Category Archives: Creative Writing

email v. snail mail

When I started writing letters I was often mocked for using an archaic method of communication. People couldn’t understand why I would want to sit and handwrite a message and then wait days or weeks for a reply, instead of simply whipping off an email and getting a response in minutes. I have thought about this quite a bit and I will try and explain what I see are the major differences with email and snail mail.

I will not down play the role of email or try to knock it usefulness, in fact I love email. I use email far more often than I do regular post. Email is an invaluable tool at the office, it is a great way to correspond quickly and efficiently. I prefer email to the phone even. The main benefits of email are that it is instant, free and easy. I can send a dozen email an hour. I can get replies and clarify a thought 3 to 4 times in the same amount of time it takes me to write one letter. Email is an excellent tool for productivity but with letter writing I am not trying to be productive.

Letter writing is like a nice meal that you sit and enjoy, email is a quick sandwich. I enjoy sitting down, relaxing and thinking about, not only what I will say but how I will say it, with what colour ink and on what paper. I write letters because I want to discuss something not because I have to. The goal of a letter is not solely to inform but to share.

Basically I do not see the two forms of communication as competing with one and another. I love both and see a use and purpose for each. I don’t know if I could ever really explain how good it feels to receive a letter or the pleasure I get out of sitting with a cup of coffee and replying to one but I hope I have done a decent job of explaining the difference.

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Filed under Creative Writing, Pen Pals

Remember to tie down the Gifts

“Make sure to tie down the gifts” a sentence I have hear jokingly every Christmas season. In 2003, as we were preparing for our annual pilgrimage back to North Bay for Christmas, we experienced one of the more memorable Christmas’ ever.

My Father was gracious enough to drive up to Ottawa to assist with the trip as we were quite tight in our 1999 Neon. The car was not large enough for Terri and I, Owen, the two dogs, the gifts, the luggage and the stroller. On December 23rd 2003 Terri and my Dad packed up the Neon and the his Dodge Ram and were eagerly awaiting my call to say my work day was done and we were heading out. At approximately 3pm I called my dad and told him I was ready to go and he headed out to get me while Terri went to her cousin Marlene’s to say some good byes and we would meet there. Well the snow was falling and the drive to pick me up took longer than anticipated, we then had to drive to my cousin Mathieu’s (My dad was giving my cousin a ride home) and meet Terri. Everything was going well, we got to Mathieu’s and all piled back in to go get Terri and Owen. This is were the fun begins.

Somewhere between Mathieu’s and Marlene’s our large Rubber Maid tote full of Christmas gifts fell out of the back of the truck. Now this would not have been so bad had we noticed when it happened but we didn’t notice until we got to Marlene’s. The Total distance from Matt’s to Marlene’s is probably only about 10Kms but in rush hour and going right through downtown it could take forever to search and find the gifts.

I had a melt down on the couch, my dad felt terrible, Terri talked it over with Marlene and Mathieu started calling every radio station to have them announce that we had lost the gifts and if they were found who they could call. I got in the car and carefully retraced our steps but to no avail. As I walked back into the house dejected I was greeted with a warm meal and some sympathetic shoulders to cry on.

We resigned ourselves to the hands of fate and the kindness of strangers as we headed west gift less and a little sad. The ride to North Bay was quiet and uneventful and we arrived unscathed. We had a fairly restless but well needed sleep and arose the next morning to many enquiries from friends and relatives as news of the previous nights events circulated. We put on a brave face and went about our normal holiday festivities. Our running joke was that we had gotten everyone new cars but that the keys were in the box we lost and were irreplaceable. My Father in a magnificent gesture went out and replaced the one gift that really meant a lot to me. I had gotten Owen a little statuette of a father and son for his first Christmas and my father hunted down another just like it and wrapped it up for Christmas morning.

Exhausted from the merriment and cheer we collapsed on the night of Christmas 2003. We were awoken on Boxing day by loud screeches and screams from my mother as she dragged us from bed to take a phone call. On the phone was Marlene, someone had found the box and returned it to the local Newspaper. The paper had run a story about the box of gifts found who the gifts were addressed to and if you had any information to call. Terri called the newspaper and arranged to have Marlene pick it up, Marlene and her family were going to be passing through North Bay that evening and would drop off all our gifts. This was an amazing act of kindness; I mean really how many people would find a box full of presents and try to find it’s rightful owner? Turns out the women that found it thought there maybe a body inside or something equally as sinister and never even opened it.

Our answering machine was flooded with calls from friends who had seen the article and the paper wanted to do a follow up piece. So my son, not even 6 months old, was going to be in the paper for a 2nd time. The second article recapped our trials and tribulations and allowed the city to put a face to the idiots that lost all their gifts.

Now that we had all the gifts we had another Christmas for everyone but had to come clean that we hadn’t gotten them cars. So this is the end of my Christmas tale, all turned out well and I tell you we will always firmly secure our presents from now on.

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I get mail

One of the greatest things that has happened since I started using fountain pens is my subsequent discovery of the art of letter writing. As my collection of pens and inks grew I realized that I was accumulating more than I really needed for Journaling and that using some of the nice papers simply to write grocery lists wasn’t the best I could do.

I started small, I put my name on a Postcard exchange list and began swapping brief messages with people from all around the globe. Postcards soon left me feeling unsatisfied. It was great to get these in the mail but I found that they were not terribly conducive to a proper conversation , so I found a letter exchange list and jumped in with both feet.

I currently have about 10 pen pals and I think I may have reached my limit but who knows. I am exchanging letters with people from all walks of life, from the U.S., Canada and the U.K. Each pen pal offers something unique and interesting. I have pen pals with whom I can discuss parenting, books, pens, local farming and life in general. I have had conversations with people I might other wise never talk to and I find it has been great to help increase my understanding.

I have also found letter writing to be extremely therapeutic. It is extremely relaxing to sit down after a long day of working and parenting and compose a thought out letter. I might write some of the same thoughts in my journal but there is something satisfying in knowing that someone will read these thoughts and potentially provide some feedback.

If you have never or if it has been sometime since you have written a letter I say do it.

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Journalling

I remember my first journal was one I kept on a family trip out to western Canada. The entries were mostly drawings of things we saw and visited but it serves as a great keep sake. Since then I have gone through many journals. I have used journals are diaries, creative writing exercises, therapy, etc… I almost always have at least one kind of journal on my person with few good pens.

My current journal rotation consist of a traditional “what happened today” journal, a journal of thoughts on the books I am currently reading and quotes as well as a journal to track my Astronomical sightings. This of course does not count the variety of cahiers I carry for note taking and list making.

My journals have a very special place in my life. I can go through them and read my bad teenage poetry, about life changing moments and the mundane absurdities of life. These tiny books not only document my life but help me deal with it as it is happening. I find that sitting down to write in my journals really help me gather my thoughts and understand what I am going through.

Update: Does this Pen Write? shares some thoughts on Journaling as well.

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My love of Pens

I have loved pens (and pencils) for some time, even very young I loved collecting writing implements. I love wandering the aisles of pens at office supply stores and art stores. I progressed from Ballpoints to Rollerballs, I have tried all types of inks. I remember the first pen I actively searched out was a Uni-Ball Premier 207 and it was very nice. The gel ink was smooth and the pen was large.

Premier 207

I was also quite attached to Pilot’s Hi-Tecpoint pens for a while. I was satisfied with the size of the pen but the line it laid down was good.

V7

During more artistic moments, I have and still enjoy Faber-Castell’s offerings. The PITT line of artist’s pens is great. I love them for doodling in my journals.

Pitt Pens

Faber-Castell’s pencils are another permanent fixture in my arsenal.

Faber-Castell Pencils

My latest step has been to fountain pens and I am quite happy. I first made the jump when I bought an orange Lamy Safari with a medium nib. I was hooked from the get get go. The feel of the pen, the variety of colours and the geeky credibility of shunning ballpoints all made for a match made in heaven.

Since buying that Safari I have since purchased a Baoer 517, had a pen made, ordered a second Safari and have an Esterbrook on the way. I am very excited about these new pens and hope to share more later.

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