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!

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.

Letter-Writing Escapades: The Art of Sorting

Wow! What I thought would take an hour to sort through actually took me 3 1/2!

Granted my focus wasn’t dedicated to my task, but it was still unexpected.

What were you doing?

Well, I was organizing my postcards and letters.

For those of you who are just tuning in, I joined Postcrossing in January 2014. Postcrossing is a post card exchange program that has just under 500,000 members in 216 countries. Everything is done through the website. You start off requesting to send 5 postcards. Each sender receives an ID number that you place on the post card you’re sending so the person receiving the post card can register it. You need to send these 5 postcards before you receive any. After that, depending on the amount of postcards you send out, you can send out more, which is what you want because you’ll receive just as much. It’s a fun program with no personal information revealed unless you choose to. Your mailing address is only revealed to the person who will be sending you a postcard.

In addition to the postcard exchange, you can choose to do direct swaps. What this means is that you’re inviting others across the global to message you for direct post card exchange in which you reveal your addresses to each other, no registration number. Some members choose not to participate, others do. I’m one who’s open to direct swaps … of course.

Anyway, I have to catch up on some letters and I decided to hunt down my stationary. Well, that turned into “Hm, why doesn’t this postcard have a receive date?” and “why doesn’t this letter have a number?” Next thing you know, I’m going through my postcards to see if there were any more postcards I didn’t put a receive date on and going through my pen pal letters to see if there were any more letters I didn’t put a number on.  Thankfully they were newly received, within the past month or two, so I could backtrack easy enough. But then since they were new, I had to reorganize them because they weren’t in their respective places.

Oh yes, I have system for organizing my letters, postcards, and stationary. It’s not a complex system and it’s nothing more than dating and number items, but still, it’s a system that helps me track my pen pals from my Postcrossing mail, my direct swaps from my registered, and everything in between.

So …

what started off as a hunt for my stationary turned into a cleaning and auditing of my entire letter-writing station.

And turned a 15 minute task into a 3 1/2 hour project.

And now, time to write!