Thursday 23 January 2020

February Letters 2020

[edit 1st Feb. 2020] has been updated [/edit]
[edit 23rd March 2022]  incowrimo-2020 link no longer works [/edit]

With February nearly upon us and neither nor 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

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. has not been updated. looks to be delayed (but is in progress), and 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, 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.