Letter Writers Alliance

I just happened along the wonderful blog of the Letter Writers Alliance. It’s not about philately per se. It’s about the love of sending and receiving letters, real physical letters sent by snail mail, and all aspects thereof. From it’s mission statement:

In this era of instantaneous communication, a handwritten letter is a rare and wondrous item. The Letter Writers Alliance is dedicated to preserving this art form. Prepare your pen and paper, moisten your tongue, and get ready to write more letters!

The LWA blog gives a lot of attention to stamps, as well, but from a much more humanistic perspective than other philatelic blogs I’ve seen. It celebrates  stamps as beautiful things in and of themselves, without regard to how rare they are, or how much they’re worth. It recognizes a value of stamps that many philatelists ignore: these are things that are created to transport a letter from one human to another. This is something that occasionally is almost overwhelming when I’m working on my collection. There’s a history in a canceled stamp. Someone bought that stamp. Their tongue moistened it and their hand pressed it on an envelope. Very old stamps would have been hand sorted and hand canceled. A mailman (or femailman as the case may have been) walked up to the mailbox and dropped it in. Somebody received that letter and read its contents. It could have been anything from a love letter to a bill to an advertisement, but it was a communication from one person to another, enabled by the stamp. How many hands did that stamp pass through before it came into my collection? “Used, hinged,” is second only to “damaged” as the most worthless of stamps, but think about who soaked that stamp off its envelope and put it into an album, and who else pulled that stamp out of the album. In my stamp collection there are connections to hundreds of thousands of people who I can never know anything about! But I digress. The LWA blog doesn’t necessarily talk about any of that, but it reminds me that stamps can be about more than just the physical fact of the stamp, and that’s a great thing!

I’m tempted to join the LWA. Membership is only $3. But to be honest, it’d make me feel a little hypocritical. My actual letter writing happens once a year with our annual pantheistic  holiday card. Maybe this is because I never really learned how to write a casual letter. Letter writing for me was always about seduction and foreplay. I was always awkward with the spoken word, but in print I could be Casanova. I’d choose paper and ink as carefully as my words, and often the letters were epic multimedia montages. All to win or to sustain the love of a distant damsel.

This was back before email and Unlimited Family and Friends calling plans. Think about that for a moment. Every communication with a distant somebody took real effort and cost money. Do people even write real, physical love letters anymore? Or do they just send a text message?

There are qualities of physical letters that email will never capture. There are possibilities for communication that only exist in physical form. I’m glad the Letter Writers Alliance is around to help us remember that!

2 comments to Letter Writers Alliance

  • Absolutely people still write real physical love letters! My partner and I met 2 years ago while we were both travelling by bicylcle in Europe, and spent a year touring on and off together. When we weren’t in the same place, we’d spend hours refining the perfect love note, or even just scribbling down our thoughts to eachother, before crashing into the tent for some rest. He went in one direction – to cycle Africa, and I the other – to sail the Atlantic. We spent a year apart and though never sent a text message, wrote plenty of love letters! Now we are both in one place, living just two blocks from eachother, but the letters keep flowing.

    🙂 There is still a big community of letter-writers/mail-artists out there, who all MUCH appreaciate stamps.

    how do you feel about faux-stamps?

    Thanks for a great site!

    Lily.

  • There something wonderful about getting a physical letter that has traveled the genuine distance through space to you from your loved one’s hand. When you can also include a little bit of something unique from where you are, a leaf, a flower, even a flyer for an interesting event, it makes it that much more magical! That’s something that email or a Facebook Wall Post will never capture.

    Now I feel guilty for abandoning this medium. I really need to write some letters!

    I’m a big fan of fauxstage stamps. I highly recommend picking up Cabinet Magazine’s The Book of Stamps. It’s a really beautiful collection of artist’s stamps. I’ve done some myself, but I find the size really difficult to compose for. It gave me a deeper appreciation for the masters of the 30s and 40s.

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