The Art of Letter Writing

This week I did something that took me back in time – way back.  I wrote a letter. I picked up a pen, put paper on my desk and composed a letter to send to a friend. No spell check, no back-spacing, no cutting and pasting.

My usual methods of correspondence include emails, texts, phone conversations, and sometimes even Skype. When needed, I send off handwritten thank you notes and at Christmas time I write a few sentences after the printed greeting on our cards. But this week, I wrote a letter.

Writing letters is not something I enjoy. But during the last two months I have received three letters from a friend I haven’t seen for many years and this friend doesn’t have internet and does not text. Seeing her letters on my desk day after day finally produced enough guilt to send me in search of pen and paper.

No problem with locating a pen! We have enough advertising pens in our house to start our own pen shop. Finding paper was more difficult. I could have used printer paper, but somehow that seemed a little tacky. So, I searched files and drawers until finally locating a writing tablet that still had the 58 cent price sticker on the front. Below the price was the name of a store I don’t even recall. If I were being prosecuted in court for “failure to write letters to friends and family,” this tablet could be Exhibit 1.

My letter is now headed via USPS toward Indianapolis, but this experience got me to thinking about the “good old days” when communicating with letters was such a big deal that formatting and composing letters were essential skills taught in school.

Instruction informed students that there was a correct form for each kind of letter. We wrote friendly letters, thank you notes, invitations, requests for information, and letters to the editor. Concurrently, we executed correct form, composed our letters, and practiced our best Palmer Method penmanship. Our teachers definitely understood the concept of multitasking.

Even as a child, I knew deep down that form and penmanship did not get to the heart of what letter writing was really about. I learned that from reading the weekly letters that arrived in our mailbox from my Grandma Morrell.

Grandma’s letters communicated multiple messages in addition to the ones she intended. Tiny writing going around the side of the page, filling up the margins, told us that she was a frugal person, not willing to use another sheet of paper for only a few additional sentences. The account of activities in her life told us that she had time to connect with those she loved, even though she kept a very busy schedule. The questions she asked about each person in our household told us that we held a place of importance in her life. The regularity of her letters told us that there was a niche carved out in her week on which our names were engraved. The sum total of her letter said, “I love you.”

Grandma was an artist. Her art was communication. Stationery was her canvas; a pen was her brush; and word choices created the beauty of her compositions with shades of meaning that evoked emotional responses of which she would never be aware. The sum total of her letters expressed the depth of family love.

As a child, I often wished we lived close to Grandma Morrell, and it was her letters that helped me to imagine just how special that would make my life.

Grandpa Samuel and Grandma Mary Morrell (1940's).


Anachronisms and “Almost Words”

Things that make me laugh while I’m reading a book include events and verbal expressions that are inappropriately placed in the time period of the novel and words that are misused. In the case of things associated with a particular time that are placed in another time period, I always assume the author was so caught up in the story that stopping to research would have impeded the flow. However, when a word is used, apparently because it sounds much like the word intended, I’m just amused and guess that the author does not know better, and that the editor was “out to lunch,” so to speak.

Last week I read a best-selling book that had an example of the latter in the second sentence of the prologue. The author wrote, “He furls his brow…” It also stated that he does this "countless times each day." Really? How does one furl his or her brow? Is this somewhat like furling a flag? I considered putting the book down after sentence two and not picking it back up. If the second sentence contained such a blatant error, how might the rest of the text insult my intelligence?

My editor should have been so lackadaisical! I was frequently required to defend occurrences and the existence of objects during the Great Depression and to support my claims with data. Yes, there were school buses in the 1920's. Yes, even young people who were poor graduated from high school. Yes, girls who were from wealthy families attended college. No, Hoovervilles did not exist in small towns and rural areas.

Much research can now be done online, but researching train schedules took me to the historical documents room of the public library where even my purse had to be left outside. And, yes, trains were the transportation of the day. The twenty-four hour, seven days per week schedule allowed for convenient local and nationwide travel.

I hope there are no “almost words” in my novel. But if you find one, please let me know so I can stress for the rest of my life because it’s out there for everyone to see, and there is nothing I can do to fix it. 

Oh, and if you are writing a book, you do need an editor. Invaluable!

Check out the fourth tab at the top of this page for book information.


Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is a day on which lovers give gifts and cards as expressions of their love for each other. As an adult I understand that. But when I was as a child, Valentine’s Day meant discovering how popular I might (or might not) be with classmates, and eating not very tasty heart-shaped candies with sayings on them that were somewhat beyond my understanding. “Sweet Talk” and “True Love” meant nothing to me as a seven-year-old. I would have understood “Might Cause Cavities” and “Hide Me From Your Brother.” I’m sure these sayings were considered but were too wordy for the tiny ½” candy hearts. However, the candy makers do get it now. “Tweet Me” and “Text Me” are things all kids understand.

I did not realize there was another day similar to Valentine’s Day until we moved to Michigan in the early 1970’s. There I discovered a group of enthusiasts promoting Sweetest Day. Sweetest Day, in October, was originally observed as a day to give something nice to those less fortunate than ourselves. My research did not turn up the name of the party or parties responsible for making this day another day for lovers, but Hallmark® and Russell Stover® are at the top of my list of suspects.

Hubby didn’t buy in! Valentine’s Day in February, my birthday in March, and Christmas in December apparently seemed enough celebrating and shopping for him. But he’s always great with selecting gifts. So during our years together I have enjoyed roses, jewelry, candy, cologne, and dinner at fine restaurants on Valentine’s Day. And he always selects a beautiful card with the traditional heart and an engraved message he would never have penned.

This week my email was “spammed” by a company advertising what I consider a loutish Valentine’s Day gift. Even if Hubby received this message, I know he is much, MUCH too smart to bite on this one. Still, I couldn’t help but wonder how many husbands will purchase this “Sweetheart Set” solely because of its name. The contents include perfume sticks, lip balm, and soap. Are they kidding? I may be a little sensitive but in my opinion this ranks right up there with a gift certificate for plastic surgery. I pity the poor chumps who decide to travel this low-cost, very dangerous route. I hope they have room in their tax file folders for divorce decrees.

Clipart by Bobbie Peachey



I THINK that I shall never see
A Pro Team that appeals to me.

A team that doesn’t hunt for prey
And take our hard-earned cash away.

A team with players who don't wear
A haughty attitude, and swear.

A team with players who desire
To be role models I admire.

A team where conscience causes pain
When virtuous players they disdain.

Games were invented for fools like me
Who seek escape from reality.

Apologies to poet, Joyce Kilmer (1886 – 1918)! And I need to hurry now lest I’m late to my Super Bowl Party.