Friday, 30 January 2015

                                    It's That Time Again

February 1st marks the onset of the A Month of Letters challenge, created by author Mary Robinette Kowal. (Read about Mary here.)  Lettermo, as we veterans refer to it, is a month long love affair with letter writing. 

In September of 2010 Mary made a bold decision to take a break from the internet for an
entire month.  She informed everyone that they could contact her via the postal service, which some of her friends did.  Mary says "When I write back, I find that I slow down and write differently than I do with an email. Email is all about the now. Letters are different, because whatever I write needs to be something that will be relevant a week later to the person to whom I am writing. In some ways it forces me to think about time more because postal mail is slower. “By the time you get this…” It is relaxing. It is intimate. It is both lasting and ephemeral.  How so? I find that I will often read the letters that I receive twice. Once when I get them and again as I write back. So, that makes it more lasting. It is more ephemeral because I don’t have copies of the letters that I write and I am the only one who has copies of the letters that my correspondents write. So, more ephemeral." 

Why not check out the Lettermo site, sign up and give it a try this year?  The challenge is to write a letter every day during the month of February, excepting Sundays and holidays which amounts to 23 letters, cards or postcards.  Mary has created prompts to give you something to shoot for and badges to collect once you have completed each task she has set which include things like completing each week of post and becoming a postal explorer by searching out new mail boxes to post your letters.  It's a fun way to get into the thick of letter writing and the enthusiasm shown by all makes it a delightful experience.  I have made some lovely friends by participating in Lettermo, and a surprise or two have also presented themselves. 

One of the people I wrote to is a singer whose music I listen to.  I had read in an interview she was a big fan of letter writing and wrote to her friends and family (I knew I liked her for a good reason!)  So, I wrote a letter to Paloma Faith and long after Lettermo finished, I got a little brown envelope in the post.  I never would have guessed in a million years I would be getting a reply from Paloma in the form of an autographed photo and a sticker, but that is just what I found inside that non-descript brown envelope.  So, you never know what may happen when you join the fun at the lettermo site this February. 

Go on, you know you want to.  See you there!

Friday, 23 January 2015

                                 National Handwriting Day

It's been very wintery here with low temperatures, forecasts of “thunder snow” and icy patches that catch you off guard when you least expect it. The Tea kettle beckons and all I want to do is sit listening to the crackle and pop of the fire, reading or writing but we live in an unheated Georgian house (think Jane Austen) and so wood must be chopped and brought in and the fireplace swept first before I can indulge, safe from the whipping winds and biting cold. I wonder if Jane Austen had “house gloves” like I do? They are crucial when it's genuinely cold. The fireplaces keep the rooms warm, but not the corridors so I have to be creative. Living here has made me understand why food was served on covered dishes and why people wore bed caps at night. These were just common sense things to keep the warmth in.

I like living in an old house; I like that the old meets the new and we exist happily together. I also love that something as simple and essential as handwriting is highlighted with its own special day, even when technology makes it a snap to instantly send a message anywhere in the world.

Created in 1977 by the Writing Instrument Manufacturers Association, National Handwriting Day is celebrated on January 23rd each year. As Executive director of WIMA explains “Throughout history, handwritten documents have sparked love affairs, started wars, established peace, freed slaves, created movements and declared independence. No email will ever have quite the impact of words written in pen or pencil on a crisp piece of paper. With National Handwriting Day on Jan. 23, WIMA is celebrating the importance of handwriting not just in American History, but in today's fast-paced world as well.”

Portrait of John Hancock by John Singleton
from Wikipedia
January 23rd was chosen to mark this holiday as it coincides with the birth date of John Hancock, born January 23, 1737 in Braintree, Massachusetts. John Hancock was a businessman, statesman, a devoted patriot of the American Revolution and was touted an “essential character” of that era by contemporary John Adams. John Hancock's roll in the Revolution is noteworthy, but as president of the Continental Congress and first signer of the Declaration of Independence he is most remembered for his iconic signature on that very historic document in which he very publicly became a traitor to England. And so putting his name on the Declaration of Independence was not just an act of signing a statement so much as making a statement, and in doing so the name John Hancock has become synonymous with the term signature.
His stylish autograph was writ bold and large across the centre of the Declaration of Independence and legend has it he quipped “The British Ministry can read that name without spectacles; let them double their reward.” This in response to the bounty the British had placed on the heads of all Revolutionaries.

John Hancock was a colourful, flamboyant character of his time, dressing in the latest fashions indulging in good food and living in a grand home. Some criticized his lifestyle during a time when many had none, but he helped his fellow man and stood proudly to defend their beliefs. His patriotism as well as that auspicious signature are reason enough to justify using John Hancock's birth date to mark such a unique holiday but what many people are not aware of is the fact the he was an advocate of fine handwriting. The signature of this founding father was not just a random thing. As with every other aspect of his life, he devoted himself to developing a fine hand. Not only did he encourage others to refine their writing, he himself practised every day to perfect his own style. So diligent was John Hancock in his quest for beautiful script, he employed a writing master to further his efforts. A noted textbook author and teacher of writing at the Boston School of writing, Abiah Holbrook attended John every week to oversee his progress in maintaining his fine standard of handwriting, and improve upon any weaknesses. 

These days handwriting is a subject for debate, whether we need it or not due to the technical venues that allow us to write faster and produce letters and documents that are legible. There is evidence to suggest that practising cursive writing produces relief from tension and has a therapeutic value. There are those who would argue these points and even another point of view from Lewis Carrol who said “Here is a golden Rule...write legibly. The average temper of the human race would be perceptibly sweetened, if everyone obeyed this Rule!” Whatever your thoughts on handwriting, on January 23rd, why not pick up your pen in honour of John Hancock and National Handwriting Day and make a bold statement of your own.

I leave you with the immortal name that changed America's destiny.

Friday, 16 January 2015

New Stamp Release!
“You're thinking about something, and it makes you forget to talk.”   (or in my case write!)
                                           --Lewis Carroll, from Alice in Wonderland.
Large image of the Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland Stamp Set

Life has been busy here so my blog has suffered.  I just had to stop for a moment and settle down to write...okay the vacuum broke and I couldn't clean anymore.  Cleaning and clearing has become my occupation these past few weeks. I don't know where all the "stuff" comes from but I amass mountains in very short periods of time.  Probably because I can "see" something in everything and hate to waste anything.  If I can upcycle it, I save it, but it just got a bit out of hand somewhere along the line.  I had to clear a space on my desk so I could actually sit down and write. 

I found my stamp calendar among the wreckage of my desk and realized I totally missed the ball on January 6th when the Royal Mail released these lovelies to commemorate the publishing of Lewis Caroll's book Alice in Wonderland 150 years ago this year.  Alice in Wonderland is one of my favourite themes and these stamps look so bright and happy.  I ordered way to many of them but I know I will use them all up. 

Since the onset of the reorganization of everything, I have found a few things I had forgotten about, cool stationery I got for pennies at the charity shop, labels a swapper sent me and gulp, letters.  I'm working on those now.  I've already taken one short stack of outgoing letters to the post office this week and am working on assembling the next passel of post for tomorrow when I go into town.  Hopefully I will get caught up and cleared out and will be set to write more on the blog.