Penguin Postcards for ‘A Month of Letters’

Penguin Postcards Box

100 cards to choose from…

Longstanding readers of The Landing will know that February is the time for my contribution to the Month of Letters Challenge (#LetterMo). American writer Mary Robinette Kowal runs the letter writing challenge and you can check out the Month of Letters website for details if you want to jump on board. I have always loved both writing and receiving letters and I am also a great hoarder of letters. I have stopped throwing old letters out in a fit of spring-cleaning, as I have discovered that that way lies regret. I used to have a French pen friend when I was at school (though I don’t think the relationship lasted for long) and I wish I still had the letters. The Bookworm recently asked if she could read some of the letters between me and my school friends (just think, we actually used to write to each other in the summer holidays, how quaint was that!) The nice thing is that I have letters going back for many years, from people with whom I am still in contact. What will people do in the future when they want to have a burst of nostalgia? Comb through their email archive I suppose. Methinks it hardly sounds like an enticing prospect. It did occur to me that I should have my own mini challenge to re-read an old letter on every day of the month, but I think after all that I will just stick to writing to people in February. Maybe I will save re-reading letters for the dark, chilly November evenings by the fireside.

This year, by way of a change I have decided to write postcards for everyone, from my lovely box of Penguin book jacket postcards. My original aim was to try to match a person to a book postcard, but I’m not sure how realistic that will be to manage. So far, I think I have done reasonably well matching two friends who like gardening and cooking respectively, with an appropriate choice of book title. I also despatched an art-themed postcard to a creative artist friend, so far so good. Ideally, I would like to match each recipient with a favourite author, book, genre or topic as far as possible. However, I have been through the box a few times now and I have discovered that some book titles might be difficult to place with a home. I suggest Scootering: a Penguin Handbook or Common Sense about Smoking: a Penguin Special as uncommon choices for uncommon readers. On the fiction front while Orange PenguinsA Severed Head (Iris Murdoch) and Vile Bodies (Evelyn Waugh) are fine as books, would you choose to send them as a postcard design unless you were sure of a good reception?

Penguin Postcards Selection

I’ll never use all of them…

I will write an update on my progress with the book title/matching process in a few days. Meanwhile I might delve into depths of The Landing and see what I have unread in the way of collected letters. I think I may have mentioned before that I enjoy reading other people’s letters…all above board, of course…

Landing news: A quick catch-up

My Month of Letters participation went well this year with at least one item of mail (and often two) posted every day of the month. I was keeping a tally of recipients as I went along this time around so my final totals are:

 

A Month of Letters badge

Happy letter writing!

Correspondence sent to twenty-four people plus my parents x two items

Birthday card for my dad

One reply to a Month of Letters response (thanks Grainne!)

The lovely thing about sending #Lettermo mail this year, has been receiving post in return. One day I came home to the thrill of finding four non-brown envelope items on the door mat, which these days is quite something. To mark the occasion I assembled several items for a photograph. After much posing and arranging, here they are:

letters and cards

The cards sat on the mat…

I do plan to keep up my rekindled enthusiasm for writing letters and postcards and have even bought a

rather nice postcard calendar (marked down to clear) so that I need never be short of something to send. For this year’s letter writing challenge a special Month of Letters postcard design was available to order so I splashed out on a bundle of them.

Maybe I will manage to be less of a Facebook-er and more of a pen friend correspondent this year. Watch this space…

One Year on the Landing: A Literary Milestone

Green bound classic

A rather smart binding…

I am pleased to say that today is the First Anniversary of The Landing Book Shelves Reading Challenge. There was a time when I thought that I would fall by the wayside, but I am pleased that I managed to stick with it this far. I have enjoyed having a go at blogging and I have taught myself a few WordPress skills in the process. Having the blog has also ‘landed’ me with a marvellous excuse for reading more books! Of course when I have finally finished my Landing Eight bit of the Reading Challenge then I will simply have to begin all over again with another random pile culled from the shelves.

By way of an anniversary (or perhaps it should be birthday?) gesture I have chosen to post up a  rather jolly picture from The Diary of  a Nobody, depicting Mr and Mrs Poooter taking a few frivolous turns around the room. The occasion for celebration was their invitation to a party at the Mansion House. The illustrations, drawn by Weedon Grossmith are so good that it would be difficult to pick a favourite, but this one fits my purpose today just nicely.

The drawing captures the exuberance of the moment as the couple whirl around the room in anticipation of the social event of the year. Not surprisingly, the maid picks that moment to enter the room. Sarah witnesses her otherwise respectable employers dancing in the parlour:

I cannot tell what induced me to do it, but I seized her round the waist, and we were silly enough to be executing a wild kind of polka when Sarah entered, grinning, and said: “There is a man, mum, at the door who wants to know if you want any good coals”. Most annoyed at this.

Mr and Mrs Pooter dancing

A merry dance…

It is not clear whether Mr Pooter is annoyed at the interruption of his impromptu dance session or at being caught doing something silly by the maid. The episode describing the actual Mansion House dinner and ball is very entertaining as Mr Pooter is rather shocked to find that some of the tradespeople he deals with have also been invited. I do urge anyone who has not yet encountered the Pooters and their friends to get hold of a copy forthwith and make their acquaintance.

Meanwhile I will be busy with Mary Robinette Kowal’s February letter writing challenge Month of Letters (hashtag #lettermo) and embarking upon a web design course. I also hope to have a bash at reading another book from the Landing Eight challenge.

Until soon (I hope!)…

Month of Letters (#LetterMo)

I know it might seem rather conceited to be re-blogging myself (albeit with a different hat), but I am keenly awaiting the start of February to get stuck into letter writing. This will be the second year that I have tackled Mary Robinette Kowal’s wonderful letter writing challenge. The re-blog is to help spread the letter writing bug as far and wide as possible!

Meanwhile I will be working on the next instalment of the Landing Reading Challenge…

Irish News Review

lwI know we are not yet clear of January but I am already looking ahead to February’s comparatively brief span. The reason for all of this eagerness is that the second month of the year has been designated as ‘letter-writing season’. If you are even the slightest bit intrigued by that idea, then read on:

Last year I participated in the ‘Month of Letters’ challenge set up by American writer Mary Robinette Kowal, although I discovered the challenge too late to be able to begin on time. I enjoyed making the effort to write more letters and postcards to family and friends than I usually manage. Most people I know still love to have something more cheering than a utility bill plopping onto their doormat in the morning. And in this year of ‘The Gathering’ it seems a good idea to get writing to all of those friends…

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Mary Robinette Kowal

Footnote: #LetterMo author Mary Robinette Kowal

While having a quick browse in the recently returned section of the library last Thursday, I spotted a novel by Mary Robinette Kowal, Shades of Milk and Honey. Attentive readers of this blog will be aware that the American author was also responsible for organising the February letter writing challenge A Month of Letters in which I participated (with admittedly mixed results) this year. If you missed it, catch up with the post here.

 

Shades of Milk and Honey

A Tempting Read….

Kowal’s  novel is an Austen inspired comedy of manners with a fantasy element that was nominated for the Nebula Prize 2010 in the Best Novel category. One of the reviews (RT Book Reviews) says it ‘includes ethereal events, exquisite prose, delicately drawn characters, and tender emotions.’ It sounds temptingly delicious but I have just begun my book club novel, David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas so it must remain firmly untouched on the bedside table for a while.
And as for the proper business of reading the next Landing Eight choice…..I leave you all to guess.

http://www.maryrobinettekowal.com/fiction-collectio/shades-of-milk-and-honey/

All should have bonnets: a letter from Louisa M Alcott

After the dedication of my #LetterMo writing challenge efforts have faded gently away, I have decided to return to the compendium of historic letters that I mentioned in one of my earlier entries. Having struggled to post at least one item of correspondence every day for a month, I can truly say that I stand (pen poised) in awe of the sheer effort involved in letter writing pre-Microsoft Word technology. After all, even keeping up with just a few relatives in the last century would have been a Herculean task. But thank goodness that so many people did just that, providing a mine of information and insight that would otherwise have been lost to later generations.

One of the epistles in The World’s Great Letters is one from Louisa M Alcott to her sister Anna and while it could not be claimed to hold huge historical importance, it does give you a glimpse into the life of a would-be writer who was struggling to support her family. Alcott was also mired in domestic chores as well as suffering the frustration of waiting for editors to reply to her story submissions.

Alcott’s letter, written around 1861 describes the trials and tribulations of fashioning a decent bonnet (a social necessity) with only one dollar to spend; the contents of Alcott’s ribbon box supplemented the lack of cash. She makes the whole enterprise into an entertaining anecdote for Anna Alcott, but she clearly would have loved to be able to go out and buy a smart piece of headgear. She describes her attempts to trim the one-dollar bonnet thus:

I extracted the remains of the old white ribbon (used up, as I thought, two years ago), and the bits of black lace that have adorned a long line of departed hats. Of the lace I made a dish, on which I thriftily served up bows of ribbon, like meat on toast.  Inside put the lace bow, which adorns my form anywhere when needed. A white flower A.H. gave me sat airily on the brim, – fearfully unbecoming, but pretty in itself, and in keeping. Strings are yet to be evolved from chaos. I feel that they await me somewhere in the dim future.

 

book cover with portrait of L.M. Alcott

Louisa May

All this occurred before Alcott struck gold with the phenomenally successful Little Women, which was published in 1867. At that time, she was still a ‘young woman with one dollar, no bonnet, half a gown and a discontented mind’ as she described herself. In one of those moments of literary serendipity, I spotted a biography of Louisa Alcott (Martha Saxton, 1978) while rummaging in the Trinity College Booksale on Saturday. I was meaning to re-read Little Women after seeing The Gate’s sell out production last month. As Little Women and its sequels reside on the landing I can justify doing just that, but I will have to make (yet another) exception for reading the Louisa May Alcott biography. But, one of the joys of reading is that you never know what is going to be around the next corner of the bookshelf!

What have you discovered this week? And how is your Reading Challenge going? Drop a line in the comment box…

Historic Letters and #LetterMo: a winning literary challenge

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Letter Writing Month Badge

In my first Landing Reading Challenge post, I mentioned a collection of letters on the landing bookshelves. As February is the month of a brilliant letter writing challenge (set up by Mary Robinette Kowal), I decided to start my own particular challenge with a browse through the volume of historic letters. I cannot remember exactly when I bought this book but at a guess, I would estimate about fifteen years ago. The book was published in 1950 and at some point, an unknown hand had written the date 29/4/71 on the flyleaf. I’m not sure that it really counts as being on a TBR Pile however, since it is the sort of book that you browse rather than read cover to cover.

I must digress slightly to admit that though I have signed up to the letter writing challenge I did sign up a few days late. In my defence though, I have actually been diligently writing and posting cards since 1st February but without any coherent plan in mind. I think I may continue to do it that way. I will decide in the morning to whom the day’s offering will be sent. In this case, the lucky recipient will be (almost) as much a surprise to me as it will be to them.

In the meantime, back to The World’s Greatest Letters, which covers a fair slice of history beginning as it does with Cicero and ending with a letter written by an ARP Warden in World War II. The nice thing about the collection is that apart from a chronological list, it also has a classification of letters by subject. This means that you may go straight for the ‘Letters of Controversy, Hatred and Enmity’ should you so desire. If that seems to be too strong for your stomach, you might try ‘Letters in a Light Vein’ or ‘Letters about Nature’. Perhaps as 14th February is not too far off I should consult the more romantically inclined letter writers for Valentines inspiration.

I will let you know next time how I get on with bygone love letters; it is time to write the next instalment of #LetterMo. I really must pop out and buy some more stamps. Juggling between a letter writing and a reading challenge will be a challenge in itself…

http://lettermo.com

Twitter: @LetterMonth (#LetterMo)