The Lost Art of Letters

letters.jpgBack in the days before computers, cell phones, and text messaging, people wrote letters. Lots of letters. They were elegant and sincere and the wording was often flowery. Letters expressed matters of the heart simply, but with style. Letters created a permanent form of communication that could be bundled up, tied with a bow and kept forever in a treasured place. The receivers often took them out and reread them to re-live the connection they had with the sender. In the West, it took weeks or months sometime to receive a letter and the waiting increased their value I think. When the letter finally got into the hands of the intended person, they read it until they often wore the paper thin while they waited for the next one.

letters.jpgLetters strengthened a bond between two people and said exactly what was in their hearts. Letters spoke of love and commitment, loneliness and desire, and of thoughts and dreams that they dared not speak in person. Society was so constricted with rules that it was only through putting thoughts on paper that they could express what was truly in their heart without fear of censure. John Donne wrote: “More than kisses, letters mingle souls.” 

I think romance writer Mary Schramski said it best: “There was a time when the world was gentle, and love letters floated down into waiting hands of the recipients like snowflakes.” Truly she knew what it was like, for this romance author was quite the letter-writer. Even after the world had entered the computer age, she kept pen and paper in hand. I’d like to think she still does.

 lindabroday.jpgThe story I wrote for the “Give Me a Texan” anthology is called The Love Letter. In the story, Payton McCord and his best friend, both died-in-the-wool cowboys, love playing practical jokes on each other. But, their antics kinda get out of hand after Payton almost cost his friend his marriage. To get even, the man who’d once saved Payton’s life writes a love letter to a much maligned woman who raises sheep and signs Payton’s initials to it. 

This is the letter Payton’s friend wrote as taken from the book: “I yearn to see the beauty of your face, hear the tone of your voice, and inhale your fragrance that wafts in the wind like a million wildflowers in bloom.  Please meet me in Amarillo by morning in the lobby of the hotel.  Then, you shall know the love I speak.  Look for the crescent birthmark on my right hand and the adoration in my eyes.”

 

 

lindabroday.jpgThe love letter set off a chain of events that no one could predict. Amanda Lemmons, the shepherdess and recipient of the love letter, suspects someone means to humiliate her in front of the whole town. Involved in a war with the cattlemen, she knows what lengths the ranchers will go in order to drive her off her land. Determined to outsmart them, she devises a plan to turn the tables on the Lothario letter-writer. Just let those cattle barons think they have the upper hand! What happens is humorous and entertaining and shows how a simple letter can change the hands of fate. 

What do letters mean to you and do you have any you saved? Email counts if you don’t have any sent via the post office. Maybe you printed off a special email and put it in a safe place. Or maybe you received a nice card with special sentiments written inside from someone.   

Today, I’m giving away two autographed copies of “Give Me a Texan” to two people who leave a comment. 

Also, please remember to enter our big Spring Round-up Contest if you haven’t already done it! You don’t want to miss out. Just scroll down and look on the left side of the screen for Contest.

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Here in the Texas Panhandle, we do love our cowboys. There's just something about a man in a Stetson and jeans that makes my heart beat faster. I'm not much of a cook but I love to do genealogy and I'm a bit of a rock hound. I'm also a NY Times & USA Today bestselling author of historical western romance. You can contact me through my website and I'd love to connect with you on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and more. HAPPY READING!
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48 thoughts on “The Lost Art of Letters”

  1. Linda, I still write letters to my mother-in-law who would no more buy a computer and try to figure out email than she would play with a rattlesnake.
    She lives three miles from me in the summer but spends the winter in Texas and most years i’ve been so good about writing faithfully, a letter sent out every Monday. But I’ve fumbled it this year, I just can’t seem to get into the rhythm of it. Also, I’ve been phoning more. PHone calls ruin letters. If you’ve already said everything then it feels dumb to write it again.
    I’ve also got a niece in the Army, who is schedule for Baghdad in March. I wrote her pretty regularly when she first enlisted but then they started moving her around for special training and I’ve never been able to get back to writing. But I’m planning to see to it she gets a letter a week when she goes overseas.
    Did you know that to train for Iraq they send you to DEATH VALLEY? Yikes.

  2. I wish I wrote more letters. I have a friend who writes me letters in long-hand and I tap her back a quick computer generated reply.
    The last few years it’s been hard to write legibly. I can’t hold a pen the way I used to, but my fingers work fine to type. I owe this person a letter and I’m going to go write her now.
    Thanks for the push, Linda!

  3. I can remember writing letters when I was young. In Girl Scouts there were pen pals and then there were friends who moved away. I do have some cards saved but not any letters. E-mails don’t seem the same as letters since, for me, they are usually quick notes not as long as a letter.

  4. Mary, I know what you mean about good intentions. They always get put off for some reason. And you’re right about phone calls fouling up the works. It makes no sense to write a letter when you say everything you want over the phone. I think the important thing is just to keep in touch with our dear loved ones however we choose to do it. Just keep the connection open.

    No, I didn’t know the soldiers going to Iraq have to endure the harsh climate of Death Valley first. Oh my gosh! That would kill me right there. Thanks, Sister Filly for your interesting comments.

  5. Hi Paty, I’m glad I pushed you into writing your friend a letter. The computer generated ones just aren’t the same as something written in longhand. Longhand is much more personal and endearing, even if we’ve forgotten how to hold a pen in our hand.

    I’m with you on the bad penmanship. I confess I don’t write enough by hand and I’ve lost the ability to make my words legible. When I have booksignings I can really tell how badly I write. And this past weekend here in Amarillo, me and my anthology co-writers signed about 700 books. It was crazy. Toward the end, I could barely make a scribble. Sure couldn’t recognize my name. Talk about wild! lol

  6. As girls, my cousins and I exchanged letters faithfully, and I have fond memories of those exchanges. I was once a faithful letter writer and adored pens and stationary and notecards. Still have a thing for pens–it’s a writer thing. Seems a shame to lose that special communication. Yesterday I received a letter from a reader, and it touched my heart. She thanked me for my story and let me know she had learned something profound about herself that has changed her. It’s amazing that our words can touch people like that. You can bet I will answer her, and I’ll do it in a handwritten letter, because it’s more personal.

    My handwriting isn’t what it used to be. We’re all out of practice! People don’t even send thank you notes any more.

    I have boxes of letters from readers–I’ve saved every one. I have letters from my grandmother and some of those old ones from my cousins. I’ve even kept notes my kids wrote me when they were small.

    Thanks for the reminder to keep things personal, Linda.

  7. Maureen, Girl Scouts teach you so many things. I wish every girl in America had to be a Girl Scout. Pen pals are so fun. Maybe you should think about getting one so you can get back into your letter writing. It just does something for the spirit when you receive a letter. But first you have to send one out to get one back. 🙂

  8. Hi Cheryl, how wonderful to get a letter from a reader! Those are really special. I’ve saved all the ones I’ve gotten too and reread them during the tough times when the words just won’t come. That usually lifts me up and reminds me to keep writing my books. It also reminds me how important it is to keep open communication between people who share a common bond. As writers we have the ability to touch lives. We mustn’t forget that. I’m glad your reader letter gave you that sense of validation. It’s wonderful.

    Yeah, our handwriting is horrible these days. I have a certificate my mother got when she was in school for having outstanding penmanship. Teachers used to give grades for that. It was a separate subject in school that you had to pass. Boy, times have changed!

    Keep your letters and cards in a safe place. Thanks for commenting!

  9. Something that came to mind reading your post, Linda, I remember reading a biography of George Washington years ago. And, at the end of the book, after his death, the book said…as per George’s request… Martha very thoroughly and systematically gathered every journal, note or other writing of George’s and burned them.

    That makes me sick thinking of the history that went up in smoke. Back then personal writing was huge, letters saved, journals and diaries are a big part of uncovering truth and character for anyone researching. To think of them all being lost. I hate that.

    I wonder why he did that? Just because it was personal and he wanted it to stay personal? My imagination goes wild wondering what he’d written that needed to be destroyed. Probably nothing, but that doesn’t stop me from imagining.

  10. Linda, what a lovely, compassionate post. I’m so sad letter-writing has fallen by the wayside. There’s nothing quite like seeing that envelope sitting in the mailbox, then ripping it open and seeing what’s inside.

    Cheryl mentioned loving pens–for me, it was the paper. Beautiful notecards, writing pads, matched stationery sets–I could drool over those. Put me in a Hallmark store, and I’ll always linger.

    But I rarely buy them anymore. Email is just too easy. Unfortunately . . .

    700 books in Amarillo??? Yowza, girl! How awesome is that? I’m really looking forward to your book!

  11. Mary, that’s interesting about George Washington. I hadn’t heard that. It sure does get your imagination stirring to think of what was in those letters and journals. Inquiring minds want to know! Reading old letters gives you a glimpse inside a person. I’d love to know what they said. Washington was a really interesting and intelligent man.

    People, men and women alike, used to keep journals. My mother who only went to the 8th grade wrote some. After she passed away and we were going through her things we found the journals. Those are one of our most treasured keepsakes. I loved knowing what she thought about and how she viewed things.

    Thanks, Mary!

  12. Hi Pam! I’m glad you enjoyed my post today even though I got it up late. A long story that I won’t go into here.

    Yes, I too remember the excitement of having a letter in the mail box. It was like Christmas. I couldn’t wait to open it and see what was inside. Unusual pens and pretty paper…it sure doesn’t take much to make a writer happy.

    Thanks for the congrats on our book sales this past weekend. I never signed my name so fast in my life. I didn’t even have a chance to look up to see who I was autographing for. And talk about cramped fingers. But it was a chance of lifetime and I enjoyed every second of it. One thing that made it really special too was having our editor fly in from NY for the occasion. Made me feel like the most beautiful girl at the senior prom.

  13. I missed the 700 books, Linda, that’s amazing! I can’t imagine such a great signing. Did you all have multiple books available? How great that the book store could accommodate that. Good for them!

  14. Mary, yes that was quite amazing. We actually had two booksignings on Saturday. Sam’s Club was the first one and we signed as fast as our fingers would go. Then, The Big Texan Steak Ranch picked us up in their limo and drove us to the Big Texan where we had a luncheon with Jodi Thomas’s fan club and the public. A reception followed in a special room at The Big Texan and we sold everything except their kitchen sink and grill. lol No, it was all for the one book “Give Me a Texan.” A really great book launch. I’m still shocked and amazed.

    Thanks for the congrats, Mary.

  15. Linda, what a great post. I hate that the art of writing letters, much like quilting, is being lost in the new generations. Linda knows this story, but I have to share since this is a post on love letters.

    My Uncle Vic lost his leg in WWII on the Isle of Saipan. He wrote a beautiful letter home to his sister and poured out his heart to her, asking that she tell their parents. My aunt saved the letter and when she passed away, I inherited the family Bible and found it. To make a long story short, I wrote a memoir about finding the letter. My Uncle married after the war, but the marriage was short lived. He had two children. Unfortunately, Uncle Vic died when he was only 32, leaving behind a very young family. I hadn’t seen nor hear from my cousins for over 50 years.

    This last Veteran’s Day, I decided to post the memoir, including the full letter, along with a picture of my Uncle in his Marine uniform on my web-site in honor of the men and women who have, and are still, fighting for your freedom. When I did it, I mentioned to most of my friends that if I could have one wish come true it would be my cousins finding the post and seeing who their daddy was, since they’d never had the opportunity to get to know him.

    Miracles do happen. Only a week or so later, my cousin Vicky during research came across my web-site and contacted me. She hadn’t found the link to the letter, so I walked her though it. I was on the telephone with her when she first saw the picture of her daddy and read the letter. I can’t even being to express the emotions we shared. We’ve now reunited, and along with her brother, have filled a little piece of our heart that’s been missing for years.

    If my aunt hadn’t kept that letter and left it for me to find, this reunion would have never taken place. And, more importantly, Vicky wouldn’t have known her father was a war hero. If anyone would like to see the letter, it’s very heartwarming and will make you cry, it’s on my web-site PhylissMiranda.com under the article link and called “Painting the Town Red”. I haven’t had the heart to take it down and move it to archives.

    Linda, you brought up a wonderful subject, and hopefully, everyone will take the time to write a letter to just one person they care about. Certainly a heartwarming topic for a cold, blustery day. Love, Phyliss

    PS: Now Linda said her fingers got tired signing books For me it wasn’t my fingers, but my behind, sitting there for so long!

  16. Hey Phyliss! So great of you to share that special letter your uncle wrote after he lost his leg in the war. Letters give us so much joy and satisfaction and bring us closer to the one who writes them. I’m sure your uncle dug deep in his heart to write the touching letter that would be so valued in later years.

    Yep, my rear did get a little numb after the fourth hour. We did have comfortable chairs though for the Sam’s one. I’d have loved to have taken one of those chair home with me.

    I was so thrilled to do a big booksigning with you and Jodi and DeWanna. Rarely are all the authors of an anthology together at a booksigning. What a treat.

  17. I have a trunk overflowing with letters from my friends growing up. Probably the one I have the most from I only hear from her now when she sends me a forward, though yesterday she did send me a short email wishing me happy birthday and told me she was thinking of me.

    I used to keep old love letters too, but since I married my hubby, I have gotten rid of almost all of them from previous relationships. It broke my heart to do it, but those relationships are over. I did keep the print outs of emails and IM conversations that my husband and I exchanged when we first met online. I hole-punched them and put them in a 3 ring binder.

    I used to be systematic about writing handwritten letters, but as I’ve gotten older, my penmanship isn’t so great, and calling or typing a letter or emailing seems easier and that’s a shame.

  18. Hi Taryn! Great to see you show up. That’s really neat that you kept the printouts of emails and IM conversations you and your husband had when you first met. And it’s even more wonderful that you hole-punched them and put in a binder. You know, that’s the same as keeping letters sent via the post office. It’s very special to you.

    My husband had written me several love letters that I kept in a safe place. After he passed away I’ve taken them out occassionally and read them again. It helps keep me in touch with him. Our hearts and spirits are forever entwined. I think if my house were to catch fire, I’d grab those letters on my way out the door. Nothing can take the place of shared hearts.

    Thank you for posting today. Hope you’re keeping warm. It’s cold here.

  19. Great post!

    This reminds me of the message I got in a piece of Dove chocolate once…they print messages on their wrappers…like fortunes…and one I got said, “Write a real letter, not just an e-mail.” And I realized it has been years since I wrote a real letter.

    I don’t have any real letters saved. I have some e-mails from family saved in my inbox. I also have greeting cards saved…I found a box of them the other day and looked through them. It was nice to see the cards from my family from when I was a child. A few of the cards were from people who are no longer with us so it was nice to see their handwriting and read their message…made them feel closer.

    One of my favorite cards is from my father. When I was in high school I was really sick. I had been sick for a while and a bit depressed over being so sick and going to the doctors. Then one day my dad came home from work and tossed a card in an envelope to me. I was kind of confused about why he was giving me a card…it wasn’t my birthday or a holiday…the only other occassions he gave me cards. I opened up the envelope and on the front of the card was a teddy bear…and when you opened it up all it read was, “Need a hug?” I was touched that my dad had noticed how down I was and wanted to make me feel better. To really understand you have to know that my dad tends to buy humorous cards only when he gets cards…and only when someone reminds him to get one…he is not one to get sentimental or express his feelings that often. That he bought me a card out of the blue and with such an appropriate message was amazing and very touching. I still have the card too. Occassionally, my dad does still surprise me though.

  20. I used to write letters a lot and enjoy receiving letters from friends and family. My neice and I send each other letters and it is a thrill to get her letters out of the mailbox. When I was in college, my friends and I kept in touch over the summer through letters.
    I have kept letters/notes that touched my heart.

  21. Hi Linda,
    Love your plot! I can’t wait to read the story. I so enjoy stories where nothing is as it seems.
    Gosh, other than a few notes, I don’t write letters anymore. What a shame!!

  22. Hi Linda! Great post!! I wish I was better at writing letters…taking the time to sit down them.

    Cannot wait to read THE LOVE LETTER….oh my gosh, it sounds amazing 🙂

  23. Linda Congrats on all the books I bet your hand was killing you when you got done. I went back to work a few months ago and I thought it was strange they hand wrote all the addresses out for our letters, I said why do you do that and they said they didn’t know how to do them on the computer. I had to change that after the first two days I could hardly write my name. I do write letters to my family and friends that don’t live here I think it is better to see it on paper then on the phone plus I seem to say more in a letter then when I talk to them plus I get real feelings out that way. I do write on the computer some, I guess more then you think if you think about all the blogs.
    I had a pen pal in school plus a couple of years ago we wrote letters to guys in the service so they would know we were thinking about them and some of them that wrote back had some interesting stories to tell us.
    Cheryl I know what you mean about thank yous I went to a baby shower and no thank you note plus went to a funeral and nothing there, I was very careful to send notes out to all the people when my Dad passed away. I thought my kids you need to send thank yous out to people to and so far they are good at it I hope it keeps up.

  24. Jennifer Y, you made me cry. That was the sweetest thing for your dad to give that card when you were sick and down in spirit! He must be a very special person. I hope you always keep that card and remember the circumstances. A Hallmark moment is something to hold close in your heart.

    Crystal B, glad you could stop in and leave a comment. You’re an exception to the rule when it comes to letters. I hope you continue to write real letters. That’s very unique and something to treasure.

    Charlene, glad my story is exciting you. I hope you like it and tell others so they’ll want to buy a copy. Sorry you don’t write letters anymore, but unfortunately that’s normal these days. We’re so rushed it’s hard to find the time. It certainly doesn’t mean that we think any less of people. We always hold them dear to our hearts no matter what. Have a great day!

  25. Hi Stacey! I hope you won’t be disappointed in The Love Letter. If you like humor it’s the story for you because it’s pretty full of shenangians. Don’t worry because you haven’t written any letters. You will when you think it’s fitting. Just keep writing those amazing books of yours.

  26. Brenda, you sound like a truly considerate, insightful person. Yes, it’s a shame that we don’t take time to be courteous and respectful of others and fail to send thank yous. That’s a lost art I think. We need to take the time to let people know what they mean to us. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. You made my day.

  27. I wish people wrote letters. Most people love getting them infact getting anything in the mail that is not a bill unsually makes people happy. I use to write letters all the time. Unfortuately three kids later and I’m not a very good letter writer anymore. I always start them and then the minute you are doing something is when your kids seem to attack you with their wants and needs. Maybe I should write my letters after they go to bed.

  28. Rebekah, thank you for coming by! I agree that anything we get in the mail that’s not a bill is a very good thing. That’s funny. I’d rather have a bunch of circulars or magazines, but I prefer getting a letter. It’s like a birthday present. Have a great day.

  29. Linda, thank you for a lovely post! I used to write letters much more often (I still have a stack that I’d kept from college, when I actually used to write instead of doing homework…) A few special ones are the ones from my husband, mainly from before we were married 🙂 I’m trying to declutter, but those will stay keepers 😉

    Your book sounds really intriguing–can’t wait to read it! Thanks for introducing it today!

  30. I love letter writing. I always enjoyed sending and receiving letters but with the computer technology this has totally changed. When I was young way before computers ever existed I wrote letters to cousins, pen pals and looked forward to the mail each day. What a thrill it was! Nothing can replace that again.

  31. I learned to write letters from my mother. She wrote constantly to friends and relatives who lived a good distance away. I cannot remember her ever without her writing paper and pen. Not everyone wrote her back but she still persisted and wrote pages of everything that was happening in the family. We used to walk to the Woolworth’s nearby and buy another writing pad since she used them up quickly.

  32. Letters always intrigued me. I grew up when mail consisted of loads of letters from friends and relatives who we kept in touch with. There was never a day that letters didn’t arrive in the mailbox. It was always a surprise to look forward to. I used to write to my mom at least 2-3 times a week since she expected to hear from me regularly and I knew that I better. No excuses. That era has ended and I just send cards on occasion.

  33. Letters hold a special place in my heart. Mainly because they are written with care, thought and time and are from the heart. I think that letters are important and meaningful to the recipient as well as the sender. When I wrote letters it was a labor of love. I never minded how long it took because it was something that I knew would be appreciated and kept. I have kept letters that my late mother sent me. She could write amazingly well and did it naturally. Alas, no one writes now except for a card now and then which doesn’t even have a hand written message.

  34. Linda, what a wonderful story! The power of a letter. I’m already hooked and have to know what happens! I sure could use a Texan 😉 Thanks for the great post!

  35. I grew up when writing letters was a natural habit. We never called, there was no e-mail, we just wrote letters. What a great time that was! If we went on holiday to a lake and rented a cottage for a week or two we wrote to my friends, grandmother and close cousins and they loved hearing about our vacation. I still write when it is more appropriate then sending an e-mail since I think it needs the personal touch.

  36. I don’t write letters much anymore, but when I graduated from high school i spent 4 months down in Texas with my cousins. My aunt was moving down there from Michigan and me and my oldest cousin drove down and enrolled her younger sisters in school while waiting for my aunt to sell her property in Michigan. While I was there I wrote to friends and family alot. I looked forward to the mail coming everyday to see if I had received a letter in the mail. In this day and age with computers i mostly send e-mails now! Enjoyed your post today.

  37. Hi Fedora, thanks for coming by to comment. I hope you keep those letters from your husband. You never know when you’ll want to read them again. I’m very glad to introduce you to my story in Give Me a Texan. I hope you’ll read and like it.

  38. Pearl, I’m glad you still prefer the old fashioned letter over the computer. There’s something to be said for the way things were done in the past. It was a more relaxed, slow way of life. We’ve become too hectic and have no time for things if it takes more than two seconds.

  39. Estella, I’m so glad to hear your thoughts on this subject. And it’s perfectly okay to not keep every letter you get. That could become a mess in itself. But if one is particularly touching, be sure to not let it get away.

    Anne, my mother wrote letters also. She had a beautiful handwriting and knew exactly what to say. I sure miss her in my life.

    Ruth, thanks for your comment. I try to remember that the letter generation has passed on but it saddens me a little. I think we need some of that less pressured pace in our lives.

  40. Jenna, letters provide eyes into the soul I believe. We do say much more in letters and spill more of ourselves than we do in person. That’s the part that I feel we’re losing. I hope we’ll get back to it one day but I fear we won’t. Maybe we’ll find other ways of expressing ourselves in the future that will be as good as letters.

    Hi Kathleen, yes we can all use a Texan for sure. Texas men are one of a kind and worth their trouble. I hope you’re lucky today.

  41. Diane, still keep writing those things that need a personal touch. It’s really important to the recipient. Sometimes it means so much more than we realize.

    Teresa W, I’m glad you enjoyed the post. It’s something that’s dear to my heart. Plus, it ties in to my story, The Love Letter. I was just killing two birds with one stone! lol

  42. I really enjoyed your post. I used to right letter to many years ago to friends in the army and such. Now everything I do is all by e-mail it is so much faster.

  43. When I was 12 my mom remarried and we moved several times. I have kept all of the letters I had received. A few have been lost through travelling, unfortunately. I also have birthday and holiday cards. The ones that mean alot to me are from my grandmother, who passed away 11 years ago this March, and I still miss her terribly.

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