collaboration station (what the heck is the keep writing project?) / by Hope A

I have had penpals since I was 10. By the time I was 18, I thought it was normal to have friends I knew only through the mail and would travel great distances to meet them.  (This is so far before social media normalized treating strangers as confidants...)  When I was 31 and starting college, I wanted to stay in touch with my friends while at school. So I started a project, asking $1 for a subscription for the first 2 months, and wrote a mailing list. I sent  postcards I designed in computer classes and soon began typesetting and letterpress printing them.  In the second year, I asked friends to collaborate with me. (you can see the results in the archive here ) By the 3rd year, I redesigned the postcards to be a two-part folded card--one side was a postcard designed for the recipient to keep, and one side was to be mailed back to me, with question or prompt for response.  In December 2011, I had a showing of the cards and responses. I worried people would feel to shy or self-conscious in an art show setting to read through a basket of my mail. But within the first hour, people were sitting on the floor, reading and sharing the variety of responses I receive for each question. 

Since then, the format has remained mostly the same with the occasional exception--some months I send just a single postcard, no question, just a moment to enjoy.   

This past July I sent my 100th postcard. Some months have been more experimental in form and some months were experimental in numbering (see if you can find the 2 with the same number). It seemed like a good time for a shift in perspective. I asked 13 people--artists, writers, printers, penpals--if they would collaborate with me on a postcard one month each. Some have ideas for themes or questions, some are sending drawings for me to print and a few extra brave letterpress printers are willing to interpret my mountain of notes, emails and templates to print the whole thing themselves.

At the end of the 13 months, we will be nearing our 10 year anniversary.  Which seems like a good time to have a party. November 2018, plan on coming to New Orleans to read postcard responses, eat cake and have a drink with us. The location is tbd. This is the 3rd time we have shared the postcards and responses--once in Baton Rouge and once in Oakland--but the 1st time for New Orleans. Please join us.

So, if you have been putting off subscribing, now is the time. The first of the collaboration cards will go out in mid-September, with a small gift to help keep your cards safe so you can show them off to your friends. Or better yet, you can gift them a subscription.

It had meant a lot to me to be able to keep in touch with so many pen pals this way, to reconnect with old friends, to meet others and to hear a little from their lives. This kind of correspondence has allowed me to ask questions, request advice and build bonds.  It seems like just a letter writing project, but it has meant so much more to me.

If you still have questions, you can check out this FAQ page, or contact me gutwrenchpress@gmail.com.

 

Thanks. And keep writing.