Last year, I spotted something interesting in a local independent book store: Snail Mail My Email: Handwritten Letters in a Digital World. From the book description provided:
Feeling nostalgic for the almost forgotten written letter, author and former ad man Ivan Cash fell upon a simple idea: he invited anyone in the world to send him an email, and he’d write it out in a letter and mail it, for free. Participants could even request a doodle or to seal it with a kiss.
What started out as a personal art project exploded into a worldwide event. As requests poured in, Cash enlisted an international army of volunteers who helped create more than 10,000 letters sent all over the globe.
I bought the book, and read it, and was intrigued. I decided I’d like to take part if the project took place again. And so, when the annual Snail Mail My Email event happened earlier this month, I was a part of it!
In short, people who want an email message sent as a physical letter send it to the Snail Mail My Email project, which distributes the emails to its volunteers, who write the messages out, stuff them in envelopes, stamp them, & send them off to the intended recipients.
I received 20 e-messages to turn physical & mail along, and you see the results in the images above. My letters went to Canada, Estonia, and the United Kingdom, as well as several destinations here in the U.S.: California, Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Wisconsin, West Virginia–and even Puerto Rico. The forwarded emails came in one at a time, throughout the day, throughout the week. I tried to do a few at a time, so they would not stack up on me; this was a very time-consuming activity! Some people have interesting requests, some easily created a spark in my mind as to how to put them on paper, and some notes made me think a lot about what to do to make them interesting to the recipient.
There was one person who was clearly NOT Santa Claus, but was impersonating the old guy in order to try to control their children. Lots of uses of the words “be good” and “obey.” I passed that one by the real Santa, who rewrote the message in his own words, and gave it back to me to send along. Yes, I know Santa. Some time ago, I helped Santa Claus answer his mail–and it’s something you can do, too.
I don’t know that I would take part in Snail Mail My Email again, but it is a very interesting project, and at many times, a fun one. I am happy that I was a part of it this time around. The question that intensified in my mind over the course of the project week–and in the weeks since–is: why don’t these people write the letters to their friends, children & lovers themselves? Why pass what are in some cases very private & intimate words through multiple strangers? Honestly, I think that in some cases, the recipients of these handwritten letters are going to be angry over the filtering through third parties.
I hope that this project inspires the email writers, and the letter recipients, to create their own snail mail, no matter how complicated or simple. The less people use paper, pens, stamps and letter carriers, the more it means.