Category Archives: books

How to write more fun mail – Part 2

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Samara O’Shea’s For the Love of Letters.  (Portrait of the author via.)

Now that we’ve got materials under our belt, how about finding some other sources for inspiration?

For the Love of Letters holds a special place in my heart as it is peppered with funny, heart-wrenching and self-deprecating anecdotes from Samara O’Shea’s life that, naturally, become the fuel for her art.  In addition to her own missives, this book features letters penned by the likes of Marie Antoinette, Beethoven and Emily Post, as a means to instruct and offer advice on how to express oneself on the page.  You can read an excerpt  of the book and her latest musings on Letter Lover.  In addition to publishing her latest title,  Note to Self:  On Keeping a Journal and Other Dangerous Pursuits, O’Shea also offers her services as a hired gun.  I’m intrigued – I wonder what her most unusual letter request was for?

 

I made a mental note to find John Kralik’s book, 365 Thank Yous , after listening to his author interview on NPR.  A short and sweet memoir,  what struck me was his candor in describing the many ways in which 2007 almost broke him.  A turbulent period of personal and professional challenges, as the year draws to a close , Kralik resolves to turn things around in some small way, by writing a thank you note a day.   I imagine anyone who has received some unsolicited words of gratitude for acts, big and small,  would be proud to receive one of Kralik’s missives.  He is a keen observer and a lively narrator.   While not a “how to” manual by any means, this book certainly gives me aspirations to convey with the same sort of humour and sincerity Kralik does, a deeper appreciation for the people in my life.   And if that involves pen and paper, all the better!

image via

Okay, you’re sick to death of the feel-good instruction manuals and memoirs.  May I suggest a novel about the disappearance of an eccentric genius,  told entirely through correspondence between her family, friends and enemies?  I just finished Maria Semple’s Where’d You Go, Bernadette and would recommend it to anyone looking for a great read this summer.

Illustrated letter by Edward Gorey in the book Floating Worlds. Via

If you’re fan of Edward Gorey’s illustrations, you’ll enjoy Floating Worlds: The Letters of Edward Gorey and Peter F. Neumeyer.  Featuring letters and illustrated envelopes from a year long correspondence in the late ’60s, it appears to offer some amazing images and insight into the minds of two creative intellectuals.  Enjoy more examples of his illustrated works and a review of the book at  Brain Pickings.  And while you’re at  the Brain Picking’s site,  read the hilarious over-the-top, apology letter by Lewis Carroll which  is featured in the review for Charles Osgood’s  Funny Letters From Famous People.

Another gem of a site is Letters of Note, curated by Shaun Usher and described as an “attempt to gather and sort fascinating letters, postcards, telegrams, faxes, and memos.”  It is an eclectic collection, from Annie Leibovitz to Walt Whitman.  One of my favourites has got to be from the dynamic duo of  Dr Honeydew and Beaker to the Mars Rover Mission team. Read the full transcript here.

(Letter originally posted on Muppet Wiki by Scott Hanson. )

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Summer reading list: Tales of adventure

At the St. Lawrence Antiques market

At the St. Lawrence Antiques market

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Last summer was all about creating my own adventures abroad – from wandering the streets of Paris to hiking old growth forests along the Sunshine Coast.  In contrast, this year will be marked by exploring hidden gems closer to home and embracing my inner hermit.   This season, when the yen to pack my bags arises, I figure I will sate myself with a killer summer reading list to live vicariously through.

I just finished Bonnie Jo Campbell‘s unflinching and fierce coming of age novel,  Once Upon a River.  It got me thinking about other books I’ve enjoyed that tapped into my enthusiasm for tales of extreme adventure, survival and the relationship we have with nature.

If you have similar tastes, I’d love some suggestions to add to my list of must-reads.  Off the top of my head, here are some enduring favourites (click on the images for links to the authors):

“Uncertain as I was as I pushed forward, I felt right in my pushing, as if the effort itself meant something. That perhaps being amidst the undesecrated beauty of the wilderness meant I too could be undesecrated, regardless of what I’d lost or what had  been taken from me, regardless of the regrettable things I’d done to others or myself or the regrettable things that had been done to me.  Of all the things I’d been skeptical about, I didn’t feel skeptical about this: the wilderness had a clarity that included me.  

-excerpted from Wild by Cheryl Strayed
 
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