Letter Writing as an Art

Things are going swimmingly at Branch Hall this morning.  I’m in a very good mood.

  I’ve been painting all morning; doing art always makes me happy!  It’s so green outside; we’re on our second day of drenching rain . . .

It’s dark and stormy, blustery and windy outside the windows; I put on my Wellies and took the camera outside for these photos. Everything is beautiful, our thirsty lawn is so happy, and our new dogwood tree is in its first full, pure white bloom!

Joe made us a fire in the fireplace before he left for the gym; it’s cozy and warm here in my studio with the rain pattering against the window, blurring my view of the picket-fence garden … so what better time to add a little post to this blog.  The subject lately, at least in my mind, is always one thing.  Packing!  I could drone on about packing all day; I’ve got the orange shoes, the yellow raincoat, my dinner clothes, the diary, my pens and watercolor paper, the teacups, my books, all packed, for our trip to England via the Queen Mary II (in case you’re coming to this blog for the first time, we’re inviting you to come along, via this website; leaving from New York on May 4th! For two months!  I’ll be posting photos of Beatrix Potter’s House; tea rooms, cottages, small towns, and gardens!!!) — but you all know what packing is like.  You don’t really need to hear about it do you?  At least, not until it’s all done!  I ordered perhaps my last thing from the internet this morning; these WONDERFUL little push-button razor blades I keep in my purse to cut inspirations out of magazines with.  My other ones were about 200 years old!  So organized! (Ha! her inner voice laughs sharply, knowing the real truth.)

So anyway, instead, today I’m going to talk about How To Write a Good Letter!  Won’t that be fun?

I haven’t done a How-To kind of post in a while; but one of our girlfriends, Heather, wrote me a couple of days ago . . . she has a daughter named Olivia; they live in California, and Olivia is going away to college in August.  Mom and daughter have decided to correspond “the old-fashioned way,” as she put it, with letters.  They’re making a diary of Olivia’s college years to last forever.  Priceless.  Heather asked for ideas on writing good letters . . . I told her I would think of some and thought yay!  Relief from packing news.  Saved by the bell.

So this won’t be about business letters, there’s plenty of that out there on the internet; I’m more interested in letters between friends, like these planned between Heather and Olivia; moms and daughters, sisters, and best friends; Mother’s Day is coming soon; mom’s love letters from their children. (As a hint, your child could read this post. :-))  
The one thing I remember when my mom first taught me about letter writing was never to use “I” in the first sentence. I don’t know if it’s a real rule, but it stuck in my head and I pretty much can’t write a letter any other way; if I start with “I” I feel my mom over my shoulder. A letter should always begin by making the person you’re writing the focus and main subject — just a little thing like, How are you?  How have you been?  What have you been up to?  Then you can say, “I loved your last letter — you have no idea how you made my day.”  Now the receiver is totally in love with you and you can say everything else you like. 
A letter is a gift; so if you think of yourself as “giving,” you will make your letters just naturally more interesting to the person receiving them. Ask yourself  “what can I give (my person) that she would like?” Such as the name of a good new book you are reading, a recipe, a detailed description of what was served to you at a restaurant, what you wore, a movie review, what your new shoes look like, a great web store for clothes, a funny conversation you had; details make a letter come alive. Little inclusions like a page of stickers, a fall leaf, a cartoon from a magazine, an article you think the receiver would be interested in, the name of a website or blog you love to visit, a bookmark, a CD, a dried flower, a photo, or a drawing in the margins can, of course, add a lot to the gift of a letter and make it into a kind of art.  They turn your letters into “keepers.”
In front of me on the table while I’m writing, when possible, is always the last letter I received from the person I’m corresponding with.  I take care to answer any questions they may have asked; respond to what stories they have written, comment on their new shoes, their new adventures, their hopes and dreams, to keep the thread going, so they know I’m “listening.”  They also spent their time writing to me, and I want them to know I am grateful so they will do it again!  

 Sometimes I have so many things to say I even write the subjects down ahead of time so I can remember to include everything… such as: the bird feeders, what Jack did, tea with the girls (what’d we eat and wear, who said what), what Joe is doing, and a trip we’re planning.  I always ask about their own families and friends, moms, and children; their new house, their upcoming party, etc. I don’t want the letter to be all about me. The idea is to put a bit of sunshine into an everyday world of vacuuming, ironing, grocery shopping, dinner making, the regular old routine. I want my letters to make someone stop, put the kettle to boil for tea, get a cookie, and have a mini vacation in the day.
Pretty stationery is fun to write on, but it isn’t necessary; lined school paper is fine too . . . and perfect handwriting isn’t necessary either; typing is OK, but
everyone does love a handwritten letter; “There ain’t (as Thomas Edison said) no rules around here; we’re trying to accomplish something!”  Despite all the “rules” I’ve just given you, your own heart will be the true dictator of what should or shouldn’t be included.  A letter should be like your spoken words, imperfect, honest, straightforward and real.  Do your best with spelling and grammar but don’t fret about it.  The only thing that matters is the connection, and that happens with flow of words, and sharing of life experiences.
 I keep my favorite correspondence in a basket with a lid; as I’ve always said, a phone call is nice, email is OK too because it’s the way of the world and staying connected is the most important thing, but an old-
fashioned letter can truly be a work of art and a voice for the ages.

There actually is one steadfast rule in letter writing: never, ever send a letter in anger.  If there are words you feel you must say, go ahead and write them, as strongly as you choose, get everything out of your system; then put the letter in a drawer for at least a week.  I guarantee that when you read it again you will tear it into a thousand pieces and be so happy you never sent it.  All conversations such as these are best done in person; you will not need a letter like that floating around in the world.

I’m about to face the extreme letter-writing challenge: how to make postcards interesting with so little space to say anything and no envelope to put anything in!  Usually I choose a card with a picture that tells one story, while I pick a subject of the travel that’s different and try to be as detailed as possible, expressing the flavor of the place; such as, “We’re sitting in a sidewalk cafe, at a table for two with wire back chairs that are bent into heart shapes; the sun is shining, there are big white clouds, red geraniums in pots are everywhere; the awning over our head is black and white striped; in front of me is a tall double-decker red bus stopped to pick up passengers, and I’m writing YOU. Joe is playing with his camera, we’re sharing a plate of “chips,” which I’m tearing up and tossing to little wrens hopping around under the table.  It’s a wonderful trip; miss you; wish SO MUCH that you were here, love you, xoxo. ”
Well, I guess that’s all I can think of about the wonderful world of letters. Hope it’s helpful. And to you Heather and Olivia, enjoy your letter-writing project!
One last thing — this kind of goes along with letters; I keep hearing that Congress is trying to do away with the Post Office (!), and that in fact they have begun to close some of them.  If you feel, as I do, that this is going too far (since, for one thing, we have the nicest people in the world working at our post office), would you please email your representatives and ask them not to do this?  Remember how quick they can do this kind of thing so that we don’t even realize what’s happening until it’s too late? Now is the time to tell them that we would prefer they keep their rotten little paws off the post office (you probably shouldn’t quote me :-)).  They have closed tons of Post Offices in England, so we know it can happen.  It’s so sad, and we are the only ones to save ours.  If you don’t know who your representatives are, just Google it (like: “Your state name, congressmen and senators”).  And then, for example, let’s say your senator is Mike Smith, just Google “Mike Smith Contact” and you’ll get their email address; tell your senator to vote for bill #S1789 to save the Post Offices. I knew you would want to know. xoxo 
OK, Girls, off I go . . . Just loving the “Angelique” tulips now in bloom — Rainy Days and Mondays Never get me down!  Not when they’re as pretty as this one is!  OK, off I go, gotta go pack!  Have a wonderful day! ♥
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385 Responses to Letter Writing as an Art

  1. Hi Susan

    It is sad that letter writing is almost a thing of the past!

    The most precious things I found while clearing out my Mother’s house after she passed away were letters. Letters my Dad wrote to her, letters my older brother wrote home when he was in the Army and stationed in Alaska, letters my aunts wrote to her for birthdays and at the holidays, some cards and letters her grandchildren sent over the years. There were even some letters my Mom wrote and never sent out (or maybe they were copies of ones she re-wrote and sent out?) I value each letter as a piece of My Mom and dad many others who are now gone, and I will treasure them always.



  2. Pamala Black says:

    Oh Susan, the sound of the rain is so very relaxing……I want to play this forever!!!! Your post today has made my evening so enchanting. I feel like getting off of the computer and doing something now, whereas before exhaustation had taken hold…Happy Packing!

    • sbranch says:

      Isn’t it pretty? I loved it while I was writing that post!

      • Patricia H. says:

        I love the rain too….it’s been so dry here that I’ve been listening to rainymood.com when I want to relax. 🙂 We did get a good soak on Sunday but it’s back to sunny again. Love it but I also love a good rain storm too….add some thunder and lightening and you’ve got me! xx

  3. Jenny says:

    Thanks for this lovely bit Susan. I love writing letters and the art of handwriting in general. The penmanship of yesteryear was so lovely and it makes me sad to imagine a world where handwriting loses it artistic flourish.

    Thanks for all the artistic flourish you add to my life. (I just referred to one of your cookbooks tonight and thought of lovely you.)

  4. Cindy Maulin says:

    hi susan…hit another nerve girl…some of our most precious keepsakes are letters that were written by family members now gone..some not even to us!! and then there are the sweet notes from our children and of course, the letters that my husband and I wrote to one another when we were courting and living several hours from each other…love them all…they are just like a diary or journal..filled with happenstances of daily life…My dad, a man of few words in talking or writing, didn’t send that many letters, but I have every one he ever sent..my favorite an over-sized postcard from an old fishing lodge in Canada when he and a group of men went after walleye and northern pike…circa 1968….xo…and last week after attending a lovely teacher appreciation luncheon given by our student council, I wrote a thank-you note to the group (on a SB note card of course!) and had it delivered by one of my sudents. “What is this?” she inquired before she left my office. I told her that it was a thank-you note. She looked perplexed. “You could of just sent an email you know”. ” I know..but anyone could do that…this will mean something. It will be special.” She smiled as she turned to leave…I think I may have got one!!! Looking very forward to your”letters from England” in the very near future….love, cindy

  5. Sandy from New Vineyard says:

    Hi Susan,
    Loved this post! And how funny that our thoughts have been on the same thing as I am now reading a book called “The Gift of a Letter” by Alexandra Stoddard. It’s an encouraging little book and I want to get more in the practice of sending handwritten letters because they really are a gift. Thank you for your encouragement to do it as well! And as Suzanne suggests previously, I was already planning to compose a letter to my newborn baby grandson (12 days old today!) It would also be his first piece of mail and letter hopefully he would treasure in years to come.

  6. Joann says:

    Another wonderful post—I just LOVE letters!!! In fact, I wish that I could tell family members who just sign a birthday card or a Christmas card with their names and say nothing…. well, I wish I could tell them just to keep the card. I mean the card is nice and all, but I want to SEE their words, hear about their life just a a little—tell me how much you miss me!!!! Right?

    Well, I hope the post office doesn’t close; what a shame that would be. Emails are lovely,. but a handwritten letter IS a gift….and one that I LOVE to receive!!!


  7. Caroline C. says:

    What a lovely post! I fear that my son will never write letters, but there is great hope for my daughter, as she continually inspires me with her letter writing. As you have instructed us, there is nothing quite as special as receiving a wonderful note from someone who not only brings us to date with their lives, but is also interested in ours!!!

  8. M J Smith says:

    I love the “art” of real letter writing. I still have all the letters I received when I was younger. And then email took over … yuck! Whenever my beloved Grandmother would write me across the country, she would ALWAYS end with what they all had for dinner … “we had ham, scalloped corn, collard greens and chocolate cake for dessert”. I framed two of my favorite letters from her and they now hang in my dining room.

  9. Joanie B from San Diego says:

    Thanks for the rainstorm :-D, the sound of rain on the roof while I’m inside all cozy is very comforting, doubly so when I know the plants are getting a bath and a drink!

    Besides the gift of seeing your friend or parents or whoever’s handwriting, it’s knowing that they took the time (wow) to write and share their heart. A very thought provoking and challenging blog today.

  10. Lori M. says:

    Great post! Just curious, what magazines do you read & subscribe to? I am getting kind of tired of mine…..

    • sbranch says:

      I don’t subscribe to many, only two, Teatime and British Country Living. The rest of them I will buy when I’m out, or going on the train — and then it’s pretty much ALL of them!

  11. Nancy B says:

    Hi, Susan. Your post today is outstanding! Such good information. Hopefully, I can jump-start myself into more snail-mail letter writing. I regret that I have become so lax in this endeavor. Reading your blog is one of the joys of my day. Had lunch with my b-day girlfriends today and told them about your blog and your fabulous trip to England. I think they may come along, too. Happy packing!

  12. Enikö says:

    That was such a sweet post! Wow! I hadn’t heard about the possibility of post offices closing…thanks for the heads-up! xoxoxo -Enikö

  13. Marcia A. Sherman says:

    Good morning, Susan, how are you this day? I see by your news you are very busy preparing for a trip over big water…how I envy you and thank you for taking us all along. It will be very exciting for those of us who cannot travel as you do. I am quite the anglophile myself – be sure to purchase some teatowels for the Queen’s Jubilee – the least expensive and most useful souvenir around.
    When my grandfather passed 45 years ago, I was twelve. I struck up a correspondence with my father’s cousin, J, 42 years old at the time. We exchanged letters and photos for the next 40 years – how I wish I had kept those letters! Over the past 5 years her letters slowed and then stopped due to age and infirmity. I have tried to keep up an electronic exchange with her daughter, but busy lives interfere. When I was away at college, I mailed a typed letter to my mother every week. When my sister moved to Arizona for one year I wrote to her every week, drafting the letters while I was meant to be taking notes in a college class. When my daughter moved into her first apartment for grad school, I mailed her a consistent flurry ofcards and notes. I plan to do the same now she is in her new apartment. Mail is good, mail is wonderful, dare I say mail is awesome.
    Best wishes on your travels – M. Sherman

  14. sondra fox says:

    As a new bride, I moved from PA to CA (1959). I wrote a weekly letter to my mother, one to my grandmother, one to my aunt, & one to my mother-in-law. This went on for years. Phone calls were too costly, no Emails in those days, so letters were necessary. When I’d get homesick for my friends & family in PA, I’d pretend they were sitting with me at the table, & I was talking with them, while writing a letter to them. Everyone always wanted to know how our new life in CA was going. My grandmother saved my letters. The old letters became a diary of our early married days. I still enjoy writing letters. Friends always tell me how much they enjoy receiving my letters. There’s something about going to the mailbox & getting a letter addressed especially to you.

  15. Beth says:

    While in college, my great aunt wrote letters to me, and I would always write back. I saved most of her letters and now that she has passed, I have her daily journals, too. What a treasure to see her handwriting. Being in my 30s, it’s sometimes hard to find someone to write to! So, I adopt troops serving overseas and write to them. One of the greatest blessings is to get a postcard back… Usually addressed to me and Muffin, my cat. 😉

  16. Barbara T, Wolverine Lake MI says:

    I grew up and lived in Green Bay WI until junior high school when my father was transferred from one state to another. At that point I became a letter writer! My girlfriends and I continued to write to each other and remained close friends ever since! The miles didn’t deter our friendship, high school, college, marriages, babies and now grandchildren 🙂 We get together as often as possible (hopefully once a year) and it was the letter-writing that kept our friendships fresh! I am continally clipping magazine and news articles, recipes, etc to put aside for letters! It’s hard these days to FIND pretty stationary! note cards yes, but stationary no 🙁 I also have a pen pal in West Yorkshire England and we’ve been corresponding for over 20 years! Thanks for the daily message on letter writing.

    • sbranch says:

      One place you can get pretty stationery is from me . . . for free, just put some nice paper in your printer and you can print out one of these! I know, it doesn’t come with envelopes, but you’re right, stationery is much harder to find these days. Look around this Fabriano site … it’s probably the most beautiful quality paper I’ve ever seen. I have the letter paper, it’s plain, heavy, deckle edge, looks great with stickers on it, almost like watercolor paper only softer. Here is Fabriano main site. Not sure if it’s your cup of tea, I bought a big boxful of it a long time ago, and it was expensive then; but it’s very gorgeous stuff.

  17. Paulie says:

    Good Morning Susan!
    You sound delightfully ready for that sale across the seas! I pray the seas will be calm and smooth for your journey (and all the girlfriends too) ! Your post today on letter writing is such a joy to read. It put a smile on my face to think that all of those early years of education on letter writing are still alive and well……I do think we have a duty to keep this skill alive by example. So thank you for this reminder this morning. My grown grandchildren have kept all of the letters and inscriptions I have made to them since they were born and that delights my spirit so much. I am still writing weekly and monthly to my two year old grandson now because I want him to have something special to treasure in years to come. So again, thank you for sharing your gift this morning once again.
    you are indeed a treasure to us all. Have a super day and week to come dear Susan!

  18. Paulie says:

    Whoops……….sail not sale……….missed the boat on that one………lesson one, proof read before you mail………lol

  19. Karen P - Wisconsin says:

    The Post Office should hire you, Susan, to be their PR person! You may single-handedly today have saved many a P.O. from “going under!” I LOVE that! Wonderful letter-writing tips. I get excited when I have to go to the P.O. and buy stamps and always look for the prettiest ones….none of these “Forever stamps” (even though it’s a great idea!) for me! Maybe you should design some postage stamps….hmmmm…?

  20. Kathy from Brevard, NC says:

    Oh, now I am curious as to which Emma Bridgewater mugs you are taking. Will you tell us now or will you wait to show us in a photo of your breakfast table once you are settled in? Will you take your favorite mugs or will these be specially selected for the trip? I think you will definitely take the Diamond Jubilee, for Joe perhaps?

    All the Girlfriends have already said everything I have to say about letter writing—in a very eloquent way, I might add! I loved your photos. The Angelique tulip is breathtaking!

    One last note—I love that we all LOVE everything! It is just adorable!

    • sbranch says:

      I love that we all love everything too! I am still figuring out which cups I want to bring; I think I know, but I’ll show you for sure when we get there. Have to have some surprises!

  21. Priscilla Palmer from Naples, Florida says:

    Dear Susan,

    In what do you pack all those treasures to take with you? Do you use something similar to the old steamer trunks? It definitely doesn’t sound like you are doing a backpacking trip. 😉

    My curiosity has the best of me. If you could post some photos of your packed items, that would be fun to see. It must be wonderful to travel by ship; much more civilized than taking the flying bus.

    Thank you for the letter writing tips; I’ve said those for future use. I’ve taken to writing real letters again myself using calligraphy. The response to the notes & letters has been very positive.

    xoxo, Priscilla Palmer

    • sbranch says:

      Palmer, maybe you have handwriting in your genes! As soon as it’s a bit more civilized around here, I’ll try to take some pictures. It’s a bit of a madhouse right now.

  22. Diane says:

    Your message today reminded me of how much I looked forward to the letters my mother sent me when I was away in college, then when I was first married, and then when we moved farther away from her and my father. Mom’s letters were filled with what ever was going on around her at the moment. Sometimes she would stop in mid sentence to remark, “Oh, I’ve just seen the most beautiful bluebird fly across the yard and land on the fencepost.” Then she’d continue on with the original sentence. Always there was a stick of Juicy Fruit gum tucked into the envelope…she said I might like to enjoy it while reading her letter. I wish so much that I had saved those letters, especially since Mom is suffering from dementia and I miss the person she was for so long. I’m blessed to still have my mother physically, but I do miss her emotionally. When my daughter was in college, she received many letters from “Memaw” and when one would arrive, Shannon would announce to her hall mates, “It’s time for the Memaw letter”. They’d gather around and laugh just as I did at Shannon’s age whenever Memaw would launch into a description of the big crow who was being attacked in flight by a furious robin just outside her window. It seemed the crow had ventured too near the robin’s nest. Memaw would then extoll the virtues of motherhood and how Shannon must always be attuned to the lessons nature teaches about life. To this day, Shannon’s friends still laugh and talk about “the Memaw letters”. True to form, there was always a stick of Juicy Fruit gum for Shannon to enjoy while reading.

    I am now at the age where I can write letters to my own grandchildren, one of whom is away at college for his freshman year. I debated about whether Joseph would appreciate receiving “a Nana letter”, but sent the first one anyway. Normally Joseph and I email back and forth. Anyhow, Joseph did enjoy receiving that first letter from Nana because he took the time to write me back…not email, mind you, but a real honest-to-goodness letter. He thanked me for writing and for enclosing a stick of Juicy Fruit gum, which he said he enjoyed while reading my letter.

    Some things never change…nor should they.

    I vow to write more letters and to find folks who would like to have a piece of Juicy Fruit gum while reading. Thanks for today’s post and the memories it brought to mind.

    Diane in North Carolina

  23. Good Morning All, I was away yesterday so did not see this new blog until this morning and it took me over an hour to read everyone’s comments. I love writing letters and when I was a very young girl I would write to my Grandmother in AL and also my Aunt and loved getting letters back from them. I was always so chatty and my letters were pages, now I look back and with all the technology that we have now I don’t know how I had so much to write about?? I don’t write very much now; but, I do always put a note on a card. It is amazing how much we want “instant” responses and do not have the patience to wait for a reply….I loved the early years when things were slower and less stressful. We are having our Winter in April here in Central IN, we have had temps. in the low 30’s and I’m so happy I didn’t plant my annuals when the temps. were in the 80’s like a lot of people did. I always go by the golden rule to plant after danger of frost have passed after Mothers’ Day. Thank you for your letter writing tips, and I too agree with never put anything in writing that may come back to haunt you!! I tell my daughter this often and that goes for emails, text, twitter, and especially Facebook. Enjoy your rain and all the green grass and pretty flowers coming your way.

  24. Kerry S. from San Pedro, CA says:

    Happy spring – we have sunshine after days of grey overcast!! Hope that the storm just left behind rain washed landscape! So thrilled to see that the dogwood bloomed before you left!
    My grandmother left a collection of letters that my mom had written while we we growing up. I remember my mom writing to her mother (we were in Wyoming and her family was in Northern MN) every day. We had fun reading my grandmother’s letters to her!
    My BFF and I used to write great letters too. Our favorite stationary was from Crane (I think) – pale pink, yellow or green crinkly paper with rosebuds on one side. We thought it was the best! I found some letters from her a few months ago with pictures of her boys in high school! Sent them along to her to share with her grandkids. As she said – we were amazing letter writers! Now we just text or email every day. You’ve inspired me to write her a real note! Her birthday approaching so I may include note to her about all we’ve shared in 50+ years!
    Happy packing!

    • sbranch says:

      Look on the Crane site and see if you can find your favorite stationery, I wonder if she’ll remember?

      • Kerry S. from San Pedro, CA says:

        What a good idea – I did some research & discovered it was Eaton’s Rosebud stationery (scented with Youth Dew – but not very strongly or we would have been ruined for life)!! I think that it’s long gone now! A blogger online said she used it to write during her college years!!
        Well. . .now I know!

        • Kerry S. from San Pedro, CA says:

          BFF Barb & I have been texting about our letters and the stationery all day!! We’re both amazed at how much we remember. We saved our letters for a long time too but then they disappeared – probably due to our Mom’s cleaning out stuff after we left home for college and our lives!! We may be surprised some day to find one or two have survived! Thank you so much for helping us re-remember an important part of our friendship!

          • sbranch says:

            I still have one “nut case” “note” I passed in typing class in the 11th grade. A note that sent us into pure hysteria of laughing but is SO dumb in real life!!! 🙂 Love it anyway.

  25. Care Kester says:

    My dear, dear friend and soulmate, Susan! Letters…good old-fashioned letters…one of my FAVORITE things. I have to tell you about my Daddy. He was a letter writer. And so as a result his children were letter writers. He went away when I was in the 5th grade so every two weeks I was expected to answer the letter he had sent me and it just kept on going…. My Dad would coordinate his postage stamps with his stickers, stationery, etc! I have a box of them that I TREASURE. When he passed away, I cried more tears at my mailbox than anywhere else because I missed (and still do) his letters so much. There is no gift like a letter – something to hold in your hands, smell the scent of the loved one who sent it and know they touched that very piece of paper and took the time to write the words. Certainly, I will be writing letters to my Senator to fight for our Post Offices! Thanks for the bill number. Have a glorious trip, my dear. I know you will savor and bask and enjoy each moment!

  26. Deb from Dixie says:

    Thanks for the cozy fire and the rain….makes me want to cuddle up on the sofa and just write letters today! Cheers to that! LOL.
    Actually yesterday I wrote and sent several cards to friends with long notes inside……I love the cards in your Hydrangea box…..and everyone I send one to loves them too!
    So, I was excited to mail off my cards….I like knowing a surprise will soon be delivered to one of my friends mailbox……and that reading it will put a smile on their face.
    And then…..in the late afternoon when the post lady dropped off mail to me…..I got a surprise too…….a sweet card from one of my dear guy friends…..yesterday was a full circle day mail wise!
    And today I open the blog and it is about tips for writing a warm and wonderful letter……..all I can say is Wowzer…..and thanks , that was so much fun to read!

    Counting the days until all us girlfriends jump on board with you and Joe….and off we go adventuring to England!

  27. Susan says:

    The Amish in our community use postcards tokeep in contact with everyone- family, friends, community, businesses and it will be a hardship for them not to have a post office nearby. One small post office near us has closed. The larger one 6 miles away does handle more letters and had to increase personel. Go figure. I’m just happy with the best mail system in the world . We lived overseas and had to deal with stolen mail, packages, etc. as well as long delivery times. We didn’t have a phone in our apartment”and booked calls overseas a week ahead at a cost of $7.00/min. at the post office. We wrote letters every week
    and planned communication well ahead of time.It built up the anticipation too. We’d send someone a letter saying we would call them on such a date, such a time and usually had 3 minutes to talk. If we called and they weren’t there, it ruined our whole day! We depended on letters & read them over and over. It made our day to get a letter from home.

  28. Regina Brown says:

    I’ve been saying for two years, people will soon be going into antique stores looking for old letters to collect like they do postcards! As a young bride I used to write my Mom and Mother-in-law letters almost every week. They only lived two hours away,but I always looked forward to their letters. My Mom has since passed away and I have those letters. She always kept every letter or card she received. It is an art that I miss!!! I may sit down and write my girlfriend. It would be nice to get something in mail besides junk and bills!!!

  29. I love this post. I love the gentle art of letter writing, and agree that one should never start with ‘I’ . . and little enclosures and thoughtful additions do make such a difference. One friend says she looks forward to all her ‘events’ as she knows she will receive a hand made card from me that I have made. Another frames her cards I send to her. They are little gifts in themselves. I have a small box of flowers from my garden, pressed and saved to enclose; sometimes I gift a Susan Branch bookmark that I’ve printed on to stiff card and added some of my own artwork to the back; at the very least I include some photographs of what I’ve seen lately . .

    You are so right that many Post Offices in Britain have closed. Recently, we had to fight to keep ours in the village, as many of the villages and hamlets round about lost theirs and we all faced a round trip of nearly 40 miles to the next big town. They are part of the life blood of the village economy and without them it does not take too long before all the independent traders follow suit . . very, very sad and deeply worrying . . .

    . . . more worrying that you are bringing teacups to Britain . . this is your perfect opportunity to bring an empty suitcase and fill it up with EB and other lovely wares!

    Hatches are battened again (truth is, I didn’t unbatten them after the last one) for an easterly blow that is due to last two days with about 3″ of rain forecast . . I guess it will sound like your YT clip but with horrible winds again of 60+mph . .

    • sbranch says:

      So sad about the Post Offices … Some of those little towns, that was it, the PO and it was also a little store. I suppose one of these days they will go around and pick up all the red phone booths? I hope not!

      • Pat Mofjeld says:

        Oh dear, I hate to tell you but here in Minnesota the red phone booths are already gone!

        • sbranch says:

          You had red phone booths?

          • Pat Mofjeld says:

            Well, after I sent the comment, I realized what you were talking about–the “English-style red phone booths”. But we used to have phone booths here–I don’t know what color–didn’t you have them in New England? I mean, the standard old-fashioned phone booths that you could go in and sit down and make a call. We noticed recently that they are all gone–I suppose because everyone has cell phones…

          • sbranch says:

            They had really beautiful ones in England that stood out . . . Here, you can see them

      • Oh, dear Susan . . I don’t want to break your heart but much of that has already happened. The few remaining phone boxes are not very pretty any more and have lost all of that charisma of the bright red kiosks. Prince Charles would probably include them on his list of monstrous carboncles (as he once described 1960’s architecture)

        Our little two counter Post Office also serves as the newsagents, tobacconist (not that I approve), stationers, and corner shop! That would be an awful lot of things to lose, and it is used by many of the good folks who live on the small farmsteads and in hamlets and smaller villages surrounding my village (pop. 1550, est. circa 500 ad or earlier). We have to fight so hard against cutbacks and I do fear that one day we might lose the battle. Much of my mail goes to America and needs to be weighed.

        • sbranch says:

          It’s hard to imagine charming little Bibury without its roadside red telephone booth! We used it last time! I wrote home in 2004, telling my mom how we would just find them out in the middle of nowhere — they should turn them all into little computer plug-ins or something!

  30. Hi! My mother and I too began our many years of letter writing when I went away to college. During the last 10 years of my mother’s life we augmented our twice weekly letters by exchanging a small journal in which we’d write a ‘post’ then mail it back and forth. It had day-to-day doings, just like our letters, but also detailed descriptions of birthdays and holidays; saved tags, pressed flowers, tiny photos and sketches. Sometimes we’d do essays on a topic, like favorite childhood dolls, or first day of school memories….We used a special journal called a Cirlce Journal…maybe no longer available, but any small journal will do. [It s nice if they are all the same size & style tho] I have a box of the tiny books to cherish. I miss my mom and have not yet been able to reread the journals—but someday.


  31. Kathy says:

    Excellent post! I love to write and receive personal notes via old fashioned mail. Your tips were superb. Thanks!

  32. Dawn from Minnesota says:

    I am starting to feel like a historical figure….so many things seem to be
    disappearing or becoming “new & improved!?” What if the postmen drove
    around in electric mail trucks? Look at all the gas money they would save,
    right? Loved your post…and now I’m gonna be humming that song…”Gonna
    sit right down and write myself a letter…bada..deedee..dada dream come true!”
    Happy packing and no tripping allowed on all those “to be packed or decide to
    be packed piles!” : .} XoXDawn

  33. vivi says:

    hi susan, it’s vivi from argentina, the one with the most beautiful clock in the whole world 😉
    lovely post..!! I always loved the old fashioned letters, got used to e-mails, but there’s nothing like the feeling when you have the real envelope with the real handwritting in your hands; and that you know that someone went to the post office thinking of you so far away, and sent with the letter the good wishes, the memories
    there ‘s a daughter named Olivia here as well, and while I read the post, and she makes school homework, we listen the 15 mins rain you gave us all, thanks!!
    hope you finish soon with your packing
    ♥, vivi

  34. Denise says:

    Hello from Wpg Canada
    Have your heard of the series Larkrise to Candleford ?it is based on a true story of a victorian rural English postmistress and her fellow villagers delightful bbc series , check it out when you have time!

    • sbranch says:

      Oh yes, I have that book!

      • Karen P - Wisconsin says:

        It’s a book?! Didn’t realize that! Just recently watched The Enchanted April and am so glad that I read the book first….it kind of “set up” the movie for me and drew me in.

      • Patricia H. says:

        I loved the series….have them all on DVD. They are well worth watching if you can find them in the US…..My friend gave me the Flora Thompson trilogy in a hardcover book with original wood engravings. It was released last year so do look for it on Amazon if interested- it’s lovely.

  35. Elizabeth says:

    Dear Susan,
    Thanks for the wonderful post today. One of my most cherished treasures are the letters that I have from my Father to my Mother during the time he was posted in France in WWII, and on his journey there. I marvel at the contrast of the man who was my Dad, and the loving poet that he was in his letters. He was a deep well of feeling and poured it out on those pages. Every time I read them I see his smile and remember how he and my Mother loved one another.

    I share a few letters back and forth with people, but not as many as I would like. I miss the days of the excitement when a letter came in the mail and taking the time to relax, make a cup of tea, and have a “visit” with the writer; and the time of reflection in writing a reply. There’s nothing like it!

    • sbranch says:

      I know what you mean! My mom still writes letters, so I’m lucky, her envelopes are always covered in stickers!

  36. Mary Cunningham says:

    Dear Susan, thank you for the tip of e-mailing our representatives to save the Post Offices…I’m going one better and following up with a hand written letter, to push the point even further! My grandmother lived in Florida most of my life and we only went down to see her in the summer, she would write me letters and I was so excited to read all she was doing and I would write her back, she always wrote with a cartridge pen and used turquoise ink…my aunt lived near her and would write me and send “goody” boxes…little boxes filled with pins, buttons and favors from banquets and formal dinners( the little decorative umbrellas and picks from drinks and such) she always wrote in purple ink…loved it and miss them terribly. I still write mt best friend Ruth and her only request for her birthday this year was a hand written letter from each of her kids and grandchildren….letters and cursive writing can’t go the way of the dinosaurs…we have to keep them! P.S. We need the Post Offices so we can receive your wonderful calendars in the mail !!!!!! Sincerely Yours Mary

    • sbranch says:

      Love your grandmother and aunt and their festive ink! Thank you for writing your Senator; I know they have voices whispering in their ears all the time, like the voice of UPS in this case, it would be nice if some of those voices were ours!!!

  37. Pat Mofjeld says:

    Hi Susan! I thought I’d share part of a note that I got from a friend today with you and the rest of the girlfriends:
    “As I was conditioning my hair in the shower this morning, I took time to read my shampoo bottle. SHOCK–the shampoo that runs down my entire body says “for extra volume and body.” Seriously, why have I not noticed this before? Now I understand why I am so “full-figured”. Tomorrow I am going to start using “Dawn” dish soap. It says “dissolves fat that is otherwise difficult to remove.” 🙂

  38. Regina says:

    Just loved your blog about letter writing. Many years ago I started keeping letters that my inlaws and my parents sent to us. Since then my inlaws have passed away and I treasure those handwritten letters. Before my husband and I were married, we wrote letters and I have kept those letters. They spanned about 2 years. We were attending different colleges and then I was working the year before we got married, so those letters were about our college experiences and preparing for our wedding. Those were the days when letter writing was the only way to communicate long distance, too expensive to make long distance phone calls, especially when the dorms only had one pay phone at the end of the hall! Can’t imagine that now. I have put the letters in order so I can read what I wrote, then his letter that followed. That was over 32 years ago–our 33rd anniversary is next month. Such precious letters.

  39. Rosemary says:

    What a lovely post! Letter writing… a beautiful gift and my Father was a wonderful letter writer…always a little dry humor in there. When I married, I lived in NY and my parents lived in Texas and we wrote every week. My letters were very simple, news of the day style and theirs were lovely. Then one day we moved to Texas and husband’s parents were in NY so now I was writing to them every week. My husband always said “That’s why he got married, so I would write the letters.” He writes very good letters, too but he labors over them whereas I kind of slapdash. One of our “friends”here commented about writing a letter and putting a stick of Juicy Fruit gum in it to her Grandchildren. Love that idea and I am going to try it.
    Your writing tips are so helpful. The preparations are coming to fever pitch for your sail. So excited for you. Cannot wait for the news from across the pond. I sent for my Lonely Planet Great Britain book and The Forgotten Garden to take camping with us this weekend to Palo Duro Canyon.
    Happy Day!

  40. Bee Stevens says:

    I love your birdbath – what a beauty. I’m sure your biries appreciate
    it. I know you are busy getting ready to go. Good thoughts for a wonderful
    trip to you and Joe. Good thing you don’t have a luggage limit since so many
    of us are going along in your suitcases. Happy sailing.

  41. Lisa Nelson-Jones says:

    LOVE letter writing! Am looking for a fellow letter writer (in Britian perhaps) to be my pen-pal. How could I go about finding one? There is a “Letter Writers Assoc.” that I am sure would love some new members…

    • sbranch says:

      Looks to me like they would set you up with a pen pal? There is another link, somewhere in these comments, to another writing association that connects pen pals too . . . not sure if they do international pen pals, but maybe.

  42. Cindy West Chester PA says:

    Hi Susan,
    Just finished watching “Cranford”. What a delightful miniseries. Thank you for the recomendation. By the way my first grade class has been writing penpal letters to a first grade class in another school district. We have been doing this as a fun way to learn how to write a letter. It is so interesting to see what questions they ask each other. I hope to do the activity next year also.

    • sbranch says:

      I bet the letters are darling! Glad you liked Cranford, we’ve been to the town it was filmed in twice; looks just like that! Except for the cars!

  43. I love writing and illustrating letters and do it far to rarely anymore. My wife kept every single letter that I ever sent to her, and there were many. The funny this is that we’ve seen each other every day for twenty years, so you’d think letters weren’t necessary!

    There is nothing in the world like receiving a handwritten letter. Whenever I read about people reading their post in Miss Read books, or any other book, I feel instantly jealous. What fun it must have been to receive personal mail on a daily basis. Emails are alright, but there’s no romance to them. They are quick, in the moment and carry little of the person in them. Type-written letters are much better – at least you have the thrill of receiving the actual letter, opening it and reading it and re-reading it. I have stacks of letters from an old friend of mine that are fun to reread all these years later. I never reread emails with the same level of nostalgia.

    Finally, as someone who’s trying to be an historian (two books in the works… One about Lady Bird Johnson, the other about the sisters Queen Alexandra – wife of Edward VII – and Empress Marie Feodorovna of Russia – mother of Nicholas II), letters are very, very important in the telling of history. Many historians have lamented the fact that since the advent of email, so many important primary sources have disappeared. The letters of famous people offer such fascinating insights into their private thoughts and relationships.

    This reminds me of a book I am reading – the letters of Jessica Mitford. I came to it after reading the memoirs of the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire – one of the Mitford sisters. Are you familiar with them? I think you might find her book (books, actually, she’s written a lot on life at Chatsworth House and keeping her chickens!) interesting. Have you been to Chatsworth?

    Sorry for the run on “comment”. Loved this post, as always. Off to write some letters!


    • sbranch says:

      I can’t believe you read Miss Read and the Dowager Duchess!! You are a rare man Mr. Jake! I think I only have one letter in my collection from any of my four brothers! We should bottle you and give every newborn baby boy 3 drops at birth! 🙂 We are heading for Chatsworth House on this trip! It’s on the list! Anything there you want to see?

      • Patricia H. says:

        Be on the lookout for the big furry chickens at Chatsworth….the grounds are lovely- the drive up is spectacular. I’ll be very interested to hear your opinion of the house tour. When we went they had an exhibit on about the Dowager Duchess- I saw a handwritten letter where she described dancing with JFK (when he was a young man) and what she thought of him. Really neat! There’s a fabulous gift shop at Chatsworth and I bought all of Nancy Mitford’s books as well as bunting, a butter dish, etc etc. I had to be dragged away! Althorp and Longleat are really wonderful as well. My favorite is still Windsor Castle though. Talk about a fascinating tour! If you haven’t been yet it’s well worth it.

      • Believe it… Last summer I went crazy and finished my collection of Miss Reads. Those are books that I come back to again and again. If I can’t decide what to read, I just pick one up and I’m satisfied every time. Perfect books when you are down or when you are sick, or even when everything’s going along swimmingly. I wrote back and forth with Miss Read for about a year or two back in the early 1990’s. She was very kind and must now be very, very old! I have kept all of her letters as well as a bunch that I exchanged with Countess Mountbatten of Burma. In fact, I think I have every letter I’ve ever received!

        Anything you see at Chatsworth, I will be happy to see. The rooms I’d really like to see are probably gone – the Dowager Duchess’ private rooms, all decorated in beautiful green, reminded me of exactly what a Duchess’ rooms should look like. I always found it very funny and endearing that she had all of the requisite aristocratic touches, but also a big picture of JFK and Elvis! I loved the part of her book where she describes her visit to Graceland. While I’m not a huge Elvis fan, the fact that someone like that is so open to things completely outside her expected milieu is charming.

        I hope I’ve done my part in making sure my boys carry on some of my traditions. I will never forget how, when my oldest son was asked in grade school who his favorite actor was, he answered, “Cary Grant”! And, when two of my sons and I ran into Kim Novak in an Olive Garden in Medford, Oregon, my seven year old, entirely on his own, told her how much he liked, “that movie you were in with Jimmy Stewart” (Vertigo)!

        Can’t wait for your trip. I’ve wanted to go to England for all my life, and I’ll get there. It will be so good to see it through your eyes.

        Take care,


  44. Betty Alexander says:

    Loved your descriptions – I was absolutely (hooked) when I saw the dogwood. Being a WV “hillbilly” – brought back the gorgeous dogwood lined country roads.

    • sbranch says:

      Aren’t Dogwoods the best? Our old dogwood, the one that was here in 1989 when we bought the house, died a few years ago, we finally got around to replacing it just last year — the house seems to breathe a sigh of almost relief! Back to normal!

      • Joan Lesmeister says:

        Your house is happy now! Dogwoods are blooming beautifully here in the valley, too! Folks protect them with big trees! Saw some pink ones blooming on our walk the other day – they’re wowsers too!

  45. Cyndy Szarzynski says:

    Maybe I missed them, but your wonderful artwork on snail mail related stickers for the outside of the envelope could sure brighten up a letter; both for the receiver and for the mail carrier. You have a lot of scrapbooking sticker sheets covering many themes which could be used, but I have never seen any specific stickers to use on letters/envelopes.

    • sbranch says:

      I did lots of flowers, little envelopes with wings, first letters entwined with flowers, birds and bees, cupcakes and leaves; I was always thinking of snail mail letters when I designed them (which you can tell because I wrote about it on the back of the sticker pages), but what everyone else was thinking, was scrapbooking!

  46. Joan Lesmeister says:

    Such a wonderful blog & all the great comments! Thank you! I’ve been wondering if “our” ship is SRO, as we keep taking on more dear GFs?! Can hardly wait to go back to England, we were only there for 2 weeks & there’s so much to see! We loved going into the churches & walking through their cemeteries (I know, creepy to some folks). When you’ve been raised in CA, the dates on the tombstones here aren’t too empressive, after you’ve been across the sea! Almost packed & ready to go! xo

    • sbranch says:

      I love the churchyards too! Hmmm, SRO. Sold Right Out? Small ROwboat? Swiftly Rolling Over?

      • Joan Lesmeister says:

        :), :), 🙂 – Standing Room Only, honey!!! No – don’t want no Swiftly Rollin’ Over (although with all of us, it will probably list to the side!). Yup, I’ll bet Sold Right Out was immediate after your 1st blog!! 🙂 xox!!!

      • Priscilla Palmer from Naples, Florida says:


        LOL! I was wondering what SRO meant too. Your ideas have me rolling … especially the Swiftly Rolling Over!

        xoxo, P

  47. Kathy from Brevard, NC says:

    Good Morning Darling Susan and All the Girlfriends and our Two Boy Friends, Dapper Jake and Papa Jack,

    Swiftly Rolling Over may be the name of the game on the way back unless you put me in the exact center of the ship as I will weigh too much to counter-balance everyone else. I will be eating my way through our vacation but probably not doing all the walking that you and Joe will be doing. If you put a note on your blog everyone once in a while that says, “Going hill walking on the public paths” perhaps I will read that as a gentle code for “Push away from the groaning board and take a little walk outside”. HeHe!!

  48. Kerry S. from San Pedro, CA says:

    Good morning Susan!
    Update on the Rosebud stationery – after I posted on my daughter’s and sister’s Facebook pages asking if they remember the stationery, my lovely daughter called & said she had some. Apparently I had discovered it 20+ years ago in a small shop and had given her some of my stash!! She said that there are more envelops than paper but she’ll send it along to me! Now to see if I can write a legible letter to surprise my BFF!!
    What fun this topic has brought us!

  49. Sharon says:

    Oh Susan! I absolutely adored your post. I LOVE to write letters, and keep the ones I receive, too. I have every single one from my college years. I think that your friend and her daughter have a wonderful idea – to write actual “old-fashioned” letters while she is in college. I would love to do that with my own daughter, who goes to Penn State this fall. I can’t believe that I am actually saying that – oh my goodness, where did the time go? I kept every single letter that my husband wrote to me when he was in the army right after we first met, too!
    And I am definitely going to write a letter to my representatives asking them to save the post offices!!! What would we do without letters or birthday cards?

  50. Georgie says:

    Oh My! The thought of Post Offices being sold/closed down/dismantled is just horrifying!!! There is nothing better than a lazy afternoon, sitting down and letting yourself be totally surrounded and saturated by thoughts of the person you are writing a letter to 🙂 It’s almost like a visit in the flesh. Memories surface from the past and dreams are born for the future. I can imagine them smiling when they open up the mailbox and see familiar handwriting. My girlfriend sent me a text the other day and said, “Its just like Christmas!”

    Then there’s the FUN of selecting a cute card or “just the right” stationery. Envelopes make the neatest flat packages to be filled with surprises of pictures, confetti, magazine articles.

    Thanks for reminding all of us just how dear letter writing is! We are all looking forward to hearing from you as you journey on the big boat towards dreams and memories, and secretly imagining we are opening up a letter sent just to us.

    Here’s hoping you are further along in your packing 🙂
    Georgie from NJ
    P.S. I LOVED the picture of the fire burning in your fireplace. It was the perfect touch to warm up my rainy afternoon.

    • sbranch says:

      One week from today we leave the house. Can you hear the shiver in my voice? So excited. Every day some more things get done. You all packed?

      • Georgie says:

        Susan! I could hear it!!! Can’t wait to wave to you as your beloved QMII sails past the web cam on Friday!!!

        We fly out for Hawaii with the folks on Saturday, the day after you leave!!! Clothes are everywhere. My folks are packed… we are… well, still deciding 🙂

        Isn’t it FUN!!!

  51. Mary D. says:

    Hi Susan,
    Enjoyed reading your post on letter writing. Have you read Stillmeadow and Sugarbridge – the correspondence between Gladys Taber and Barbara Webster? Very enjoyable.

    • sbranch says:

      I haven’t read that yet!! One of these days . . . Thank you Mary!

    • Wendy says:

      I highly recommend this one — its the first Taber I could find at my library and it is so funny and filled with wonderful letter writing!

  52. Diana - Highland, IL says:

    Dear Susan and GF’s… am a little late coming to this post, but it touches my heart as well. So many memories of letters. First letters were always to Santa!! 🙂 as a small child and of course thank you notes were required for any gift or visit. Then as a young girl had a pen pal from another state. I think that was a school project for English. As a young teen, I wrote letters to an older cousin in the Vietnam war. He didn’t always write back but when I did get a letter from him, it always mentioned how much he enjoyed news from home and that he shared it with his buddies. Then, there were the letters written to my boyfriend (husband now) when he went away to college. My family always prayed that I would get a letter from him so my mood would be a happy one! LOL… I still love writing letters to friends and family and love embellishing the envelopes and letters with stickers, artwork, and thank you all for the inspiration for more ideas to decorate with! What a wonderful surprise to have a letter or card, handwritten, from a loved one! My Dad would write little poems to us and his sisters and for a while when we had a cabin by the lake, anyone who stayed there had to write a little ditty before they left! So precious!! Miss my Dad so much, but the memories bring smiles! Enjoy the day wherever you are GF’s!! I am off work and need to get some groceries before dinner! “There is absolutely no reason to be rushed along with the rush!”…..Robert Frost.

  53. kathie says:

    I once wrote you a letter and you wrote right back to me! I have your letter framed in my sewing room (my very own special room) I was so surprised and pleased that you would write back. I currently write back and forth with my 8-year old niece. That’s a lot of fun, too!

    • sbranch says:

      For four years after I wrote my first book (I guess you would call it) I answered every bit of my mail, and saved all the letters — they’re all still in the attic! But after a while I couldn’t keep up with it, that’s how Willard was born! Eventually we had so many girlfriends signed up that my snail mail Willard was no longer doable, and that’s how Willard Online started! I still occasionally get it together to reply to letters, which is what I would love to be able to do! I’m so happy to hear I wrote you back!

  54. Jean D. says:

    Dear Susan,
    Oh the joy of a real, hand written letter! There is something so wonderful about opening the mailbox and finding an envelope from a friend. I find myself holding on to these rare treats as a reminder of how good a “real” letter can make one feel. Thank you for sharing your letter writing tips.
    Your Angelique tulip is so pretty. I planted some for the first time last fall and am enjoying their pretty pink blooms this spring. Do you know if it is true that they will only bloom for one season and I will need to plant new bulbs this fall?

    • sbranch says:

      It depends where you are, if you get a freeze, they will likely come back, mine do. I’ve painted Angelique tulips too, isn’t that fun?

  55. evelyn says:

    I like to write a few postcards to myself when I’m on vacation. Postcards are a nice souvenir of the trip and it’s fun to have mail (not bills) waiting for me when I get home. Hope your trip is wonderful.

  56. Sandi says:

    Hi Susan,

    I’m so excited that you are going to England! It will be so much fun hearing about your travels.
    I just love your blog. It is so much fun. Makes me feel all warm and cozy.
    Thank you for being you!

  57. Debbie Ierano says:

    Hello Susan :)))
    I am so enjoying hearing about your upcoming trip to England. I meant to write to you weeks and weeks ago about a trip that my husband and I are talking with my mom. My husband and I just arrived yesterday from Australia to visit my mom in California for her 70th birthday. We asked her where she would like to go for her birthday and she chose Martha’s Vineyard because she loves you (I love you too!) and has been reading your stories about the island for years. So tomorrow we start our journey from California stopping first in Boston and then onto Martha’s Vineyard next week. Could you suggest a special place to eat for my mom’s birthday next Tuesday evening? My mom will be so excited if we are able to go to a place you have suggested personally :))) Thank you so much for your books and your blog. We have so enjoyed them over the years <3

    • sbranch says:

      You are really on a trek! Well, let me think. There are so many. The best food is in a tiny little place called Little House; not fancy, no view, but delicious … maybe not Birthday dinner material, but I can’t leave it out — it’s in Vineyard Haven. Two expensive nice places; Alchemy (upstairs in the bar area is coziest) in Edgartown and State Road in West Tisbury; both take reservations. I’m sure you can Google them. You might just take a look at the Charlotte Inn too….very expensive Inn but gorgeous to look at even online (for a place to stay– but there are tons of them). We also like the Harborview Hotel in Edgartown, but we usually go to the bar there for rainy day lunch … food is good, and the dining room is beautiful with a view of the Harbor (I think you might guess that). For the very BEST grilled cheese and tomato soup with a view, it’s the Atlantic.

      You’re going to love Boston. There are so many historical things to see. HAVE FUN!! Tell your mom I said Happy Birthday … what a fabulous trip you’re all on!

      • Debbie Ierano says:

        Thank you so much for replying, Susan. We just arrived on the island today to quite a blustery welcome but we are loving it already. Tomorrow we officially start exploring! Thank you for the dinner suggestions. I am sure we will have a lovely time here. I hope your trip preparations are going well. If we happen to see you around while we are here, I hope you don’t mind if we come up and say hello. We’re really nice… I promise 🙂

        • sbranch says:

          I hope you have a wonderful time! We are packing, last minute, we leave the island in the morning!! I hope it stops raining for you, although the color of green is almost worth it!!! Have fun!

  58. Anita Birt says:

    Dear Susan,
    This is the first letter that I have written to a favorite author! I used to think I would write to Anne Morrow Lindbergh as I loved, loved, LOVED her volumes of Diaries and Letters so much, but alas, I waited too long, and now I can’t. I have loved your art from the first time I saw it, and have never stopped loving it! Now that I have found your blog and read many archived Willards, as well as subscribing to the new ones, I love more than just your art! Thank you for the joy you give me! I love your photos of your homes and gardens on both coasts. I love that you share details of your life, both growing up and currently. You make me believe that perhaps even a woman who is becoming more overweight and grey and tired than she ever dreamed she could become can still have dreams and that they could perhaps even come true.

  59. Anita Birt says:

    OOOPS! OK, so now you and the rest of the Susan Branch Blog reading world knows that I am also computer-challenged. I honestly don’t know HOW the first part of my letter flew away to you before I was ready! But there is it, only partially done, so now I will try to hurry up and get to the point. I just read your post about letter writing, and I want you to know what letters have meant to my life. I grew up in rural Tennessee, a small farm where in winter, we could see my grandparents’ farm through the trees, just down the lane. There really weren’t close neighbors, but I loved school, and rode a school bus about an hour every morning and every afternoon. When I was in third grade, a few months after we’d moved to the farm, I met a girl on the school bus. Her name was Linda and she lived on a dairy farm, much closer to the school than I. By the time we reached her house, the bus was usually full-to-overflowing, and she would have to stand in the aisle. At some point, I offered to hold her books (I was in third grade, she in fifth), and then, we began saving a seat for each other in the afternoons. We talked about whatever little girls talk about, and then, summer came, and there were no bus rides for us. And no one to talk to. The summer seemed to drag by, each of us with just brothers at home and chores. . . but no girlfriend to talk things over and share with. So we started writing letters. We would write every summer. Eventually, she graduated high school and started college, and then, even though we didn’t live a tremendous distance apart, we still wrote. Except now, it was our main communication. Time went on. My friend married, had a baby. I graduated, went to college, moved to another state to take a teaching job. the letters still came and went faithfully. When I would get home to TN, I would visit my family and I would visit Linda. It is still that way today, despite the fact that I am 57 years old. We have shared some of the happiest and best times of our lives. We have shared the lowest, saddest, most tragic times also. Some day, I know that for one of us, the letters will stop arriving, and I dread to even think of that day. My parents bless me, my dad at 83 and my mom at 77 with letters penned by both of them every single Monday. I am not quite as good as they are about writing every single week now, although I do try. You are so right about what can be included in letters: photographs of the children, bits of fabric from the new curtains, the TN daffodils that I love, articles by the funny guy who writes for the TN Farm Bureau. . . I used to keep every letter but decided there soon wouldn’t be room to LIVE in the house, so a while back, I started throwing most away. But letters, they are treasures. I have been privileged to exchange letters with many people in my life, and I recall vividly a letter I received once from an elderly landlady I had when I taught school in SC. I had written to her after I returned home to TN, and when she responded, this is what she said regarding my letter to her:
    “I read it, and reread it. . . and took it to bed with me.” What a tribute to letters! Oh, Susan, I could go on and on and on, but will doubtless fill up your blog with my ramblings! Thank you for sharing your heart with your readers. I hope you know how much it means, and how much we adore YOU! I have been to England once, 1980. . . I’ve been to the Lake District! Can’t wait to follow your trip and relive it along with you and Joe! Enjoy every moment!

    • sbranch says:

      So lovely to hear from you Anita. I loved reading about your sweet friendship with the little girl on the bus! I’m so glad you found your way to my blog . . . we have fun here, and you are going to fit right in! Thank you! xoxo

  60. maybaby says:

    Thank you for this beautiful post. My husband and I were together for seven years before we married, and much of that time was spent apart. We really got to know each other through our letters, and I have saved every one my guy sent me. We have been having a tough time lately (hey, it happens!) and I actually got the idea to go back and read some of those letters, to remind ourselves of why we are together in the first place. The power of handwritten love on paper is far more impactful than any electronic missive hastily typed.

    And I agree, save our Post Office!

  61. Wendy says:

    Wonderful post on letter writing! It can be difficult to keep from using ‘I’ and certain usual adjectives, also! The dictionary is well used when formulating a lot of my writings, for the fun of it! I do appreciate your stunning handwriting. Something to work towards, as usual you provide great inspiration and pleasure for all of us. Love that roaring fire, Joe built. Oh, how excited you and Joe must be. A grand experience for us all, when you soon board the Queen Mary II bound Great Britain, home of charming teapots, cottages, thatched roofs and high tea!! Thank you!

  62. Wendy says:

    Forgot to mention…. what a marvelously fun traveling knife! Fun and versatile! Thanks for sharing!

  63. Lisa R (northern Arizona) says:

    Thank you Susan for the wonderful letter writing tips. Also for the link about the post office closings. I’m sharing it with everyone I know. When our Barnes and Noble closed after Christmas, I was so sad. Can’t even think about our post office closing! It would just be heartbreaking. People just don’t realize what they’ll be losing. There’s enough room in this world for the wonderful technology we have today, and for the simple pleasures of handwritten letters that have always been. I’m reading I Love you, Ronnie~ a collection of letters that Ronald Reagan wrote to his wife Nancy. How endearing and sweet these letters are! Besides the pleasure of receiving her husbands wonderful handwritten sentiments, she also said, “As the years have gone by and Alzheimer’s has taken away Ronnie’s ability to share our happy memories with me, his letters have come to mean even more…..As they bring back Ronnie in his own words, they help me to go on into the future.” What else is there to say. No amount of e-mails or texts could even compare. It astounds me the amount of money people will spend on concert tickets or sporting events, but complain about the cost of a postage stamp! Pocket change! I’m with you girls, I don’t care what it cost, I will still be mailing my hand made cards on a regular basis. People love getting personal mail. It’s a gift. All we can do is write our congressmen, share information, as you do so well with us Susan, and forge ahead. It can make a difference.

  64. Victoria says:

    Hi! I’m all packed and ready to go!!! I must say, it is my lightest packing job ever! ( with me…. when in doubt, take it all) ha! But I ‘m doing better, love your idea of one black pantsuit with jewelry and scarfs. Love scarfs! They are so easy to pack, can be used and tied in many different ways, add color and can completely change an outfit!
    I know this will be the easiest trip I have or ever will take and one of the best ever! No luggage to carry, no waiting no lines, no frustrations or disappointments, Just all fun and suprises in the most cozy and spectacular places that I dream of seeing , and on top of that, I won’t even gain a pound!..( well I might) ……..and it’s all free! Thanks to YOU!!!
    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you for taking us all along! What a very special gift this is!
    I feel like I just won the trip of a life time! All us SB friends and family are going to fill up the boat with all our love and best wishes to you and Joe! Can’t Wait!!!
    Wish I could at least be in NYC waving goodbye to you! Bon Voyage!!!!…………

  65. Hello Susan! It’s me, at last! I’ve finished work. My parents are all moved in to their new home. Kids are finished with school. Gardening jobs are finished, mine and others. AND My daughter is all graduated 🙂

    I’ve also had a delicious visit with Rosinda and her family. WE are kindreds. I do love when that happens. her family are very dear. One day we’ll be up to Ontario, too 🙂

    I also had a visit with my friend in Finland which was a delight, too 🙂 we spent a long time together which went too fast 🙁

    and a short visit with a cousin in British Columbia 🙂

    I’ve been off work a week now and finally started catching up with my own blog and have been itching to go to England with you 🙂

    I’m off now… hope I don’t send too many comments for you to moderate 😉

    one question… what’s the name of the dogwood? I’d love to get one and call it Susan’s Joe, or JoSusan or something.

    Oh! Rosinda got a picture of my Mr. Jim Bird 🙂 He’s hopping around happily still.

    Off to the next post 🙂
    Denise of Ingleside, PEI

    • sbranch says:

      It’s just dogwood I think. But not Kousa. And look at you, all the places you’ve been. We missed you!!! Welcome back! xoxo

  66. Joan Lesmeister says:

    I’m listening to the rain & enjoying this blog! We’re supposed to get rain here in NoCal next week – yay! I’ll be making your corn chowder!!! xoxo

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