Saturday, 19 January 2019

February is a month of letter writing

February is the month chosen for some letter writing projects, because it is the shortest month of the year.

A Month of Letters (LetterMo) was started by someone who took a month off from the internet and wanted friends/colleagues/people to communicate with her via the written word. She enjoyed it so she thought she would promote correspondence via letter/snail mail in 2012. I found out about it via another postal project, Postcrossing, and took part that year. The idea is to send an item of post every postal day, be it handwritten, typed, postcard, mailart... and also encouraged you to post in different postboxes, and variety of what you mailed.

International Correspondence Writing Month (InCoWriMo) was started in 2013. I participated first time in 2014. The idea is to send a handwritten letter/card/postcard every day in February.

Through both projects, you can find strangers to write to. LetterMo asks that you pledge to reply to the letters you received, although not every letter I wrote through this project yielded a response. It might be difficult to reply to some letters but I feel their receipt should at least be acknowledged. LetterMo has a forum, and InCoWriMo allows for comments.

You may have also noticed there are two InCoWriMo sites, but they are not the same site or run by the same people. InCoWriMo-2019 is the continuation of an alternate site set up by a snail mail enthusiast when for unknown reasons, the original site was not updated one year.

On the alternate site, you can submit your address via a form, and you can have this displayed on their address page until early March, or continue to have it visible for most of the year. You can also leave comments on the pages (runs on Wordpress) but they are to be approved/moderated.

On the original site, you can comment using the Disqus system, and include your address to solicit for letters. Disqus comments aren't the easiest to navigate through. After a while, you lose the ability to edit your comments, but you can still delete them.

On LetterMo, you have a profile. You used to be able to put your address on, and this would be visible to the logged in members. Now, I believe it is restricted to friends - those you've sent/approved friendship requests. There is a forum you can leave your address in too and this section is not visible to those not logged in.

The February projects should promote the joy of letter writing. While 28 letters does not seem a lot to the seasoned letter writer, it can look a daunting task if you have other responsibilities taking up a lot of your time. Does it matter if you do not write a letter/card every (postal) day? No. Some things in life should take priority. Writing letters to (would-be) friends should be a pleasurable experience.

There are other letter writing projects throughout the year, April sees write_on and National Letter and Card Writing Month, then there is the week with the 9th October (World Post Day) to make up International Letter Writing Week. There are days for stationery, fountain pens, handwriting, ...

What do you write in a letter to a stranger? I can't answer this for everyone. One size does not fit all. All I can give is suggestions - little stories, the weather, your day, a little about yourself and your hobbies, something funny, something about the city/region you live in... I mentioned Postcrossing earlier - this is a project where you send and receive postcards, and the postcards you send should be of a quality you want to receive. This can also be applied to letters - send the sort of letters you would be happy to receive yourself. The letter needs to be legible. Especially if writing to someone abroad, please write the date with the name of the month (and not the number). 1/2/2019 to me means 1st of February, not the 2nd of January.

What to expect in February? Hand cramps? Paper cuts? Inky fingers? I have only experienced inky fingers doing the writing projects. It may take time to receive your first letter. Snail Mail it is. Some postal services are faster than others. Patience, I am told, is a virtue. If you do receive a letter, please thank the sender, either by writing them a letter/card, or, if you can't write a reply then you could comment either on the project's forum or page. Some people like to share incoming and outgoing mail on social media. If you choose to do this, please cover / blur the other person's address.

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

What makes a penpal letter good?

There is no one-size-fits all method to writing a good letter. You may not get it right first time, but then may be able to learn from your mistakes, and from letters received.

First and foremost, the letter needs to be legible, be it handwritten or typed/printed. Cursive writing feels more natural to me and although I can read many styles, I received a very neatly written letter in a style I found difficult to read. I also find block/printed handwritten letters harder on my eyes. However, some people may find block easier to read.

Your penpal may live in a different country, and they may have a different custom for writing the date. Is it DD/MM/YY, MM/DD/YY or other combination? To avoid confusion, write out the month. 1st February or February 1st, doesn't matter but at least it won't be confused with January 2nd.

For the first letter, some people write a CV-type letter, as if applying for the position of your penpal. An introductory letter detailing family members and hobbies, occupation and place of origin. Personally, I don't like this style as to me, as it can come across as all one-sided, but there can be some good introductory letters in this style.
Others write as they mean to carry on, telling little life stories and experiences, mixing the recent with the long since past, in a style to be continued in subsequent letters along with responses to the missive received, introduce themselves over the course of the correspondence. Perhaps imagine you already know the person and are already friends. Even friends tell each other new things, and when faced with leaving messages on telephone answering machines still introduce themselves by name (or perhaps, "It's me!" as I have done before).

Some questions can be good, but you do not want the letter to feel like an interrogation. A good letter should be a long distance conversation between two people.

Replies to letters should include acknowledgement to what has been written to you. You don't have to respond to every paragraph, point, or topic covered, but there should be some comment of the letter received other than, "Thank you for your last letter..."

Overall, letters should show your genuine interest in your penpals. In letters, you could share little pieces of yourself, stories, anecdotes, even everyday things.

For ideas on the first letter, have a look at these two starts to a first letter I made up. The fictional person is the same in both. See which style you prefer to write/receive.

My name is Michelle and I am 35 years of age. My birthday is 3rd May. I was born in Birmingham in the Midlands of England and am the youngest of 3. I have two older brothers, Brian who is a mechanic, and Simon is an IT consultant. Simon is married to Rebecca and I have one sweet niece, Jessica, who is 3. I went to university in Manchester and studied art & design and education. Now I am a teacher in a secondary school in Salford. I have been married for 5 years, to Harrison and he's a teacher too. We first met at a school I was doing my placement at as a trainee teacher. We have no children yet. We do have 3 tabby cats Felix, Boris and Johnson.
When I am not teaching, I like to bake cakes & biscuits. I like music, classical and jazz, and I can play both genres on the piano. Harrison plays jazz clarinet. I paint landscapes and do urban sketching.

Greetings from across the ocean. Did you know that your Birmingham Alabama skyline was used in a leaflet produced by the council in Birmingham, England instead of its own? National radio here interviewed your mayor and he made more sense than the politicians here! That's all I'll say on politics. I'm from Birmingham in England and have thus far in my 35 years never had the opportunity to visit the one in Alabama. Have you ever visited Birmingham, England? Or anywhere in England, come to that?. I no longer live in Birmingham having moved away to study at university.
I get called Miss, most of the day but then I'm a teacher. My colleagues out of earshot of the pupils call me Michelle. I married another teacher, but he teaches at another school. I love my job most of the time, but the amount of homework to mark is astonishing. All I want to do is curl up with a nice cuppa and write a letter or read a book. Sometimes I like to bake cakes and biscuits and I do so for the school fairs. I occasionally relax at the piano, or listen to someone else play.

Monday, 29 October 2018

A few thoughts on letters and letter writing

Letters are a way to communicate when you are shy to converse in the spoken word, or when time difference means your penpal is asleep or working or soaking in the bath unable to come to the telephone.

Email seems more like work than relaxation. Fingers work without thinking and gotten ahead of your thoughts, letters of some words occasionally swapped around to say, "Off to Splading to do the shopping." How many times do you use the delete key, or highlight sections of text for deletion? Do you regret pressing that send button?

Handwriting letters demands time and you don't have to finish a letter in one sitting. Let your thoughts take you on a journey, and allow your soul to come through the ink. Internet missives tend to be soulless.

Penfriends can be true friends. It may happen straight away in the first received letter, or it may take longer to cultivate and bloom.
Letter writing is the only device for combining solitude with good company
Do you see people sitting on their own in a busy cafe, but writing letters? They are not alone, for they have friends through paper.

Saturday, 6 October 2018

Hello and welcome to A World of Snail Mail.

Hello and welcome to A World of Snail Mail, the blog for the A World of Snail Mail forum