July 30, 2012 at 3:13 PM ET
"We have all these books of letters, but we're never going to have a book of emails," Stephen Elliott, the editor of literary website Rumpus, lamented.
He's had that unfortunate theory on his mind for a long while, particularly while editing and sending out a regular email newsletter to his site's readers. About a year ago, he finally wondered: "Wouldn't it be cool to send out an actual physical letter?"
He contacted all the authors he could think of and asked them to participate in the plan he'd cooked up, a service called Letters in the Mail. It would be simple. All the authors simply have to write a letter — it could be drawn, handwritten, typed, anything — and then Elliott and his staff would photocopy it, stuff some envelopes and head to the post office.
It would be like an old-school newsletter — you know, like the kind that people relied on before email was popular — but it would perhaps encourage people to rekindle their love with letter writing along the way. And if that love is indeed rekindled, some of the authors include their own addresses, to encourage burgeoning pen-pal relationships.
There have been several back-and-forth exchanges of correspondences as a result, says Elliott, who adds, "I feel like it's a lost art."
In another throwback to the days before digital, you actually have to pay for this service. You have to shell out five bucks a month for Elliott's service, which will get you three correspondences. If you've got a youngster, you can sign him or her up for Letters for Kids, the recently launched extension of Letters in the Mail. That one will cost you $4.50 per month for two letters from children's book authors.
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