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For the Love of Snail Mail- Rhea from New York

- Welcome Rhea! Tell us a little more about yourself!
Thanks for having me Michelle. My name is Rhea Abramson. I was born and raised on St. Croix, the largest of the US Virgin Islands a few decades ago ; )  I’ve lived in NYC for the last 18 years – what can I say I love islands! By day I am a Marketing Executive at a company that designs jewelry and clothing for television retailing. By night, you will find me doing quite a few things. Running my small business, The Post Office Box - a subscription box for the snail mail obsessed; creating mail art and writing letters; or working on the next event or posting for my letter writing group the New York City Letter Writers Society @nycletterwriterssociety. That keeps me pretty busy. But I am a culture vulture so when I am not working on any of the above you can find me paper shopping – of course, at museums, and just exploring the streets of NYC – my constant muse.

- When and how did your snail mail and penpal journey all begin?
My penpal journey began at age 5 when I began writing back and forth with my Aunt and Gram who lived in Massachusetts. I spent the summers with them and it was hard for me to be away from them when I returned to St. Croix in the fall so I wrote often. Summers away and then going away to college meant that I had friends all over so I have always written letters and birthday cards as a way to stay connected. Connection is very important to me and I love the way people react when they receive a piece of written correspondence from me. But more importantly I get to bring my loved ones into my world, while they are in their world and that is priceless to me. My Aunt Karen is also responsible for my love of diaries, hence the name Devoted Diarist. She bought me a red journal with a lock and key when I was 5 and I have been writing in a journal just about daily since then!

I started my Devoted Diarist Instagram account as a way to share my work – inspired by Austin Kleon and my friend Leah Pearlman who is a comic illustrator. I decided to do a 30 day snail mail challenge to get myself to use some of the cards in my ever growing stash (AKA mountain) and people started following along. Then around the end of the year, one of my pen pals, Kate from Of Note Stationers inspired me to do a year-long challenge. On January 1st 2016 I began my “yearofsnailmail” – 366 days of letters (check out the hashtag on Instagram). I custom designed a stamp to mark each piece of mail I sent and I was off and mailing. I had two stamps made – one for me and one for Kate so she could stamp all her outgoing mail for the year. Every time I receive a piece of mail from her with that stamp on it, my heart soars! As of today, I am at 653 letters mailed. We shall see how many I end up with by the end of the 2016.

- How did you find or come across the majority of your penpals?
I would say half of my pen pals are friends and family and the other half are people I developed relationships with via Instagram. People who followed my Devoted Diarist account and decided to write me or asked if I would write them. Some of whom are now members of the NYC Letter Writers Society that I founded after being inspired by the LA Pen Pal Club. The most special of those relationships is the one with my penultimate pen pal, Patrick.  Patrick owns a vintage stamp business and we found each other through Instagram. I quickly became a customer of his and now we are best pen pals. We have never met in person but I feel like we know each other better than some people I have known my entire life. 
- How many penpals do you correspond with on a regular basis, and where are they from?
I correspond with about 15 people very regularly – 2 letters or more a month.  And then there are about 35 people to whom I send a letter every 2-3 months. They are in Canada, California, Minneapolis, Oregon, Texas, St. Croix, Massachusetts, right here in NYC – really all over the US. I keep track of my correspondence with The Letter Ledger created by Paper and Type. I started doing that for my 366 day #yearofsnailmail and have found it to be a wonderful practice.

- What do you like most about snail mail?
Definitely connecting with my pen pals. I love reminding them how special they are and that I am someone who loves them enough to take the time to write them a letter. But most of all I love that sitting down to write a letter gives me the opportunity to slow down and share my life with someone.  I feel the most relaxed when I am at my favorite coffee shop, Laughing Man, with an iced tea (I don’t drink coffee) writing a letter. I love travelling to the places in my mind that I go to when writing.  Places I’ve been, imagining my pen pals in their lives or something they described in their letter to me. It’s quite and adventure and it’s such a gift to be with myself and them.  

- If you can, how would you describe your snail mail style?
Open, honest, and no holes barred. I write just like I write in my journal. I write to work things out that I am grappling with and to get the opinions of my trusted pen pals. To tell them about my life, to go back in time to particular events to savor them again on paper. I learn more about my pen pals – I ask questions so I can visualize their lives. I am a very curious person and I love to know the details of the lives of my pen pals. As for my mail art style, I am completely inspired by all the amazing card designers out there. They create a beautiful card and I design an envelope home that I feel is befitting their work. I love color, I love vintage stamps, I love lettering, and I LOVE adding tons of rubber stamps. I guess you could call my mail art style exuberant and full of LOVE.  

- Any favorite stationery brands or tools you enjoy using for your mail art?
For my mail art my markers of choice are Microliners and Copics. If I am away from my Copic markers for more than 2 days, I start to get grumpy. Coloring in my lettering is a stress reliever for me. The only pencil I use is the Swiss Wood from Caran D’ache that I buy at CW Pencil Enterprise.  The Pencil Ladies over at CW are all my pen pals AND members of the NYC Letter Writers Society so I love stopping in to stock up on my favorite pencils and Radar erasers and of course talking about letter writing. I also cannot live without my bullet sharpener. For washi tape I am pretty partial to MT and Maste. I trust both of those brands to really adhere well to my creations. For cards, the question is more who don’t I buy. I have been addicted to buying cards for decades. I have a complex filing system for my cards because there are sooooo many. Trying to narrow down my favorites feels like I am at the Oscars giving my acceptance speech and am afraid I will forget someone! So any line that is featured in my subscription box, The Post Office Box. Some favs are: Paula and Waffle, Spoon and Sailor, Richie Designs, Smitten on Paper, Paper Epiphanies, DayDream Prints – truly there are too many to name. I collect stationery from at least 40 lines and all of them are represented in their full splendor on my @devoteddiarist Instagram.


- What are some things you enjoy sending?
I pretty much stick to long handwritten letters. I do a poem exchange with one of my besties/pen pals – Heidi. We take turns sending poems to each other that we are in love it. It is a beautiful practice we started 4 years ago. We send them in postcards, letters, the best one she sent came with a bar of chocolate! I also have a cute card exchange going with my pen pal Christina. We are both card enthusiasts so we started a challenge where we try to send each other a card that the other one has never seen before. To some of my closest pen pals I send rubber stamps. I have been collecting rubber stamps since I was 17 years old.  And now I love designing them – so usually if I make something cool I will have two made – one for me and one for a pen pal. I have one on my desk right now waiting to be sent to my pen pal Andrea in Canada.

- What are some things you enjoy receiving?
I love postcards. I love seeing where people have been. And I love long letters. I feel overjoyed when I hold a letter in my hands.  

- What have been some of the most memorable letters, packages or mail you've received?
My most memorable letter came from Hazel West, Lady in Waiting to Princess Diana. When I was 10 years old I wrote a letter to Princess Diana asking her for an autographed photograph and asked questions about her life. I begged the principal at my school Mrs. Bibby, who was from England, to take the letter to Buckingham Palace on her next visit. She did – or at least she mailed it. And I received a letter back, no picture, but I have treasured that letter my entire life.  One day I will post it on Instagram. It is on Buckingham Palace stationery. 

- When is the best time for you to put together your snail mail?
I block out time in the evenings after work to create mail art. Sometimes 2-3 hours a night. I find that sitting at my desk is my happy place so I try to put myself there as often as possible. And on the weekends I pack a stationery kit and go to my favorite coffee shop or the Poetry Library next door to my apartment and write. I write most of my long letters on the weekends.

- Have you had the chance to meet any of your penpals in person?
Thankfully I have. Richie from Richie Designs, Andrea Raymond from the Eight Balloons Blog, Bryanna who is now a NYC Letter Writer and of course Margaret from Paper Pastries, and now I even write to her adorable daughter – she has yet to write me back yet : ). I’m very lucky that NYC is a place a lot of people travel to so I get the opportunity to actually meet my pen pals face to face.

- Any tips on how to keep up with multiple penpals, or who you find the time to respond  back to them all in a timely matter?
First you have to be organized. I keep a leather basket from Baum Kuchen on my desk that I put all mail that needs to be responded to in.  It’s always staring at me saying “sit down and write!”. I use a first in, first write back system – which sometimes doesn’t work because I have to be in the mood to write some letters. Second I always have a few cards, postcards, pieces of stationery in the letter writing kit in my purse. But the most important thing I would say is carving out the time. When I committed to this year of snail mail I decided to make this my priority. And I soon found that I wrote more because I carved out the time to do it.  I think that is true of any practice – meditation, the gym, you have to make the time. When people ask me I say to them, just set aside 20 minutes to write a card. You will see that time will end up growing and growing because it’s so fun!  

- Other than sending lovely snail mail to friends, what other hobbies & interests do you enjoy?
Well as you can see I am pretty busy writing and creating mail art when I am not working. My absolute favorite thing to do it sit at my desk with post its and a pen and browse through all my stationery and pick cards to send to people. But when I find any other spare time, I use it to read. I am the resident bibliotherapist for all my friends. Even people I haven’t spoken to in ages will text me and say “I’m going on vacation, what should I read?” I am also a few credits away from being a Certified Facilitator of The Work which is a meditation technique that helps people with their stressful thoughts. So I spend time taking courses for that and working as a volunteer on our helpline.

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To see more of Rhea's fun snail mail posts, be sure to check out her Instagram accounts:
@devoteddiarist
@mailmorelove
@nycletterwriterssociety
www.mailmorelove.com



Read more on past snail mail lovin' guests here.


2 comments

  1. Loved reading this interview! Can't wait to see that buckingham palace stationery :)

    ReplyDelete
  2. What a sweet interview, Rhea! Loved reading about your letter writing tips and routines. And thank you so much for mentioning the ledger—so honored that you have one in your care. xo

    ReplyDelete

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