By Darlene Beck-Jacobson
day I go to my mailbox looking for a letter. As a freelance writer,
I submit stories to publications, hoping for a sale. Usually, I
get back that dreaded self-addressed stamped envelopethe manuscript
returned with a rejection letter.
Occasionally, Ill find a rejection specifically for me rather
than the generic Dear Author. These letters might tell
why the piece is rejected with a few words of praise or encouragement.
Recently Ive been lucky enough to get letters of acceptance:
We want this. Its a writers favorite song.
Despite the rejection letters Im destined to receive as a
professional, I love getting and writing letters. I have been writing
them since I was a child. One of my favorite assignments in elementary
school was writing letters to grandparents. By junior high, everyone
wrote notesa satisfyingly quick form of correspondenceand
passed them back and forth to friends. When I went to camp in 1960
I wrote a postcard to my parents, which read: Dear Mother,
Camp is fun. I miss you. Please send tootpaste. I nead it.
That Mom saved it reinforces my belief that letters are special.
If it werent for letters, I dont think Id have
survived college. We didnt have computers in the dorms in
the early 1970s. We had a phone but, with little spending money,
lengthy long distance calls werent always an option. Id
write home about everything and nothing. Life in the dorm, dining
hall food, classes, exams, roommates, bomb scares (we had them even
then) and parties.
Sometimes a letter took days to finish. If I ran out of paper, Id
use bags, napkins or the backs of memos. I wrote whenever I had
a few moments and until I had a few pages to send. When I was lonely
or homesick, the letters I received were like hugs and kisses, instantly
lifting the deepest blues.
My parents died long ago, but I still have some of the letters we
wrote to each other during my college years. Telephone conversations
have long since faded from memory, yet reading the words on the
aging paper transports me, for a moment, back to that time.
As adults, most of us have forgotten the art of letter writing.
We send a quick
e-mail or make a phone call to keep in touch. Its fine to
use modern technology to communicate. But, for me, nothing is more
user-friendly than a letter. Because you often reach impersonal
answering machines and voice mail, I find letters are the easiest
way to register a complaint, send thank yous or address congressional
With a letter, you stop all other activity and devote time and attention
to pen and paper. People talk on the phone while eating, washing
dishes, cooking and drivingyou arent necessarily the
center of attention. But with a letter, for a short while, you are
the center of attention when you open that envelope and read the
words someone took the time to write.
Ive opened letters containing money, pressed flowers, chewing
gum, stickers, photos and perfume. My telephone never gives me those
things. I use a computer to type final drafts of my stories and
to send e-mail messages. But for me, modern conveniences will never
replace the joy of writing and receiving letters.
Darlene Beck-Jacobson 74 is
a speech/language specialist with Glassboro Public Schools. Her
stories have been published in St. Anthony Messenger and Dogwood
Tales, and next year a story will appear in Cricket magazine.
Shes an active member of the Pen-In-Hand writers group.