Monday, October 15, 2012

letters of note

When I was growing up, I had a pen-pal for a year or two. Her name was Grace. She lived in California and sent me a photo of herself with two braids and wrote about how much she loved Hotel California by the Eagles. I had never listened to that song voluntarily and decided she might not appreciate my love for Mariah Carey and Janet Jackson. So we stuck to other middle-school things, like boys, our friends, school and our involvement in church.

The letters I remember the most are the ones my mom sent me while I was at camp during the summer. The camp secretary stood up every night after dinner with a big pile of mail in her hands and went through the whole thing, calling out our names if there was one for us (and multiple times if we got more than one). I don't think the whole group of us was as quiet as during mail call. It was usually the middle of the week when mom's came, and it never really said much: Did the thunderstorms keep you inside much? I picked and froze corn with Nana today. Your sisters are keeping busy without you... or something like that. I'm sure it was the anticipation and the comforting familiarity of my mother's handwriting that implants them in my memory. (I still love to see that handwriting on an envelope, it makes me feel like I'm 10 again.)

Through my paid-work as a writer, I've developed a real love for letters. When I worked at a college, each year I read hundreds of thank you letters that students wrote to people who had funded their scholarships. I read each one to make sure it was appropriate for our donors to read. Secretly, I loved that season. I'd get a stack of letters from the financial aid office, steep a cup of tea, and I'm sure at least once I put my feet up on the chair next to my desk. College students are about as idealistic as they come, and students at this particular school really think they will change the world. So in the course of giving thanks, they tell incredible stories of how they got to college, where their studies are taking them, and of their high hopes for the future.

Now, I write letters, and while most of them stay pretty standard and sometimes even sterile, every once in a while I get to play. I think what I love about letters is that you know, or are getting to know, your audience, and it is very specific (usually one person). For me, that helps to narrow down what it is that I really want to say. And, it helps the act of writing to not be so self-absorbed, which can happen easily (for me, anyway) when I'm writing to some abstract audience who will apparently read my writing, someday.

A blog I love is called Letters of Note. They've curated letters of famous people, writers and non-writers alike, to give us a glimpse into a specific situation or relationship in their lives (and also, I think, the prove that just about anyone can write a beautiful, heartfelt - or biting or intelligent or poignant - letter if they put their mind and pen to it. Some of my favorites so far are today's from Harper Lee to Oprah about her love for reading, this one from John Steinbeck to his son about love, and this letter that Ronald Reagan wrote to his son a few days before his wedding. If you have time, poke around for yourself! Maybe you'll be inspired to write a letter of your own.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for your grateful informations, this blogs will be really help for students scholarships.

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