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When was the Last Time You Wrote a Letter by Hand?

What about you? What was the last time you wrote or received a letter? What does letter-writing mean to you? Would you like to be my penpal?

A handwritten letter from across the seas is a form of time travel. (Thus said my very good friend Charles. He is no longer with us, but his words remain.)

When I was much younger I used to write long letters to my father who remained in the small town where I was born, while I moved from city to city, country to country.

My father is not an expressive man. For years, I never realized what my letters meant to him. It was only during a visit back home that I chanced upon the letters I had sent him all neatly filed in a huge folder, each page preserved in a separate plastic covering.

I’m embarrassed to admit that I was never as careful with the letters I received and might only have a smattering of the messages I received over decades from my father and my friends. More than a dozen years ago, I sent out a call for penpals and for a while we all exchanged letters.

Then life got busy for me with my writing career and concerns at home.

(If you’d like a lovely meditation on letter writing, a description of my letters, and time, here’s my friend Charles’ blog post, which he closed down in 2014. He passed on in 2020).

Letter writing fell by the wayside.

So imagine my surprise and joy when I received a handwritten note from our very own Hilary, who is nothing short of an institution in our blogging world. If you haven’t been on her blog, you’re missing out. My letterbox sees only bills and pamphlets and to receive such a pretty missive made my day. I intend to write back as soon as I’ve confirmed her address. I sure have the stationery and the pen to do it—I realize I haven’t used them in months now. Writing letters brings much joy–I need to get back to it if I can.

There’s something organic and visceral about hand writing—the glide of pen and hand over paper, the way the words form, looping and in lines. In my earlier years of writing, I often wrote first drafts of short stories by hand–I sometimes take notes by hand now, but drafting by hand has largely become a thing of the past. I can’t remember the last time I wrote a letter by hand—perhaps during the pandemic, when I took part in a project to hand write letters for those isolated by their loved ones.

Each year, as I grow older, I resolve to hold my friends closer. Friends made via the blog and social media are very precious, but there’s something very special about holding in your hand a paper your friend has held in theirs.

So, a huge thanks to Hilary, for this thoughtful gift.

Hilary, if you’re reading this, please know that you’ve been an inspiration and a delight. Your support over the years has been invaluable: your comments have kept me blogging. If you like, we can attempt to revive the correspondence—write about our days to each other, so we can forge the sort of connect only handwritten letters can provide. I’m of course going to write to you now.

This also goes for anyone else reading this post!

I don’t know that I’m a worthy correspondent, but I sure would like to write a letter or two each week, and receive some in return. If you’re keen, drop me a comment, and I can email you my address, and wait for yours in return.

What about you? What was the last time you wrote or received a letter? What does letter-writing mean to you? Would you like to be my penpal?

My literary crime novel, The Blue Bar is on Kindle Unlimited now. Add it to Goodreads or snag a copy to make my day. The sequel, The Blue Monsoon is up for pre-orders–add that one to Goodreads so we can have a giveaway soon! And if you’d like to read a book outside the series, you can check out You Beneath Your Skin.  Find all info about my books on my Amazon page or Linktree.

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Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her next literary crime thriller, The Blue Bar, is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency, and was published by Thomas & Mercer on January 1, 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

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  • DutchIl says:

    Thank you for sharing!!.. I don’t write letters by hand anymore, would be difficult to read, but will type a letter letting my fingers do the walking and my heart do the talking and sign by hand.. 🙂

    Hope all is well in your part of the universe and until we meet again…
    May love and laughter light your days,
    and warm your heart and home.
    May good and faithful friends be yours,
    wherever you may roam.
    May peace and plenty bless your world
    with joy that long endures.
    May all life’s passing seasons
    bring the best to you and yours!
    (Irish Saying)

  • Shilpa Gupte says:

    When I was in school, and then in college, I would buy those children’s magazines that had names and addresses of kids from around the world looking for penpals. I loved writing letters and so made quite a few penpals. One was from Ghana, another from Singapore and one other from Indianapolis, and oh, Atlanta, too. I couldn’t forge a connect with the kid in Ghana as he would write weird stuff like loving me like a rose flower etc ( :D), which, for my school-kid (8th standard) mind was shocking! There was such a thing called “innocence” back then, which is so missing today, no? But I continued writing to the girls from the three places I mentioned, right till I got married. That was fun! I miss them today. I did try looking for them on FB. I met the one from SIngapore, continued writing to her till some years ago, but then life and its etceteras came in the way and my letter-writing became a thing of the past.
    I do love writing letters now, too, but my handwriting goes haywire by the end of the page and I feel embarrassed thinking what would the receiver think. Will they even understand what I have written!? I wonder. 🙂
    I would love to write to you, D. I remember our phone calls from some years ago and miss those chats. Maybe through our letters we could reconnect. But only if and when you are free, haan. 🙂
    Take care.

  • I’m big on written thank-you notes but it’s been a while since my last fully-fledged letter. It’s funny that times have changed so much (and I’m only in my 40s) that forms of communication have shifted so. One of my closest friends and I used to send long letters back and forth as teens during the summers we were apart at different ballet intensives. I’m thankful for WhatsApp–that I can use it to communicate easily with my brother who’s currently living in Spain. But we all know a letter in the mailbox is much more exciting than a ping from our social media devices. Thanks for the inspiration–a little letter-writing on my to-do list for the week!

    • I completely agree! Letters are so nostalgic and heartwarming for me. Sending a letter feels much more intimate than sending a text or email. Enjoy your letter-writing time!

  • I’ve used a computer for all correspondence since the mid 1980’s

    • They are convenient! I’m incredibly grateful for my computer — if it was purely by letter, keeping in touch would take so much longer!

  • That was a very interesting story. As for me, I usually write letters using MS Word, but I sometimes write handwritten letters, a few times per year, and I receive handwritten letters, mostly in Swedish. Also all my postcards and greeting cards are of course handwritten, and those I send a few hundred of every year.

  • My cousin and I send each other hand-written Xmas and b-day cards every year. We’re both in the same school of thought – why let go of something so lovely and personal, that touches another human the way the writing of a letter or note does?

    In a post I wrote back in Oct of ’21, I blogged about this very subject ( – “When I do pick up a pen, I hesitate for the briefest moment as I reach into my deepest memory bank for that familiar sensory memory.”

    I love writing longhand and I still sketch with a #2 pencil! Here’s to not completely losing the personal touch in communication. Nice post.

    • That’s so sweet! It’s lovely that you and your cousin are so committed to keeping in touch, and I couldn’t agree more — letter-writing can be incredibly moving and is a wonderful way of sustaining connections. Thank you for sharing your blog post and the beautiful quote!

  • Letters are wonderful aren’t they? So personal.
    And Hilary is a true gem. I still send cards, but rarely letters. My bad.

    • Hilary is a gem! The letter was such a lovely surprise. It’s completely understandable if you don’t have the time to write letters, especially with how busy life can get. I also find myself lagging behind on correspondences, simply because there’s so much to do and my brain gets all foggy. But your idea of sending cards is a lovely alternative!

  • arlene says:

    I miss those days (years even) when I used to receive them🥰

  • It has been decades since I have handwritten a letter. A few years ago, I handwrote a thank you note to someone who did a big favor to me. It is much better than sending an email thank you card.

    • Agreed! It feels much more meaningful to send a handwritten note. And it’s nice to be able to pin it up or keep it somewhere special for rereading on another occasion.

  • Sonia Dogra says:

    This is so wonderful to read, Damyanti. Hilary always has something beautiful to add through her blogs and stories and now this!

  • The last letter I wrote by hand was last Christmas. Some of my elderly relatives do not have computers and they love to receive letters. I have found that since I’ve typed so much in recent years that my once lovely penmanship has deteriorated badly. If you don’t use it, you lose it unfortunately.

    • It’s lovely that you send handwritten letters to your relatives! A letter in itself is a gift. Unfortunately, with computers around, my handwriting has deteriorated, too. Letter-writing is good practice for me, though!

  • I love writing letters by hand. There’s only one problem. My handwriting is so terrible, you’d have to send my letter to the NSA for decryption (and even they’d be stumped). My handwriting is a very complicated form of shorthand. No one can read it. Even I can’t read it at time. So, if you’re asking when was the last handwritten letter I actual wrote, I’d say “The Gulf War” and that’s because I couldn’t take a typewriter with me.

  • Jack Eason says:

    My handwriting was, and has always been, abominable. Consequently I type everything…

  • I was an invererant letter-writer in high school, but not anymore. My handwriting is such now that other people can’t read it. I suppose I could type letters . . .

  • JT Twissel says:

    I love to write and receive handwritten letters – the problem here in the US is the post office – they are so inept – if you don’t have exactly the right zip or postage they hold onto to the letter for two or three weeks and then return it to you. Very frustrating.

    • That does sound like a problem. Over the years, I’ve also had issues with letters going missing or being delivered to the wrong address.

  • As soon as you said ‘Hilary’, I knew who you meant. That lady is a breed apart. I love her! I haven’t handwritten a letter in decades, but my excuse is rheumatoid arthritis. Maybe I would otherwise–not sure! I hope someone takes you up on it, Damyanti!

  • I love writing and receiving postcards for all these reasons!

  • hilarymb says:

    Hi Damyanti – yes ’twas me … we had to use stamps up – so ‘forced to write and use them up’ (not wasting money!) … who to – well, the select few – I’m delighted it arrived. I’ve always enjoyed seeing ‘The Pigeon Letter’ – as it says: Reinvented – Write, Fold, Send … I duly followed instructions and thankfully had your address. I might write a blog post about the Pigeon idea … so thanks for the next post to start Autumn off next week … I’ve had surprised emails from a few people … cheers and thanks for your support too along the years – Hilary

    • hilarymb says:

      It was also sent to your two nesting birds on your balcony or just outside it … hence the particular choice of ‘card-letter’ …

    • I might have stamps somewhere, but stationary and envelopes–I’d be hard-pressed to come up with those! You are an inspiration, Hilary!

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      So pleased to be the beneficiary of expiring stamps–loved the pigeon mail, and thanks for addressing the birds on our balcony who still make daily visits and call to be fed though they are currently nesting elsewhere.

      I’m going to DM you to confirm your address.

      • hilarymb says:

        Thanks Damyanti – the like button doesn’t work … but the sentiment is there … cheers H

  • rxena77 says:

    Letter writing is a lost art. I have volumes of letters written by Mark Twain, Raymond Chandler, William Faulkner, C S Lewis, Hemingway, F Scott Fitzgerald, Ray Bradbury, James Stewart to his friend, Henry Fonda, John Adams to his wife, Abigail and then to Thomas Jefferson – they all give a sense of listening in on a private conversation, illuminating a facet of their personality you could get nowhere else. Who will publish volumes of emails? When my home burned down I lost all the letters written me by my friends. Great post!

    • Damyanti Biswas says:

      It IS indeed a lost art. Emails are so much more ephemeral, and somehow impersonal. I’ve enjoyed reading author correspondences as well, and I wish we did more meaningful things like that instead of the relentless barrage of social media posts.

      I also have 15 years worth of friendships on this blog, you among them, but a letter somehow feels more solid, something to hold on to. I just checked,a nd I have a bunch of letters from blogging friends.

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