The Art of Sending Letters
By Denae DiVincenzo
When is the last time you wrote a letter? Chances are it wasn’t recently.
We live in an age where everyone is still familiar with the idea of letter writing but few are actually in the habit of writing personal letters. Adults today learned how to write letters in school, and many had a pen pal at one point or another. Younger adults and teens have had less need to write lengthy letters by hand but at least fully grasp the concept and have seen past eras of handwritten correspondence depicted in movies and books. It’s easy to understand how important letter writing once was, even if you have never practiced it much yourself. After all, for much of history there was no alternative. However, letters have undeniably lost much of their appeal in favor of the immediacy of electronic communication and the ever-expanding forms that can take.
There are some who would like to see that change, and in their view it's a change for the better. Every February, author Mary Robinette Kowal hosts “A Month of Letters,” which is an open challenge that simply asks participants to send an item of mail every postal day in the month, and to write back to those who mail items to them (which can count as one of the next mailed items). It’s an annual event she started in 2010 that has accumulated a cultish following and even includes a community forum, digital badges, and a way to request pen pals if you want to broaden the reach of your postage. She says that it doesn't always have to be a full-length letter—a postcard will do, or even a news clipping with a note attached. The idea is to connect with one another through the mail.
Some of the yearly participants are inevitably members of the Letter Writers Alliance, a mostly online community of individuals who are committed to preserving the art of letter writing by practicing it regularly. As they state in their mission, “In this era of instantaneous communication, a handwritten letter is a rare and wondrous item.” Their members are dedicated to carrying on the tradition of letter writing by seeking out opportunities year-round to send "tangible correspondence," and the Chicago-based community hosts events, such as letter socials, to encourage engagement.
Technically, April is the National Card and Letter Writing Month (formerly known as simply National Letter Writing Month), but there had been a lapse in attention for the national holiday prior to recent years, and events like “A Month of Letters” were there to inspire would-be penmen or penwomen during that time. According to Mary Robinette Kowal, she started her annual letter writing month when she was taking a break from the internet, and according to the similar InCoWriMo (International Correspondence Writing Month, modeled after NaNoWriMo and started in 2013), February is a great choice for one simple reason: it has the fewest days.
In the past couple of years even more groups have come together to wave the banner of letter and card writing for all to see. Write_On is a campaign for promoting creativity and connection through correspondence that encourages sending something every day of April, and which was initiated by cardmakers (who naturally have a passion for all things stationery and the written communication that goes along with it).
Here at NeigerDesign we highly value communication and we share that love for paper, and of course there’s our much-indulged compulsion for creativity, which has led us into the realm of card making and sending on many occasions.
As is perhaps most common, we typically have considered correspondence season to be the winter holidays versus February or April, and our past several holiday gifts to clients and friends have been different takes on the classic holiday greeting card.
In 2014 every staff member at NeigerDesign (including our office manager, who is very talented with glitter paper) contributed a unique card design using peace as the unifying theme and incorporating the symbol of a bird somehow. They were all left blank inside and were sent in a stack with envelopes so the recipients could share them with their own friends and family. It's a slightly different take on an even earlier project we did where everyone contributed designs to create a postcard book with tear-out postcards for sending.
This past season we took our holiday card to a new dimension by adding a pop-up. Whimsical hand-drawn illustrations were left black and white to be colored in by the pencils we sent with each card. As you might have guessed, we have a bit of fun experimenting with different mediums and concepts every year. We like to help facilitate communication among others, as well as spark creativity whenever possible.
The charming building that creates the pop-up is our office in Evanston.
This month, with “A Month of Letters” in mind, we are challenging ourselves to explore beyond the greeting card and seek out the oft-neglected and more traditional correspondence of longform letter writing.
To keep it interesting, and because we cannot help ourselves, we’ve created several printable stationery designs to share with you to encourage you to join us in writing more letters!
Download and print any of the PDFs by clicking on its image below or get all of them in a zipped folder. Simply print and start writing your letter (if you're concerned about your printer's margins, choose the setting in the print dialogue box that will "fit" the PDF to the paper when printing).
Whether you decide to take on the challenge of “A Month of Letters” alongside Denae, our marketing strategist, or are preparing for National Card and Letter Writing Month in April, or even if you just want to remind yourself how enjoyable handwritten correspondence can be, we hope that this letter stationery pack will bring a smile to you and the recipients of your finished letters.
If you like the idea of writing a letter but aren’t sure what to say, here are some tips for getting started:
- Find a quote on a topic or a mood that you want to share with someone. You can search for great quotes online; Goodreads and BrainyQuote are among the most popular sites. Follow the quote with the reason why you chose it, and what it is about your letter recipient in particular that made you want to choose it.
- Share a favorite recipe, whether it be a family recipe or one you discovered on your own, and talk about the memory of the first time you ate whatever it is that the recipe makes.
- Write a thoughtful thank you. Think back on the best thing someone has done for you or the most interesting gift you’ve received. Even if it was years ago, if it comes to mind then isn’t a proper thank you in order?
- Choose an upcoming obscure “holiday” and write about it with a note on the envelope letting the recipient know not to open it until that day.
- Read Letters of Note, a collection of letters from famous writers and figures from history, and see what inspires you.
Letter writing doesn't sound so difficult, does it? Follow along during the month of February as Denae shares her progress through the challenge of sending an item every mailing day and to see some of the creative pieces she sends, and share your own letters or cards with us using #NDLetters. It's not too late to catch up.
Bonus tip: if you mail a letter to Denae at our office (NeigerDesign, 1515 Sherman Avenue, Evanston, IL 60201), she will write you back! Be sure to include her name on the envelope as well as your return address.