Perhaps you remember how at the end of last year we mentioned having a few new things up our sleeves for 2015? Well, the L.W.A. Book Club is one of them! This book club is a reading group for letter writers and mail lovers and will span both non-fiction and fiction. We will focus on books that have to do with mail, letters, typewriters, fountain pens, and other postal related topics. The reading schedule is quarterly. Donovan and I will get together with special guests to talk and review the book for that season.
For the inaugural book we chose 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff. The discussion of this book will be on April 12th at 3pm CST with our special guest, Ana Reinert of The Well Appointed Desk. The meet-up will be live streaming video, so if you would like to join us in reading this book, have it finished by April 12th and join us online!
The format will be similar to our Virtual Video Socials except that the three of us will be mostly talking/discussing the book the whole time. We will have a chat window up, but for ease of discussion, we will be mainly answering questions and comments posted on the Goodreads group page made before the online meeting. This is just to save on distraction and keep the discussion going. As usual, if you cannot make it to the live discussion, the recording will be on YouTube for you to watch at your leasiure.
Library Users If your library does not have 84, Charing Cross Road you may be able to get it through your library's Interlibrary Loan system. (This is where your library borrows the book from another library on very specific terms.) Check to see if your library has an Interlibrary Loan (ILL) and request a copy through that service. Sometimes it takes a few weeks for the book to get to you from the other institution, so plan for that turnaround time. You can see what libraries own 84, Charing Cross Road through WorldCat.
Just released yesterday from Simon & Schuster is the newest book by Nina Sankovitch entitled Signed, Sealed, Delivered: Celebrating the Joys of Letter Writing. They were kind enough to send us a couple of copies to review (which they sent via USPS appropriately), and I will come right out and say that they did so with ample time for me to read it. I opened up the package, read the forward and then put it on top of the "To Be Reviewed" pile. (My system of organization is a pile system.) And it stayed there until last night. (I am honest when it comes to reviews, I must say.)
Signed, Sealed, Delivered tells the story of how Nina finds a trunk of old letters in a house and how those letters, almost a century later, still have an effect on her. She then looks to why that is and attempts to work out what makes letters so magical. The book wanders in and out of memory and information in a delightful way. It feels very effortless, to dance back and forth between the letters of past and the life of Nina Sankovitch. Some of the letters she cites are personal, others are historical, and some are both.
This is one of the best books on letters and the love of letters that I have read in a while. It's not just a dry listing or a facsimile. It really makes letters live. It's a great book. It's so great a book that I don't want to give it away... But I am! Leave a comment with what letters you save and why, and if you don't save them leave that too. I'll pick a winner at random in about a week. Standard Letter Writers Alliance contest rules apply. You'll be asked to give your member number to claim your prize and if you're International, you'll have to cover the shipping. (Contest has ended, thank you!) Honestly, you should really just go buy one. It's that good.
I picked up this book as part of a letter writing book buying spree. I won't deny that the cover really caught my eye. Those silhouettes, the pillar box, the stamp edges; it's all very lovely and speaks to me. Kind Regards: The Lost Art of Letter-Writing by Liz Williams is a pretty basic book. It's really elementary stuff. There's little bits of trivia, a historical letter or two, and some guidelines. I wish the design sense of the cover continued inside, but it's mainly clip art repeats and rough newsprint pages. It's sustainable paper though, according to the cover.
This is not a book for me. I suspect it's not really a book for the readers of this blog either. This is a book for someone who has no clue about letter writing, and there are those people out there. There are people who truly have no idea where to put the address on the envelope. I've seen them. This is a great book for them. If you know someone who might be in to writing letters, someone probably between the ages of 10 and 20, then I think that a copy of this book (plus maybe a membership to the Letter Writers Alliance)(eh?) would be an excellent gift.
So, here's a little contest. Leave a comment telling me about who you would give the book and a free membership to as a gift. I'll pick one at random and send you the copy and a membership. It's open to all L.W.A. members. Do not leave your member number in the comment; I'll ask for it when you claim your prize. This is open to International members, but you'll have to pay for shipping which will be $24.00. Good luck! The contest is now closed!
Do you know the Parcel Ghost? He used to be a mailman, but now he's a ghost. That doesn't slow him down though. He's a ghost that really gets around. Check out the Tumblr of all his adventures and follow along with his postal tips in his handy and informative zine! L.W.A. members, guess what!? You can win one of those zines if you send a postcard to the Parcel Ghost at P.O. Box 380582, Cambridge, MA 02238. Three winners will be selected from the postcards recieved. The deadline is October 31st, 2013! Trick or treat!
Since I am a librarian by day, I love being able to talk about books that are about letter writing. I was tipped off to Love & Salt by the publishers, but haven't had a chance to read it. Although I love letter writing (obviously), I don't think I am the intended audience for this book, but that doesn't mean you won't enjoy it.
The book is about two women who become friends in real life and when they moved away from each other, they decided to maintain their friendship through letters. The letters deal with motherhood, grief, and their Catholic faith. There are some interesting reviews of it on Goodreads, if you want to find out more about the book.
For those who are interested in just the letter writing aspect, the authors have several interviews that discuss their chosen form of communication. The one I found the most interesting is the video on how friendships get stronger through letter writing.
I agree with what Amy Andrews says about how, in letters, you are able to explore topics that would otherwise be awkward in person. It is an aspect of letters I've always loved; the intimacy and feeling the person with you, yet having a sense of being on your own. It is also interesting what she says about falling into the role of playing yourself. I'm not sure if I agree with that, but I do find that letters allow me to explore different types of ideas than I normally do. A letter is a great place to question an idea, test a concept...you have time to think it out and the reader has time to ponder it. What do you think about this difference between in person and on paper friendships?
If you've read this book, please leave your thoughts on it in the comments.
I have been a long-time subscriber to UPPERCASE magazine. I love the design of it as well as the content. They often feature the tangible artistry that really tickles my fancy. There's also an excellent typewriter book coming. With delight, I discovered that, not only is the recent issue focused on stationery, but there is a stationery guide available online. Thanks Uppercase! Keep doing the best of what you do!
The types of etiquette questions we handle today are very different than those of the 1920s, but I got a real kick out of reading this little antique guide. Did you know that you were supposed to have different custom stationeries for when you were traveling, and for when you were on your yacht, and for when you were at your club? Nowadays, it's considered the height of good manners to send a thank you note, but stationery and letter writing used to be a strictly regulated system of social graces. Here are some examples from The Etiquette of Letter Writing.
While I'm not advocating for a return to the rules about what alignment of monogram is acceptable for a correspondence card, I am a champion of courtesy and kindness. Kathy and I have, in the past, gotten a lot of questions surrounding the world of modern letter writing. We've decided to start a feature on this blog called "Postal Queries" or "Ps & Qs" for short. If you have a question for us, please send us a note to the P.O. Box or an electronic mail. We'll answer what we can to the best of our ability. Tune in later this week for our first question and answer.
Women of Letters is a lecture series and now a book curated by Marieke Hardy and Michaela McGuire. "Some of Australia’s finest dames of stage, screen and page have delivered missives on a series of themes, collected here for the first time. Claudia Karvan sends ‘A love letter’ to love itself, Helen Garner contacts ghosts of her past in ‘The letter I wish I’d written’, Noni Hazlehurst dispatches a stinging rebuke ‘To my first boss’, and Megan Washington pays tribute to her city and community as she writes ‘To the best present I ever received’."
Although they are based in Australia, there is an upcoming event on March 27th at the Housing Works Bookstore Cafe in New York City. "Australia's best-selling literary salon comes to New York for a lively celebration of the lost art of letter writing. Seven outstanding females read live missives "To the person I misjudged." Stamps provided." I think the most intriguing bit is that last line, "Stamps provided." If you are in the area, I'd encourage you to go. Thanks to Member Adrienne for the tip!
I have no idea why I haven't read this book. It is one of my favorite authors, J.R.R. Tolkien, and one of my favorite things, letters, together in one. Letters from Father Christmas collects the letter written and illustrated byTolkien. The magical part is that he wrote them as the character of Father Christmas. This book was recommended to us by Member Katie and you can read more about it and see some of the interior illustrations on her blog.There are two versions of the book. One was published in 1976 (Father Christmas Letters) and the other in 2004 (Letters from Father Christmas). The 2004 edition has more content according to the wisdom of Wikipedia. Have you read this? Do you love it? Any other holiday and letter book recommendations to share? Please leave us a comment about what you're reading and writing about this winter holiday time.
In this era of instantaneous communication, a handwritten letter is a rare and wondrous item. The Letter Writers Alliance is dedicated to preserving this art form. Prepare your pen and paper, moisten your tongue, and get ready to write more letters!
May 28th (Thursday)
Chicago, IL Letter Social
Uncle Art Gallery 7-9pm 1359 N Maplewood Ave
Join us and our typewriters to write some letters together. We will have mail art supplies, stationery, and a few of our old-fangled typing machines available for your use. Free!
May 30th (Saturday)
Chicago, IL OBSCURA DAY 2015
L.W.A. Clubhouse Several time slots available
Enjoy exclusive access to the Letter Writers Alliance Club House in celebration of Obscura Day. You'll see the inner sanctum of operations for the letter writing organization and have an opportunity to write letters and postcards using vintage typewriters.
Your ticket includes free supplies and typewriter time. Donovan, the Letter Writers Alliance typewriter expert, will be on hand to answer questions, troubleshoot cranky machines and make pithy comments. Come join us and type a letter or two!
Tickets: $5 Purchase options available soon!
June 6th (Saturday)
Chicago, IL Postcard Party
606 Opening Celebration, 10am-6pm
Humboldt Blvd between Cortland & Wabansia
Write some postcards and explore the new Bloomingdale Trail with us. Free!
June 7th (Sunday)
Chicago, IL Mix & Mailology
L.W.A. Clubhouse 3:30-5pm
Old Fashions and Wax Seals, two old-timey things we love. Learn the secrets of mixing an excellent Old Fashion and making the perfect wax impression on your envelopes. We will also have other wax-like experiments for your mail art pleasure. Our solutions, both alcoholic and artistic, will surprise you. All materials, including liquid forms, will be provided.
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July 12th (Sunday)
World-Wide L.W.A. Book Club
Join Kathy, Donovan, and a special guest Margaret Haas (of Paper Pastries) via live video while we discuss Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn. Discussion and further info can be found on the Goodreads book group page. Event Page
The L.W.A. was established in 2007 by Kathy Zadrozny & Donovan Beeson. These two ladies manage every aspect of the Alliance, from design, to packing orders, to maintaining the website. The L.W.A. is a labor of love and we are happy you have joined us in sharing a love for letters.