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Brooklyn, NY
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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 Category: On Handwriting

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. 

Whisper-Thin Cursive from the Musty Corners of Antique Stores • Carolyn Porter

Brett Rawson

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BY CAROLYN PORTER

I collect old handwriting specimens. They are impractical things to buy, but I would rather acquire a whisper-thin piece of paper filled with distinct cursive than buy a new pair of shoes, a new handbag, a new anything else. 

My collection isn’t limited to a specific kind of script. That is, I’m not exclusively drawn to Spencerian or Copperplate. The cards, letters, ledger pages, and envelopes I’ve rescued from musty corners of antique stores or found online aren’t tethered to a specific era either, though I often find myself drawn to handwriting from the late 1800s. The pages that catch my eye seem to hold hints of intriguing moments from lives long since passed. 

Sometimes the content doesn’t turn out to be compelling; a few acquisitions, however, have contained surprisingly provocative and emotional content. Here are ten of my favorite handwriting specimens from my collection, with a little information on each one.
 

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Carolyn Porter is a graphic designer and self-professed typography geek who designed P22 Marcel Script. Released in 2014, this font has garnered four international honors, including the prestigious Certificate for Typographic Excellence from the New York Type Director’s Club, typeface competitions by Communication Arts and Print magazines, and was a selection for the 2015 Project Passion exhibition. “Marcel’s Letters: A Font and the Search for One Man’s Fate” combines the story of the design of the font based on Marcel Heuzé’s beautiful handwriting with Porter’s obsessive search for answers. The book was released in June, 2017 by Skyhorse Publishing. Learn more at www.carolyn-porter.com.

#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

#HandwritersResist • The Power of the Pen

Brett Rawson

Instead of cutting and pasting articles, we literally cut and pasted letters and images from magazines, ripped card stock to usable parts, squeaked magic markers across poster board gloss, put thought to ink, which we'll take to the streets tomorrow. This felt worlds apart from the self-congratulatory slacktivism I've worried I've become prone to. This was taking action–and this is what handwriting can do. It is personal. It is political. It is individual. It is community.

Handwriting speaks in our voice, and our voices are speaking up.

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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...

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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.

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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? 

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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.

Creating a Visual of the Very Big Picture • Steph Jagger

Brett Rawson

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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.

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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

Collecting Words • A Reflection on Lenore Tawney by Kathleen Mangan

Sarah Madges

Kathleen Mangan, the Executive Director of the Lenore G. Tawney Foundation discusses the role of handwriting in Lenore Tawney’s daily life and in her artistic practice. Tawney was a regular correspondent and diarist who filled dozens of tiny journals with fine script, but she also incorporated  handwriting in collages and constructions. Fine, thread-like script was superimposed upon lines of text from old manuscripts; written lines were piled atop one another so they could not be deciphered; and at other times delicate lines on translucent paper were turned upside-down. Tawney’s goal was to make “visionary” experiences “visible.”

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Jackson Pollock's Calligraphy in Composition • A Reflection by Helen A. Harrison

Sarah Madges

Helen A. Harrison, the Eugene V. and Clare E. Thaw Director of the Pollock-Krasner House and Study Center weighs in on the intersection between Jackson Pollock's art and handwriting, such as his "use of calligraphic imagery as an integral compositional element" in some of his drawings that contradicts the awkward, halting script used outside of his artwork for personal and professional correspondence.

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This Poem is a Launch of Owning Who One Is • Carolyn Ingram

Brett Rawson

As an elementary school student, Carolyn struggled with dysgraphia, a neurological disorder marked by impairment of the ability to write by hand (and spell). It's still very much a part of her every day. In this poem, Carolyn brings us closer to her handwritten world. Intermixed are italicized excerpts from a several-month exchange with her about coming to grips with the growing pains.

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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."

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I Want You To Stand Up With Me, Mom. Are You In?

Brett Rawson

BY HANDWRITTEN

The killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castille, and the subsequent shooting in Dallas that resulted in the deaths of five police officers, have left us lost. We are torn, because we are dividing. It doesn't take very long to see these divisions, both online and offline. It leaves many people thinking, time and again: What (more) can we do? And what (more) can we say? 

But amidst the think pieces, protests, and polarizing opinions, a single letter has broken through, offering a new source of support for the Black Lives Matter movement. Meet Letters for Black Lives, which began as a multilingual resource for Asian-Americans who wanted to talk to their immigrant parents about anti-Blackness and police violence, but has grown to include messaging for Latinx and African immigrants as well as people living in Canada and Europe. The letter, which was initially written in English, has now been translated into 30+ languages, with over 300 contributing writers and translators. The common goal?

Speaking empathetically, kindly, and earnestly to our elders about why Black lives matter to us provides a framework for discussing issues of anti-Blackness and police violence with immigrant parents.

Why the handwritten letter?

We wanted to write a letter — not a think piece or an explainer or a history lesson — because changing hearts and minds in our community requires time and trust, and is best shaped with dialogue.

To follow along or join, see the links and resources below. We have posted the full English letter below. If you write your own, no matter the language, send it to us and we'll feature it on Handwritten and our social media channels. Help us spread these messages of love, and be a part of the unity:

www.lettersforblacklives.com  
Letters for Black Lives on Facebook 
Public Google Doc 

#BlackLivesMatter

Mom, Dad, Uncle, Auntie, Grandfather, Grandmother:       

We need to talk.

You may not have grown up around people who are Black, but I have. Black people are a fundamental part of my life: they are my friends, my classmates and teammates, my roommates, my family. Today, I’m scared for them. 

This year, the American police have already killed more than 500 people. Of those, 25% have been Black, even though Black people make up only 13% of the population. Earlier this week in Louisiana, two White police officers killed a Black man named Alton Sterling while he sold CDs on the street. The very next day in Minnesota, a police officer shot and killed a Black man named Philando Castile in his car during a traffic stop while his girlfriend and her four-year-old daughter looked on. Overwhelmingly, the police do not face any consequences for ending these lives.

This is a terrifying reality that some of my closest friends live with every day. 

Even as we hear about the dangers Black Americans face, our instinct is sometimes to point at all the ways we are different from them. To shield ourselves from their reality instead of empathizing. When a policeman shoots a Black person, you might think it’s the victim’s fault because you see so many images of them in the media as thugs and criminals. After all, you might say, we managed to come to America with nothing and build good lives for ourselves despite discrimination, so why can’t they?

I want to share with you how I see things.

It’s true that we face discrimination for being Asian in this country. Sometimes people are rude to us about our accents, or withhold promotions because they don’t think of us as “leadership material.” Some of us are told we’re terrorists. But for the most part, nobody thinks “dangerous criminal” when we are walking down the street. The police do not gun down our children and parents for simply existing.

This is not the case for our Black friends. Many Black people were brought to America as slaves against their will. For centuries, their communities, families, and bodies were ripped apart for profit. Even after slavery, they had to build back their lives by themselves, with no institutional support—not allowed to vote or own homes, and constantly under threat of violence that continues to this day.

In fighting for their own rights, Black activists have led the movement for opportunities not just for themselves, but for us as well. Black people have been beaten, jailed, even killed fighting for many of the rights that Asian Americans enjoy today. We owe them so much in return. We are all fighting against the same unfair system that prefers we compete against each other. 

When someone is walking home and gets shot by a sworn protector of the peace—even if that officer’s last name is Liang—that is an assault on all of us, and on all of our hopes for equality and fairness under the law. 

For all of these reasons, I support the Black Lives Matter movement. Part of that support means speaking up when I see people in my community—or even my own family—say or do things that diminish the humanity of Black Americans in this country. I am telling you this out of love, because I don’t want this issue to divide us. I’m asking that you try to empathize with the anger and grief of the fathers, mothers, and children who have lost their loved ones to police violence. To empathize with my anger and grief, and support me if I choose to be vocal, to protest. To share this letter with your friends, and encourage them to be empathetic, too. 

As your child, I am proud and eternally grateful that you made the long, hard journey to this country, that you've lived decades in a place that has not always been kind to you. You've never wished your struggles upon me. Instead, you’ve suffered through a prejudiced America, to bring me closer to the American Dream.

But I hope you can consider this: the American Dream cannot exist for only your children. We are all in this together, and we cannot feel safe until ALL our friends, loved ones, and neighbors are safe. The American Dream that we seek is a place where all Americans can live without fear of police violence. This is the future that I want—and one that I hope you want, too.

With love and hope,
Your children

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.

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. 

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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.

This is Where I Battle My Writing Demons • Sheila Lamb

Brett Rawson

BY SHEILA LAMB

The first draft always begins on paper with ink. Sometimes, the first handwritten words are a line, a sentence, a phrase. Sometimes, a scene. Usually, these words will not be in the final story. But they mark the magical moment where the story began.

I find ideas flow better from paper to pen. When I handwrite, I write fast. Inspiration can be elusive and I want to get the words on paper without disruption. There is a smooth connection from pen to hand, something that, for me, pencils don’t give. Computers certainly don’t. The pen is, literally, a fluid implement. I favor gel pens (a Pilot G-2). It’s part of the whole flow of words, from thought to paper. I’ll use pencils in a pinch, but graphite tends to smudge and fade. There’s also a rub as the pencil hits the page, a dryness, a physical sensation, that gives me the shivers – like fingernails on the chalkboard. Occasionally, there is the issue of broken lead and the search for a pencil sharpener. Pencils, despite their simplicity, have too many complications and they are not my utensil of choice.

Ballpoint pens are another option. They are easy to find, ten to a pack. However, they are my second choice. Words don’t glide from a ballpoint as they do from a gel pen. Like the pencil, the ballpoint ink to paper has a palpable feel that is off-putting to me. Ballpoint ink can be thick and gloopy, and sometimes leaves thick globules at the end of sentences. Although ballpoints are certainly preferable to computer keyboards, they don’t have the smoothness of a gel pen.

*

Writing by hand is second nature to me. Perhaps because I’ve handwritten stories since elementary school, when they gave us green penmanship paper with fat, chunky pencils. I’ve kept paper and pen journals since high school. It’s easier for me to reach for pen and paper than trudge to the laptop, wait for it to start, find the folder, open the file, and pray the program doesn’t freeze or mysteriously return me to last week’s temp file draft. All those layers of technology slow the inspiration, that spark of a new story or pivot within a plot.

For short stories, I write the entire first draft — or what I think is the entire draft at the time — on paper. Most of it begins in my bedside journals. My recent story, “Hunger, Not Tame,” began after a camping trip to Assateague. I journaled about our trip and the feral horses. I was infuriated with the tourists, who petted and fed potato chips to the horses on the beach. 

That incident was the scene that stuck, and the one that gave way to story. I began to play on paper, shifting from my journal to a spiral notebook — last-day-of-school perks of the teaching trade — expanding the scene into a story, in longhand. I witnessed Kate, the main character, grow from this exploration: a park employee who confronted the people tossing Doritos at the horses. I write until I come to what feels like a stopping point — the end of a scene or section of dialogue. If I’m lucky, I’ll discover the final sentence here. Something in the shape of the words lets me know that this is it — this phrase where the story will end.

*

In writing by hand, I’ve discovered that this is where I battle my writing demons. For me, past defines the present, so as a writer, I struggle with back-story. Actually, I revel in it. I spend a lot of time figuring out how my character made her way to the start of the story. I tend to develop psychology before I develop plot. Why is the character there? What makes her do what she is doing? Writing those back-story details by hand is necessary for me to create the character. I’m fine knowing many of those initial, raw words won’t make it into the next draft. The process paints a picture, so I know who I’m dealing with as I place her in situations she’d rather not be in. The potato-chip tourists barely made it into the final draft. Even though they were the beginning, in the end, they were a brief, two-sentence presence. They were simply a starting point for Kate to explain why she was at Assateague and what motivated her work. The longhand process, I’ve discovered, is a sort of third-person, in-character, journaling.

*

My conflicts with electronic writing are three fold: First, my creative energy, that burst that inspires a new story, vanishes when I start writing on an electric document. All of the green and red warnings that highlight misspellings and incorrect punctuation are like blaring sirens, taking me out of the story. Instead of writing, I go back and correct. That delete key is dangerous. It can very quickly disappear a phrase that might not fit in that sentence, but a phrase I may want to use later. Second, as I develop and revise the story, I prefer the kinesthetic, hands-on process of physically writing (educational researchers are looking at the correlations between student success and handwriting but I’ll save that tangent for another time). Instead of scrolling through track changes, highlights, and text colors, I make side notes on paper with the pen, underline an idea I want to develop, remind myself to go back and find a synonym, with a circle and the abbreviation: syn. The handwritten notes make the ideas and revisions stick. Finally, I’m incredibly distracted by the Internet. Turn off the Wi-Fi, a lot of people say. Yet the Internet is a necessary evil because many stories require research. I researched the feral — not wild — horses of Assateague, their history, and the park regulations, but the pull of social media is powerful. It is so easy to go from the National Park Service site to Facebook, to Twitter, and pass another hour without actually finding anything of substance, just scrolling from one site to the next.

Eventually, the story needs to go electronic. For me, this is where revision takes place. I find digital typing is great for the editing phase. I transcribe the paper page word for word into Scrivener. Then, I’ll take a look at chronology, scenes, and plot development. I love the way I can add a new text page or section, and stay organized as I work. With this, I’m able to move scenes around and bridge the story together. In “Hunger, Not Tame,” I played a lot with Kate’s past and how much to include in the story, the back-story burden. It took several revisions to refine the central scene, where her past and present collide.

But after the digital jump, I’m back to paper and pen. I print out the revised draft and I read through the story on paper. I edit, make notes, read it aloud. I mark it up. There, it develops shape and structure. Those changes are made again on the typed draft. Then, there is another printed version for a final read-through. Last minute changes are made, with pen on the paper, and corrected again on the laptop. 

Handwritten work takes time. My electronically-inclined friends claim I’m doubling my time on a story. You could have been done by now. But good storytelling shouldn’t be fast or easy, no matter the method. Writing stories is, for me, a hands-on process, an artistic process of creating a world, of creating a person, of creating a story. Writing by hand allows my creative magic to have its space.

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A Legacy of Travel • A Conversation with Christian Corollo, Past Present Project

Brett Rawson

BY CARLY BUTLER

After crossing paths with Christian on Instagram, I could tell that Christian and I had a lot in common. Not only was he recreating photos that his grandfather had taken 30 years earlier, but there were also ties to the grandmother's handwritten journals that made his journey so fascinating. Photographer and travel blogger, Christian created the Past Present Project and I had the chance to ask him a few questions about what kind of an impact these family heirlooms have had on his life. 

CARLY: How did you come across this heirloom?

CHRISTIAN: It all started in August of 2012 during a visit with my 99-year-old grandmother in Florida. After telling her about my relatively new love of travel, she showed me the travel journals from all of the trips she and my grandfather had taken between 1973 and 2003. I was fascinated by her detailed accounts of their journeys, including names of people they met and exact locations of places they stayed, and eventually had the courage to ask if I could keep such a treasured possession. Knowing that her journals would not be of interest to anyone after she passed away, she was delighted to hand them over to someone who would treasure them beyond her. I left Florida with over 20 of her thirty journals.

CARLY: What does it mean to you to have this piece of handwritten work?

CHRISTIAN: I could sense how important these journals are to my grandmother filled with memories of moments shared with my grandfather, experiences that come flooding back when she reads the words contained inside, and a legacy of travel. She has expressed this legacy of travel to me on many occasions and how proud my grandfather would be that I’m carrying it on in our family. She has also told me that their trips together are when they were the happiest. This is why I’ve felt the conviction to not only continue the legacy of travel they began, but share the words and moments of the most treasured times of their life.

CARLY: What has it inspired in you?

CHRISTIAN: Little did I know in 2012 that with the combination of her journals and my grandfather’s travel photographs, I would embark on my own journey of retracing their steps and stand in the same places they did so long ago. If not for her travel journals, I never would have discovered the exact locations of so many of my grandfather’s photographs or known the names and met for myself the people in his images.

Valhalla Pier in South Lake Tahoe, California | June 1981 & May 2015

Valhalla Pier in South Lake Tahoe, California | June 1981 & May 2015

Excerpt from my grandmother’s travel journal on June 9th, 1981: “Walked down to the lake – a vast expanse of quietly lapping water, brilliant sun, and a small sand beach before the ‘Jeffrey’ pine woods.”

Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California | April 1979 & May 2011

Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California | April 1979 & May 2011

Excerpt from my grandmother’s travel journal on April 27th, 1979: “There was an earthquake at that time in the middle of San Francisco! We didn’t feel it – were much too busy finding our way through town to the Presidio, a big military reservation. The scenic route lead right through it, to Fort Point, directly under the Golden Gate Bridge. Going on along the shore-drive, high above the blinding shimmering-white sea against the sun, along funny colorful small houses.

To see more of the Past Present Project, visit Christian's lovely website: www.pastpresentproject.com.

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.

The Story of My Signature Tattoos Started on a Night Punctuated with a Bottle of Irish Whisky • Nick Landwehr

Brett Rawson

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BY NICK LANDWEHR

The story of my signature tattoos started on a night with my college roommate punctuated with a bottle of Irish whisky.

The justification for such a night was the recent passing of my father. We stayed up until the wee hours of the morning discussing life, music, girls, and many other places our liquor-induced conversations took us. Finally, we came to the topic of tattoos and what kind we would get if we were to ever get one. Together, we came up with the idea of having our parents’ signatures from our birth certificates tattooed onto our arms. Our rationale being that it was the signatures they used to "sign" us into their possession. 

Anyway, after I had those tattoos inked on my inner arms, I felt the need to also pay tribute to my grandparents who had done so much for me. I tried to think of an important document which they would have signed which held significance in their own lives. My best idea was that I would use my grandfather's signature from his military discharge papers after the conclusion of WWII, and my grandmother's signature from their wedding certificates. Both to me seem to be two of the most important times they autographed their lives.

BY JIM LANDWEHR

Being a writer, when I first saw the call for images for National Handwriting Day, I immediately submitted a couple of my handwritten poem drafts, both of which made it into the exhibition

Then, after thinking for a bit, I thought of my nephew Nick and his handwriting signature tattoos. He is a huge tattoo fan and has eight total signature tattoos amongst the many other beautiful works that adorn his arms. I remember when I first saw the tattoo of my mother and father's signatures on him. I instantly recognized my mother’s with her signature Stonehenge ‘M’ at the beginning of Mary. But seeing my father’s was a little haunting for me, probably because I’d never seen his handwriting before. He was beaten and killed in a bar at the age of 42, when I was just five years old. So seeing his signature on Nick, was a bit like discovering an old letter in the attic from the war. I guess it just shows how someone's signature can evoke an emotional response. So it goes with all handwriting, I think.

Being Nick’s godfather, the two of us have always been very close. Despite my moving away to Wisconsin in 1986, he and I still got together whenever I made it back to town to visit. In 2014, I wrote a book titled Dirty Shirt: A Boundary Waters Memoir. The book details trips I took to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness with my brothers nearly thirty years ago and, more recently, with our kids. In 2012 we brought Nick with us to fill in for my brother Rob who passed away from cancer in 2011. Nick shared a canoe with Rob’s daughter, Alison, and it became known as the orphan canoe, (Nick’s father had passed away suddenly in 2005). On Father’s Day of that trip, we sprinkled some of Rob’s ashes over the waters of the BWCA, a place he loved much like Roy had. This event plus being around his uncles and cousins in such a remote region, impacted Nick in ways he never expected.

As a tribute to myself, his grandfather Roy and the Boundary Waters area, he got a tattoo of the picture that was used for the book’s cover of Roy holding a walleye in a canoe while on a BWCA trip in the 60’s. When Nick surprised me with a picture of the tattoo I was both flattered and deeply moved. 

I Have No Choice But to Revise • Keith Baldwin

Brett Rawson

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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.

Externally Obvious, Internally Mysterious • Minakshi Choudhary

Brett Rawson

BY MINAKSHI CHOUDHARY

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. 

He Just Smiled, Said Hello, and Went On His Way • Lora Ackermann

Brett Rawson

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BY LORA ACKERMANN

While searching for any of the many examples of handwritten cards and notes from my family, I came across a journal of mine. This is an incredibly special journal, entirely handwritten, spanning from my first of what would eventually be four ovarian surgeries (over the course of many years) in August of 1992, through the death of my maternal grandmother in March of 1995, her husband, my grandfather in May of 1995, and ending with my soon-to-be wedding in October of 1995. These pages hold such a roller coaster of euphoria and pain. So many entries that touch my heart, soul, and spirit, drawing memories from places long forgotten to the routines of daily life. So many memories bringing new pains of loss and journeyed paths now closed. 

There truly is something to say about the handwritten page. There’s a certain comfort, a warmth, as though the lines are reaching forward, surrounding me in a hug, and drawing me in. As I re-read some of these entries, I can detect, in the formation of the letters, the slant of the words, the stains on the pages, changes in mood, emotion, stress level, time management, and so many other delicate strands that make up these layered memories; delicacies that would be but lost in simplified print. The handwriting, like the musical score of a movie, tells its very own story; separate from the worded memories they so eagerly record. 

Even after reading these pieces of my life from those years, pieces that now seem centuries away from reality, the entry on those first pages still strikes me the most. I had only been home from my first major surgery at age 20 for a day or two. Having received the good news that what was thought to be ovarian cancer wasn’t, I was free to heal and live my life in gratitude. I had a renewed sense of awe and appreciation for the little things life tended to toss haphazardly in my path and it showed in this entry. 

August 29, 1992

…..I just returned from a walk around the block—oh what memories lie in some of the houses around here—not just my own. I can look at Elizabeth’s house, or Suzy’s house, or LouAnne’s, and still see inside, 12-13 years ago….’youngins’ they’d call us. I see Liz and myself in her room, making stickers w/ double-sided tape—we made them out of just about anything—wrapping paper, pictures, things we’d colored, etc.

I see Suzy and I in her room—so pink—pink carpet, bedspread, walls, bright pink, light pink—if ever there was a pink room it was Suzy’s. I see the laundry chute and the poster of ‘Frank Poncherello’ from the TV show, “CHIPS” above her bed. (We had a crush on him, though I liked his partner better.) I see Suzy & I sitting on the floor in her ‘play room’ eating Fruitloops from the box and watching “Emergency 911” (or something like that)—she always said that one of the men was her daddy—They did look alike and for a while I believed her, too! 

I see LouAnne & I in her room playing w/Barbie dolls—she had a loft bed with a yellow carpet underneath. 

I also see inside another house down the street; a brown house next to the Woolsey’s and an elderly woman who used to live there alone. Unfortunately, I don’t remember her name—I wish I did. She used to read to me and she helped teach me to read so that when I was old enough—so to speak, I often read books to her. She was a very kind woman. I wonder how she faired after she moved. I was too young to remember why she moved—family reasons I suppose. I missed her for quite some time. I think sometimes I still do. Perhaps. 

I find that at times I even miss ‘Joe.’ ‘Joe’ was a man who ever since I could remember walked every day. Twice a day he passed our house. ‘Joe’ wasn’t his real name. I don’t know what it is actually. ‘Joe’ was a friendly man who always had a wonderful smile to give any passerby—anyone at all. I think he had a stroke or heart attack. I think he may still be alive, but he doesn’t walk around here anymore. Perhaps he moved; perhaps he just doesn’t walk anymore. ‘Joe’ never corrected us in regard to his name—he just smiled, said hello, & went on his way—leaving smiles on our faces for a long time after. I really did think his name was ‘Joe’ until I was about 15 or 16 when Mom told us differently. She told us his real name, but I still call him ‘Joe.’ Perhaps it’s ‘Joe’ that I owe, in part, my smiling fetish to. Perhaps.

Even typing up these wordssuch layered memories; memories of people who touched my life, beneath memories of writing the entry itself, beneath those of healing, speaking volumes in the spaces between the letters, the lines between the lines; you know the onesthe ones that speak to our hearts, pulling in our soul’s deepest comforts, the ones that can dry a dampened spirit or bring light to the darkest corners. Yes, so many layers that can only be fully appreciated to the depths they desire in their original, handwritten form. 

Today, I journal, too. Sometimes I type. Other times I dictate. But many a time, I pick up my pen, one of the many paper journals my amazing friends have gifted me recently, find a quiet space all my own, and, even for just a few blessed moments, I disappear into the notes of the score, the layers of the letters, the spaces between the words and lines, and the hidden pleasures and soul-soothing rhythms found only when pen, from hand to page, journeys forth.