Saturday, 20 February 2021

Musings on InCoWriMo & LetterMo

 I joined LetterMo in 2012, and looked at InCoWriMo the following year. Over these Februarys, I have written so many letters as part of these projects, and most were not replied to. A rough count, maybe 150 surprise letters sent in February over the years. Can I remember the names of everyone I wrote to? NO, not everyone but some yes. There was a Dr. Cindy in 2015 (I don't know her surname, but she's a Canadian who was working in the NHS in the UK - I do hope she's OK, she moved around a bit...), a couple of people in Israel, one in Malta, .... memorable perhaps because of their location, and others memorable because of their name - I wrote to one person who had the same name as someone I know in my vicinity.

Many who participate in the February projects return year after year, or again later. Their names are familiar, from these projects or other postal ones. A small internet, someone elsewhere commented. Perhaps we'd crossed postal paths before, but had forgotten. So, I went through my correspondence diaries (logging in/out post). One letter I received this year was from someone I had a correspondence with in 2012 (and she did remind me of that), another letter was a reply to an InCoWriMo-reply of 2018. This year, I had what appeared to be a surprise letter, but the name was familiar, it was on my list of people I'd surprised in 2018 and had received a nice letter that month too. Had this person forgotten about our brief correspondence 3 years ago? I had! I will, of course, reply and will perhaps make fun of this, forgetting who we've both written to over the years.

Thursday, 11 February 2021

More Musings on snail mail, partial repost

Postage - do not cheat/defraud the postal authorities by using insufficient or invalid postage. A postage stamp can only be used once of sending an item of mail. If it has been postally used but remained unmarked, it is still not valid for postage. Also, many of the stamps offered for sale on ebay are NOT valid for postage, and some may even be forgeries (and could this even fund organised crime?). 

Royal Mail does have a reasonably accessible postage price finder on their website. I expect other postal authorities do too... Facebook groups have so much misinformation.

Seeing photos of snail mail on social media can be good for inspiration, discovering new ideas, and show that letter writing is not dead. Please, please do hide/obscure/blur the other person's address. UK postcodes are very specific and with the house number, it is just revealing as leaving the rest of the address. 10 / SW1A 2AA is the minimum needed for one iconic London address with a black front door.  Please do NOT share someone's address without their permission. I know I have on occasion, not realised an address was visible in a post.... and when I do realise, I remove the post. I feel utterly mortified I have not been diligent. Addresses can be out there in the public domain, but that doesn't give you good grounds to share them. 

As for sharing the contents of letters, the writer of the letter has more leeway. Incoming letters, the juicy contents shouldn't really be shared without permission, but the odd word or phrase... e.g. the date, greetings/salutations... maybe could be - you want to show off someone else's gorgeous (or not so neat) handwriting, or the ink they've used, ... It is a judgement call. A few years ago, I planned to do a blogpost on handwriting (not calligraphy), on the different styles of handwriting the letters arrived in. I did start preparations, so have photographed some common words (Dear, the date, Thank you for your letter, United Kingdom), but have yet to complete a post on it. 

Today's date is 11/02. What? 2nd of November? Much better to avoid confusion and write out the month. 

It does not matter if the letter cannot be finished in one sitting. I don't worry about pausing letterwriting, even after a short time. I do hope to have finished the sentence I am writing if I have to pause. I have started letters while writing for a friend on a night out (oh how I miss this). I am usually able to finish a sentence/paragraph when she turns up. 

It does not matter if you do not reply to letters in order of receipt. The content of some letters may demand a speedier reply than usual, or you need to delay a reply because someone is moving address and wants to get settled. People have their own rhythm. Mine tends to be a reply within a month of receipt. Occasional letters are fine too. Penfriendship doesn't have a set timetable.

The writing medium does not really matter. Paper meant to be written on, be it lined or blank or dotty or wavy, or with punched holes down the side and used by students to take lecture notes on (a school friend penpal wrote to me during her lessons), or reporter's notebook with pages on a spiral, or even actual letter writing paper. 

Embellishments, including stickers, washi tape and whatnot are not vital for a good penpal letter. I do use them myself though, because embellishing brings me joy. I cannot draw so some of the stickers can illustrate for me instead.

It doesn't matter if the letter is written with a fountain pen, dip pen, or ballpoint. I admit I find it easier to use a fountain pen as the ink makes the words flow across the page. 

The words matter! The content matters.

If you do not keep the letters/envelopes, consider saving the used stamps for charities (as they can raise money from sales to dealers/stamp collectors). There are plenty of charities in the UK raise some funds this way.

Letter travelling times may be slower than usual... One letter from France to the UK took 2 days in January, but a letter from the same person posted in June, only arrived this week! I'm not one for asking, "Did my letter arrive?" after only a few weeks/months. I know life/events happen making snail mail not a priority. However, sometimes a short missive, either postal or electronic, can make a big difference.

You can't be penfriends with everybody. Personalities can clash, beliefs can collide, or you just don't click. Penfriendship, like friendship, can wane... How many of you are in close contact with your best friends from primary or secondary school, or the neighbourhood you grew up in?

With the February letter writing projects, where you may receive letters from strangers, you might not feel able to reply to some of the letters. I know years ago before the Internet was more widely accessible, you could place an advert in a newspaper or magazine. One letter I received was from someone in prison (death row), and I didn't feel able to reply to it (I was a youngish adult), so did not reply. Other letters you might want to reply with a thanks (either via electronic message of some sort, or via the snail mail) even though you may not want the correspondence to continue, and that is fine too.  Though sometimes perhaps, you don't know if you want to continue or otherwise. Perhaps there's hope. Maybe something happens, a word is said or a place is mentioned, reminding you of a letter you received a few months ago and spurs you on to reply. Perhaps an occasional correspondence. There is hope. Life happens, stuff happens. Time. Patience. 

Saturday, 30 January 2021

February Letters 2021

I no longer have my address up on the incowrimo website, and I don't want to explain why. However,  my name and address is up on at least a couple of other snail mail websites, including LetterMo. I am still intending to reach out to new people this February via the written missive, as it would be childish to let a little ..... get in the way. 

With the various letter writing projects for February starting soon, one thing I've noticed from past experience is that some people don't know what to write, and what they do write may have very little joy in it. So, to lighten the mood, how about these little daily challenges in your letters. 


1st: Write a sentence with your eyes closed
2nd: Do you have any pictures hanging on your wall(s)?
3rd: Writing prompt: time
4th: Doodle the weather
5th: What are you looking forward to this year?
6th: What are the best 3 things about where you live?
7th: Writing prompt: games/sports
8th: Write a sentence with your non-dominant hand
9th: Where do you imagine you will be this time next year?
10th: Writing prompt: gardening
11th: If you had an autobiography, what would its title be?
12th: What is your best memory of childhood?
13th: What is the weather like?
14th: Have you written Valentine's cards to pets (or even received one from a pet)?
15th: What are three of your favourite films?
16th: What book(s) are you in the middle of?
17th: What has made you smile recently?
18th: Write a sentence backwards
19th: What time do you have breakfast?
20th: Writing prompt: radio
21st: Doodle some eyes
22nd: What is a favourite quote from fiction?
23rd: Do you keep a diary or journal or scrapbook?
24th: Writing prompt: spring
25th: Have you written any poetry or verse?
26th: Writing prompt: music
27th: Do you volunteer for good causes?
28th: When did you send your first ever email?


Wednesday, 27 January 2021

A to Z of Snail Mail, part 2

 N is for Notecards, notelets for nice correspondence.

O is for Outgoing mail, missives sent on their way. Once they arrive, they'll need an object to open the envelope(s)

P is for Postbox, fed with Postcrossing Postcards with nice Postage stamps on perhaps bought from a Post Office, the missives written in pen or even pencil allowed. Paper, penpals, penfriends, post, postie perhaps a Postman Pat...

Q is for Quarto sized paper for writing quality missives to penfriends, written in Quink ink with a quill while having a quiet moment, before wrapping it up and standing in the queue at a post office counter (because you want to use the new issue of stamps out that day).

R is for Replies to letters, and for Royal Mail as I'm in the UK! 

S is for Stamps for postage making stationery not stationary. 

T is for Tape, decorative or otherwise. I use tape to help seal up letters.

U is for Universal Postal Union (UPU), and for those in the US, there's the USPS. 

V is for Valentine's cards, as some are sent in friendship.

W is for Wax seals

X is for letters sealed with a kiss. XXX

Y is for Yours in Friendship, as a way of signing off a letter. Yours, Your Friend.....

Z is for Zip code, without one, letters to the US wouldn't get there! 




Friday, 15 January 2021

A to Z of Snail Mail - part 1

 I thought it would be fun to do an A to Z of Snail Mail. Easier said than done. Needed help & suggestions! 

A is for Address book, and also for Air Mail, Air Mail labels, aerogrammes, anticipation...

B is for Box of postcards, Best Wishes...

C is for Christmas cards sent by penpals, but also for cartridges fountain pens might use, calligraphy, and correspondence can contain caring and compassion.

D is for delivery, Diamine inks, and letters bring delight.

E is for envelope, and no matter how hard you push, it is stationery. Excitement & enlightenment.

F is for fountain pens. 

G is for General Post Office.

H is for Home (address), handwritten letters, and handwriting.

I is for ink, and also InCoWriMo, and international mail....

J is for Jolly letters written in J. Herbin ink (other inks are available). 

K is for the Kindness found in many letters, written perhaps with Krishna Ink.

L is for Letter, letter writing, letter writing paper, Lamy fountain pens & ink, letter openers, letterbox, and Love from..

M is for Mail, both incoming and outgoing missives mailed...



Part two later, but feel free to comment with your suggestions. Haven't gotten ideas yet for some of the other letters...

Saturday, 2 January 2021

Happy new year.

Well, farewell 2020 and hello 2021. 

One of the surprising things about the pandemic is how much more I have enjoyed writing letters. I do my best communicating through the written word. Letters are something to hold. They can also hug. Electronic missives and perhaps phone calls demand to be dealt with there and then. A letter is patient; it has to be. 

One question I get asked is, "Where do I find people to write to?" There are many websites out there offering penpal-matching, or profile browsing, to find penpals, for free or paid. There are websites associated with snail mail projects where you can also look for penfriends. Some of my lovely penpals have come from barely having anything more than an address to write to, through a project called InCoWriMo. I've written about INternational COrrespondence WRIting MOnth before. But it is almost that time of year again, for this project fills February with letters. The challenge is to write a letter a day. https://incowrimo.org/

Another question I get asked is, "What do I write about in letters?" While some topics can be a bit of a taboo or more uncomfortable to write about (e.g. religion, politics, the private side of life), almost anything else goes. Postcrossing has a monthly writing prompt, if you are stuck for something to write about on a postcard (this month, what skill would you like to learn?). A World of Snail Mail offers another suggestion: Five Questions, Answer by Snail Mail where questioners supply 5 Questions, and people can write their answers in a missive. 

A World of Snail Mail has come up with something else if you want to take part in Incowrimo but can't manage a whole letter-a-day to send? Maybe you could compromise and do this challenge instead. It doesn't matter if you can't do it every day. The main thing is to enjoy writing letters.


28 challenges for this month, one for each day. When writing a letter, please answer the question or use the writing prompt or do the task for that day. The letter need not be finished that day.


1st: Write a sentence with your eyes closed
2nd: Do you have any pictures hanging on your wall(s)?
3rd: Writing prompt: time
4th: Doodle the weather
5th: What are you looking forward to this year?
6th: What are the best 3 things about where you live?
7th: Writing prompt: games/sports
8th: Write a sentence with your non-dominant hand
9th: Where do you imagine you will be this time next year?
10th: Writing prompt: gardening
11th: If you had an autobiography, what would its title be?
12th: What is your best member of childhood?
13th: What is the weather like?
14th: Have you written Valentine's cards to pets (or even received one from a pet)?
15th: What are three of your favourite films?
16th: What book(s) are you in the middle of?
17th: What has made you smile recently?
18th: Write a sentence backwards
19th: What time do you have breakfast?
20th: Writing prompt: radio
21st: Doodle some eyes
22nd: What is a favourite quote from fiction?
23rd: Do you keep a diary or journal or scrapbook?
24th: Writing prompt: spring
25th: Have you written any poetry or verse?
26th: Writing prompt: music
27th: Do you volunteer for good causes?
28th: When did you send your first ever email?

Goulet Pens and others do writing prompts for types of people to write letters to. blog.gouletpens.com/2020/01/how-to-participate-in-incowrimo-2020/


Monday, 21 December 2020

The end is nigh, of 2020 that is.

Well, I don't think there are many people who would want to prolong the year (except to rewind and then do things differently).. but there have been good moments. I have continued to write letters throughout the year. Savings from not going out as much, meant I could spend some money on my main hobby, that of letter writing. I bought some more stationery associated with snail mail. 
I have been enjoying using wax seals. These are some of the new ones I have bought this year. There are more!

Then, there is also washi tape, and stickers. This is one of my latest purchases and I have yet to use this. I will, I promise!


And then, there is the writing implement and fluid. Here are just a couple of my new pens, and also one of the inks I purchased. I really am impressed with this particular ink. 

The cost of sending a letter has increased. Postage has increased. It increased at the end of March, and again in early September. And now, to start off 2021, it rises again. There isn't really much choice but to use at least the correct postage. I cannot imagine my world without being able to send letters and postcards. Although post this year is not getting to all destinations. 

So, in preparation for the postage rate increase, I have ordered some stamps from Royal Mail. First class stamp now is 76p, but come the 1st January, it will be 85p. Other prices can be found in this leaflet, or on the Royal Mail website. I really hope we don't get stung by a second price rise in 2021 at the normal price rise time of year (usually end of March).