Samara O'Shea

Archive for the ‘Letter Writing Campaigns’ Category

The Winning Essay Blog Post is Live Now:

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009

The formal announcement for the essay contest winner is now live. It’s not terribly different than what’s written below, it’s just more colorful with a slightly different introduction.

And the Winner Is . . .

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009

I am excited to informally announce the winner of the essay contest I hosted with The formal announcement will be posted over there. But in the meantime, here is the winning essay by Don Blankenship of Ohio followed by a transcript of the letter that he’s held onto for so long. The letter seems simple at first, but the last two lines get me (and I imagine Don) every time I read it. I can see how those words of encouragement—especially written by someone you love—could move you again and again.

Letter from a Poignant Pen
By Don Blankenship

At the time, it didn’t seem like much, a handwritten note scribbled on rose colored stationary. Gripped with the excitement of my impending high school graduation, I nonchalantly tucked it into a shoe box in my closet. When things died down, I would make the time to send the obligatory thank-you note. After all, my grandmother would understand. She knew how I had worked for this moment, and she would want me to take the time to revel in my success. Her closing lines had summarized this fact so succinctly: “Remember to stop and enjoy the view, but never dally too long, there are other mountains to climb. You, dear one, are among the best of mountaineers.”

Characteristic of her lighthearted sense of humor, she had made a reference to my West Virginia heritage. In the Mountain State, I had grown-up surrounded by my large immediate family: two brothers, two sisters, and myself. My parents worked diligently to meet our necessities, and as the family’s self proclaimed teenage rebel, I hadn’t made their lives easy. I was constantly skipping school, falling in with the wrong crowd, and testing any authority figure that would muster the courage to produce a challenge. My younger years were driven by vain attempts for attention—a product of intense sibling rivalry. I craved the spotlight and was less than reticent in securing its glow.

My grandmother, who lived several hours away in Northern Ohio, had sensed this longing. Although our relationship had consisted of a few stolen moments during school breaks and on holidays, somehow, she had a special way of making me feel important. At times, it seemed as if I was the only person in her world. My success and happiness took precedent above her personal indulgences. Freely she offered devotion, and as a young egotist, I satiated myself in her attention. Of course, a milestone such as my graduation would warrant a written response. While the letter wasn’t particularly lengthy, I could almost feel the emotion emanate from its pages.

I never got around to writing that thank you letter. Grandma died that summer of cardiovascular disease; however, the letter she wrote is no longer relegated to the recesses of my closet. It sits neatly folded in a decorative glass jar on my nightstand. When the obstacles seem too multiple to bear or my heart is filled with bliss over life’s numerous joys, I remove the letter and savor its wisdom. It comforted me with the death of a close aunt, and I chuckled as I read it the day I graduated from college. Somewhere located in those few scrawled lines her spirit lives, continuing to reach out with so much consideration left to give.

Dear Grandson,

Congratulations on your graduation. I knew you could do it! Unfortunately, I cannot be there to watch you walk across the stage, but know that I am rooting for you. You have made me very proud.

It seems that only yesterday you were a baby, and now you are crossing one of life’s major milestones. Education is the stepping stone on the path to greatness, and you are well on your way. Remember to stop and enjoy the view, but never dally too long, there are mountains to climb. You, dear one, are among the best of mountaineers.

With much love,

End of the Line

Thursday, April 30th, 2009

Here it is. The final day of April. It’s been an exhausting month. I’ve sent and unsent 30 letters. I’ve discovered that I don’t always like blogging about the letters I’m writing, but that I do like blogging as often as I’ve been doing it—just about every day. I’ll keep up the pace!

Google analytics tells me that there are roughly 200 of you (some days more and other days less) who stop by here each day. I’m grateful to have you as an audience, and hope we can meet in person someday.

The Final Countdown

Tuesday, April 28th, 2009

It’s the home stretch of National Card and Letter Writing Month. I’m actually told by some that it lasts until Mother’s Day, but I’m going to consider myself accomplished when I mail my last missive this Thursday. Although I will write my mother a letter for M-day. And I will continue to write letters at will—it’s still something I LOVE doing. Admittedly, it’s more difficult to do when you’ve given yourself no choice, but it wasn’t as chore-like as I feared it would be. Most of my anxiety centered around all the other things I had to do on top of writing a letter. I was afraid I wouldn’t get to those other things. I managed. I made the letter-of-the-day the center of my schedule. I learned to rotate everything around it.

My last letter will be to my friend Guillermo. He’s living and working in Beijing for six months. I have no idea how long it will take to get there, but I wish I could follow my little letter on its journey. I am hoping to head to Beijing to visit Guillermo over the summer—budget permitting.

What I am really is excited about now is reading the essays that have been submitted for the Giftsin24 essay contest. We’ve received many, and they are sure to be heartwarming and entertaining. I’ll announce this winner here as well as at Thanks to everyone who entered, and thank you to everyone who stops by here to read. I shall continue to write!

April is National Card and Letter Writing Month, and I’ve vowed to write one letter each day. Also, please check out the essay contest I’m hosting with

I Haven’t Given Up

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

It’s been a few days since I’ve mentioned my self-proclaimed project, I realize. I haven’t given up on writing a letter a day—I was just taking a break from blogging about it. In the spirit of living and learning, I’ve found the blogging to be the more difficult part of the process. I do love the idea of writing a letter and blogging about the person. It offers the designated recipient a bonus—in the letter, I tell them to go to my blog and read further about how much I admire / adore them. It’s also interesting in the way of perspective—I write a letter to someone in the first person and then blog about that very same person in the third person. Keeps me on my toes!

The problem is, it’s made blogging more of an assignment for me, and blogging has never felt that way. I love up and saying anything whenever I want, whether I’m responding to an article, posting a killer quote, or just waxing poetic about nothing at all. Writing a letter a day is difficult—it’s a commitment—and the satisfaction of finishing the letter is only momentary until I remind myself that I said I’d blog about it. This isn’t to say I don’t enjoy writing about the people I’m writing letters to—I certainly do! It’s feeling like I have to do it that’s taken some of the joy away. And thus I’ve decided I’ll only blog about the letters I’m writing when the mood strikes.

And it happens to be striking right now! I sent my friend Kevin a Valentine’s Day card this morning. The story is: He sent me a lovely New Year’s card last January. By the time I got to CVS to respond (which was mid-January), the card companies had understandably moved on to Valentine’s Day. Faced with a sea of red and pink sentiments, I bought him a V-Day card for fun. A week or so later I received another letter from Kevin announcing the passing away of a dear member of his family. I decided it was best to respond to that notice immediately and with a proper sympathy card. Now here it is, three months later and I still have (had) his V-Day card—so I wrote to him on that glittery piece of paper and sent it on its way today.

And for my next letter . . . earlier this week my friend Shawn sent out an e-mail offering the address of his new home. He started off with, “Addresses are pretty moot these days . . . but here it is.” I’m going to prove him wrong and show him just how useful his new address can be!

April is National Card and Letter Writing Month, and I’ve vowed to write one letter each day. Also, please check out the essay contest I’m hosting with

Weekend Letter-Writing Round Up

Sunday, April 19th, 2009

Spring has sprung! It was a gorgeous, well-deserved weekend here in Philadelphia. I hope the same was true of every elsewhere in the country. It was a very productive weekend for me in many ways. Not the least of which were the three letters I wrote:

Friday – I wrote to my former boss and good friend Zazel. She was my first boss in a career job. We worked at Country Living Gardener together. She was the Lifestyle editor and I was her trusty assistant. When the magazine folded–a year and a half after I started working—she and I had lunch together every day until we found other jobs. We got along that well!

Saturday – Yesterday I wrote to my other cousin Kate. I have two! Kate lives in Minneapolis, and I don’t see her nearly as often as I’d like. We were very close when we were young. Kate showed me the book Are you There God, It’s me Margaret? as she had a copy, and she was the one who broke it to me that I was destine to have this thing called a period someday. I guess you are always somewhat indebted to the person who told you that . . .

Sunday – Today I wrote to my friend Erica. She moved a few months ago from Miami to Dallas, and we haven’t been able to catch each other since the big change. I’m dying to know the difference—of which there are many I’m sure—between the two cities.

April is National Card and Letter Writing Month, and I’ve vowed to write one letter each day. Also, please check out the essay contest I’m hosting with

To Whom it May Concern

Thursday, April 16th, 2009

Today I write the first of three Unsent letters I’ll be sending this month. Unsent letters are the ultimate in therapy for me. It’s when you’ve said as much as you can say to a person, but you still have more to say. After a while it’s best not to actually involve the person anymore either because they A) Don’t see things your way and compromise isn’t an option (sometimes it just isn’t) or B) They’ve been clear about how they feel and it is what it is.

Today I write to a man I dated a while back. In my book Note to Self I give him the pseudonym Jeremy and go into great detail about our brief but impactful relationship. A handful of things happened between us following the writing of that chapter, but they have since ended once and for all. There is no bitterness between us. It was a classic case of me wanting to be with him exclusively and him not wanting that. We were both very honest about how we felt, and that was refreshing. We welcomed each other to say whatever we had to. I’ve had the chance to see him since but have chosen not to because I find him—what’s the word—irresistible. I recently read that the non-textbook definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. That resonated deep within me. And that’s exactly what I’d be doing if I saw him again. I would get all dressed up with the hope that Maybe this time he’ll change his mind.

So I’m writing (but not sending) a letter to tell him that very thing. I’m telling him that I miss him sometimes, and I wish I could snap my fingers and put a purely platonic air between us. In addition to being really good at making out we also had a very nice (and rare I think) conversational volley going. We got together for brunch once and it lasted five hours because we had so much to say. I’ve wanted to know how he is and hear his take on our new president and the recession madness for a while now. It’s still unwise for me though. My butterflies flutter uncontrollably at the mere though of him. I hope this isn’t always the case. I hope the universe puts me in his path for afternoon coffee and catch up with an old friend—on a day when there is no risk of pleasure inevitably followed by pain.

April is National Card and Letter Writing Month, and I’ve vowed to write one letter each day. Also, please check out the essay contest I’m hosting with