kindle your letter-writing fire!

 
Miss Polly squirrelled away in her study.

Miss Polly squirrelled away in her study.

Polly Hatfield — known fondly in the letter-writing community as Miss Polly  considers herself paper besotted. Hands down, over the moon. In fact, she has often wondered whether there may likely be a paper wasp or two in her family line. She is most at home when squirrelled away in her study with vintage typewriters at hand and her ink pot full.

We loved catching up with her in her study this spring. Read on and learn about some of Miss Polly's favorite letter-writing tools, and tried and true correspondence tips. Be prepared to be one hundred percent charmed by the magical, correspondence-rich world she has created in her home in SE Portland.

in the study with Miss Polly...

I must confess, I have been a stationery magpie, office supply zealot and avid letter-writer since elementary school. I never fail to be utterly wowed by the magic those 26 letters of our alphabet have the potential to spur. And, in truth, sending mail proves the best bargain around. For a mere 49 cents for a first class letter, or only 34 cents for a postcard, you can quite literally send your words  — whether a simple hello, a cherished quote, or an outpouring of love — on wing to anywhere in the United States. Hand to hand, door to door, heart to heart.

I wholeheartedly encourage you to join me and send well-tended epistolary joy as part of the Write_On Challenge this April: it's fun, easy and as the saying goes: good mail begets good mail. Make someone's day — and maybe your own, too.

A wall of inspiration boasts treasures from near and far.

A wall of inspiration boasts treasures from near and far.

prop rich

I once had a yoga teacher that liked to remind her students to begin their practice prop rich. That way we'd be ready for whatever the practice called for on any given day. I've held on to that wise morsel and believe the same holds true for a letter-writing practice.

A travel pouch brims with fodder for writing on the go. Rubber stamps are at the ready for envelope decorating. A warm cup of tea is reliably close at hand.

A travel pouch brims with fodder for writing on the go. Rubber stamps are at the ready for envelope decorating. A warm cup of tea is reliably close at hand.

pouches & tools

By keeping an on-the-go portable letter-writing pouch on hand, you can jot a note when you find yourself with a clutch of minutes on the bus or when you've arrived early for your lunch date. A heartfelt postcard can easily be penned in these little wedges of time. I like to keep my letter-writing pouch well stocked with a handful of postcards, a few well chosen cards and a tiny up-to-date address book. If you use an electronic device for your contacts, be sure to add postal addresses! Keep a stash of postage stamps on hand, tucked into your wallet for spontaneous mail making.

A few favorite writing implements add panache to your practice. I prefer vintage fountain pens, Prismacolor pencils and the vibrant strokes of Sakura Gelly Roll pens. To corral my lively assortment of writing implements, I employ a collection of castoff containers. Two vintage aluminum canisters that used to house someone’s kitchen staples: tea and grease! on a countertop near a long ago stove now call my desk-perch home, another sort of hearth, a fire that warms and feeds.

Miss Polly takes an official Write_On envelope and adds color and visual texture with ink from rubber stamps and Sakura of America Gelly Roll pens.

Miss Polly takes an official Write_On envelope and adds color and visual texture with ink from rubber stamps and Sakura of America Gelly Roll pens.

Envelopes

I relish making my own envelopes as well as decorating outgoing envelopes. A little postal joy for all the hands that touch each parcel along its journey. San Francisco-based Red Handed Rubber proves a reliable source of inspiration on the rubber stamp front, and their offerings never fail to make a great impression. The owner, Jennie Hinchcliff, is the co-author of the seminal & swoon-worthy book Good Mail Day: A Primer for Making Eye-Popping Postal Art.

Miss Polly's basket of incoming mail invites time in the study to connect with loved ones.

Miss Polly's basket of incoming mail invites time in the study to connect with loved ones.

Baskets & tins

I keep recently received correspondence in one spot, a veritable trove to inspire,  so I can both remember to reply in a timely fashion and  also have them close at hand to answer any questions as I jot my reply. I choose to end my missives with a query or two so that they feel more like a dialogue than a simple reportage. A big basket that is often full to overflowing holds incoming postal gems which eventually migrate to the ‘replied to’ basket before being archived in old Korean teacake tins.

Carving out time to write in our often busy lives can be challenging.  Creating a warm and welcoming space to do so can help you make the time! Miss Polly readies her space by lighting a candle and arranging freshly plucked rosemary on her desk. 

Carving out time to write in our often busy lives can be challenging.  Creating a warm and welcoming space to do so can help you make the time! Miss Polly readies her space by lighting a candle and arranging freshly plucked rosemary on her desk. 

Make Time

Earlier Risers: A perfect way to start any day of the week: brew a pot of tea and collect some of your favorite letter-writing supplies. Light a candle or incense and spend the morning with pen and paper in hand — it's like sharing a cup of tea with an absent friend. Drop the missive in the mailbox on your way to work and know that you've launched your day off to a great start and will likely soon make someone else's day, too.

Night Owls: If you find yourself more of a night owl than an early bird, practice letter-writing as a way to unwind at day's end. Settle into your coziest chair, or enjoy the especially indulgent practice of penning letters from bed.

Like any practice, it's bit by bit. Congratulate yourself for each piece of mail sent and be sure to do whatever you can to kindle those letter-writing fires. The brighter they blaze the warmer they are. Remember: as mail artists like to say: you need to send good mail to get good mail.

Keep your flag up!

Miss Polly

All the Love

Valentine's Day is bigger than a box of chocolates and a dozen roses. And while we value romantic love — yes, our hearts swell at the thought of a chubby cupid running amok with an arrow aimed at a chosen few  we believe that everyone deserves to be celebrated on Valentine's Day. This year, we challenge you to put aside historical origins and preconceived notions about this holiday, and view it as an opportunity to reach out to friends, unlikely suspects, and anyone who has made a difference in your life, and let them know how much they matter to you.

Handcrafted Valentine Potato Print

Family: If you've got the time and the interest, engage youngsters by crafting cards together and sending mail infused with affection to one another. Set up an inter-family mailbox in your home where cards can be placed and distributed to fellow family members. 

Let's Have Coffee Valentine (Featuring "i'm hooked on you card" from Egg Press)

Friends: In addition to current friends, reach out to someone from your childhood with whom you've lost touch, or send a quick note to a new acquaintance whom you hope to know better. Thank friends for the time they devote to your friendship. Invite a future friend for a coffee date. 

Co-Worker Valentine

Work: It's very possible that you spend more time with them than with your family: CO-WORKERS! Celebrate the unsung heroes of your everyday: current co-workers, former co-workers, people who work in the same building as you. Let them know that you appreciate their contributions to your day-to-day.

Classroom Mini Valentines

School: Whether in grad school, preschool, or anywhere in-between, students surely benefit from words of encouragement, and the support lent by a simple expression of adoration. Many of us here at Write_On have a soft spot for Classroom Valentines, which have a knack for keeping it light, fun and pun-filled!

Silly Valentine

Funny Lover's Valentine

Lover: Don't let a fear of blushing deter you! Honor the love of your life with a silly sentiment if the thought of poems and serious declarations of adoration are too intimidating. Let the puns and inside jokes run wild!

 

Resolving to Write!

The Write_On team isn’t waiting for April to roll around to lean into letter-writing. We’re resolving today to write more letters than ever in 2017. Curious how we’ll tackle the challenge in an increasingly digital, fast paced world? We interviewed a few of Write_On’s key players to uncover the secrets to a life-long practice of meaningful communication via the written word.

SABRINA MOYLE | HELLO!LUCKY

resolution: use letter-writing to express my commitment to being an engaged citizen

Last year, the best letters I wrote expressed love and gratitude to people from all areas of my life, from the crossing guard at my kids’ school to my college adviser.  It felt great to say “thank you” and in some cases it was the beginning of a conversation that continues to this day!This year, I want to continue that effort.  I’m going to use interview questions offered by Story Corps to get inspired about who to write to, and what to say.  For example:

* Who has been the most important person in your life? Can you tell me about him or her?
* Who has been the biggest influence in your life?
* What lessons did that person teach you? Who has been the kindest to you in your life?

I also want to become a more informed and engaged citizen through Write_On this year.  I’m pledging to write thank you notes to non-profit organizations -- for example, groups that are promoting civil discourse such as Bring it to the Table and The Village Square -- encouraging them to keep up the good work.  And, I want to keep an eye on Congress and write letters to my representative to thank them for doing good work, or to let them know about an issue I care about, using this article in The Art of Manliness as my guide!

 

KARA YANAGAWA | EGG PRESS 

resolution: use letter-writing to rekindle connections with my relatives

I’m a letter writer, and love sending notes throughout the year. I drop a line when I see something that reminds me of a friend, and I try to be on top of birthdays, anniversaries and of course, thank yous. One of the things I most appreciate about the Write_On Challenge is its potency: an entire month dedicated to spreading the love, via letters.

This year, in addition to sending general well-wishes to friends and those close to me, I pledge to focus my practice on writing to my more distant relatives on the regular. It may be lofty, but my aim will be to mail a letter a week to someone in my family who doesn’t hear from me much. My list will include cousins, aunts and uncles, as well as the “Aunties and Uncles” in my life; the friends of the family who have provided mentorship and inspiration to me over the years.  

Beyond reconnecting, my goal comes with another reward - the many surprises that come with the Write_On Challenge – the inevitable boomerang effect - the things that come back. I wonder: Who will write back? Who might I touch? And what might I learn? And all because I engaged in the simple but powerful act of writing letters.

 

MICHAELA YEE | SAKURA OF AMERICA

resolution: use letter-writing to creatively express my appreciation of others' time

Now that Christmas is over you’re probably thinking about thank you notes you need to write for all the gifts you received. But what about saying thank you for someone’s time, energy or kindness? I’m super lucky to have so many wonderful people in my life that enjoy spending time with my son, take time to drop by and visit or just let us know when they are thinking of us. To kick start my letting writing habit for 2017 I’m going to let them know how appreciative I am for those experiences, which happen quite frequently and for which I feel very lucky!

Who says all the color must be on the front of the card? I love making my writing colorful and fun! Working for Sakura sure has its perks – I’m able to combine and coordinate color and special effects across different products to create truly personalized notes and even match my note to the artwork on the front of the cards.

 

My favorite thing to do is make key words pop off the page in either a more vibrant color or a glittering ink. I started lettering the names in Koi Coloring Brush Pen (seen here in Blue Green Light and Viridian), then wrote the note in Gelly Roll Moonlight in Green and went back over the words I wanted to emphasize with Gelly Roll Stardust in Lime Star. Tip: Choosing like colors from different Gelly Roll lines (all purples for example) makes it easy to use complimentary coordinating colors but with different effects.   

There are so many endless Sakura color combinations, nib widths and textures you can create, it makes note writing a very fun time for you and will make your note recipient feel super special too!

 

 

 

 ARIeL SMULLEN | MOHAWK PAPER

resolution: use letter-writing to rekindle a beloved habit with an old friend

My pledge is to write more letters to my friend Megan who moved to Barcelona this past year. We’ve been friends since childhood and used to write notes to one another as we were growing up. I’ve tucked them all away in a binder that I titled “The ‘Note’ Book,” and it’s a joy to stumble upon it every now and then. We haven’t written a letter to one another since our high school years, though I wish we had, because now there’s a chunk of our young adult life that we can’t fully reflect on since there’s nothing to look back on. My pledge is to write Megan one to two times a month this year. My pledge is my first letter:

Dear Megan, Remember this?

It’s the infamous 3” 3-ring binder that I titled ‘The “Note” Book’ with a metallic gel pen that contains all of the notes we’ve exchanged throughout Middle School and High School. I stopped by my parents and found it tucked away in my old bedroom along with other items that reminded me of my childhood (a corsage from semi-formal, neon orange recorder from elementary school, and my CD collection containing early 2000 classics including 3LW).

 

Earlier this year, you moved to Barcelona and it’s safe to say I may only see you three times a year. I haven’t thought about writing a letter to you in a while with today’s way of reaching out via social media, texting and video calling. But as I look at this binder and laugh about the truly random things we used to exchange (like the drawings of monkeys performing – odd things you would give me just because you knew I loved that animal), I couldn’t help but question why we stopped exchanging letters.

We’ve had plenty of conversations in our young adult years that we’re not able to look back on because we either texted them to one another or talked over Skype about it. So with that, I’m taking the Write_On Challenge! More info here if you want to join: writeoncampaign.com.

Expect a letter from me once or twice a month. The content? Who knows. The length? Who knows. Just know that I miss you and want to look back on our young adult life 20 years from now the same way I’m looking back at our childhood life now.

Write soon!

Ariel

Season's Greetings!

We believe in the power of this season to bring people together.  When limits imposed by physical distance - or simply shyness - prevent us from expressing ourselves in person, the holiday card swoops in; a magical vehicle for seasonal well-wishes and love. To ensure your efforts are well received, we invite you to consider heeding some of our etiquette tips, including a photo with your card,  and diving headfirst into envelope decorating this year. Read on for tips and inspiration!

HOLIDAY CARD ETIQUETTE TIPS

  • Add a personal touch  Don't skimp this time of year or recipients might think you're sending simply out of obligation. At the very least, include a short sentence addressed specifically to the recipient letting them know you're thinking of them. If, for whatever reason, you need assistance with the actual penning of the card, call on a friend to help you write while you dictate. 
  • Send early Maybe you've noticed, holiday cards are key players in seasonal decor. Be sure yours arrives in time to stand tall alongside pillar candles and cedar bows on mantel displays, hold its own among mistletoe in doorway swags, and hobnob with shiny orbs on the Noble fir. The sooner you send, the longer your card can be appreciated!
  • When in doubt  Be thoughtful and courteous with your greeting. "Happy Holidays" or "Season's Greetings" are safe bets when you're unsure what holiday your recipient observes.
  • If you are too late  New Years! What a great holiday for reflection on what has been, and anticipation for what will be! Sending New Years cards is a fun tradition, and the cards are appropriate for anyone. What's more, cards can be sent later in the month, a bonus for those of us waylaid by December holidays...and spiked Eggnog.

INCLUDING PHOTOS

It's too easy to order photos these days NOT to include them in your holiday cards. Fun and stylish options abound. Here are a few of our favorites:

Social Print Studio
Mini square photos! Photobooth style photostrips! Mobile or desktop options.

Artifact Uprising
Imagine if Kinfolk had a photo printing company. So tasteful.

Walgreens
Same-day printing! What's more, they offer square prints and the ability to print from Instagram.

DECORATING ENVELOPES
Tips from Emily Baier, resident envelope beautifier.

  • Leave room for the stamp! 
  • If you want to try a new technique or drawing, do it on a separate piece of paper and glue it on afterwards.
  • If you accidentally address your envelope off-center, balance it out with a drawing or sticker to make it look purposeful.
  • If the recipient has a long name, but a short address, spell out everything in the address (street instead of st., boulevard instead of blvd.)
  • Write your return address on the back of the envelope - it frees up room on the front to get decorative!
  • Play with spacing, caps, cursive, and different lettering styles.
  • Brighten up dark colored envelopes with a white Sakura of America Gelly Roll pen - a personal favorite!
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Shop new Hello!Lucky and Egg Press holiday cards!

A Letter Writing Kit, 3 Ways

We all have our own letter writing habits and styles, but one thing we've learned is that having the right tools you want when you want them is KEY to creating a lasting letter writing habit. The Write_On Team is excited to share a few of our own with you today. What's in your own letter writing kit? 

LALENA’s kit:

LalenaLife.jpg
I love traveling light. My lean kit contains just enough tools to inspire engagement with the places I find myself traveling through. I can clip a roadside wildflower, draw it, and express a simple sentiment of love in a card to a friend. Found and vintage tools are prominent in my kit — just imagine all the letters written and illustrations sketched by a smooth handled pencil, or all the words wiped away by a worn down eraser. Their stories live on and evolve through continued use.
LalenaGrid.jpg
  • Vintage Zion National Park Pencil case with built-in eraser pouch

  • Found Astoria High School Girl’s League pencils

  • Social Preparedness Kit  Dream Day Notepad for making a list of who to write and why

  • Milan triangular eraser

  • Brass pencil sharpener

  • Plants (dried flowers, whole plant, plant parts)

  • Canvas paint-splotched pouch from Hello! Good Morning! in Portland, Oregon

  • Red bonsai scissors for clipping plants for inspiration on the go

  • Beautiful stamps

  • Assorted Egg Press Cards including traditional Japanese Katazome stencil motifs from a recent collaboration with Kiriko in Portland, Oregon

  • Water color pencils and brush

  • Tea bags, because you can usually get a hold of hot water while traveling, but that’s not always the case for good tea

 

Emily’s kit:

EmilyLife.jpg
I am the opposite of Lalena on this one - I cannot travel light to save my life! I am usually carrying around a huge tote bag filled with every possible activity that I might possibly want to do. My letter-writing kit is one of them! Some things in my kit are part of a larger collection. For example, I have a huge envelope of Japanese stationery that I’ve been hoarding since high school, and a much larger collection of unused vintage postage. I love decorating the envelope of a letter, so a lot of my supplies are geared towards that - fancy pens, little stickers, and beautiful stamps.
EmilyGrid.jpg

 

 

Bria’s Kit:

I have a letter writing station that has a permanent spot on my table at home but this is my pared-down on-the-go kit. My fantasy life involves painting plein air watercolor postcards when I find myself on a picnic or writing long letters from cafes. So far though, most of my on-the-go letter writing scenarios involve finding myself without a card for the bottle of wine I just grabbed on my way to dinner at a friend’s. This kit has me prepared for anything and everything. Having participated in Write_On for three years now, I’ve learned that creating the letter-writing habit I want to have is a process, and the best way to stay on track is to have the tools I need on-hand at all times.
  • This year I treated myself big time to a letterpress personal stationery suite from Egg Press. I LOVE it so much and it inspires me to send more letters. I have postcards for penning quick notes, thank yous, or invites. Personal stationery because I really love to write long letters. Personalized seed packets because I’m a gardening enthusiast and it’s fun to share seeds from my garden with friends and family--they always have a story to tell in themselves.

  • I use the Social Preparedness Kit pencil pouches to hold my favorite pens paintbrushes. They are just so handy. The card pouch is small enough to fit everything I need and still be able to fit in my purse or car glove box.

  • I think I’m becoming a stamp-collecting nerd! I recently attended our country’s largest stamp show and really caught the bug and began adding a few things to my personal stash. Not only can you create a pleasing-looking envelope with stamps but it’s also a way to customize your message to the recipient. I have inside joke stamps, botanical stamps that appeal to my fellow plant lovers, and stamps that my design wonk friends will appreciate. Plus, I use a lot of the current Janis Joplin stamps because that’s my mother’s maiden name so anyone in my Joplin clan gets that stamp.

  • Of course I had to get some new pens to coordinate with my new personal stationery. I think I ordered every single orange, navy, and mint colored pen that Jet Pens sells to try them all out. They have the biggest assortment of Japanese pens online.

  • I’ve been having fun with watercolor lately. I’m really lousy at it but the colors make me so happy so I can’t resist. I bought some fun sets at Hello! Good Morning! in Portland, as well as my favorite Japanese brush. I saw some incredible watercolor envelopes in the #write_on feed on Instagram and it’s got me inspired to give that a try.

Halloween Printable

In the spirit of Halloween, let’s warm up our letter-writing practice  we dare you to! Hello!Lucky has created a free printable PDF for Write_On. All you have to do is print, cut, and customize with your own personal message. Directions and printable PDF below.

Supplies:

  • exacto knife or scissors
  • cutting mat
  • cardstock or printer paper
  • printer
  • A2 envelope if sending

Directions:

  • Download our free Halloween Printable here.
  • Cut out along trim marks (2 per page)
  • Add your own personal message using the Halloween writing prompts below!

Writing Prompts:

  • Write a confidant to share a deep-seated fear you have, whether you think it is founded or not.
  • Write to a youngster to let them know what your all-time favorite Halloween costume was.
  • Write to someone who loves sweets and share your favorite seasonal treat recipe with them.

A visit to the biggest stamp show in the country!

Thanks to Write_On I've discovered some beautifully curated stamp shops like Send More Mail so when I heard about The American Philatelic Society Stamp Show happening at the Portland Convention Center this month, I was excited to check it out. It wasn't until I arrived, feeling like a deer caught in the headlights, that I realized that this was a BIG deal. It's the biggest show in the country and people had traveled from all over the world to attend.

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I received a very friendly greeting at the info table and the seasoned vets weren't at all put off by my green questions. It's true there weren't a lot of young faces around, but they're working hard to change that and even had a whole section set up to attract a new generation of kids to the hobby.
 

I learned that stamp selling and buying is big business. The Harmer-Schau auction house was on hand with rows and rows of cardboard file boxes containing highly coveted stamps and letters. The mood was hushed and serious, which seemed appropriate once I learned that the auction the opening night had seen a single stamp fetch $40,000. I learned that it's not just stamps but envelopes too that can fetch into the several thousands for those that are historically significant. For instance, you can tell by postmarks if something was flown in a Zeppelin or a hot air balloon.

I think most stamp collectors have collector personalities. Stamps are particularly easy and interesting to collect. Stamps can be collected by the thousands, for very little money. They are interesting on many levels. They are easy to store and enjoy.
— David Markowitz of Uptown Stamp Show

My favorite part of the stamp show turned out to be the HUGE exhibit of Thematic Displays that were shown by individuals. Using stamps, letters, and photos these displays told different stories from every corner of the world. There was The History of NASA told through NASA Local Post Labels, 1967-1984. Another fascinating one was British Empire Anti-Communist Actions in the Jungles of Malaysia, 1948-1960.  With exhibits and dealers from Ghana to Singapore to Israel, I now see how stamp collecting is an amazing gateway to studying history.

Another thing I learned was that although stamp collecting can get very expensive, it can also be very, very affordable. I saw people culling through hundreds and thousands of stamps that were being sold for mere pennies, but they were nonetheless beautiful artifacts, and for the design and typography lover, an amazing source of inspiration. For under $20 I came away with some "first day covers" (envelopes containing newly released stamps), old letters, and unused stamps that I'm looking forward to personalize my own letters. Though I won't likely make it to next year's show which takes place in Richmond, Virginia, I have definitely caught the stamp collecting bug and look forward to adding to my collection.

Inflection Point: Interview with Lauren Schiller and Write_On

Lauren Schiller's show Inflection Point: Conversations with Women Changing the Status Quo has been one of our favorites ever since it came on our radar last year. So we were thrilled to be invited as her guests to discuss Write_On.  

We truly do believe that letter-writing is at an inflection point. As Gina, a letter-writer we met on Thursday, said: campaigns like Write_On are simply providing a "signal boost" to thousands of individuals who are already out there sending handwritten letters to deepen human connections amidst a wall of digital noise. You guys are our beacons. Write_On!

Love letter to Pam

We received an anonymous Write_On submission that we just couldn't pass up sharing...


About 30 + years ago the mother of a school-friend died rather suddenly and, after clearing out her things, the daughter asked if I would like all her old dressmaking patterns and hoard of fabric. They were a well-to-do family and the mother was always effortlessly elegant and soignée and here were some beautiful items of both pattern and fabric from the 1950's when she had been a debutante.

Some years later when I went to use one of the patterns I found this letter inside the Lanvin Castillo design. 

I've no idea if anyone ever knew of the admirer/lover, somehow it's more poignant not knowing - a little touch of Madame Bovary or a sub-plot from a Trollope or Dickens novel.

-Anonymous

Read On, Write_On!

As we bring this year’s Write_On Campaign to a close, we find ourselves wondering: how will we keep our letter-writing practice going?  Luckily, these wonderful books are here to inspire your letter-writing all year long:

Dear Mr. You, by Mary Louise Parker

Actress Mary Louise Parker’s debut literary work traces the arc of her life through letters written to the men who have influenced it, both real--such as her father--and imagined.  Beautifully written and lovingly crafted, the book reveals just how meandering, carefully observed, and creative a letter can be.  You’ll find additional inspiration in her warm and engaging interview with Inflection Point Radio’s Lauren Schiller.

I Will Always Write Back: How One Letter Changed Two Lives, by Martin Ganda and Caitlin Alifirenka

In this true story, a middle class American girl becomes pen pals and, eventually, best friends with a boy from a Zimbabwe slum thanks to a class writing assignment. A dual memoir alternating between their perspectives, it shows how the simple act of writing a letter can lead to mutual understanding and transformation.

If You Find This Letter: My Journey to Find Purpose Through Hundreds of Letters to Strangers, by Hannah Brencher

TED speaker Hannah Brencher’s memoir describes how, fresh out of college and depressed, she began writing love letters to strangers and leaving them in bathroom stalls, doctor’s office, and all over New York City.  400 letters later, she had discovered a deeper sense of purpose and revealed how a letter can be the ultimate random act of kindness.  Hannah’s campaign The World Needs More Love Letters, mobilizes people worldwide to write love letters to those in need.

Mr. Jameson and Mr. Phillips by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat

Though out of print, this charming children’s book tells the story of two friends -- a writer and an artist -- who seek to get away from the crowds and realize that they’ve each found true happiness when they’ve made enough creative space to send each other a Christmas card. A prescient and timely reminder for kids today on the value of unplugging and the true meaning of friendship.

 

Designer Q&A: The Great Lakes Goods

There is nothing better than getting mail that isn’t junk.

We sat down with Rose Lazar of The Great Lakes Goods and asked her a few questions about how she got started and where she see the future of letter-writing heading. Be sure to check out the rest of our Designer Q&As after this. 

Write_On:  Tell us about yourself!  What’s your background and what drew you to design cards and stationery?
Rose: My name is Rose Lazar and I'm the founder of The Great Lakes Goods.  I'm a printmaker by trade and when I was starting to think about a great way to make prints and connect with people, stationery seemed like a natural fit.  I always think about the card design as being made for someone specific.  Whether it's for a friend or family member or in reaction to something I've seen or heard, they feel like their made with someone in mind.  

Write_On: How would you describe your design aesthetic?
Rose: My design aesthetic is influenced by the 60's arts and crafts movement.  It's important to me to see the hand in everything that I make.  

Write_On: How do you use your designs to inspire people to connect in writing?
Rose: Each time I make a new card design, I hope that people feel the touch of sentimentality in each design.  And thru that it reminds them of someone the card is perfect for.  Whenever I get the opportunity to do craft or trade shows, I love seeing how people react to the cards as they realize it's perfect for someone that they know.

Write_On: What does your process look like for creating a new card or stationery design?
Rose: I print all of the cards by hand using the process of screen printing.  So, every design starts as a black and white drawing that I do by hand.  The color comes through the process of printing them. 

Write_On: How have hand-written letters shaped your life and relationships?
Rose: When I was really young, I had a grade school teacher that I loved who was leaving school to become a nun.  She was going to Italy and travel throughout Europe and before she left she suggested we become penpals.  I was 7 years old and loved every minute of it.  My mom would take me to buy letter writing paper and supplies and nothing made me happier.  And then every few months I'd get these letters and postcards with fantastic postage stamps and know that it had come from somewhere far away.  It inspired me to always write letters or send cards for any occasion. 

Write_On: What do you find most difficult about writing a letter?
Rose: Being ok with having nothing to say! Just sending a note to say hi can make someone's day.

Write_On: What does your letter-writing practice look like?
Rose: It's very spur of the moment.  I'm always in my studio so there's plenty of supplies around to decorate envelopes and such.  But, I never send my own cards.  I always send fellow designers and friends cards that I love. 

Write_On:  Modern times have made digital correspondence increasingly available and convenient. Why is it important for people to send handwritten cards and letters?
Rose: There is nothing better than getting mail that isn't junk.  

Write_On: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received about letter-writing?
Rose: I don't know if I've received advice about it! I've always just done it so, sometimes people expect a card. And often they're late ;)

Write_On: What’s the next letter you’re planning to write?
Rose: Gotta put some special notes and things together for all those special moms in my life.

Write where you are, with Eric Hunter

Since the beginning of April there have been 4,110 #write_on mentions on Instagram and perusing them has been a favorite pastime. As the month progressed we began to notice one person's photos in particular, partly because they always seemed to feature something delicious-looking to eat or drink, partly because they were shared by a man, and mostly because he was inspiring in the way he made letter-writing a routine part of his busy day, regardless of where he was or what he was doing. We've followed him all month as he's written letters on the NY Subway, in Irish pubs, at a work breakfast, in the back of a taxi, and on a trip back to his hometown for a high school reunion.

His name is Eric Hunter (@ericwhunter) and we got so curious about him that we decided to get in touch and see if he might be willing to tell us more about himself and his Write_On adventure. He graciously consented. Thank you Eric!

1. Tell us about yourself!  What’s your background? What's an average day look like for you?

I'm a big skier. In the winter, you can find me on the slopes in either upstate New York or out West. And I like to spend the summer at the beach on either Fire Island or in Provincetown.

I moved to New York City, where I have lived for nearly 17 years, from my hometown of Cincinnati to pursue a career in magazine publishing. Cards, letters, books, magazines—I have always loved the written word

Many people hear magazine and only think of the many talented editors, writers and designers who work at magazines. But I run marketing on the business side of the brand which means my team and I are part of the advertising sales operation. We get to do all kinds events, digital marketing, and even create content all in partnership with our advertisers. One of the best things about it is that every day is different, which keeps me on my toes.

2. How many years have you participated in Write_On? How did you hear about it and what interested you in participating?

I’m psyched to say that this is the first year I have participated in Write_On! It all started with an idea for a monthlong Instagram project during National Card and Letter Writing Month. Then I turned to my good friend Google for some ideas to help keep my posts interesting. That’s when I came across writeoncampaign.org, submitted my request for a free Write_On Kit, and the rest, as they say, is history.

3. What does your letter-writing practice look like? How often do you write, what types of letters do you most like to write, and how do you make time for writing in your busy schedule?

I wish I could say I have a letter-writing practice. That is what I am hoping this time participating in Write_On helps me jump start. Before April, I would typically write a note or letter about once a month. My goal is to get that up to once a week.

4. How's it going? How many letters have you written this month? Are you trying to write daily?

Honestly, I am a bit behind on my 30 letters in 30 days goal. My National Card and Letter Writing Month will probably stretch into May. But, I have been having a great time doing it. And that's what is most important to me about it.

5. What do you find most difficult about writing a letter?

Sitting down to write isn’t too hard for me. My big challenge is staying engaged beyond the first few sentences. I write much more slowly than I type. And so I have to remind myself to take my time and enjoy the process of actually handwriting the note. If I am writing a longer letter, it sometimes helps to complete the letter in a few sittings instead of trying to force it all onto the page at once.

6. What's been your favorite thing about Write_On so far and do you think it will change your letter-writing practice in the months or years to come?

I have really enjoyed the comments and encouragement I’ve received from so many of my friends, family, and even coworkers. Because I post about my letter writing on social media, I have received a note from a college friend who I haven’t seen in more than a year. One of my co-workers left me a clever handwritten note in my snail mailbox at work. And every couple days a coworker or friend somehow brings it up in conversation.

Once I wrap up the campaign, I know my letter writing pace will slow down. But taking part in Write_On has reminded me how much I enjoy the process and the connections it fosters with other people. It’s a fun form of personal networking. And I get to play with cards and paper, which I love.

7. How have hand-written letters shaped your life and relationships?

One of my favorite memories about hand-written letters is a summer I spent during high school corresponding with a good friend who was backpacking through Europe. This was before email so letters or very expensive phone calls were the only way we could stay in touch. Both of us would string our letters together over the course of several days before we would drop them in the mail. I remember how much I enjoyed reading her letters and hearing about all her adventures. It's also fun to go back through the letters and remember those times.

8. What’s the best advice you’ve ever received about letter-writing?

There are two pieces of advice on this topic that have always stuck with me. First, you have to just do it (as the famous slogan says). Don't worry that your note will be too short or that it has been too long a time since you have been in touch with someone. And second, as my parents always taught me, everyone loves receiving a handwritten note or letter. It is always going to be more personal, and probably more memorable for the recipient, than an email or a text.

9. What’s the next letter you’re planning to write?

I’m planning to send a note to two good friends who are getting married this fall. Their beautiful save the date arrived in the mail recently and I happen to have a card from Paperwheel.com that is perfect for the occasion.

Putting Pen to Paper

Our friends at Mac & Murphy in Charleston have joined us in taking the Write_On challenge. We asked them to share a bit about what letter-writing means to them in this age of mostly electronic communication. Thanks ladies!


AMI --
I was in my early 20s when email became the norm for everyday communication. I even have the email from my now husband when he reached out the morning after our first date.  One day, it occurred to me that all of a sudden everyone stopped writing. Suddenly, all of our personal interactions, every single thing we say, think and feel, is being documented in social media with absolutely no foundation for preservation.  By choosing to put everything into text, email, facebook, twitter, snapchat, etc… there will be absolutely no record of our relationships. No history of friendships, love, heartbreak, loss, gain....nothing to show for our lives or to tell the story to the next generations of our family. And that is a very sad thing.

For me, the #write_on campaign champions our mission at mac & murphy to "spread the love". Put pen to paper and tell someone how you feel about them. Spread love, encouragement, support and put some plain old good vibes out into the world.


LIZ --
Dear Elizabeth, Lizzie, Aunt Lizzie, Sweetie, Sunshine...the start to all of my best memories and letters.  I can still hear my mom say the words that she wrote so eloquently when I was growing up. I still find myself going back to re-read all of my letters, notes and memories.  Now, I hope to pass that along and remind all of my favorite people in my life what they mean to me with the perfect note so that maybe one day they can go back to that memory and smile.

I love texting just like the rest of us, but the joy + love I can spread by putting my pen to paper to create an authentic and real emotion - that's the good stuff.   Put good energy out in this universe and it will come right to ya ten times over.  Then when you get that perfect love note...Instagram it :)! Get that favorite pen of yours and WRITE_ON!

LACEY --
Writing a letter is so personal. I am definitely a fan of social media and catch myself on it multiple times a day but there is little emotion and sometimes truth behind a post on Instagram or Twitter. Writing a letter to someone you love allows you to step away from the world. It allows you to put all you feelings on a piece of paper that will be kept and cherished.

I have a huge box full of paper; letters, invitations, notes from others, etc. Nothing lifts my spirits more than going through that box and feeling loved. Writing letters of thankfulness, love, encouragement or just to say hi should be an activity in everyone person's life. Love others well and WRITE_ON!

 

The Art of Correspondence

Last year, Kirk and Eva Jorgensen of Sycamore Street Press formed N Ø R R film with Jenner Brown and Meta Coleman. Together, they made a short film that explores the art of correspondence. They wanted to celebrate the art of sending hand-written letters. There's something so intimate about receiving a tangible letter. The feel, the smell, the words... Sometimes you can say more in a letter than you could even say in person.

Designer Q&A: People I've Loved

I have a box. One where when I am feeling down, I go to. It has all of my old love letters, letters from my parents, from my grandparents, etc. I feel like a bit of their being/energy has been transferred to this bit of paper that I am soothed by almost like they were holding me.

We sat down with Carissa of People I've Loved and asked her a few questions about how she got started and where she see the future of letter-writing heading. Be sure to check out the rest of our Designer Q&As after this. 

Write_On: Tell us about yourself!  What’s your background and what drew you to design cards and stationery?

Carissa: Both Heather and I have backgrounds in conceptual art, basically we were taught to think about content before beauty. I don’t know I agree with that anymore totally, but I started to think about how stationarity could be like little mini performance art works. IE we could design interactions that would at heart bring people closer together. I think I have been a person who often feels lost and alone, and made work to express that. It was a natural next step, to make objects that would help promote community, relationships and communication - communicating is something I need help with all the time.

Write_On: How would you describe your design aesthetic?

Carissa: Like a four-year old could do it. With content that you might not want to tell your mother about. But I tell my mother most everything, so maybe that is not so true.

Write_On:  How do you use your designs to inspire people to connect in writing?

Carissa: They are all pretty much prompts (verbal and visual) to express gratitude, open up to someone, to make you feel good about life, hopefully. I like to think that we use personal experiences as representations of universal human emotions/feelings.

Write_On:  What does your process look like for creating a new card or stationery design?

Carissa: Depends on the day. And if the sun is shining. Journaling. Talking it out. Then painting, drawing, then scanning the drawing, then printing film, then making plates, then printing! FINALLY. My gosh.

Write_On: How have hand-written letters shaped your life and relationships?

Carissa: I have a box. One where when I am feeling down, I go to. It has all of my old love letters, letters from my parents, from my grandparents, etc. I feel like a bit of their being/energy has been transferred to this bit of paper that I am soothed by almost like they were holding me.

Write_On: What do you find most difficult about writing a letter?

Carissa: Spelling.

Write_On: What does your letter-writing practice look like?

Carissa: Mine, at this point in my life is mainly about being thankful. Since I don’t live close to any of my family members it is about maintaining our connection over vast amounts of space and time.

Write_On: Modern times have made digital correspondence increasingly available and convenient. Why is it important for people to send handwritten cards and letters?

Carissa: For me, it is a feelling. Even tho I am a computer user, I still love stuff. I love touching things, smelling things, and seeing colors in real life.

Write_On: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received about letter-writing?

Carissa: I am not sure I have received any advice. Mainly that I just love receiving stuff in the mail and I love sending stuff. It is so magical.

Write_On:  What’s the next letter you’re planning to write?

Carissa: To my grandmother. I try to write her once a week. Her health has been in question as of late. She is my special person. I always felt like I connected with her in a way that I could with no one else. She made me feel safe, loved, and beautiful. I was so upset when I found out that all of my cousins feel the same way about her. Can one person be so special to many? I suppose so, but I don’t have to like it.

Q&A with Future Stella, I Love You

While emojis are awesome and I hope to one day be fluent in them so I can communicate with my future child, they are not a replacement for our actual feelings for the ones in our lives we care the most about.

We sat down with Shelby Cowell, author of Future Stella, I love You, an online diary of letters written for her daughter with the intentions of being read in 20 years. We asked her a few questions about what inspired her to start writing to future Stella and the importance of it.

Write_On:  How did you get the idea to start writing letters to Stella? What was the first letter you ever wrote to her? 

Shelby:  I started writing to her because I have always been curious about my own childhood and what went on day to day. For instance, I would pay serious coin to see what the inside of our fridge looked like when I was 5.  My mom doesn't remember that stuff at all and I thought Future Stella would love to read about the details of her early life authentically and not through the edited stories that happen when many years have passed. My first letter I wrote to her was in November of 2013 and I described to her in detail what a typical lazy Sunday looked like with Current Stella and her morning routine.  I also told her about some words that she can't say properly that make me laugh (tum instead of tongue).  Even now,  when I read the letter the details are not fresh and many have been forgotten so I know it would have never made it to the future.


Write_On:  Your letters are hilarious. What is your writing process like? Where do you find your inspiration? When and where do you write, and how often do you write?

Shelby:  First of all thank you, but honestly, you can't make this stuff up!  Kids are hilarious.  I dedicate Tuesdays to writing and I usually start by flipping through my camera on my phone to remind me of the past week's moments. I like to write at a night with a glass of wine but sometimes thats not realistic so I write wherever.  There is a coffee shop near my house that for whatever reason, gets my juices flowing like nowhere else.  Most weeks there are too many funny things to include all of it, so I would say Im never short on material.  Our family dynamic is pretty funny and I have a husband that cracks me up and his relationship with Current Stella is so damn delicious that I feel compelled to document it.

Write_On:  It seems like your letters are as much for you as they are for her. How have your letters helped you gain perspective on being a parent? 

Shelby:  You pretty much nailed it on the head.  First of all, just writing out some of the fights we have gotten in has been like therapy.  Suddenly, I see where she was coming from or where I could have handled it better for next time.  Its also kind of a big deal to write things about someone you care about that not only is getting put on the internet, but will be re-read by the adult you are typing about. 

Write_On:  What is the hardest thing about writing letters to Stella?

Shelby:  Lately, it has been hard for me to be authentic knowing other people are reading the letters.  Strangers are fine, but a lot of my family reads them religiously and I want to bitch to Future Stella about my family and I can't because I know they will read it.  I now have a journal I keep by my bed where I write her an actual letter filled with the family gossip.  The goal is for Stella to end up my best friend and so I can't leave out the fact that Grandma actually drives me insane.  Thats just not what friends do.

Write_On:  What was your letter-writing habit like before you started writing to Stella?  Has the project inspired you to write letters to anyone else?

Shelby:  Ha.  I never wrote letters, ever.  When I was in high school I would write our family's Christmas letter and people still talk about them.  Even back then, producing highly sarcastic material that was equally sentimental was my jam.  I can't ever just say I love someone without roasting them first.  It's kind of my specialty. That's essentially what I am doing to Stella. 
My blog has not inspired me to write anyone else letters, but you guys have!  I used all the cards in my write_on gift bag and it felt so good.  Its definitely going to be a regular thing for me.  

Write_On:  When do you think you'll start reading the letters to her?  How do you think she'll respond?

Shelby:  Future Stella is slated to read the first one in 2035. She will be 25.  The 20's are just a mess and I hope the letters help her navigate through it. My intention is for her to get a kick out of it, truly understand my deep love for her, and recognize components of her personality that have been consistent since she was little so she can really own them.  So far, her sense of humor is not exactly what I would call dry or sarcastic so I am a bit worried she will be offended and not get it. 

Write_On:  What advice would you give to someone who is looking to start writing more letters?

Shelby:  Don't put them on the internet!  Just kidding. Kind of. Writing a letter to someone you care about is so meaningful.  I looked back at my text messages to my dad, who happens to be my personal hero, and our conversation has been reduced to emojis and one word responses.  This is my hero!!! While emojis are awesome and I hope to one day be fluent in them so I can communicate with my future child, they are not a replacement for our actual feelings for the ones in our lives we care the most about.  Only our words on paper can convey it and writing it down is the only way to make it last forever. 

More on her blog- shelbycowell.com

Write_On Challenge Update: Adidas

It’s been such a great feeling to bring a stack to mail out every few days!

This year Adidas is taking the Write_On challenge and we checked in with some of the participants to see how it's going!

They broke into teams of 5. The team that writes the most letters in a month wins a prize bag. People have been sending emails to each other to check in on how many letters they have written and give encouragement.

Rachel is a designer at Adidas and this is her 3rd year taking the Write_On challenge. She's gaining steam! The first year she'd written 11 and then 18. This year she's shooting for 30 or more. 

"I like to write letters in groups. I sit and make a list of people to write and write 5-10 at a time. I really find the time to be soothing and get me out of my daily stresses. It always feels good to send them off; like little floating wishes that arrive at people’s doorsteps. It feels a bit magical and mysterious. I find the campaign to be a time to reconnect and start communication again with dear friends I have lost touch with. In that sense it has been good."

Amanda is another avid letter-writer and on an opposing team to Rachel's. She told us that "one of my new year’s resolutions for 2016 was to write more letters, and my goal has been to write 10 a month, which seemed like a lot, but I’ve found I enjoy it so much I tend to send even more than that."

Nice work Adidas! We get the sense that a little friendly competition helps to keep the letters going and we hope more companies will see the many values in making letter-writing a part of their culture.

Letter Writing Saturdays with PapaLlama

Writing letters and sending cards has this amazing, quite literal way of connecting humans to humans.

We chatted with Risa Culbertson from PapaLlama to find out how she ended up in printmaking and why she created Letter writing Saturdays! Find out more about Letter Writing Saturdays here.

Write_On: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Risa: My name is Risa, and I’m the creator and printer behind PapaLlama. My line is designed, created, and printed here in my letterpress studio in sunny San Francisco (I don’t know where that fog went). I’m mischievous by nature and also a hugger.  I’m extremely good at taking knots out. I prefer waffles over pancakes, and donuts over everything.

Write_On: What is your first stationery memory? 

Risa: Stationery was a big part of my life from the get go. My mom is Japanese, and so half of my family was on the other side of the planet. Letters to and from Japan were always in our mailbox. I remember watching my mom as she sat with a cup of coffee, writing to her friends and family. Letter writing became important in my life during my summer vacations as a kid in the middle of nowhere Japan, a.k.a. my grandma’s house. My best friend, Kiki, and I would write one another all summer long. It was before cell phones and emails so we wrote pages of random information and doodles of what was happening in each other’s worlds. They were always something to look forward to, and writing them was just as fun.  

Write_On:  Favorite part about being a Stationery Boss?

Risa: My favorite part of being a Stationary Boss is finding my own voice and using it to be a part of a larger human connection.  I like making things that help others express themselves, especially those who don’t really connect with what’s available at their local drug store. It makes me happy to nourish both the snarky but sweet sides of life so that we can all get a good laugh in...because let's face it, life is too serious sometimes! It's rewarding to think that my designs can pass on a message, which then someone can also add their own personal thought. It's sort of like a secret collaboration. 

Write_On:  How did you get your start in the stationery game? 

Risa: The truth is that printmaking found me.  I had no prior experience with printing and never in a million years thought that I would have a stationery line. I didn’t even really know how to print or that there were printing presses, so in the beginning I was printing everything by hand.  There was definitely a learning curve going from using my hand as a baren to my Heidelberg windmill now.  Essentially PapaLlama started out with one lino cut card, inspired by my friend’s over excessive use of the phrase, “awesome sauce."  I was working at a store called Nest here in San Francisco, and the owners got a kick out of it and told me to put some cards out. I did, and they sold, much to my surprise! I made more, and those sold, and so on and so forth and that started this whole adventure. 

Write_On: What does writing letters/cards mean to you? 

Risa: Writing letters and sending cards has this amazing, quite literal way of connecting humans to humans. Time is something that has become harder and harder to find in our busy lives, so the pure inconvenience of whole thing is something that is really special. It takes time to form thoughts & write your letter, it takes time to get it to the destination, to then write back, and ultimately, receive the response.  You get to take your time and build layers of ideas and depth that just doesn’t seem to happen via text; conversations can last for letters and days and years. The writing and reading of letters helps me see things differently, savor moments, and give that person special time and attention. 

Write_On: What is Letter Writing Saturday? 

Risa: Letter Writing Saturday is an all day writing space that occurs every Saturday. I wanted to create a spot where people (myself included) could start making the habit of writing a letter. Supplies are provided including paper, envelopes, Sakura pens, a typewriter, and stamps! All you have to do is show up, sit, and write. The end. Oh, yeah, and put down your phones! 

Write_On:  Do you have some favorite testimonials on what Letter Writing Saturday means for those who attend? 

Risa: I’m a sucker for a good love story. I’ve had regulars who come in and continue to write back and forth love letters to their sweethearts. One woman, in a long distance romance, writes in between dates as a way to get to know one another better, and I just love that I can witness her journey.

Write_On: What do you like best about Letter Writing Saturday? 

Risa: I get a kick out of watching kids write a letter, or use the typewriter for the first time. Seeing them get in to the process of writing, thinking about who to write to, what to write, choosing the right paper and pen is really fun to watch and hopefully, leave wanting to write more letters! Who knows, maybe they will feel inspired to express themselves via pen to paper more often. 

Write_On:  How do you hope Write_On can help people connect? 

Risa: I think the Write_On challenge is going to be a great way for people to not only connect, or reconnect, with their friends and family but also gain a possible fantastic experience for themselves. Commitment to a challenge of any sort results in our learning more about ourselves and reinforces what we’re capable of, maybe even more than we realized.  I, for one, am up for and excited for the challenge!

Blog post by Sakura of America