Instead of cutting and pasting articles, we literally cut and pasted letters and images from magazines, ripped card stock to usable parts, squeaked magic markers across poster board gloss, put thought to ink, which we'll take to the streets tomorrow. This felt worlds apart from the self-congratulatory slacktivism I've worried I've become prone to. This was taking action–and this is what handwriting can do. It is personal. It is political. It is individual. It is community.
Handwriting speaks in our voice, and our voices are speaking up.
Handwritten by artist Diana Carulli. You can see her sculptures, labyrinths, photography, and bookworks at her site, www.dmcarulli.com.
BY INGRINA SHIEH
Urban landscapes have always enticed to me. I love how lines intersect with other lines and the way shapes within, through, on top of other shapes create the towering skyscrapers we recognise so well. At a distance, city skylines emanate a beautiful stillness and unflinching majesty while within them pulses the movement and sounds of millions of lives. People, machines, and people on machines, darting around at a frenetic pace; opportunities opening and shutting before me. It exhausts and excites me. And though I’m constantly surrounded by people, I can sometimes feel the loneliest I’ve ever felt. Such contrasts hold me captive between repulsion and absolute adoration, so I‘ve come to simply accept the city as it is: a fortress of order within chaos.
It thus seemed fitting that I design my first hand drawn 2017 calendar based on cities of the world. I don’t know what possessed me to draw it rather than design it with software, but once I got the idea, it stuck. I also thought working with cityscapes by hand might help me learn the basics of design and drawing: how to put lines and shapes together and how light hits objects at certain angles.
Naturally, I started off with the city I call home — London — though I had already done practise sketches with Venice and Boston. This sketch took a good deal longer and involved more ruler-ing and erasing than I’d anticipated, but two days before 1 January 2017, my shaky hands committed the sketch to ink, and I even embossed ‘2017’ for the hell of it.
As a tribute to Londoners, I added a quote by George VI: It’s not the walls that make the city, but the people who live within them. The walls of London may be battered, but the spirit of the Londoner stands resolute and undismayed. The end result is not completely what I had envisioned — a little flat, lacking in character and depth, a little boxy — and I realise that I need to upgrade my drawing pens. But this first step has provided a foundation for the coming months’ designs and further ideas to zoom into cities on a micro level.
I’m excited about interacting differently with the iconic buildings I see so regularly in person and online. In drawing London, an unexpected intimacy came from having to examine details — ornate and simple — and deciding how to transfer them to paper. When I passed Big Ben and the Palace of Westminster during my early morning run, I noticed how many elements I missed or couldn’t fit onto the page. But, by studying it as I had, I was able to appreciate its grandeur and craftsmanship more deeply and to admire the fact that, long ago, this icon was borne out of someone’s careful etchings on paper.
Ingrina Shieh lives and works in London, where she is learning design and lettering in her small loft. When her hands are hurting, she takes her legs out to run, walk, or cycle around London's windy streets. Or she goes to buy more paper and pens.
My name’s Steph Jagger and when I look back at my life, a pretty clear pattern emerges: I like to go big. It started with Egg and Spoon races and then turned into things like traveling to far-flung countries, smashing world records, and writing books. Well, to be fair, it’s just one book so far, but I know I’ve got some more in the chambers, so let’s just say books (plural).
In any case, when I dig deeper into all of those things, I see another pattern, one that’s buried one layer under going big. And when I think about it, perhaps its one of the ways I go big. The pattern is called writing, by hand, on paper. I scribble ideas, notes words, and phrases, I use them to create a visual of the very big picture. I scrawl paragraphs down in journals to “skim the fat” from my brain before writing things in a more solid form. I put ink to paper because it helps ideas come out of my head because what use are they in there anyway? I need them out. And once they’re out in some hand-written, half-formed way I can start playing with them and turning them into something big, something bigger than big.
My first book is called Unbound: A Story of Snow and Self-Discovery, and because this is a place that celebrates the handwritten, I thought I’d show ya a little behind the scenes, sneak peak into the pen and paper part of my process.
From one writer to many others,
I printed off the calendars I kept from my ski trip. They served as a log for the vertical feet I skied on any particular place and when I was writing I used them to fact myself as well as jog my memory about particular places.
Handwritten notes I took while workshopping my very shitty first drafts with the wonderful Carly Butler and the unbelievable Patti M. Hall:
Cue cards developed at HarperCollins with my editor to help me understand the placement of each scene. The cards were changed, altered, and manhandled up until the very end:
A close up of one cue card:
People used to ask what it looked like to write a book, and about how I kept things straight when my brain and my heart were on fire. This is how: I booked a cabin in an isolated part of British Columbia, and filled one of it’s walls with my cue cards and post-it note additions:
This is what “skimming the fat” looks like — the journals I kept throughout the writing process. They had NOTHING to do with the content, just a practice that allowed me to get rid of the shit in my head before I started writing:
I started with the Hero’s Journey story arc. It was drawn onto paper and pasted on the wall behind my computer. This was the first thing I did before ANY of the writing began.
Notes from others: a note from my agent about my contract, and a note from my editor when the final book was mailed to my door. These are both hanging up in my office.
So what does all of that hand-writing get you — a lovely winter jacket. God I love puns.
Steph Jagger splits her time between Southern California and British Columbia where she dreams big dreams, writes her heart out, and runs an executive & life coaching practice. She holds a CEC (certified Executive Coach) degree from Royal Roads University and she believes courageous living doesn’t happen with one toe dangling in, but that we jump in, fully submerge, and sit in the juice. Think pickle, not cucumber.
Her first book, Unbound: A Story of Snow and Self-Discovery was published by HarperCollins in January 2017.
You can find more at www.stephjagger.com or on Instagram @stephjagger
As an elementary school student, Carolyn struggled with dysgraphia, a neurological disorder marked by impairment of the ability to write by hand (and spell). It's still very much a part of her every day. In this poem, Carolyn brings us closer to her handwritten world. Intermixed are italicized excerpts from a several-month exchange with her about coming to grips with the growing pains.
This interview capped off the month-long exhibition, Maybe U R Like Me, which connects people across borders of identification by establishing the possibility of a sameness, and similarity, that was otherwise unexpected. Here, we ask Ty about anonymity, privacy in public, and intimate encounters. If we could all think, "Maybe u r like me" this year, we'd be much better off.
In this essay on deleted pasts and new beginnings, Aine Greaney takes us around the world in an old composition notebook: the only one she brought with her when she emigrated to America. With the start of the new year just behind us, we find this piece more timely than ever, as we revisit filled pages from the past, and look toward the blank ones of the future.
In this micro-reflection, Mary Fratesi finds delicate words for the most difficult of experiences: watching a loved one in pain. While this piece began as a pairing of two images, which has a fluency of its own, Mary takes us beneath the tree, and between the lines.
For author Karan Mahajan, handwriting is a necessity, a fact almost. He writes every first draft by hand, and while he encourages everyone to as well, he doesn't care if you do. But we do, so read this interview and hear his fearless take on how handwriting cancels self-criticism, as well as helps you avoid getting needlessly attached to language and doubling backward into revision before a story is complete.
It'd odd how the simple coordination of individual strokes leads to the immediate recognition of meaning. But what happens when those strokes are combined new lines? Artist Tatiana Roumelioti has been exploring the bridge between art and words. You could say she's invented an alphabet, but that would be putting meaning where there is none. And so, we leave her words as they are, and their meaning up to you.
This micro-insight from Adrienne Harvitz reminds us of an important tradition: to create brand new ones. Ignoring the standard "To" and "From," Adrienne created gifts out of the paper wrapped around the presents for her children. Did most end up in the recycling bin? Sure, but one didn't.
If you haven't made any resolutions this year, here are four great places to start. May your resolutions be short, sweet, and sharp.
What happens when it's not just you, the writer, who struggles with the screen, but your characters? In this lyric essay, Tonianne Bellomo walks us through the negotiations she makes with her characters. What does she do to bring them to life? She builds them paper homes.
Anais Nin wasn't supposed to be writing letters in 1975. She had been recently diagnosed with cancer. But she received a letter from a young woman wandering Japan, she felt compelled to respond. Thirty years later, it surfaces for the first time in public. In this new year, may you reach out to those who have influenced your thinking. Perhaps you, too, will receive words in return.
Poet and playwright John Reed takes us inside his head, where his sonnets start, but also on a bus, where his sonnets form, and finally, where they end up, scribbled onto a napkin. It's how he escapes doubt, and discovers form.
In this micro-ritual, Ali Osworth lays out the key ingredients to safeguarding ink's elegance, and her daily quest for grace. For those of you looking to slow down your mornings, taking a look at what's on your desk is a good place to start.
Is the notebook half-empty or half-full? In this essay, Joyce Chen sets out to test and trust her hand, a routine tethered to time, with the hopes of avoiding the pitfalls of resolutions by resolving to reflect. Are you up for the screen test?