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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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Filtering by Tag: letters

Carly Butler to be Letters Editor at Handwritten • A Handwritten Announcement

Brett Rawson


Eight months ago, we welcomed Carly Butler to the Handwritten Team as curator of a new column, Life's Letters. It was inspired by a discovery that led to a journey: after finding 110 love letters written from her grandmother to her grandfather, Carly packed her bags and went to the address of the first letter: London, England.

The only catch is: she had just fallen in love. So while she spent months retracing her grandmother's steps and reliving her letters day-by-day, she, too, was embarking on her own love and life through long-distant letters. All the while revisiting the past and dreaming of the future, Carly encountered scores of people who all had stories of their own, and finally, someone to share them with: Carly. This is the very reason Carly wanted to start the column: to showcase other peoples' stories as contained and ignited by the handwritten letter. Each story she curated detonated silently in the heart, from An Informal Memoir Joselyn Smith-Greene to The Keepers by Sharon Huget. And it's been such a wild joy to watch the stories unfold and get shared around the world. 

You won't see Life's Letters as a column, but the spirit lives on: as Letters Editor, Carly will be editing and curating all things letter-related, but she'll also be more involved with Handwritten's exhibitions, social media, events, and even the digital curriculum we're currently creating in collaboration with Karen Benke. To have her more involved brings us tremendous joy, as she is a trilateral power base of kindness, laughter, and great ideas.

We can't wait to see what the next 8 months bring! 

Ink Responsibly,

"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.

Externally Obvious, Internally Mysterious • Minakshi Choudhary

Brett Rawson


When my phone rang and I heard the voice of my community manager on the other side, I was shocked. There was an inland letter waiting to be received by me: that three-fold piece of paper, externally obvious, internally mysterious. 

While I dressed up and on the way to post office, all the neurons of my brain were ringing bells to deafen me with thoughts pouring in and pouring out. Mostly thinking, what might have provoked someone to write a letter to me in this world of emails and phones? Turning the form section of that envelope made me more nervous. My hands were frozen with sweat, unable to unglue the piece of paper. 

The letter was from my nephew studying in fourth grade in a fully residential school. Between reading the from address and ungluing the letter, I came to know how fast our brain processes and how far it can travel within seconds. 

As soon as I opened it, I was all tears seeing this sweet little sender just wanting me to know his address as he left to boarding school. He was under impression that I hadn't written to him because I didn't know his address. This innocence touched me to the core, and at that moment, I wished to hug my sweet little nephew and tell him how we elders are so busy solving the pain of ourselves created by ourselves.

Now, when that sweet little boy is grown up and busy finishing his degrees, I believe he might have forgotten about this episode of his life. We all fall into this trap of forgetting, though our best friend in the form of black and white text always makes our lives colourful with varied emotion rewinded and reversed on timelines. 

The One Who Wrote Back • Jim Landwehr

Brett Rawson

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It was writing that brought us together. 

In 1986, I moved from my hometown of St. Paul Minnesota to Waukesha, Wisconsin just outside of Milwaukee for a new job. My brother Rob was also living away from home as a student in upstate New York. He and I wrote for a period of time and in one of his letters to me, he included letters from three of his female friends on his dorm floor. He’d told them I had just moved to Waukesha and didn’t really know anyone and that he thought it would brighten my spirits to receive some letters from them.

I don't remember exactly what each of the three had to say. Most of the letters were introductory in nature and seemed like honest attempts to be nice and cure me of my homesick loneliness. They were all away from their families as well, and we were all close in age, so had music, books and college life in common to talk about.

I was, of course, flattered that 3 women would take the time to write, so I wrote each of them individual letters back. Only one wrote back. 

For a year and a half.

Donna and I became 20th century pen pals of sorts. This was before the age of e-mail, faxes, texting and Skype. Long distance calls were expensive. Postage for a letter was about a quarter.

So we wrote, and we wrote, and we wrote. Short letters, long letters, letters about the trials of college and a new job, and roommates, and philosophy and religion, family, music, and books. We shared joys, concerns, doubts, beliefs and bad jokes. I sometimes took my writing to silly mediums like writing on napkins or the back of maps, just to keep it interesting. One of the things I recall her liking was my "Random Observations" which covered most subjects under the sun. Near the end of our writing things got a little spicier and flirtatious, neither of us knowing what the other would think, but daring to "go there" nonetheless.

Someone once said that writing is not a bad way to get to know someone – to become friends through writing before pursuing a relationship. I know it was true for me as it was sometimes easier to write things from the heart than it was to say them to someone I hardly knew.

Then one day she called. She said she was thinking about paying a visit and wondered what I'd think? I, of course, said I would love to see her. Both of us knew it would likely change our relationship forever.

And, man, did it ever.

I greeted her at the airport with a single red rose. We went to dinner at the Chancery and out to see the movie "Light Years" at the coolest theatre in Milwaukee, the Oriental. On the way home, "our song" came on the radio in the car, oddly enough, because it wasn't a big top 40 hit. When we got home we stayed up late and talked, and talked.

During the summer of 1989 she did an internship in Brookfield Wisconsin, which enabled us to try dating without five states between us. We were engaged that summer and married on June 16th, 1990. This past year we celebrated our twenty-fifth anniversary.

Looking back, it’s hard to say how this courtship would have played out in these modern times. Email, Skype and texting seem so impersonal compared to the anticipation of a letter from across the country. My wife saved every letter I sent her. In a fit of cleaning I threw most of hers out just before we were married. I managed to find a number from her that are post-engagement, but everything else is lost in the physical sense.  What remains, are the memories and feelings of that time. I still cherish a handwritten letter from anyone. It is a lost art, one that we pursued with a passion so long ago. It’s my feeling that the emotional outpouring that goes into a letter is felt on the other end in a mystical way that is lost in an electronic medium. 

I do know that it worked something special for us. To this day she says that my words were what attracted her to me. There must have been something in hers that drew me to her, as well.

It’s amazing what one simple letter can become.  

I Won a Twenty Pound Bag of Detergent • Livia Meneghin

Brett Rawson


A few years ago, I heard about a Brooklyn thrift store opportunity that I couldn't pass up: $25 for a large shopping bag of goodies. "If you can fit it, you can buy it!" said handwritten signs alongside the walls of the dilapidated building. When I saw their piles of books, I knew the clothing sections of the store would have to wait. My hands quickly skimmed across countless novels until finally halting on a book by Thomas A. Harris, called I'm OK—You're OK. I was taking a psychology class at the time, and interested in how mental health affected relationships, so I happily placed it in my bag. On the train home, I opened up the cover and found a note. 

On New Year's Eve in 1973, a mother gave this book to her daughter (Sue). But why did Sue’s mother have the book? We know she read it, but what made her give it to Sue? Did she now hope it could provide answers for her daughter in the New Year?

I thought back to the times I’ve been gifted books. Just this past summer, a close friend gave me her childhood copy of The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry for my birthday. It was incredibly worn, probably providing her with years of adventure and happiness. Holding that book in my hands, with its broken spine and her favorite lines highlighted, made me feel like we were reading together. A book as a gift is so much more than something to read. Chosen with care and thoughtfulness, a book is an outstretched hand, welcoming another into a new world of new ideas.

On the train ride home, I flipped through the tattered pages when I came across a lump. Sitting between pages 138 and 139 was an unsealed letter from Mrs. Mary Lehman from Monmouth, Illinois to Mrs. Ruth Robertson from Marion, Kansas, dated three years after the inscription (September 16, 1976). I wondered now about the four women. Did they all know each other? Did Sue gift it after reading? Mrs. Lehman's handwriting reminded me of my grandmother's—very elegant and careful. I could hear a humorous attitude with the first line, "Guess its about time I answered your letter." I felt like I knew them—had been given access into their personalities, their voices. This letter was not much different from the ones I write with my friends. We share daily news, things that seem unimportant, but it can mean wonders to someone far away when we ask if they are OK.  

This leaves me wondering: what if I put a letter of my own into the book and donated it to a used bookstore, to keep the chain going? Whether intentionally placed or not, I picked up extra inspiration that day in Brooklyn, a mystery of sorts. I walked away with more than just a book, but possibilities for more stories. There's something incredibly human about imagining these women, especially through the same book they all shared. It makes the world feel smaller, more meaningful, even without actually knowing them or being in the same physical space. By continuing the chain, I can add to the story.

The letter is transcribed below.


Dear Ruth:
Sept 16, '76

Guess its about time I answer your letter, now that the Fall Festival is over with, it lasted 4 days. The senior citizens all went out there for breakfast one morning, we ate at the Lutheran tent, then went out that evening with Gene and Janice as Dan was working at one tent, the little boys were in the chicken scramble, Cory who is six, he caught a chicken and got a silver Dollar, but Tye was too slow, he didn’t get any, then the kids were in the Pet Parade on Sat. morning. Cory got first prize in his class, with a unusual [  ] got 2 silver dollars for that, so he thought he did real well, I won a 20 lb bag of detergent at one of the stands, so I will be clean for a while, been having nice weather, had a rain last wed night, has been cool ever since, had the furnace on a couple times, so makes one think that winter is just around the corner, we had a nice visit with Mary + Marvin, they were here for 3 days, seemed happy, hope everything turns out all right for them, they were on their way home. Ralph were here one evening, they had a letter from Lillian, they wanted me to read, sure too bad about Dick, hope he will soon be better. 

Jacks are getting ready to pick seed corn, they hope to start next week, some of the fellows have all ready started. Just talked to Phyllis she was making pepper relish, she always makes a lot and gives most of it away, as her men don’t like it, she brought me some nice tomatoes yesterday and dozen eggs, her pullets are laying already. 

I cleaned my garage yesterday, so today I am not doing much, made some bread pudding this morning, going to have goulash for dinner, have some hamburgers to use. Our Book Club went out for breakfast at the Restaurant yesterday morning. 

Hope you are feeling OK. Are you taking the Divine flu shot that the gov is giving. I will if they ever get the serum in here or else I will take my regular shot that I have always taken. 

Gene just called, said to tell you “Hello” 


Livia Meneghin is a poet, non-fiction writer, and recent graduate from Franklin & Marshall College with a Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing. She was a contributing writer and photographer for F&M’s College Reporter, and earned the William Uhler Hensel Senior Prize in Research Writing for her essay, “Priest, Clerk, and Pitiable King: The Portrayal of Richard II in Recent Production History.” Her work is published in literary journals Dispatch and Plume. After a month-long poetry workshop in Greece, she is working on her first full-length collection and applying to MFA programs. You can follow her writing here: liviameneghin.wordpress.com.