Tag Archives: letters

Monday’s Link Roundup.

In this Monday’s Link Roundup I’ve listed several book reviews that I think you’ll find interesting. If you’re concerned about  digitizing your precious family history, you’ll want to read Digital Imaging Essentials.  For an understanding of  what it’s like to be  supportive parents of a gay teenage boy who tried to commit suicide, be sure to read Oddly Normal. And for John Lennon fans, don’t miss The John Lennon Letters.

  • No sunlit room, no last words. “As Luke Allnutt watched his father die, he thought the time for a meaningful conversation and emotional epiphany was at hand. His father had other ideas.”
  • The best way to get unstuck. “Don’t wait for the right answer and the golden path to present themselves.This is precisely why you’re stuck.”
  • 10 Essential Marketing Skills for Freelancers. “As a freelancer (or potential freelancer), you live and die by your ability to sell your services. And uOddly Normal is not Joseph’s story. It’s the story of his parents, who struggled for years over how best to raise a child whom they knew was gay, who wasn’t out to them or the world, and whom they thought was mentally crumbling under the pressure of that secret.nless you’ve got some kind of agent or marketing firm doing your marketing for you, you’ve got to be your own marketer. If you’re like me, that doesn’t come naturally.”
  • Digital Imaging Essentials by Geoff Rasmussen. “Genealogists use digital imaging technology every day. But what they do not know about it can harm their digital treasures. They have needed a comprehensive, easy-to-read guide, full of illustrated step-by-step instructions to learn how to digitize, organize, preserve, share, and backup their digital collections.”
  • The John Lennon Letters, Edited by Hunter Davies. “The triumph of these 200 or so letters is that they are not just about John and Mimi, or John and The Beatles, or John and Yoko. They are all of that but, within the framework editor Hunter Davies gives them, they’re also about a time and place, and Lennon’s role within it. It is hard to distinguish whether the honestly and innocence of some of his correspondence reflects his personality, or his era.”
  • Translating from speech to prose. “Terkel’s books consist of tape-recorded conversations with mostly common people; after a brief introduction from Terkel, each text unspools almost seamlessly, with only an occasional nudge from the questioner. But here’s the thing: most people don’t talk that way.” [Thanks to APH member  Pattie Whitehouse for alerting me to this article.]
  • Book Review: Oddly Normal. “Thirteen-year-old Joseph Schwartz …came out at school one spring day in 2009, rode the bus home, shut himself in his suburban New Jersey bathroom, and downed way too many capsules of Benadryl. He had never been subjected to overt homophobia, was only a few years away from hearing the president of the United States express unequivocal support for gay marriage on national television, and was the son of two very supportive, loving parents. But no matter his direct relationship with what it meant to “be gay,” Joseph carried the weight of his difference… and it almost killed him. Joseph’s dad, New York Times national reporter John Schwartz['s],… new memoir, Oddly Normal: One Family’s Struggle To Help Their Teenage Son Come to Terms With His Sexuality… is not Joseph’s story. It’s the story of his parents, who struggled for years over how best to raise a child whom they knew was gay, who wasn’t out to them or the world, and whom they thought was mentally crumbling under the pressure of that secret.”

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Encore! How Old Letters and Recovered Memories Bring Satisfaction and Hope.

We lay aside letters never to read them again, and at last we destroy them out of discretion, and so disappears the most beautiful, the most immediate breath of life, irrecoverable for ourselves and for others.
 ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
 

Last week I was doing some spring cleaning and came across a collection of letters I had written to my parents some forty-five years ago. At the time, I was a young man teaching in Ghana. After University I’d joined CUSO, a Canadian voluntary organization similar to the Peace Corps, and had been assigned to the West African country for two years. I’d asked my mother to keep these letters as a partial record of my experience…Read more.

Monday’s Link Roundup.

This Monday’s Link Roundup has its usual eclectic mix. For the “shock of the old” take a look at Vintage Ad Sexism.  If you’re a Dorothy Parker fan, you’ll love  Dorothy Parker and the 5 Senses. Her clever use of the senses is a perfect jumping off point for memory prompts. And Seth Godin reminds us of the hard reality of marketing in The unforgiving arithmetic of the funnel.

  • Dorothy Parker and the 5 Senses. “I found three great Parker quotes that show her intriguing use of the five senses. The first two below are ones that I feature in my SheWrites post today…The third one, I selected to share with you here. Below it is a special writing prompt that it inspired.”
  • Why can smells unlock forgotten memories? “The toy cupboard at my grandmother’s house had a particular smell. I cannot tell you what it was, but sometimes now, as an adult, I will catch a whiff of it. The smell brings with it memories I thought were lost, memories of visits to my grandparents’ house, of my grandmother, and of playing with the toys from the toy cupboard. But why do smells have this power to unlock forgotten memories?”
  • 5 Steps to Turn Audiences into Clients. “Public speaking can be one of the most powerful methods for an independent professional to land new clients. But it doesn’t always work out that way. Before you book your next speaking engagement, ask yourself these five questions to make sure you’re on the right track to turn your audience into clients.”
  • The unforgiving arithmetic of the funnel. “One percent.That’s how many you get if you’re lucky. One percent of the subscribers to the Times read an article and take action. One percent of the visitors to a website click a button to find out more. sparked by an idea and go do something about it. And then!”
  • The myth of English as a global language. “English spelling is notoriously inconsistent, and some have gone further, calling it “the world’s most awesome mess” or “an insult to human intelligence” (both these from linguists, one American, one Austrian)…How did this unsystematic system come about? And is it really that bad? Some say that there are only a few hundred deeply irregular words, but the trouble is that most of them are common. Noam Chomsky and Morris Halle even went so far as to claim that we have “close to an optimal system”, though that takes a deal of argument to convince.”

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How Old Letters and Recovered Memories Bring Satisfaction and Hope.

We lay aside letters never to read them again, and at last we destroy them out of discretion, and so disappears the most beautiful, the most immediate breath of life, irrecoverable for ourselves and for others.

~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Last week I was doing some spring cleaning and came across a collection of letters I had written to my parents some forty-five years ago. At the time, I was a young man teaching in Ghana. After University I’d joined CUSO, a Canadian voluntary organization similar to the Peace Corps, and had been assigned to the West African country for two years. I’d asked my mother to keep these letters as a partial record of my experience.

Dan and the staff at Sefwi Wiawso Secondary School, Ghana

Last week was the first time I’d looked at them in over four decades. As I read through these tissue thin blue aerograms, covered in tightly composed script,  I was deeply affected.  My younger self was speaking to me across the years not only about his wonder at this new place and culture but also about his hopes and dreams.

I feel that I want a role in life where I can work to benefit those among us who are not so privileged. I have long given up the idea that I alone can solve world problems. But I do feel that I have something and that I can contribute a little to working out some of our problems.

In a powerful way I came to see that the life I had hoped for has been lived. The values I held then are still close to my heart. It gives me encouragement as I look ahead to the “third chapter” of my life. I suspect it will be  a time  every bit as challenging and eye-opening as my days in Ghana.  And I hope I’ll face the future with the same degree of passion, curiosity, dedication, and openness as that young man did all those years ago.

The letters also confirm how much detail and texture of our past is simply lost unless we have journals or letters to refresh our memory.  I was surprised at the events, people, and places that had faded from my mind.  In fact, it turns out that the Ghanaian secondary school compound where I lived and taught wasn’t exactly how I remembered it at all!

My letters home illustrate the great value that memorabilia play in unlocking the stories of our life. But not just the stories.  Those letters also helped me understand something of the person I am today.

Here are a few random thoughts:

  • Start a journal. It’s never too late. Begin recording the details of your life. One day you may want to write your life story and these journal entries will be invaluable.
  • Preserve old letters. Make sure that you keep your correspondence safely stored in acid free archival boxes.
  • Search for original documents. If you’ve been hired to produce a personal history or you’re doing your own, make sure to uncover any letters, journals, or photographs that will help trigger memories.
  • Use archival documents to reveal values and beliefs. While memorabilia can aid in triggering a recall of past events – go further. The stories that emerge from the past can provide powerful clues to the essence of a person and the things that person holds dear.

Photos from Dan Curtis collection

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