"Or don't you like to write letters. I do because it's such a swell way to keep from working and yet feel you've done something." ~Ernest Hemingway
August 22, 2011 5:17 AM   Subscribe

Post A Letter Social Activity Club: "Imagine a day when every personal e-mail you receive is in the form of a piece of mail, in envelopes of different sizes, papers of different colours and textures, handwriting of varying degrees of legibility. Wouldn’t that be pretty nice for a change?"

"Post A Letter Social Activity Club (Pal-Sac) is an event open to everyone that takes place in cities and towns around the world. We seek to promote letter writing as a social and political tool, as well as a powerful generator of love, surprises, anticipation, relaxation and fun!

Pal-Sac was conceived in January, 2009. The idea traveled with Angel Chen to many cities, appeared briefly in various forms, and finally emerged in its current incarnation in October 2010 in Toronto.

Angel is working to bring Pal-Sac to more cities worldwide."

How exactly does it work?

Exactly how it sounds, show up and write a letter or two with a group of other people also writing letters. By letters, we mean anything that involves the postal system: a postcard, a personal letter, a political letter, a package, a special occasion card, fan mail, mail art, prank mail, or something experimental. More information about how it all works.

Current Locations:

Toronto – West
Second and fourth Monday, 7-11pm, NACO Gallery Cafe1665 Dundas St. WestContact Angel at toronto [at] pal-sac [dot] com

Second and fourth Tuesday, 7 – 11 pm, at Lyst – Jægersborggade 56Contact Alison and Mealane at copenhagen [at] pal-sac [dot] com

Toronto – East
First Monday, 7 – 10 pm, at The Avro750b Queen St. EastContact Angel at toronto [at] pal-sac [dot] com

Brandon Manitoba
Second and forth Monday, 7 – 11 pm, at Forbidden Flavours1060 18th St.
Contact Chris at brandon [dot] manitoba [at] pal-sac [dot] com

Third Monday, 7 – 10 pm, at Our Town Cafe245 Broadway EastContact Rebecca at vancouver [at] pal-sac [dot] com

Montreal – Guy-Concordia
Every other week at The 2110 Centre of Gender Advocacy.
Contact Amber at montreal [dot] 2110 [at] pal-sac [dot] com

Montreal – Mile end
Coming soon to Drawn & Quarterly!Contact Patricia at montreal [at] pal-sac [dot] com

Springfield, Missouri
Coming soon to The Coffee EthicContact Hannah at springfield [dot] missouri [at] pal-sac [dot] com
posted by Fizz (18 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
"Imagine a day when every personal e-mail you receive is in the form of a piece of mail, in envelopes of different sizes, papers of different colours and textures, handwriting of varying degrees of legibility. Wouldn’t that be pretty nice for a change?"

Oh, dear gods, no. How would I file it all?
posted by Faint of Butt at 5:21 AM on August 22, 2011

I still write a fair number of letters and post cards and things, but I think of it as a solitary activity -- usually me in a coffee shop with some stationary, pens, and stamps. What is the advantage of doing it in a group?
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:26 AM on August 22, 2011

What is the advantage of doing it in a group?

The same advantages that sex alone VERSUS sex with a partner has.
posted by Fizz at 5:28 AM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

The same advantages that sex alone VERSUS sex with a partner has.

You do write letters for someone else to read, don't you? If not, I think you may be doing it wrong.

This is more like: I like reading; reading would be more fun in a group! Which in my experience, leads to a lot of talking and not much reading. Which is OK, good even, but it's not reading....
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:35 AM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

My point is that... just like sex, it is far more entertaining with some company.
posted by Fizz at 5:36 AM on August 22, 2011

I read this as "Imagine a day when every personal email you receive comes in different download sizes with different backgrounds and fonts... so basically 2002, except it also requires cutting down trees and costs money!"

I get nostalgia, and I'm willing to entertain some people's claims that the rapidity of modern communication may be a detriment to writing skills or something. But the solution to road rage isn't to go back to horses and buggies, the solution to a clogged toilet isn't to go back to outhouses, and in my personal view the wasteful practice of physical paper messages would be the solution to pretty much nothing if we spent a tenth of the USPS's effort on providing ubiquitous access to email.
posted by Riki tiki at 5:46 AM on August 22, 2011 [4 favorites]

Well, you would be surprised. Writing letters in proximity to strangers and non-strangers alike is in fact a very sociable activity, not to mention that many of us just need that group support to pick up our pens and hand write anything.

This is really true. I worked for many years at a summer camp. Part of the deal was that kids had to send a peice of mail home to their families once every week - we collected up the letters on Sunday dinner. And in general, there was a lot of letter writing. So we often had activity periods in which kids could choose "Letter Writing" as their activity for an hour.

It was really pleasant. We'd find a shady spot, either on one of the docks by the creek or under the trees on a flat wooden stage. People would bring their notebooks or their nifty stationery and check out what kinds of paper and pens each other had. Some kids would sit back-to-back and lean against each other to write; others would pick a tree to lean on or lay flat on the deck. A comfortable quiet would descend as people alternately wrote, stared at the sky, or spoke softly to each other now and then to ask how to spell a word or something like that. The scritching of pencils mixed with the sound of birds and breezes in the trees and splashing from canoeing activities.

As the semi-adult counselors, we also did a lot of letter-writing. There was no internet at camp in the late 80s/early 90s. So all of us had a packet, tin, or folder of letter-writing stuff and would use our off times to catch up on writing. I miss the quiet sight of seeing people sitting out writing on paper. Mail call was the highlight of the day.

I don't get the hate on paper mail. It's a lovely thing, and compared to the amount of materials and energy we spend shipping boxes of air or plastic bubbles around thanks to e-commerce, it's a tiny drop in the environmental bucket. Over the last year I've tried to get better at sending 'real mail' by lowering the bar - instead of expecting myself to write a full-length letter, I'll write a notecard or postcard with just a casual message on it - a "thank you" or "we enjoyed your party" or "we're sorry we can't come to your party" or "saw this and thought of you." A few weeks ago I was staying in a classic historic hotel and they had some terrific, retro stationery, and I couldn't resist the opportunity to write my brother a silly little letter on it and drop it in the brass mail chute. It's a pretty big lift in a regular day to get something other than a bill, and handmade to boot.

I've seen a few 'revive letter writing!' schemes come and go, but I like the sound of this one, because it makes it social, something people are craving these days. I could see hosting one. I do think the marketing/naming of it is a little oblique. I felt like I had to do an unnecessary amount of exploring to figure out what the project was, and like others I at first thought this was something that formatted your actual e-mail with graphics to make it look like snail mail. It could stand some simplification. But on the whole,I'm totally in favor.
posted by Miko at 6:05 AM on August 22, 2011 [7 favorites]

I was prolific correspondent until email changed everything but today I wonder if I'd even be able to write using a pen and paper.
posted by infini at 6:24 AM on August 22, 2011

in my personal view the wasteful practice of physical paper messages would be the solution to pretty much nothing

Well, I send a lot of postcards when I travel. I get postcards from people who travel, or sometimes from people who just want to say "hi" or engage in a little art (I have a friend who modifies postcards quite wonderfully). I enjoy both sending and receiving these little moments of attention.

An email has an entirely different feel -- I am generally not interested in saving emails, whereas I like to dig through my old mail files occasionally and look at the record of decades of friendships. Additionally, getting a postcard of a kitten with some amusing alterations to the image = win; getting and email with a cat macro = looking to get filtered....
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:55 AM on August 22, 2011

My sister and I fell out of touch for a number of years and it wasn't until we started a physical mail correspondance that we were able to get over it. Writing a letter by hand or on a typewriter gives a sense of weight to the action that firing off an email just does not. We both found we were much more honest, open, and went further in depth with physical correspondence.

I have a number of people with whom I exchange letters, actually.

Staring down at a blank page knowing what I write cannot be erased really makes me write better letters. There is also a sense of drama to it, because you could be writing from anywhere rather than on your computer. I always try to set the scene in the first sentence or two.
posted by nathancaswell at 7:05 AM on August 22, 2011 [3 favorites]

What I'd like is a way to handwrite emails. All the personality of handwriting with all the environmental advantages of email.
posted by storybored at 7:53 AM on August 22, 2011

> a way to handwrite emails.

I envisioned trying to read this comment thread as a series of handwritten pages.
I'm sure it would be lovely.* Simple matter of programming, right?

Can't you just take your iPhone and wave it in the air as though you were writing with it on a blackboard with chalk, and have the thing turn that into a drawing line that will come out cursive?

It'd be a combination of Tai Chi and penmanship -- also interesting to do in social groups.
* Once. Maybe. If I were very, very patient and had nothing else to do.
posted by hank at 8:23 AM on August 22, 2011

What I'd like is a way to handwrite emails.

I have spent decades training my correspondents to read my bizarre penmanship. They suffer through it because they love me so. I can't imagine that you want to sign on for the same long misery (despite the joy my comments bring).
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:33 AM on August 22, 2011

I love writing by hand, and frequently get nostalgic for handwritten correspondence, but letter writing isn't really a social activity. I'm not sure how this works... you sit next to a bunch of people and chat, and write a letter to another person? Isn't that sort of like trying to have two conversations at once?

Even if it was a brilliant idea, flawlessly executed, and with free beer, you'd have a really hard time getting me to go to anything called "Pal-Sac."
posted by Metroid Baby at 9:23 AM on August 22, 2011

The name is a big problem.
posted by Miko at 10:37 AM on August 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Is this something that you'd need to have intelligible handwriting to do? 'Cause handwritten notes from me might as well be ROT13 for as much sense as they make to anyone else.
posted by octothorpe at 11:35 AM on August 22, 2011

handwriting of varying degrees of legibility

I think you just hit on why email is better.
posted by triolus at 1:02 PM on August 22, 2011

I don't see why emails and letters have to compete. This isn't threatening email, and the threat of 'paper wastage' is laughable - this is using paper, keeping it, often treasuring it, rather than using it to show someone a graph or wrap around a disposable novelty.

I often exchange letters with friends and family. I have a closer relationship with my sister because of it - letter writing (for me, it doesn't have to work this way for you) enables a more natural conversation, and a more intimate correspondence, than emails ever did. Sure, it would be possible for the same words to be sent via email, but before we started writing letters it never happened.

More than that though, it's something I enjoy for its own sake. I bought a pack of nicely yellowed airmail envelopes from a little store in rural PNG (where they were in common use), and write with a fountain pen and an ink that I blended from two others, and I thoroughly enjoy sitting down, outside, with the occassional scratch of the pen as I try to craft a letter worthy of the paper its written on.
posted by twirlypen at 12:19 AM on August 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

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