I just finished writing a letter to a young woman named Isabella. She lives in Oregon. She is my sister’s niece and her grade six class is doing a special project. At the beginning of the year Isabella started a journal. On its first pages she wrote a letter in which she introduced herself and the city she calls home. Then she sent the journal to someone who lived in another city or country. That person wrote a letter to Isabella about where they lived and then sent it on to someone in another place. Eventually the journal reached my sister in Winnipeg and she sent the journal to me in Portugal. Since Isabella’s project started at the beginning of the school year, her journal has had time to travel all over Canada and to places as far away as Uganda. It was interesting for me to read all the letters her journal already contained.
I wrote a letter to Isabella about the food here in Portugal, the beautiful cobblestone sidewalks, the storks who build such gigantic nests and some of the art I’ve seen by Portuguese artists. I also had to take pictures of Isabella’s journal in various places here in Portugal and send them to her. Here are the photos I sent.
For those of you who have been following my posts about trying to do eight things a day to become a better writer……….. writing a personal letter is the fifth thing. Letter writing is becoming something of a lost art in our electronic age where we tweet and text in short little spurts. I decided I was going to write actual letters to people and not just about business matters related to my part time jobs and community involvements, but actual personal letters. So writing a letter to Isabella fit nicely into my plan to work on my writing skills during my time in Portugal.
How did composing letters help hone my writing skills?
It reminded me to consider my audience. A letter is addressed to a specific audience and so you choose the things you are going to write about and choose how to talk about them with that audience in mind. I knew for example that Isabella was in grade six so I tried to think of things to write about in her letter that a twelve year old might be interested in. You have to consider your audience’s interest, mood and age when you attempt any piece of writing. You also have to figure out an engaging way to start a letter and a satisfying way to wrap things up at the end. That’s important in any good piece of writing.
I ended Isabella’s letter by telling her I had traveled to nearly forty different countries of the world and what I had learned from my experiences was that most people in the world are good and kind and share many similarities with one another.