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!

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.