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

Using Vintage Ephemera in Letter Writing

Hello! My name is Julia Neises and I am the lady behind Eva Moon Press. I got my start by working at neighboring letterpress shops in Berkeley, California. Now, I live with my husband in Portland, Oregon and run my business out of a tiny room in our home. The work I do includes graphic design for small businesses, stationery design, styling, and selling collections of ephemera.

I first caught the ephemera spark when I was introduced to traditional letterpress printing. But it was just last year when my in-laws gave me two giant boxes of my husband’s childhood stamp collection that really led me to stamp and ephemera collecting. Pouring over all the stamps in each glassine envelope, drawer, and album and learning about their origins brought together all my years of print production, design, and a general curiosity about the world. Since then, I have attempted to better organize the collection and add to it where I can. While I have a lot to learn about the ins-and-outs of philately, I find such delight in sharing my collection and learning from others.

Antique shops and vintage paper fairs are my favorite sources for finding materials. I love chatting with shop proprietors and dealers and hearing the history of the pieces they are selling. I am learning that if I take the time to listen, other collectors have a lot of knowledge to share! At vintage paper fairs, dealers are generally interested to know what you collect so it’s handy to keep a wish list. My wish list always includes airmail labels and first day covers, postcards of post offices, and post office labels from other countries.  

The materials I collect come in handy not just for design inspiration when working on a branding project, but also in letter-writing: 

- I love adding vintage post office labels to letters and envelopes. (Tip: Wrapping labels around an edge is a fun way to add interest on each side of a piece.)

- In addition to using the appropriate mint postage, I occasionally add a cancelled vintage stamp to an envelope for added color and texture. 

- I’m really drawn to airmail ephemera (I love stripes and primary colors, so it’s a perfect match) and collect airmail labels in lots of languages. When putting together an ephemera swap or letter for a pen pal, I will often include a vintage label from their country or a place they’ve traveled to. It’s fun to match pieces of my collection to people I know.

- Saving interesting package is a good way to mix old and new ephemera. I recently bough some seeds from Floret, a great flower farm in Washington, and their beautifully designed seed envelopes have worked their way into my letters! 

Because I correspond with about 20 different people across the world on a regular basis, it’s not easy to pin-point favorite letters sent and received. I am continually delighted by the creativity of my friends!

The favorite letters that do come to mind are in two categories: Ongoing missives and a special occasion. My first memory of receiving mail is a valentine sent from my grandparents when I was child (my grandpa has the best cursive!). They love receiving mail, so now I send them pretty postcards of things I know they will like with little notes about what I’m up to. For the special occasion, I created a paper booklet that unfolded with four pockets for my pen pal Victoria Vu’s birthday. Victoria and I share a love of paper and gardening, so I filled the pockets with vintage ephemera that I knew she would like. 

Polly, my dear friend and pen pal (we both live in Portland and are still pen pals!) is the queen of tucking sweet little treasures into her letters to me. Her generous spirit overflows into everything she does—even in the mail! She has a great eye for color and I love the way she combines old and new materials. One of my favorite pieces from her is a very simple white card with a vintage Canadian stamp on front and wrapped with delicate orange thread. So inspiring! 

Photos by Tanya Pavlova. http://www.tanyapavlova.com/

Visit Julia at http://www.evamoonpress.com/

Designer Q&A: Gold Teeth Brooklyn

My mom has always written me letters and cards. Anytime I traveled she would stuff a letter into my bag so I could find it later. It always made me smile.

We sat down with Jesse of Gold Teeth Brooklyn 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?

Jesse: I took printmaking classes in college, including a summer studying the medium abroad in Greece, and fell in love with it. I loved everything, manipulating colors and how the ink felt on the textured cotton paper. Every little detail was magic! I was an art student, and it was important to me that I make accessible art. I didn’t see myself in the “real” art world, but I still wanted to be creative. When I started to make prints and cards I felt I could sigh in relief, there was less pressure than when you’re trying to be an artist. Ultimately, I didn’t care if my work was in a gallery or in a gift shop, as long as it was out in the world and everyone could interact with it. That's empowering!

Write_On: How would you describe your design aesthetic?

Jesse: I have fun putting a colorful and playful spin on everyday objects--I want people to smile! 

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

Jesse: I hope that people are inspired by the simplicity of my designs and objects, and that they are reminded of particular friends or family members. They might just write them!

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

Jesse: Usually I have an upcoming holiday that I need to create a new card for, so I'll turn to my daily surroundings for inspiration. For instance, my boyfriend wears these super old work boots that inspired me to create a Father's Day card!

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

Jesse: Letters force me to deeply consider the person I’m writing. They're more formal than a text or email, so I really reflect on the content before I put it down on paper. Writing a letter is like a private moment with the recipient because you're carving out time you wouldn't otherwise to think about them. 

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

Jesse: There isn’t a delete button! Cards are precious. I know how much work can go into creating them, so I don’t want to write a sloppy letter inside. When I make a mistake it really bugs me! 

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

Jesse: I try to write letters for all the major holidays, sending girlfriends Valentine's Day cards, birthday cards throughout the year or just a letter saying that I’m thinking of you. A handwritten letter goes far. It can really make someone’s day, I know when I receive one, it definitely makes mine. Someone sat down and thought of me versus sending a 5 second text message. These days not everyone has stamps and addresses handy. You have to go that extra step and that makes it so much more special.   

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

Jesse: Hopefully people will save their cards and letters in the way they don't save emails. If they don't, I worry that future generations won't have that sense of family history that can only be found in passed-down correspondence. Digital correspondence is wonderful, too. But we have to make time for handwritten letters.

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

Jesse: It's not advice per se, but my mom has always written me letters and cards. Anytime I traveled she would stuff a letter into my bag so I could find it later. It always made me smile. She still sends me cards for every holiday, even Easter and Halloween. It really rubbed off on me. I hope to do this for my kids, too. 

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

Jesse: I'm getting married soon, and we're sending out our save-the-dates. It's the perfect opportunity to include notes to people that I’ve been meaning to write.

Q&A with Kathy and Donovan, Letter Writers Alliance

1. Tell us about yourself!  What’s your background and what inspired you to start the The Letter Writers Alliance?

The Letter Writers Alliance exists because Kathy and I grew tired of hearing people say that they loved letters, but nobody writes them anymore. We heard it all the time, so we figured we should try to connect these people who love letter writing so they don't feel like the only ones anymore. We decided to create the Alliance to network those letter lovers together. We created a website and came up with a concept for what a membership would entail and what kind of perks came with it. That was back in the Summer of 2007 and we’ve been growing ever since.


2. Describe The Letter Writers Alliance - how does it work? How many members are there? Can you talk about the intersection of the online world and the growing interest in letter-writing?

In this era of instantaneous communication, a letter is a rare and wondrous item. The Letter Writers Alliance is dedicated to preserving this joy; neither long lines, nor late deliveries, nor increasing postal rates will keep us from our mission. With a combination of both online presence and in person gatherings we strive to give people the tools to correspond tangibly in our increasingly digital existence. As of this writing, we have over 10,000 members from all over the world. The L.W.A. offers free downloads of stationery and cards, members only products and projects, and a blog with all the goings on in the letter writing world. We also offer an optional pen pal swap between members, run contests, and have a special currency called Inklings that members can earn through community involvement and the turn in for free things. A lifetime membership is $5 plus shipping through our website and comes with a fancy member card and patch. We want to inspire you online to go offline and write more letters. We also hold Letter Socials, both the virtual and traditional varieties. The traditional socials are limited to a physical space, which is great for a fun gathering, but not great for being able to include all our members. Since we have so many International members, we saw the virtual social as a way to engage our entire membership community. The social runs for 24 hours of which you can participate in when and how you want to. To participate with the rest of the community, people can share their mail thoughts, letter photos, and mail stack by using the hashtag #LWASocial and share via Twitter and Instagram. We also broadcast live video of us writing at our studio for a couple hours. We often have a friend or two join us and we take questions and share tips. (The videos are archived on our site and YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC2oEjZjrq-zjCTnsNr1vtlg )

We love how social media, blogs, and websites are helping people get inspired to get offline and write a letter. These outlets allow us to share our joy of letter writing to the digital world and find even more people with our love of mail. Thanks to active forums for mail like Postcrossing and the broader reach of something like Instagram, the concept of letter writing is being exposed to a wider range of people. We use the digital to add value to our community, such as with the membersite, which helps us connect with our world-wide community, as well as with online events.


3. How have hand-written letters impacted your life and relationships? Why is having The Letter Writers Alliance important to you?

Letters and mail bring us great joy and that is only compounded when you can share that joy with others who really understand and feel the same. I have met the best people through the mail. I found that I started to get to know a lot more diverse people through letters. I wasn’t just interacting with my peers or my political group or people who shared an interest of mine other than writing. Moreover, I discovered that the majority of people really are genuinely nice and thoughtful. I have been given so many different opportunities through options opened up to me through relationships started with letter writing. Letters bring together an amazingly diverse group of people and I am deeply honored and enormously pleased to be a part of a community of so many interesting people. It makes me so happy that so many people share this love and are willing to share it with others.


4. What does your letter-writing practice look like? How often do you write, and what types of letters do you write most often? What do you do for inspiration and to make time and space for letter-writing?

I am always writing letters. My spare moments are dedicated to returning my mail. I have developed a number of lasting pen pal relationships through the L.W.A. and consider it my goal to return letters in short order. I carry a bag with me that has stationery, pens, and my unread mail. I don’t read a letter until I have the time to respond to it. Otherwise, I get really bogged down in mental composition. I like to be very conversational in my letters and the quick response keeps it more natural. I have a tendency in my life to overwork things; so this is a nice change of pace. I probably write about 25 letters and postcards a week. Most of those are responses to letters I have received, but I do occasionally sneak in a fan letter or a thank you or a just because note. Kathy tends to write around 5 letters a month, sticks to simple paper and fountain pens, and tends to write longer letters. Her and I really show the span of the types of letter writers there are around. I find Instagram to be a super inspirational place for letter writing, and since I am the main author on the L.W.A. blog, I’m always hunting through the wilds of the internet for all kinds of letter writing goodness.

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

The act of writing a letter is a gift of your time and ideas. There is a sense of connection with your own thoughts that you don’t normally get when talking or writing an email, and I think this resonates with people. There is more of a journalistic thought process occurring when writing a letter and it is amazing how many times I write things I had no idea I was feeling or even solve issues I was having just by writing it out to a pen pal. If you reach back and remember the joy from receiving a letter, something to hold, to reread, to treasure and then imagine passing that feeling on to someone else. A letter means even more today than it used to. They became mundane, but are now almost sacred artifacts. Also, letters are extremely important primary sources for our collective experience of history. I wonder a lot about what is being lost with the advent of email and text and Twitter and how much history is sacrificed to the delete key. It's a small, very small, price to pay to touch someone the way that a letter can. You start by sending them out and the reward is receiving them. A lot of people just need to take the first step; send that first letter. You have to write a letter to get a letter, is what we say.

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

I like to pass along that letter writing should not be a burden in your life. Every letter deserves a response, but the nature of that response is up to you. You shouldn’t feel guilty over unreturned letters. One of the best things about letters is that they don’t have expiration dates. Answer things in your own time, on your own terms. We aren’t the Letter Writing Police. We want everyone to have fun. If you get overwhelmed, try sending out a postcard instead with a “Hey, I got your letter. I’m a bit behind right now, but I hope to catch up soon.” Courtesy, kindness, and civility in conversation are all watch words for great letter writing relationships.

We get a lot of questions about the “proper”, “right”, or “best” way to write a letter. The answer isn’t that straightforward. It all depends on who you are writing to, the old adage of know your audience; a great letter to your grandmother is not the same as a great letter to your pen pal in London.  Also, embrace patience. Letters are a gift of your time. Learn to savor doing something slowly as a welcome change from the rest of your life when everything must be done yesterday.

7. When is it better to send a letter than an e-mail, phone call or text?

Letters are always better, with the one exception of trying to schedule something on a deadline. Emails are great tools. You’ve used it here to get your answers fast. I can tell you that my answers would have been different if I were handwriting this to send it back to you in the mail. The manner in which a response is made influences the nature of that response. I cannot judge whether or not one is more worthy than another, but I have definitely noticed a difference between a handwritten letter and a typed one. I don’t talk on the telephone hardly at all. If I have something important to talk about, I do it in a letter. Text and email are only for things like scheduling meetings or coordinating lists of tasks. All of my conversations are in person or on the page. Those people you message on Facebook, think of how much more impactful it would be for them to receive a real letter from you. That tweet you just sent, next time, write it down on a postcard. Make your message a part of the physical world and it will be a great deal more memorable than a few words on a screen. We always tell people that we aren't anti-email; we're just pro real-mail. Mainly, we just want people to write more letters.

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

I have two pen pal letters waiting for responses; one to California, one to Canada. I need to send a thank you for a donation. Oh, and I remembered that I forgot to answer a question in a letter about a particular type of material; so I plan to send samples of that material off to that pen pal. (It’s this crazy rayon mesh intended for origami that I use in mail art collage.) Lastly, I have an Inkling to award. A member in England sent a letter with a link I’m going to share on the blog; since it’s something for the community, they earned themselves an Inkling. We use Inklings as a way to encourage members to do more for the letter writing world, above and beyond just writing letters.

Sponsor Challenge Update: Hello!Lucky

My favorite thing is the way that it’s caused me to re-examine and re-appreciate all the people who have made a difference in my life.

We sat down with Sabrina Moyle of Hello!Lucky, a Write_On sponsor, to get a feel for how the 30 day challenge was going! Be sure to check out the rest of our Sponsor Challenge Updates after this. 

Write_On:  How many years have you participated in Write_On? 

Sabrina:  This is my third year participating - I'm the Hello!Lucky Write_On challenge representative!

Write_On:  What does your letter-writing habit usually look like? 

Sabrina: In the past it's been sporadic, but this year, it's becoming automatic and something I look forward to doing regularly.  There is just something so satisfying about writing by hand and expressing my gratitude towards someone on a beautiful card or stationery. I love it!  I try to write first thing in the morning or when I have a quiet moment in the afternoon.  I have a running list of people I want to write letters to - old friends, teachers, advisors, bosses, work colleagues, cousins, aunts, uncles, my deceased grandparents - the list goes on.  Part of my realization this year is that life is short and I want to live my life so that if I happen to get hit by a bus tomorrow, I will have left nothing left unsaid. Letters are the perfect way to do that. I tend to compose letters in my head while I'm driving my car or running errands; that way, they flow once I put pen to paper.

Write_On: How's it going? How many letters have you written? Are you trying to write daily?

Sabrina:  It's going really well. So far, I've written about 20 letters. I got warmed up by writing thank you notes for birthday gifts that my twin sons received (just my luck, their birthday is at the end of March!) - the kids dictated what they wanted to say (usually something short and sweet like "thank you for the X. It is super awesome!", and I wrote it down since they're still learning to write.  I've written letters to my college room mate, who I first met by letter; to a Facebook friend wishing her a belated happy birthday; to my cleaning lady and her daughter; to my kids' teacher; to The Mosaic Project, a non-profit I love; and to my college advisor letting her know how much she's influenced me.  I've also been including a short handwritten note of appreciation with checks for bills!  I've been writing 2-3 letters every other day.  The process has inspired me to write essays about the value of letter-writing, such as this one.  It has truly been life-changing!

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

Sabrina:  Usually it's the feeling that I "owe" someone a letter. Guilt is the biggest letter-writing blocker. When I notice that feeling, I just let it go and tell myself that no one is expecting anything - that's the beauty of writing old-fashioned letters!  I also remind myself that if I write a letter out of obligation, the recipient will feel it and I might as well just send an email or text.  The beauty of a letter is its authenticity and sincerity - it should be a joy to write and a joy to receive. 

Write_On:  What's been your favorite thing about Write_On so far? 

Sabrina:  My favorite thing is the way that it's caused me to re-examine and re-appreciate all the people who have made a difference in my life. Once I started following that thread by answering the question "Who should I write a letter to today?," the number of people I could think of was practically unending. There are so many people, from childhood to the present day, who I have enjoyed meeting, learned from, and appreciated. I would love to eventually write letters to all of them to make sure they realize what a profound influence they have had on the people they've touched.

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

Sabrina:  I've had many relationships in the past where hand-written letters were pivotal. One of my first crushes in high school was someone who lived in a different city and we exchanged letters for a short time until the flame burned out. I remember to this day the smell of the paper he wrote on and the shape of his handwriting, and how exciting it was to hold and piece of paper that I knew he had held and written on. It was very intimate and romantic.  I first met my college room mate by letter, and it was the beginning of a long friendship that unfolded organically and continues to this day - it's been more than 20 years.  My grandmother was an amazing letter-writer - she used to type letters from her cottage on a lake in Minnesota, and I still have her letters - they remind me of her, and of the summers I spent there fishing, swimming and hanging out with my cousins.  My aunt, who died of cancer a few years ago, was a wonderful artist and writer. She would include make her own cards with beautiful hand made wood block prints; I have several of them framed in my house.  Through Write_On, I've been reconnecting with people who have been meant something to me, both at the time and in retrospect. I'm looking forward to deepening my relationships with old friends and acquaintances by becoming snail mail pen pals.  I feel like everyone has entered my life for a reason, and exchanging letters is a great way to explore why. There is just a level of reflection, expression and creativity that a letter provides that you can't find in email and social media. 

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

Sabrina: I think the biggest influence on my letter-writing practice has been scientific research on the benefits of compassion, altruism and gratitude, as discussed in books like The Compassionate MindSelf- Compassion, and Altruism.   Once I realized that compassion has benefits to individuals' health and well-being, as well as society overall, it was like a switch was flipped. Suddenly, I realized that writing letters is way to practice compassion: to send love and good vibes and to let another person know they are seen and valued. Whether it's a person I know well, or a total stranger, there is something profound about connecting on a vulnerable, intimate, human level through a handwritten letter.

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

Sabrina:  I'm planning to write a letter to the crossing guard at my kids' school - her beaming smile lights us up every morning!  

Q&A with Sarah Schwartz of Stationery Trends Magazine + The Paper Chronicles

The Write_On effort gave out 10,000 kits in preparation for April, National Letter-Writing Month, but over at ThePaperChronicles.com, lovers of correspondence can get free, fabulous stationery anytime just by writing into Sarah Schwartz, its founder and the editor-in-chief of Stationery Trends.

And, throughout April, she will be giving out five special write_on kits of 30 greeting cards courtesy of Chronicle Books and the other generous Write_On sponsors— read on to learn more about her Letter-Writing Campaign and snag one for yourself.

1. Tell us about yourself!  What’s your background and what drew you into the business of writing about the stationery industry?

Like countless others before me, I came to New York City with the hopes of becoming a writer. After graduating from NYU’s journalism school, I jumped around in publishing to see what suited me best. I wrote copy for an ad agency (definitely not a fit!) and was an assistant editor at HarperCollins’ illustrated book division for nearly a year before being laid off when my division closed.

In those days (1997), one still looked for jobs in the Help Wanted section of the New York Times — and it was there I found a listing for a market editor job at Gifts &  Decorative Accessories, a trade magazine for the gift industry. I still vividly remember interviewing for it and my ensuing “test” — essentially, writing a product page for candles. I must have done okay on it, for I landed the job and started covering stationery there.

Stationery was definitely the underdog amongst all the categories the market editors covered — and as such I slowly fell in love with it. Who would have ever guessed that it would endure (albeit slightly weakened) while then-hot markets like collectibles completely fizzled?

2. Can you tell us about your blog and Letter Writing Campaign series?

It has been personally rewarding to see stationery — and by extension, letter-writing — make it into the 21st century, with a whole young generation of correspondents embracing the age-old form.

We launched Stationery Trends in 2008, and as it took off and blossomed, I realized that there is so much going on in the industry that I could not fit into print — and there the premise for The Paper Chronicles was born. It seems there is always something going on for me to write about.

The premise of my Letter Writing Campaign is simple — you send me a letter on your favorite stationery, telling me what makes it so, and I send you some free stationery swag from one of my many generous sponsors. Typically I request they donate 4-6 cards so that the correspondent will keep writing.

It has been beyond heart-warming to make so many new friends on paper. When I open my post office box, I never know what will be waiting for me.

3. Have you always been a fan of snail mail?

I have always loved finding something special in the mailbox. I did have a few pen pals growing up, but I remember really enjoying sending letters home from camp. My mom saved some, and most are essentially lists of what I destroyed and/or lost as well as explanations of how — but they provide a glimpse into that time in a way that memories cannot. (And a premise such as that is a great spark for writing. In college I had a creative writing class where you had to bring in a story each week — and if not that, than a page-long explanation of why you had no story. Sometimes those were more interesting than the stories people labored over for hours!)

In your opinion, is writing letters less prevalent today? If yes, why?

To my great discontent, it would seem letter-writing has diminished in terms of volume — but that doesn’t mean there aren’t many who find great meaning and derive great joy from it! After all, a letter is an act of intimacy between two people over time and space.  Hand-written on the writer’s stationery of choice, it’s not seen through a generic screen like the rest of our digital fodder, it must be held in the hands and focused on exclusively. There is no equivalent to it. I do think there are plenty of millennials who are hip to this, thank goodness. At this point they are the medium’s future. 

4. How have hand-written letters impacted your life and relationships?

Several years back, I got in the habit of saving letters (mostly thank-yous) I’ve received. Most are from designers I’ve featured in Stationery Trends thanking me for featuring them. Mind you, I only save those that digress from the generic thank-you form.

About a year back I cleaned out my desk drawer and started putting them in a blank album, rereading them in the process. Taken together as a group, they are really powerful — and remind me of what has become the best part of my job: Helping artistic types see their dreams bloom. It is an honor to play any role in that process!

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

I think it’s finding the time and gathering all the materials (stationery, pen, stamp, address), which is ironic since I seem to find the time to send dozens of emails a day— and writing an actual letter and getting everything you need on hand doesn’t really take much longer.

6. What does your letter-writing practice look like?

Many of my letters are actually drafted in a Word doc. As a working writer, I tend to be something of a perfectionist with anything that leaves my desk. And, any writer will tell you that most of writing is rewriting. Then it’s mainly a matter of writing it out legibly. Then I pick a washi tape to seal it with and a pretty postage stamp and return address stamp (I have several different designs of both) to make the envelope as enticing as the sentiments within!  

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

I’ve yet to see anyone preserve an email like they would a letter. There is something enduring and timeless about a letter — each is a glimpse into that moment in space and time, as well as the personality of the writer and the recipient.

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

It was for writing in general, but I think it applies to letter-writing as well. Don’t get self-conscious and worry too much about the person eventually reading it — instead, focus on being true to your thoughts and everything else will fall into place.

9. When is it better to send a letter than an e-mail, phone call or text?

If someone is sick or has suffered a loss, emailed sentiments don’t cut it. When you want to show someone that you are willing to go the extra mile for them, whatever they are going through — marriage, birth, loss, a transition of any kind — even the effort of mailing a letter speaks volumes beyond the actual words it conveys.

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

I have an ongoing pile of thank-yous that never seems to diminish in size. For all the talk we hear about making gratitude a big part of our lives, I have found these to be the best way to channel and express it. There is something almost therapeutic in articulating my feelings, writing them down, then sealing them up in a pretty package and sending them out into the world. The next thank-you at the top of my pile will no doubt be for Egg Press, who is generously donating those five fat bundles!

So, if you want to snag one of these babies for yourself, again all you need to do is write me on your favorite stationery and tell me what makes it so. Send it to me at P.O. Box 22133, Beachwood, Ohio 44122 & with any luck I will feature your missive in April on ThePaperChronicles.com!

Q&A with Lea Redmond: Letters To My series

Hand-written letters simply don’t need to have the same kind of structural coherence as, say, an essay. It’s okay for letters to roam a bit; it’s part of what makes them beautiful. They’re more like a spontaneous conversation or a daydream.

We sat down with Lea Redmond, author of Chronicle Books Letters To My series and asked her a few questions about how the idea was born and where she see the future of letter-writing heading. Be sure to check out the rest of our Q&As after this. 

photo provided by Chronicle Books

photo provided by Chronicle Books

Write_On:  Tell us about yourself! What’s your background and how did you get started with your Letters To My Series and Leafcutter Designs?

Lea: My first love was art. And my second, Philosophy. I eventually found a way to combine my love of objects and my love of ideas, and have spent the past decade designing dozens of thoughtful, playful items that encourage people to find creativity and meaning in their daily lives. I started my design studio, Leafcutter Designs, on a bit of a whim, with a quirky art project called the "World's Smallest Post Service." One day when I had my teeny tiny post office set up in San Francisco, an editor from Chronicle Books stumbled upon me there, and that's how our many collaborations began.

Write_On: What inspired you to create the series?

Lea:  The "Letters To My..." series is inspired by an assignment I enjoyed back in high school. My 9th grade teacher had us write letters to ourselves, to be returned a few years later upon graduation. I love how such simple tools -- paper and pen and time -- allow for us to essentially time travel, corresponding directly with our younger selves. So simple, yet pure magic! 

Write_On:  How do you come up with the writing prompts in your Letters To My series? We’ve found having prompts or reasons to write so helpful.

Lea:  My creative process is based on intuition and profusion. I make a big list of prompts that sound fun and interesting to me, and then my friends, family members, and editors help me reduce the list to just a dozen prompts per book. The goal is always to design prompts that will resonate with almost anyone and everyone--prompts that get to the essence of the relationship the book is highlighting. Also, I try to write prompts that are specific enough to be provocative, yet also open-ended enough that the letter writer can truly make it his or her own. I want to be the spark, not the answer.

Write_On:  Have you always been a fan of snail mail? In your opinion, is writing letters less prevalent today? If yes, why?

Lea:  Oh yes! I have had quite a stationery collection since I was a young girl. Also, I have a wax seal with my initial on it and I'm not afraid to use it! Certainly fewer letters have been sent since the explosion of email and text messaging. Their speed is seductive and we are always anxious for news! On the one hand, this is super sad. At the same time, I love emojis! So, I think what's most important is to remember what each communication format is best at, and to choose wisely. If you want to quickly let your boyfriend know you're thinking of him, sure, text him a quick emoji kiss face. But if you want him to know how you really deeply feel, consider composing a heartfelt love letter on real paper and dropping it into the mail. Or, if you're going to break up with him, probably best to meet face-to-face! The key is to thoughtfully choose the best medium for what you have to say, and not to just send a text message or email simply because they are fast, easy, automatic, or addictive. 

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

Lea:  I truly love writing letters. Once I get started, it's too much fun to be difficult. But getting started is the tricky part! I know that composing a good letter takes time and thoughtfulness, so it can be tough to carve out the time to slow down and actually do it. Last week I wrote a nice long letter to a friend from a cafe without wifi. It can be helpful to go someplace without internet to write letters, and to turn off your phone! Make a date with your stationery and postage stamps. Put it in your calendar and make it a special treat for yourself. It can be such a pleasure once you get some momentum!

Write_On:  What does your writing process look like?

Lea:  Most of my writing happens on my computer and I must admit that I love the copy/paste function! Writing a hand-written letter is a very different game because you cannot copy and paste. To make the linearity of a letter a little easier for me, I sometimes jot down a list of topics I want to address in the letter, so I have a bit of a plan in my head before I bring my pen to the paper. Also, I've realized that hand-written letters simply don't need to have the same kind of structural coherence as, say, an essay. It's okay for letters to roam a bit; it's part of what makes them beautiful. They're more like a spontaneous conversation or a daydream.

Write_On:  Are the Letters To My intended to be written over time? Are they meant to be gifted or held onto?

Lea:  All of the "Letters To My" books are intended to be kept together as a bound keepsake collection of letters. If you writing in "Letters To My Future Self," then of course that book is for you to keep and enjoy in the years and decades to come. You can even start opening them before you've written them all. If you're filling out "Letters To My Baby," then you can simply write a letter whenever you're inspired to, especially because your baby won't be able to read for quite some time anyway! You might want to gift the book to the "baby" at age 18 or 21. Generally, with the series, you can write all the letters immediately and gift the keepsake book to its final recipient ASAP, or you can slowly complete the letters over time, eventually gifting the book whenever its ready. It's up to you!

Write_On:  What can you tell us about the connection between writing and personal relationships?

Lea:  One of the joys of relationships is beautiful, heartfelt, clear communication. Letter writing is important because different words come out of us depending on whether we are writing them, typing them, texting them, or saying them in person. I think letters are a wonderful opportunity to say the most complex and deep stuff--things that otherwise might go unsaid forever!  

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

Lea:  Most importantly, writing and receiving letters is a joy! It's a tangible pleasure to choose the stationery and postage stamp, to carve out a contemplative moment or two for some thoughtful writing, and to send it off to someone you care about. Sure, you can write a heartfelt email; but why not put those words onto a beautiful piece of paper, drop it into a mailbox, and let your recipient's hands hold that same exact piece of paper that was once in your hands? Somehow, this just feels a little closer, a little more intimate, a little more heartfelt. And the world always needs more heart.

LEA REDMOND is a creative consultant and the brains behind the Letters to My series, The World's Smallest Post Service, Connexio, My Museum journal, Lucky You!, the Tandem Activity Book, and Conversation Dice. Her creative workshop, Leafcutter Designs, offers curious goods, surprising services, and projects for participation: www.leafcutterdesigns.com. She lives in Oakland, California.

CHRONICLE BOOKS

One of the most admired and respected publishing companies in the United States, Chronicle Books was founded in 1966 and, over the years, has developed a reputation for award-winning, innovative books and quality merchandise. The company continues to challenge conventional publishing wisdom, setting trends in both subject matter and format, maintaining a list that includes titles in fine art, cookbooks, children’s books, music and popular culture. To visit Chronicle Books online, go to www.chroniclebooks.com.

Sponsor Challenge Update: Sakura of America

To me, writing a letter is thinking about the past, writing a note in the present and sending it off for someone to receive in the future. A letter can travel through both space and time and that is pretty cool to think about.

We sat down with Michaela of Sakura of America, a Write_On sponsor, to get a feel for how the 30 day challenge was going! Be sure to check out the rest of our Sponsor Challenge Updates after this. 

Write_On:  How many years have you participated in Write_On? 

Michaela:  This is my third year participating and I couldn’t be more thrilled!

Write_On:  What does your letter-writing habit usually look like? 

Michaela:  I don’t write as often as I’d like, but I do enjoy writing cards for the holidays along with our family photo and thank you notes to let people know just how grateful I am for their generous gifts. I also really like lettering and sending “Congratulations!” cards for graduates, friends who work hard and get promotions or new jobs, or if anyone is expanding their family – weddings, babies, even new pets. I have been really into hand lettering so sending a letter I also a good excuse for me to practice and decorate my envelopes. 

Write_On:   How's it going? How many letters have you written? Are you trying to write daily?

Michaela:  I have been pretty diligent about writing my cards and it has been so nice to have a good excuse to send out “I am thinking of you just because….” cards. It’s like sending a hug! I have 15 cards mailed out, although some days I am playing catch up and write 2 in a day.

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

Michaela:  Making the time has been tough! Since I have a new baby, it’s been hard going out to dinner with friends or socializing like I used to. Sending cards that just say “Hello! I’m still okay and I’m thinking of you” have actually been pretty fun to write. As a busy person, it’s easy to come up with excuses of why there isn’t time to connect with people. But Write On has shown me it’s actually quite easy to sit down, have a thoughtful moment, and reach out to a friend.

Write_On:  What's been your favorite thing about Write_On so far? 

Michaela:  I’ve had a lot of fun coordinating pens with cards. Working for a pen company is a nice perk because any color I need is right at my fingertips. It’s also been so wonderful seeing all of the posts of Instagram and seeing how excited people are just sending letters. This simple act seems to bring a lot of joy to people – both the sender and recipient. It makes me feel really happy to have the job I do. I get to spread the word about pens for people to express themselves in a colorful and unique way. 

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

Michaela:  I would write long letters to my parents when I first started college, when email was still a bit new and they hadn’t gotten the hang of it yet. I would write down my intentions for the semester, check in on them and let them know how I was doing. My mom would write back and send care packages, which was so comforting to receive when I was homesick. I would post her cards up and look at them when I was studying. It was nice to see her penmanship and have a piece of home in my new place. It was just a bit more special than a phone call. We all still have those notes saved.

When my boyfriend (now husband) and I were first living together we were both working odd hour jobs and going to grad school so often times we were just two ships passing in the night. We would leave silly notes about chores or to-dos for each other. But he would always leave a nice love note along with his updates. It made me feel really special and appreciated. I still have a lot of those notes in a keepsake box.

This past year when we had our baby we received so many well wishing cards from friends and family. I am keeping them for when he is older to let him know how many people we excited for his arrival.

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

Michaela:  That letter writing is like a meditation. It is an opportunity to sit and slow down in the crazy busy world of ours and just reflect. To me, writing a letter is thinking about the past, writing a note in the present and sending it off for someone to receive in the future. A letter can travel through both space and time and that is pretty cool to think about.

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

Michaela:  I plan on writing a note to my mom and let her know how helpful and kind she has been to me as a new mom. I appreciate her now more than ever! And even though I tell her all the time, I think it would be nice for her to hold something in her hands that lets her know just how grateful I am to have her.

LA Pen Pal Club

Whenever you’re thinking of someone and wish to let them know, try writing your sentiments in a letter or card. The experience you’ll have and the impression you’ll make will be so personal and cherished.

We sat down with Victoria of LA Pen Pal Club and asked her a few questions about what sparked the idea and where she see the future of letter-writing heading. Be sure to check out the rest of our Q&As after this. 


Write_On: Tell us about yourself! What's your background and what inspired you to start the LA Pen Pal Club?

Victoria: Pen Pal Club was originally one of the clubs held at Reform School. There I met Margaret Haas, who organized the Pen Pal Club meetings. She and I (of Paper Pastries and Paper & Type, respectively) grew to be friends, and we kept in touch by letter when she moved away for a while. Upon her return she was eager to reestablish the club and invited me to help co-host. So, LA Pen Pal Club began (again). 

Write_On: Describe the Club. How often does it meet, and what happens during a typical meeting? Do you pick a theme? Read each other's letters? Provide writing prompts? How many members do you have?

Victoria: Anywhere from 5 to 15 attendees—a mix of regulars and new—fill our seats each month. There is space for members to quietly write, or to engage in conversation and show-and-tell of recent mail and postage finds. And while we don't direct the meetings in any particular way, we do provide a spread of stationery and supplies.

Meetings are usually held at Margaret's stationery studio/shop, but we're portable! We recently brought our club over to Announcement LA, an event and co-working space.

Write_On:  How have hand-written letters impacted your life and relationships? Why is having a Pen Pal Club important to you?

Victoria:  Letter writing has always been my primary way of staying in touch with faraway friends, so I very much treasure this practice. I enjoy the pace of connection through letter writing. And I appreciate the openness and intimacy and relief that it allows as well. With letter writing being such a personal activity, LA Pen Pal Club provides a welcoming, dedicated space to gather with others who also endeavor to keep handwritten correspondence. It's good for the soul, and refreshing! Plus, I get to spend some time with Margaret.  ;) 

Write_On:  What does your letter-writing practice look like? How often do you write, and what types of letters do you write most often? What do you do for inspiration and to make time and space for letter-writing?

Victoria:  I keep a small folder stocked with essentials: stationery, postage, strips of washi tape, and my Letter Ledger. I enjoy writing away from my desk whenever possible—at the park or in a coffee shop or wherever I may be with an extra moment—so this kit comes in handy. I try to write once a week or every other week, whether it be a few (post)cards or one longer letter. My pen pals and the LA Pen Pal Club keep me inspired. I love seeing each person's unique way of starting out a letter or addressing an envelope. Simple pleasures!

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

Victoria:  Handwritten correspondence brings delight, comfort, or pause. It's become extra meaningful and it's less fleeting than other forms of communication.

Write_On:  When is it better to send a letter than an e-mail, phone call, or text?

Victoria:  While it's easy to email and text Thank you or I miss you, a handwritten note means the sender took time to focus care from his or her heart to pen to paper to envelope and into your hands and eyes and heart. Whenever you're thinking of someone and wish to let them know, try writing your sentiments in a letter or card. The experience you'll have and the impression you'll make will be so personal and cherished. 

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

Victoria:  This is more from my observation, but: send postcards! They're the simplest way to get into the habit of sending mail. And the postcards needn't be from faraway places; local cafés and boutiques often have fun postcard takeaways you can use to send to your pen pals.  

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

Victoria:  I owe a thank you note to a dear friend!

Photography: LA Pen Pal Club

WRITE_ON + BUILD

Write_On brings letter-writing to college and elementary school students

We're super excited to introduce you to one of the Write_On's 2016 non-profit partners, BUILD (Berkeley United in Literacy Development). BUILD is one of the largest literacy programs in San Francisco's East Bay, with UC Berkeley mentor teams providing one-to-one literacy support to 21 after school locations in the Berkeley and Oakland public schools.  We’ve donated over 600 cards, generously provided by Write_On sponsor Chronicle Books. 250 college mentors will be writing and helping 600 elementary school students write their own letters this month.

On Friday, April 8, Sabrina Moyle of Hello!Lucky and Tess Darrow of Egg Press visited BUILD at UC Berkeley to introduce Write_On to over 50 college student mentors.

We were curious to see what the response to letter-writing would be from 18 - 21 year-olds, who’ve grown up with social media and have probably written very few letters so far in their lives. We were pleasantly surprised!

One BUILD mentor shared how she had written a letter to her future self when she was 13 and had opened it recently; it was really meaningful.  Letters are in fact a way we can connect the dots of different phases of our lives.  The choices we make and the experiences we have at each life stage influence and build the foundation for future phases, so visualizing and setting intentions for the future or coming full circle to the past through a letter-writing can be an illuminating, satisfying exercise.

Another BUILD mentor shared how one of her scholars (what BUILD calls student mentees) had written a thank you note to a children's book author.  The author is passionate about creating children's books that reflect diversity and had donated several of her books to the scholar’s school. They are hoping that the author will write back!

Sabrina reflected on how she had first met her college roommate through letters. She recalled receiving her first letter from someone named Laura Christian in Katonah, New York, and how much she learned about her future friend just through the form of her handwriting and the things she chose to express.  There was an unraveling sense of mystery as she and her future roommate exchanged letters, and their friendship continued to grow organically. Fast forward to the present and they are still best friends, about to attend their 20 year college reunion. Sabrina shared that she had just written a new letter to her, reflecting on how much her friendship had meant and expressing appreciation about all the aspects she admires in her former roommate.  Even though they see each other regularly and communicate by text and email, the letter gave her a way to pull up from the day-to-day and reflect on the bigger picture. What is it like to meet your college roommate for the first time, today, she wondered?  Is it a flood of Facebook and social media information?  Does it remove some of the mystery and intimacy of developing a unique one-on-one relationship over time?

We exchanged tips about letter-writing with children:

+ Ask open-ended "who, what, when, why, where" questions like:  Who matters most to you in your life?  Why are they your friend?  What do like most about them?  Can you remember a time they did something kind for you? How did it make you feel?

+ Encourage them to write on a piece of paper and then tape the finished draft into a card.  Children who are learning to write often need a few tries before they are happy with the result.

+ Let them know it's okay to mess-up and either scratch out your mistake in a "beautiful oops" (to quote best-selling children's book author Barney Saltzberg), or start again.

+ Keep a positive, open-minded, low-pressure attitude. Letter-writing is fun and gives you a chance to make yourself and the recipient feel good - it's not an obligation.

+ Write to an adult who is likely to write back.

+ Mentors could write a letter to their mentees about child and what they appreciate about him / her, and perhaps about their hopes and dreams for them -- to be either delivered now or in the future.

Big huge thanks to Carrie Donnovan and Rosa Ortega for coordinating our partnership with BUILD!  We’ll be sure to share any images and stories about the BUILD team’s Write_On adventures over the rest of the month!

Postcrossing Giveaway!

Today, Write_On is very excited to be partnering with Postcrossing on a giveaway! Postcrossing is a project that allows people to receive postcards from all over the world. By sending a postcard you can turn your mailbox into a box of surprises and meet new people from all over the world. In February they reached 34 million postcards sent -- what an awesome movement!

Head on over to the Postcrossing blog to enter to win a collection of stationery supplies from the likes of Social Preparedness Kit, Gelly Roll Pens from Sakura, Chronicle Books, and the generous Write_On sponsors.