WE'LL COME TO YOU.

Since we aren't on every social media site, let us come to you. Enter your email below and we'll send you our monthly handwritten newsletter. It will be written during the hours of moonrise, and include featured posts, wild tangents, and rowdy stick figures. 

Keep the beautiful pen busy.


Brooklyn, NY
USA

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. 

HW Blog

search for me

Filtering by Tag: Handwriting

Illustrating Expression: Standards of Contemporary Penmanship

Brett Rawson

1.jpg

BY KADIN KOSTELIC

This pro-forma and map are results of an investigation into the standards of contemporary penmanship. Despite the predominance of digital and printed communication, penmanship remains a relevant skill for its immediacy, versatility, intrinsic emotional value, and artistry. By creating a pamphlet that details the somewhat neglected forms and rules of 'proper penmanship,' along with a map that delineates the many areas of influence surrounding the activity of handwriting, I've attempted to rediscover and champion — in an un-nostalgic way — the qualities that make penmanship vital to our everyday lives. 

Penmanship- Influences - Kostelic.jpg

In continuing this project, I aim to highlight and expand upon the ways in which handwriting is still relevant to contemporary life, as well as equalize the imbalanced relationship/perception of the handwritten as opposed to digital communication. Some of the questions I am exploring are below:

In what ways and contexts do you still use handwriting in your daily life? How can the handwritten act as a subversion to our increasingly digital daily experience and existence? What can the act of handwriting add to our lives, and how does it affect/benefit our development as individuals and communities? To what extent does the skill of handwriting help us beyond the ability to communicate?

If you'd like to share your thoughts with me, you can see my site, Standards | Penmanship, here.

blot.png
portrait - kostelic.jpg

My name is Kadin Kostelic, I'm a designer from Colorado Springs. I earned a BFA in graphic design from Colorado State University, and am continuing this education at Goldsmiths, University of London pursuing a masters degree in communication and experience design. For me, being a designer means to be constantly curious and aware of the world, insightful about those observations, and determined to solve problems through that insight. More than that,  I see design as a means of empathy. Understanding others’ thoughts, motivations, governing feelings, and individual perspectives is essential to my work, and it is why I find a profound sense of purpose in my profession. @kadinraedesign

Start the Year Off Write • Handwritten

Brett Rawson

IMG_8727.jpg

BY HANDWRITTEN

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. 

KEXP.JPG

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.

Anise Cookies • Anne James

Brett Rawson

Anne James - Recipe Anise         Cookies.jpg

A note from curator Rozanne Gold: There are few more poignant daughter-and-father rituals than this evocative memory shared by Anne James, an Associate Professor of Voice and Movement in the Department of Theatre & Dance at California State University, Fullerton . Anne heard me on Heritage Radio on “A Taste of the Past,” a popular program hosted by culinary historian Linda Pelaccio.  Afterward, Anne wrote, “I was so moved by your project that I wondered how I would go about contributing a handwritten recipe that my grandmother passed on to me?”  That, of course, goes right to the essence of this column:  The reawakening of memory through the swerves and curves of a penned recipe.  And her writing is beautiful… “When he popped open the tin, the sweet, distinct aroma caught him off guard. My father looked at me, stunned. As he unfolded the tissue paper, he tossed back his…” We are grateful to have Anne’s original recipe and wonderful photos of the story’s compelling characters. 

Black Ink Blot.png

Anise Cookies by Anne James

My beloved grandmother, Florence “Flo” James, was a good old-fashioned English cook.  The knee-buckling aromatics of roasted potatoes, sage, and braised meat permeated every corner of my grandparent’s Yucaipa, California home.  The upholstery smelled like pastry.  Baking was her true love. 

Flo was stout, with a fluff of white, curly hair and flushed cheeks, and resembled Mrs. Claus.  Her cookie preparation for the holidays began as early as mid-October.  Clad in her favorite pink gingham apron, she’d happily hand-beat batch after batch.  By Christmas Day she would have plated over a dozen different delicacies: Ginger Snaps, Date Balls, Hazelnut Puffs, Walnut Stars, Coco Krispy Crunches, and Wedding Cakes (with her signature whole maraschino cherry tucked inside!).  Don’t even get me started on her Fruit Cake.

And then there were her signature Anise Cookies.  Flo baked these just for her son, George (my father).  These particular sweets were a maternal gesture that began in the mid-1930s and stretched into my Dad’s adulthood.  One whiff of their licorice scent transformed my father, an internationally renowned watercolorist and professor, into a giddy, little kid.  Holding up a precious nugget as if to expose its facets to the light, he would annually rhapsodize on the elements of the perfect Anise Cookie; the separation of the milky white meringue from the caramelized, caked bottom; the bouquet released with each bite; their miraculous transformation as they aged into a delectable granite-like shard.

Often at my Grandma’s hip, I would be mesmerized while she prepared English staples; steak and kidney pie, Cornish pasties, Yorkshire pudding.  She compiled her favorite recipes into a small, handwritten cookbook that she gifted to me, her only granddaughter.  Thankfully, all of her cookie recipes were included. Then thirteen, I cradled the micro-tome in my hands, awed that she had entrusted me with her culinary secrets.

Grandma passed away in the late 1980s.  Our family stumbled to fill the void left by our own Mrs. Claus.  A decade later, as a graduate student crafting inexpensive Christmas gifts, I remembered the cookbook.

Flipping through the pages, there it was:  her Anise Cookie recipe. The words, “Dad’s Favorite,” were carefully written in my teenage script at the top of the page.  Grandma’s swirly, red-penciled handwriting talked me through it.  Anise liquid was an exotic splurge.  Beat the eggs “until fluffy for 45 minutes.” She mixed these by hand? “Let stand overnight”— I opted to chill them instead.  That was my first handwritten contribution to her recipe.

Christmas morning, I presented my Dad with the tin.  Though eye-ing his toddling granddaughter, he accepted it and distractedly popped open the lid.  That sweet, distinctive scent escaped.  His attention snapped back to the metal box.

He looked at me stunned.

Unfolding the tissue paper, he tossed back his head and let out a soft sob.  Carefully, he picked up one of the creamy gems. He marveled at it for a moment and then took a bite. 

With a deep exhale, he slowly chewed and grinned.  The chaos of Christmas morning swirled on.  But, there he sat, the open tin perched on his lap, blissfully transported: A son unexpectedly basking in the spirit of his mother.  

I baked Anise Cookies for my Dad every Christmas after that.  Before the mayhem of presents, I’d find a quiet moment to slip him his stash.  It became one of our favorite father/daughter rituals.  He’d pop a cookie into his mouth and hum with delight.  We’d study that year’s batch, noting the subtle differences in texture, color, and fragrance. Then, he’d happily scurry away to hide his cookie booty.

I built on Grandma’s recipe, finessing her instructions with each pass; noting the impact of egg size, humidity, and parchment paper vs. aluminum foil.  I tracked them, year by year, on attached Post-It notes.  My last comment was dated December, 2014.

My Dad passed away in March of 2015.  Though his appetite was diminished from years of chemotherapy treatments, he managed to nibble a cookie a day that final holiday season.  It was a touchstone of a well-lived life; one that began simply enough, as a holiday treat baked by a young mother for her cherished first born and, unwittingly, setting into motion an unbroken streak that spanned over fifty years.

I didn't bake this last Christmas.  It is still too painful.  A well-meaning friend, however, knowing of our tradition, baked me a batch of my father’s beloved cookies.  I graciously accepted, but waited until I was alone to open them. 

One whiff of that licorice scent triggered a searing ache of grief.  Too soon.  Maybe next year.

Florence James’ Anise Cookies
My notes are in italics – A.J.

 2 eggs – cold
1 c. sugar
1 ½ cups of sifted flour (I used organic flour)
¼ t. cream of tartar (bought fresh every year – found made a significant difference)
½ t. Anise Extract (ordered yearly from Spice House in Chicago, IL)
(Sometimes I added a touch more. But not too much or else it makes the dough droopy)

Line cookie sheet with parchment paper. Beat eggs until fluffy. (Until really fluffy-at least 10 min or so). Add sugar gradually. Beat for 45 minutes.

Sift together flour, baking powder and cream of tartar. Fold into egg mixture. Drop by teaspoon onto a greased and floured cookie sheet (I used parchment paper). Dough will be sticky.

Let stand overnight – Do Not Cover (I chilled in my fridge overnight uncovered). Chill for at least 10-12 hours. 

Bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes. A cake forms on top if made right. I’d say the top is crunchy with a cake bottom. I used to make a double batch that my Dad would ration through January. But this is my Grandma’s original recipe. These measurements make about a dozen


Anne James - Anne James.jpg

Butter Tart • Kari Macknight Dearborn

Brett Rawson

A Note from Curator Rozanne Gold: This fascinating article by Kari Macknight Dearborn comes just in time for Canada’s huge 150th birthday party celebration on July 1st.  Canada Day festivities take place throughout the country and wherever Canadians live abroad.  Here, Kari shares her own glorious family history, and that of Canada’s edible icon.  Her step-by-step photos for making the country's beloved butter tarts are at once mouthwatering and instructive. Kari, a senior producer at the Toronto advertising firm, Zulu Alpha Kilo, Inc., is a board member of Slow Food Canada and is currently studying  for her WSET Diploma.  She lives in Ontario with her husband, Paul, and two Hungarian Puli dogs, Luna and Tisza. Many thanks to Allison Radecki for securing Kari’s memories for us...and just in time for the party!  Happy Birthday, Canada.

Click to enlarge

BUTTER TARTS BY KARI MACKNIGHT DEARBORN

As so many of my fellow Canucks count down to July 1st, and to what probably will be the largest national party of my lifetime — Canada’s sesquicentennial celebration of Confederation — we are daily bombarded, and in every conceivable medium, with Canadiana.

This fervor has never been seen in our land of quiet pride and polite patriotism, and it’s odd and awesome at the same time.   Images of beavers and moose, maple leaves, hockey, and all other symbols of my native land, are everywhere this year.  The entire country is red, white, and bleeding nostalgia.

Canada officially came into being July 1, 1867, in case you were wondering what the fuss is about, by being granted a confusing level of freedom from the British Empire. It’s complicated.   Americans went about it slightly differently, I know.  Canada’s separation from Britain was a lot less bloody, and our connection to the ‘Empire’ is still strong today as a result.

We remain a country with very British and French influences because these countries created Canada.  We have two official languages and we’ve raised a bunch of the funny and talented famous people you love.  But my story is not exactly meant to be a lesson in Canadian history.

Instead it is a story about a singular confection; a quintessential Canadian dessert, made with basic pantry staples — the butter tart.  How it came to be such a part of Canada’s cultural identity, and my own, is at the heart of my handwritten recipe.

I was raised in Northern Ontario on the North Shore of Lake Huron, as a consequence of my father’s employ in the mining industry.  My grandmother was an English war bride who married my Canadian soldier grandfather and came to Canada shortly after the end of the Second World War. They settled very close to what would become my hometown of Elliot Lake.

My mother comes from hard-working Scottish Hebridean farmers of the Presbyterian persuasion, many of whom were displaced by the Highland Clearances. They ultimately settled in the rich agricultural areas north of Toronto that resemble, topographically at least, their ancestral homeland, minus the blasting winds from the North Atlantic.

It was in these enclaves of fellow immigrant Scots, and other erstwhile Brits, where these folks baked for weddings, picnics, and church events with the humble ingredients they could most easily procure.

Canadian food historians claim the butter tart’s certain influences from the Scottish Ecclefechan tart and early Québecois pie recipes made with maple syrup and maple sugar, as well as Southern recipes for pecan pie.  These reasons all make sense given our country’s history and the oral tradition of sharing recipes.  The main difference with the butter tart seems to be the individual serving size.  Additionally, butter tarts are runnier than pecan pie given the lack of cornstarch.

The earliest published recipe for the butter tart is from Barrie, Ontario, from 1900 in the Women’s Auxiliary of the Royal Victoria Hospital Cookbook, attributed to one Mrs. Malcolm (Mary) MacLeod.  Since my mother’s Aunt Marion was part of the auxiliary in Barrie in the post-war era, the written recipe here, in my mother’s hand, naturally resembles it.

These tarts were a precious part of my childhood at family gatherings but contained many (to me) vile raisins that I would meticulously remove one by one, wiping my hands on my clothes.  For my wedding in 2008, since I am not fond of cake and my husband adores my mother’s version, I asked my mother to make dozens of mini butter tarts for my guests.  Some of the tarts were even made sans raisins just for me, making it easier to keep my dress free of the gooey filling.  My stance on raisins has since softened.  And if the trend of butter tart wedding cakes ever takes off, you know where it began.

This recipe is classic, unfussy, and consistent but with a slightly loopy script. It’s sweet, and it has that nothing-extraneous Scottishness about it that I rely on.  It’s my mum in pastry form.

My mum, a retired nurse, mailed me the original recipe to use for this piece, but I also have the email she sent me years ago when she transcribed it.  Her recipe for the pastry dough (pate brisee) isn’t written down because it’s burned into her memory, and is also used for her amazing apple pies and much-beloved tourtière.   

Butter tarts have become big tourist draws.  We have a Butter Tart Tour in the Kawarthas area near where my mum grew up, and a Butter Tart Trail near the city of Guelph.  Ontario’s Best Butter Tart Festival and Contest is held in Midland, Ontario, annually.  Whether you add raisins or not, walnuts or pecans, nobody can really agree.  Maple bacon versions and some containing coconut are popular variations on the traditional.  Since I am a purist, I prefer mine with walnuts since pecans are not native to Canada, and would not have been cheap or easy to find here 100 years ago. 

Happy Canada Day!

Butter Tarts (yields 12 tarts)

Note:  You can use your own pastry dough recipe or purchase pie crusts.

 Ingredients

Pastry for 2 pie crusts
2 eggs
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 Tbsp white vinegar
½ cup melted butter
¾ cup raisins
¾ cup chopped walnuts

Directions

1. Set oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Grease 12 – 3” pie pans (muffin tins)
3. Roll pastry and place in pans
4. In a large bowl, beat eggs. Beat in brown sugar. Stir in vanilla and vinegar. Mix well and stir in melted butter. Fold in raisins and walnuts.
5. Spoon mixture into pans. Place pan on cookie sheet.
6. Bake for 10 minutes then reduce to 350 and bake for another 25-30 minutes. Let cool.

Pumpkin Fritters • Jonathan Paul Katz

Brett Rawson

A note from curator Rozanne Gold: Anna Freiman, native of Lithuania, speaker of nine languages, and devotee of Russian literature, herself sounds like an elegant character in a Dostoevsky novel. After surviving the horrors of the Holocaust, she joined her older brothers in South Africa, and later emigrated to Israel. Her grandson Jonathan, a writer (and creator of a Jewish historical cooking blog), found Annushka’s recipe for pumpkin fritters in a red binder his mother has kept for thirty years. With great affection he says, “As a teacher, my grandmother’s handwriting in both Latin and Hebrew scripts was crisp and exact; the fluidity of the cursive was unmistakably correct and undoubtedly all her own.” Jonathan, whose roots spread from South Africa, Israel, Chicago and New York, expresses his cooking “as deeply Jewish and totally unboxed” — just like his exceptional grandmother. You can enjoy more of his writing and extensive research at www.flavorsofdiaspora.com

BY JONATHAN PAUL KATZ

Every fall and winter, I see advertisements and signboards for pumpkin pie, pumpkin spice lattés, pumpkin doughnuts — but none for the pumpkin dessert of my childhood: Pumpkin fritters — a popular dish from my native South Africa. This recipe, lovingly written by my late grandmother Anna “Annushka” Freiman (née Smit), is at the heart of this story.

Annushka died in 1999, but her legacy lives on in the tales about her and in the recipes she left behind. In the 1980s, she typed out a cookbook for the family — including her famous dill soup, fish curry, and the meat stews she learned to make in South Africa. In addition, she blessed everyone dear to her with dozens of handwritten recipes. Those given to my mother on her visits to Annushka in Israel, were gathered in a treasured red binder — one that would forever sit alongside the typed recipe book. These tastes of my childhood became a priceless link to the life of an extraordinary woman.

My grandmother was born in Panevezys, Lithuania in 1917, in the famous yeshiva town known in Yiddish as Ponevezh. She was one of nine children in a well-off family who made their living as bottlers of Pilsner beer. Like many well-educated Lithuanian Jews, she grew up in a multilingual environment — High German, Hebrew, Lithuanian, and Russian were spoken at school, while Yiddish was spoken at home. And she learned English and Polish at some point along the way. Annushka survived the Holocaust in the Kaunas Ghetto and Bergen-Belsen, but tragically lost her first daughter, her first husband, and most of her siblings. After the war, she moved to South Africa, remarried and had three children, including my mother. In the mid-1960s, she moved to Israel and taught Hebrew.

Soon enough, Annushka became well-known for her prowess in the kitchen. The dishes she made were hardly traditional — she had a love for Middle Eastern cuisine and the Afrikaner and Indian specialties she learned in South Africa. Other recipes harkened back to her roots: Gefilte fish — peppery, in the Lithuanian tradition — or her aromatic dill soup.

She brought many recipes from Lithuania, but mostly enjoyed the black rye bread and farmer’s cheese that were the mainstays of the Lithuanian Jewish diet for centuries. I am certain that the tastes of her childhood carried over into her cooking — hence her pumpkin fritters are less sweet than many of their counterparts among other South African communities. They are also far more elegant — befitting a literary woman who could read, write, and speak nine languages and was known for her elegant demeanor. (As a young woman, she was also known as “Annushka di Sheine,” Annushka the Beautiful, for her elegance and beauty.).

My grandmother spoke in allusions with frequent references to Dostoyevsky. Ten hours of her mellifluous words are available at the Yale University Library as proof. Her descriptions of the detritus of everyday life recalled the great works of Yiddish and Russian literature, imbued with a folk wisdom all her own. But her recipes begged for a bit of wisdom of one’s own — be it the dollop of sour cream to add to the dill soup, or ingredients, or measurements, which had been omitted or simply “forgotten.”

My grandmother died when I was a child, but I distinctly remember making her pumpkin fritters with my mother in our family’s cramped New York City kitchen. (I “helped” by putting things into the bowl). My mother was always looking at the recipe on the counter as she mixed the batter, and the smoke from the cooking oil filled the apartment with a sweetly burnished smell that I still associate with autumn. On one very rainy day, I remember how the smoke looked like an extension of the cloud outside the window.

When I was 20, I spent a few months in South Africa doing archival research in winter which, in South Africa, takes place June through August. While there, I had the chance to eat pampoenkoekies – Afrikaner-style pumpkin fritters — at a coffee shop in the Cape Town neighborhood of Rondebosch. And though they did not taste exactly the same as the dish of my youth — they were a good deal sweeter, with a touch of clove — the bite pulled me into a Proustian reverie.

Poignantly, I, too, have just discovered that Annushka had “forgotten” an ingredient — and I struggled to make the recipe as written, watching the fritters disintegrate before my eyes. My mother advised that my grandmother always included flour in the mixture, but alas, there was none in the recipe. I marveled to find this omission and Annushka immediately came to life. (Handwriting is so often indicative of what is not written.) And as I slowly stirred the flour into the bowl, I felt a small nudge, and heard her whisper “Enjoy in good health.”

The recipe, as written in Annushka’s teacher’s hand, with my additions in parentheses.

Pumpkin Fritters • Your loving “Sheine”

Ingredients:

2 pounds raw pumpkin
[1-1/2 cups sifted flour]
3 eggs
1 heaped tablespoon sugar
½ level teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla essence [author note: vanilla extract]
1 level teaspoon cinnamon
2 [level teaspoons] baking powder

Directions:

Peel and slice pumpkin. Cook slowly in very little water till soft (about 20 minutes). Strain off water and mash up very well into a pulp. Cool it completely.

When cool, add slightly beaten eggs (just with a fork) and then add the balance of the ingredients, but the baking powder is added last.

Drop tablespoonful[s] into shallow oil (not too hot, as they burn quickly). Fry till golden brown on both sides. Makes 40-50 fritters.

Note: The fritters make a delicious dessert and can be served with cinnamon and sugar. They keep well in the fridge for quite a few days – if not eaten up immediately.
Bete’avon ulabri’ut! [Bon appétit and to your health!]

My Students on Rikers Island Had Some Things to Say Saturday • Edyson King Julio

Brett Rawson

Edyson King Julio teaches creative non-fiction writing class at Rikers Island. For his students, the pen and paper is their only outlet. It's less about the actual writing they produce, he told us, but more so how they experience the process, and how the process helps them understand decisions they've made in their lifetime. During the two-hour classes, he prompts discussions for his 13 students around politics, community, and identity.  The students carry the conversations in directions unimagined. Edyson sits down, listens, and just writes. The above are a few of the things his students said in a recent class.

They Have a Dream • 4th Grade Students from St. Stan's

Brett Rawson

BY HANDWRITTEN

In the fourth grade hallway of St. Stanislaus Kaska Catholic Academy in Williamsburg, there is a row of handwritten dreams. 

Written inside a cloud, each one begins at the edge of the historical echo: I have a dream...

Photo Jan 12, 10 35 53 AM.jpg

The dream above? It starts with a call to stop littering in parks. "If you see trash on in the park, don't just look at it, pick it up and throw it in the trash!" And then it expands: "Another example of how to stop pollution is to ride bikes or walk more because cars create carbon dioxide." These kids dream big, but that's because they see the larger picture.

Are some of these dreams political? Yes, but only because they are personal: 

"I have a dream that everyone can have equal rights. For me equal rights means all girls will have the opportunity to get the same education as boys which is still not possible in many countries. It means the same pay because we all work equally as hard as should be paid fairly. It means people, no matter the color of their skin, will be included and not discriminated against. I Have a Dream that we will stand together as one."

The thing about these dreams, and this handwritten project, is that it's not just some thing these students do once a year. And it's not just an activity to keep kids busy, or to check off a curricular box. At St. Stan's, handwriting is core to the curriculum because it is fundamental to a student's growth, development, and understanding. It is through the act of writing by hand that students come closer to themselves, our history, and each other.

"The MLK writing assignment was a way for students to envision a world where all people of all backgrounds and ethnicities could live in peace and harmony," says 4th Grade Teacher Mrs. Zito. "The writing assignment was followed by a film clip of a young MLK and the beginning of the civil right movement." 

"'I have a dream' that one day there will be no violence in the world. I wish that one day there will be equal rights for everybody. I have a dream that all women will have the right to vote. I hope that everyone will show kindness to people they meet, no brutal behavior. We will show respect to one another and not bully those who are different from us. I have a dream that there shall be no more hunger, all people will donate to soup kitchens. If one day these dreams come true, all will be wonderful."

On our visit, we had the chance to meet and talk with the driving force of the academy: Principal Christina Cieloszczyk.

"We believe that even in these times of increasing dependence on internet and social media," says Mrs. C, "connections between people, handwriting — namely script — is definitely not a lost art. Our students are taught script beginning in 2nd grade. They polish up the skill in 3rd grade so that by 4th grade, the expectation is that the majority of their work is done in script."

Each hallway is evidence of this. Handwriting, and not just in script form, is everywhere.

FullSizeRender.jpg

We know education is the key to unlocking doors. We know handwriting benefits the brain on neurological and physiological levels. We know an understanding of the past strengthens our ability to understand the present. And we know that engaging students with the issues of today prepare us, and them, for those that lie ahead. We hope the selection of letters below will bring you a little bit of energy, and re-ignite your dreams, if they're not already on fire. 

"If I was able to change the world, I would wish there will be no crime and no poverty. There would be peace and everyone would have a good job. Every child would be educated. Also I would want to save the planet. I would ask people to stop cutting trees and to preserve forests. I wish to eliminate air pollution by giving people free bikes to ride instead of using cars."

"If I was able to change the world, I would wish there will be no crime and no poverty. There would be peace and everyone would have a good job. Every child would be educated. Also I would want to save the planet. I would ask people to stop cutting trees and to preserve forests. I wish to eliminate air pollution by giving people free bikes to ride instead of using cars."

"I Have a Dream of a world where all children have an education. There will be no more homeless, hungry, or poor people and no stray pets. I think of a world where scientists have a cure for cancer, alcoholism, and other diseases. I believe that gender doesn't matter and woman are just as strong as men. In the future, there will be many woman presidents and bosses. Everyone will live fair, safe, and happy lives."

"I Have a Dream of a world where all children have an education. There will be no more homeless, hungry, or poor people and no stray pets. I think of a world where scientists have a cure for cancer, alcoholism, and other diseases. I believe that gender doesn't matter and woman are just as strong as men. In the future, there will be many woman presidents and bosses. Everyone will live fair, safe, and happy lives."

"I have a dream to try to bring peace to countries that fight over land and other things. I also wish that there will be enough drinking water and food for everyone. I would like to bring kindness to everyone in the world, as there wouldn't be a lot of crime. Last but not least I wish that people would recycle more."

"I have a dream to try to bring peace to countries that fight over land and other things. I also wish that there will be enough drinking water and food for everyone. I would like to bring kindness to everyone in the world, as there wouldn't be a lot of crime. Last but not least I wish that people would recycle more."

"My second dream is that there are more cures for cancers so people won't suffer anymore."

"My second dream is that there are more cures for cancers so people won't suffer anymore."

"For my last dream, I wish for people to stop cursing in front or near children." 

"For my last dream, I wish for people to stop cursing in front or near children." 

"I Have a Dream that people are nice to each other all the time. In my dream, I want people not hurting or bullying one another. Even though people have different skin color and look different, we should treat them nicely and with respect. I want no one to feel sad or lonely because they are different. I also want people to accept others for who they are. We should respect people, opinions and believes. People also have to enjoy what they have and be happy how they are. If we are happy, the world would be a better place for everybody." 

"I Have a Dream that people are nice to each other all the time. In my dream, I want people not hurting or bullying one another. Even though people have different skin color and look different, we should treat them nicely and with respect. I want no one to feel sad or lonely because they are different. I also want people to accept others for who they are. We should respect people, opinions and believes. People also have to enjoy what they have and be happy how they are. If we are happy, the world would be a better place for everybody." 

"One day I hope that bullying won't exist. Bullying makes people feel bad about themselves. Many people are afraid to speak up about bullying. I want to change all that by encouraging people to be kind and caring to everyone and everything. In school I would like to form a group where kids can go to talk about bullying and about how we can stop it. I would help people understand that bullying can be stopped if everyone stands together to make a difference."

"One day I hope that bullying won't exist. Bullying makes people feel bad about themselves. Many people are afraid to speak up about bullying. I want to change all that by encouraging people to be kind and caring to everyone and everything. In school I would like to form a group where kids can go to talk about bullying and about how we can stop it. I would help people understand that bullying can be stopped if everyone stands together to make a difference."

Oh, and did we mention they have a handwriting award they hand out at the end of every year? 

Oh, and did we mention they have a handwriting award they hand out at the end of every year? 

Black Ink Blot.png
sskca2016.jpg

With thanks to St. Stan's Board Advisor Tatiana Serafin for telling us about this lovely project, and for inviting us in to take photographs, and get to know one school that takes handwriting to the heart.

A Fortress of Order Within Chaos • Ingrina Shieh

Brett Rawson

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.

Creating a Visual of the Very Big Picture • Steph Jagger

Brett Rawson

File Jan 07, 2 06 11 PM.jpeg

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,
Steph

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.

File Jan 07, 2 05 04 PM.jpeg

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

The Handwritten Holidays

Brett Rawson

BY HANDWRITTEN

In Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott states that Monday is the worst day to write, and that December is a month of Mondays. While it is about the external elements (the shortened days, raging rivers of street slush, broken radiators, etc), the struggle takes place indoors, or, inside the mind. Emily Dickinson used to refer to these nights as "evenings of the brain."  

This year, we were prepared. We purchased a sunset lamp, a crock pot, and, hiding throughout the apartment, we've stashed unopened bottles of Two Buck Chuck. #grapesofwrath

Speaking of books, that is really how we get through December, and the rest of the winter months. With a little bit of time away from work, we'll soon be retreating to the woods with a stack of books, blank journals, envelopes, and stamps. We thought to share with you some of the things we'll be bringing with us. First are a few titles that have little to do with "handwriting" per se, but speak directly to us as hand-writers, for they address the thin lines between great divides:

For those of you who want to jump into the deep-end of the handwriting pool, these are some great diving boards. Two notes: first, we highly encourage you to pair together Brencher's memoir with her letter writing stationery kit, as we heart everything she does; and second, The Assassin's Cloak anthology is particularly wild because it's organized by date, and so for a big chunk of our last year, we would read the entries from each day in the morning to get us going. February 6th was particularly enlightening, as there were entries from 1769, 1881, 1922 and 1941. 

If you're looking for a gift, we recommend the below art objects. Inspiration is guaranteed. Whenever we feel a little bit of pressure mounting, we crack open these covers, get lost in their letters, and a few daydreams later, we're back to the page. 

Lastly, if you're looking for something to write in, here are three ideas to get you, or someone you know, writing: 

The medium-sized hardcover notebooks from Leuchtturm are a new favorite of ours — and not just because their cheerful, mod two-tone covers (“biColore”) are an antidote to the winter grays. With numbered pages, a table of contents, and supplemental stickers for archiving and organizing, you feel like you’re writing a real book as you scribble towards the 249th page finish line — which is some 100 pages longer than most similar style journals. There’s a gusseted pocket for stowing paper ephemera, and an elastic band to keep your words tucked in at night. 

The Shinola Detroit notebooks are manufactured by Edwards Brothers Malloy — a family-run printing business that has made books and journals since 1893, and which employs more than 900 people in Ann Arbor, Michigan. As their mission statement goes, Shinola respect the evolving nature and power of the handwritten word, and aim to "uphold the art of putting pen to pad and preserving communication.” The Smyth sewn binding method used not only allows your notebook to lie flat when open, but it increases its life expectancy and durability. They come in a bunch of different sizes, colors, and material groups — the linen options being the best to cuddle up to. 

But if completion is important to you, then check out the sketchbooks from our partner in the pen, The Sketchbook Project. You have one year to complete this blank little book. Though, time is running out, so click your way into a great activity by checking out their offerings on their site.

Lastly, Happy Holidays, everyone. Stay safe, keep the beautiful pen busy, and be in touch.

The ____ ___ of Handwriting: A Handwritten Contest

Brett Rawson

BY HANDWRITTEN

In September alone, there were over seventy articles written about handwriting. While some were only secondarily about handwriting (handwritten ransom notes, for example), too many of them had headlines that had us smashing our foreheads on the nearest walls. They contained combinations of these words: handwriting, lost, death, dying, art, myth, doesn't matter, etc. See three examples below:

We disagree wildly. So much so that we're writing a response to these articles, podcasts, and books. And we thought, why not have some fun in the process? So hand-writers, hand-thinkers, and hand-holders out there, help us breathe a little life into these headlines. Tell us what you think these headlines should say. We'll be picking our favorite five to include in the article, and hey, who knows, maybe yours will end up being the headline we use for our article. If so, due credit will be loudly given.

Riff off the ones above, or if "Fill in the Blank" is more of your style, then choose from the below and get silly, serious, or inspired.

Handwriting is a _____ _____.

The ____ ____ of Handwriting.

Handwriting ______________.

We look forward to hearing from you. Feel free to comment here on the post, or send us your submission to info@handwrittenwork.com.

 

Beatrice Nisenson’s Prune Cake • Evan Nisenson

Brett Rawson

"I noticed there were additional comments made in red, and a wine jelly stain, somewhat faded in the upper right-hand page corner, which came from a syrup that was poured over the cake. I also found a typed version that had been altered slightly, most likely by my grandmother, evolving with the taste buds of time."

Read More

Pen to Panel • An Evening of Archives, Conversation, and Lagers

Brett Rawson

This Saturday is our culminating event, Pen to Panel, with the Smithsonian's Archives of American Art. We'll be joined by five wildly creative minds for an hour of conversation about the past, present, and future of handwriting. We are thrilled to be hosting the event at The Sketchbook Project's newly-renovated home, which houses thousands of sketchbooks from around the globe. Below are the brief bios of our panelists, as well as a few links so that you can get a little lost, and find much more. But if you're in town, come see and hear from them in person. Did we mention the beer is on us?

Read More

Pen to Paper: Artists' Handwritten Letters • A Review by Sarah Madges

Brett Rawson

"Designed by Princeton Architectural Press, the book operates much like a gallery exhibition, privileging the visual over the verbal so that we may take in the high quality images as art objects before reading the accompanying “wall text” that complements and situates them."

Read More

Thomas Eakins's Precise Pen • Akela Reason

Brett Rawson

"Eakins learned his elegant copperplate hand from his father, a skill that was reinforced at Central in his drawing classes. To the nineteenth-century mind, good penmanship and draftsmanship were seen as interrelated skills that reflected clarity of thought."

Read More

Sweetly Unadorned Bits of Proof • Lexi Wangler

Brett Rawson

BY LEXI WANGLER

“What are you writing?”

Sadie, my best friend’s fifteen-year-old sister, paused on the porch. On her way to the hair salon, she surveyed me over her sunglasses, the bridge slipping down her nose. 

“The ceremony,” I told her, and ripped another page out of my notebook. 

“Oh, God.”  Underneath the layers of heavy-handed wedding makeup, she paled in horror. “I’ll, uh, let you finish then.” 

I could have called after her, defended myself and explained to her the nonlinear experience of expectation, the impossibly rapid speed of time devoured by just existing, let alone creative expression. But with forty-five, no, forty-four minutes to go, I just decided to keep writing. 

lexi.jpg

Last September, my best friend asked me to officiate his wedding. He’s been my best friend for going on seven years now, and at first, I thought it was a sop for not asking me to be his best (wo)man. I remember asking him, clearly, repeatedly, “Are you sure?”

But he and his fiancée were. They didn’t find it surprising when the wheels of my plane touched down in the city I used to call home without a single ceremonial word written. Well, to be fair, I filled out the paperwork, joined the American Ministers of Marriage, and mailed the affidavit to the court house. I took a risk and didn’t buy the officiating kit with an embossed certificate, but I did buy a dress — floor-length, fire-engine red with mesh cut-outs. That’s as far as I went until about forty-eight hours before the ceremony. Between cocktails at the rehearsal dinner, I typed out the first half of the ceremony on my phone, riding that familiar edge between writerly hubris and an absolute terror of failure. This was before I realized I probably shouldn’t be reading from an iPhone screen at the wedding. 

I borrowed a bit from the Corinthians, and a little from a speech that Roxane Gay gave at St. Louis University about Catholicism and feminism — ironically, since the happy couple asked me, the atheist, the fallen Catholic with a vengeance, to presumably perform a secular ceremony at a refurbished airport decimated during Hurricane Katrina.

The word “millennial” gets tossed around a lot to describe our generation, commonly linked with, jeopardy-style, “What is the worst?” Sometimes our elders have problems processing how we can ever mature, how we can contribute, how we can function, having been raised not only attached to increasingly smaller screens, but in a world that keeps getting increasingly darker: politically, environmentally, globally. The answer, of course, is hope. By coming here today, you have shown incredibly deep reservoirs of hope, in each other and in the joint future you began to build the day you met. You show the world the difference between growing up, and growing older. 

*

Before and after the wedding, I explained several times that no, I do not do this all the time, that I am not a minister, but simply a girl who happens to be friends with the groom, a friend who has been known to occasionally write things down. 

*

“Love suffers long and is kind. It is not proud. It bears all things, believes all things. Hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. [After all else], these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”  (1 Corinthians, 13:4) 

*

I’m told it’s a rising trend nowadays, having a friend do for free what you used to have to pay a churchman to do. For a millennial couple with no particular religious leanings, it was a cost-effective choice, though vastly more personal and intimate. In the South, however, it still raised a couple of eyebrows. Despite mandatory compliments and platitudes from attendants following the ceremony, I wasn’t actually sure how it went. I cried through most of it, the maid of honor patiently passing me tissue after tissue. I only cry when I’m happy — weddings and other moments of intense joy are something of an emotional minefield for me. More so when you watch friend after friend find what looks like incalculable joy in the arms of someone new, someone you haven’t grown up with, but someone you nevertheless would like to know.  It’s a joy tinged with fear, envy, sadness, wondering, sure, but it’s still the kind of joy that leaks out of you. 

*

You met by chance. You fell in love by chance. You are here today because you are making a choice. You have chosen hope. You have chosen faith. You have chosen each other. By being here, you promise to both provide the best version of yourself and to also accept nothing less than the best version of each other. These promises are ones you intend to keep. You vow to take care of each other, to stand up for one another, to find happiness in the other. Each vow shares the same, simple premise; you promise to experience, to share, to be there. You promise.

*

There is more, of course. I opted at the end for “You may now seal your vows with a kiss,” as opposed to “You may now kiss the bride,” and I switched out “I now pronounce you man and wife,” for “I now pronounce you husband and wife,” fervent little feminist that I am. They wrote their own vows, sweetly unadorned bits of proof. But these are not mine to share. Writing down my speech for the ceremony, my hand cramped over the teeth of the pages that have been torn out of my notebook. At the reception, Sam asked for them to keep.  He showed me Meghan’s vows in his pocket, lettered neatly, firmly on a notecard like the lawyer she is, and his own, scrawled on notepaper with the letterhead from the hotel that morning, a list of things he promises never to do, followed by a list of promises he’ll always try to keep.  

He wanted the three of them together, maybe to frame, or maybe just to hold onto. In this moment, I am glad to have something tangible, firmer than memory, to give them. Something handwritten.

Lexi Wangler holds an MFA from The New School in Fiction, soon to be joined by a dual concentration in Writing for Children. She works as an assistant at a literary agency and has so many books she has begun stacking them in her kitchen.

I Have No Choice But to Revise • Keith Baldwin

Brett Rawson

kbmoleskine1.png

WRITTEN BY KEITH BALDWIN

My handwriting is fucked. The penmanship is not as illegible as some, but in terms of how I physically write by hand, it’s all messed up. I hold a pen against my ring finger, like the wrong half of a pair of chopsticks, and form a lot of my letters from the bottom up, rather than the top down.

When I was eleven, my dad finally noticed the issue and approached it with all the vigor and care he’d applied to the insufficient knots in my shoes a few years earlier — just enough to make me feel shitty about it, without solving anything.

He spent a few frustrated hours with me at the kitchen table, correcting the way I formed a handful of letters and the number nine. There was no progress at all toward fixing my wonky grip, which was already too ingrained to be altered so easily.

The upshot is that I don’t have the natural flow with a pen that other handwriting advocates rhapsodize. It’s always a slog for me. If I try to write too quickly, my hand and wrist start to cramp up, so my thoughts always remains three steps ahead of my pen. And while I work to close the gap, my mind is free to become distracted by flaws and omissions in what I’ve already written, leading to aggressive cross-outs and a morass of cramped footnotes that nest and crawl across margins — to be inserted in the main text later.

This would be enough to make a mess of my notebook, but on top of all that — rather than keeping everything in sequence — I have a bad habit of opening to a random blank page whenever I want to make a note, or a list, or play a game of hangman. In the middle of writing an extended scene of fiction, I will often turn the page to find story notes, shopping lists, and broken sentences for my ESL students to practice correcting. Typing up my work becomes a tedious chore of deciphering and reconstructing, tracking down where the story picks up when it’s suddenly interrupted by a sketch of my cat as an astronaut. It is almost as big a pain in the ass to work through it as it is for me to scrawl it out in the first place. So why do I even bother? Why do I keep returning to pen and ink whenever I’m writing something I care about? (You should see the rough draft of this essay…)

I know there are a lot of answers involving the way the brain works in different contexts, and how I formed these writing habits when all I could do on a keyboard was hunt and peck — and blah blah blah, a hundred other reasons why this website exists and longhand is the best. But I think the biggest factor for me is the same one that made me so much less anxious about sharing this mess of pages than I would have been about submitting something more polished. Because no one could ever confuse the contents of my notebook for a finished product — not even me.

On the one hand, this means that I can’t be held accountable for the contents, which frees me to be a little wilder in my first stab at a project. But it also means that I can’t avoid the work that still needs to be done. I have no choice but to revise.

My feelings about revision are pretty much the same as my feelings about flossing — I know I should do it, but it makes my gums bleed. And when my words are neatly typed and double-spaced, with numbered pages and no evidence of the disordered mind that composed them, I have to work to remind myself that it’s still a work in progress — that I can and should question every decision those collected words represent.

The process of transferring from the page to the screen forces me to consider every sentence with a critical eye while I retrace the whole erratic path. And I can’t even procrastinate for too long because, while a few days’ distance can bring fresh insights, a few weeks is liable to leave me incapable of piecing the whole mess together again. (It’s happened. It’s infuriating.)
I know that, for other people, writing by hand makes the whole process smoother. For me, it’s about making myself work harder, and getting better results for the effort.

Keith Baldwin is a writer and tutor living in subterranean Brooklyn while paying exorbitant tuition in Manhattan. He is sometimes worried that he might be one of those lizard people you hear about.