Letter writing in Coffee Shops

I love coffee and I love writing letters so it seems natural to me that the two should go together. Lord Byron once said, “Only in letter writing do we have solitude and society simultaneously” but Byron was wrong. I can enjoy solitude and society while writing letters in a coffee shop.

There I am sitting at my very own table. Even if there are empty chairs at my table no one ever intrudes. I am alone. That’s solitude. No bodies are sitting with me or talking to me, but I’m not completely alone. I have my letter friend and their letter which I am answering. That’s society. I also can enjoy people watching. It’s fun for me to see what people are wearing and who they’re talking to and what they’re doing at their own tables.

I write letters every day at home, but it’s nice to get out every now and then. I may not want to go to lunch or shopping or visiting friends, but I just might like to get out of the house, changing the scenery. For the price of a cup of coffee I can have a grand old time writing letters at a coffee shop.

Luckily there are quite a few coffee shops in my very own town of Hudson. I realize not everyone is so lucky. I have a Starbucks and a Panera and an independently run shop on Hudson’s Village Green. There’s also a Restore. But when I was out enjoying a Country Inn Day in the town of Burton, Ohio I stumbled upon a coffee shop that had a number of rooms within it and they were amazing. You’d think you were in someone’s home. Look and see what I mean.

Since I do try to spread the word about the pleasure of letter writing I’m happy to say that occasionally a person will come up to me and ask what I’m doing. This is the perfect opportunity for me to explain how I write letters every day, belong to a national letter writing organization, and make wonderful letter friends all over the world.

I am a writer, a letter writer, but a writer just the same. I remember the first time I realized I was a real writer. I was in a coffee shop in the town of Shaker Heights, Ohio. I was writing letters as usual when a very distinguished man walked in with his briefcase. He found a seat across the room from me. He got busy writing and I continued to write my letters, but at a certain point he got up to get more coffee. He came by my table , looked down at all my papers and he asked me if I was a writer too. I thought for a second and I said proudly, “Why yes, I am.” You don’t have to be publised to be a writer. You just have to write and that I do, every day. Maybe you’re a writer too or a wanna be writer. So write!

The Starbucks in my town of Hudson

So, if you like to write, write! Write letters! Sharing doubles the joy. You don’t have to write a book for hundreds of people to read. Of course you can write a book, but as Mother Theresa always used to say, “It’s the one to one that matters.” You can do a lot of good sharing joy and communing with your fellow man by taking up pen and paper and writing to people you know one at a time. You can join The Letter Exchange and write to people you don’t know… at first. Someone once said, “Why do you write to pen pals, people you don’t know?” The answer was, “In writing those people I get to know them and turn them into great friends.

So write letters. Write letters in your Christmas cards. Write letters at home – at the kitchen table, at a desk in your study, in bed, write anywhere, but if you need to change the scenery a little, get out of the house, try writing letters in a coffee shop. You may run into some people you know and that could be fun, but just writing a letter to a friend is also fun and they’ll be so happy to hear from you.

Look into your heart and write… you’ll make your friend happy and then they’ll write back making you happy too.

Go ahead. Spread joy. Our world could use it!

New Wildflower correspondence cards and stationery

 

I love writing letters but part of the fun for me is creating my stationery.  I come up with all sorts of designs for my letter papers. Some of my designs are quite simple while others are a bit more involved. Whatever kind of art,  the activity is always fun.  It’s a sort of therapy, relaxing, and I can get lost in the creative process.  While concentrating on colors and lines all other concerns temporarily melt away. Hopefully the end result is pleasing but whatever the end result the process is always most pleasing to me.  My letter friends often receive my floral letters.

This is because I love flowers, don’t you? I love growing flowers in my garden.  I love placing flowers in vases on my dining tables and night stand and I love drawing flowers to decorate my letter papers.  I’d love to send fresh flowers to my friends regularly as a way to brighten their days and sometimes I do, but more often I simply send off cards and letters with my floral designs.  I created a line of wildflower correspondence cards in past days and recently I’ve added new designs to that collection.

And because I enjoy writing letters on large sheets of paper as well as on cards I decided to create some wildflower stationery on paper measuring 11 by 8 and a half inches.  Here are three sample designs.

Dense Blazing star

Horn poppy

Whorled Pagonia

The educator in me likes to write a little information about each flower presented, either on the back of the correspondence card or around the edges of the stationery.  For example, did you know the strange long sepals of the Whorled Pagonia are reddish purple and the petals are greenish yellow, except for the lip.  This is a wild orchid usually found in the woods.  There are a number of wild orchids in existence.

So you see besides the enjoyment of writing letters to friends and family the art of letter writing gives me  the opportunity to look closely at a flower and enjoy the artful activity of drawing that flower. It also encourages me to learn about the flowers I draw.  As if that’s not enough, then, by sending my floral stationery to others I’m sharing my joy, and as you know, sharing doubles the joy.  It really does.

With all this going on in my life a walk in the park becomes a special delight for when I spot a wildflower I not only take notice, but I feel like I’ve run into an old friend. I’ve heard you can’t really love what you don’t know so studying flowers, drawing them, and learning about them helps me love flowers even more.

It’s all such fun.

I draw flowers and create all this stationery for my own pleasure but the stationery is available for sale because once again, Sharing truly Doubles the Joy. If interested . . .

Stationery -10 assorted floral designs with an extra blank sheet of paper for each design plus 10 envelopes cost  $20.00 plus $2 for shipping and packaging.

Packages of 10 assorted wildflower correspondence cards – each card containing extra blank pages for long juicy letters and 20 envelopes cost $20.00 plus $2 for shipping and packaging.

To order send check to

But whether you order my papers or not I encourage you to write letters and try creating your own stationery. Letter writing and art play are two very wonderful activities.  You just might enjoy both as much as I do.

Be happy and live abundantly

 

My newest creation – Wildflower Correspondence Cards

 I love flowers, all kinds of flowers, but wildflowers and I go back to my childhood days.  As a little girl I created a booklet containing pictures and descriptions of various wildflowers.  It was so fun to draw them.  I showed the booklet to my teacher expecting her to praise my efforts, but sadly I got nothing from her except a little lecture.  She told me all the effort I put into those flowers would be better spent on my general school work.  Ugh!  I guess she wasn’t much into flowers or art.

I didn’t draw another flower for years and years and years.

But now that I’ve become a lady of letters often creating my own stationary I decided it was time to get back to drawing flowers.  Art play is such a relaxing thing.  Focusing on beauty is very therapeutic and I’ve read that when we focus on beauty it becomes us.  The beauty enters our spirit and lifts us up.

Of course a letter requires a few pages of paper so I add extra sheets into each correspondence card.  The cards become little books.  Colored twine fastens the pages together.

 

I also think it’s very nice to say a thing or two about the flower pictured so I write a few lines on the back cover of each card – where you might find the flower or other general information.  I guess that’s the teacher in me.

You can enjoy a walk in the park admiring wildflowers but not until you draw them will you notice all the intricacies of their design.

It’s hard to focus on a flower and not feel just a little bit happier.  That’s probably why flowers are a great hostess gift or why they’re sent to sad people at the loss of a loved one.

Just like people there are all kinds of flowers – the delicate ones, the big ones and small ones and the prickly ones too.  It’s just amazing to me how very many kinds of flowers there are.

I won’t run out of subjects to draw for a very long time.

If you’re one of my pen friends you may have already received one of these wildflower correspondence cards containing a letter, but if you haven’t received one yet you soon will.

I will also  be selling these cards at the talks I do promoting the art of letterwriting.  One card will sell for $3.00.

Packages of 10 assorted wildflower correspondence cards can be ordered by mail.  One package of 10 sells for the discounted price of $20.00 plus $3.00 for postage and handling costs.

If ordering send your check to Carol Ann, Lady of Letters at the address shown above.

But if you enjoy dabbling with watercolor pencils yourself make your own wildflower correspondence cards and write me a nice long letter using one of them because as you know . . .

Sharing Doubles the Joy.

A New Book on the subject of Letter Writing

 

Actually my version of a book …

It’s 42 handwritten letters with art on 244 pages.  The book is a letter from me, Carol Ann McCarthy, to you.  Well, that’s not exactly right.  It’s lots of letters from me to you.  These letters are a lot like the letters I write every day to my many wonderful pen friends, but in this collection I don’t go off on tangents about this, that, and the other thing.  No, I stick to the topic of why I feel the art of letter writing is a worthwhile and wonderful activity.  I explain, with examples, how letter writing is a physical, social, intellectual and spiritual activity.  Why, in many cases it becomes a ministry.

 

In our busy lives it’s good to sit down once in a while and not only write but also dabble in art play.  Did you ever notice how many adult coloring books are on the market today?  But why buy a coloring book when you can have a lot of fun drawing and coloring your own pictures?  Adding pictures in the letters you write not only gives letter friends visuals of what you’re describing, but you have a lot of fun creating those pictures and coloring them.  Some people call this art therapy, but I call it art fun!

 

The letters in this collection have all sorts of art I created just for you, for every one of you.  The art will  give you ideas  for creating your own artful letters.  I’m sure you have plenty of ideas yourself, but sharing doubles my joy.

Along with the art I’ll share many of my favorite things, things I discovered along the way which add a lot of pleasure to my days.  Things like rituals – specifically a ritual for letter writing.  If we have the materials ready, on hand, and if we have a system for when to write, where to write, whom to write – then it’s pretty easy to be in the mood to write letters and to actually write them.

Letter writing is a physical activity because hand writing is a physical activity.  As we choose a favorite writing instrument it’s much like making music on a violin or piano.  We’re being creative.  As our hand moves sensually across the page sharing our thoughts, dreams  and every day trifles we can sip a cup of some yummy drink, put our feet up and relax.  Writing slowly helps us slow ourselves down and busy people need to slow down now and then.  Our handwriting is a little bit of ourselves that we send off to others like a lock of our hair.  It’s personal and in today’s world the personal touch is quite neglected.


Even if you have a lot of friends and a great family there’s always room for more lovely people in your life.  Letter friends can be some of those people.  I’ll tell you how you can make friends all over the world by writing letters, how you can find wonderful correspondents.  Letter writing will shrink your world into a friendly neighborhood.  You’ll have visits every day when the mail comes, letter friends from near and far will be dropping by to say hello, that’s if  you become a letter writer.  Letter writing is truly a great social activity and you don’t have to dress up, clean the house, or cook dinner for your letter friends.  You just have to look into your heart and WRITE.

There is physical pleasure involved in letter writing and letter writing is certainly a social activity.  We can cultivate pen friendships and even go off to meet these people if we like, but if we don’t like we don’t even have to know how our pen friends look.  Sometimes this is good for the very best person could be hiding within an unimpressive body. In letters it’s heart to heart that matters without physical looks interfering  – unless of course we want to share pictures.

But besides all the physical and social delight letter writing is a very intellectual activity.  Your letters will be as intellectual as you and your pen friends are.  You’ll meet people from tropical islands and big, glamorous cities, small country towns and foreign countries.  These people will share information about those places and about the things they love to do.  You will share your interests too be it a love for gardening, literature, music or sports.  Whatever.  You’ll have people to chat with about all sorts of interesting subjects any time, day or night.  In my collection of letters I’ll share some of the wonderful things I learned from pen friends.  Robert Louis Stevensom said, “The world is so full of a number of things I think we should all be as happy as kings.”  Sharing with your pen friends will make you feel as happy as kings or queens or princesses or princes – maybe happier.

Of course this collection of letters from me to you will contain some whimsy.  I’ll tell you how your pets can write letters to the pets of your friends.  Really!  My dog not only had a number of pen friends – others dog friends and even a cat by the name of Alice, but he wrote a letter for the collection.  It’s true, well, sort of true.  My dog and I will give you an idea or two on how to entertain your mail man with your whimsical animal letters.


But there’s more . . .my collection of letters will also explain how letter writing is spiritual, can even become a ministry.  In this one-to-one art form we can do so much for others as we show them we care.  We can encourage, praise, show understanding, offer inspiration.  We can be a friend.  We can share love.


In letter writing we share our spirit.  Letter writing may be a physical activity  but we do not need to be physically present in order to share our spirit.  There’s a time for in-person sharing and a time for sharing without physicality.  We can also read the letters of people from the past.  We’ll feel these people are writing to us even though they’re long gone.  Spirit transcends time and letters are lasting, more lasting than we are.  It’s quite magical.

My collection of 42 letters to you from me will talk about all these things and of course I encourage you to write your own letters, some of them to ME!  Gee, we can become pen friends if we’re not pen friends already.  Wouldn’t that be fun?  Sure it would.  So if you haven’t been finding enough letters in your mail box – or any letters in your mailbox for that matter, you just might like to buy my collection of letters from me to you.  They sell for $30 plus three dollars for postage and packaging if mailed off and away.

The letters will arrive in a big sturdy water-proof, tear-proof envelope complete with my return address so you can write back to me after reading one letter, or five, or ten, or all forty two.  This project was a labor of love for you know what I always say, or maybe you don’t, but I’ll tell you.  I’m always saying Sharing doubles the joy – because it really does.


The envelopes are on my desk waiting to be filled with 42 letters to you!   When your check arrives in  my mailbox the envelope will be on its way to your mailbox and these letters could be a unique gift for any person  interested in letters for they come complete with a  pen friend – me.

It’s been a pleasure sharing my collection of letters with you.

Sharing doubles the joy.

Carol Ann McCarthy

110 W. Streetsboro  Street 1B

 Hudson, Ohio 44236

They don’t call it the ART of Letter writing for nothing

 

When people talk about the art of letter writing I realize they are usually referring to the thoughts contained in a letter and the verbal construction of that letter.  Just as one would write a novel or a poem writing a letter is a literary act. There is an art to how we spin our phrases and reflect upon ideas, but there is also visual art involved in letter writing too.

Hand writing is an art in itself.  Unfortunately with technology many people are forgetting how to hand write and even worse, many children are not even being taught cursive writing.  How will these children be able to read the great writing which has come before them?  They will be illiterate.  They will not be given the chance to develop their own unique script which is a reflection of  personality and style.

But in addition to the art of hand writing there is also the very real art of stationery, distinctive papers sold in fine stores or those we create ourselves. One very frugal soul I have written to in the past worked cleaning offices after hours. She would raid the wastebaskets in those offices collecting  any papers with a blank side and she’d use those papers for her correspondence.  I must say some of the business matters discussed on those papers was as interesting as the thoughts and activities shared in those letters. The papers we use for our correspondence say a lot about us.

Pens, with their various fine or broad strokes, ink colors, types of paper, our unique hand writing all work together creating a uniquely personal and one of a kind missive.  So the Art of Letter Writing is a combination of verbal and visual expression.

 I do love all sorts of  beautiful cards and letter papers which I find in stores all around town, but it’s  great fun  designing my own stationary too,  using color and design in any number of ways.  Some people tell me they have no ability in art but I don’t believe them.  One doesn’t have to draw or paint in order to have fun with art. We can create bits and pieces of artful objects, arranging these things to create stationery that can be quite delightful. It’s called art play.

Years ago while strolling through an antique shop I found pages from some old magazine with the cutest historic images.  I purchased these old illustrations and now scan them to decorate some of my letters.  Adding a few sprigs of grass or background material makes for a fun looking letter.  At least I think so.

How about writing the name of the month at the top of a letter adding some color.  Perhaps edging the paper with that same color and adding a few polka dots…

… or using laces and/or ribbons, co-ordinating their color with that of the paper.  Such touches may be simple, but they are still artful.  My letter friends tell me they have great fun visiting craft shops collecting all sorts of materials for their stationary construction and letter writing fun.  I do too.

I’ll see some cute illustration in a book and I’ll make it my own by changing a few details here and there.

Did you ever try making flowers by placing finger prints onto ink pads and drawing stems and leaves? . . .

I once saw  boxes of greeting cards for sale. Each card pictured the drawing of a little handbag containing an initial. Now anyone can draw a handbag putting their own initial onto that bag and  presto!  You have monogrammed stationary for pennies a card.

My town of Hudson, Ohio has a clock tower on its village green.  I love to sketch that clock tower on my stationary.   I add a few trees of the season – a Christmas tree in Winter or a deciduous tree with green leaves  plus a few flowers in Summer.  Maybe your town has some famous land mark too.  Did you ever try to draw it?  Go ahead.  Try.

 When I write my sons I like to send happiness and hearts.

And there’s nothing like a little bubble therapy when I’m in need of a pick- me- up. Spreading the idea around to my letter friends is easy in words and in pictures too. Actually I got a card very much like this picture once upon a time. You probably get lots of cards too, cards that would be very easy to make your own.  Why just color in a book? Use those cute cards as models, recreate those images, and then color your very own picture.

I’ve always loved flowers even way back when I was a wee little girl.  I remember creating a little booklet back in the 3rd grade.  Each page had the picture of a flower and a brief description. I enjoyed creating my little book and I was very proud of it.  I remember showing it to my teacher expecting her to shower me with praise, but I was quite disappointed when she made nothing of it only suggesting I use that energy and time on my school work. HA!  I continued to enjoy art class at school but it’s no wonder I stopped drawing flowers for a long time.  Then in high school when given the option of extra art or music classes I chose the music probably  because back in the third grade I was not given encouragement for my art.  Music has been my life and I have no regrets, but when I became a letter writing enthusiast the love of art surfaced once again and now I regularly create stationary with drawings of flowers on my papers.  The artist in me is back and I’m very happy she is.  I missed her.

Maybe you liked art as a small child and somehow you forgot all about that love. But even if you never thought about art before, think about it now.  It can be a wonderful therapy.  It can be a most relaxing delight in your day and if you share your art in your letters. . . well you know what I’m always saying – sharing doubles the joy.

“True art is in the doing of it.”

Jean Renoir

Letters warm up a snowy Winter Day

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The weather outside in my town of Hudson, Ohio is frightful.  It’s 32 degrees with snow, then sleet, but though the weather outside is frightful I’m having a delightful day with a number of my interesting pen friends who have come to call to keep me company.  There’s Randall from California, Jenna from Maryland and Margie from Nova Scotia.

Letter writers never need to feel lonely because even if it’s not a mail day, or even if no letters happen to arrive in the mail that day, a letter writer can still have the company of others as she or he enjoys writing a letter to an interesting pen friend.img_27391

And it’s not only the actual writing that’s fun when composing a letter.  There’s lots of fun to be had in creating the stationary for that letter.  I love to draw flowers on my letter paper and along the edge of the paper I tell my letter friend a little bit about that flower.  Just the other day a letter friend told me if she ever feels dreary she draws flowers.  It must be something about the beauty of the flower that gets into our spirit. Of course you could draw whatever appeals to you if flowers aren’t your thing, but I promise your drawing, whatever it is,  will amuse your correspondent.

There’s something about art play.  Lots of people are discovering coloring books for I see millions of them in bookstores these days, but who needs a coloring book?  Just draw and color your very own picture.  I know you can do it!

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Practice makes improvement

But what’s especially magical about letters is how we can share ideas with people far away, people we would probably never meet in normal everyday life if it weren’t for letters.  It’s amazing to think with letters alone you can develop a best friend without ever leaving your easy chair.  All you have to do is join a letter writing group like The Letter Exchange. Then, even if the weather is far too unpleasant for you to venture out and socialize you can socialize from that easy chair while sipping a favorite drink as you sit comfy by the fire.

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 It takes me months to wish all my pen friends a Happy New Year, but what a fun task.  In this world of texts and impersonal emails and Facebook messages I think it’s refreshing to sit quietly and think of one person at a time, writing to them, reflecting on and with them –  one to one.

If we make our letter pretty as well as thought-filled our penfriend will feel honored that we used our precious time to focus  on her.  Our letter becomes a friendly compliment.  Don’t you light up when you find a letter addressed just to you in your mailbox?  I sure do.

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I learn a lot from letters too.  My pen friend Margie from Nova Scotia is married to a lobster fisherman.  Because of Margie I now know a lot more about lobsters and the life of a lobster fisherman.  Margie sends pictures too.  The pictures enhance her descriptions and make her letters even more interesting and enjoyable.  It’s good to keep learning and not only about things, but also about people and how differently their lives might be from our own.  Living in Hudson, Ohio I’d never meet a lobster fisherman, but thanks to letters I now have a personal relationship with one.

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We’re all so different with so many different interests.  My pen friend Randall likes to draw as I do, and he also enjoys writing poetry.  So far he hasn’t gotten me into writing poetry, but you never know.  I might try to write a poem someday.  Randall  is educating me too, as Margie is.

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Randall introduced me to Charles Baudelaire, a French poet of the past, his role model.  Charles advocated writing short poems and walking.  He loved walking through the streets of Paris. Who wouldn’t? I may not be writing poetry in the near future, but I will be walking the streets of Paris like Charles did because I will be spending a week in Paris with my family this May and I bought a book called Walks in Hemingway’s Paris.  I’m sure Randall and all my other pen friends will be hearing about these walks that I take and they will undoubtedly also be getting pictures from these walks.  Why? You know. Sharing doubles the joy.

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Sharing is a good thing.  We humans were not created to live in isolation.  We can share with our family and local friends, but if you are a letter writer you can also share with lots and lots of other people.  Sharing will become a hobby in itself. What will you share? You’ll be sharing all sorts of things in your letters – your travels, your latest shopping adventure and that new swim suit you purchased.  You’ll share your dreams and your creative ideas.

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You can share a picture of that French potato pie you made recently along with its recipe.  You can share anything and everything in your letters.  Others will share with you too.  It’s so fun!

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My penfriend Jenna loves the writings of Jane Austen. I do too.  Do you?  She told me her love affair with Jane’s books began when she was 10 years old and her aunt gave her the book, Emma.  Do you have a favorite author or favorite book?  Most letter writers are also fond of books and books become a regular topic in letters.  Who needs a book club when your letter friends report on all their latest book adventures?  If you are a fan of Jane Austen Jenna suggests you find Jane’s History of England.  She says the book is quite “a trip”!  I’ll have to look for that book. Jenna’s got me curious.

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So I hope you are a letter writer like me, enjoying all the pleasures this lovely old art provides , but if you aren’t, there’s no time like the present to get started.  Write your old auntie.  Write your friend who moved away.  Write a letter to  anybody at all.  Sit quietly.  Doodle a little drawing on the paper,  maybe even write a short poem as Charles Baudelaire and Randall suggest.  Join The Letter Exchange and connect with people from all over the world.  You’ll be glad you did when you go to your mailbox and find lots of letters addressed just to you.  And you WILL find these letters for there’s an old saying – when you give good things come back to you. Give a letter.  Get a letter.

You’ll see.