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Conversations About Letter Writing

Lois Bouton, a 90-year-old retired schoolteacher in Arkansas, is known as the "Coast Guard Lady" because she's been writing letters to Coast Guardsmen around the world since the '70s, according to a local TV station.

Bouton...said she probably writes a thousand or more letters a year.

"I write lots of letters every day," Bouton said. "That's what I do in the morning, I write."

Bouton, who doesn't own a computer, said she prefers using a pen and paper to send her love to the men and women in the Coast Guard.

"E-mails are not the same as a written letter," Bouton said.

Carolyn Farmer wrote a piece recently for the Guelph Mercury in Canada about how a weekend trip with some old girlfriends prompted her to find and re-read all the letters she'd saved up over a lifetime.

It was like opening a door to my memory bank that had been closed off for decades. Seeing the handwriting from my friends, relatives, grandmothers and parents was like having them in the room with me again.

In fact, a few of the letters in the box were from my late Scottish grandmother. She wrote exactly like she talked and as I read her letters again, I could hear her voice. I suppose it was this feeling of her presence that brought tears to my father’s eyes when I showed him the letters. For a moment or two, she was with us again.

The Miami Herald has a story about a Florida businessman who developed a way to deliver fast mail to British troops and is now offering the same service to the American military overseas.

The service allows letter writers to send encoded e-mail to servers at strategic bases. Uniquely designed equipment prints, folds and seals decoded information for total privacy.

Military postal workers then deliver the documents to most locations within a day, although some remote locations might take an extra day or two.

A version of Schultheiss' service, called e-bluey, is used by the British military in numerous locations, including Iraq, Afghanistan, the Falkland Islands, Belize, Diego Garcia, Fiji, Canada and Germany.

Chicago Tribune columnist Mary Schmich wonders if we have reached the end of Christmas cards.

As of this writing, I've received two Christmas cards this year. That's two more than many people I know have received.

When I quizzed three dozen people Friday, in person and on Facebook, most people said they're getting fewer cards. Many said they're sending fewer.

Instead of Christmas cards, the mailbox now holds yet more coupons from Bed Bath & Beyond.

John Brown, writing for the Indiana Daily Student, explained that his eyes are "anti-technology," which is why he prefers books, pens and chalk over more modern ways to read and write.

For me, there’s freedom in writing with pen and ink, which is stifled at the keyboard. Typing feels more concrete, more finalized. It’s easier to let go of a critical voice in a notebook than a Word document.

Script also has a subtle beauty. Type is regular – every letter “e” is identical. Handwriting attempts to be consistent but fails slightly. One letter influences the next, forming a continuous stream instead of a line of marching soldiers. This handmade quality is more powerful than mechanical precision.

While writing with a pen, the words you form are close, an inch from your fingertip. When typing, there’s a distance between your body and the product of your labor.

One thought on “Conversations About Letter Writing”

  • Elizabeth H. Cottrell

    What a wonderful post and a great reminder of the power of personal note and letter writing. I've been thrilled to find that there is a whole subculture out there of folks who are interested in encouraging others to write and send more. I feel so passionately about this topic that I started an open Facebook Group called "Revive the art of personal note writing!" (Yes, the irony of an online group for an offline activity did not escape me). I'd love to have you and your readers join us so they can learn about your blog and your writing implements:

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