"Sir, more than kisses, letters mingle souls; for, thus friends absent speak." -- John Donne, in a verse letter to Sir Henry Wotton, written before April 1598.
I love the thrill of finding a hand-written note tucked into the interminable piles of junk mail that show up in my mailbox.
To prove it, I have 25 years of archived correspondence: postcards from around the globe, hand-made birthday cards filled with my sister's effusive love, even a tender billet-doux or two. These physical artifacts tie me emotionally and metaphysically to the people who have touched my life. April is National Card and Letter Writing Month, which gives us the perfect excuse to connect to those we care about through the written word. Writing a letter or card to someone expresses an amount of genuine effort that can't be communicated in even the most artfully-wrought text.
Letters tucked away and preserved can connect us to our historical, social, and political past. Literary scholars are eagerly awaiting the publication of selected Willa Cather letters, famously thought to have been destroyed by the author. Publication of these letters should paint a more complete picture of the author as "a complicated, funny, brilliant, flinty, sensitive, sometimes confounding human being."
Do you need some inspiration before you craft your own note? Will it be a thank you card, a treacly love letter, or perhaps a dreaded Dear John? To pay it forward, you could address a letter of appreciation to a soldier through the Operation Gratitude project.
Whatever form you letter takes, here's a list of collected letters, epistolary novels, and how-to books to inspire you.
Books on Letter Writing
How to Write a Letter (For Grades 2-5)
Escribir cartas (En español)
Ohhhhhh I just *loved* the Griffin and Sabine letters. It gave me the feeling that I was opening someone else's mail...a bit naughty and a little bit voyeuristic...loved the series. Are there other books like that?
The Griffin and Sabine series was fantastic! "Why We Broke Up: A Novel" might do the trick. Min Green and Ed Slaterton are breaking up, so Min is writing Ed a letter and giving him a box filled with two bottle caps, a movie ticket, a folded note, a box of matches, a protractor, books, a toy truck, a pair of ugly earrings, a comb from a motel room, and every other item collected over the course of a giddy, intimate, heartbreaking relationship. Item after item is illustrated and accounted for, and then the box, like a girlfriend, will be dumped.
After you read the book, you might want to check out the "Why We Broke Up Project" where author Daniel Handler and illustrator Maira Kalman are collecting shared stories of heartbreak, thus satisfying your voyeuristic side:
Check out '365 Thank Yous' by John Kralik. I loved it and have recommended it to many people. It shows the power of what a 'thank you' can do.