JetPens Interview – Kathy Donovan from the Letter Writers Alliance

An interview series featuring notable people within the pen, art, and design worlds. Kathy Zadrozny and Donovan Beeson are the dynamic duo behind 16 Sparrows. Their partnership led them to create the Letter Writers Alliance in 2007, out of their passion for the art of letter writing. Since then, their organization has been constantly expanding as they increase traffic to the post office.

image courtesy of Letter Writers Alliance

Please tell us about yourself and what you do.

We are a group for letter lovers, both new and old, with the mission to encourage mail art and letter writing. In this era of instantaneous communication, a handwritten letter is a rare and wondrous item and the Letter Writers Alliance is dedicated to preserving it. We offer membership to the L.W.A., which makes you privy to exclusive letter writing items and tools. We also host monthly letter socials that are open to all, which turns the solitary act of letter writing into a social event. By offering the use of typewriters and free stationery at these socials we hope we can get other people excited about letter writing. With this combination of online presence and in-person gatherings we strive to give people the tools to maintain the art of letter writing. At this moment we have over 3700 members and we continue to grow every day.

How did the Letter Writers Alliance come about?

The Letter Writers Alliance exists because Kathy and I grew tired of hearing people say that they loved letters, but that nobody writes them anymore. We heard this a hundred times in a day. A light bulb just went off for both of us: what if we could link up these people, who participate in a solitary art, and connect them so they don’t feel like the only ones anymore? We decided to create the Alliance to network those letter lovers together. We created a website and came up with a concept for what a membership would entail and what kind of perks came with it.

image courtesy of Letter Writers Alliance

Members are privy to free downloads of stationery and cards, and exclusive products and projects, and we run a blog three times a week open to the public with all the goings on in the letter writing world. We also offer a pen pal swap between members, run mail art contests, and have a special currency that members can earn through community involvement and then turn in for free things. We use tools like Twitter and email to keep our members informed on the latest postal news, etc. We always tell people that we aren’t anti-email; we’re just pro real-mail. Mainly, we just want people to write more letters. Membership lasts for a lifetime and can be purchased for $5 through our website.

What are the top 3 ingredients to writing a great letter?

1. Just write

Start writing letters and stop making excuses. So what if it’s been forever? Write now!

2. Be yourself

image courtesy of Letter Writers Alliance

We get a lot of questions about the “proper”, “right”, or “best” way to write a letter. The answer isn’t that straightforward. It all depends on who you are writing to, the old adage of know your audience; a great letter to your grandmother is not the same as a great letter to your pen pal in London. A good rule of thumb is to write about what interests you. Our friend Carolee of GOOD MAIL DAY has a great thing she does called “Snapshot” where you describe for the reader what it is you’re seeing/smelling/hearing/tasting right in the moment when you’re writing.

3. Ask questions

A final tip is to ask questions of your recipient which will hopefully spur them on when they write you back.

Do you have any upcoming projects or events we should look out for?

image courtesy of Letter Writers Alliance

We will be releasing a new project called I.R. Ops in a few weeks. It expands upon our mail adventure project, Initiative Response, and puts you in the place of an Operative thrown into a world you had no idea existed. Your objective is to empower the mail, but who is the enemy? Your missions will force you to push the concept of what mail is. Expect to solve puzzles and unravel mysteries, all through the magic of the postal system.

We are also hosting more letter socials this year and have started holding workshops. While letter socials are more of a gathering, our workshops focus on a particular aspect of our mail-loving world. In less then two hours you learn all about what and how to make your mail more fun. We post L.W.A. hosted events on the sidebar of our blog and we keep all the letter related events that we know of on our calendar.

What are your top favorite JetPens tools and why?

Donovan: Oh boy. How many can I list? I have a Kokuyo Kadokeshi 28-Corner Eraser that lives in my pen case. I also have a ceramic pen cutter which I no longer see listed on the site, but there are others like it. It’s a great addition to any on-the-go kit because it allows for precise cuts and is airplane safe. I love my Kaweco Sport roller balls and have multiple so that I can have different ink colors available. And I haven’t found a better metallic ink than the J. Herbin Encre in Copper. It’s gorgeous. I think I’m using it on my wedding invitations.

Kathy: I am absolutely in love with my Kaweco Classic Sport fountain pens. I have the clear body and the black body. They are both my go-to pens for everything and are great with the added clip. The J. Herbin 1670 Anniversary Fountain Pen Ink – Rouge Hematite continues to be one of my most favorite red inks. The slight gold sheen in the red when you write is just awesome. I also really like the Midori Brass Bullet Pencil Holder. I can throw it in my bag or clip it to a book and not have to worry about it poking or marking my stuff, and the eraser works great. The brass also gets a great patina as you use it.

Some of Donovan and Kathy’s favorite JetPens tools:

Have any advice on how we can keep the art of letter writing alive?

image courtesy of Letter Writers Alliance

Write a letter! Write it now! You don’t need anything special. You can write something as simple as “I thought about you today” on a small napkin. Any tangible message will brighten a person’s day! You just need to take a little time and reconnect with your world, with yourself and with someone else. Pretty powerful stuff for just one little letter. You have to write a letter to get a letter.