Month of Letters 2017: It’s HERE!

Woohoo!

A Month of Letters. It’s here.

And I am definitely participating (speaking of which, I need to write my letter for today).

With technology continuing to render things obsolete, many have said that letter writing is slowly dying out as well. I can see why people may believe that. After all, a majority of the population don’t write letters. I mean, why write letters when you can message someone or email someone? Social media has only strengthened that claim when you can easily check in on a family member or friends feed and click like or send a gif to say hi.

While letter writing isn’t the popular choice, I believe it is far from being obsolete. I have stumbled across a few websites dedicated to letter writing, connect fellow letter writers across the globe, and it is as strong as ever. Letter writing has a strong community of letter writers and it doesn’t look like it will weaken anytime soon.

A month of letters is a great challenge that helps bring awareness to this wonderful means of communication. For those of you who wouldn’t mind trying it out, this is the month. As mentioned in other posts, the goal of this challenge is to write a letter a day. The challenge has a website that connects you to others who are participating.

I write letters because there is a deeper sense of connection than typing out a few words and clicking send. You have to take the time to write your letter. Actually putting a pen to paper, actually thinking of how to reply, actually thinking about what to write. When I write a letter, I write more than just a paragraph or two. There is a tangible connection between you and your friend receiving the letter. They will open the same envelope you touched. Unfold the papers you folded. Read the words you actually wrote. I love hand writing my letters because it just feels nice, but typing out your letter works just as well. Some people’s hands tire or become sore when they write too long. But you still have a sense of connection. You still have to print out what you typed, prepare an envelope, and the physically send it on its way.

When I receive a letter from a friend, I think of its journey, especially if it comes from overseas. I think to myself “this letter has made it all the way from France!” or “from Germany!” or “from Australia!” And those places may seem far, but I get just as excited when I see a letter “from Utah!,” “from Texas!,” or “from Maryland!” Those pieces of paper had to travel a distance to get to me. They had to travel across an ocean to get to me no matter where it originated from.

So.

A month of letters.

It’s here!

And I am definitely participating.

Write_On: Day 1

So begins a new month of letters.

I forgot to take a picture of what I was sending before I sealed the envelope, but if I can find the same card in the next couple of days, I’ll come back to post it.

On the first day of this campaign, a letter to a friend in Germany.

I’ll write to you. A super-long letter, like in an old-fashioned novel

Haruki Murakami, After Dark

Random 411: Write_On Campagin

So you know I did the Month of Letters Challenge in February? Well, it turns out there is another challenge like it in April. So, yay! Another opportunity to write a letter a day. There are more days in April, of course, but all the more reasons to take time out of the busy day to pause, reflect, and connect with others in a more personable way (not that there is anything wrong with electronic means of communication).

So, toast to another month and another challenge!

A Month of Letters 2016: Recap & Reflection

Well, well, well.

It’s March. I can’t believe how fast time goes by. I know we say that a lot. Like, all the time. But it’s probably because it’s the truth, eh? I still remember getting ready for the new year!

Anyway, I wanted to do a recap and reflect upon this year’s challenge.

I think I mentioned in another post that the first year I stumbled upon this challenge it was late in the month of February so I didn’t get to fully participate. Last year, the second year, I had every intension of participating, but got sick and didn’t really bounce back in time to finish the month.

And now we’re on this year.

And I didn’t do too bad. Yay me!

So, let’s recap.

The challenge is to write a letter and mail it each day the postal service is open. That means I should have written at least 24 pieces of mail, 24 days of the month. For those of you wondering where I got these rules, it would be from A Month of Letters. Let’s see how I did.

  • Well, I missed a few days writing 20 out of 24 days. It kept missing writing on Saturday. And then I missed two Mondays.
  • As for 24 pieces of mail? Well, to echo a fellow participant, I crushed it! The thing about me is I love writing so once I’m in a mood to write, I can pretty much write. Out of those 20 days of writing, 8 of those days I wrote more than one letter and/or postcard. Overall, I mailed 36 pieces of mail: 19 postcards, 5 cards, and 12 letters.
  • As for incoming mail, I am happy to report I received 24 letters and/or postcards and actually, that number is a little skewed because some of the letters I received included postcards, but I counted that as one letter.

This year, in addition to my pen pals from The Letter Writer’s Alliance and my registered cards and pen pals at Postcrossing, I found even more people who share the love of letter-writing through A Month of Letters official website. This website is a great place if you’re interested in interacting with others and finding people to write to. There are forums where you can interact with others and you set a profile and everything. I had fun getting to know others and picked up at least 4 new friends.

Things I learned during this year’s challenge:

  • Writing has always helped me. It helps me sort things through in my brain. It relaxes me. It brings me joy. This challenge has made me remember that.
  • I tend to space out on the weekends. I guess a party of me already knew this, but this challenge has really pointed that out to me. I’m busy in general and the weekend I tend to have a lot of activities on top of catching up with my homework, but I didn’t realize I was too busy to sit down for 15 minutes to write a letter. Except, I can’t really write a 15 minute letter now can I? It usually takes about 20-30 minutes. I think that’s the beauty of writing, actually writing, a letter. Your mind is more engaged. Your body overall all is actually engaged when you think about it. It’s more than tapping a few keys and clicking send. You have to actually write the letter, then address the envelop, place a stamp on it, drive or walk to the post office or to your mailbox. It’s a whole process and I love it.
  • I really enjoy receiving letters. This year’s challenge, I was pleasantly surprised to receive four unexpected letters from others participating in the challenge. They didn’t let me know until after I received it so it was a really nice surprise.
  • I really enjoy sending letters. I like the entire process. The process of reading through someone’s letter, taking in their handwriting, picturing the stationery store they purchased their paper from, how they may have picked the stamps they used. I enjoy reading about the sender’s day or reading about their area. And then I love sitting down to write my reply. I have to say it’s hard for me to pick what stationery to use, but that’s part of the fun. And I love trying to decide on the stamps I’m going to use or the pen I’m going to write with. I enjoy dropping the letters I write off to the post office. It’s just … so interactive for me.

And that sums things up for me and A Month of Letters 2016. I am definitely going to continue writing letters throughout the year, especially now I have more pen pals to continue the exchange with. And I just found out about >>this<< challenge. The Write_On campaign. Similar to A Month of Letters, this challenge encourages you to write a letter a day in the month of April. So, it’s more days for sure, but I’m going for it.

Until then,

Keep On Writing!

A Month of Letters 2016: Halfway through

For those of you who are new to this blog and have never heard of A Month of Letters Challenge, where have you been?

Just kidding. Sort of.

A Month of Letters is a challenge to write a letter each day throughout the month of February. It’s not Send an Email a day or a text a day or anything in electronic form a day. It’s write a letter a day. As in physically picking up a pen and putting words on paper.

This is the third year I’ve been a participate. In 2014, I found out about the challenge about a week and a half left in February so I participated as much as I could in that last week and half. I loved it. As a letter writing junkie, who can blame me?

In 2015, I started off okay, but by day five I got sick and then couldn’t keep up and then I got all frustrated with myself so I didn’t finish out the month. Childish, I know, but I’m a perfectionist (of sorts), who can blame me? 😉

So this month, I was better prepared. I prepped my badges, for motivation. I made a Correspondence Log, for organization. And I made sure I stocked stationery and a good working pen in my bag for when I have down time, I have no excuses not to write a letter.

So, where am I halfway through the program?

Well, if we’re counting a letter a day, then out of the 15 days I missed five of them and it’s weird because they were on the weekend. Both Saturdays, both Sundays, and yesterday–the President’s Day holiday. The first weekend I had some medical tests done and just didn’t feel up to writing. The next weekend my family is preparing for a food booth we’ll be participating in this weekend so it was a bit exhausting. And yesterday, I spent the day with family celebrating at my cousin’s baby shower. So … while I didn’t write, I did spend the time experiencing life.

And while I missed writing day-wise, I sent out more than one letter/postcard on most of the ten days so correspondence-wise I’ve sent 9 postcards and 6 letters for a total of 15 pieces of handwritten correspondence.

I’d say that balances things out.

What I love most about this challenge is that I am not alone when it comes to handwritten correspondence. I have met many interesting pen pals participating in this challenge and they enjoy writing letters just as much as I do. It is fun and exciting when you come across others who share your passion.

The second thing I love the most about this challenge is the art of letter writing. There is something about tangible correspondence. There is something in the air when you pick up a pen and put it to paper and draft a letter to a friend overseas. Whether it’s because you’re forced to slow your thoughts, whether it’s because you’re actively engaged in writing the letter more than just tapping a few keys, whether its the fact that you get to choose the color of the ink or the print of the stationery or the stamp that gets posted to the letter, there is no denying the magic in the experience.

I am currently reading the book To the Letter: A Celebration of the Lost Art of Letter Writing by Simon Garfield and he touches on this very subject. I am four chapters in and I have agreed with everything he’s said so far about letter writing. If you’re wondering what all the fuss is about, I suggest you skim through this book.

So, with 14 more days to go, I’m hoping to write a letter each one of those days :).

Cheers to Letter Writing![AMAZONPRODUCTS asin=”B00BPDR158″]

Biblio 411: I’ll Always Write Back by Caitlin Alifirenka, Martin Ganda, and Liz Welch

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#SpoilerAlert – proceed at your own risk

Authors: Caitlin Alifirenka, Martin Ganda, and Liz Welch
Publisher: Little Brown Books
Released: April 14th, 2015
Read: October 1, 2015
The Hook: Letter writing, pen pals

I’m going to be honest. I went hunting for this book. Not this particular book, but I wanted to read a book in which the plot line involved letter writing or some sort. I ordered this book for our collection, because writing–duh!, and figured I’d I should give this a shot. I didn’t realize it was based on a true story.

Plot: Caitlin’s class participates in a pen pal exchange program with students from several different countries. She ends up choosing Zimbabwe. Meanwhile, in Zimbabwe, Martin’s part of what I think of as the honor roll group. He has high marks and because of this, he gets to receive a letter through a pen pal exchange program which is Caitlin. Over several years, these two exchange letters. Martin comes from poverty and his family struggles to put food on the table and keep the roof over their heads and keeps this from Caitlin. Caitlin writes to Martin about her day including trips to the mall and sends lots of pictures, in contrast to Martin whose father had to put their handheld stereo on  collateral so they could pay the photographer to come and take two pictures. They lose their stereo. During this time, Zimbabwe goes through some political struggles and that’s when Caitlin finds out what really is going on with Martin which drives her to action.

Review: I enjoyed this book. I really did. And not just because I’m a letter-writing geek who gets super excited when I receive letters. In its simplicity through narrative and snippets of their letters, it tells the story of how friendship can develop even though you’re on separate continents. And I miss that human connection in a world where likes and one line comments are the main form of communication. Don’t get me wrong. I love that I can virtually connect with people across the global through social media. I absolutely love it. But how many times have you had these exchanges through your computer only to find that when you see one of your “friends” in real life, say at the super market, all you do is wave to each other? It’s hard to move that relationship offline sometimes and I get that. Some reason, I don’t think that applies to letter-writing. Something happens when you receive a physical letter.

Anyway, way off topic. Sorry, let me bring it back.

Because the plot is based on actual events, there’s not much to comment on in way of creativity. The narrative and they way the story was told, however, was done nicely. The narrative went back and forth between Caitlin and Martin and snippets of their letters were dropped in throughout the story. I loved that it ends … well. I’m not one to get defensive about spoilers, but I know others are. I love the way the story starts, progresses, and ends.

That said, it was a quick read. I read it in one sitting. The story moves fast and there’s really no slowing down once you get started. I have to say, though, it may bore some readers because of it’s simplicity and maybe a little bit predictable.

However, it was a fun read and met my requirements in finding a book with letter-writing. I’d recommend this to anyone who’s looking for a light read and looking for a feel-good-pick-me-up kind of story.