Samara O'Shea

On Letter Writing


Going to him! Happy letter! Tell him–
Tell him the page I didn’t write;
Tell him I only said the syntax,
And left the verb and the pronoun out.
Tell him just how the fingers hurried
Then how they waded, slow, slow, slow-
You wished you had eyes in your pages,
So you could see what moved them so.
—Emily Dickinson

ONCE UPON A TIME, this website was a letter-writing service. In 2005, I launched as a place where a person feeling uninspired or inarticulate could hire me to write a letter on his or her behalf. People came–by the dozens–and I wrote their letters. I loved doing it, and I did it for eight years. In 2013, I felt it was time to stop. My love of letter writing, however, remains undiminished. My ode to this irreplaceable form of communication lives on in the words of my book For the Love of Letters: A 21st-Century Guide to the Art of Letter Writing. In early 2014, a movie entitled Her came out, and the main character’s (Joaquin Phoenix) occupation is writing letters on behalf of others for a website called I blogged about it at the time.

What is it about letters? A letter establishes an intimacy that no other media can mimic, and (bonus!) if you write detailed letters, you automatically keep a record of the events in your life. “Like all letters,” write Justin G. Turner and Linda Levitt Turner in their preface to Mary Todd Lincoln: Her Life and Letters (Knopf, 1972), “these have far greater value as evidence than the most candid diary or autobiography. Each one was written on a particular day under a specific impulse, with no thought that it would be judged in a larger context, or, for that matter, read by anyone other than the person to whom it was addressed.”

Several people have contacted me and expressed interest in being professional letter writers. I salute you! Should any of you launch a letter-writing website, I will gladly promote your services on this page. We lovers of the written word must stick together.