The Diction Fairy project started in 2013, when I bought the dictionfairy.com domain name because it was available. Scratch that. The project started in junior high, when I was passing handwritten notes in class. Wait, maybe in elementary school, when I sent that passionate handwritten love letter to John Travolta…
Perhaps I should say the official Diction Fairy project launched in August 2014, but the inspiration dates back to the beginning of humankind, when we started communicating via written symbols and images.
And then came the Internet with its surplus of messages and nothing to hold onto.
Fortunately, I’ve held on to many postcards, notes, and letters from my younger days. In April ’14, while organizing a closet and downsizing, I came across a box full of them. As I thumbed through, I found love letters written to a much younger me. I read penned words from the man I’d eventually marry and with whom I’d have my only child. He’s gone, but his handwriting lives on, personal, passionate, and in print.
Will our daughter ever know the joy, the melancholy, and the memories that an old handwritten love letter delivers?
Love letters weren’t the only old messages I opened. The 44-year-old me gets to look back at the messages sent to the 20-year-old me and marvel at how the handwritten word delivers meaning and history and friendship, impossible to capture in an instant message or email exchange.
Weeks passed and I kept thinking about the old letters, so I mailed a few postcards from Texas to friends and relatives. A couple of people even wrote back.
In July ’14 I turned 44 during a two-week vacation in South Africa. Hundreds of people from around the world instantly wished me a Happy Birthday via Facebook, and I read each message online from my hotel room half a world away from home. Oh how I love the Internet and its ability to connect us instantly, across the globe.
But not a single hand-signed birthday card awaited me when I returned home a week later. My mailbox betrayed me, serving up only pizza coupons, catalogues, and utility bills.
A few days later, I dug out stamps and blank postcards I never mailed, and I started writing.
I created this ironic online project in an effort to share the postcard art, doodles, and messages* I’ve received over the years. Hopefully the Diction Fairy project will inspire readers to become writers and embrace the beauty of snail mail and reconnect with old friends and relatives.
If you’d like to share your own stories, send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Happy Snail Mailing!
* Posts will be written to protect the privacy of individuals, while celebrating and sharing the joy of letter writing.