Season 3 Episode 20: The Trio on Letter Writing

Frances & Sarah on Letter Writing

Steve Carell once said, “Sending a handwritten letter is becoming such an anomaly. It’s disappearing. My mom is the only one who still writes me letters. And there’s something visceral about opening a letter – I see her on the page. I see her in her handwriting.”

Welcome to Tea, Toast and Trivia.

Thank you for listening in.

I am joined by my mother, Frances, and my sister, Sarah, to discuss letter writing.  In our last podcast discussion, we discussed the art of cursive handwriting style.  There is beauty in the curving lines and connecting letters.  But there is much more about cursive writing to celebrate. I like the idea that cursive writing improves our neural connections and interplay of the left and right cerebral hemispheres.

When we use cursing writing, we enhance our memory retention and improve our fine motor skills.  Think of it as an exercise program for our minds.  What better way to hone our cursive writing skills, than by writing letters?

So put the kettle on and add to the conversation.  We would love to hear your thoughts on Tea Toast & Trivia.

I am your host Rebecca Budd, and I am looking forward to sharing this moment with you.

Thank you for joining Frances, Sarah, and me on Tea Toast & Trivia.

Until next time we meet, dear friends, keep safe and be well!


The Trio on Letterwriting Tea. Toast. & Trivia.

39 Replies to “Season 3 Episode 20: The Trio on Letter Writing”

  1. Dear Rebecca,
    I tap keys and hope that this finds you well. The latest TT&T couldn’t help but catch my attention – letter writing. What a fascinating episode (and enhanced by the voices/presence of your family). I was particularly taken with your mother’s memories of receiving mail in the past – the romance of receipt: the thrill of discovering a letter (I only imagine here) in the mailbox at the very end of the (snowy, puddled, sun dappled, moonlit, etc) driveway; the recognition (or, possibly not) of the handwriting, the bulk of the envelope, the postmarks, etc…and all this before even opening!

    I last received a letter a fortnight ago. And last sent one a month ago. My dear friend, another Nick, and I have exchanged letters and postcards for almost 20 years now and, with the exception of diminishing quantities of birthday and xmas cards, these are the only envelopes of interest that can be found on my doorstep (though it would seem that the utility and local council folk still send me their dull, brown enveloped mail…though they are both quite poor letter writers in my experience and their missives are too curt and too demanding!). The receipt of a letter is one of the few truly magical manifestations of everyday magic and I can leave one of my friend’s letters unopened on the mantelpiece for several days before opening it – so as to garner as much frisson from it as possible!

    Another fine podcast! I wish you well and hope that the day is good for you.
    Thanks, Nick x

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Dear Nick,

      Thank you for your wonderful comments – actually it seems that you sent me a lovely letter. I will share your thoughts with my mother who just turned 90 this year. The TTT podcast came out of my desire to record Frances’s memories of a time that will never come again. Written history is often about the kings, queens, emperors and nobility, but the REAL history is about the “ordinary people” who live extraordinary lives. Letters hold these stories. Think of the letters and postcards that you exchanged with another Nick – 20 years of history. What a treasure trove of memories that record and document a friendship, a time, a place, a society. I have goosebumps even thinking of it.

      My sister Sarah sent me that letter she promised in our podcast conversation. I received a couple of weeks ago. I have yet to open it and now realize that, like you said, “so as to garner as much frisson from it as possible.”

      As a child, I walked that same 1/2 road to the mailbox with my grandfather – just as my mother had many years before. The roads were still gravel at the time and the dust would rise up with the breeze. I am grateful for that memory.

      Thank you again for your heartwarming comments, Nick. I enjoy our conversations.
      Rebecca

      Liked by 5 people

  2. Dear Tea, Toast & Trivia Trio,

    What a delight to hear all your perspectives on letter writing. It truly is becoming a lost art, but hearing Frances reminisce about a time when it was essential and appreciated reminds me of my own past experience. Does anyone remember pen pals initiated in English or Social Studies classes? Those letters were so exciting to receive and write, a little bit awkward perhaps but such a wonderful way to learn about people and places. Sarah mentioned the brief, traditional Christmas card exchange, which itself is becoming obsolete. I wonder why, since I only recently resumed this nostalgic practice myself. The practice of writing a heartfelt note on the card, sometimes literally filling every blank space is so appreciated. An auntie from one side of my family I never knew growing up, and with whom I’ve begun lovely phone conversations, wept when she received my hasty but heartfelt note on her recent Christmas card. I was so overjoyed to hear that such a simple written from-the-heart gesture was so appreciated. I think that sums up why we love writing and receiving letters! And Rebecca, thank you so much for encouraging the nearly lost art of penmanship. I’ve had to put it aside for a couple days but actually missed my exercises.

    With fondest regards,
    Mary Jo

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Dearest Mary Jo. Thank you so much for your amazing support and encouragement. I feel a profound sense of connection when I read my father’s hastily written notes about a book he was reading. Handwriting is compelling, giving a deeper understanding of personality and state of mind. Word choice and the way it is written provides context of the message. Dad’s notes on the book he was reading indicated he was excited about finding new knowledge. A few months ago, I was reading about how misunderstandings could arise in e-mail correspondence simply because the message did not clearly convey the writers intentions. Perhaps it is because digital messages do not hold the same emotional content as would appear in a handwritten message. I am delighted to hear that you have re-entered the world of penmanship. I find that I am starting to feel more at ease with the thought process. When I was looking up writers who wrote with pen, I came across and interesting article about Virginia Woolf – “Most of the manuscript is written in the purple ink preferred by Woolf, although, upon occasion, she uses black and, more rarely, blue. Less frequent is her employment of blue or red crayon and black or blue pencil.”
      https://unbound.com/boundless/2019/06/19/a-masterpiece-in-purple-ink/#:~:text=Most%20of%20the%20manuscript%20is,and%20black%20or%20blue%20pencil.

      Sending many hugs your way!

      Liked by 4 people

    2. Hi, Mary Jo. Now that you mention it, I had a pen pal from Japan when I was in junior high! We only exchanged a few letters, as I recall, but it was such a thrill to hold an envelope that came from the other side of the world.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. Yes to Mary Jo’s remembering pen pals, despite admitting to it has me feel like a hundred years old. I wasn’t into this but I recall my older sister being an avid pen pal correspondent. In any event letter writing was a way of life in those days and my youth, away at school etc. for letters and lest we forget telegrams for urgent issues. I very well recall back and forth letter exchanges, being a young sailor in the navy out at sea for months at a time and finding letters or birthday wishes upon return to port. It sure was slower that todays instant email replies, but far more human and exciting, tearing open the envelope in anticipation of receiving word from friends and or loved one. Life did seem to move at a more sensible pace back then, and happy memories and souvenirs of having lived those times.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. When I was around 14 – 15, the local Lynn Lake newspaper wrote a notice that a Florence Scattergood from England was looking for a penpal. We were to write her at an address long forgotten and she would choose from the letters received. I was the one chosen. We carried on a correspondence until about 19-20 and then life became busy. I always regret that I never kept that correspondence up. What I don’t regret is that we have a few years together. She was much older than I was so believe that she has moved on to her next journey. Like Sarah, I am getting out my stationery that has languished in a drawer and see if I can breath life onto the pages. Yes “happy memories and souvenirs of having lived those times.” How very well said.

      Did you see that Canada Post is delivering a prepaid postcard to every household in Canada. Check out this link: https://www.canadapost-postescanada.ca/cpc/en/personal/marketing/campaign/write-here-write-now.page

      Many thanks for your heartwarming comments, Jean-Jacques!

      Liked by 3 people

  4. HI REbecca, this is a great podcast. I really enjoy hearing your mom’s viewpoint which is similar to my own mom’s. My mother still writes to, and receives letters from, her sisters. She also sends Christmas cards. I do neither of these things but I do send lots of emails. Very few of my emails are of a personal nature though. My personal communications are though my writing and blogging.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Just yesterday, I found a quill pen set that is fashioned after a pen from Shakespeare’s time. When I told my Mother about it, she recalled the time that she used a ballpoint pen for the first time. It was liberating, she said, not to worry of ink being spilled. This prompted me to consider how our progress in writing, reading etc has changed over the centuries. From papyrus to paper made from sugar (yes, sugar) to digitalization, has always been about preservation. How do we preserve our letters? Through digitalization. I think you will be interested in what I found lately. The diary of Marjory Fleming – an extraordinary young girl who wrote beyond her years. She died at 9 years old. Her handwriting is preserved – check out this link. https://digital.nls.uk/marjory-fleming/archive/100989323#?c=0&m=0&s=0&cv=0&xywh=-176%2C-23%2C2777%2C3482

      Liked by 4 people

  5. Such an absorbing conversation, Rebecca, Frances, and Sarah — and I enjoyed the family banter! 🙂 Frances, your recollections of letter-writing in your youth were particularly interesting — and very nostalgic. I almost felt like I was rereading the early chapters of Willa Cather’s great novel “My Antonia,” also set on the Nebraska prairie (albeit a few decades earlier in the latter years of the 19th century). I also pen almost no postal letters these days, but remember writing and receiving them during my summer sleep-away camp days, during college, and during my pre-email/pre-smartphone time as a journalist. Many still saved. Thank you for this podcast!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I am delighted you listened in, Dave! I remember the first time I saw a fax machine in action. I couldn’t believe that we could send a message within minutes to the other side of the world. And now, here we are heading into new territory with technology. The common thread throughout is the preserving of memories, which is why I want to capture Frances’s recollection on TTT. How important our the memories we have? Are they enough to put pen to paper? Or do we need to be famous or at a pivotal time in history (when hasn’t it been a pivotal time?) These are the questions that I asked myself as I came upon Henrietta Lister’s papers that have been digitalized. I think you will find this short video insightful: https://youtu.be/i1kQTNScjiA. By the way, my good news yesterday was that I received notification that your book would reach me on June 1, 2021. I am excited!

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Thank you, Rebecca! Yes, capturing Frances’ memories, and sharing them with your grateful listening audience, is a wonderful thing!

        Fascinating video, too, about Henrietta Lister. A very accomplished woman who left an invaluable record of early American history via the handwritten word that your podcast focused on.

        It is hard to believe that fax machines were once cutting-edge technology! One of the many things I get into in the book you were kind enough to order were changes in technology in the 1970s, ’80s, ’90s, and beyond — and how those changes could sometimes be “interesting” to adapt to.

        Liked by 3 people

  6. You three are so much fun to listen to. I have not written a letter that I sent by post since I lived in Spain. I sent a lot of letters then. I have a friend whose wife sends out a real letter at Christmas about what the family has done over the year. We’re so rotten we don’t send cards, unless they are e-cards. But then again anyone who follows my blog knows more or less what I’m up to from day-to-day. I can relate to a post box 1/2 mile away. We can only get mail sent via the US Postal Service at the post office, which is about a mile and a half from the house. A blogger in India who quit blogging but has kept in touch via email wanted to exchange real letters for the fun of it. I agreed, but then with the pandemic, I think she is just trying to survive as I only hear from her occasionally.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. The trio appreciated that you listen in and add to the conversation. I laughed out loud when I read that your were “so rotten”! You are one of the most supportive bloggers in our community. Did I tell you that I once worked at the post office when I lived in Northern Manitoba. Our mail would come in by train in the early morning so I had to get to the office by 6am. Later the mail came in by airplane that would arrive around 11am. We didn’t have any roads to the town back then. What an interesting job. I remember that I would live in fear of not getting the letter into the right mail box. What I remember most was that the post office was the centre of the community – it was where everyone caught up on the latest news that was happening around town.

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Our postal workers don’t have much fear of getting mail in the wrong boxes. But you are different and that was a different time. I sometimes see people I haven’t seen in a while at the post office and we catch up on things. Some times I end up in conversations with strangers.

        Liked by 4 people

  7. Such an interesting topic, Rebecca! I still receive letters from two friends, at least once or twice a year. I also write back but have to admit that mine are somewhat shorter than theirs. At least one of them has email, but I think she prefers “real” letters.

    As a child, I remember writing to my grandparents a few times after they moved to another state, writing to my friend when she moved to another town, and writing to my sister after she was married and moved away. There is a real sense of loss, then, for me, connected to those childhood letter-writing experiences.

    Your conversation has motivated me to do better and to write letters to both my friends soon and not wait until a holiday or birthday to do so!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I feel the same way, Becky. There is a sense that I have lost a way in which to record my thoughts that will be read and reread many time over on the other side. Do you remember sending thank you letters? It was an Emily Post standard in our house. Who was Emily Post, I would think as a 8-year-old? She never came to my house. She is now on-line as I found out today when I did a Google search. Emily, as you would imagine, continues to be a strong believer in hand written notes. I have my stationary paper out that has been in my drawer for many years. Thank you so much for stopping by and for adding depth to this conversation. https://emilypost.com/advice/complete-guide-to-writing-thank-you-notes

      Liked by 4 people

      1. Oh, yes; I certainly remember the concept of sending thank you letters:) I’m thinking that I need some new stationery to make letter writing even more fun!

        Liked by 4 people

  8. I am so proud and glad to be a part of this podcase with my two daughters. It was fun and I have such good memories. I remember;. though; how happy we were when we were able to have a ball point pen in those early days, it meant that we did not have to take care of all that ink that was so easily spilled. Then, came all of the new and recent ways of writing, computers, cell phones, now zoom and so much more. But, think I will have to buy me a pen and ink and get back into this special way of communication! !

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Sarah knows where to find the pink, purple, & green ink. And I just found a quill pen that looks like its from Shakespeare’s time. How far do we want to go back?! Soon, I’ll be looking for a chisel and some stone tablets! Yikes – can you imagine. Anyway, I do feel sophisticated when I start to write on my notepad with my fountain pens. Thank you again for sharing your memories – it is fun to go back in time and remember. Many hugs!

      Liked by 2 people

    2. Frances, I greatly enjoyed listening to you talk about how much letters meant to you. It brought back memories of my mother and my grandmother exchanging weekly letters when I was growing up. I hadn’t thought about that in years.

      Liked by 3 people

  9. Oh, Rebecca, what a pleasure it was listening to such a beautiful team having a conversation on letter writing. A very special way of communicating indeed and a much deeper one -if I may add. It’s funny how in the age of communication, the further back one goes in time the better and more caring the communication. Thank you, dear ladies for this! Many hugs to all!

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I am delighted your listened in Marina! You have me on a new research project – Did communication become less personal as technology advanced? Was speed ha factor in this transition? Letter writing slows us down, we become more detailed in our approach. There is no cut and paste in letter writing. Oh this is going to be an interesting topic to follow. Thank you, my dear friend – I love our conversations.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. I loved listening in! It really is an interesting topic. It is becoming less personal or at least more superficial. When I used to write letters, I remember I’d write a rough first and then copy to a special paper I’d take time to choose, with a fountain pen. Today, we have to think and respond fast. I wonder how much detail escapes us. 😉 …and is ‘slowing down’ a ‘bad’ thing?
        I love our conversations too!
        Sending many hugs and wishes for a beautiful Thursday. 🤗❤

        Liked by 4 people

      2. A very good question – is slowing down a bad thing. Something for me to think about in the coming days. I was taught that a rough draft was essential. I had forgotten that step….

        Liked by 3 people

      3. Essential indeed and we definitely need to add quiet pauses between the things we do. Speed makes everything blury, I guess our perception too. 😉

        Liked by 3 people

  10. I am guilty of shoot out an email or worse, text, I stead of sitting down and composing a letter, yet I am thrilled to receive one. I do miss stationary too. Thanks for the thoughts.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I am heading over to a stationary store later today to become familiar with the new innovations in stationary. I have pen and ink ready to go. Like you, texts and emails are my go-to place. I recently watched the latest Pride and Prejudice movie and paid special attention to when Mr Darcy was using a quill pen to write a letter to his sister!! Thank you so much for listening in Antoinette! Very much appreciated.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. I remember writing letters into my twenties and then the idea seemed to slip away silently with all the busyness of life. Thank you so much for listening in, Liz.

      Liked by 2 people

  11. I confess to being utterly charmed. I like listening to the three of you chatting so freely- it really is like being a fly on the wall. As you mentioned Email is not the same as letter writing. In the past when It was the only real form of communication great care was even taken over business letters. It has left us with a couple of centuries of oral history from ordinary people discussing the daily concerns of ordinary life. I fear that whole tradition will be lost to future historians as they try and decode emails, texts and tweets. More to the point in the age of tweets and instragran I really fear there will be no future historians to care. But I suppose we do have podcasts- and if this isn’t oral history, then I don’t know what is.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I agree, Paul – how will archivist decode our social media frenzy?!! YIKES!!! A few years ago, I read that the Library of Congress decided not to archive every tweet. I found the article – check out the attached link. “The library doesn’t say how many tweets it has in its collection now, but in 2013, it said it had already amassed 170 billion tweets, at a rate of half a billion tweets a day.” https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/12/26/573609499/library-of-congress-will-no-longer-archive-every-tweet I imagine that it will be AI that will sort out that amount.

      It will be interesting how we continue to transition to new media venues – from writing, to typing, to digital, to audio, to video. You have given me much to think on in the coming days. How do we preserve our memories?

      Liked by 2 people

      1. And given the fallability of memory, which version of those memories we preserve. Historians have long claimed that history is no more than an agreed fiction.

        Liked by 3 people

  12. I loved this discussion on letter writing. It was lovely to hear Frances talk about letter writing 100 years ago. I still write the occasional letter and I still get letters. I have one friend in particular who sends me written letters and I do so in return. We also communicate by email, social media, Skype etc, but we still keep the post office in business. My 46-year-old daughter sent regular letters to my mom until her passing two months ago. I also have saved special letters over the years. I have the letters my mom sent to my dad when they were “courting”. You can learn a lot about someone by reading their letters. I always enjoyed this quote attributed to Mark Twain, “I didn’t have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” Happy letter writing!!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Oh, Darlene – those letters are treasures. How many wonderful memories are held in the words of a letter that comes in the handwriting of those we love. Writing has become ubiquitous so that we do not pause and reflect what a gift it is until it is lost. I remember when my broke my right arm (I am right-handed) and had to use my left hand for writing! YIKES! Thank you for stopping by and for your heartwarming comments. Very very much appreciated.

      Liked by 2 people

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