As it’s approaching our 6th Birthday I thought people might have a few questions about The Handwritten Letter Appreciation Society so I asked on social media for any that I could answer here in a little blog.
Thank you so much to everyone who has sent a question. There’s still time to add some to those below – just comment or email or message with any you have!
Here are the ones so far:
Home Birds WI – Online: What are your six highlights of the last six years? And what are your six favourite letter writing prompts?
- It is always an absolute highlight whenever anyone joins THLAS, to know that people care enough about letter writing to want to be a part of our Society.
- Featuring on Have I Got News For You with David Tennant reading out “The Handwritten Letter Appreciation Society” several times, and what seemed like genuine admiration of our 4th Birthday postbox cake.
- Axel Scheffler (illustrator of The Gruffalo) writing to say he wanted to join after reading about us in The Guardian newspaper.
- Being invited to Purbeck Valley Folk Festival to run some letter writing and securing The Writer’s Hut one year, and two Gypsy Wagons the next, as our wow factor on the strength of a handwritten letter.
- Inspiring and encouraging people to discover or rediscover their love of letter writing and seeing that in the wonderful letters people send to tell me.
- Persuading Gary Lineker to send a little letter to Matty Hatton to help brighten up his remaining days.
6 Letter Writing Prompts:
- Thinking about the person I’m writing to.
- Pretty stamps.
- Being moved by someone’s book or TV show or something they’ve done.
- The charm of a scrappy piece of paper as well as the indulgence of a beautiful pack of writing paper or notecards, or parchment paper and quill.
- Going up my Letter Writing Shed by day or by candlelight, whatever the weather.
- A nice cup of tea.
Donna: If you could have one person that would join that would really impress you who would it be?
My Dad (although it’s his birthday coming up soon so I might gift him membership for that “big” letter I always tell people about). Re famous people – all those who appear on the home page of the website with their lovely quotes (Stephen Fry, Dermot O’Leary, Alex Horne).
Soup Dragon: How important is the pen you use, the ink you use and the paper/envelope in terms of the writer and the reader’s enjoyment?
For the membership packs I always use blue Basildon Bond and my Uni-ball Eye Micro (black) because I just love the classic feel and look to it plus I tend to write the neatest with those pens and first impressions and all that, but as I always say I don’t think people should worry about whether they have the fanciest pen or paper or the best handwriting or spelling. I’m not sure how many formal letters get written anymore, so apart from them if you’re writing to a friend or loved one they aren’t going to judge you on any of that. They will just be delighted to receive a letter from you. Of course, beautiful stationery is beautiful stationery and everyone loves that, and as mentioned above if I’m in possession of a new pack of high quality paper or pretty cards they are wonderful to use. I’m not a great connoisseur in the qualities of different inks, or pens for that matter, but I know there is a whole world of both out there. One day I’m sure I shall get to experience a Montblanc fountain pen. A girl can dream…
MacAimless: Which do you prefer for writing letters: good old trusty Basildon Bond or fancy-schmancy notecards?
If my life depended on it I would plump for good old trusty Basildon Bond, but if not then truthfully I love both. The romance of a handwritten letter in its purest form is magical, as is a beautiful card or picture postcard. I do find that if I receive a letter then I will keep it with the envelope, but because I put cards up in the Letter Writing Shed I usually end up with a pile of unmatched envelopes. I’ve taken to recycling just the odd envelopes, but it’s nice to have a bundle of stamps to send off to a charity too.
Sarah Banham: What made you start a society?
I’ve always loved writing letters and all the ritual surrounding them (choosing what to write on and what with, writing them, putting in an envelope, finding an address, choosing and sticking on a stamp, finding a postbox, wondering about its journey, waiting in hope of a reply) and felt sad that the ease of the digital world meant lots of people had forgotten about letter writing, and what a loss that was in so many ways, not least the way we communicated with each other. I felt frustrated at how we tend to make all our friends an audience these days (although Christmas round-robins are guilty of this too) and wanted to put a bit of one-to-one-ness back into our lives. Just to somehow rekindle our love of letter writing again. With all this enthusiasm and the need of a project I remember stomping across Peveril Down in Swanage on a muddy walk looking up at the racing clouds thinking “Oh! There’s the Cloud Appreciation Society, isn’t there, so why not The Handwritten Letter Appreciation Society!” Of course, when I got home I had to Google it to see if it already existed, and on finding out it didn’t then off I went drafting out how it would work, the content for the website and how it might look, together with the membership packs. A friend came and helped me get started with building a website on 26th October (when it went live even in its skeleton state) which is why we celebrate the birthday on that day. I describe THLAS as a light-hearted Society with an important cause – to keep handwritten letters on the map for everyone.
Mike Lambert: Which THLAS member is connected to the most other THLAS members?
I think that might be impossible to answer. Every member receives a letter from me and I usually receive one back but we aren’t in regular correspondence. Although we aren’t a penpal club it’s lovely that people have connected with other members and I suppose whether it’s just one other member or 100 it feels just as special I think, to know letters are winging their way backwards and forwards around the world.
Carmel Kang: How does the Society work and how does one join if you live in the USA?
The Society was set up as an idea to inspire and encourage people to write letters again and so that people could say they are a part of a community wishing to do that. Payment is for Life Membership, so no annual subscriptions. Members receive a personalised certificate, a badge, a postcard with envelope to keep or send, and a letter from the Founder (me). People can join from anywhere in the world (we currently have members in 36 countries). I have had members send a wadge of dollar bills from America, but the best and most secure way to pay is via the PayPal link on the joining page. Click HERE to find out more.
Usefulhours: What is the most unusual letter you have received?
It was a letter written on a leek from Marjorie of Rainbows Penpal Club for St David’s Day. I’d probably say don’t try this at home!
Dancing_on_a_blade_of_grass and bon_bon_shugrue: How did it all start?
Me, aged about 8 with a Mr Men writing set and a passion/obsession for letter writing, but also see above.
Kelly Goss: How do you think the rising cost of letters is affecting letter writers?
Badly. And not only the rising costs, but the dismantling of our wonderful postal services too. Thankfully 2nd Class stamps are currently capped at 75p, but sometimes it takes a greater leap of faith to send precious letters by 2nd Class especially with Royal Mail apparently telling posties to leave letters behind in favour of parcels. Saying that I do still believe that they will get through (our posties are lovely and loyal to their customers) so unless I really want it to be a priority I do trust 2nd Class to work. Some say there isn’t actually any difference in speed but I guess it’s to do with the obligation to deliver it in a certain amount of time which comes with a 1st Class stamp, I think.
I really wish that there was someone in the management of Royal Mail (and maybe other postal services) that really saw the true value of letter writing other than a line on a budget sheet. Equally I was under the impression that people had started to write more especially since the pandemic and with reduced postage and greater promotion wouldn’t this have created more revenue? I still don’t begrudge the cost of a stamp for what you get, even at £1.25, but it will price a lot of people out and that is very sad.
Lindsey Mega-Death: Would love to read an article about people you have brought together.
This is a lovely idea! If anyone has been brought together because of THLAS please write and let me know and I’ll start compiling your stories! If anyone has met and fallen in love and are getting married because of the Society, do I need to do a Cilla Black and buy a (nice) hat!
Karen Sobel: What are your best hints for writing to an author (or other figure) who you’ve dreamed of writing to for a long time?
I’d say just do it! They are absolutely only human. They don’t have to read it or reply if they don’t want to, but who doesn’t like a letter from an adoring fan? I’d say their agents address is probably the best one to write to.
Gillian Amr: Which countries do you have members in?
We currently have 1286 members in 36 countries. Click HERE to see where.
Brenda Evelyn Mandrak: Do you connect members wanting to become penpals?
Because of all the Data Protection legislation surrounding giving out addresses, and because I know some wonderful penpal clubs already (click HERE for details), I don’t connect members per se. That wasn’t really the idea of the Society, however people have done via social media and struck up correspondences, but members would need to do that at their own risk.
Marjorie Edwards: Where’s the party?
Now I’m thinking maybe an actual party would’ve been a superb idea! However to celebrate our 6th Birthday I’m holding a drop-in letter writing get together in Swanage at The Hub, near Chococo, on the actual day, 26th October 2023. Click HERE for more information. (There may be prosecco and cake at the Beach Hut we’ve hired later in the day if you’re about!)
Thank you so much for all the fab questions! I really enjoyed answering them!