Month of Letters Update

I have written about tackling the February ‘Month of Letters’ challenge before on The Landing and on Writing.ie, so I thought that I would give you a progress report on my 2015 attempt. As usual, I began writing enthusiastically, but this time around, I entered a sort of sluggish phase part way into the month. The original rules of the challenge state that you don’t have to post on Sundays (nor, as the challenge was set by an American writer, on February 16 for President’s Day). On my first couple of attempts, I was enthusiastic enough to include Sundays (despite there being no mail collection on Sunday in Ireland) but this year I have observed the breaks and I feel slightly lazy for having done so. As I ignore the US Public Holiday, that means posting twenty-four items during February.

Card from Claire

Note from Claire

Missing the Sunday letter meant that I despatched my first mailing on 2 February – so far so good. I began the month with a list of possible suspects (in no particular order) and worked from that as the days went on. Originally I had conceived the idea of putting names of possible recipients into a hat and drawing one each day. I thought this would be great way to add a nice element of serendipity to the proceedings. Sadly, it was not to be due to my unfortunate inefficiency. Therefore, I am still working from the list but trying to maintain an air of randomness by not following the list in order. The down side to this is that I have noticed a distressing tendency to do the ‘soft options’ first. In other words, the people I see the most often and to whom I therefore wouldn’t send a long letter, but perhaps only a postcard or note.

Of course I worry that someone will think, ‘Hang on a minute, how come I am not getting a letter until the 23rd? Does this mean that I’m not as important as 22 other people?’ or words to that effect. Maybe I just worry too much. After all, as I write this blog post I am aware that I have yet to post a letter to one of my sisters but I don’t think she’s likely to take offence at that (I hope). Some folks do actually end up getting more than one billet doux as the challenge rules stipulate that you must reply to every letter received. If you really get into the spirit and rhythm of the challenge then there is no reason to post only one item a day. I could post two, three or even more.

As February moves on to meet the March lamb (or lion) I am feeling pleased that I have kept my pen diligently moving. I might even have a last minute flurry of scribbling to squeeze in a few extra people. As usual, I have factored in my dad’s birthday and my parent’s anniversary. I was probing my conscience as to whether I can claim dad’s birthday present as an item posted when I have already counted his card in. It seems rather sharp practice to me, so I might have to reprimand myself. As in previous years, I have been delighted when my recipients have responded in kind. I have scanned in a couple of replies, including Teri Farrell’s postcard with her original artwork. One to frame I think.

Daffodil from Teri

Daffodil from Teri

I am already thinking about how to make next year’s challenge a little bit different from previous years. The author of the challenge Mary Robinette Kowal suggests that you don’t have to actually send a letter, but something else such as a swatch of fabric as a keepsake. I like that idea, so perhaps I will collect miscellaneous items during the year and then decide whom to send them to next February. And as next year will be a leap year then it would be a great way to do something a little different.

Meanwhile, it’s back to the letter writing for 2015. Has anyone else been participating in Month of Letters?

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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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My New Year Message: Janus

five books spine-on

Book, books, books…

I was pondering the vexed question of what my first post for 2013 should be: progress report on the Landing Eight; review of last year’s books; looking ahead to this year’s reading or maybe about tackling a new angle in my Reading Challenge.

Finally, I decided to side step all of the above and feature a paragraph that I wrote on a previous New Year for Paragraph Planet:

 
New Year, New You. Ring out the old and ring in the new. In Janus’s month twixt past and future we try diets, makeovers, new resolutions and evening classes. De-clutter, downsize and de-tox; perhaps try yoga classes or join a gym. Pilates sounds good, there’s a special offer too. Then comes the inevitable backslide into laziness, excuses and over indulgence. That two-faced Janus strikes again. New you, old you, which do you want to be?

The above question was posed and previously published New Year 2011 (and no, I didn’t try the de-tox)

Let me know if you have made any resolutions, literary or otherwise! Drop them in the comment box below.

Meanwhile I’ll leave you with a link to a piece I wrote this week for the Irish News Review featuring a couple of Reading and Writing Challenges to give you a little zest…

Advent Reading Challenge: Wendy Cope

December 11th

The Christmas Life by Wendy Cope (taken from The Book of Christmas edited by Fiona Waters and mentioned in a previous post). This poem was previously published in If I Don’t Know (Faber).

I have been a fan of Wendy Cope’s verse for a long time, since someone gave me a present of Serious Concerns (Faber) when I worked in a Birmingham bookshop in the 1990s.

This festive poem celebrates the zest and spirit of Christmas: the living greenery brought inside the house with its hint of spring to come; bright colours on the tree; memories both happy and sad and the hopefulness of a new beginning for all of us.

Here are the first and last verses:

Decorated Christmas Tree

All Kinds of Everything…

 

Bring in a tree, a young Norwegian spruce,

Bring hyacinths that rooted in the cold,

Bring winter jasmine as its buds unfold,

Bring the Christmas life into this house.

Bring in the shepherd boy, the ox and ass,

Bring in the stillness of an icy night,

Bring in a birth, of hope and love and light,

Bring the Christmas life into this house.

I hope that you are enjoying these Advent snippets of poetry and prose both old and fairly new. It has proved to be an enjoyable writing and reading challenge for me and I am re-discovering many old favourites along the way.

(photo: Chris Mills)

Until tomorrow…

Historic Letters and #LetterMo: a winning literary challenge

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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…

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Twitter: @LetterMonth (#LetterMo)