Keeping in Touch Tuesday: Letters from the Kindest Strangers

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“What language shall I borrow to thank thee dearest friend?”

~ Paul Gerhardt

I am often overwhelmed at how thoughtful people can be. I’ve spent much time this month being grateful for the kind strangers who have introduced themselves to me through Twitter, Facebook, e-mail, and, of course, by writing letters. I have received a handful of letter introductions over the past two years and, notably, the past two months. I post these pictures as a humble thank you to those who have taken the time to write me while encouraging everyone to steal (adopt, adapt, whatever!) the creative ways they have sent their missives.

This letter comes from Masa in Louisiana. He read my first book two years ago and has been a correspondent and frequent blog commenter ever since. He is a beaming optimist, and I can feel his good vibes from well above the Mason Dixson line. The letter you see above came to me in the shape of a swan. (I call it a swan, but Masa tells me it’s a paper crane). Silly me did not take a photo of it in its beautiful bird form, but you can see here that it was once meticulously folded. Aside from the origami, what I love about this letter is the paper on paper. It gives the epistle a sweet, whimsical look. Masa says it’s very easy to make, “I used basic white cotton paper (similar to resume paper) and glued it to a blue tissue wrapping paper. I cut both papers into a square size, but the white paper was cut to fit inside the wrapping paper so that it would be slightly smaller, leaving room for a border.”

Masa’s was fortuante to have his mother teach him how to fold paper into a paper crane. For the rest of us, here’s a tutorial recommended by the Louisianan himself:

This letter is from Louise in Minnesota. The envelope sat unopened on my coffee table for days. I was afraid I’d ruin it. How gorgeous! It’s covered in nine vintage stamps (Two ¢3, one ¢4, two ¢5, and four ¢6 = ¢44). Enough to send a letter. Yay! The second stamp from the left on the bottom is a “Mary Cassatt American Artist” stamp. Louise must have read this blog I wrote and discovered my fondness for Miss Mary. I was truly touched. This is such an elegant way to send a letter. It’s inspired me to get my vintage-stamp groove on. I did eventually open the letter (very carefully with my letter opener), and found the inside as warm and wonderful as the outside. Here’s a nice write up on obtaining vintage stamps.

Next we have Rodney from Honolulu (aloha!). He sent me a letter in December 2008 only to have it sent all the way back to him (from Philadelphia, yikes!) when my P.O. Box was closed (I didn’t pay in time. I’m a delinquent letter writer, I know). He held on to that letter and sent it back to me this past December with the one you see above. Rodney’s gift is his glorious script. He is a first-rate calligrapher, and every word of both the letter and the envelope is carefully crafted. Calligraphy is 50% talent and 50% effort, I’m sure. I’ve honestly never tried—I just assume it’s something I can’t do because my regular handwriting is nothing to write home about. Perhaps “assuming it’s something I can’t do” is something I should stop doing, because receiving a letter written this way is a gift. You find yourself holding a message and a piece of art at once. Rodney has a blog where he writes about, amongst other things, his calligraphical pursuits.

Allow me to introduce Mike from Virginia. He is a retired Navy Captain (thank you for your service, Mike!). He confesses, “I personally account for at least 10% of the business that the USPS currently enjoys.” A week or so ago he sent me this postcard-sized letter with a “Samara” word collage on the front. Is consists of both my book titles, my Web site, my birthday, and things I love—i.e. green and white tea. (This information is in my bio by the way. Mike wasn’t doing an illicit research =). I stared at this card for 10 minutes. It’s incredibly considerate. One of my favorite aspects of letter writing is that what you write pertains only to the person you’re sending it to. In other words, it’s important to write a letter that no one else can receive. No one can receive this collage but me! If you want to make a collage that no one but your loved ones can receive, visit, as per Mike’s recommendation. He advises, “There are a few tricks to getting the words to be prominent and to keep compound words together. The more you repeat a word, the more prominent it will be. Use a tilda ~ to keep compound words together (e.g. white~tea).”

Not Pictured: Mitch from Savannah, Georgia wrote me in early January. First, I’ve always wanted to visit Savannah, and receiving a letter from there is almost as good. Second, he used sealing wax. I tried to a get photo, but they all came out blurry. Using sealing wax and stamp is an easy and nostalgic way to send a letter. I’ve used it and it takes a few tries to get just right, you are dealing with melted wax after all, but when it’s good it’s very, very good.

And thus, whether you use one of these methods or simply put pen to paper, you have the power to make a loved one’s or a perfect stranger’s day.

Visit author Samara O’Shea at and follow her on Twitter.