My grandchildren have discovered letter writing, and the joys of waiting for the postman. They look out for him, wondering if there is a letter for them, and I remember the excitement at the sound of the letterbox, the slide of an enveloppe on the lino, the rush to be first to get there.
When we start our workshops and ask people if they have ever written, many say that no, they have never written, except essays at school. But if we ask about writing letters, everyone remembers writing to family in America, to friends who have moved away. Some people still have all the letters they received, once a week sometimes. Gretta told us of writing to her friend in Africa once a week, recounting everything that she would usually have discussed with her – sports, kids, Coronation Street.
This month, Silver Thread are acting as go-between, postmen/women in a letter writing project between DCU volunteers and residents in the nursing home where we facilitated workshops before lockdown.
For young people and older, here are some tips on letter writing from the wonderful site Brain Pickings on How to Write Letters: a 19th Century Guide to the Lost Art of Epistolary Etiquette.,
“There is no other kind of writing that possesses for us such a living, human interest, as letters; for there is no other that comes so near to the private lives, ‘to the business and bosoms,’ of the writers. Though written, as all genuine letters are, for the private eye of one or two familiar friends, and without any thought of their publication, they nevertheless often form the most interesting and imperishable of an author’s productions.”
It is well worth reading the whole article, to know more about ink, paper, salutations and more.
Jon McGregor tells in the Guardian of a project which led to a book, publishing letters from many writers; the last one though is from a postman:
But the closing letter, fittingly, is from a retired postal worker in Alberta, Canada – Ken Sears. He writes about the letters he sorted during his career, and how he learned to spot the ones from prison, from lovers, from the person with hypergraphia, or people behaviourally compelled to write; and about how now, in retirement, despite a lifetime of seeing most of the mail he sorted as just so much landfill, he continues to write letters, “Because it’s a big, cold universe, and it feels just a little warmer believing there’s somebody out there, somewhere, who knows you’re still alive. I’ll keep on writing them, and the brothers and sisters down at the local PO will keep shoving them along. They make a few bucks. I draw my pension. I learn a few things and everybody’s happy.”
Two TED talks are also devoted to the art of letter writing, one starting with loving letters from a father to his daughter
Another on writing to strangers:
We’ll be re-reading Monday’s Post, our very first book of collected stories, and waiting for the postman…