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Keep the beautiful pen busy.

Brooklyn, NY

Handwritten is a place and space for pen and paper. We showcase things in handwriting, but also on handwriting. And so, you'll see dated letters and distant postcards alongside recent studies and typed stories. 

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Start the Year Off Write • Handwritten

Brett Rawson



While this last Tuesday (Jan. 23rd) was National Pie Die as well as National Measure Your Feet Day, it was also National Handwriting Day. And so, we woke up, scarfed down a slice of apple pie, sized up our feet, and set up shop in KEXP's musical wonderland to celebrate pen, paper, and all kinds of wild characters. 


This is the third year in a row we have hosted a Handwritten hootenanny on National Handwriting Day.

In 2016, during a blizzard that silenced the sounds of New York City, we received email submissions from around the world, and published handwriting in over a dozen languages.

In 2017, we did a cyber-solo dance, and hashtagged up a storm. We also thought of a funny joke that USPS retweeted. It went something like this: "@USPS, what do you call a book of stamps in a sudden panic?" No one replied to our tweet, so we did with the answer: "@USPS, a stampede!" They retweeted that, and our job was done, we told ourselves.

This year provided a new opportunity: We made the announcement on our social media platforms, but this past winter, we expanded to the west coast. Having just set up Handwritten operations in Seattle, WA, we wanted to get to know the local community, so we reached out to KEXP, a radio station that we grew up on.

Their new space, which is located near the Space Needle, is a luminous dream. There's everything a handwriter could want: couches, chairs, record shop (Light in the Attic), cafe (La Marzocco), gallery space, floor-to-ceiling windows, a stage, bar stools, great music, and inspiring people. For seven hours, we handed out sheets of inspiration to passersby. Enjoy some of the images of the day below, but to see the full album, visit our National Handwriting Day page here, or check out the album on Facebook.

Whatever you do, keep the pen busy.

We're always on the lookout for words on, or about, process. So send us your raw, unfinished, or in progress thoughts to submit@handwrittenwork.com. All characters are welcome. See our submission guidelines for info on what we're looking for.

Winter Call for Submissions

Brett Rawson

Handwriting is always changing, and so are we. While you can submit anything to us at anytime, you can also submit some things to us at some times. This winter, we're looking to hear and see how handwriting is surfacing in the below ways: 

1. Elections. The election left a chaotic dent in the world. No matter how or if you voted, its impact is everywhere online, in the streets, on walls. We've seen it surface in handwriting in various ways: from kids writing letters to Donald Trump about kindness to the Post-It Note Wall in Union Square Subway Station (below). Handwriting has its own political past, and can be, as we're seeing, a form of protest. The pen is, after all, the formal declaration of war. But handwriting also plays an important role in how we process impactful moments. In stories, drawings, images, or drafts, send us your observations, experiences, and understandings. 

"This Is How You Build a Wall:" A picture of the thousands of Post-It Notes in Union Square Subway Station, calling for No Hate, 

"This Is How You Build a Wall:" A picture of the thousands of Post-It Notes in Union Square Subway Station, calling for No Hate, 

2. Snow Write. See what we did there? Lame, we know. Anyway, it's winter outside. This means we might get snowed in sometime soon! No better time to cozy up next to the log fire, or broken radiator, and write. Last year, we published a touching tradition (below), I Saw In My Mind a Sparkling Vision of Them, in which a mother hand-wrote messages on each present to her children. How do you experience the handwritten holidays? 

"I Saw In My Mind a Sparkling Vision of Them," Adrienne Harvitz, published on Handwritten (Winter 2015)

"I Saw In My Mind a Sparkling Vision of Them," Adrienne Harvitz, published on Handwritten (Winter 2015)

3. Anaba. When we need a little bit of social silence, we go to our favorite tavern: the one below street level, all wood, with the Chuckanut Pilsner. We order two beers while writing letters or thoughts in our journals. There is a word in Japanese for these kinds of private places in public: anaba. Tell us about the spots, spaces, and places you go when you need to a little more room to write in. 

The Pub @ Third Place, Ravenna, Seattle, WA

The Pub @ Third Place, Ravenna, Seattle, WA

The Declaration of Dessert • Allison Radecki

Brett Rawson

Note from curator Rozanne Gold: Election Day cake (once known as Muster Cake) has gone viral.  Although this remarkable story, researched and recounted by food writer Allison Radecki, is geared for Election Day 2016, it ties together the history of food and politics better than anything could. Surely it will carry us into future elections.  This particular journey begins in Asheville and snakes its way to Montclair, New Jersey.  Feel free to adapt the recipe given here (courtesy of Susannah Gebhart for O.W.L. Bakery in Asheville, NC) to reflect your own tastes, family food culture, place, or historical curiosity.  For more information on Election Cake and The Montclair Bread Company, visit: http://www.owlbakery.com/electioncake/ and http://www.montclairbread.com.  A major salute to Ms. Radecki for bringing #makeamericacakeagain — a great culinary campaign — to our attention.  (photos: by A. Radecki).

Election Cake and Election Doughnuts 2016 by Allison Radecki

America, we’re going to the polls.  

For some, Election Day may spark a memory of winding lines of waiting voters or the distinctive swish of the privacy curtain that separates personal choice from the hum of activity outside. But to me, Election Day once meant meat pies; specifically, Jamaican patties butternut-hued, half-moon pockets, filled with ground beef and a wallop of spice.   

My earliest voting memories involved standing, waist-level by my mother’s side, in the confines of a tiny booth, and then purchasing patties from the polling station food table after her vote was cast.  Flakes of the buttery, curry-tinged dough always accompanied us home; sometimes within the brown paper bags in which they were wrapped, or else scattered on our shirts if we just couldn’t wait to take a post-ballot bite.

I have been thinking a lot about those Jamaican patties lately as I listen to the news, perhaps because I want to reach for anything that might mollify the taste of such a bitterly fought presidential campaign. 

I am not the only one with this desire.  

As a way to celebrate American culinary history, shine a light on voter rights and access, and link a scattered village of professional and home bakers, Susannah Gebhart and Maia Surdam, proprietors of Old World Levain (O.W.L.) Bakery in Asheville, North Carolina, are calling on their country to “Make America Cake Again.”

This project focuses upon historical Election Cakes, whose boozy, fruit-and-spice-filled recipe dates back to the early days of the 13 Colonies and the first baby steps of American Independence.  

These New England-based confections, originally named Muster Cakes, were made by Colonial women for the men called upon for military training or “mustered’ by order of the English Crown. A close relation to the great cakes of England, these monstrously huge sweets were made to feed the masses of people gathered (and encourage turnout) at important civic events.  Revelers would tear off a bit of the enormous cake to sustain them as they trained, debated, and congregated.

After the American Revolution, Muster Cakes became known as Election Cakes, and played a central role in the rowdy gatherings at the polls.  Unlike today, the original American election days were national holidays marked by festive community celebrations that served plenty of food, wine, and spirits. 

Within the first known cookbook written by an American, Amelia Simmons’ American Cookery (published in 1796), the Election Cake recipe calls for “thirty quarts flour, ten pounds butter, fourteen pounds sugar, twelve pounds raisins, three dozen eggs, one pint wine, one quart brandy…” along with loads of spices such as cinnamon and allspice. We’re definitely not talking about a puny pan here.

Long before American women were granted the right to vote, they would meet at community ovens across the colonies to bake these gigantic cakes as a way to participate in the democratic process.  

In the spirit of highlighting the community aspect of this tradition and to encourage debate on today’s issues, the owners of O.W.L. Bakery have asked bakers across the country to riff on this old recipe and post their locally flavored results to social media using the hashtags #makeamericacakeagain and #electioncake.  

A few participating bakeries will have their own interpretations of election cake for sale on November 8th, 2016.  A percentage of proceeds from these sales will be donated to the League of Women Voters, a non-partisan, non-profit organization dedicated to fair voting access, education, and policy. 

Though my beloved Jamaican patties may be but a spicy memory, I am blessed on voting day, once again.  My local bakery, the Montclair Bread Company, in Montclair, New Jersey, is a creative participant in the Election Cake project. 

Rachel Crampsey, head baker and owner of the Montclair Bread Co., met O.W.L. bakery’s Susannah Gebhart this past summer at a ‘honey summit’ for professional bakers.  Along with a group of other historical recipe fans, the gathered bakers found themselves discussing Muster Cake and the idea for the Election Cake project took flight. 

Working from a base recipe, researched and adapted by Richard Miscovich of Johnson and Wales University, Susannah asked Rachel if she would be interested in baking for November 8th.  She eagerly signed on.  

Rachel’s twist?  She’s doing it in doughnut form.

“I like old recipes,” said Rachel, as she lowered a pan of speckled and glazed election doughnuts from a nearby cooling rack to the table before me. She sees this project as “a way to connect with fellow bakers and crafters.  It might be obvious but we don’t get to spend much time together.”  Along with civic involvement and sparking conversation, this crowd-sourced project is also a way to unite artisans who usually work alone amidst clanging pans and whirring mixers. 

Montclair residents are familiar with Rachel’s decadent creations; maple bacon and Tres Leches donuts are two of my favorites, along with the summertime Margarita special, which contains tequila and features a salted rim.  Her doughnuts have a cult following, with snaking lines that extend down the block on holidays and farmers market mornings. 

To adapt the historic recipe into an Election Cake Doughnut, Rachel took inspiration from a family recipe for Barnbrack (báirín breac), a traditional Irish bread/cake, dotted with raisins.  The resulting doughnut, whose dough is completely different than Montclair Bread Co.’s signature brioche, contains whiskey, currants, candied oranges and lemons. The fruit is soaked in black tea before being mixed in.  Dense, glazed, and dunkable, I enjoy it most with a cup of milky tea.  

The Election Cake doughnut will only be available at the Montclair Bread Company on November 8th, 2016, along with a range of other patriotically clad brioche doughnuts.  

“Food, in general, is a way to unite people,” reflected Rachel, as we chatted about the the role of bakers and connecting the community.  “It is no surprise that, for centuries, there was a village baker and community ovens where everybody brought their raw dough. In a way, baking was a civic duty.  As a business owner, I try to abstain from expressing political views. But, this (non-partisan) project allows me to be involved, so that every member of the community can participate.”  

Rachel, an accomplished runner, is no stranger to community building.  Between founding the local Welcome to Walnut Street street fair, celebrating National Doughnut Day (with doughnut story time and donut decorating for local children) and launching the Fueled by Doughnuts Running Club (“a running club with a doughnut addiction”), she is constantly bringing people together.

Now, please, get out and vote! Bake a cake. And, maybe, eat a doughnut, too.


Election Cake Recipe & Directions:

Day 1 (Prepare Preferment):

Using Sourdough Starter:
240 ml whole milk ~70º F (280 g)
¼ cup active starter — 100% hydrated (75 g)
2 ¼ cups All Purpose or whole wheat pastry flour (280 g)


Using Instant Yeast:
275 ml milk ~70º F (320 g)
¼ tsp instant yeast (1 g)
2 ¼ cups plus 2 Tbsp All Purpose or whole wheat pastry flour (320 g)

Combine milk and sourdough starter or yeast and mix thoroughly until starter or yeast is well dispersed in the milk mixture. Add flour and mix vigorously until the starter is consistent and smooth. Scrape the sides of your bowl and cover with a damp towel or plastic wrap. Allow your starter to ferment for 8-12 hours at room temperature. When ready to use, your preferment will have bubbles covering the surface.

Soak Dried Fruits:

If you plan to use dried fruits in your cake, we recommend soaking them overnight, or for several days beforehand. Measure out your dried fruit and cover with your liquor or liquid of choice (for non-alcoholic options, try apple cider/juice, other fruit juices, or steeped teas) in a small sauce pot. Warm over low heat for a few minutes, remove from the heat, and allow to soak, covered, overnight or for several hours. 

Before incorporating into your cake, strain the liquid off of the fruit. Use this fruit flavored liquid as a cordial or to make a simple glaze after the cake is baked.

Day 2 (Prepare Final Dough, Proof, and Bake):
1 cup unsalted butter (226 g)
¾ cup unrefined sugar (155 g)
2 eggs (100 g)
1/3 cup whole-milk yogurt  (85 g)
¼ cup sorghum or honey (60 g)
Preferment (560 / 635 g)

2 ¼ cups All Purpose or whole wheat pastry flour* (280 g)
2 Tbsp spice blend** (12 g)
¼ tsp ground coriander (1 g)
¼ tsp ground black pepper (1 g)
2 tsp salt (12 g)
2 Tbsp sherry or another  - optional (30 g)
2 cups rehydrated fruit (300 g)

1. With a paddle attachment in a stand mixer, cream the butter very well, then add sugar, mixing until very light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time on medium speed. Mix in the sorghum/honey and yogurt.

2. Exchange the paddle with a dough hook. Add the preferment (starter or sponge) and mix until just incorporated. Combine all of the dry ingredients before adding them to liquid ingredients and mix until just incorporated, being careful not to over-mix. Gently fold in the sherry (optional) and rehydrated fruit. 

3. Divide evenly into a bundt pan or cake rounds that have been buttered and lightly floured. OWL Bakery uses mini bundt pans, which yields 8-10 cakes. Proof for 2-4 hours, until the cake has risen by about ⅓ of its volume. 

4. Bake at 375° F (190° C) for 10 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350° F (177° C) and continue baking for about 25-30 minutes, until a tester comes out clean. Cool completely before cutting and eating. You may enjoy this cake plain or topped with a simple glaze. 


* Choose high extraction flour if possible
* Create a spice mixture with warm spices like ground cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, clove, star anise, or mace. OWL Bakery’s house spice blend is a combination of 8 spices.
* Adapted by Susannah Gebhart for O.W.L. Bakery from Richard Miscovich’s formula. Note: OWL Bakery’s version of election cake reflects their place in the southern Appalachian Mountains. They use flour that has been grown and stone-milled locally by Carolina Ground and local, grass-fed milk. Additional ingredients are sourced close to home as well — bourbon, dried apples, and sorghum molasses — flavors that evoke   the bounty of the food landscape of their region.
 Feel free to adapt this version to reflect your own tastes, family food culture, place, or historical curiosity! 


The Spark of Resilience • A Handwritten Collaboration with LetterFarms

Brett Rawson

A Journey to Dream

We are wildly excited to announce that Handwritten has teamed up with LetterFarms for an epic celebration: the 85th anniversary of Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, the 11th president of India (2002 - 2007), and the one who inspired billions to dream big and fly high.

On October 15th, we'll be publishing 85 postcards from the year-long Dear Kalam Sir campaign, which is set to be the world's largest handwritten postcard tribute campaign for a public leader ever. With participants by tens of thousands from over 200 cities in India, the project was slated to end on July 27th, 2016, the anniversary of Dr. Kalam's death, yet the movement carries on: people continue to send in handcrafted tributes, and just two months ago, Bloombury published an anthology of the postcards, which chronicle the life and after-life of Dr. Kalam's impact worldwide.

Handwritten is excited to bring this project to a new level by curating an interactive exhibition: starting on October 15th and continuing throughout the end of the month, we'll be publishing 85 postcards containing Dr. Kalam's quotes about dreams and dreaming, but also live-publishing your responses to the images and inspiration. You'll see four categories of postcards Spark, Resilience, Decision, and Take Off all of which were foundational elements to Kalam sir's life and essence. If and when one speaks to you, tell us what it says by sending your creation to submit@handwrittenwork.com.

We hope that you will join us in celebrating and sharing the inspiration. 

Keep the beautiful pens busy,
Handwritten + LetterFarms

An Unconcious Prayer Without Ceasing by Deborah Halbfoster

Brett Rawson

I watch as people are simplifying their lives, casting away of their once favorite and now dogeared books. I started asking questions about the books they tossed, as well as the ones they treasured. Why keep this one, which had the biggest impact on you as a child, and what will you never get rid of?

Read More

I Believed I Had the Power of Disintegration • Alberto Quero

Brett Rawson


Alberto Quero was born in Maracaibo, Venezuela. He holds a BA in Literature and Linguistics, a Masters in Venezuelan literature and a Doctorate in Humanities by the University of Zulia. He has published six books of short stories and a book of poems. He has written poems in English, which have been published in England and the USA. He has also published many peer-reviewed articles for university journals. He is a member of the Iberian American Writers’ Association, the International Writers’ Parliament in Colombia and the Semiotics Association of Venezuela. Currently, he is the volunteer literary reporter at “Literary News”, a radio show aired on CKCU 93.1, a FM station which belongs to Carleton University (Ottawa, Canada)

"OUT LOUD" A Handwritten and Pen & Brush Event (6/30)

Brett Rawson



As part of the Flatiron/23rd Street Partnership's Summer Series, and in partnership with Pen & Brush, Handwritten brings you "Out Loud," an afternoon of bearing witness through writing. The details are below: 

Public Plaza
Broadway, 5th Avenuve, and 23rd St
12-2pm, Thursday, June 30, 2016

"OUT LOUD" is about bringing our private lives to the public. It is about smudging the borders between ourselves and others that keep us from sharing who we are and learning more about those around us. We invite people to share those thoughts formerly kept to themselves, whether written in diaries or letters, in the open. Because, to adjust an Adrienne Rich quote, when one person tells the truth, it creates the possibility for more truth around them.

In a city of 8.5 million of people, it's easy to feel anonymous, alone, and apart. Authentic intimacy can seem difficult to come by. We find that writing down our thoughts and reflections whether in journal entries or letters to friends and family is a helpful way to process what it is to be alive today. At "Out Loud," we want you to share these confessions, meditations, and reflections with the larger public. 

You can read excerpts of things you've written or things someone else has written to you. And for those of you who can't make the event or want to partake but not speak, you can still participate: send us your excerpt and allow it to be read by those in the audience, or our roster of performers.

Email us at info@handwrittenwork.com to let us know how you'd like to partake.

Caramel Custard • Rozanne Gold

Brett Rawson

Photograph taken by Shayna DePersia

Photograph taken by Shayna DePersia


When I was in my mid-twenties, I penned this recipe as a gift for my beautiful mother Marion on Mother’s Day 1980. I placed it in a Lucite frame and she nailed it to the wall of her apartment kitchen in Fresh Meadows, Queens. My mother loved this custard, in all its simplicity, but could never quite remember how to make it. I thought these words would guide her when I was not around, but she never followed the instructions. Instead of the classic swirl of liquid caramel that coats the custard after baking, my mother skipped this step and dusted grated nutmeg on top. A whiff of memory? And she preferred to eat the custard directly from its little glass cup, instead of flipping it onto a plate so that the caramel would pool all around.  

My mother and I were extraordinarily close. Too close, if that’s possible. She encouraged me to become a chef when women were anathema in professional kitchens. I dropped out of graduate school and became the first chef to New York Mayor Ed Koch when I was twenty-three. Being in the kitchen with my mother was the happiest place in the world for me. She would occasionally visit me in the kitchen of Gracie Mansion, and years later came to my kitchen in Park Slope, and yes, we’d make caramel custard together.  

Our deep connection was expressed by cooking special things for each other. Custard for her, and for me she made cabbage and noodles – a homey Hungarian standard that she, too, ate in her childhood. It was the comfort food that connected us to previous generations of Hungarian women and also to each other. I have learned since that some recipes, even more than photographs, can provide the most intimate transfer of memory from mothers to daughters.  

One grey day in October eight years ago, I removed the recipe now faded and worn, twenty-six years after I wrote it.  And now my daughter makes custard for me. 

Caramel Custard

3/4 cup sugar
3 eggs
pinch salt
2 cups milk, scalded
1/2 teaspoon vanilla


1. Preheat oven to 350
2. Heat 1/2 cup sugar slowly in heavy small skillet stirring constantly with wooden spoon until sugar melts and is light caramel in color. Pour spoonful in each five custard cups and let is cool slightly. 
3. Beat eggs with remaining sugar and salt. Add milk slowly, while stirring. Add vanilla. Strain and pour carefully into cups. 
4. Place cups in pan of hot water (level with top of cups). Bake about 40 minutes, or until knife comes out clean. 
5. Chill, and turn out to serve.