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Debbie Ridpath Ohi reads, writes and illustrates for young people. Every few weeks, she shares new art, writing and resources; subscribe below. Browse the archives here.

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e-mail vs snailmail

Finished my Applied Arts article and sent it off yesterday. Being able to work with editors by e-mail is SO great. No fiddling about with finding the right size envelope or postage, wondering for days whether my mss has reached its destination.

Sometimes I do miss snailmail, though, at least for personal mail. I only started feeling like this in the past couple of years, when I was drowning in hundreds of e-mail messages (both business and personal) and unable to keep up. There's something wonderful about getting a personal letter in the mail, especially handwritten ones. Now they're so rare that anytime I do get one, I feel like sticking it up on my home office corkboard and admiring it for weeks. :-)

I used to be an avid snailmailer. My friend Cathy says she still has some of my old letters I sent to her during family vacations. I'd add silly cartoons and use different-coloured pens as well as rubber stamps and stickers. I also remember writing to penpals I found through my Archie comics (those were the days when it was ok for people to send in their snailmail addresses to be publicly posted).

Disadvantages of personal snailmail

- It's slower. Impossible to get any sense of real conversation going unless you're both answering each other's letters immediately, and even then it takes several days. One great aspect of e-mail is that you can get a reply to a letter within minutes, depending on the e-mail habits of the other person. Instant gratification, woohoo!

- It takes more effort. Compared to writing and sending e-mail, the effort of writing and sending a personal snailmail letter is astronomical. Plus mailing the thing means that one actually has to get off one's butt and Go Outside Into The Fresh Air to find a post office or mailbox.

Advantages of personal snailmail

- It's slower. The space between each exchange can be a welcome breather, making each letter more special, giving each person more time to come up with material for the next letter. The lack of instant gratification makes you appreciate each letter that much more, making you more willing to put more effort into your own letters.

- It takes more effort. Because it's tougher to send snailmail, your correspondence load is cut way down. Only friends that -really- want to keep in contact with you will continue a snailmail correspondence (or phone, but for people like me that dislike being interrupted in the middle of a workday with an unexpected social call, this can turn into an extra disadvantage).

- Historical archives. It can useful (both for sentimental and historical reasons) to have a paper record of your correspondence. In comparison, e-mail is so ephemeral.

Bottom line: I miss personal snailmail.

On the other hand, it's not something I could ever go back to on a regular basis. Why send a particular friend snailmail when he/she is on e-mail? And because snailmail takes so much time and effort, there is no way I would be able to keep in touch with the number of people I currently do. I'd likely lose touch with a fair number of friends who live far away and aren't the snailmailing type.

I'd be interested in hearing from any of you about your opinions re: personal snailmail vs e-mail. Post your comments in Blatherchat.

Culinary skills update

I cooked again last night. I have to admit, I actually am enjoying getting a bit back into cooking again. This time I made Mediterranean Stew (from the Moosewood Low-Fat Cookbook) and Broiled Portabello Mushrooms (ditto). Craig and Bryan came over, and the four of us watched Enterprise. Dinner turned out ok, yay! Jeff put together a dessert from Belgian waffles, fresh fruit, and Devonshire cream, yum.

And finally, HAPPY THANKSGIVING to all you Americans out there. :-)


I took these pics while walking to and from Sanko's on Queen Street West yesterday. Hey, I bought the makings for SUSHI! My mom taught how to make a certain type of norimaki a long time ago; I'm going to see how much I remember. :-)

- Closed-up shop.

- Sock puppets!

- Sock puppet close-up. Paulette Bourgeouis is a children's author (the Franklin books). Rex Harrington is a principal dancer in the National Ballet of Canada.

- Custom ring jewellry shop.

Today's Poll: (Suggest a question)

In the past six months, have you written a letter by hand and sent it by snailmail? (postcards don't count, sorry)

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