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On writing letters

0211181451_hdrFor any occasion that requires a card I carefully search for one that conveys my thoughts, and yet I can never just sign my name. On any card, I need to write something that is just from me.  And, I must confess, I am disappointed when others don’t do the same!

Long before I was a writer of stories, I was a letter writer. I grew up in the era when snail mail ruled. In college you’d check your mailbox on the way to dinner hoping for some news from home or maybe a love letter if your significant other was not at your college. The letters were read over and over, maybe saved, always answered. As a young mother far from family I wrote weekly to update the extended family on the doings of our family and eagerly waited to receive letters from them.

There are other ways letters or written words can be used. Since I was a child, I have used letters when I wanted to explain myself to someone or apologize.

When we speak our words come out unedited and the listener picks and chooses how they hear those words and their emotions react and they shoot words right back. But when we write words down, we take more care. We think about the words we’ve chosen and when we read them, maybe we “feel” them as the intended reader might. Maybe that helps us choose the best words to convey our thoughts.

And what about the reader? They have time to process the words, to reread before they respond. There is less chance of misinterpretation with those written words. The reader also realizes that, if someone took the time to write, it most be important.

So I think letters can be a tool to help resolve conflict. They can take some of the emotion out of situation. Sometimes a child or student (or adult!) may have difficulty discussing problems calmly. Their emotional reaction may prevent them from stating their points or hearing the other side. That’s a good time to try letter writing. Those involved in the conflict write to each other and respond in writing.

In the same way, written apologies sometimes carry more meaning than the quick “I’m sorry”. Written apologies might even be treasured. Like these from my daughter that is still displayed in our home!0314181432_HDR

In the era of texts and emails, letter writing is becoming a lost art, but it is a meaningful way to convey heartfelt messages. As adults, maybe we can model letter writing and teach our children the lasting power (I smile every time I read those “sorry notes”!) of written words.

Author: Holly Niner

Holly Niner is the author of No More Noisy Nights illustrated by Guy Wolek, and The Day I Ran Away illustrated by Isabella Ongaro. She has had numerous stories published in children’s magazines, and her previous picture books were award winners. Mr. Worry: A Story about OCD, received the 2005 IBBY Outstanding Books for Young People with Disabilities Award, and I Can’t Stop: A Story about Tourette Syndrome, was the winner of the 2006 Oppenheim Toy Portfolio Award and a 2005 Bank Street College of Education Best Book. Holly lives in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

2 thoughts on “On writing letters”

  1. My mother and grandmother loved writing notes and cards – both of them had exceptionally clear handwriting! I do treasure the cards I have from my late grandmother.


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