Ink and Paper in an Age of Ones and Zeroes
By Emma Cassie
Edited by Lizzie Alblas
There is an excitement that comes from waiting for a letter to arrive. These days, the closest most of us get to this feeling is another Amazon parcel through the door (or chucked over the fence). But it’s not quite the same, is it?
I never had cause to write letters growing up, having been born into a technological age, I was robbed of the necessity of putting ink to paper; instead, I sent messages like ‘WUU2?’ NM U?’ on my second-hand flip phone until I ran out of credit. In an age of instant communication, the letter is even more personal — it says, I know I could drop you a text right in the here and now, but here’s something special. Something you’ll wait to receive or be pleasantly surprised by when it lands unexpectedly on your doormat amidst your bills and bank statements.
Here at The Letters Page, our main goal has been to bring back and celebrate the letter as an artform. People from every continent across the world have sent us their handwritten letters (except Antarctica — but believe me, we’re working on it!). Coming in all shapes and sizes, sprawled on coffee-stained napkins, or torn out notebook pages or the finest, carefully selected letter writing paper complete with shiny wax seal. There is something special about the physical journey the letter takes — from the desk of one person in one part of the world, appearing through the letterbox in another. Bringing news from elsewhere
It wasn’t until I moved several hours north of home for university that I wrote my very first letter to the best friend that I was leaving behind. Receiving my first letter buried in the communal flat mailbox, it didn’t even matter so much what was written inside it — whether it be a long monologue or a messy scrawl of what she had had for lunch (it was closer to the latter). Reading that letter I could see her clearly, browsing our local Waterstones back home on her day off for the perfect letter set in the stationary section we always browse but never have cause to buy from. I could see her perched at her coffee cup cluttered desk in her work uniform in her forever messy bedroom, as clearly as if I were standing over her shoulder.
The letter is a window into someone else’s little corner of the world. That is why here at The Letters Page, we have only one rule: everything must be in letter form. For almost a decade we have received poems, stories, essays, memoirs, and anything else you can think of from all over the world, along with letters from writers such as Claire-Louise Bennett, George Saunders and Kevin Barry, among others. In a recent letter, Annie Q. Syed poses this question: ‘What is it about writing or reading a letter that grounds us into what we see and where we are?’. An idea which is captured beautifully in our most recent letter from Duncan Wallace to “the man sitting opposite” in the beer garden on a cold autumn afternoon.
So, if you’re looking to rediscover the little bit of magic that comes from putting ink to paper, sticking it in a post box and sending it halfway around the world (or around the corner depending on how close to Nottingham you are), you have most certainly come to the right place! In which case, you can read our latest edition by subscribing to our online newsletter, or if you would like to send us a letter of your own you can find more information here. We would love to hear from you — especially if you’re from Antarctica (come on — you know you want to!).
The Letters Page team are back in the office, and ready to read your real letters again. We publish stories, essays, poems, memoir, reportage, criticism, recipes, travelogue, and any hybrid forms, so long as they come to us in the form of a letter. We are looking for writers of all nationalities and ages, both established and emerging.
Your letter must be sent in the post, to :
The Letters Page, School of English, University of Nottingham, NG7 2RD, UK.
See our submissions page for more information.
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