The Letter Writing Revolution

Revitalizing a Lost Art One Letter at a Time

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Start Spreading the News.....

Back in June when I started The Letter Writing Revolution, I was receiving about two letters per year in the mail (not including the onslaught of Christmas greetings in late November/early December). I remember the moment that the idea of TLWR came to me. I was with my friend, Em, and we stopped at the post office to pick up my mail. A letter had arrived from my one friend who still sent the odd letter/postcard via snail mail. I knew then that my blog would be about letter writing.

Fast forward four months and now each day when I open my mail box, there is at least one piece of fun mail.........tossed in with the bills and junk are colourful envelopes and unique postcards coming from all over the world and many from people whom I do not know. This past Thursday, I set aside an hour and a half to get caught up on my replies and after mailing seven letters, I opened my mailbox to discover two more! How wonderful and satisfying to think that the revolution is slowly growing even if it is within my world only :-)

A sampling of mail I have received since the beginning of TLWR!

I was reading on another blog  about the fact that some post offices in the world no longer sell just stamps but have become convenience stores as well as post offices. As well, some of the comments described the fact that some shops that used to sell postage stamps no longer do so as the demand has decreased significantly for them. Perhaps we should all try the 365 letters in 365 days project or maybe even 52 letters in 52 weeks if that feels more do-able. Maybe if everyone who writes letters took on a project of this magnitude, a revolution would truly happen.

I am heading for a wee vacation this week to New York City. It has been a childhood dream to travel to NYC and experience life in downtown Manhatten. My father always told me that one day he would take me there. As I approach 40 years of age, I decided that the time was now. I will travel with my dad and return on Sunday, October 31st. I will post again in the first week of November after my holiday.

This timely article was in the paper this weekend.
Not sure why my photo won't rotate.

I have been off of Facebook for almost three weeks. I checked in at the one week mark and then again about three days after that. As I have decreased my FB time, the mail I am receiving has increased. I do feel more connected to people and less overwhelmed by the goings-on of Facebook. At this point, I have decided to keep my profile as well as my two business pages. I do believe that Facebook is an excellent venue for advertising upcoming events/workshops, etc. especially with my businesses. I also like to post photos and links occasionally. I am slowly going through my 326 Friends list and deleting some of those who are really not close friends. In fact, many of them aren't even aquaintances. Finally, I have given up the 15+ times of checking in FB daily and reading other's status updates/newsfeed. I suppose this is a happy medium and one that is comfortable for me. Stepping away and freeing up that time has been liberating. Having it  available to post things that need to reach a lot of people in a short amount of time is beneficial to my work. I plan to check in once per week to change my status update, check my business pages and look at photos of my friends that may have been posted. Other than that, I have given it up.

Keep writing and sending those letters and who knows, you may be getting one from me!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

TLWR Day Excursion~ You Are Invited!

Many of you commented on my post about my 2nd field trip which was a visit to Paper/Papier in the Byward Market. I am getting the urge to make another visit to see what new things have come in since my last journey there. I hope to make a trip in the next few weeks and I thought that you (and you and you!) might want to join me on this excursion~ a shopping trip made up of followers and friends of TLWR!

Perhaps, you do not get to the Byward Market very often or maybe you just hate the thought of driving to the heart of downtown Ottawa. Well, this is your chance to visit an amazing stationery shop, stock up on letter writing supplies, buy a new fountain pen or some funky cards and maybe share a cup of coffee or tea in a hip coffee house nearby after our shopping spree. Now, I am not expecting The Gingerbread Lady, Kaz, Jenni in Edmonton, Missive Maven (to name a few) or any of TLWR followers who live in far more exotic places than rural Ontario, Canada to join us but we really wish you could..........

Does this interest anyone? I am thinking of a Tuesday or a Thursday. I am sure we can carpool from the west end of Ottawa and travel together downtown. All you have to do is let me know if this is of interest to you and we will make a plan. Send me an email to and let me know if you want to join me on this excursion. I hope you can ..........I know that two of my followers live in the Kars region so maybe you two can travel in together.

I am thinking Thursday, November 4th as a possibility.

Let's make it happen.

And The Winner Is...........

After visiting and entering the numbers 1 to 32 and then pressing the "generate" button, I was given the number 25. The WINNER of the personalized letter writing kit is:

Ange: Please email me at with your favourite colour schemes, interests and your full name and address. Your gift will be sent to you via snail mail momentarily.

Thank you to everyone who left comments and became followers. Keep up the letter writing and watch for more giveaways in the coming weeks!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Field Trip #3: Blessed Be The Letter Carrier Part 1

"We are mothers and fathers. And sons and daughters. Who every day go about our lives with duty, honor and pride. And neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night, nor the winds of change, nor a nation challenged, will stay us from the swift completion of our appointed rounds. Ever."
~ US Postal Service Creed (provided by TLWR follower, Celine)

Did You Know That Canada Post:
  • is the employer of more than 72,000 Canadians (Full and Part-time employees)?
  • delivers more than 11 billion letters and packages to 31 million Canadians and over one million business and public institutions?
  • has 6,600 post offices (of which 3,000 are managed by the private sector) and more than 17,000 stamp shops?
  • has more than 900,000 points of entry?
  • has in excess of 6,000 vehicles, which makes it one of the largest fleets in Canada. In addition, Canada Post has two DC-10s which fly across Canada everyday?
  • has one of the largest transportation networks in the country with letters and parcels travelling on more than 36,000 intercity trucks every year?
  • contributes more than $2 billion annually to the Canadian economy?
Something else you probably didn't know is that I have always thought that an awesome job would be that of Letter Carrier or what used to me known as The Postman. Since women deliver mail along with men, the term "Letter Carrier" is more politically correct and accurate, I suppose. In Ottawa, it is estimated that 30% of Letter Carriers are women and the rest are men.

After my tour of the Ottawa Mail Processing Plant (OMPP), I decided that I would like an even closer look at the journey of the letter and so I asked if I could job shadow a Canada Post Letter Carrier for a day. Lisa Dupuis, a Canada Post employee for the past 8.5 years, approached her Superiors with the idea. After some time, permission was granted and we picked the day (Thursday, October 7th). As I mentioned in my OMPP Tour report, Canada Post is a high security corporation. Although Lisa wanted me to join her at 7am at the OMPP to physically sort the mail and prepare the mail bags, the powers-that-be would not let me back into the plant for security reasons and so we made arrangements to meet at the start of her route in an area of the city known as The Glebe......a hip/trendy/somewhat wealthier neighbourhood of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Lisa has been working this route for the past year and a half. Routes are measured on distance and mail volume. It is quite a process and there are many factors involved. A mathematical equation determines the amount of time it should take to complete a route. This equation looks at your pace in which you sort and walk. Every little thing is counted......every stair, every door, every piece of mail. The routes change every 3-5 years to accommodate for growth or shrinkage.

I was told to wear comfortable shoes and to be prepared to walk......a lot. I was pretty excited especially when the forecast called for sunshine and 15 degrees. A perfect autumn day in Ontario. Lisa completed a couple of blocks prior to meeting me but I essentially accompanied her on the entire route. We started by going to a locked, grey mailbox located on a street corner which was loaded with four canvas mailbags. Each individual mailbag was filled with the pre-sorted mail from the earlier portion of Lisa's shift. She thought that I should wear the mail bag and actually experience it firsthand and allowed me to do the first short street. The bag weighed around 15 lbs, perhaps, and had two pockets with bundles of mail in each. Lisa adjusted the straps and made sure I was comfortable. Canda Postal Workers have pretty strict guidelines on worker safety and injury prevention.

Lisa Dupuis, Canada Post Letter Carrier
Ottawa, ON

Loaded up like a pack horse with the mail

I have to say, I felt really excited about getting to do the job even if it was only for one shift. I have always thought it to be a fairly positive job for several reasons. One is that you get your exercise in while working and so scheduling time for working out is no longer necessary. Two, you are working relatively independently and so while on your route you are not having to deal with a boss or gossipy co-workers. Granted it is extra convenient if you work in a "good" neighbourhood as opposed to the trashy/rough side of town. Three, you can get the one thing I have always longed for......tanned legs. You are allowed to wear shorts in the summer and warm weather. There are down sides to every job/career and this is also the case for Letter Carriers. I will get to those in a moment.

I learned very quickly that movement is standing on a customer's porch picking through the mail to see where you are going next and what letter belongs where. Always moving, always moving. But you must watch where you are going to prevent falling down the stairs, slipping on damp leaves, tripping over a rock or walking into a tree while sorting mail. There is indeed a skill involved in making the mail delivery efficient and smooth.
That's me actually delivering mail! C-O-O-L.....
This yard was so beautiful with the leaves, I had to have a photo!

I, apparently, lacked in those attributes as upon our return to the grey box for another load of mail, Lisa happily strapped on the mail bags and suggested that I observe while she delivered the mail to the businesses that are a part of her route.

I found it interesting to be in a city and yet so many people knew her. She would say. "Hello!" and then quietly tell me that he or she was a customer on her route. While she was getting more mail from the grey box, a man approached us who looked somewhat destitute and asked so politely if the GST cheques were in this day to which Lisa replied, "Yes, they are being delivered today." He seemed very relieved. For those of you who live outside of Canada, the GST/HST (Goods and Services Tax/Harmonized Sales Tax) program issues payments to Canadians with low and modest incomes to help offset all or part of the GST/HST they pay on the purchase of goods and services. My point with this illustration is that the Letter Carrier is such an important, trusted and constant fixture in the neighbourhood and community.

 I was grateful that the sun was shining and the breeze was cool. I have been a bit lazy in the exercise department and I was certainly feeling it on this day walking alongside Lisa observing the mail delivery. Again, I really think that having a job that forces you to walk for three hours or more per day is ideal.

Canada Post Letter Carrier in action!
Lisa has some interaction with her customers. A few of the letters required a signature before delivery and of course, anyone who was outside raking the leaves or doing autumn renovations, stopped for a moment to say, "Hello." As the bag was emptied and we filled up one last time, I was a bit relieved that the end was in sight. My legs were tired and I felt like having a nap. I asked Lisa if she had ever calculated how far she walked in one day and she told me that on average, she hits about 500-600 points of call (addresses), delivers approximately 10,000 pieces of mail and walks about 16km!!! Unbelievable!!

Lisa receiving a signature from one of her customers (by the way,
this customer gave me permission to take and use this photo in this blog).

Some of you live in small towns or out in the country and do not have this mail delivery service. For those of you in rural places, your mail may be delivered to your mailbox at the end of your laneway via car/truck. I walk to our town post office to get my mail from a post office box. If you live in a city and have door-to-door mail delivery service, there are some things you can do to keep your Letter Carrier happy and safe. Please consider the following:

  • Keep the walkway from the sidewalk to your mailbox clear of ice and snow. Clear it before you leave for work so that the Letter Carrier can deliver your mail safely during the day while you are away.
  • Use salt to keep the stairs free of ice.
  • Make sure that the icicles are cleared overhead. They are extremely dangerous.

  • Dogs should be kept where there is no chance of them getting at the Letter Carrier.
  • If your storm door is open, make sure that your screen door is locked, so your dog cannot push it open and that the screen is closed enough that your dog cannot come through it.
  • Make sure that if you keep your dog in your backyard and that the gate cannot be opened. Make sure that the fence is in good repair.
And a couple of more tips:
  • If you have painted stairs, put a carpet down. Wet painted stairs are incredibly dangerous.

    An example of a safe staircase.
  • Make sure your mailbox accommodates the type of mail you receive (ie. if you get a lot of magazines, you should probably have a bigger mailbox). Your mailbox should also be at a good height. The Letter Carrier's bags are not designed to allow for bending downwards.

Lisa having to bend down with her mail bag to place the mail
in the wooden box set out by the customer.
The difference between delivery in the summer as opposed to the winter is significant and not for obvious reasons (snow, ice, cold vrs. dry, sun, warm). Lisa says that the volume of mail is almost doubled in winter due to holiday catalogues and fliers and of course the increase in snail mail with the annual sending of Christmas/holiday greetings. This added volume of mail can add an additional 1-2 hours onto your route. The greatest seasonal hazards of the job are simple: dogs in summer and ice/snow in the winter. If you have the privilege of having your mail personally delivered, be aware of all of these things and be kind to your Letter Carrier as well. Keep him/her safe so that they can continue to do their job.

A re-enactment of what can happen if your property is unsafe
and hazardous to your Letter Carrier!!
I asked Lisa if she had any interesting stories to share and she told me the following:

"I found a lost dog and after knocking on all the doors in the area with no luck, I put him in my mail bag and finished my route. It was pretty cute. I walked him to his Vet's office, which was identified on his dog tags and he was reunited with his family later that night."

Job shadowing Lisa was a great experience. Originally when I asked Lisa if I could come along for a day, she agreed BUT there was a catch.................I also had to promise that I would return in the dead of winter to experience mail delivery in the blowing snow/ice and minus 25 degree Celcius weather. Of course, I have given her my word. Watch for Part 2 of "Blessed Be The Letter Carrier" coming to you this February!

A final photo Lisa,  Letter Carrier:

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Killing Time with Another TLWR Giveaway

I have had a really great post written and sitting in my drafts for several days now. Why? As I mentioned, I went on my 3rd field trip last Thursday and because it involves Canada Post, I felt it was only appropriate to send the draft to one of the powers-that-be to give his seal of approval before posting it online. Turns out, he is a very busy man so I am patiently waiting to receive an email from him to let me know that the information is accurate and represents Canada Post in a positive light. In the meantime, I am throwing up these silly posts in an attempt to kill time while I wait.

I came upon another blog, "I Love Letters", that I am enjoying. This blog comes out of rural Australia and is easy to read and follow and has a very warm "feel" to it. 'Kaz' posts her address and welcomes letters. She promises to write back so if you feel like sending a letter to Australia, she's the one to send it to. I also came upon"A Postcard A Day." In her words: "I'm one of those people who has led a nomadic existence, and so did my parents. My father started collecting postcards as a way to continue this life at least in spirit when his wandering days were over. I'm continuing the collection and posting at least one, chosen more or less at random, each day." It's like taking a mini virtual vacation to places and times you may never have visited had it not been for this blog. Not only can you visit exotic places all over the world, many of the postcards are from long ago and due to the research that goes into each post, you feel like a time traveller. This is especially great for those of us who are home bound due to careers, commitments and children.

So, while I wait, why not have another awesome GIVEAWAY? No matter where you are in the world, you can win this GIVEAWAY. This time, TLWR is giving away a  Letter Writing Kit. Not only will you receive a package with all things you need for letter writing but a part of the gift will be personalized stationery courtesy of Inky Design of Ottawa, ON, Canada. To be eligible, you must be a follower of The Letter Writing Revolution blog and then all you have to do is leave a comment below to enter. Comment once per day if you wish until Wednesday, October 20th when the winner will be randomly selected and announced. I recently received personalized stationery from Inky Design and it is beautiful and classy! The winner will email me their address and before long you will receive a gift of all things stationery! This GIVEAWAY will be mailed to you wherever you may be.

On a final note, I recently made a decision to take a sabbatical from Facebook. I have never been into Twitter but I have found Facebook has slowly started to take control over my time. Reminds me of the way I used to have the odd cigarette and before long I was a pack-a-day smoker. I created a profile on Facebook about three years ago and now it is a habit that I check into several times per day. Gotta know if Karen P. is happy/sad/constipated/hungover, etc.or whether or not Janet L. is eating a bagel/bored or on her way to work. Seriously. When I actually thought about it, I realized that aside from the cool links and photos, I really waste a heck of a lot of time on there. I know, I know, I really could control my urges more and only allow myself 30-minutes per day on Facebook but I am an all-or-nothing kind of a gal and so I decided to just have a leave of absence and go "cold turkey" just as I did with my smoking habit 12 years ago. So far, so good. It's been 48 hours and aside from a handful of panicked comments, I haven't received any FB messages and I feel free. I have also accomplished a lot in the last couple of days as I am not getting distracted and losing pockets of time on Facebook. My sister said something to the effect of, "It will be interesting to see who your "friends" are when you're not so easily accessible on Facebook."

Sorry...couldn't resist.
I guess it's the false sense of connection that I get from Facebook and the weirdness I feel when I run into someone who I haven't seen in two years and they ask me about something I did a month ago. When I look at them with that twisted/confused look, they reply, "Oh, I read it on Facebook." That creeps me out and I think I want to return to real connection like phone calls and handwritten letters. This cartoon  was posted in the comments at Good Mail Day. Made me laugh.

One last thing..........
The other day, I asked a friend (during a chat on, you guessed it,  Facebook) for his snail mail address as I wanted to send a birthday invitation to his son for our daughter's birthday. A few minutes later, I received an email from him with his email address in the body of the message. Huh? I replied and explained that I needed his street address and postal code as I wanted to mail an invitation. His reply, "Oh! Weird. Paper. I remember that. We'll have to find our mailbox!"

Yep, time for a revolution. A Letter Writing Revolution.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Soup Making and Letter Writing

I was supposed to go to a parent's group this morning in Ottawa but I bailed.....again. This group was created for the parents who have children who are a part of Roger's House. Roger's House (not to be mistaken for Ronald MacDonald House) is the only pediatric palliative care home in Ontario. They also provide support and relief for families with children who have significant special needs. We are one of those families. The parent support group is offered monthly and I have had full intention of attending in the past but things always come up and I cancel. It is to the point where I think the facilitators are beginning to wonder if I dream up last minute excuses to avoid attending. This is not the case. The main issue is that we live an hour and a half from the centre and so driving all the way to Ottawa and back again for a support group leaves much to be desired. I am sorry but that is the honest to goodness truth. If I lived in the city, I would attend each month but that isn't the case.

The point of that long-winded introduction is that instead of going to Ottawa and attending the group, I decided at 6am that I was staying home. Not only did I stay home but I made a pot of Carrot Coconut Soup and I was also going to try my hand at mail art. And that's it. I needed this day "off" and at home. After I got the soup going, I was side-tracked and thought today, this perfect and glorious autumn day, would be a great day to thoroughly clean my office. This left little time for the mail art and I ended up sheepishly wandering over to the local pharmacy and choosing four standard postcards of a Canadian fall scene. Had I gone to the city, I would have dropped by Paper/Papier and bought some beautiful and unique stationery. The thing is, I was anxious to get my first five postcards mailed out through Postcrossing. Postcrossing is another website I unearthed that is very cool. Basically, you create a simple profile.......very easy even for those of you who panic at the word "profile." Next, you click on the button that says, "Send postcard." You are then given a random address of someone in the world and access to their limited profile. You then send them a postcard. It is important that you also write the Postcard ID # onto the card which is sent to you when you get the address. When they receive it, they register the ID # onto the website and then your address will be randomly given to someone who wants to send a postcard. Not sure if I have explained this very well. Some of the women I sent cards out to today have sent and received close to 1000 postcards! I am looking forward to receiving some postcards in the mail from all of the world. I sent postcards to the U.S.A, Italy, Germany, Finland and Spain. And all of this fun is free!

I suppose I can now share my Carrot Coconut Recipe for those who also enjoy cooking.

1. Saute a large chopped onion, 5 large cloves of garlic (or more) and about 3 Tbsp. of fresh, grated ginger in oil in a large pot. Saute until onions soften.

2. Add six cups of carrots, chopped roughly.

3. Add one chopped (small cubes) yam (sweet potato). Cover with vegetable broth until all veggies are just covered. Add a teaspoon or two of curry.

4. Bring to a boil and then let simmer on medium for two hours until vegetables are very soft.
5. Transfer to a large bowl and then use a scoop/measuring cup to transfer portions to a food processor for puree-ing. Wash out the pot so there are no bits left over when you add the pureed soup back into it.

6. Once the pureed soup is back in the pot, add one can of coconut milk (I use Thai Kitchen brand).

7. Now, serve yourself a bowl and write a letter or a postcard!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Other Letter Writing Blogs

When I started The Letter Writing Revolution, I had not thought about the fact that there were others in this vast world who perhaps, like me, really loved letter writing and who also had a desire to see it make a comeback or at least see it increase in frequency. It wasn't that I thought I was the only person out of the 6,873,700,000 or so inhabitants of planet earth that had the idea of revitalizing this lost art, I simply hadn't thought about it. All I knew was that I wanted to start a blog and when I received a letter one day from the only friend who ever wrote to me anymore, I realized that I really, really missed receiving and writing letters.

When I noticed that a new follower's identity was "365 Letters," I was intrigued and clicked on her icon to find out more about her. It turns out that she has a blog called 365 Letters and started a project in January 2009 which involved writing one letter each day for the entire year of 2009. She completed this task and so created a new project for 2010: 365 Letter Writing Ideas. On Thursday, October 7th, she even wrote a little blurb about The Letter Writing Revolution. Anyway, I may take up this letter writing challenge and follow in her footsteps and write a letter each day for the whole year starting January 1st, 2011 (1-1-11). Anyone care to join me on this challenge? Check here to read about the completion of the 365 Letters Project and all that she learned. Worthwhile reading the lessons she picked up during this challenge.

A Year of Letters is a similar endeavour but written a bit differently than the 365 Letters blog. Her posts are short and sweet and accompanied by photos. She is a kindred letter writer who is spreading the joy one letter at a time. She does confess that her heart belongs to the "corresponding" letter writers. That is, sending out letters of congratulations, gratitude and encouragement are great but there's really nothing quite like sending out a letter and receiving one back. I know, I know, I spoke of surrendering in an earlier post however, I have to agree with her, I sure like receiving mail. Hint. Hint.

So, as I started to visit other blogs with the topic of letter writing, I unearthed more and more great blogs. I have so many more to discover and check out but for now, in this post, I wish to share some of the wonderful ones I have come across so far. Please check them out and get inspired.

Letter Matters is one of those blogs that really inspires. Particularly, I liked the post she wrote August 21st 2010 titled "Incoming Mail" as she writes about the uniqueness of writing and sending a letter by mail in comparison to emailing and texting from your phone. She also describes a glorious letter she received from a another letter writing blogger, Missive Maven, who has a blog celebrating 'old-fashioned letter writing and all of its yummy accoutrements.' One of the many interesting things about this blog is her stats about incoming mail and outgoing mail. She shares how many letters she wrote and received in a month. It is fascinating especially since she admits that her average response time to letters is four months at this point. That means if she received a letter in May, she is getting to it now. Wow! That is a lot of pressure. In today's post, she linked to another blog that celebrates Mail Art. Sirpa, a Finnish Artist, creates amazing one-of-a-kind postcards and stationery to send all over the world. She, too, blogs about all of the mail she is receiving and posts photos of the cool mail art that is being created and sent all over the world.

A sample of Sirpa's mail art: a note with her
handprint in red watercolour.

I stumbled across, Good Mail Day, and discovered that Carolee and Jennie have many talents but both love mail and mail art. About Jennie: "She spends far too much money on postage and smiles every time she hears the creak of mailbox hinges...." and Carolee: "When not maintaining her ‘writer’s bump’ by wielding a leaky fountain pen, Carolee teaches bookbinding classes and works as a conservation technician for the Stanford University Libraries." I definitely need to spend more time at this blog as it looks mighty interesting and I think I will enjoy their words and stories. And finally, Art of a Letter, is another blog I stumbled across. Although she doesn't post a whole lot, I do like her writing. I also plan to write her a letter. I have a feeling that I am going to gain some new pen pals in the next little while.

There is even the Letter Writers Alliance. There mission statement includes: "In this era of instantaneous communication, a handwritten letter is a rare and wondrous item. The Letter Writers Alliance is dedicated to preserving this art form. Prepare your pen and paper, moisten your tongue, and get ready to write more letters!"

On that note, here's to this journey of re-discovering the lost art of letter writing. I am excited about creating original mail art and to sending more and more letters out into the world. Remember, if you want to write, you can send me a letter to: Julie Keon, TLWR, P.O Box 533, Cobden, ON, K0J 1K0, Canada or if you want to receive a letter, send me your snail mail address to and I will write to you.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

World Post Day~ October 9th 2010

For your information, courtesy of TLWR  follower Denise, today is World Post Day.

Read all about it at the Universal Postal Union website especially the section on the International letter writing competition for young people.

Now, spend a few moments today to write a letter to someone and get it in the mail in honour of our universal postal systems that helps us to stay far more connected in the REAL sense of the word than email ever will.

And The Winner Is...........

And the winner of TLWR's first GIVEAWAY is...................

DEE DEE of The Chickadee Tweet.

You have won a $20 gift certificate for Paper/Papier at 18 Clarence Street, Ottawa, ON. To claim your prize, simply email me your snail mail address at and I will mail it to you with a letter asap.........congratulations!!

How was the winner chosen? I visited and they offer a free True Random Number Generator service where you enter the minimum number and maximum number of entries and then hit "Generate" and voila, you are given a random number which in this case was lucky number 7!

Enjoy your visit to Paper/Papier, Dee Dee, and make sure to let us know what you find!

Hallowe'en window display at Papier/Papier
The most gorgeous Christmas cards/gift tags/paper, etc. to be
found at Paper/Papier!
Check back in the next couple of days when I write about my 3rd TLWR field trip and offer another GIVEAWAY which will be available to all followers of this blog. It's a good one!!!

Happy Thanksgiving to my Canadian Followers!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Field Trip #2: A Visit to Paper/Papier AND Our First TLWR Giveaway!!!

I had been planning this field trip for some time but had to wait patiently until after school started and things settled down a bit in order to be able to visit and interview one of two of the owners of Paper/Papier ~ a very chic, urban, hip stationery shop located in the Byward Market of downtown Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. On Friday, October 1st, I had the opportunity to sit down with Gary Stern who co-owns the shop with his business and life partner, Andrew Hay.

The store front at 18 Clarence Street, Ottawa, Ontario
 When you walk through the front doors of the shop, you are greeted with colour....everywhere. You glance around and wonder where to start as each corner has something that draws you to it. If this is your first time visiting, you really need to allow yourself a good chunk of time to walk around and really see all of the wonderful items that are for sale.

The view as you walk through the front entrance
  My favourite is the large selection of single sheet stationery and envelopes with names like rhubarb and seafoam and of course the wall of packaged  envelopes in every colour imaginable.

Envelopes of every colour!
The majority, of course, is paper and paper products but they offer so much more like wrapping paper and ribbon sold by the yard, fountain pens and ink pots, a gorgeous line of body products (Bleu Lavande) made locally, greeting cards, artisan cards, gift bags, stickers and even a very popular Origami section.

After spending some time looking and touching everything (with clean hands, of course!) and saying, "Oh my goodness, look at this," and "Oh, you have got to be kidding," I moved to the back of the store and sat across from Gary. I wanted to talk about this shop that is so obviously cared for and filled with passion. I have been in a few stationery shops in many cities but none as beautiful and inviting and warm as Paper/Papier.

Before embarking on the world of all things paper, Gary spent ten years in interior design but the stress eventually got to him and so he naturally gravitated towards the business that his partner, Andrew, was already involved in. Andrew started out owning another store called The Papery which was also located in the Byward Market on Williams Street. He owned this shop for 20 years before buying out his Toronto partners and creating a new store at 18 Clarence Street known as Paper/Papier. Contrary to popular belief, Paper/Papier and The Papery on Bank Street are two completely separate and independently owned businesses. The name, Paper/Papier, encompasses all of their clientele....both anglophone and francophone and everyone in between. The location on Clarence Street (at Sussex) opened in April of 2003. Gary has been a part of this shop for the past ten years. When I asked him what he liked about this business, he replied, "I love paper. I love cards. I love writing letters. I love stamps." I get that. I love all of those things, too.

The day before I came to interview Gary, I received a letter from him in the mail and within the letter was a lone postage stamp. I thought this was a brilliant idea!!! Send a stamp to the receiver and they have to write you back and have no excuse. You have even provided the stamp. I am going to start doing this. It is a tiny  surprise to receive in a letter but one that is appreciated. When I asked Gary about letter writing and specifically how he first made contact with pen pals, he suddenly attached his index finger and thumb to his forehead in the shape of an "L" to illustrate the word "Loser" and announced he found the addresses on the backs of comic books. Speak for yourself, Gary!!! That's how I found my first pen pals, too. He hadn't read that earlier post entitled "Where It All Began."

Gary's main job at the shop is that of Card Buyer. THAT is a dream job for me. I can spend hours in a card shop, especially one that has unusual, funny, creative cards as opposed to the old, boring run-of-the-mill ones that you find in a strip mall. Gary has attended tradeshows in Toronto, NYC and even London, England to find the most unique, beautiful and original stationery that exists. I wondered if emailing/texting had caused a decline in stationery sales but Gary says, "No. There is always a need for stationery especially when it comes to cards like sympathy cards, for example." NEVER send a message of condolence by email. Nothing says tacky like that. The main obstacles for their shop are the harsh weather we sometimes get in Canada.... snow/rain/wind keeps people indoors and major construction that has been occurring on Sussex Drive this summer and fall.

Paper/Papier has a diverse clientele.....loyal customers from the days when Andrew owned the shop on Williams Street, nearby Embassy employees (U.S.A, Japan and German Embassies are just around the corner) and people who happen to be strolling by and come across this lovely store. The large selection of french language cards as well as blank cards, makes it easy for everyone to find something suitable.

Gary Stern in front of a portion of the cards available at Paper/Papier

Gary sees customers of all ages coming in and he is pleased when a young person comes in looking for formal thank you notes, for example, to send to a potential employer who recently interviewed them for a job. Last week, a young man came in needing assistance with purchasing a variety of letter writing supplies as he intended on writing to his girlfriend in another city once a week until they were together again. An older woman behind him in line wondered if he might have an older brother. Gary finds that younger people tend to send more cards while the older clientele are more apt to write several pages. He wonders if this deters people from letter writing; the fact that people think that a letter has to be long. This can be overwhelming. Gary recommends picking up a selection of note cards and just sending three lines to a loved one just to let them know you are thinking of them. If you see a card that makes you literally laugh out loud and it reminds you of your sibling or a friend, send them that's like sending a little bit of laughter in an envelope.

Returning a piece of Chiyogami paper to its rightful place.
Chiyogami= large sheets of paper with traditonal Japanese prints on them.
Used for lamp shades, wall art, framing and book binding.
Paper/Papier has a nice slection of this unique paper.

Paper/Papier recently added a new in-store service. Sara Purdon of Inky Design now has an office space within the shop and is available for all of your invitation/personalized stationery needs. Sara has even offered a very cool giveaway to be offered next week. And at the back of the store, you will find a corner occupied by Tivoli Florists. They also have a location in Westboro. They have been a part of the store for the past five years and run as a separate business.


With Christmas less than three months away, the staff at Paper/Papier are getting the shelves ready for Christmas stock. They have the most gorgeous gift tags, cards (both individual and boxed) and everything else you will need to get into the spirit.

Mary getting ready for Christmas
And since Christmas is the season for giving, Gary is giving one of TLWR followers a $20 gift certificate to Paper/Papier! To be eligible for this giveaway, you must be local (Ottawa area) and a follower of The Letter Writing Revolution blog. All you have to do is leave a comment below to enter. Comment once per day if you wish until Saturday, October 9th when the winner will be randomly selected and announced.
For those of you who are not local, watch for next week's giveaway courtesy of Inky Design and TLWR. Everyone will be eligible to win that one!!!! Stay Tuned.........