Laisha Rosnau has been writing and sending letters since she was five but she’s still excited when she gets her mail and sees a personal letter.
“I like the way the paper feels, the decorations on the envelope, if there’s a sketch or photo inside, just the fact that people took the time to write a letter and send it to me,” she said.
“My children are only two and four but they are delighted, too, when someone sends them some mail. They carry around the letters and postcards.”
Rosnau started writing letters to her best friend when her family moved from Montréal and they have kept up the written friendship. Rosnau’s other letter exchange is now mostly with older relatives without e-mail and she misses her letters. She has saved her letters, including love letters from her husband, and noticed that in the late 1990s e-mail started to replace paper letters.
As a writer — she is the author of the novel, The Sudden Weight of Snow, and two collections of poetry, Notes on Leaving, and Lousy Explorers — she loves the written word. Research for a new novel has her searching archived letters, including those in the Vernon Museum and Archives.
“I’m fascinated not only by the personal information that’s revealed, but by the different perspectives letters give into world events at the time and by the writing styles of different eras and how they change,” she said.
“I noticed that the tone of the letters in the 1920s and ‘30s was very much different. People were more effusively affectionate with greetings like, ‘dearest’ and ‘darlingest love’ and ending with terms of endearment like, ‘with all my heart’ and your dearest friend.’ In the wars, there was a note of anxiety, intense concern because this was the only way to keep in touch and there was always the thought that this might be the last communication with a loved one.”
Rosnau also noticed that people seemed to express their emotions much more openly in letters, maybe because these things are now talked about on the phone.
“People would sometimes say they were melancholy or exhausted. There was a level of emotional intensity that I wasn’t expecting.”
She was touched by the sincerity and permanence of the letters and the glimpse of another time as well as the beautiful penmanship and decided to do her part to promote the fine art of letter writing.
“I find that when I actually write a letter with a pen in my hand, it gets me in a state of mind where I am more open. I wanted to share that,” she said.
She is a member of Gallery Vertigo which she opens one night a month for the Letter Writing Social Club, for people to come into the artists’ personal inspirational space to write their own letters. There is a pot luck of letters and cards donated by the gallery artists, with stamps available at cost, or people can bring their own materials. Cards by local artists are also available. Tea and cookies are served by donation to cover costs of the gallery rental.
“People can sit down and take the time to catch up on their letter writing in a creative atmosphere. I will open the space extra nights for writing Christmas cards and letters if there is enough interest,” said Rosnau, who is enthusiastic about the vintage stationary available, some of it dating back to the 1940s. She would like anyone who has odds and ends of stationery around to donate them to the club.
“It’s good to go to the gallery, put on some tea, hang out with other people who want to write letters and, well, actually write them,” she said.
The Letter Writing Social Club meets the second Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m. at Gallery Vertigo, #1 3001-31 St. (upstairs), Vernon. For more information or to donate writing paper, envelopes, cards or post cards, call Gallery Vertigo at 250-503-2297.