One evening, 100 people, and 100+ letters
Last Thursday evening, over a hundred people gathered at Coffee Bar in San Francisco’s Mission District to do something unusual: write letters. Hosted by the Write_On Campaign and The Dinner Party, the event was called “Live Well, Write_On” and invited people to reconnect and deepen their connections through the written word.
As guests of all ages, backgrounds, and persuasions entered the room, they found group writing tables set up by theme: Thank you, I love you, Please forgive me / I forgive you, and Sympathy. Each table was stocked with stationery, pens, and writing prompts.
Sabrina Moyle of Hello!Lucky kicked off the program with a welcome and background on the Write_On Campaign. Launched in 2014 when Tess Darrow of Egg Press challenged herself to write 30 letters in 30 days, Write_On has grown into a national movement. This year, we’re giving away 10,000 free letter-writing card kits and thousands more free cards, thanks to sponsors Sakura of America, Mohawk Paper, Chronicle Books and nine independent card studios. People worldwide, ranging from people who grew up writing letters to kids in the public schools, are taking up the challenge to bring back letter-writing.
Sabrina observed that in today’s world, we have more social connections than ever but many of them have taken on a superficial, performative quality. Handwritten letters provide a way to deepen relationships, to say things that would be too awkward or embarrassing to say on social media or in person. They are private. They are personal. They are permanent. She went on to share three personal examples: of her six year-old son’s letter to a homeless man, a funeral where a letter written to the deceased was at the center of the service, and a letter she had just written to her college roommate, whom she had first met by letter.
Lennon Flowers of The Dinner Party, a non-profit organization that brings together 20- and 30-somethings over potluck dinners to talk about loss and life after, then gave her own examples of why letter-writing is important. She spoke about a friend of theirs by the name of Dr. Ira Byock, one of the world's leading palliative care doctors. After decades spent working with patients living with advanced illness and their families, Dr. Byock found that there are just four messages that patients wanted to say and hear at the end of their lives: “thank you,” “I love you,” “I’m sorry,” and “I forgive you.” What better way to express those messages than in a handwritten letter? And what better time than now? To write a letter, she observed, you don’t need an address. Each year, one of The Dinner Party’s members goes down to the beach, opens a bottle of beer and writes a letter to her dad, who was a surfer. She then puts the letter in the bottle, and tosses it out to sea.
Guests then got to watch Dear You, a short video of people reading letters they’ve written and received and were treated to readings by Shelby Cowell (author of the blog Future Stella, I Love You), Eliana Bruna (826 Valencia), Eva Silverman, and Christina Tran.
More than one hundred letters were written that evening. As participant Bobbie Pinto noted, "I aways knew I liked writing letters. Now I understand WHY".
Join the Write_On Campaign at www.writeoncampaign.com and #Write_On. Our next San Francisco event, The Last Letter, will be on April 28th from 5 - 7 p.m. at Chronicle Books and will feature Letters to My… author Lea Redmond. Find out about more Write_on events here.