Samara O'Shea

Archive for October, 2011

An Epistolary Inquiry

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

I received a lively, inspiring e-mail from a lovely young woman named Toby (yes, woman!). See what wonderful things she hopes to do with a possible fellowship year. . .

“I’m writing to you with an unusual request – an epistolary inquiry, if you will. I have the opportunity to apply for a year-long fellowship that would allow me to travel the world, pursuing my wildest dreams. The Watson Fellowship is awarded annually to forty graduating seniors from forty liberal arts institutions in the United States. I attend one of these schools, Grinnell College, where I am studying cultural Anthropology, and I am putting together an application for the fellowship.

The Watson seeks individuals who care passionately enough about something that they could spend their whole year immersed in it. One can do anything during the Watson year. Fellows have conducted projects as varied as studying regional changes in fly fishing techniques to playing marimba music around Africa to studying the politics of international film festivals (what my friend Courtney is doing at the moment).

I am most passionate about letters and the post. I have sent hundreds of letters and cards in the last six years, and I started a letter-writing club at my school that meets weekly. I am proposing to travel the world to look at the role of love letters in times of conflict, and, more generally, the importance of post in the modern world. I would like to travel to England and Italy, looking at epistolary archives from the World Wars. I hope to travel to Serbia and Bosnia to see the role letters played in the Yugoslav Wars. I would also like to visit Japan, Argentina, and Spain. I could even look at the role of the political letter, letters sent from immigrant communities, and the impact of letters sent to victims of natural disasters. My hope is to volunteer at postal museums and in philatelic societies in these countries. In order to connect with people and hear their stories, I plan to visit independent paper mills to get acquainted with paper, the origin of all letters. I would host letter-writing nights where individuals could share their experiences with the post.

Is this the type of project you could help me with? I’m looking for stories from individuals who have had unique experiences with postal services and the power of a hand-written letter. Any advice you can give me or contacts you can link me to will help my project proposal immensely. I would be overwhelmingly grateful for any help you can offer me.”

I’ll post my response to her tomorrow. Let’s all cross our fingers and hope Toby gets the fellowship.

More Than Mail

Monday, October 10th, 2011

Another day, another sad story about a possible post office close: Rural America Fears that Beloved Post Offices will Close. I really do wonder what will happen. Your guess is as good as mine. We should know by year’s end.

The Missive Maven

Friday, October 7th, 2011

I’d like to introuduce you to The Missive Maven. We met on Twitter yesterday. We both love letter writing and alliteration!

Here’s to Round Pegs in Square Holes

Thursday, October 6th, 2011

“Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

~ Steve Jobs (1955 – 2011)

Letters are Letters

Tuesday, October 4th, 2011

A friend sent this article to me: You Never Write Anymore; Well, Hardly Anyone Does. I feel like we’ve been reading articles about how no one writes letters anymore for the past five years. Letters may be going, going but they are certainly not gone! I guess it goes without saying that I don’t think they will disappear altogether. They are still one-of-a-kind-communication.

My favorite quote from the article: “‘E-mails are something quick,’ he said. ‘Letters are letters. When I’m writing a letter to a friend, it’s a personal note. You can’t send an email saying ‘hey, sorry to hear you lost your father.'” Exactly!

And here’s the Obama Campaign’s Letter of the Week. (If the opposing candidate has a LOTW I’ll link to that, too. But let’s wait until we’re down to one opposing candidate. . .)

Pay it Forward

Monday, October 3rd, 2011

“There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody. You built a factory out there—good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers that the rest of us paid to educate…Part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay forward for the next kid who comes along.”

~ Elizabeth Warren