Paper Love: An Author’s Challenge to Writers of All Ages

Like most authors, I love getting fan mail. I mean, wow! There’s nothing more affirming than THIS:

I’d venture to say that I get more mail than most marginally-known authors. But not because I’m more popular. In fact, sometimes I get letters that ask, “So, what do you do for a living?” You’d think if they’re writing to me, they’d already know. Right?

Not always. Sometimes I do get mail from my young readers. But often, my mailbox is stuffed with letters from those who’ve found the 52 Letters Challenge. Maybe they came across it on my website, in which case they’ve figured out that I’m an author. But sometimes they’ve picked it up from a blog post or by word of mouth. Maybe their teacher has compelled the class to take part. It doesn’t really matter to me how they got the idea to write 52 letters in a year. It matters that they’ve embarked on a writing journey that will make someone’s day. Once a week. For a whole year.

When I started the 52 Letter Challenge, I had no idea how far it would reach. People from Australia, Singapore, and Poland have joined the fun.

Sound do-able? Daunting? Like drudgery?

There was a time when letter-writing was a necessary part of communicating. While writing the biographies of Charley Harper, Dottie Kamenshek, and Emma “Grandma” Gatewood, I depended heavily upon letters written decades ago. Letters to and from and about these individuals provided key information and a unique personal perspective not found in newspaper articles.

A letter from artist Charley Harper to Edith McKee during his years serving in the army during WWII. He called her “Ediepie.”

It makes me wonder how research will be done in the future. With so much communication happening via email and texting, how will those conversations be recovered by researchers? They likely won’t be.  Think of the ideas, feelings, thoughts, reactions, emotions, and responses that will go undocumented. Sure, there will be articles and interviews, but those often contain a person’s most guarded answers to questions.

Next time you decide to send an email of appreciation, consider writing a thank-you note. If you want to text “I love you” to your momma, baby, or sweetheart, by all means, do it! And then put it on paper with a big heart beside it and place it in their hands. I guarantee paper love goes into a box or drawer to be treasured later. E-love will be felt at the time, but it will disappear with the rest of today’s million messages.

A little paper love from my big girl!

Send some paper love to someone today.

 

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Michelle Houts

Michelle Houts writes middle-grade, chapter books, and picture books from a restored one-room schoolhouse near her home. She loves reading, mail, farming, and birds. Michelle visits schools and libraries to share writing excitement with future authors. To find out more and to learn about Michelle’s 52Letters Challenge, visit www.michellehouts.com


2 responses to “Paper Love: An Author’s Challenge to Writers of All Ages

  1. What a great post, Michelle. In my dad’s waning years I asked if he’d reply via letters to questions about his childhood – favorite class (recess), first address (Washington Ave), what he liked to do when he skipped school (hop the subway to Yankee Stadium, go to the pool hall). He died in 2000 and I love being able to pull out the letters and hear his voice, see his hand move across the paper.

    Nothing like paper and pen letters. Thanks for the reminder and memories.

    Karyn

    [Reply]

    Michelle Houts Reply:

    What a treasure you have in those letters, Karyn! I wish I had more written memories from my parents and grandparents!

    [Reply]

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