Thursday, 5 November 2020

Still writing

 I'm still here, writing letters, trying to keep away from the elephants in the room topics. Five Questions, Answer by Snail Mail helps. After the current letter I am in the middle of writing, I will answer someone's Five Questions, posted on the A World of Snail Mail forum. 

1st October was World Postcard Day, and where do I know that loves postcards? Why yes, Postcrossing. And so, for it, I requested a couple of addresses and posted them, as well as another postcard to reply to one from Russia sent during February for A Month of Letters. 

There isn't much space on the postcard for many nice stamps. I wanted to use up some of the older stamps than buy the new stamps of the new value for sending by international standard / Air Mail / Post Awyr / Par Avion!

I had slowed down on writing letters recently, as there were days I just didn't feel like picking up a pen. Ideally, I want to reply between a fortnight and a month, but was running at 6 weeks for a few letters last month. I've found my mojo again.

I have written and sent over 365 letters this year, and it feels great! I should surpass 400 before long. I do tend to slow down in December, but whether I will this year, I don't know. Letters bring joy. 

Monday, 21 September 2020

Snail Mail September 2020 update

As Week 3 of Snail Mail September draws to a close, I thought I would give an update on how I am doing. 

I wrote a letter outdoors for week 1, when the sun was shining and the birds were singing. I sat outside in the front garden, glancing up from the letter every now and again, to watch the world go by.

For week 2, I wrote in coloured fountain pen inks. I was able to post one letter in a postbox I'd never fed before. I always use interesting stamps but didn't put in an entry for that.

For week 3, I have used washi tape. I usually use washi for sealing up letters, and a few stickers too. I have plenty of washi tapes and stickers, but sometimes forget to use them.


I have used wax seals on many of the letters I have sent, but I have forgotten to take pictures of them, or they've turned out a bit blurry/not quite all in focus. 

(pictures taken from @aworldofsnailmail on Instagram)

So, with one week and a bit remaining of September, I intend to write some letters to be sent overseas, include some tuck-ins, and perhaps attempt a doodle. I wrote something with my non-dominant hand in February.

I'll come up with some new prompts for February Letters. What would you like to see in them? What didn't you like from this year's selection of prompts (list up on my previous blog entry)?


Monday, 7 September 2020

Snail Mail prompts and challenges.

Over on the forum, a new challenge was started - Snail Mail September, with the hashtag #snailmailseptember2020 and it is running on Instagram, and the forum's Facebook group.

Week 1

————

•Decorate an envelope for a letter you’re mailing

•Write to a family member

•Write a letter Outdoors

•Send a postcard to someone you haven’t seen in a while.

Week 2

————

•Decorate mail in seasonal colors

•Mail a letter from a new-to-you postbox

•Use an interesting stamp to mail something

•Write a letter/postcard in colored ink

Week 3

————

•Send a photograph

•Write to someone about a memory you have of them

•Send something about your city/town/state

•Use a sticker or washi tape to decorate your mail

Week 4

————

•Write something with your non-dominant hand

•Send mail to another country

•Include a tuck-in in your letter/card

•Draw a doodle/sketch on your letter/postcard


For February, a lighter challenge than InCoWriMo, I started February Letters with A Challenge-a-day with 29 prompts/tasks to do in your letter for the day (and it didn't matter if a letter could not be completed that day).

1st: Use the word duck

2nd: Write a sentence backwards

3rd: Draw some eyes

4th: What can you hear while you write?

5th: What is the nearest tree to your home?

6th: Use the word bird

7th: Did you see a cat this week?

8th: Use the word snowman

9th: What book(s) are you reading?

10th: Draw a smiley face

11th: Do you have any houseplants?

12th: Use the word weather

13th: What was the last boardgame you played?

14th: Did you make any resolutions for 2020?

15th: Use the word postcard

16th: Can you play a musical instrument?

17th: Use the word DIY

18th: What was the last photo you took?

19th: Do you like travelling by train?

20th: Who is your favourite cartoon character?

21st: Can you see a clock while you write?

22nd: Where are you writing the letter?

23rd: Use the word cup

24th: Write a sentence with your eyes closed.

25th: What does your name rhyme with?

26th: What was the last household chore you did?

27th: Do you have a favourite household chore?

28th: Do you collect anything?

29th: Would you like to have your birthday today?


I shall be changing the prompts/tasks for next year. Which ones are good and should stay (or be changed very slightly), and which ones should be changed totally?

These are great prompts/tasks. Do they help? Would you like to see more mini-challenges? 


Wednesday, 15 July 2020

A World of Snail Mail forum

I started A World of Snail Mail forum 5 years ago today although did not open up the membership until two days later. I didn't know what to expect, or how the forum would turn out. 

I have been a member of various penpal groups and websites for a few years prior. Although all these places have good points, there are some unwanted points too. I want somewhere people could feel welcome no matter their gender, and new people to be able to contribute to the various topics.

While new penpals have been found through the forum, the main purpose was for discussion. Now we have Five Questions, Answer by Snail Mail as an icebreaker for correspondence. Even long term penpals answer the questions.

The forum is still small, and that is OK. Quality over quantity. It seems like I could personally vouch for every member. 

Monday, 29 June 2020

Still writing

Snail mail life still continues. I can write to penpals around the world, postal services permitting. The lovely people at Postcrossing have come up with a Postal Monitor to keep track of service disruptions, and links to service updates on the various postal websites.

Some mail has been delayed, sailing across the oceans. For a while, I was sending most letters to the US via the international economy (surface mail) rate. Mail for continental Europe still had to go by Air Mail.

I haven't been able to buy any of the new issue stamps. The last issue I bought was the James Bond issue, but I wasn't able to get many. Years of buying stamps meant I didn't really need to buy stamps. I might try for the next issue celebrating the music group, Queen.

I have been receiving post. Some has come with slogan postmarks. This one, Let's Talk Loneliness is from this month.

Others have been able to buy the new stamps out in the US. I quite like the new global forever stamp, but it does look a little like something else, unintended.
I also like some of the stamps out of Germany. I wasn't a huge fan of Sesame Street but I did learn things from it.
I think I like most stamps. Look how small the stamp is from Canada!
However, it doesn't have the magic in some of the stamps Royal Mail has produced. There were a few issues for Star Wars but only 1 issue had the magic revealed via UV.
Stamps not only can take letters/parcels through the post, they can take people on a journey of knowledge. I really should read more about John Archer, a mayor in London. Wikipedia doesn't have a lot on him.











Tuesday, 21 April 2020

The Elephant in the Room, part 2.

It is difficult to escape the current topic affecting the world: Covid-19. But how should you approach this in letters? I don't think it is a topic to be totally ignored, whether your area is in lockdown or curfew on top of general distancing measures, or your area has come out the other side as restrictions start to lift.

The last letter I wrote, I tried to look on the bright side of life, what with wildlife returning to places usually frequented by tourists and people in general, and some pollution levels dropping.

Do you have more time to be able to do hobbies, especially if you've been able to work from home rather than commute to the office? Maybe you are rediscovering things.

However for one penpal whose letter arrived today, rather than go on about The Virus, he kept his missive short.

All I can hope for is for this blog post to find you and your loved ones safe and well.

Sunday, 12 April 2020

The Elephant in The Room

Last week I wrote a letter. However, I did not send it. After a night's sleep, I decided I didn't quite like what I had written in all, so tore the letter up (and composted it), to start afresh. I had ranted on about Covid-19. While it is hard to escape this topic of the moment, I feel it should not encompass the whole missive. So, I wrote less about Covid and more about the other things I wanted to tell my penfriend about. When I finished it, I felt much more satisfied with it.

Maybe I should restart a journal, and use that to rant and rave in.

Friday, 20 March 2020

February letters round up.

This is what a month of letters received looks like. Not for the whole of February but midway through until midway through March. I haven't counted them, and I should be replying to them in due course.

So, how did my Month of Letters / InCoWriMo / February Letters go? Quite well in the end, after flu in the first week (yes, just flu, not coronavirus). I sent over 50 letters (and a few postcards too).

As for receiving mail, I was away from home for over half the month, and so I have no idea exactly when some of the letters arrived. Overall, it was a good month.

One of the things I bought while away was a wax seal coin. I haven't tried it out yet. I have also ordered other wax seals. I am not going to tell you how many I have got, but I was rather shocked at the number I have.

I also bought a couple of bottles of ink, and 2 more ink samples, to be included on my inks page soon.

Monday, 2 March 2020

Slogan postmark


Here are some recent slogan postmarks from Royal Mail. I wonder if any of the letters I have sent recently have some slogans printed on the envelopes, and neatly at that.


Yes I do like you otherwise I might not have replied to the letter you wrote.

Friday, 28 February 2020

Penultimate Day

February is almost over for another year and InCoWriMo / LetterMo draws to a close. Apart from having flu early in the month, I have enjoyed writing missives to strangers. I have written some responses as well - but March is looking like a month full of replies.

One question that could be asked of me - why write to new people when you have plenty of penpals already? My response would be that I see this month as bringing the joy of letters to new people, perhaps trying letter writing for the first time or  since childhood. Making new connections also makes the world a smaller place.

Although it would be nice to have a reply, or at the very least a thanks either by snail mail or by electronic means, I am in part glad that not every InCoWriMo / LetterMo letter sent will not  yield long term correspondence. I know I cannot write to everyone. I respond to almost all InCoWriMo / LetterMo letters via snail mail. It may take time. I think I will be kept busy if I want to reply within a month of receipt.

Some letters do not have a hook to catch a reply. Some letters can be boring, or phrased politely and infer no response is required.

Apart from flu wiping me out for a week and no letters were written then, averaged over the course of the month, I have definitely written more than one letter a day. I am not disappointed, although I did start the month expecting to be able to write daily. I did also fail the Challenge A Day with the writing prompts. On days I could write, I didn't always use the prompt. Do writing prompts help?


Overall, I think it has been a good InCoWriMo/LetterMo. I hope everyone received at least one surprise (or first) missive. I also hope the person behind the alternate InCoWriMo site (the one with the year in the URL), will be OK, and my thoughts are with him.

Friday, 7 February 2020

End of the first week in February

I have to admit "defeat" this year for InCoWriMo & LetterMo. Am I a bit disappointed? NO, because my body said no. I was hit heavily by one of the winter bugs going around earlier this week and struggled even mentally to open letters, not alone reply. This bug has sapped energy out of me, more than any other bugs for quite a while. I recovered somewhat today, but still feel lousy and I have lost my voice. OK, I don't need a voice to write letters, but I do need to have the energy. I wonder if I am starting to have InCoWriMo/LetterMo fatigue as this is my 9th year taking part in the one, and 7th in the other. Or whether the shortest month is not the best month for the daily letter-writing projects because of flu and colds going around. At least with February Letters, there is no pressure. Letter writing to penfriends is supposed to be enjoyable, not a chore.

It sounds so simple, to write a letter/postcard a day. And it can be, but not when you are severely under the weather. I couldn't even pick up a pen on Wednesday. All I wanted to do was sleep. Some days, can write more than a couple of missives, and on average, should be able to make it a letter-a-day.

Some of the comments (some have already been deleted) across social media about the lack of the address list at InCoWriMo-2020, do not take into account the series of unfortunate events beholden that site's owner. I know he enjoys writing letters, and while he was seeking to delegate for 2021, I don't think anything can be done this month for this year, although in early January, I did believe there was hope. A tinge of sadness for the site, and even more thoughts for him. I hope things will be OK for him.

I hope to be back letter-writing this weekend. Stormy weather is forecast. So, I intend to either be snug as a bug in a rug, in bed, or wrapped up warm in my chair at my writing desk.



Saturday, 1 February 2020

1st February 2020

I won't have time to do a daily blog, but should have time to write at least one letter a day! I am doing InCoWriMo. Am I doing LetterMo too? Well, some of my existing penpals come from the latter and have some of their letters in my to-reply-to pile. Letters written this weekend will have to wait until Monday for posting - missed the Saturday collection and no collection on a Sunday - we don't want those letters to be all cold in the postbox, do we now? 

I wrote just the one letter today, although there are just under 3 hours left so there is time to write another. I did manage to write duck in my letter. Well, I used the plural form, but still, needed to write duck before the s! Tomorrow is "write a sentence backwards" well, I'll make it a short sentence! 


How are you all getting on? I notice on the address exchange thread, some people replying to someone's address post with "I'll write to you" - but does that spoil things, the surprise? If someone has received a lot of replies with, "You are on my list," would that put you off writing to them because you might think that they'd be overwhelmed? I'm sure in past years, at least a few people, sadly, have not received any surprise letters.

Thursday, 23 January 2020

February Letters 2020

[edit 1st Feb. 2020]  incowrimo.org has been updated [/edit]

With February nearly upon us and neither incowrimo.org nor incowrimo-2020.org updated for 2020 as I write this (but LetterMo has), some of the momentum has been lost by people who were eager to start something new, to try snail mail or to catch up on correspondence neglected over the months due to life/circumstance. Those projects want a letter (or postcard) a day (or postal day), and this can seem daunting. If you add up the cost for postage, then it can be quite a bit if you are also sending internationally.. Time constraints could rush a letter in order to get it finished on the day. 

So, a little less demanding is February Letters. InCoWriMo & LetterMo can forge new penfriendships, so with that in mind, February Letters suggests you reach out to a few new people to write to. No demands/requirements, other than at least one letter! Try for at least one letter a week to someone new! You can sign up on https://s-mail.proboards.com/

Many also see February as a time to catch up on replies. So, instead of writing to new people (one picture on Instagram lists types of people to write to each day for InCoWriMo - parents, elderly relatives, someone in armed forces, your pet, and their vet, a fictional character...) how about A Challenge a Day to include a specific word, a drawing, answer to a question,... to be included in a letter you write. The letters don't have to be finished on the same day. Grab a moment of calm, a cuppa, sit down, and write a letter. 

Friday, 17 January 2020

Never use "I" in the first sentence - further thoughts on letters

I was surfing the web last night, looking to see if I could find some more letter / penpal blogs. A shame many do not get updated that often these days, with the world in general on short attentions spans swiping down / across picture posts instead.

The posts I have read about first letters can be separated into two camps:


  • The CV-style letter applying for the position of your penpal - the "I am ..." and "I have..." and a thousand more "I" - and more or less the same first letter sent to everybody.
  • The personal touch where "I" is not used in the first sentence of the missive, and the universe does not revolve around the writer of the letter. Each first letter written is different.
I know which I'd prefer, but there can be great first letters via either style.

February is a month of letters, international correspondence writing month, a handwritten letter every day. Many participants only see the letter as a one-off, so receiving a CV-style letter may well be a disappointment. The personal touch may persuade the recipient to continue with letter writing throughout the year, whether with that sender or with others.

Thursday, 16 January 2020

Carried away

A delivery of wax seal heads came yesterday. I set them out with some of my other wax seals and it suddenly dawned on me that I had gone overboard. I don't think I will cancel the order of more different seals made this morning, but I think I should restrain myself. After all, for snail mail, it is the letter itself that counts. The words matter more than the oodles of washi tape, stickers, fancy writing papers, fancy pens, fancy inks, fancy wax seals, fancy postage stamps. But I do like to use them, they bring me joy, and relaxation choosing how to decorate the letter/envelope, how to show postage paid. Maybe just as colouring-in books for adults have taken off and promote mindfulness, maybe the adornment of snail mail is mindful for me.


With February coming soon, and international correspondence writing month / a handwritten letter every day / a month of letters, I shall enjoy using the new stationery purchases, as well as old. Still no news on any of the main websites for the project, but there is some activity on A World of Snail Mail - the forum, and Facebook group. I'm sure there are other websites out there for their own mini versions of the project. 

19th January 2020 edit - LetterMo has been updated. 


Wednesday, 8 January 2020

InCoWriMo-2020 preparation

I have been thinking about International Correspondence Writing Month, where I will be writing at least one handwritten every day, and it will be a month of letters. However, none of the usual sites are ready. incowrimo.org has not been updated. incowrimo-2020.org looks to be delayed (but is in progress), and lettermo.com has technical difficulties. So, where else can I get my fix for that month? At the moment, one forum has been getting ready for the missive madness, and that is A World of Snail Mail and many of the members have participated in the February letter writing projects before.
Myself, I'm preparing by making sure I have plenty of letter writing paper. I have a lot but some is stored away. Maybe I need to bring some of that into rotation, from bright/colourful/cheerful designs to plainer but still nice papers.

Stickers, yes, need them, they can be used to brighten up some plain papers. Some of the stickers can illustrate better than what I can draw!

Envelopes - some of the postcards I might want to enclose will not fit in the standard C6 envelopes, so I will need either to buy some (there is a crafting shop I've bought 5 x 7 inch envelopes before), or make some (maybe with my We R Memory Keepers board).
I had to clean out some fountain pens, and filled them up, but may have to do this again towards the end of the month as I am still writing letters. The two pens below look to both have orange-ish inks in but only one of them does, the other ink is pink.
Also this month, there's a new issue of postage stamps, celebrating the UK's part in video games, so last century. Worms and Lemmings are to name 2. I shall probably get some, but I'd best get there first thing on the day as that post office won't get that many in.
I do like to use the nice postage stamps where possible. They cost the same as postage labels and Machin stamps so why not go for something that would also bring a smile to the recipient's face (as well as the enclosed nice letter...). If the recipient doesn't want to keep the stamps, then many charities accept the used ones as a means of raising money (and they would possibly get more money for the commemorative stamps than ordinary definitive ones). 
I do like finishing off the envelope with a wax seal. There are so many designs you can have, not just initials (I use the initial for my first name, not surname). 

Wednesday, 1 January 2020

The first letter, again

With InCoWriMo/LetterMo coming up in February, I thought it was time for another post about the first letter.

One size does not fit all, and you must find your own way. Find what works for you can take trial and error.

Do first impressions matter? If yes, then maybe first letters matter too. Some people write a generic first letter, a form letter typed/printed/copied without a thought about the person it is to be sent to; a CV. Yes, some things should be in all first letters - your name, your location (especially if you want a reply) but everything else is optional. You don't need to reel off a whole list of names of your relatives and pets, nor a list of hobbies & interests, nor a list of what you like to watch on the screen. If you start talking to someone waiting at a bus stop or supermarket checkout queue or someone on a train, you do not recite your CV to them hoping to start a conversation?

"How long have you been waiting here?" could translate into letter-speak as, "How long have you lived in Oakley Street?" You could even write about the weather and from there, ask questions, e.g.: "The hills get a lot of snow around this time, and one hill nearby is popular for sledging down. It has been a while since I've been sledging, I am more a fair weather person. Do you like the winter sports?"

A letter is a gift of time and energy - a generic form letter CV lacks this, although it may save time and energy for the recipient, it does not reveal enthusiasm, sincerity and passion a good letter has.

I find this sort of letter below is just so boring:
My name is Jennifer. I live in Bath. I have a partner called Jeremy and four children - their names are Brian (10), Lucy (7), Celia (5) and Thomas (2). We have three cats, one is a tabby called Simon,  the ginger tom is called Goofy,  and the black cat is Jet. I like ice-skating, darts and quilting. We go on holiday every year to Weston-Super-Mare and visit my grandmother, Jean. I am a 43 and my partner is 45. We met on New Year's Eve 12 years ago in the pub. He likes doing DIY, wood turning and supports Swindon Town. I go to bingo with my neighbour once a month. Write back soon xxx.
I'm afraid that sort of missive doesn't inspire me to reply.

Some people take part in InCoWriMo/LetterMo just for the month of correspondence, and do not want to continue writing letters/snail mail throughout the year. That's fine, but it does feel a little sad. It doesn't matter if people take their time to reply: I like to respond to letters within a month of receiving, but I know life and events get in the way of speedy responses.