Writing More Letters: Because I Can’t Stain an E-Mail With My Tears

by Samantha Vincenty


As a history nerd and general busybody who likes to look at other people’s stuff, Letters of Note might be my favorite site in the entire world. There are letters from every kind of celebrity or historical figure imaginable, and equally incredible letters from the non-famous. Check out the standard rejection letter Disney would send out to women who applied to animation jobs in the 1930s, or this one from a freed slave to his former master (be sure to read through to the very end). I can’t think of another resource that brings the past to life like this, and as a writer it makes me sad that letters have fallen out of fashion. The effort taken to write and send one is in itself a compliment to the recipient, and at their best they offer a rare glimpse into the sender’s inner life.

The death of the letter is part and uh, parcel of the US Post Office’s slow death as an institution. President Obama is calling for an end to Saturday mail delivery and post offices are closing nationwide, to the detriment of rural towns with little or no Internet service. As more and more people use e-mail and Federal Express, mail carriers have been relegated to the role of ‘coupon circular distributor.’ I pay bills online and to be honest, I couldn’t tell you where the book of stamps is in my apartment. It’s probably buried under the sands of time. Maybe it’s grown a tiny white beard.

And yet: I do vaguely remember getting letters and I miss it. In college, despite the fact that we all had e-mail, my friends and I would send each other postcards and letters over break. We’d put random stuff like stickers or fistfuls of glitter in the envelope (I learned some tough lessons about the tenacity of glitter this way, finding sparkly stars and other shiny specks all over the place for months). Seeing a letter in my mailbox was the best and I still have most of them in a shoebox that also contains many passed notes from high school. I like to think this makes me a sentimental soul, although a more accurate term might be “packrat.”

As a creative/anti-laziness endeavor, I’m thinking of trying The Month of Letters Challenge. Novelist Mary Robinette Kowal asked people to write one letter for every day that the Postal Service will pick it up. It would have been great to do this in February as Kowal proposed (since it’s the shortest month) but that’s okay. There’s no rule that they have to be nice letters either, so maybe I’ll send some poison pen ones just to mix it up. For inspiration I shall look to Mark Twain,  master of the harshly worded letter.

Are you too busy to write letters all damn day? Do you share my fetish for all things miniature? Leafcutter Designs offers the World’s Smallest Post Service.  For $9 plus shipping, they’ll inscribe your message on an itty bitty letter and send it along with a wee magnifying glass. It’s so freaking cute and very “The Borrowers” . Let’s stretch the Postal Service to their very limits while we still can!



Image source Ads of the World

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