When I’m feeling stuck as a writer, I do one of three things. I take a long walk. I take a hot shower. I grab a pen and write a letter by hand. Walking helps humans think more clearly, which is why it has always been my favorite form of exercise. Water always seems to bring change in me, whether I’m swimming or sitting on the beach meditating or standing under the hot water of a shower.
However, sometimes all I need to do is grab whatever pen is nearby and start writing the date and “dear one,” and I’m released.
I’ve always been an avid letter writer. In the closet of Desmond’s room I have boxes full of letters, bundled with rubber bands, waiting for me to read them again. I’ve kept the letters and cards written to me by friends and family for decades. However, one of my favorite stacks is the letters I sent to my dear friend, Tita, when I lived in New York in the 1990s. Handwritten in red scrawls or tiny black lines, these letters are my own history, a record of years rich with experiences that formed me and feel far away now. Tita gave them back to me as a present last year. It’s like my own time capsule, in letter form.
My stacks of handwritten letters slimmed down once email arrived. It’s a shame, really. I can go back and re-read emails whenever I feel like it, but they’re not the same as those scrawled notes and postcards. And even email has lost its luster. Remember when email felt like magic? You could type a letter to a friend and press send, then she could be reading it within the hour? Now, I rarely write emails to friends anymore. It’s all work tasks, press releases, and someone wanting something from me. Sigh.
This week, I decided to start writing letters again.
There is a red box full of letterpress stationery sitting on my writing desk. I pulled out a card and started writing today.
And I have decided to write letters to you.
For years, we’ve been trying to figure out what to do with the newsletter for this site. The same way email has changed, blogs have changed. When I started this site, it was me writing. I had no idea anyone was going to be reading. There’s something charming and lo-fi about blogs from 2005 now. What a charming old time that was, when people took photographs with point and shoot cameras and posted those photos with stories! There was no need for a newsletter. The blog was the thing, itself. Now, most blogs are sleek and professional, emulating glossy food magazines, run by 22-year-olds who have never known a world without a food blog. Almost everyone who runs a food blog knows more about how to run it as a business than I do. Volumes more. They’re probably not even aware of the fact that monetize isn’t really a word. Except now, it is.
Other people are much better at running newsletters as a marketing machine, a chance to earn money and sell you something. It seems like the entire internet is a marketing machine now. I’ve thought about treating our newsletter and this site that way — running a small business and raising a family is hard work and we could always use more income — but I can’t seem to do it. The truth is, that just isn’t me. I’m still a writer first.
Meanwhile, there’s so much we want to share: restaurant recommendations in the cities we visit, cookbooks we are loving, foods that make us happy, people and pieces that change us. I’ve tried writing posts here but they have been sporadic. I store up notes on my phone of things I want to share and they pile up and stay there.
The fact is nearly every post for this site that has meant something to me has started as a letter to a friend, stories told slowly. And then I add photos and a recipe.
Thinking about where this site began made it clear to me: I want to write letters again.
Today I sent out the first of our Friday letters. Each week, I’ll write a letter to those of you who want to read, our little tribe of people who love good food and want to talk about it. Danny and I will share little snippets of news spontaneously, give links to cookbooks we are loving, restaurants we have visited, music that soothes us, and pieces I’ve read that roll around in my head for days. There will be some links to Amazon and other places with whom we have an affiliate relationship, because the small amount of money those affiliates bring us allow us to order the ingredients for the recipes we test. There will be some specifically gluten-free news, but mostly it will be a weekly chatty letter from me and Danny.
And what we write in that letter will live only there. From now on, if you’d like our recommendations for food, restaurants, and cookbooks, sign up for the newsletter.
We’re still trying to finish the revisions for this website we’ve been working on for months. (The pneumonia I developed at 10,000 feet last week in Colorado has left me a little low right now. It has been one heck of a fall.) When that revision has finished, there will be a far more beautiful sign-up page. But for now, if you’d like to get a letter from us, you can sign up here.
I’d love to send you letters. If you sign up for the newsletter, look for a letter in your mailbox next Friday.