Thursday, July 17, 2014

Guest Blogger - David L. Atkinson, Writer

by Bert Carson
This is my friend, David L. Atkinson, of Mirfield, West Yorkshire, UK.  We've been cyber acquaintances for a few years and we even bumped into each other briefly on a Google+ hangout.  Now we're friends.  The shift from cyber acquaintance to friend happened when we began corresponding by the vintage handwritten letter method.  In my last letter to David, I asked if he would write a guest blog for Corresponding Writers.  An hour or so after the letter arrived at his house, he sent the following post.  Enjoy.


It is interesting thinking back over the years about my writing experiences and at times it has been somewhat painful.  As a child attending infant school (5-7 years) I was under the tutelage of a bit of a harridan Mrs Dobson.  It was my misfortune to repeatedly pick up the pencil presented to me in my left hand, which in 1955 was almost a cardinal sin.  I was repeatedly whacked over the knuckles until I picked up the pen in the 'correct' hand.  So it was a wonder I ever wrote with a pen.

Moving on - my father was quite strict about the quality of my written work and if he spotted me making a mistake and crossing out he would make me start again.  He wasn't being unkind but wanting me to do my best, so there was no punishment attached to my making a mistake.

So the early years weren't easy for me writing on paper and the advent of computers was a godsend, but the intervening years had various writing experiences that were memorable.

At the age of 14, I began  dating a girl which led to writing love letters and fifty years on I still remember the thrill of receiving a handwritten reply.

When I  left home to go to college four years later I was partially supported by my parents and as this was before the time that they had a house phone I used to write a letter every week and woe betide if it was late in arriving! This went on for the full three years and for sometime afterwards, because it was 1979, and the birth of the first grandson, when mum and dad finally agreed to have a phone put in the house. Then the letters stopped.

At that point the world began to change and change rapidly.
When I was teaching science in the middle school, the government gave schools a computer. There was a total lack of knowledge and understanding about the machines so schools gave the machines into the care of the science or maths teacher. It was my good fortune that in our school it went to the science department - me!

Really, since then I have rarely written a letter except in anger and yet  I must have missed the experience. It has been a positive action becoming involved in corresponding writers and writing and receiving a letter through the post stamped Huntsville, Alabama. As I understand it there are numerous other people involved in this form of communication. There is something more tangible about a communication that has been physically worked on to paper, each stroke by a human hand holding a fountain pen. It is a real connection and I would advise all who had time to try it for a while, it is every bit as addictive as writing fiction but less on sided!

David L Atkinson

David, thanks for the blog. However, don't think for a minute this counts as a letter. You still owe me one.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Cards and Letters - Traveling Ambassadors

by Bert Carson
Today, I'm sending this vintage post card to Angela in Taiwan.  Postcrossing randomly selected her name and furnished a copy of her profile.  As I read it, I noted that she likes vintage post cards and she listed the camel as one of her favorite animals, so naturally I selected a card that fits both those preferences.

Angela also had the following note on her profile telling how she feels about the post cards she receives.

"You might live far from me.  What you see and what you have experienced are totally different from me.  A postcard carries the temperature, the scent, the sound, the culture, the history, and more about your country.  It travels across the continents and arrives in my mailbox.  The day I look at this postcard that you have sent to me, it will be as if I were in your home town.  What a magic moment."

What can I add to that?  Nothing.  So I won't.  Instead I'll rush to get Angela's Camel in the mail and on the way to her mailbox today.

If you'd like to know more about Postcrossing here's a link to a blog post that gives the particulars, complete with links to their site.

Sunday, July 6, 2014


by Bert Carson
photo by Hans-Georg Beyer - Germany
If you follow this blog or my main blog site, you know that I've gotten into a vintage social media (hand written letters) in a big way.  Thanks to InCoMoWri, I've acquired a number of pen pals around the planet.

Now, thanks to Postcrossing, I've established international links with even more real people.  Postcrossing (contact links below) is a free postcard exchange service for people interested in exchanging post cards with other people around the world.

The concept in a sentence is, "Send a post card and receive a postcard back from a random person in the world."

There's just one catch.  Unlike internet social media, once you receive a postcard, the person who sent it stops being a random person to you.  That's not a catch actually.  In fact, its the marvel of Postcrossing.

Here's a real life example of how it works.  Postcrossing gave me Hans-Georg Beyer, of Germany, as a recipient for a postcard.  I read his profile and saw he was interested in Lighthouses.  On June 24th, I sent him a postcard with a photo of Highlands Lighthouse (from the Cape Code lighthouse postcard book I purchased from  When Hans-Georg received the card he registered it on Postcrossing and commented that he liked it.  I received his notification of receipt along with his comment via email.  That meant two things.  First, I could request another address and second, I could respond to Hans-Georg's message via email.

I did both.  The following day I had another comment from Hans-Georg through Postcrossing.  Through our email correspondence, which began with a postcard, I learned that, among a number of other things, he is an amateur photographer who displays his work on fotocommunity.  I asked him if I could use one of his photos to illustrate this blog post and he quickly agreed.

If you would like to know more about Postcrossing, here's the link.  If you want to know more about the creator of Postcrossing and the team that makes it happen, here's the link.

In our impersonal world, which is growing more virtual every day, Postcrossing is a breath of fresh air.  Pick up a few postcards, sign up, request an address, or two, or as many as five to start with, and start writing and mailing.

If you aren't quite sure - take a minute and watch this delightful video of real people around the world mailing postcards.

Five years of smiles @ Postcrossing! from meiadeleite on Vimeo.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Yvonne Kirk - My Pen Pal

by Bert Carson
Photo by Yvonne Kirk
I've been a fountain pen geek since way before there was a definition for one. From the first fountain pen I purchased in 1967 at a Post Exchange in Vietnam, to the one I received last Saturday, I've owned many of them.

It's hard to explain a fountain pen addiction, so until recently I didn't talk about it.  Then a funny thing happened.  I found that I'm not alone in this strange addiction.  There are people all over the  planet who are as addicted as I am, and in some cases, more addicted than I.  Discovering that was refreshing and made it easier to talk about.  So I joined Fountain Pen Geeks, and I began prowling the many blogs devoted to fountain pens and fine paper.

On the 12th of February, I chanced across the InCoWriMo site.  The objective of the site is to promote correspondence the old fashioned way - with pen, paper, envelopes, and stamps.  The price of admission is simple:
1. Agree to answer all letters you receive.
2. Add your name and address to the list of participants.
3. Write one letter a day for a month, either to someone from your personal list or someone on the InCoWriMo list.

The issue I had was the month specified for letter writing,   February, which was almost half over.  I took a deep breath and added my name to the list.  Then I picked a bunch of names and began writing.  Just as the post office was closing that afternoon, I mailed my first three letters.  On the 28th, I mailed my 30th.

From that start, I've connected with a number of people who have become regular pen pals.  Among them, Yvonne Kirk, my friend from Australia who is a true Renaissance Woman.  Yvonne is a wife, mother, photographer, controller of trains, runner, calligrapher, and that's just the beginning.  Also on my list of pen pals is a teacher from Bangkok, an artist in Seattle and another in New Hampshire, a minister and a writer in the U.K., a machinist in Alabama, an entrepreneur in Mexico, a lawyer in Texas, and... well you get the ideal.

If you'd like to explore the original social media, put your name on the list, grab your pen and paper, pick a name from the list, and start writing.


Monday, March 17, 2014

The Pen – Mightier than Cupid’s Arrow Too

by Christina Carson

Within the last two months, my husband Bert has renewed his association with something he’s been enamored with since Vietnam, the fountain pen. I smiled as he gifted me with the first pen (“fountain” is now to be understood) I’ve had in my hands for years, and as I began to refresh my penmanship with this pen, a flood of memories accompanied that gift.

You see letter writing was the cradle that rocked Bert and me into a beautifully loving relationship. We had met the night my boss dragged me out to a talk Bert and his partner were giving on a speaking tour. I didn’t want to go anywhere that cold, rainy night. I didn’t want to be there. So I sat far back in the crowd waiting until the talk was over. Then a small group decided to go out to supper with the speakers, something Bert rarely did, he told me years later. I had to go along because my ride was among them. I again sat as far from the crowd as I could to at least have quiet, if not my cozy book at home. But who should wander down and sit across from me but Bert. Our conversation that night centered on him being a Vietnam vet and me a war protestor as small talk had never been my deal. It was an extraordinary exchange, and from it, we decided to correspond with each other, as we had so much more to explore. Thus began a letter writing campaign that moved through exploring the war, to sharing our values and philosophies to the recognition that we had each found in one another a great love.

We filled 7 ½ journals; my Virgo husband-to-be coming up with a system where we each had one to write in and one always in the mail enroute. Our pens flowed, our thoughts flowed with them and then our loved flowed through it all. We wrote for 3 ½ years before we saw each other again, but the power of the pen sustained us, kept us in touch as ink flowed onto paper; for thoughts and ideas have a life of their own, a power to effect that appears to be enlivened by the act of writing them down.

Email is there, along with all the social media that exists and it has a place in 21st century communication. But don’t ever fool yourself. Nothing will ever replace the power of a handwritten letter to connect and maintain relationships or to be an emissary of truth or love.

Life is about connection. Come join Corresponding Writers and put some meaningful exchange, wit and friendship back into your life, through our mutual regard for handwritten letters. 

Mail Call

Every afternoon at the 214th Combat Aviation Battalion, Corporal Fleury raised the 4' X 4" shutter that covered the outside access to the mail room, and shouted, "Mail call," even though he knew without looking up from the task that he was wasting his breath, since every man not on duty somewhere away from the company area, was already standing a few feet away from the window, waiting and hoping that he would call their name.

Such was the power of a letter, or just the possibility of getting a letter from someone who cared enough to take out a piece of paper and pen and write a few lines.   A letter meant someone was thinking about you and they wanted you know it.  Hell, even a dear john letter was better than no letter at all.

The power of a letter hasn't diminished.  We have.  Think about it.  A New Age definition for a human is energetic being.  Without getting too philosophical, I'll say, if we are energetic beings, it stands to reason that we have available a measurable amount of energy at any one time.  The allocation of our energy supply is in our hands.  In this world of clamoring distractions, it's easy to give up energy with no consideration of the ultimate costs.

If you've ever said, "I don't have time," or "there is no way I'll finish this in time," or more wistfully, "If I just had the time...," then there's a good chance that it's time for you to recall your energy.  When you've brought it home, reevaluate your expenditure of energy.  Consider the investment vs. the return.

Here's a suggestion.  Use some of that energy to send someone a letter.  A real paper, pen, ink, and stamp letter.  If you want to know why, do this - as you pen your letter, bring all of your attention to the point of the pen and hold it there as you write.  When you finish writing, as you are folding the pages and putting them in an envelope, consider the experience and ask yourself if it was worth the energy you invested in it.  

Friday, March 14, 2014

I Double Dog Dare You To...

Double Dog Dare
When I was a kid, a very, very, long time ago, the phrase, "I double dog dare you," rang up and down our block more often even than one or the other of our mothers calling us in to eat, or go to bed, or do our homework.

A double dog dare stopped all play and all conversation, because it was important.  A double dog dare was, in fact, one of us kids challenging another, to just try something, something the presenter of the dare had usually tried him or herself and wanted to know what the kid being dared thought of it after trying it.

In that same spirit, I double dog dare you to write me (or anyone else on the list above) a letter.  Before you say something like, "I don't have time for that," or "My handwriting really sucks," or anything else that doesn't have anything at all to do with the dare, just go ahead, get out a pencil, pen, or crayon, find a sheet of paper and write a letter - write how stupid this idea is, write that you don't have time, write that your handwriting sucks, but write it on paper then click here, find my address, write it on your envelope, put on a stamp, and mail it.

I double dog dare you.