letters

Ode to writing letters, and cauliflower soup

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I’m not going to deny it’s cold out there. The children race ahead of me to the playground, seemly oblivious to the biting wind, and the fact that there are scratches of frost amid the remnants of last night’s rain on the monkey-bars and the spinning tourniquet.

Their games start almost immediately and, to the soundtrack of their laughter, I find a section of bench that is seeing sun (or that might possibly see sun one day). I bring a little towel with me so that I can dry a space to sit down, and then pull out a note-pad and a pen, and ease my gloves off, one finger at a time.

And now, while the children swing and slide and leap and spin, I write letters. I write to strangers, I write to friends. I write to family, I write to my children’s teachers, I write to Instagrammers and podcasters I admire. I write about the produce I found at the market, about walks we take in the woods, about books I’m reading, cakes I’m baking, dreams I’m dreaming, and about the way time runs at a different pace in France.

I write until my fingers turn red from the cold, and then blue, and then wrinkle until they look twice my age. The children race past me, shrieking with laughter during some great game or another. I blow on my fingers, I shake them out, and then I write some more.

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Later when we are home, I pull out the pencils and paints. Trace around my trusty wooden envelope-template, and make up designs that I think people will enjoy, inspired by the world around me right now. A café in Paris where we drank hot chocolate and ate croissants. Sunflowers that I’d picked up at the market in London two days earlier. A castle in Bretagne. The picnic we enjoyed in summer at the ruins. Rosehips from the basket-full I picked from the hedgerows, the swan we admired in St James’ Park, my mother’s vegetable garden.

When I’m done, I fold each painting into an envelope that will carry these tiny moments and stories from our lives along highways and past mountains, across bridges and over oceans. From autumn to winter, or spring, or rainy-season, or dry. To vast cities and country villages, rural outposts and marshy islands.

All for the low, low price of two euros.

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Sitting in the cold playground and writing these letters, these long, rambling spillings-out of my days, feels like I’m returning to my roots. It’s not that I ever stopped writing letters, but the luxury of time to write in this way isn’t something I’ve given myself in many years. (Note that I say “given myself” rather than “been given,” because too many times I’ve claimed not to have time when, in reality it was simply that I chose to spend my time in other ways).

I’ve heard it said, and in fact I talk about it in my letter-writing course, that writing something down by hand (rather than typing) aids the memory. It’s something called “reflective functioning.” We feel the event or experience all over again as we write it down, and then reflect on it and make sense of it as we read it back. Perhaps by writing down the seemingly mundane but often precious moments of my days, I am helping to commit them to memory and heart, my letters becoming an act of mindfulness and gratitude, appreciation for the littlest of things that bring joy.

But I sometimes wonder if, in not only writing these things down but also sharing them with someone else, I am doing more than committing them to memory. Maybe I am giving them lives of their own.

What if, upon reading of the intricate romanesco broccoli I picked up at the market on Thursday, my correspondent is inspired to make her famous roasted cauliflower soup, and invites friends over to share it? The conversation and laughter last well into the night, and it is a simple experience of friendship and hygge. That wasn’t my letter, but maybe a letter could spark such a thing?

This is the power of words shared. They don’t stop on the page and, from the moment we drop our letters into that post-box, they no longer belong to us. To me this is a beautiful thing, and the fact that I can never know if or what my letter might spark in someone else does not make the imagining any less joyful.

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Loneliness, letters, and a new challenge

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"Are you lonely Mummy?" Scout slips her little hand into mine and looks up at me with concern.

I have been encouraging my children to interact with other children here in France. We go to the playground most afternoons, around about the time that the French children come out of school. Ralph and Scout are signing up for karate and ballet respectively and, with some help from the maire (the mayor), they have both been given special dispensation to attend Ecole Maternelle, despite the short time we are here and the fact that Scout is the wrong age. 

At first, they pushed back. They are such good friends, my little ones, and almost entirely self-sufficient. They didn't feel the need to fight their shyness or traverse the language barrier to make new friends. But I persisted, and like the brave little champions they are, they have acquiesced.

But all my talk about making friends and not being lonely took root, and now they are worried about me. "What will you do?" they want to know. "How will you make friends?"

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Apparently, we (and by "we" I mean "the Western world") are in the midst of what is being called a loneliness epidemic. 

Digital technology has made communication easier and faster than ever before, but it turns out that when it comes to psychology and mental health, communication is not the same as connection

In a recent survey of more than 20,000 American adults, close to half reported feeling alone, left out, and isolated. One in four Americans said they rarely felt understood. 

Scientists and psychologists are now saying that social isolation and loneliness will reach "epidemic proportions" by 2030, and that this will create a public health crisis. The latest research, based on more than 70 studies covering close to 4 million people from across North America, Europe, and Australia, has found that loneliness and social isolation significantly increase the risk of premature death.

It all drills down to this: feeling connected to others is a fundamental human need. 

On the other hand, while connection and communication are not the same thing, neither are connection and proximity the same. Many of those people in the previous studies who said they were lonely were living with a partner. This backs up something that I firmly believe: the key to combating loneliness is not about how many relationships you have (or how many Facebook friends, YouTube followers or Instagram followers you have), but about how meaningful your relationships are.

That's why I feel OK, and how I attempt to ease the fears of my children on my behalf. I have moved states and countries enough times that my friends are scattered all over the world. I have learned how to remain connected despite being geographically separated. That's not to say I don't genuinely love a coffee catch-up with my dear friends, or to share a meal with my husband at the end of a long day, but I do know how to feel connected when we are apart.

The sting of loneliness can be felt by just about anyone, at any age and in any circumstance. However, social isolation and disorienting experiences can definitely create or exacerbate feelings of loneliness. So people in nursing homes, hospitals and prisons, for example, as well as migrants, people who are unwell at home, and the live-in carers of people who are unwell at home, are more likely to become quite lonely. 

This is a beautifully and sensitively-written article that talks more about modern loneliness. 

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So I was thinking. What if we were to all reach out to people who were either lonely, or at risk of feeling the kind of social isolation that leads to loneliness? Could you help? 

A week-long challenge

International Letter Writing Week is coming up next month (it's the week that coincides with the official UN World Post Day, on 9 October). What if we were all to commit to writing a letter or a postcard a day to someone who is lonely, throughout that week, to help them feel more connected?

A letter is a lovely way to share your emotions, and invite others into parcels of your days, that is second only to catching up face-to-face. Even the tangible nature of your letters - your handwriting, the stationery you chose, any gifts or embellishments you made - make them personal. For someone who is experiencing loneliness or isolation, your letter is like a hug, and the time you give to properly reading a letter from them is a listening ear, or possibly even the shoulder they need to cry on.

You don't need to write "I thought you might be feeling lonely" (no-one wants a pity-letter!). Just write "I was thinking of you and thought I'd write to say hello." You could write to the same person seven days in a row, or write to a different person each day. Here are some ideas: 

Of course, the act of writing to someone, when you write from the heart, does you bucket-loads of good as well. Sometimes I feel quite selfish when I'm writing my letters, because writing and making them makes me feel so good. Probably, it helps me stave off the loneliness I might otherwise be feeling, too. 

In the article I linked to above, loneliness is described as "a let-out-of-breath topic." So many people feel this kind of social malaise, and it's so nice that we can all be allowed to talk about it at last, and not feel any stigma. Maybe if we all get writing, we can turn the tide of isolation, and start to forge real connections again. 

What do you think? Are you in? 


ps. If you're in the mood for even more letter-writing inspiration, I want to remind you about my letter-writing and mail-art e-course, "The Most Beautiful Letter You Have Ever Written," from which this challenge-theme and the list in it was taken.  

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Over four weeks, I will guide you through multiple methods of making beautiful mail-art and creative, handmade stationery; teach you the art of writing and storytelling; help you forge personal connections in your letters and find pen-pals if you want them; and share time-management tips so even the busiest people can enjoy sending and receiving letters. There's also a host of downloadable resources, and access to my own private mail-art pen-pal group. Registrations are open right now, and you can find out more here

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Thinking of you

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Sometimes do you find that the longer you leave a conversation, the harder it is to have? I'm not talking about "tricky subject" conversations necessarily, even something as lovely as a catch-up with a dear friend. If you haven't seen or spoken to your friend in weeks or months, a quick half-hour catch-up over coffee just won't do it: there's too much to say, too much to retell! And so you put off the coffee until you can plan a dinner, or a whole afternoon. But time races on and you never do find the enough time to do that, and all the missed conversations between you accumulate, and something as ineffectual as a half-hour coffee catch-up seems even more ridiculous. 

That's a little bit how I feel about this blog right now. There's so much I have to say and share that I don't even know where to start. And I don't really have the time to be telling all the stories, but I miss this blog. I've put off writing in here because I feel too busy to tell the full story. But then all I do in the meantime is collect more stories, and neglect this little space. 

Last week I was hunting for a blog post I'd written a while back and, as I scrolled through my own archives, it made me so happy and a little nostalgic to read back through all those stories. I called my blog "Naomi Loves" because I wanted it to document the things I love: things made, discovered and celebrated. I have protected it as my own space, choosing not to monetise or do anything else that would let this blog belong to someone else. It is my happy place, and yours if similar things make you happy. And reading back over it the other night did make me happy. 

So I'm back, even if only for a half-hour coffee chat. A similar equivalent is when I tell my letter-writing students not to always feel they have to write a grand epistle. Sometimes, the weight of writing an amazing letter gets in the way of writing any letter at all. So I tell them, "Write a postcard. Tell the person, 'I'm thinking of you.'" This is my postcard to my blog, and to you. I'm thinking of you! 

Here are some things I've been doing lately... 

* Wrote and launched my Create with Confidence mentoring program and e-course, which is up and running now (I can't wait to share all the amazing things my students are creating. They are the most incredible bunch of women.) 

* Gave an interview to Issue 23 of Flow magazine, and took over their Pinterest board for a month

* Learned how to make pasta properly at a children's workshop (pictured) hosted by Lunch Lady magazine with the lovely Julia Ostro. (Four-year-old Ralph also learned how to pronounce orecchiette to perfection) 

* Visited Orange in NSW for the My Open Kitchen gathering, an entire weekend of wisdom, inspiration and community, and chatted with Skye Manson on the My Open Kitchen podcast about art, books, community, and kindness

* Talked to In Clover magazine (volume 4) about letter-writing and slow living, and how to make mail-art

* Finished writing my book The Art of Mail, finalised the cover art, sent it to design, and am now finalising the last of the illustrations to go inside

* Nervously joined sales coach Jessica Lorimer on her podcast to receive on-air coaching about how to sell my courses with integrity, gentleness and consideration

* Finally convinced my family to go camping with me. We were woefully under-prepared, and froze all night, but the children are still talking about it with joy months later 

* Had the most lovely natter with Miranda Mills on the Tea & Tattle podcast, all about letter writing and forging real connections

* Shared my thoughts about the joys of letter-writing in the family issue of Peppermint magazine  

* Wrote a mini e-book for people who struggle to find the time for their creativity, called Time to Make (it's free for subscribers to my newsletter and you can get a copy here)

It seems like a lot when I write it all down like that. No wonder I'm so tired! I hope you'll share what you've been up to, too. It's time I stopped talking, and started listening! 

 

Talk soon, Naomi xo

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Creativity, kindness, and the Internet

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So, this is one of the most beautiful stories I have ever had the pleasure of sharing. A few weeks ago, I shared a photograph of this mail-art on my Instagram account: a painted journey (kind of a map for the postie) of the route my letter will take, from my home in Melbourne, out through the suburbs, past vineyards and the iconic Hanging Rock (remember?), all the way to Pippa's house in a country town at the edge of the Macedon Ranges.

A day later, I received a message from a beautiful German lady called Fine. She had used my mail-art as inspiration to write a short story about a different sort of journey, the slow unfolding of an old man from retirement and grief to openness and adventure. She wrote the story "just because," and sent it to me as a gift. With her permission, I have reproduced it for you here (I gave the story its title, but the rest of the words are Fine's own).

Fine's gift of this story left me slightly breathless. I am always telling people that writing a letter (as opposed to, say, an email or Facebook message) is extra special because you are giving someone the gift of your time. I feel the same way about this story, because she took the time to think about my painting, and through it brought an old man to life with her words.

The next time social media algorithms or online bullying or targeted advertisements on the Internet weigh you down, think about Fine, and this story, and how people all over the world are making the Internet work for them (not the other way around), using it to spread creativity and kindness as far as they can go.


GUS AND THE YELLOW BICYCLE 

by Fine Winkel

The elderly white haired man with his old and rusty yellow bicycle (that squeaked with every step on the pedal) had long ago stopped dreaming. Had stopped caring, and had stopped doing anything wholeheartedly.

When he woke in the morning, he allowed himself to wince for just a second, glimpsing at the empty pillow next to his, where he used to see Erna’s red curls and her beautiful, warm smile first thing every morning. As the red had faded into white Erna had begun to fade away herself, somehow getting smaller and in the end with her, all the laughter, the friendly chatter, the music and the delicious smell of apple cake had disappeared. After she was gone, the house felt empty and cold, and the lines on his face were no longer from smiling but from cruel scribbles of grief.

His light-blue mailman uniform was still pressed and the remaining strains of his white hair were neatly tucked under his dark blue cap, but he avoided looking into the mirror over the bathroom sink other than to shave, because he could hear Erna’s frail voice making him give three promises on the last morning they had woken up next to each other… and he could practically see her disappointment reflected in his own eyes.

The promise to call their son every week, the promise to harvest the crunchy and juicy apples from the tree they had planted together when their son George was born (so he could make apple cake with Molly, their granddaughter, who had inherited her grannie’s red curls and twinkling green eyes), and the promise to go to the pound and adopt a deserted old dog who would trot alongside his bike on his daily delivery routes.

He had tried the first year, he really did. But he wasn’t good at putting his feelings into words, so he had stopped calling George after a few stilted conversations with increasing periods of silence. He couldn’t find Erna’s recipe book so the cake had been a disaster, and Molly seemed to be afraid of the haggard-faced old man who had instead served dry-as-dust cookies from the rear end of the kitchen cupboard, having forgotten to buy milk and ice-cream, so he had stopped inviting her. He had made his way down to the pound several times, but just couldn‘t bring himself to walk into the sterile, rectangular building that crouched at the bottom of the hill just outside the village, for fear that even the poor creatures inside would sense his grief and plainly refuse to come home with him. 

So when old mailman Gus stepped into the red-brick Post Office for the last time, the day before his dreaded retirement, he didn’t expect in the least that his life would be going to be turned upside down in a heartbeat. He didn’t mind that there wasn’t any bon-voyage bunting over the door, or a cake in the break room, or even a card on his small desk to bid farewell to one of their own after 49 years of doing his duty and unfailingly delivering each and every letter to his destination. He had become solitary, and his sendoff would be a silent one.

Still, he would miss slipping into his uniform and feeling his life still had a small purpose in this world. 

Gus began to re-sort the few letters addressed by hand that couldn’t be read by the machine that by now did all the sorting. To make out the flowing handwriting, Gus had to put on his glasses, which he knew would have made Erna giggle with delight at her husband’s vanity and tell him, “Honey, maybe it’s a good thing you’re as blind as a bat without your glasses and you refuse to wear them. Your eyes have a built-in Gaussian blur to hide all my imperfections.” He briskly shoved aside this sentimental thought and concentrated on the task ahead, just now noticing an envelope at the bottom of the pile. 

During almost twelve hundred days of delivering mail, Gus had never seen a letter more beautiful, and was instantly reminded of the most exquisite illustrations in an old children’s book Erna had loved to read to little George and later to Molly. The kids had spent hours discovering small details and oohing and ahhing over tiny maps depicting the magical village surrounded by woods steeped in legend. It made him sad to see all this elaborate drawing on the letter, knowing it would never arrive at its destination behind the densely wooded mountains. His replacement Kevin, though much younger and stronger than Gus, wouldn’t care for the extra work and would just mark it return-to-sender or, even worse, put it into a folder and forget it ever existed.

Once again Gus could hear Erna’s voice, but this time it wasn’t frail or sad or disappointed: it was strong and energetic, and it reminded him of all the adventures that he, George and their dog Albert had planned while studying the cherished illustrated map. More than once they had packed their backpacks and taken their bikes to start on an adventure, coming home sweaty and with messy hair, but with enormous smiles on their faces, to breathlessly tell Erna everything they had seen, while eating cake fresh from the oven.

No, he wouldn’t let this envelope that had, as if by magic, replaced his wife’s sad mutter with joyous incentive, just sit in a folder gathering dust. He would – and he couldn’t quite grasp his own boldness – deliver the letter himself, and start on an adventure once more. Quickly he glanced around, making sure no one saw him slipping the envelope into his pocket. 

He hadn’t felt this alive in years, as the warm fall afternoon turned into night, and he made his way home from the pound on his squeaky old bike with a new faithful companion by his side.

For now he would call George and ask him to come over for apple pie next week (the handwritten recipe book had been found lying in a box with Albert’s old bowl and collar, clever Erna). But first thing tomorrow, Gus and the chocolate Labrador, Hamilton, would embark on an adventure. And he couldn’t wait... 

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Celebrating the makers

template-designs-1 Above: a collection of envelopes using my designs by @sculptedfilms on Instagram 

Can we all please just take a moment to appreciate all the lovely work that people all over the world are putting into these print-and-paint snail-mail templates? 

I have put off writing this blog post because I didn't know quite how to express how happy it makes me, sending my mail designs into the world, and then seeing how people are using them and making them their own, in order to send creative mail to others. It still sounds trite when I put it like that, but it truly warms my heart to see people actually using and enjoying what I make... and knowing that they in turn are bringing joy to others through the post. 

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Above: transparent envelope by Snailmailcool on Facebook

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Above (clockwise from top-left): coloured envelopes by @murderingtime on Instagram, @lyndsey.thiessen on Instagram, @seniahhandmade on Instagram, @allyt_hobart on Instagram 

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Above left, rainbow hare envelopes by @lyndsey.thiessen on Instagram, top right by @elisef03 on Instagram, bottom right by @allyt_hobart on Instagram 

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Above: strawberry, flower and book envelopes by @murderingtime on Instagram 

If you don't know what this is all about, I create envelope templates with mail-art designs on them, that people can print off and turn into decorative envelopes to send through the post. They are free, and I send new designs out every month via my newsletter, Snail Mail Toolkit. You can sign up to receive them (as well as a free copy of my e-book, Making Mail: 10 steps to writing letters that become keepsakes, here

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Valma's letters

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Processed with VSCO with a8 preset When I was a teenager, an old lady named Valma used to write me the longest letters. Easily 20 pages or more, in scrawling cursive on foolscap paper.

Valma and her husband Bill lived in a two-room hut on a little dirt road called Saddler's Lane, and I came to know them because I would ride by their place on my way to a creek at the bottom of the valley. When she heard the clop-clop of my horse's hooves, Valma would rush towards me to say hello: she got around with a funny swinging motion on two crutches, because her legs didn't work. We'd stand and chat at her old farm gate while my horse grazed nearby.

Valma would never accept my invitations to come tea at our place. She said she was too embarrassed to ever return the hospitality because her house had no floor, just beaten earth, and no water.

Sometimes I would bring her gifts of fruit from our trees, or a slice my mother had made, and hand them to her over the farm gate. After we moved away and I couldn't ride past any more, Valma and I became irregular pen pals for many years, up until she died.

Then a few months ago my parents brought some papers to my place, and Valma's letters were among them. All those memories of our old friendship came flooding back...

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Wish you were here

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How would you like to receive a 100-year-old postcard in the mail?

I found several books of antique souvenir postcards at a market stall on the weekend. I kind of want to keep them because they are quite beautiful, however, call me sentimental but I also kind of want to give them flight.

So I have decided to do just that.

Postcards have always been created to travel the world through the post, carrying messages of surprise and thoughtfulness and silly stories and "wish you were here." That's their destiny. They shouldn't be hidden away in boxes or drawers, and these particular postcards have waited an entire century to be free.

Would you like one? I have 60 postcards, and I'm happy to send them to anyone, anywhere in the world. I might tell you a little story, share a moment from my life, or write a snippet of a poem. It'll be a surprise and, like the postcards themselves, each message will be different.

If you'd like to receive one of these lovely, old postcards in your letterbox, simply give me your address and I'll get writing. You can either do-so in the comments, or, if you'd prefer to keep your address private, use the form I've created below. I'll choose the postcards randomly, and send them out on a first-come, first-served basis. I'm happy to write to your friends and family too, if you want to send me their addresses.

I'll update this blog post to let you know when I've run out of postcards.

Yours sincerely, Naomi xo

UPDATE 25 May, 10pm:  As of just now I have run out of postcards, so I have disabled the form and am sitting down to write the ones I promised. If you missed out, I'm sorry! I promise to host another project like this as soon as I can find more vintage postcards, so stay tuned. Meanwhile, I still send mail-art to subscribers of this blog, so if that is something that interests you, you can find more information and request mail here

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Do you need a reason to write a letter?

writeon-letters Just popping back in for a moment to let you know about an exciting, not-for-profit campaign that's running right now, to inspire people to start writing more letters. It's called Write_On, and everyone who gets involved makes a promise to write 30 letters in 30 days, during the month of April. It's a fun kind of group event, with everyone supporting each other and swapping ideas and sharing inspiration.

The idea started with Tess Darrow, founder of letterpress company Egg Press. “As the owner of a greeting-card company, I wanted to experience, first-hand, the benefits of a regular practice of writing cards,” she told me. “Letter writing is something that I enjoy, but often forget to do.”

The timeline went something like this.

April 2014: Tess set herself the challenge of writing 30 letters in 30 days, and some of her colleagues at Egg Press and at another letterpress company Hello!Lucky decided to join her. They invited the broader community to take part, and in the end they gave away 2000 free "kits" of letterpress cards to help people get started

April 2015: Word spread about Write_On and thousands more people joined in. Also joined by Sakura of America (makers of the gelly roll pen!), Tess and her friends sent out more than 5000 free letter-writing kits

April 2016: It's almost time! This year, they plan to send out 10,000 free kits to help encourage another 10,000 people to write letters to the people they love (or like or appreciate), but they need our help to make it happen.

They've launched a campaign on Indiegogo to raise the money to do this, and so much more. Depending on how much money they raise, here are the very exciting goals (in ascending order):

* with $15,000 raised, they'll send out all 10,000 kits, shipped internationally if needed * with $20,000 raised, they'll also support and equip 20 retailers around the US to host letter-writing events * with $40,000 raised, they'll do all of the above, plus bring Write_On to five schools to inspire the next generation, including supplying writing materials, and * with $60,000 raised, they'll reach more schools, keep things running all year round, and even go global!

As with all these sorts of crowd-funding campaigns, there are perks for every level of support. That's everything from stationery to tote bags and, because the organisers are talented letterpress artists, everything is super beautiful. Personally I am going a little bit crazy for the letter-writing-prompts calendar I've shared below. It is such an amazing idea!

Today I ordered groceries online and then they got knocked back because there wasn't enough money in our account, which is not only embarrassing but also annoying because I really wanted to make Lebanese bread pizzas tonight. My point being I can't afford to donate yet BUT there are three days left of this fundraiser (people! only three days left!!) and assuming the pay comes in on time, I am definitely going to support this wonderful campaign that is inspiring people all over the world to pick up a pen and write to someone.

"By donating, you're contributing to our goal of shifting Write_On from a passion project to a cultural movement" they say on the campaign page.

Which is rather special, don't you think?

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Image credit: all images from the Write_On Indiegogo campaign page

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Why I write letters to strangers

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA It is an odd thing to do, I know. But in case you're thinking I'm a bit strange (you wouldn't be alone) and you wonder why I spend so much of my time writing letters to people I've never met, here's a tiny sample of what greets me in my own letterbox, on a regular basis...

"Hello Naomi, You couldn't have timed your aerogramme more perfectly! My 90 year old dad went into hospital the day before and we found he would need surgery - at 90! I was feeling so blue but then arrived home to find your aerogramme! It was such a bright spot on such a tough day."

"Your beautiful letter was such a lovely surprise in my mail box this week! Thank you for taking the time to write to me!"

"Your package that arrived a few days ago just MADE my day!... I've been so inspired by your beautiful letters that I'd like to start a snail mail project of some kind here for the students."

"I want to thank you for your beautiful letter. Was a wonderful surprise!!! Really made so happy my day."

"Thank you so much for the beautiful letter you sent me! I was blown away by the care and attention you gave to it, opening it was such a joy!"

"I just wanted to say a huge thank-you for the beautiful snail-mail package that you sent me in the post. It arrived on a Monday and was so perfectly timed to brighten up my week."

"I was beyond excited when I saw a deliciously decorated brown parcel in my mailbox"

"Just wanted to tell you how excited our children were when they got your fantastic letters. My daughter is going to show her teacher..."

"Naomi! Oh your beautiful, beautiful letter. It arrived today! And what perfect timing..."

"Dear Naomi, I was trying to hide in the garden and weed the wild shady patches out of the blistering sun. My son was yelling with much excitement at clearing the letterbox. Time stopped! We gathered and sat on the porch, I held your magnificent letter in my hand. We studied the tangerine pigeon and slowly opened the letter. My Mum sat with me and my son, all sharing the moment. THANK YOU. It captured our hearts and was so filled with surprise and treasure. I have shared your letter with friends and I have begun to remember a time when I wrote letters often... Your envelope of joy reminds me of the simple power of human kindness. I think it's contagious (ain't that a wonderful thing!)."

 

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Hey letter-writers: do you want to be in my book?

winter-mail I think I might have mentioned but I haven’t really explained… I’m writing a new book! It's about snail-mail.

It’s been a long time between books for me - Airmail came out in 2011 and I wrote it a couple of years before that. I started and didn’t finish another novel in the interim, and I haven’t entirely given up on that but then I moved internationally, then I moved states six times, I got married, I had two babies within 18 months of each other, and, you know, LIFE got in the way.

In my naivety about life with kids I kept thinking “when the dust settles I’ll get back onto this or that creative project,” but now that my oldest daughter has reached the ripe old age of three, and my step-daughter is 17, I have realised that when it comes to parenting the dust NEVER settles and if you wait until life begins to resemble the way it was BC (Before Children), you will a) be doomed to creative-project purgatory and b) be wishing your children’s childhoods away.

So… I’m writing a new book. Busy life, work, children and all. AND… I want YOU to be in it!

My book is about snail-mail. I like to think of it as a companion to the growing number of snail-mail books that are beautifying our shelves. You know, the books that talk about how snail-mail is a dying movement; and the books that talk about the revival of snail-mail; the books that celebrate the history of snail-mail and its impact on human communication and connection; the books that talk about how snail-mail feeds the souls of both the senders and the recipients; and the books tell those of us who want to know WHY we should pick up a pen and write a letter, and HOW to go about making it extra special.

My book is the next logical step to those books. It doesn’t pit snail mail against email, or fast against slow. It celebrates the way the two can work together, to promote connection, creativity, purposeful communication, genuine thoughtfulness, and a sense of play, celebration, surprise and joy. In my book I celebrate the “mail heroes,” folks who are doing amazing, creative, surprising things with the post that inspire the rest of us. I introduce you to mail communities you can join (both online and offline); clever and creative projects you can be part of; and quirky resources and playful toys and activities that all put the joy back into writing and sending a letter.

It’s a little bit like the book version of my zine 19 ways to make snail mail (even more) fun, except at last count I had more than 100 snail-mail-esque goodies to write about in the book, every one of them with a “call to action,” a way you can get involved or create something or in some way enhance your own experience of and joy in writing letters.

Do you want to be in this book? I really hope so! Following are two ways you can be part of it (there may be more invitations to follow, but I’m not sure):

1. Tell me in one or two sentences, who should you write a letter to today, and why?

2. Did you participate in the write_on “30 letters in 30 days” challenge this year or last year? Please share in one or two sentences: “What I learned / gained from writing 30 letters in 30 days”

Email your answer(s) to me at nabulger (at) gmail (dot) com, and use the subject-heading “write_on" so I don’t lose you in the chaos that is my inbox.

I will quote you using your first and last name, unless you advise otherwise (I’ll follow any requests for pseudonyms etc you desire). If you’d like a bit of a plug, I’m happy to include ONE blog URL or social media link per person, so include that if you’d like to see it in the book.

I look forward to hearing from you, and please share this with your friends. It would be fabulous to get as many different responses as possible.

Yours truly, Naomi xo

(Image is from the Smithsonian Institution, on Flickr. No known copyright restrictions)

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