Letters, closeup hand penI’m talking about the ones you write TO someone, not the alphabetized ones you see posted in upper and lower case in elementary class rooms.

How many letters have you written to someone this year so far? (Confession is good for the soul!) Not emails or texts, but REAL letters written on paper with a pen or pencil, put into an envelope, addressed and stamped, and mailed via the Postal Service.

These next few day’s posts are inspired by an article in the Orange County Register’s Parade magazine (March 15, 2015), titled Letters That Changed Our World by Liz Welch.


 “Oh, the power of letters,” Welch begins. “They’ve fueled love affairs and severed friendships, ignited wars and settled them. They can carry thanks, apology or regret.”

Welch mentions a letter from Albert Einstein to President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1939 urging him to start a nuclear program. His warning that the Germans might develop atomic bombs led to the Manhattan Project.

In Letters of Note: An Eclectic Collection of Correspondence Deserving a Wider Audience (Chronicle, 2014), editor Shaun Usher curates more than 125 letters, including one from a 14-year-old Fidel Castro to President Roosevelt asking for $10 and Groucho Marx’s advice letter to Woody Allen.

Letters, belgin penpalAnother book Welch talks about (and if fact co-authored) is I Will Always Write Back: How One Letter Changed Two Lives (Little Brown, 2015). It tells how two young people, Caitlin Alifirenka, a 12 year old girl in Pennsylvania, and Martin Ganda, a 14 year old boy in Zimbabwe met through a pen pal exchange and became best friends.

Now at 30 and 32, they are happy to share their writing experiences. Alifiernka urged Ganda (a stellar student) to apply to American Colleges. He applied and was accepted to Villanova University. Last year Ganda finished his MBA at Duke.


This reminds me of a pen pal I had at about their same ages. Tony Foli lived in Lagos, Nigeria and we wrote and sent photos often. After war broke out in his country his letters suddenly stopped. I often wonder what happened to him and to his dreams.


Letters, envelopesHOW ABOUT YOU? Have you ever sent love letters, fan letters, opinion/request letters to politicians, or maybe simple family correspondence with an older loved one who knows nothing of technology?

Have you ever found a packet of old letters and spent a few hours laughing or crying while you re-read them?

Have you written a letter you never had the nerve to mail…but kept it anyway?

Have you had the fun of being a pen pal with someone nearby or in a distant land?

I’d love to hear about YOUR letter writing experiences!

Email them to me at jackiehouchin@aol.com and I will include them in a post at the end of this series.

12 thoughts on “LETTERS, LETTERS, LETTERS!

  1. Jackie, I loved this post. Took me back in years. Had many hours of penmanship class is school–kinda remember a callous on my finger even. Think it was called The Palmer Method? Had a pen pal too way back when, but can’t remember why it just petered out. Sigh. Have two friends who hate touching the computer, so still write notes occasionally, but must say, my hand writing is deteriorating.

    Ordered Letters of Note, thinking my book club would like… Really enjoyed this post.


    • Save it while you can, Madeline!! Your handwriting I mean. Promise to write one letter a month and mail it. If you are totally embarrassed, mail it to ME! If I can decipher my hubby’s writing and that of my late father-in-law, I can certainly make out yours. Haha. Try me.

  2. With the dearth of letter-writing today, we can really see how valuable and special they are. I have books of letters re-printed from some nurses in World War 1, that show the heroism and the humor of the time. I love to write letters, but don’t seem to have enough time these days. Although I still receive letters from distant friends and older relatives, that I love reading. And I especially treasure the letters my wonderful, late husband, Rick, wrote to me over the years. Of course, letters are so very personal and say so much more than emails. Maybe we should start a campaign to BRING BACK PENMANSHIP.

    • Those letters written by World War I nurses sounds very interesting! Maybe you can work one or more of those into your Lottie mysteries. If you love to write letters, you should! Even short ones. I’ll join your BRING BACK PENMANSHIP campaign, and I know Sheila Lowe will too!

  3. Other than thank you notes after Christmas, I never seem to write letters anymore. I used to write to my parents, but they have both passed away. I spent the last nine years of my mother’s life calling her on the phone. But one time I wrote a letter that still makes me happy. My father invented a pie cutter for making a lattice work pie crust. I wrote to the old TV show, Cooking U.S.A., and told them about his invention. They ended up highlighting his pie cutter on their TV show. My dad was so thrilled. I was even happier being able to do something for him. But the written word did make a difference.

  4. I recently just started avidly looking for snail mail pen pals again. I love writing in general, and keeping the art of writing letters alive is definitely one of my passions. Receiving mail in the post office box is the most wonderful feeling in the world. Definitely better than bills anyways. Before I started looking for pen pals again, I would write my husband letters constantly. He can’t write or read in cursive, which is what I normally write in. He’s gotten used to my hand writing over the almost four years that we have been together though, so he enjoys my letters a lot more now. When we were in high school, I wrote him a letter nearly every day since the day we started dating. It’s always been one sided, because he doesn’t like writing letters. Either way though, I still love giving them to him, because they always make him happy. I feel like writing a letter is just as much a labor of love as it is an art form. Over the past few weeks, I have been so pleased to find the number of people who would rather send a letter than an email, that it has completely renewed my passion for it. I’m sorry that you were never able to find out what happened to your friend from Nigeria. 😦 Maybe one day you will. 🙂 Thank you for this post! 🙂

    • Thank you for your delightful comment! There are many Pen Pal sites, try Googling them. I hope you find a like-miinded person to correspond with. And you are SO right in saying that WRITING the letters makes us happy too. We see the person’s face as we write, picture experiences we’ve had together, imagine how they will respond to what we are writing. (Sigh)
      This 5-6 part series on LETTERS and HAND WRITING will culminate in snippets from comments and emails I get, and then a final post by a good friend, Sheila Lowe who is a handwriting expert (She testifies in court cases and writes a mystery series with a hand writing expert protagonist!), and she is also supporting a campaign to get cursive back in schools. Hope you come back soon!
      PS: Take a look at the next post…. Love Letters and Un-love Letters.

    • Glad you like the post. I’m still a fan of letter writing and do so often. Recently I bought a couple boxes of pastel envelopes from Staples to dress up my mail going out. I also visit the Post Office frequently to stock up on their “different” stamps and use them for my eclectic correspondence!
      Happy writing!

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