Lauren Kay will write you a letter: All you have to do is ask. The New York resident has penned requested missives to her childhood sitter’s daughter and a high school boyfriend’s little sister, just to name a couple, as well as unrequested — yet very much appreciated, we’re sure — ones to her own friends and family. One can read about her correspondence escapades — and request one of his or her own — on her few-years-old site, Letters From Lauren. Here, Nora Ephron’s biggest fan talks big zip codes, love letters and her favorite scene from When Harry Met Sally (hint: it doesn’t take place in a diner).
When did your interest in the epistolary world begin?
It all started with box of Crane & Co. engraved ecru stationery, a gift from my grandmother. I was nine. It came with a fancy pink pen, which I was only allowed to use for proper correspondence. In hindsight, it was all a ploy to get me writing thank-you notes (I grew up down south where manners were practiced with emphasis). But it worked! And I’ve been writing letters ever since.
How did Letters from Lauren come to be?
A very dear friend of mine showed her bravery in spades in late 2010. I wrote her a letter extolling her virtues and my complete admiration. She told me how much it meant to her and it got me thinking. The world needs more letters — the good ones that you can pick out of a sea of bills and catalogs, the ones where the words are carefully chosen and eternal.
Why do you enjoy correspondence?
Is there anything better than receiving some thoughtfully penned prose? I have been writing letters since I was kid — stuffing envelopes into lockers, mailing them across oceans. When you take time to pen a letter you collect your thoughts — only the best, most genuine sentiments make the cut. Oh and the expectation and excitement of a sealed envelope — unmatched!
What is your favorite step in the process of written correspondence?
I love dropping letters in the mailbox — the squeak of metal as you pull open the box, the soft plop you hear when a letter reaches the bottom. I usually deposit envelopes one by one, like Sally Albright. When I’m feeling lucky, I use my building’s old letter chute (it was built in the early 1930s so sometimes envelopes get stuck between floors). It always makes me think about the thousands of letters that have taken the same journey.
If you could be pen peals with anyone in history, to would you write and what would you say?
Just one?! I’d pick one of my heroines, Nora Ephron. She was an exceptional storyteller as evidenced by her romantic comedies (When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, You’ve Got Mail). And she lived such a full and interesting life — working in the White House during the Kennedy administration, reporting for the New York Post, penning a couple of best selling books. Did you know, for many years she was one of the few people in the world to know the true identity of Deep Throat? She would have unparalleled letter material and the writing would be first-rate.
To whom do you most often write?
My fiancé Adam is the lucky recipient most days. We have a little mailbox of sorts hanging in our foyer. We take turns leaving each other love notes. And I write to a lot of strangers through letter requests. I love “meeting” people through the post. I pen about five to seven letters a week.
Can you describe the most memorable letter or postcard you have ever received?
I could never pick just one. My Dad is a wonderful writer. He’s been penning letters to me since I was a kid (posing as Santa, offering words encouragement, commemorating my birthdays). I treasure them all. Oh, and I once received a lovely handwritten reply from author David Nicholls—his engraved Smythson stationery is drool-worthy! But really, any letter that comes to P.O. Box 1219 is cherished and tucked away for safe keeping.
What makes a particular letter stand out from a stack of cards?
I love handwriting — swoopy cursive, blocked capitals, pristine calligraphy. For the past few years our mailbox has been full of wedding invitations — gorgeous cardstock and calligraphy, how can you beat that?
Do you have a favorite stamp or stamp series?
I’m pretty smitten with the current Love stamp — a wax-sealed letter! But my favorite stamp series was a commemorative issue for National Letter Writing Week in 1980. They were only 15 cents and the kind of stamps you had to lick — so retro! My favorite is the P.S. Write Soon ones. I recently snagged a whole sheet for a song on ebay!
What makes your correspondence distinct?
A lot of my letter recipients comment on how I address the envelope. I always make the zip codes extra big. I did it once on a package and the postman was delighted, explaining this is how mail is sorted. I’ve been doing it ever since. And if it’s official Letters from Lauren correspondence, it gets a fancy stamp.
What do you think classic correspondence will look like in a decade or two?
I love technology, but it will never take away my desire to put pen to paper. It is my ardent wish that letter writing (and typewriters for that matter) live on! I know email is lightning quick, but there is something about a letter that can’t be replicated on screen. The tactile quality, the idea that something thoughtful has been passed between two people and of course the ability to save (and reread) a letter makes it just extraordinary.
Have a question for Lauren? Email the Crane Concierge at firstname.lastname@example.org.