April is National Card and Letter Month

If you aren’t already aware of it, April has been designated as “National Card and Letter Month.” Not surprising, this annual effort to promote literacy and celebrate the art of letter writing comes from the United States Postal Service as a way to encourage the timeless mode of communication. One way the Marys will strive to celebrate the month is to increase the output of mail being sent from each of their respective mailboxes. Frequent letters to each other is a given, though the number decreased greatly during those final weeks of writing to meet the deadline for the Mary & Me manuscript.

What is the typical Mary-to-Mary letter writing output?

From the pages of Mary & Me:
“You’ve been writing a letter every week for almost thirty years?” The question always evokes disbelief, particularly since the dawn of the Internet and e-mail. We quickly correct the misconception.
     “Well, at least one letter, but usually more. We write each other three or four letters a week. And we never wait for a return letter before beginning another.”
     Conservatively speaking, at just three letters a week since 1987, that would equal 4,368 letters each, but we’d both agree that estimate is much too low. We have, on occasion, written the other two letters in a single day.

cards 005Perhaps a letter a day is too daunting a task for the majority of our readers, but what about aiming to send out just one card every day in April? Both Marys love sending greeting cards to mark special occasions. I (Mary K) keep a box of assorted cards handy for just such a purpose. I purchase the majority of them at thrift stores and garage sales. The assortment includes blank, friendship, and encouragement cards, along with the traditional celebratory occasion ones. The three cards going out in this morning’s mail took me all of fifteen minutes to write and address. Fifteen minutes to let three people know I was thinking about them!

Why not join us in our April resolution to send a card or letter out every day next month?

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Caption That Photo Contest

In celebration of the arrival of spring in Iowa, the Marys are offering this great prize package to one winner, whose name will be drawn at random from those who enter. The prize package includes:

  • $10 Walmart card, not pictured
  • “Good Mail Day: A Primer for Making Eye-Popping Postal Art”
  • Paperchase lined magnetic note pad with butterflies on
  • small butterfly note pad
  • Kelly Rae Roberts “Nurture Your Soul” bookmark
  • Paperchase Anchors Ahoy writing set, 20 writing sheets, 10 envelopes
  • Papermate Ink Joy pens

caption contest 008To enter, follow these steps:

1) Go to our Mary & Me Facebook Page and “LIKE” it, if you haven’t already.

2) Comment underneath the “Caption That Photo” contest post with your caption for our photo.

3) SHARE our contest post

That’s it! One winner will be chosen on March 27.

caption contestCaption this photo on our Facebook page for a chance to win- What are the Marys saying to each other?

Picture This~Paper~ One writer’s foibles

Both Marys love stationery, and all things related to paper and writing. Perhaps that is common with writers; of books or letters. Or, perhaps it is a particular foible (one could say obsession) of these two writers. But sometimes this Mary (Mary K) wonders if her co-writer is truly aware of the depth of her love affair with stationery. That when she stops at a thrift store she goes straight to the office supply section? Or when she stumbles across a packet of pink stationery priced at $1.49 and a $1.99 vintage box of DaySpring “elegantly foiled and embossed” stationery sheets, she simply cannot resist the temptation~She buys them.

stationery 014These splurges are without rhyme or reason, when she already owns drawers full of the stuff.

stationery 007At what point does a foible become an obsession? A collection become a hoard? This is one of the topics addressed in the “Letter Writing 101” chapter of our upcoming book.

From Mary K:

“When Mary mentions our mutual love of paper and pens, I wonder if she knows the extent of my obsession. Would she be shocked at the contents of the cabinet where I store our school and office supplies? Three of the shelves hold paper; there are reams of white copy paper, stacks of colorful notebooks, bins of cute notepads, and brand new boxes of stationery. Then there is the seven-drawer plastic storage unit next to my desk. The bottom drawer holds scratch paper for grandchildren to scribble on, but the other six drawers are crammed with vintage stationery, decorated printer sheets, and a wide assortment of note cards. I do have preferences, preferring smaller stationery sheets to the larger printer size, thinner sheets to the thicker ones, and vintage stationery to newer. Thin air-mail sheets satisfy nearly all my senses. I feel a thrill of satisfaction when I fold the letter in half and hear the crinkling as I insert it in the envelope. Sometimes I take it out to re-read, just to feel and hear the paper again before mailing.

A scent of patchouli emanates from the incense sticks and soap bars I store inside the drawers of paper. I don’t just like pretty paper~I want it to smell nice (like an old lady, according to the grand-daughter who shares my paper passion). While I love stickers, rubber stamps, and embellishments on envelopes, I don’t take the time to use them. I’m fascinated by the concept of “mail art.” When I receive an elaborately decorated letter, I will look at it many times before I store it in a trunk where I keep favored correspondence.

My favorite pen changes, but I consistently have detested any fine-tip utensils or colored gel pens. I abhor erasable ink pens. I love the thick pens that are free promotional items from businesses. I wrote much of the first draft of this chapter using a fat ink pen with a comfort grip. ‘Iowa Prison Industries’ is emblazoned on the side.”

We will be sharing some fun pictures with you soon, including an image of our cover design in progress. Later this week we plan on running a “Caption This!” photo contest featuring one of the fun photos our photographer, Daniel Kenyon produced from a morning photo shoot that took place at the Bread Basket coffee shop. The Bread Basket is where Mary H took Mary K out for lunch every month for more than a year and a half after her husband died.

In the meantime, enjoy this photographic tour through Mary K’s office supply storage and cabinet.

stationery 006Storage cart drawers. Note the bars of scented soap. There are sticks of incense in one of the drawers as well.

stationery 009Top shelf of cabinet; holds printer paper and notebooks.

stationery 008Second shelf holds journals, note cards, small note pads and new boxes of stationery.

stationery 011Another shelf holds envelopes, pens, pencils, highlighters, and more small notepads.

As you can see from my stash of paper, perhaps I came to the correct conclusion in the “P.S.” Chapter:

“Mary is a lot more like me than I realized,” I told my daughter Elizabeth on the phone.
      “Maybe if Jim dies someday, you and Mary could live together,” was her reply.
      Without thinking, I’d blurted out in horror, “Oh, no, she’d drive me crazy!”

Mary laughed when I confessed this transgression one day at my brother’s house. “We’re too much alike,” she agreed.
     “Can you even imagine not writing each other?” I asked then.
      I saw tears well up in her eyes at the thought.

Later on the way home, I let myself briefly consider a life without Mary’s letters. I couldn’t bear it. I thought again of what my daughter had suggested; that Mary and I live together someday, and this time I could picture it. Aren’t there things about anyone we might live with that annoy or irritate us? Didn’t I have to adjust to living with another human being when I married David?

I love Mary. She is one of the first people I turn to in both good and bad times. Co-writing this book with her has drawn us even closer. Yes, I can imagine us living together as two old (much older!) widows. Would we want to continue writing each other even though we lived in the same house?

That would work. I own more than enough stationery already for the both of us.

Mail, Glorious (and not so glorious), Mail~

Is there anything more exciting, more glorious, than opening up a mailbox to discover a plethora of actual, handwritten letters? That is what happened to me (Mary K) on a recent day.

glorious mail 007The bounty included two letters from friends, two from family members, one surprise bonus, and an envelope from The Letter Writer’s Alliance, welcoming me as a new Lifetime Member. As a member, I can enjoy perks like:
• exclusive free downloads of stationery and cards
• pen pal swap
• membership card and L.W.A. badge
• member mailings

The Welcome package sent via snail mail includes log-in information, a membership card, welcome letter, member postcard, and a badge.

glorious mail 002What are you waiting for, letter-writing peeps? You know you want one. You can find information on joining by clicking HERE.

You can also give a membership as a gift to a friend. I just ordered one for my friend and co-writer, Mary H.

Lo and behold, my surprise “letter” turned out to be an advertisement. I have been fooled by these “fake” letters before, and vowed never to be fooled again, but in this case, I actually DO know a Chris Thomas, though her name is spelled differently and she doesn’t live in California.

glorious mail 006Is this a slick advertising scheme, a genius marketing ploy, or a big mistake? From purely a marketing standpoint, I get it~ this technique of designing a direct mail campaign to make the envelope appear to be personally addressed, and even using an address label to make me believe it is a personal mailing, should work. And it did, if the purpose is to get me to open the envelope. But if a company believes I am going to be duped into purchasing from them after a ploy like that, well, they have failed miserably. On the contrary, I think less of this particular company, for stooping so low as to prey on a consumer’s instinctual love of the handwritten letter.

Because we all love letters in our mailbox, don’t we? What we don’t want in the mail are advertisements posing as letters.