16 Sparrows

Slow Mail, the Letter Writers Alliance, and My Cousin Down the Street

One of my favorite people in New Haven is my second cousin Andy, who happens to live two blocks away from us, down the street, with his wife, Karen. Lest you think this is all about how wonderfully tight-knit my family is, and how great it is we live so near to one another, blah blah blah, let me jump right in and say that it sounds that way, but in fact, it's not true, and the reality is weirder. Andy grew up in Chicago and I never even met him until I was 25 years old. He moved to New Haven about four years ago because of Karen, who, it turns out, grew up just outside of New Haven. But they met in Ann Arbor and courted there, and as for their winding up living two blocks away, that was a total fluke. Karen landed a job in Westport, and rents there were so high that they chose to live in New Haven instead. And the nicest apartment they saw, when they were looking around, was on my street. So heigh-ho, here's my cousin Andy and his wife Karen, and we see them all the time, and believe you me, our parents are all thrilled. It's very cozy. Andy and Karen are completely brilliant and wonderful people and they prove it to me on a fairly frequent basis, the most recent of which was when Andy suggested that there be created a Slow Mail movement, akin to the Slow Food movement. As someone who has pontificated at some length about the glory of letter writing, and how sad it is we don't do it more, I glommed onto this right away, of course. (I'm sure Mark Oppenheimer would too -- I seem to recall hearing his NPR-friendly voice over NPR airwaves recently talking about this very subject.) Andy posted a status line on Facebook saying something along the lines of "Hey: Slow Mail. Anyone else think this is a great idea?" And he generated more than a few comments, among them someone's suggesting that he do a Google search for something called the Letter Writers Alliance.

Well, I don't know if Andy ever did that Google search, but I sure as hell did, and within an hour I'd convinced myself to join the organization. If you go to http://www.16sparrows.com/shop/Letter-Writers-Alliance.html then you too can join the LWA. It doesn't cost a lot of money, which is good, because it's kind of a silly thing to do, but boy, when I got my packet in the mail from them, I thought, "This is worth every penny."

The LWA was founded by some stationers who make what they describe as "greetings cards for sarcastic, quirky folks." (That phrase along made me desperately wish that I was still the buyer for Atticus; how I would have loved to put these cards on display.) So they've got a lot of snarky cards, which are way fun (if, all right, not for everybody), and clever stationery designs, and then they've got the LWA, which has a mission statement as follows:

"In this era of instantaneous communication, a handwritten letter is a rare and wondrous item. The Letter Writers Alliance is dedicated to preserving this art form; neither long lines, nor late deliveries, nor increasing postal rates will keep us from our mission.

As a member of the Letter Writers Alliance, you will carry on the glorious cultural tradition of letter writing. You will take advantage of every opportunity to send tangible correspondence. Prepare your pen and paper, moisten your tongue, and get ready to write more letters!"

I have several friends who gave up Facebook for Lent. One of them, a guy who lives in Idaho, sent me a Facebook message about two weeks before Lent began, asking if I would write to him, on paper, during Lent. I said, "Of course!" I did, using LWA stationery. I admit that I didn't use a fountain pen, but even so, it was a pleasure.