The Month of Letters Challenge

The delightful Mary Robinette Kowal has thrown down the gauntlet, challenging all of us with our tech-heavy lives to slow down for a minute and send real mail, one piece of any sort every mail collection day in February, 24 days in all in the US (where Mary lives, so the number for the challenge).

I’ve been debating whether to take part in the challenge since Mary first posted it a week or so ago. Like most people, I have a very busy life. Rarely do I take the time to send “real” mail, relying heavily on email for most of my correspondence. And the thought of adding one more daily task to my to-do list is daunting, to say the least. It’s that, more than anything, that’s made me hesitate.

But I also love getting mail, the rare times something arrives that’s not a bill or an ad. And I’ve no doubt finding personal mail waiting is a treat for most people. And I like the idea of making someone’s day with a very little bit of effort on my part.

Before email took over my life, I regularly wrote and received letters. My oldest friend moved 1000km away when we were about six, and we wrote back and forth from the time we were barely old enough to print sentences in big, deliberate printing until we were in university together. As a teenager, I had several pen pals, people my age I’d met at a week-long youth program for teens from across the country. One of those I still call a good friend, though I’m never as up-to-date on even our email correspondence as I’d like to be. His carefully-decorated envelopes were always a joy to find in mail. My entire family appreciated those creative envelopes, and I still have them – and their contents – in a box somewhere.

We’ve lost something with the virtual disappearance of handwritten letters. As our resident family genealogist, I’m acutely aware of the dangers represented by our increasingly digital world. Unless we are very careful with how paperless we go, the shoeboxes full of old photos I relish digging through won’t exist for our own descendants. The old, spidery handwriting on thin, airmail sheets that tells me more about who my ancestors were than any of their official documents do won’t be there for our own great grandchildren.

So I feel like I need to put my money (for postage) where my mouth is. I talk about all we could lose as our world goes increasingly digital, as incredible as the technology is, so maybe it’s time to do something about it and try to find a little balance between the old way and the new. I’m going to try by participating in this challenge.

Want to join in? Check out the details on Mary’s blog, linked in the first line of this post.


  1. Sara Walker Howe
    Feb 1, 2012

    Hi Kathy,
    I’ve been thinking more about letter writing recently, ever since having finished reading THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL PIE SOCIETY, which is a story told all by letters. But like you, I don’t have the time. And then there are few I think I would write to. More importantly, letters are more personal than email, so I think the number of people I might send a letter to is even less. Still, I’m thinking about reviving the dying art form.

    Have you noticed a decline in Christmas cards? I am distinctly receiving fewer and fewer every year. Isn’t it terrible when we can’t even send a card?


    • Kathy
      Feb 14, 2012

      Yes! Far fewer Christmas cards the last few years than there used to be. And I probably send out fewer than 1/5 of what I used to, and those only to far-distant relatives. I’d like to do better, but it comes at such a busy time of year. That’s part of why I like this challenge.

  2. Colleen
    Feb 14, 2012

    So, (ahem) – should I be checking the mail right now?

    • Kathy
      Feb 14, 2012

      Funny you should ask that on this particular day…

  3. Julie K
    Feb 15, 2012

    I got your card – it was a lovely surprise! And I send out the Christmas cards…and still get some in return, actually! Keep an eye on your mailbox – eventually! :)