Saturday, 3 February 2018

InCoWriMo, Altered Carbon

I watched the first episode of the Netflix series, Altered Carbon. I haven't made up my mind on it yet, but there was one scene of particular interest to me. I put the subtitles on and I will quote below.

There's something about the simplicity of holding the written  word in your hand.
The very heft of it.
True, there is something to be said about the written word. Electronically written words do not have the same aura about them, little mystery.

I am a self-confessed snail mail addict. I seek out connections via the handwritten word. Some are ephemeral, only lasting for InCoWriMo; others last for years.

I have written my first surprise letter to a new person via incowrimo-2018. It has postage stamps and is raring to go. 



Wednesday, 31 January 2018

The night before InCoWriMo-2018

I have signed up to take part in InCoWriMo-2018, a handwritten letter every day, in February. 

In preparation, I am making sure I have enough return address labels printed. I have my own design now, to print at home. I still have a few other labels printed commercially I had forgotten about / misplaced!

I also bought more letter writing paper in the Paperchase sales. I will not run out of paper (I have for a few years at least).

I bought another fountain pen too in the Paperchase sale.

I will need to rinse and refill some fountain pens.

I have bought postage stamps. Many of my letters will need £1.40 postage, and I can make this up with 2 first class stamps plus 10p. There are so many wonderful designs for first class stamps, including the latest issue - Game of Thrones.



Thursday, 25 January 2018

How to write the first letter

One size does not fit all and you must find your own way. However, I can tell you about my experiences.

Some people like to talk all about themselves. I started doing this when I came back to snail mail in 2008. I didn't receive many replies to those intro letters. A huge disappointment. Then, I thought about it - the all about me me me me letters could be selfish and one sided. 


Letters should be ongoing conversations. Questions should be asked but not too many - you do not want it to be an interrogation or inquisition.


I changed the way I approached first letters. Everyone is individual, and I would write different things to different people. I imagine we are already friends, or at the very lest, friendly acquaintances. I introduce myself through the conversation, even if it is through the mundane. E.g. the weather can affect many hobbies, and what you choose to do for the day: you wouldn't go swimming in the sea during a thunderstorm. 


Others have said that they like humour and stories in letters, and the letters to have personality. A letter is a gift of time and energy. Letters should reveal enthusiasm, sincerity, and passion.


Where you write could be of interest. Part of the draft for this blog post was written on a train. That then begs questions - where have I been, and where am I going? 


The original InCoWriMo was started by a fountain pen geek, and many participants were fountain pen users. Now, there are more participants who might not be into fountain pens, the colour of the ink (draft partially written with a Parker Reflex, Diamine Rustic Brown) and specific types of paper. Although I had fountain pens for use in 2008, I was using gel pens to write many of my letters.


What to write on doesn't really matter: a nice postcard; lined refill paper; or proper letter writing paper or notecards... Postcrossing expects you to send postcards of the same quality you'd be happy to receive yourself. There are some reasonable quality but not expensive letter writing paper out there. Paperchase may still have some writing sets in their sale!

Sunday, 21 January 2018

Why write letters?

I am a self-confessed snail mail addict. Why do I edit letters in a digital age? Why not send email?

Writing on paper I find is cathartic, be it letters, journal of even blog post drafts. Writing by hand soles time to think, to be creative, a chance to slow down, to concentrate with fewer distractions perhaps. I read somewhere that students who handwrite (or at least who do handwritten drafts for) essays had better structure of arguments and reasoning. Perhaps the writing process cements memories and improve recall otherwise why would students take notes in lectures?

I have tried email correspondence by found the almost instant nature of it (back in the days of dial up) rather demanding with, “Why haven’t you replied to my email?” The instant gratification doesn’t last long.
The time it takes for letters to arrive allows for stories to develop so there is something to write in addition to direct responses to the letter received.

A childhood hobby of mine was stamp collecting by although I do not collect stamps at the moment, I still love them as they are used to send letters and postcards around the world. I seek out new issues to use for postage. Some become talking points in letters. Next issue celebrates Game of Thrones.

February is around the corner and from the last few years, I have been participating in some letter writing madness in he shortest month! As I write, the two updated projects, A Month of Letters and InCoWriMo-2018 where you write (by hand or typewriter) letters every day (or postal day) of the month. Both projects have their merits. Both are enjoyable.

For these projects, out can choose to write to strangers, or even to friends and family. But what should you write? This is a good question. When I started this session of letter writing in 2008, I initially wrote all about me.. me this, me that.  I didn’t try to connect with the other person. You don’t want to send a letter that looks like a CV.

So, what should be written?

Letters should be dialogues, and can be conversations spread over more than one letter, or stories that develop too. Every letter should be different. You must find your own way.

Monday, 4 December 2017

December and Christmas

Where did the time go since my last post?

Last month, I started to send out Christmas cards to my international penpals. 

Trip down memory lane with those toy stamps. I wasn't into reading comics as a child. 

I remember watching the first three Star Wars films as a child. 

I enjoy the music of Pink Floyd. I also like the television series and films based on Agatha Christie's stories. 


 One thing that is annoying me - the majority, I think, of charity Christmas cards are square. In the US, there is a non-machinable surcharge for sending square envelopes. There isn't such surcharge yet for the UK, but there are already problems - which way up? This actually was postmarked on the back and at right-angles to the way up. On the front, sadly the stamp was cancelled with biro..

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Questions on Snail Mail? What are they?

What are the questions and issues on Snail Mail people have? I can think of a few which I'll list below, but what other questions arise for this hobby?

  • How do you keep track of correspondence?
  • How do you store your letters?
  • What do you write in letters?
  • Why do you write letters in a digital age?
  • What are some of the things I can enclose with the letter?
  • Does age and gender matter when seeking out new penpals?
  • What do I do with the used stamps if I am not keeping the envelopes?
  • Do people still write with fountain pens?

Feel free to comment and answer any of these questions. 

Friday, 1 September 2017

Royal Mail drops out of the FTSE100

With Royal Mail falling out of the FTSE100 index, I was reading an opinion on a stamp discussion board suggesting that if Royal Mail cancelled (postmarked) stamps used for postage properly, there would not be a trade in used but unmarked no gum/self-adhesive postage stamps. Perhaps eBay sells at least 10 million of these no gummed used but unmarked stamps in a year. First class is 65p. 10 million first class = £6,500,000.  

I had posted before about people reusing as postage used stamps but still see from public posts on Facebook that some people still do this illegal practice. It is fraud and these people who do it are con artists, in my book.  

Came across a news page on a stamp dealer's site :
Operation Gum-Gum. A new generation of people are now unaware of the seriousness of such fraud. In 1989 the police, in association with Royal Mail, started an investigation under the name of "Operation Gum Gum". They built up evidence against a number of people who were buying kiloware, extracting unfranked stamps (and in some cases even cleaning off light postmarks), and selling them on to others. Those who were targeted found it a surprising and scary ordeal. Some individuals were arrested, some of these tried and convicted, and some ended up with prison sentences. For a while this had the predictable effect of stopping commercial activity in stamps without postmarks.