The Letter Writing Revolution

Revitalizing a Lost Art One Letter at a Time

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Circle Letter

I have received news that as of midnight last night, our area of the country will be directly affected by this rotational strike of Canada Post. I have cringed over and over at the news reports regarding the lack of need for the mail system as the world becomes more and more electronic. I was daydreaming as I drove along the highway the other day about what letter writers would do if the postal system decided to call it quits. I have found these last few weeks frustrating waiting and wondering and holding off. I have had friends who could have used a special card in the mail but I didn't send any. I realize how much I really like the postal system especially today when I opened the mailbox and it was empty. That hasn't happened since last summer. This is such a rare occurrence that I even blogged about it when it happened.

In the meantime, the revolution has come to a grinding halt although my inspiration to blog about all things letter writing has returned and so that can only be a good sign. Perhaps this shift in my thinking will somehow impact Canada Post and soon the mail will be travelling again to and from one another.

Recently, I received a letter from a woman who lives locally who follows my blog. She wondered if I had ever heard of "Circle Letters" and if so, why I hadn't written about them. She said she would have been rather surprised if I hadn't heard of them. Well, folks, I hadn't heard of them. Had no idea what she was talking about. She offered to explain it in an email but I was even more confused so I went to her home so that she could show me a Circle Letter and explain it to me in layman's terms. I have attempted to explain it since and I just seem to go around in circles, kind of like the Circle Letter. I pulled this explanation straight off the internet  from here:

The Circle Letter by Rhoda Weber Mack
The circle letter is useful for keeping community with scattered friends and colleagues. We use this for our eight sibling family, to keep the common conversation intact. Here's how: 
  • Write your own letter, and mail it with a list of mail stops to the next in line, who inserts his or her own letter along with yours, to the next stop, etcetera all the way back to you. Now, read the fat contents with relish, withdraw your old letter, add a new one, and mail it on. Full circle.

My old letters add up to a diary of our days, forgotten moments with our children, moods of summer afternoons or wintry mornings long ago when I sat down to add my commentary to the family circle letter.

Extracted from the Whole Earth Review 

The woman who shared this interesting concept with me  had an example to show me. Unfortunately, I didn't have my camera with me that day to photograph an actual Circle Letter. She comes from a large family and in order to keep in touch with her siblings, they use the Circle Letter as a personal and effective way to communicate. Rather than writing out a separate letter to each person, they simply write one letter and send it to the person next on the list who adds their letter (after reading the ones inside) and mails it on to the next in line. The list of names/addresses is contained in the envelope so you always know. Eventually the packet of letters grows larger and returns to the initial person on the list. They catch up on all of the news that has been shared since they first sent their letter weeks earlier and then they take out that original letter and add a new one. Round and round it goes. Brilliant.

Perhaps I will start a Circle Letter to be shared between myself, my blood sisters and our new sister-in-law, Ada, who is marrying my brother on Saturday.

How many of YOU have heard of a Circle Letter?


  1. I used to do this years ago, back in the 80's. They were called letter mags in the UK and often followed a theme. I remember that I started off a mag that was called "Over the Gate" and was for general letters. But there were ones devoted to recipes, books etc. They were good fun, but could be a bit of a bind as one was expected to write quite long screeds.

  2. I LOVE this idea and would totally get into that, Julie!!
    I had never heard of it either, until now and think it is great.
    p.s. I am still mailing things through Canada Post and know that they will eventually get where they need to. I don't mind if the news is a little delayed. It will still be good for that person to receive mail at the end of all this!

  3. I've been holding off on mailing a couple of parcels.
    I love this idea!! I want to do it with Robin's relatives in England!

  4. I found your post from an internet search for "circle letter." My closest friends are scattered across provinces and countries, and I've been reminiscing about my Granny's circle letter. A plump envelope would arrive regularly, with news of each of the siblings' families: Alice in Pittsburgh, Orpha in Ohio, Tillie in California, niece Loma in Georgia. Rachael would add her own new letter (with toned-down updates on the wild young grandaughter in Canada), and send it along.
    Simpler times, simpler lives. Yet what shines through is the beauty of those unique personalities.

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I need to know that this revolution is growing and impacting the masses. Your comments motivate me! Please take the time to let me know how TLWR is working for you.