Post Script: LA Pen Pal Club Founders Margaret and Victoria

Meet Margaret Haas and Victoria Vu, founders of the LA Pen Pal Club. The two stationery enthusiasts host the monthly meetup, during which guests can talk correspondence, share interesting letters they’ve received, saddle up to a typewriter or take pen to paper. Here, they talk about postcards from Italy and the pen pal who wouldn’t have to write anything at all.

Margaret Haas, Paper Pastries

When did your interest in the epistolary world begin?
I was making birthday cards for family members when I was very young, around kindergarten10832300_895321993813553_338458302_n or first grade. They were mostly decorated with stickers, but a heartfelt message was always the center of attention and what I’d spend most time on. I’m sure there were a lot of typos, but you got the general idea. Picking out just the right postage stamp for the envelope was always the cherry on top.

Tell us about your Pen Pals program and what inspired it.
We get together once a month to pen letters and to show fun mail we’ve recently received. It is fun to share with others this activity that usually you do alone, in a quiet place. The LA Pen Pal Club is never a quiet space! We have typewriters out for people to use, so you can always hear the tapping of keys over the chatter. We love to comment on each other’s mail art or stationery, or postage stamp choice. It’s so much fun to get together with others who share in your love of mail.
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Post Script: Women of Letters’ Marieke Hardy

Meet Marieke Hardy, co-founder of the live series Women of Letters. Along with fellow Aussie writer Michaela McGuire, the duo created an intimate show that has placed everyone from notable actresses to what Marieke likes to call “dark horses” on stage with their missives. Here, the self-proclaimed writer to “anybody and everybody” shares about a special postcard project, legendary Australian feminists and why you won’t be able to download the show’s podcast (and why that’s a good thing).

Michaela and Marieke

Michaela and Marieke

When did your interest in the epistolary world begin?
I was a voracious letter writer in my 20s. I would write to anybody and everybody: Politicians, passerby, the company who made my favourite lipstick. I liked to write thank you cards; I felt there were too many complaint letters in the world. (To everybody who received a weird ‘I really love your muesli!’ card from me in the 90’s, you’re welcome!) These days I have lots of secret postcard projects, and obviously Women of Letters means we have to keep the flame alive!

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Post Script: Publetters’ Michael McGettigan and Nestor Torres

Meet Michael McGettigan and Nestor Torres, founders of Publetters. The name suggests exactly what one might think: letter writing while enjoying a pint (or two). Here, the two share their thoughts on a certain cherished letter to a Philadelphia policeman, bi-lingual correspondence and the wonderful moment that is “the turn.”

pub letters nestor and michael

Organizers Michael and Nestor. Photo courtesy of Maria Pouchnikova.

When did your interest in the epistolary world begin?
Michael: Oh, we’ve written letters since grade school in my family—not a lot, but regularly. In the past ten years, as email has become just like another task, letters have become special again for me and for the people I write to. Continue reading

Post Script: Snail Mail Cafe’s Sarah Bentley

Meet Sarah Bentley, founder of pop-up coffee and correspondence spot Snail Mail Café. The Brooklyn resident’s goal is to one day open a permanent space where letter writers can take pen to paper—and indulge in an ice cream cone (or two). Here, Sarah talks to us about blank cards, commemorative stamps and how letters are a lot like (good) food.

sarah bentley  Continue reading

Post Script: The Great Letter Revival’s Catherine Jackson

As Catherine Jackson pored over the moving letters between her mother and her father during his time in the Navy, she was reminded about how powerful the written word could be. Inspired, she decided everyone should experience that feeling and thus The Great Letter Revival came to be. She launched a Facebook page, YouTube channel and a blog, then got to work assembling and sending “Revival Kits”—stationery, stamps—to friends, family and anyone else interested in letter writing.

TGLR revival kitTGLR revival kit materials“The goal of TGLR has always been to bring back genuine, personal, creative and meaningful human connections to our modern world via letter writing,” Catherine says. “We wish to increase communication that goes beyond the generic realms of online socialization, to create memories and human expression, to spread smiles and to ultimately make the mailbox a happy place to visit once again.”

CathypoboxesWhen did your interest in the epistolary world begin?
The magic of letter writing was impressed upon me at a young age. I remember having a pen pal from Japan who would send the most gorgeous postcards embellished with hand crafted details and delicate origami. And then on the opposite side of the spectrum, when a friend of mine moved away, it thrilled me when her bulky, sloppy envelopes stuffed with a piece or two of Red Vines and her favorite pet rock somehow managed to find its way to my mailbox. This love of letter writing carried over into my high school years and into adulthood. I’ve often had close friends or family move to far off places. Any long distance relationship (friend, family or romantic) is always kept fresh through the sending and receiving of letters. I’ve since then discovered how wonderful it can be to send and receive mail from within the same zipcode, too. A handwritten letter is always a heart-lifting reminder that someone cares about you enough to dedicate the time to write it in words.
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Post Script: Protocol School of Washington President Pamela Eyring

This weekend the Protocol School of Washington will celebrate turning 25 years old with a Global Summit. Attendees will participate in workshops such as “The Protocol of Titles and Forms of Address” and “Keep Calm and Protocol On: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at a Royal Visit.” The PSOW also has served as a consultant for several editions of our Blue Book of Stationery, which has been the go-to guide for proper correspondence since the late 1800’s. So, we thought it both timely and appropriate to speak with PSOW President Pamela Eyring, who shares with us thoughts such as the pen pal worthy of a letter closing with “Fondly” and why she just might have been the next Florence Nightengale.


How long have you been at the PSOW and how did you end up there?
I graduated from PSOW almost 15 years ago and have proudly owned the school for the past nine years.

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Post Script: Laura Brown, Author of ‘How to Write Anything’

Meet Laura Brown, author of the newly published book, How to Write Anything, which is a guide to exactly that. From composing everything from a research paper to a recipe, it’s a necessary addition to any proper writing desk. Here, the well-seasoned writing instructor of more than 25 years talks to us about pen pal-ing with Shakespeare, fountain pens and a truly memorable A-. 

laura brown and book

When did your interest in writing begin?
It started when I was small. I wrote little stories when I was a child, and then when I started having to write at school, I found I really enjoyed it. I was lucky to have some truly inspirational teachers who encouraged me, partly by giving wonderful assignments where we could stretch our wings as writers. I’ve always felt a kind of flow with writing, being in the zone, and that’s very pleasant.

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Post Script: Snail Mail My Email’s Ivan Cash

When San Francisco-based artist and filmmaker Ivan Cash decided to create a project that involved handwriting emails, he figured it would be a one-time experiment. Soon, though, he had so many requests that he had to enlist the help of hundreds of volunteers around the world to help him write. In all, more than 10,000 letters were sent, and Snail Mail My Email has become an annual, week-long  event that takes place each November. If you can’t wait that long, however, the project’s letters are also available in book form. Here, Ivan talks with us about his dream Zen pen pal, in-the-moment correspondence and why including plastic dinosaur toys with your notes is pretty great.

Tell me about your snail mail project and how it came about.
I’ve always loved letter writing, but when I lived in Amsterdam during 2011, I found I was working all the time and not writing enough letters. When I quit my job just six months in, I decided I needed a project to help immerse myself back into the world of letter writing. I also wanted to use my skills in advertising to share the magic of snail mail with others.

snail mail my email letter 3

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Post Script: Travis White, A Letter for Better

It all began with a touch of mailbox envy. Eyeing the handwritten letters his roommate seemed to receive on a daily basis, Travis White decided everyone should have that feeling that always accompanies receiving a letter. So he started A Letter for Better, a group of students that randomly chooses names and addresses from the White Pages and sends the unknowing recipients a handwritten letter. The organization now has 45 active members — up from just four when it began. Below, the Central Michigan University student talks to us about pens, Steve Jobs and an unexpected visit from a police officer.

travis white a letter for betterTravis White (right) with ALFB Vice President, Ashley Coners

When did your interest in the epistolary world begin?
It began in my first year of college. I lived (and currently live) in the residence halls at Central Michigan University where we have mailboxes for each one of our rooms. My roommate that I lived with had a girlfriend at the time who attended an institution in Ohio. One of their major forms of communication was through letter writing, and it seemed to me like he received a letter almost every day. Since I was the one who passed the mailbox on a regular basis, I would be the one to pick up all of the mail. A couple months went by that I would open the mailbox, seeing only a letter that would be addressed to him, never seeing the words “Travis White” printed in the handwriting of someone close to me.

One day in late October/early November, we went to lunch in one of the residence halls on campus, when he received an email that was sent directly to his phone. It was from one of the front desk workers notifying him that he had a package waiting for him at the front desk of our residence hall. Being the great friend that he was and knowing that I did not receive any mail before then, he teased me about it.

Jokingly, I told him, “You know what I’m going to do? I’m going to go onto, find a random address and become pen-pals with them.” It wasn’t until a couple days later that I finally received my first letter in the mail and, surprisingly, it was from my Marching Band back home. I was the Drum Major during my Junior and Senior year of High School, and my entire band wrote to tell me how much they miss me and wished that I would come back to play with them for their Homecoming.

The feeling that that letter gave me was something that I have never experienced before, so I decided to take that and turn it into an student organization. We turned my “joke” into a reality, where we literally go onto Whitepages and find random strangers to write to, simply to make them smile.
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Post Script: Modern Day Snail Mail’s Cristina Vanko

cristina vankoAccording to her bio, Cristina Vanko is a “designer, idea person, visual storyteller, printer, letterer, illustrator, data visualizer and an aspiring art director.” For one week, she was the girl “texting” using ink. After discovering her father’s old calligraphy pen, Vanko fell in love with writing words that glided across the paper in lovely flourishes. So, she decided that for seven days she would only “text” her friends with hand-written messages. The result was visually and socially extraordinary. Here, Vanko talks about her snail mail experiment, correspondence as an artform and her father’s delightfully creative envelope addressing.

When did your interest in the epistolary world begin?
My dad would always send snail mail to me when I went off to college and decorate the envelope with silly stickers and interesting type, but it wasn’t until I was taking classes in all the different art areas at school until I got really interested in the epistolary world.

Although I had been interested in art at a very young age, at the beginning of my undergraduate career my understanding of art had not yet been developed to think that art could be more than a painting or drawing. But when I was at Indiana University—Bloomington, I came across some really inspiring printmaking graduate students who helped me fully understand what the definition of art is and what it could be.

Kristin Carlson’s MFA thesis, Large Letters, Small Signs, was when I truly fell in love with mail and mail art. It was then when I discovered how you could really push the boundary of surface, type and technique. I remember speaking with her when she was screen-printing this piece and she explained to me that in art school you spend so much time with your work that you miss out on relationships with people.

Not only did I see her thesis as an interesting way to send mail but also I saw her thesis as a good way to share her talent with people she cared about. After being introduced to mail art in such an extraordinary and beautiful way, I became more aware what I sent through the mail.

Tell me about your Modern Day Snail Mail project.
I resurrected my dad’s old calligraphy pen and I was immediately stunned with the range of line thickness that the pen could achieve. After texting some doodles to friends, I decided to send handwritten messages to people for that next week. I wanted to create my own modern day version of “snail mail.”

My rules for this type of experiment were simple: Create handwritten text messages for seven days, i.e. no using the keyboard on my phone to send a message. I wrote out my message on paper and then I snapped a photo to send as a text message. What started as an experiment to improve and learn more calligraphy quickly became an interesting social experiment all together. Not only did I learn a lot about calligraphy, I learned a lot about myself, my friends and technology.

modern day snail mail

modern day snail mail text messages

Why do you enjoy writing letters and/or correspondence?
I appreciate how it’s a more genuine and personal way of creating and/or maintaining conversation with a person. The physical pieces are elements to add to your shared story with a specific person, so it’s interesting to see how your relationship unfolds in a tangible way. Also, I’ve been working on more digital projects as a designer so it’s a nice way to revisit and maintain my analog roots.

What is your favorite step in the process of written correspondence?
I enjoy the final step of the process—constructing and embellishing what contains the message whether it be an envelope, box, etc. Since it’s the first thing you see, I want the recipient to know that this isn’t an ordinary piece of mail.

envelope mail art

If you could be pen pals with anyone in history, to whom would you write and what would you say?
I’d love to start conversations with my ancestors to ask about their stories and to see their handwriting. I have noticed similarities in handwriting among my family members and it’d be interesting to see if there was an evolution involving handwriting style.

To whom do you most often write?
I mostly write to my friends and family, and by write, I mean that I mostly send mail art. After graduating college, my friends are sprawled out all over the country, so I like to send mail art and postcards to friends every chance I have some free time.

Unfortunately, I have noticed it becomes a one-way street. Luckily, I have a couple of good friends from undergraduate with which we consistently send mail art back and forth. My one friend and I give each other challenges to push ourselves, so we try to master a new skill or learn something new when relaying our message.

mail art

Can you describe the most memorable letter or postcard you have ever received?
Besides from visually intriguing letters, simple handwritten letters that reveal your most genuine thoughts and feelings about someone make for some of the best letters I’ve ever received. There’s nothing more personal than handwriting when truly expressing yourself.

What makes a particular letter stand out from a stack of cards?
Knowing that someone wanted to fill a blank page with their a message versus picking out something reconstructed and/or only requires a signature. The extra effort of a physical letter is refreshing.

What makes your correspondence distinct?
My dad literally pushes the envelope with the address alone. Wherever I’ve lived, he’s always figured out a new way to construct an address by using city nicknames, spelling things out phonetically, etc. It surprises me every time I receive a letter that the post office figured out a way to decode the address. Naturally, I picked up the habit of crafting creative addresses and have been applying it to my mail.

What do you think classic correspondence will look like in a decade or two?
I think classic correspondence will continue to become rare, but I can only hope that it will evolve into something new—even if that means digitally. While today people are more connected than ever, receiving a personal email could seem like a rarity. Sometimes I know that I get tricked into thinking that liking, commenting or re-tweeting means that someone cares when really it takes little effort to do such things. I could only hope there will be a way to digitally differentiate correspondence and make it more personal.

Have a question for Cristina or know someone who should be featured in Post Script? Contact our Crane Concierge at