Wednesday, 27 March 2019

What the heck is an FB?

Month of letters is just a pleasant memory now and I’ve been “Marching On” with my letter writing. This year I included writing letters to my family whom I usually email and also met a few new friends on the Lettermo website who added interesting new conversations to my correspondence. Some of my family have written letters back which was a lovely surprise so I have enjoyed the whole experience this year, it was fun and I caught up with my letters as well as making some nice new friends in the process.

When you compose a letter to someone you haven’t written to before, you begin a fresh conversation, though you tend to revisit subjects you have explored with existing pen pals. One of the topics that came up several times in my letters to new correspondents was friendship books. Before the internet made finding pen pals easy, friendship books were all the rage and everyone passed one or two of them with their letters. Of course, not everyone is familiar with the concept of exchanging friendship books and I’ve been asked quite a few times these past few weeks “What the heck is an FB?” so I thought perhaps a refresher was in order to highlight just how fun and fabulous these little booklets are.

Back when I was a newb to letter writing, I too asked that age-old question: “What the heck is an FB?” The most interesting reply I received was that they began in the 60s when Beatlemania was at its peak. Back then they were referred to as “Fan Books” and were used as a means for other fans of the Fab 4 to connect with one another. Eventually, the name changed to friendship books when others, who were not fans and merely looking for pen pals began making them and passing them along in their letters.

So, what does an FB look like and what does it do? It’s a little booklet or folded sheet which is made for someone specifically who is looking for pen pals. Some are plain, others, called Decos are very arty but all have the same basic premise; to be filled with prospective pen pals. In making an FB, the name, address and a few interests or other facts are added about the person you have chosen to make the FB for; a mini pen pal ad if you like. The person who makes the FB then adds their name and details and sends it off into the wild to be signed and passed along until it is full, the last person who signs sends it back to the person it was made for.

When you receive FBs you should write your details and pass it on to one of your pals but you can also write to the people who have signed before you so everyone has the opportunity to find new pen pals along the way. FBs are meant to be signed and sent without delay, though some hold on to them far to long making them out of date which is a bit of a shame. It’s a good idea to put a date on any FBs you make or sign to let others know how current they are. Because they go through the post, it does take time to be filled with names and addresses so sending them off shortly after you receive them is of the utmost importance. I’ve noticed lately email addresses are being added so that confirmation of the mailing address can be made before posting a “homer,” which is what full FBs are called.

There used to be groups dedicated to making sure these little books made their way back home. You could join a group to make sure your current address was always on file. These groups not only compiled databases of current names and addresses, they also gave people a chance to ask about those who weren’t on the list and there was constant input so that all FBs had a sporting chance to reach their final destination. I’m not sure these groups are still out there, at least the group I was part of hasn’t been active for a long while. In any case, sending promptly is key.

Making FBs for yourself or others is fun and though there aren’t really any set rules, it’s probably a good idea not make them too large or too bulky for ease of passage. No one wants to pay extra postage just to include an FB. Likewise, too many pages means it will be circulating for a very long time and by the time you get it back you may not want new pen pals any more! Writing legibly is essential too, if you want people to be able to write to you, they need to be able to understand your handwriting.

The brevity of these little booklets and sheets means that just as you do when you text or tweet, you become economic with words and abbreviate often. Some abbreviations, like T/Y, for thank you, are obvious, but others can make you scratch your head trying to figure them out so here is a small list of FB shorthand to give you a head start.

AAA Answers all always
NPPW New Pen Pals Wanted
WW Worldwide
LLL Long Letter Ladies
C/T Collects and trades
FPO Female pals only

Now that you are armed with the basics, get out there and have a some fun making and sending FBs.

Friday, 1 February 2019

Lettermo 2019

Yesterday marked the first day of the letter writing campaign known as A Month of Letters, or more familiarly known as Lettermo.  This year we woke up to snow and school cancellations so after a brisk walk to the postbox to mail my first letters of the month, I set up camp at the coffee table in front of the fire to write.  So far I have sent out 4 letters and two thank you cards so I'm pleased with how things are going.  Let's just hope my arthritis doesn't put a damper on things.  I'm really enjoying getting back into daily letter writing.  

How are all of you who are participating in Lettermo getting on?  Incowrimo has also commenced for the month of February so there are nice incentives to get out your stationery and keep those mailboxes full.  

Happy writing everyone.

Friday, 25 January 2019

Endings and Beginnings

Dearest cherished friends,

January isn’t going quite the way I had planned. I thought after the holidays I would be able to ease back into my writing and still keep up with all the new changes in my household. It started out well enough, I had written a blog post about endings and beginnings for the new year, then the electricity went down and I lost it. I sighed, the electricity was reset and I was about to begin again when I had a nasty fall. I tripped and fell flat on my face bruising, well, just about everything. Then when I began to move a little easier, I had another little accident which made it difficult to sit at my desk and write. But, I am determined to get back to my writing so I am going to try to recreate the very appropriately titled “Endings and Beginnings” blog I wrote weeks ago for the new year. Fingers crossed I’ll get to post it this time!

I’ve been reading books that feature letters from people in the 19th Century, most notably, Jane Austen. If you’ve read any letters from that era you will immediately notice they have a similar form to those we write today but are much more verbose in their opening greetings and closing words. Back in 5th grade, Mrs. Smith taught us that letters had an opening salutation, a body where we share our news and a closing where we take leave of our correspondent, not much has changed since then, just the style.

I rather like the older style of starting and finishing letters, they sound so much more intimate and friendly. Today’s letters do have their own sort of familiarity but that antiquated mode of speaking and writing sounds very charming to me and I try to write in a similar way. I wonder at times what my pen pals make of my flowery greetings but to me they take my letters to a higher level. I am, after all, writing to a friend, not just a name at the end of a page. My business letters begin with Dear Sir or Madame, why shouldn’t my personal correspondence begin in a more sincere way? I strive to have a personal conversation with my letter friends, and I sometimes think the generic salutations and closings let me down.

Of course, there is much to be said about letters that begin enthusiastically, i.e. “Patricia!” Or, “Merlin, you absolute sweetheart!,” when their letters delight you. Those sorts of beginnings show more familiarity than a simple “dear.” In the 18th Century these sorts of openings would have gotten raised eyebrows, but the pretty salutations of that era remain timeless. So, let us replace the overused “Dear” for something more amiable like “My Dearest” or “Sister of my heart” as they did centuries ago. Bring back that old-world charm and take your letters to a higher level. Don’t get stuck in the rut of “Your friend” or simply “Love” at the end of your letters, take leave properly by saying in a flourish: “I remain your most affectionate friend” or Your most sincere friend.” You will find that your letters take on a richness that your pen pals will savour and reciprocate, making your bonds of friendship stronger.

                      I and remain,
                                                letter writing friends,
                                                                                         your most humble acquaintance,

Friday, 14 December 2018

Just a Note

Hello my lovelies. My pen has been silent for a while now and I thought I had better let you know why. My husband has been ill these past few months and has had two surgeries so life has slowed down in a way. As many of you know, we live in an old Georgian house which we are restoring and as we do not have central heating wood must be chopped. My husband is not able to wield the ax or chainsaw so my son and I have been doing the wood for the fire. It's an exhausting job, but must be done and while my son is in school, I do most of the sawing. But, muscles are toning and pounds are being shed so I'm not complaining. At the end of the day, however, my hands have a bit of a shake from the work; my arthritis causes other issues and so my writing suffers. I just wanted to let you all know why your letters to me are still unanswered. Once the holidays are over and my husband is back in the mid-January the doctors tell us...I will be able to get back to my letter writing and blogging.

                                                                              All my best wishes for a happy holiday season,


Friday, 21 September 2018

Rough Journey

My bag after smoothing it out.

I always get worried when I see a bag like this in my mailbox. It's even worse when, like this bag, it was shoved carelessly under the front door instead of being put through our mail slot and looked more like an accordion when I espied it on the floor behind the door. I understand the machines at the post office sorting room can tear envelope flaps or rip corners off postcards but some of the post I receive in these bags makes me wonder what really happened. For instance, once I received an envelope neatly slit on the side, but no letter. This particular envelope I received the other day was torn on three sides, luckily Tracy put everything in a smaller heavily decorated envelope inside this one so nothing went astray. Had she not, I would have gotten a flimsy, envelope connected only by two tenuous folds of paper. It almost looks like someone put their finger under the flap to open the letter and ripped around three sides. I'm grateful it was recovered and put into the plastic bag but I didn't really appreciate it being shoved under my door into a scrunched up wad causing more damage. I know budgets have been cut and time is of the essence for our mail carriers but in this instance, I wish they would have slowed down and taken a little more care. Okay, now I'm done with my rant. By the way, it was a fabulous letter from Tracy with fun tuck-ins and that made up for all the angst of seeing that crumpled up bag stuck behind the door when I came home.   

Thursday, 13 September 2018


What could be better than receiving happy mail? You may be “surprised” at the answer. I didn't think there was anything better than a colourfully decorated letter or a small package of mail goodness until I found a little on-line group that send out random little parcels of happy mail. What is this fabulous group that sends surprise happy mail? The You've Got Mail Club, which began sending out swaps in 2015 allows you to create an account and opt to send a surprise to a fellow member. It operates much like Postcrossing in that once your surprise has been received and logged, your name goes on the list to receive a surprise based on your profile. This is relatively a new group, so membership is small and there are days when you opt to send a surprise and there are no available names to which admin cheerfully suggests, recruit more members!

An Italian Pride & Prejudice

I've been a member for several months now and have had a very positive experience with the group. I've gotten some marvellous happy mail, several of which were truly surprises, like tea someone had handpicked and dried, an entire envelope of mint stamps from Germany and some beautiful craft papers. Those I've swapped with have been generous and as excited to send their swaps as they are to receive them. Surprises have travelled to me from as far as India, as well as Sweden, Italy, Germany and the Aland Islands and I have sent out envelopes of mail goodness to Russia, Philippines, Malaysia, Germany, Sweden and Italy so it is quite a diverse group. More importantly, I've made some nice friends,  and even discovered a couple of Jane Austen fans to “Talk Jane” with.  

One of the fabulous envelopes I have received.

If you want to join this happy little group of mail enthusiasts, go here to check out the You've Got Mail Club. I've enjoyed being a member and hope you will too. For those of you who are avid stamp or coin collectors, there are sister groups to this group such as The 100 Stamps club, Mint stamps club, Paper Money club and a few others, all listed at the bottom of the home page with respective links.