)
  • Florida has 17,531 confirmed cases, 390 deaths (Update 4/29: 33,193 cases; 1,218 deaths)
  • Alachua County, 158 confirmed cases, 0 deaths (Update 4/29: 262 cases, 2 deaths)
  • The US started late on handling the pandemic
  • The administration didn’t take it seriously
  • Florida issued a stay-at-home directive, finally, on April 1; beaches are still open (or not) at county’s discretion (Update 4/29 – beaches closed, but some have reopened with “social distancing” rules, that may or may not be being followed)
  • Hospitals around the country, around the world, struggle as they lack necessary supplies, enough beds
  • Morgues are overwhelmed, and hospitals have begun to rely on refrigerated trucks, ice rinks, to handle the overflow of fatalities.
  • The CDC is encouraging everyone to wear face masks when they leave their homes 
  • States are starting to plan their reopening strategies, Georgia leading the way.
  • Idiots are still not taking things seriously

Work / Life Balance and Miscellaneous Thoughts

A little more scattered than I’d originally planned, so I’m just going to toss all of my remaining thoughts here

  • When it clicked –
    • From social media I know that things became real regarding this pandemic for folks at different times. When massive conferences were cancelled, when cruise ships were being forced to stay at sea.For me the coronavirus pandemic became real when Walt Disney World announced the decision to close their parks.

Screen shot of Walt Disney's World for COVID-19

  • Fighting vines –
    • The first week of March we had a water oak taken out of our front yard, along the fence line between us and the retention pond. Since then I’ve been fighting the potato vines that have tried to take over the chain-link and trees along there. I have new battle scars – scratches on my arms and legs almost every day.
  • Working from home –
    • I’ve been working from home since March 9. I use remote desktop to log into my work computer. In order to distinguish my same ‘ol computer where I have my leisure time, I’ve brought home some of the decor from my office, like the big blotter calendar and colored pens I use with it. It works as a nice physical reminder for when I am at work. I put all the stuff away at the end of the work day.
Three cats on and around my desk

Anna, Emma and Flynn make sure I’m not wandering off from my desk.

  • Cats –
    • Our three cats were very happy the first two weeks Toby and I were working from home. Now they seem put-out by our continued presence.
  • Gardening –
    • I pulled out the viable her plants from my garden, and potted them, and gave some away. I’d planted seeds I’d received from various pen-pals, and transplanted about 2/3 of the seedlings in. Only the watermelon appear to still be thriving. It is too warm to garden in the day, so I mostly do so on the weekends in the mornings, or later after work, near dusk.
  • FrogSong deliveries
    • We’ve been a member of a local CSA (community supported agriculture) for coming on a year now, as they do home deliveries. During our isolation, we’ve been eating a lot more vegetables than we’ve ever had in the past.
  • Cooking
    • While we’ve been supporting local restaurants by ordering the occasional take out/ delivery, most of our meals are home-cooked these days. Fortunately for me, Toby is very adept at culinary creation.
  • Day of the week calendar –
    • Since I’ve not been leaving home, I’ve gotten confused as to the day of the week. The solution I came up with was a 7 page image calendar representing the days of the week that I hang in the dining room.
  • Visual day of the week calendarOnline offerings

      • There have been a multitude of offerings online in terms of classes, access to art, and books, and chats with various groups that I’m part of. I’m very excited about it all, but have participated in very few – I’ve been overwhelmed with the options, honestly
        • Classes online
          • I’ve a subscription to MasterClass ($)- 1/2 way through Neil Gaiman’s course on writing; many other authors have courses; and very many subjects beyond writing
          • Classes from Mary Robinette Kowal I get based on my Pateron support level ($)
          • Class offerings from Writing the Other ($)
          • Creative writing classes online via Creative Excellence (Free)
          • UMEDY course – Editing Mastery: How to Edit Writing to Perfection ($)
          • Virtual Writing Cruise from The Creative Academy for Writers (free)
          • Additional courses via The Creative Academy for Writers (free)
          • Nebula Conference online ($)
        • Free art online, all the artists
          • I’ve gone to author chats and readings with Alethea Kontis, and a concert by Amanda Palmer
          • Lots of links to museums that I’ve saved, but not yet visited
          • YouTube videos of Zoom meetings where musicians or actors perform together, while self-isolating – So many saved, so few watched
          • Libraries and other content providers opening up access to their collections during the Pandemic
        • Slack and Discord
          • I’m member of several groups on Slack and Discord, mostly around writing groups. Keeping up with the chats, the word wars, and the writing dates has been a huge undertaking
            • Lady Astronaut Club (slack)
            • Writing the Other Alumni (slack)
            • Writing Excuses Alumni (slack) – updates with new podcast episodes
            • Fabulists (discord)
            • WXR Alumni (discord) – active chat for writing excuses alumni
            • WXR Scholarships (discord) – I was on the review committee for a writing scholarship – duties done, this channel is now inactive
    • Bird watching
      • In the morning, before it’s too warm, I like to sit on the back patio and bird watch. We have a hummingbird feeder, a regular bird feeder, and a bench where I put out peanuts for our local crow(s), whom I call “Lovely”

    Final thoughts; every time I type COVID-19, I have to double check to make sure I haven’t written “CORVID-19.” Because one letter makes a hell of a difference.

    Writing Excuses 2013 – a remembrance

    On the last day of the 2013 Writing Excuses retreat Dan took Rusty Cleaver, which he had found in a cupboard at Robin’s Roost, and tested it out on leftover vegetables. Many of us took a turn. I’m a little hard to hear over Brandon talking, but I say “Wow, this has got some weight to it” just before I swing.

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    Folks thought my reaction was a little too… excited.  🙂

    Cross-posted to my author webpage

    Pandemic Poetry – 1

    I am so tired

    Weary

    Drifting into dejection

    into ennui

    to fog

    On little cat’s feet

    my mind tiptoes past the pen

         the raging herd of worry

               anger, confusion.

    Hush little baby, don’t say a word

    Momma’s going to make you a cute face mask

     

    Smiles are rarer these days

         unreadable without optics

    Teeth flash but the soul is dull

         cotton ¿grin? joyous eyes

     

    Life is streaming 

    dance party, class, funeral.

     

    unseen,

         u n s e e a b l e,

              t  h  e    p  r  e  d  a  t  o  r

                   t   a   k   i   n   g     i   t   s      s   h   a   r   e, 

                        l    e    a    v    i    n    g        s    o    c    i    e    t    y

                             e         x         h         a         u         s         t         e         d

     

    Life in the time of Pandemic – Interlude

    Orange/pink roses on top of a sheet of music

    I have a part two to the COVID-19 post from weeks ago, well, I’ve got the design of it. I’m still spinning up enough mental energy to actually put those words on the page.

    In the meantime I’ve been journaling. This one felt especially poignant to me, and relevant here, so I’m adding it as an interlude, between two parts of a larger composition.

    Definition of the word Interlude

    Ramblings

    Day to day live during this pandemic is frankly, rather boring. It is also incredibility draining.

    We’re not to leave our homes except for essential workers (gods grace them), or to seek essential supplies (or, I guess, services). It’s difficult though, because the way we have to fight the spread of this thing looks a lot like laziness.

    And sure, some folks are doing better than others – some are even thriving, but for those who are having a more difficult time with it, it can feel like a failure. I’m at home more now, I should be able to accomplish X. My job hasn’t changed at all except I now work remotely, why can’t I be as productive?

    Image of person crouching down with a kettlebell on their back, with the number 19 on it

    The impact on everyone weighs differently – suddenly having kids at home and taking charge of their education. Worrying about vulnerable people you know who aren’t willing and/or able to heed the “stay at home” orders, particularly if they are distant from you, because you can’t step up to lend a hand. Suffering from furloughs, or last jobs, still struggling to pay bills, secure food, not to mention the stresses of anything health related – especially if health insurance isn’t secured.

    The less recognized heroes of this time are the sanitation workers, doing their damndest to ensure the places we are going are clean of the virus, to help slow the spread. The delivery drivers, bringing everything from dinner to diapers. The owners of essential stores, working to make their shops enable and encourage their customers and employees safety.

    The heaviest burden being borne is by health care professionals, doing their best to keep us alive when critical resources, both physical and emotional, are in short supply.

    Illustration of surgical maskThose of us in a situation where we are privileged enough to abide the “stay at home,” whether working or no, can’t really grasp what this global pandemic must be like for those who aren’t as privileged – where residences are overflowing, and families are stacked against one another. Where a hospital bed is so much harder to come by. Where your physical work may be what literally feeds your family.

    We may mull it over philosophically, but that experience, much like the whole idea of a pandemic, is hard to wrap one’s head around. And once one actively stops thinking about it, it’s as if they’d never had the thought at all.

    We are living through a crisis, but for the most part it feels mundane. We notice we can’t really discern the days of the week anymore, the times of the day. Things blur. Streaming  services thrive, so, too, the virtual meeting platforms. Workplaces experience what happens when the “this is how we’ve always done it” is shaken to a new reality, threatening to set a new norm because the workers realize while it may have always been one what that doesn’t necessarily mean that’s the only way to do it.

    I fear a bit, that because this global crisis seems so remote, that the way we fight this war is to not fight, that once we’ve made it through to the other side, once we mourn the causalities, those kept in freezer trucks or ice rinks until the pace slowed down enough for sparsely attended (as mandated) services, once we, as a people, have had a moment to breathe – to be, and live in a moment out of crisis, when things are finally able to achieve some sort of “normal” that we will slip back to our old ways, having forgotten what we’ve learned.

    Because, while it was stressful, while it was exhausting, and while it exposes faults in the system, most of us are still at a distance (6 feet or more) and our efforts feel more like boredom than trying to actively stop what plagues us. Those most impacted will surly be be beneficiaries of some improvements – we really do need to keep our hospitals well stocked – maybe we should increase the minimum wage a bit for all those essential workers who kept us fed, and safe at home. Maybe we really don’t have to have all those meetings.

    I fear there will be steps – small steps – taken to make these changes, but as life returns to outside the confines of one’s home that we, as a people, will slip back into old habits. A bit sadder, a number fewer, perhaps cautious and on alert for a while, but that in the end the structures we’ve build over time, enforced by those whose power and wealth rely on them, will be the shape of the society we return to, because it’s easier than making any real change.

    Image of a dilapidated building surrounded with scaffolding

    And, for the most part, we can’t feel like we did anything. That our isolation didn’t really matter, so why should we expect to drive change when all we did was create memes, seek out artists who carried us through the hardest times by sharing their creations online, and learn all the etiquette and fancy features for video meetings.

    We, who stayed at home, who sew our own face masks, who are suddenly overwhelmed by all the online culture and social opportunities and courses, doing what felt like nothing – how can we feel like we can drive needed change, tearing down or patching up the structures of this society so that next time, we may be a little better prepared.