Monthly Archives: May 2013

Some Notes on Notebooks (and Notepaper)

In Which Our Heroine Confesses To An Addiction Or Two

I love notebooks. Each bundle of paper is a work of art, brimming with beautiful potential, waiting to be filled with thoughts. Some of those thoughts may develop into stories, finished drawings, or letters. Others may be complete in themselves, inky records of a passing inspiration or reminder.

Imagine, if you will, a mind like mine, confronted with a display of notebooks. These notebooks may be physically in front of me, or they may be attractively ranged across my computer screen. My mind is already planning what I would write in each one, whether it would reside on my desk or be carried in my purse, how just owning this notebook would encourage me to write, make my writing better, make my life more organized.

Before I know it, I’ve fallen for one (or more) of the beautiful covers and promises of perfect paper, traipsed over to the checkout counter (or clicked my way to my Virtual Shopping Cart), and voila! I am the proud owner of yet another attractively-bound package of paper potential.

This is why I have a closet drawer full of notebooks, lined and blank, large and small. Some of them have one page filled with a sketch or a few notes, which is a pity. If they were still completely blank, I could give them away to friends who would use them.

The trouble is that tastes change with the times. I used to carry a backpack practically everywhere, so carrying a large notebook or sketchbook with me at all times seemed more reasonable. (I was a student, so carrying a lot of heavy books was less of an issue back then.) Nowadays, my pack is much smaller, both for space and health reasons. It turns out that carrying a large backpack with everything in it you might need if you had the attention span of a concussed goldfish about with you at all times is not precisely good for your back, your knees, your ankles, or any of your other joints. Thus, the notebook I carry with me everywhere (more on this in a future blog entry) is considerably smaller and more of a combination notebook and sketchbook. Not only that, but I have become quite fond of writing with fountain pens, which means I have been forced to become much, much pickier about paper and ink.

Thus, many of my older notebooks have been deemed “unsuitable” for daily carry and left in the drawer. (I really should pull them out for drawing at home. I hate waste.)

In any case, on to the True Confession: Not only did I purchase two notebooks during my recent trip to New York, but I have also ordered ink and stationery. Remember how I said that part of the reason for me to start this whole letter-and-art-sending habit was to try to use up my stationery supplies? Well…that’s been rather a failure so far. On the bright side, it means that I can soon do some reviews of the new paper and inks, once I’ve started using them.

To be fair, I sent my first LWA Pen Pal Letter on paper that I already had in my drawer. I was very proud of myself–old paper, written nicely, with hand-drawn art (snails) on both letter and envelope. However, did I remember to scan, or even photograph, my work before I sent it off? I did not. I may have gotten a little overexcited. Still, we shall see what comes of it. I hope she writes back soon.

I also received my first letter from my second LWA Pen Pal! I wrote back to her the same day (no photos of that, either–I am sorry), and that went in the mail yesterday. I’m very excited about her–we have so many interests in common! I hope she writes back soon.

Today’s mail included a small note to an Aunt with whom I had lost touch. We used to send mail art to one another long, long ago, and I am hoping to rekindle that tradition with her.

At this point, all of my stationery has arrived, and also more ink from J. Herbin. I just can’t resist those little canisters!

What have you been writing lately? Have you bought anything fun? Have you written to a friend? Have you made a new one?

Categories: Confessions, Mailings | Tags: , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Joining The Alliance

In Which Our Heroine Receives Her First Assignment

Guess what came in the mail today?

My first Pen Pal Assignment from the Letter Writers Alliance!

I am rather excited. Her address is in New York, not far from where I visited in April. I can’t wait to start writing–but how do I introduce myself? Should I send a resume’? A biography? A list of interests? A drawing of a cat? I know nothing of her, and she knows nothing of me. What would create the best first impression? Is there an etiquette manual about this?

Perhaps I should simply hope to impress her with my penmanship. Perhaps I am overthinking this, as usual.

In other news, Mailing #4 is winging its way to a friend in need!

My friend is going through a tough time–I hope that receiving this in the mail will bring a smile to her face.

Time to write!

Categories: Introductions, Mailings, Pondering | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Post on the Post

In Which Our Heroine Ponders The Etiquette Of Letters–Perhaps Too Extensively

As I prepared for my Pen Pal Assignment from the LWA, I decided that it would behoove me to study the proper way to write letters. I would hate to unintentionally offend new friends, especially on first acquaintance. As the old saying goes, one only has one chance to make a good impression.

To that end, I have referred to Emily Post, that Empress of Etiquette, for she wrote her book during a time when long, chatty letters were still being written–or so I thought.

Imagine my surprise when I read the following from Chapter 28 of Emily’s Etiquette, “Longer Letters”:
The art of general letter-writing in the present day is shrinking until the letter threatens to become a telegram, a telephone message, a postcard. Since the events of the day are transmitted in newspapers with far greater accuracy, detail, and dispatch than they could be by the single effort of even Voltaire himself, the circulation of the general news, which formed the chief reason for letters of the stage-coach and sailing-vessel days, has no part in the correspondence of to-day.
Taking the contents of an average mail bag as sorted in a United States post-office, about fifty per cent. is probably advertisement or appeal, forty per cent. business, and scarcely ten per cent. personal letters and invitations. Of course, love letters are probably as numerous as need be, though the long-distance telephone must have lowered the average of these, too. Young girls write to each other, no doubt, much as they did in olden times, and letters between young girls and young men flourish today like unpulled weeds in a garden where weeds were formerly never allowed to grow.
It is the letter from the friend in this city to the friend in that, or from the traveling friend to the relative at home, that is gradually dwindling. As for the letter which younger relatives dutifully used to write–it has gone already with old-fashioned grace of speech and deportment.

In 1922 New York, Emily Post was already mourning the decline of the Posted Letter. (Her dig at the Younger Generation and Their Decline is one of many and can be set aside for the moment.) Like many of us here in 2013, she felt a nostalgia for the joys of the written word, winging its way from far-away parts to bring news, well-wishes, and loving thoughts from one who is temporarily out of sight, but never out of mind.

Luckily, Emily goes on to say that “…people do write letters in this day and there are some who possess the divinely flexible gift for a fresh turn of phrase, for delightful keenness of observation.” There is hope, it seems, for the Posted Letter, even among the despised Younger Generation.

In Chapter 27, “Notes and Shorter Letters,” and the aforementioned Chapter 28, “Longer Letters,” Emily Post indicates, in the minutest detail, the proper way to go about writing different sorts of letters. She emphasizes things like legibility, spelling, and even appropriate stationery–chosen not just for its suitability to the writer’s societal position and the occasion for writing, but also to the writer’s individual handwriting and style. A letter must not only be coherent and clever, but also aesthetically pleasing.

Once one cuts through all the specifics, however, the etiquette of letter writing seems to boil down to the following: When writing a letter, do your best to display the care and affection you feel for the recipient in every aspect of your efforts, from your choice of writing paper to your penmanship and spelling to the way you address and seal the envelope. Your letter is a sign of your regard, and your respect for your recipient should show in every fold of paper and dash of ink.

Fashions of both speech and writing change, but etiquette is still the act of showing respect to one’s fellow human beings. I hope that my future pen pals, as well as my friends and relations, see the esteem in which I hold them in the letters that I write.

Categories: Pondering | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

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