Write Letters On Paper

My friend Laura and I have been exchanging handwritten letters for twenty-eight years. The first is from the summer of 1988. I still have it. The last was from over a week ago. I read it and reread it. My friend Laura is an excellent artist and writer. She is a storyteller like no one else I know.

When email started being a thing I was afraid our letters would stop. She lives in L.A., I live in Northern California. Email was so easy.

1988. That was me on the far left. Laura second from right. We were already pen pals.

We can’t write too many emails, I warned her.  I shouldn’t have worried. Now we message several times a month, often in order to announce the advent of a letter. We still write letters. We write more letters now than ever.

1375705_10201663147454196_369996064_n copy 2
Maureen and Laura at the Rose Café. Picture by Evan Hartzell. Behind the shades, we are already thinking of what to write in the next letter.

Letters are great. I save up things that are wonderful or puzzling or magical and put them in letters to Laura. The day when there is a letter from Laura in the mailbox is the best day, always.

How wonderful to have an entire friendship forged in letters. I handwrite. In letters I say silly things and profound things. Things uncluttered by anything but the urge to understand and the longing to be understood.

I used to write letters of appreciation to authors I admired in the days before email. A few authors I deeply respect have recently abdicated all social media so I went back to sending heartfelt cards in care of the agents or publishers to authors of books I’ve loved. I don’t know if the letters arrive. I hope so.

Opening envelopes is wonderful. The moment before I open an envelope is also great. I must write letters in order to get letters back.

Laura is not my only pen pal. I have a card with a fox on it staring at me from across the room. I propped it on my dresser. The fox card is from my friend Lora. She writes letters that are like diamond hard gems of greatness.

Letters are old-fashioned. Thank-you notes should always be on paper. I get a touch of anxiety letting a letter go into a mailbox to send it off across the valley or country. Will it get there? Sometimes they don’t.  Will it be the right thing to say? Sometimes it isn’t.

I picture my letters to Laura and Lora flying on the backs of snow geese under the Central Valley moon. That’s probably how they get there.

Advice to myself: Write more letters this year than ever. Letter-writing is part of who I am. Put as much appreciation for authors and artists and friendship across the valley as possible.

The snow geese are happy to do it.

Journal ideas:

Instead of a journal entry, write a thank-you letter to someone you wish to appreciate and put it in the mail. If you don’t know what to write, just start with a simple “thank-you” and explanation that you are writing to say the person’s work or action was important to you and why. Short thank-you notes can be great too, so don’t think you need to write a big long thing.

Write a list of living authors, artists, actors, musician, athletes, etc. that you admire, with a short phrase or two explaining why. Consider writing a few of these people letters. 

Write a list of ten people to whom you are personally grateful, noting why. Consider writing a few of these people letters.

Note: Visit the website Girls Love Mail if you love writing letters. This organization generates and delivers handwritten letters of encouragement to women with breast cancer.  Isn’t that cool?




  1. There is a letter on the back of a snow goose right now, shining under the waning moon.


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