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Conversations about Handwriting

• St. Louis Today took time recently to highlight a woman who still manages to make a living with her handwriting. Barbara Winnerman has been a professional calligrapher for 35 years, and still gets enough work to stay employed full-time, she told the paper.

I stay busy designing wedding invitations and addressing envelopes throughout the year. I also do commission work such as poems, quotations and awards. Thirty years ago, there was a lot of work filling in names on certificates and diplomas. All that work went away with the advent of computer printing.

Winnerman says she uses a “broad-edged fountain pen” in her work, but the article doesn’t say what kind.

• The director of a Scottish private school says she’d like to give up on old-fashioned pen and paper in favour of more modern tools like the iPad, according to The Scottish Sun.

Alison Speirs, from Cedars School of Excellence, said the country’s exam system was out-of-date and needed to be upgraded. Part of that includes dropping handwriting as a skill for school-children.

Ms Speirs said: "Handwriting is a dead art and the exam structure is out of line with everything you do in real life."

We’re guessing that she doesn’t spend much time doodling.

• Jane Derenowski, a producer at NBC News, has written a powerful piece on the ways that handwritten letters can help keep you tethered to the memory of a lost loved one.

She says she decided to do a story about handwriting after her 18-year-old niece told her that she’d never received a handwritten love letter. The niece, of course, didn’t think much of “snail mail.”

I struggled with the newsworthiness of this assignment. After all, what makes the demise of the handwritten letter something to write home about? But then I started meeting people like 84-year-old Magdalen Fisher and journalist Dana Canedy. Both women loved quiet men—men who they say were not overly expressive—and yet these men were prolific letter-writers…

... Journalist Dana Canedy has a war story which also involves handwritten letters. Her fiancé, Sgt. Charles Monroe King, was killed in a roadside bombing in Iraq in 2006.   Before he died, Sgt. King wrote letters to their baby son, Jordan, whom he had met just once.  The letters contained heartfelt life lessons on how to be an honorable man.  Within the letters, Sgt. King told Jordan everything about himself…it was as if he knew he might not make it back alive.   When the worst happened, Dana took solace in those notes… turning them into a book called A Journal for Jordan. She says without those letters, Jordan might never have a clear picture of the great man his father was.

We highly recommend that you take a few minutes and read the whole piece. Then, you might want to sit down and write a letter to someone you love.

• Speaking of love letters, there is an awesome story out of New York about a guy who actually is in the business of selling old love letters.

Dan Treiber, a flea market vendor and owner of a record store, is so into handwritten letters, especially love missives, that he actually converted a vending machine to sell old letters. He initially filled it with letters he’d written to previous girlfriends – he’s married now – and now uses letters he picks up from estate sales, according to

Writer Pam Pastor describes how she discovered the love-letter machine:

I met Dan at the Brooklyn Flea Market last November. My friends and I were poring over the precious finds in his booth when I spotted the love letters. There was a bright yellow vending machine that sold high school love letters and a couple of boxes of older letters, mostly from the ’40s and ’50s. I bought two—a high school love letter from the ’90s that cost a dollar and a love letter from the 1950s that cost two.

I read the letters just minutes later, on the subway headed back to Manhattan. The high school letter was written on notebook paper. “Do you like me too?” the letter writer wanted to know. She had bigger concerns—the boy she liked was Jewish, she was not. And would he like to hang out after school?

The second letter, which was still in its original envelope, was written by a man named Terrance in 1952. He was in the navy during the Korean War and he was writing to Shirley, who was in San Francisco. He wanted to know how she was doing. “I have a favor to ask of you, my darling,” he wrote. The girlfriend of his buddy from the war was moving to San Francisco and she knew no one there. “Would you please show her around?”

I was riveted. And as the subway car continued to speed away from the flea market, a sinking feeling hit me. I should have bought more letters.

The article delves deeper into Treiber’s work, including his 1,000 Letters project, and has a lengthy Q&A. Very interesting reading.

This certainly is a new one to us. If anyone have heard of anything like, please let us know.

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