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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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Filtering by Tag: Carly Butler

A Surprise Wedding and the 52 Postcards That Followed • Carly Butler Verheyen

Brett Rawson

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BY CARLY BUTLER VERHEYEN

Nothing about our wedding was ordinary.  In fact, that morning I woke up thinking it was the day of our engagement party, but I got the surprise of a lifetime after reading a letter from my fiancé telling me that our engagement party that was planned for that day was actually our wedding day.  While I was away for 6 months retracing the steps of my Grandmother's love letters in London, England, he was at home planning our big day.  We had a date set the following year, so we were planning things together here and there, but little did I know that things we were planning were actually being moved to an earlier date: the date of our surprise wedding.  

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The surprise didn't end that night. The guests of our surprise wedding filled out postcards that had a number from 1 – 52 in the corner, and every week of our 1st year of marriage, a vintage postcard from one of our wedding guests came in the mail. Some of the guests took them home with them to fill out and send themselves, while others wrote a message that day or night and left it in a mailbox by the end of the night for our good friend to mail to us each week. 

Some had marriage advice, some had memories of our wedding day, and others had drunken messages of love and well wishes. It was such a treat to feel the love from our wedding guests all year long.

A few of our faves are below. 

#Handsmitten: Who Will Be Your Darling Valentine?

Carly Butler

BY CARLY BUTLER

Seventy-one years ago, these two lovebirds — my maternal grandparents — were celebrating the month of love and St. Valentine himself. After getting married just after WWII, my grandfather and the rest of the Canadian soldiers were sent home to Canada, leaving the 40,000 British warbrides to patiently await passage to their new life, new country, and new love. This letter is one of 110 that changed the course of my life and sent me on my own quest of love. 

Handwriting is often pegged for its romantic appeal. There's no denying the heart-tug of a handwritten letter. It contains an untouchable spark between two people that emojis simply cannot express — even though they are getting closer to our core feelings (how about that new happy drooling face, amirite?). In the spirit of love, we're getting sappy and happy with the hashtag #handsmitten. Starting right now, we want to hear all about the loves of your lives: the past, the (im)perfect, the messy, and the meaningful. Send us your handmade valentines, little notes of love, letters you've latched onto for years, or heirlooms that celebrate the communications of the heart. Don't be stupid in love; be cupid in love. #handsmitten

You can send them to carly@handwrittenwork.com, or simply tag us on social media @handwrittenwork, and did we mention? Bring your hashtag game: #HANDSMITTEN 

One is loved because one is loved. No reason is needed for loving.” - Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

An Informal Memoir • Joselyn Smith-Greene

Brett Rawson

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BY JOSELYN SMITH-GREENE

A short time ago at an estate sale, I saw a woman excited at the sight of a bunch of handwritten letters. Quickly, she grabbed them. I didn’t get it. How could these unrelated letters be of any significance to anyone other than the sender and the sendee? 

This experience prompted me to revisit a box of letters that I had saved. Many of them were written by my childhood friend, Patricia, and my college friend, Loretta. The exchange between Patricia and I began when I went away to college and she was in her senior year of high school. Loretta and I attended Rhode Island College together. Our letter exchange occurred during school breaks and summers. After I transferred to a different school in my junior year, our letter writing escalated. Long distance calling was cost prohibitive in the late 70’s while a stamp cost a mere 13 cents; writing letters was the affordable way to keep in touch with distant friends and family.

Each letter was a continuation of their life’s story. As I read them, they were an immediate relief, and a short distraction from the frenzied college life. Some were quite lengthy, some were written over multiple days, and some required a second read to make sure I didn’t miss a thing. All, however, warranted a return letter, with the hope that a letter waiting in their mailboxes would uplift their day as well. 

I had a blast rereading their letters, laughing and shaking my head with more feeling and genuineness than any present day LOL’s and SMH’s. So when Patricia recently mentioned that she had little recollection of her college years, I immediately thought to myself, “I can fix that!” And so I did. I returned the letters she had written me, thereby gifting her, her younger self. 

I had the pleasure of gifting both Patricia and Loretta the letters they had written me all those years ago. They are the most special gifts that I have ever given anyone. Since they cannot be duplicated or monetized, their value is beyond measure. I’m glad I kept their letters, a handwritten, informal memoir about everything they were thinking, feeling, and doing in their own words, documented by them.  

With a simple touch of a key today, we send digital communications off to linger in the abyss of cyberspace. It is difficult to re-experience an email. But tangible letters can so quickly bring back a distant joy. They are precious evidence of the lives we live.

You can find more from Joselyn on her site: http://meaningfulremnants.com.

Lost Songs: A Conversation with My Father

Brett Rawson

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BY CARLY BUTER

My dad and I co-wrote a song together for the first time in March of 2015. Seeing the song come to life from the penciled pages of his handwritten notebook made me curious about the process, specifically in the earlier days of his songwriting. When I brought up the idea of being featured on Handwritten, he knew exactly what he wanted to share.  Below is the conversation with my dad, Dale Butler, folk singer-songwriter and local celebrity of Leamington, Ontario.  

CARLY: Where did you find these pieces of handwritten work? 
 
DALE: I was cleaning up the basement and found them in a folder.  One of them is a finished song that is handwritten, but most of them are a bunch of started and unfinished songs, a dog’s breakfast really. These were written on shopping bags that date back to 1977.  

I was working up north at a camp at the time, so I probably got it from the liquor store. I thought it was nice paper that I could cut up into pages.  I didn’t have paper with me so I used what I could find. You have to get creative sometimes.  I’ve written on envelopes, napkins, things I find in the glove box, business cards, gum wrappers or packages, and I’ve even written songs on cigarette boxes (even though I don’t smoke).

This piece of paper here is from when I was in Florida in 1980.  It’s a paper shopping bag that I found at my parents place there.  It’s dated Friday April 11th, 1980.  I was down at the water and I got writing about a fisherman.  It’s a poem, not a song. I never ended up putting it to music but I kept it all these years. I wrote a thing here, “spoken words should be written words.” 

This is a neat line, “no matter where you put them, in view or out of sight, they’ll turn to each other and start another fight.” I have no idea what that was about.  It must have been about my parents arguing, or my brothers, or my brother and dad because they used to argue about everything.  Some of this stuff is pretty amazing.  “Till love saves the day, love is stronger than any man, love can take you by the hand, love can conquer any land.” 
 
When you get looking at these scraps of paper, it’s funny what you write, because a lot of times things that are said are never documented.  If you don’t write it down there’s a good chance it will be lost.

CARLY: I notice that you always use pencil.  Why is that? 
 
DALE: I write with pencil because I have trouble spelling and because you’re always rewriting. With a pencil it’s easy to erase and fix it.  When you write with ink, you have to scratch it out and put the other word beside it.  
 
CARLY: Don’t you ever worry that you’ll erase something good? 
 
DALE: No.  If it were good it wouldn’t have gotten erased.  I have lots of things that are partly written. I found a few lines in this pile that I think are going to become a song that I want to finish. They’re kind of like lost songs that are going to come back to life some day.  Some of it might just be one good line I wrote a long time ago that I think I could work with.  
 
CARLY: When did you first start writing & what inspired you to write?

DALE: My next-door neighbor Dan and I started writing songs in 1972.  We would always listen to music by Gordon Lightfoot, Seals and Crofts and James Taylor and we decided to try and write our own.  I remember one particular song that Dan had started on a piece of paper that he left sitting on a stereo. I saw it, read it and told him how good it was. After finding out he was about to throw it away, I offered to take it home to work on it and it later became the song Sea Captain. Once I started songwriting, I couldn’t stop. The quest then became the next song and wondering if my songwriting was going to get better. 

CARLY: Back then, if someone found these papers, how would you have felt? Do you have any songwriting advice?
 
DALE: Sometimes you’re embarrassed by what you write because it’s so personal and the fear is that others will maybe have the wrong interpretation of what you have written.  It could be totally different than what you think you wrote.  
 
I think when you first start you have lots to say, but you worry.  As you get older, you are a little bit smarter with the use of words because you’ve done it quite a bit, and you can say just as much with less.  It’s about picking the right words and the ability to convey what you wanted, with less. 
 
Basically you need to start writing something.  It can be anything.  When you read it over again sometimes the words move you and other times they don’t.  If it doesn’t you just set it aside and move on to something else.  You can always come back to it 20 or 30 years later. I’m looking at this stuff that’s quite old and I’m realizing in this moment that it might have another life.  I’ve written 99 songs in my lifetime, maybe these handwritten lyrics on scraps of paper from the 70’s and 80’s that I’ve saved after all these years, will help me reach my 100th song this year. 

The Keepers • Sharon W. Huget

Brett Rawson

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BY SHARON W. HUGET

As I go through three months worth of papers that have accumulated in piles trying to put the keepers into files, I find the letter my Auntie Mary Ann wrote in early January. It was a response to our annual family Christmas card. It immediately catches me and I bring it to the table so I can re-read it over my Sunday tea. Ah Sundaya day for quiet, un-hurried, sit down tea, sipped slowly while still hot.

The delicate handwriting with it's curves and fancy loops echoes the scalloped edged stationary, eggshell blue with pink roses framing the page. A what's happening letterabout life and change and questions about the happenings in our lives as my own kids grow up and we grow older. 
 
It has been years since all my cousins were at her place searching for coloured hard-boiled Easter eggs hidden in corners of the basement, around storage boxes and in my uncle's work boots. Christmas memories of cousins relegated to playing in the basement and giggle fits as the pack of us are ordered to sleep, squished wonderfully side by side, sleeping bag to sleeping bag.  I remember the sounds from the downstairs guest room and hearing the late night footsteps of clean up in the kitchen, lingering laughter of adult siblings and in-laws visiting upstairs and the early morning hurried stomps of getting breakfast out and the roast in before dressing in Sunday clothes and heading for church. So long agoand yet, the familiar script has brought her close again for a moment of cherished remembering.
 
It’s a keepera piece of caring and love from my dear Aunt Mary Ann.

Love in Vietnamese, Punjabi, Mandarin, English, Spanish & Backwards Cursive

Brett Rawson

HANDCOLLECTED BY CARLY BUTLER

At work today, Handwritten curator Carly Butler shares International Handwriting Day with colleagues and customers. So far, they have collected handwriting in Vietnamese, Punjabi, Mandarin, English, Spanish, and to top it off, backwards cursive. That's right, backwards cursive. #bicdrop

Seventy Years Ago Today

Brett Rawson

By Carly Butler

It was while moving my grandfather into a retirement home that we stumbled upon 110 love letters written from my grandmother to my grandfather just after WWII. They were dated January to July of 1946, and they were tucked away in the back of a cupboard next to a slew of VHS tapes of recorded British sitcoms. My Grama had been gone for over 10 years at this point. She died when I was 13.

When we first found the letters, they were simply a precious family memento  an heirloom that we’d keep in a drawer the few years that followed their discovery. It wasn’t until 2012 that I found myself in front of the RMS Queen Mary docked in Long Beach, California, the ship that my Grama sailed on in 1946 towards her new life, that an idea started to form. I would move to England from January to July of 2013 to retrace my Grama's steps.  I would knock on the door of the house she wrote the letters from, I would visit the places she visited and I would write home to my love, just as she did.

The journey of retracing my Grama’s letters 67 years later changed my life. It has led me to this exact moment, drafting up my first entry for this column on Handwritten. If someone were to have told me that a bundle of love letters would change the course of my life, bring incredible people into my path, be the foundation of a love that I have with the perfect man for me, and create a connection to my Grama, someone who left this world almost 20 years ago, I’m not sure I would have believed it.  

What I've come to realize is that my gratitude for having these letters is far beyond the grand gesture or epic journey. The most meaningful part of having found my Grama’s letters is that they give me a window into a life-story of an incredible woman who walked before me. Her handwritten words allow me to get to know her as a 26 year-old women embarking on a major life decision, leaving behind everything she knew, putting her faith in love and living life the way it’s meant to be lived. Her words bring me strength when I feel weak, courage when I feel scared, belief when I am in doubt, and chutzpah to live the life of my dream, seventy years later. 

Her first letter, shared below for the first time, is dated January 17, 1946, just over seventy years ago today.

TRANSCRIPTION:

January 17, 1946

My Darling, 

I haven't written before because I knew it wouldn't be any use as the letter would get there before you. Darling, I miss you terribly, much more than I ever did before, now I am only living for the day when I get my papers to sail. Right until I got your telegram Tuesday morning, I thought and lived in the hope that you would walk in once more for a few stolen hours, but after I got the telegram I knew you had gone. Thanks for sending it, darling, it was sweet of you, if I hadn't of got it I might still be thinking you would come.

I hope you had a good sailing darling and it wasn't too rough (or does that make you laugh) anyway the main important thing is that you got there safely. P.G. Everything back here is very much the same, I started work back again today at Samuel’s, I couldn't stay at home doing nothing any longer the time just seem to drag. 

I wrote and asked for the address of the Canadian wives club and I've got it now, they meet every first Monday in the month and the next meeting is on Feb 4th so I'm going to go and learn some more about Canada and Canadian cooking (Ha! Ha! That's not funny). 

It's a funny thing darling but you know all the time you were here we never heard our song once, well both last night and the night before I heard someone singing it on the AFN, they must know just how I feel. Every time I go in our room, I nearly start crying and it's worse when I go to bed, the moon is still shining on our bed just like it was that last night you were here. 

On Tuesday night I went to the Odeon and saw "Love Letters" it was a lovely film and reminded me so much of how letters brought us together. I'm going to Oxford on Saturday for the weekend to take Vera back her things, anyway it will make a change for me, I'm going to take my camera and take some snaps to send to you. That reminds me I bought a smashing photo album the other day and I've put in all my snaps but there is still a lot of room, so I'm ready for all the snaps you are going to send me. Now all I want is a scrapbook. 

One of the women in the shop today asked me what I would like for a wedding present so I guess we are still collecting 'em. While I am writing this Dixie is walking all over the room, so you can just imagine. mmmm. I have an answer Danny's letter yet but I will soon, I have written to everybody else. Well darling I guess that's about all for now except that I love you and I won't feel like a whole person again until we are together for good. P.G. 

Half of me is with you, well cheerio darling, God Bless You and All the Luck in the world to you, Au revoir. All my love forever your ever loving wife, 

Rene

I love you – in x’s
P.S. Give my love to the family. Love Rene. 

Carly Butler Joins Handwritten as Curator of Life's Letters

Brett Rawson

Handwritten is wildly happy to announce its newest curator, Carly Butler, who will be heading up a new column called Life's Letters. 

The column comes from a discovery, which turned into journey, blog, and premise for a book: 110 love letters written from her grandmother to her grandfather after a chance meeting during World War II. The trajectory of her life took an irreversible turn: she followed the letters and her heart to London, England, to retrace the steps of her grandmother's letters 67 years later.

At the outset, she didn't intend to write a book, but while in London, she realized something: she was writing her own Life's Letter with each step. So at the conclusion of the physical journey through this past, Carly set out to put down her experience, which has turned into the forthcoming memoir, Life's Letter. 

Along the way, something else happened unexpectedly: as people began to find out about her journey through articles, interviews on television, and more, people started sharing their own life's letters with Carly, each as unique and moving. She started receiving requests from universities, organizations, and genealogy clubs to speak on behalf of the power of the pen, which only sent her in further examination of the connective tissue of the physical traces of a past and person. It shined a bright light on a simple truth: every family has a story. But what we don't realize without zooming out, is that so many of these stories are preserved in pen. And so, this is what her column with Handwritten will be about: the stories told through letters about life, lives, and living. 

The first post will be on Sunday, January 17th, which aligns with time: the first letter of her grandma's is dated January 17th, 1947. It will also be the first time Carly has published a single, entire letter of her grandmother's. In this column, her own life's letter will provide the base for others, and create a space to collect and recollect unforgettable lives through letters.

We welcome Cary Butler to the Handwritten team, and cannot wait to watch her column unfold. 
To tell Carly your story, and submit to her column, you can reach her at: lifesletter@gmail.com.

Carly Butler currently lives in British Columbia, Canada with her husband Adam. She is a photographer and writer by passion, and a customer relations coordinator at a bank by profession. She has a degree from the University of Guelph in International Development and Economics. Her story has been featured in media outlets such as BBC Breakfast, The Times, London's Evening Standard, BuzzFeed, Huffington Post, Today Show, Good Morning America, the Global News, and dozens of other publications.