House tidying, copy editing, letter writing

279/366
How I spent all of my free time in college: Reading for pleasure. (Here, The Portrait of a Lady!) Circa October 2008.

Recent realization: I have a very consistent personality. Since I was a small child, I have been this way. Here’s the progression, as best I can chart it.

1. WORDS, READING THEM

It starts with words. When I was two, I would sit on my grandfather’s lap while he read the newspaper and identify letters that I knew. Letters were intrinsically interesting to me, as a baby, and I’m not sure why. I was read to continually by my family. I began memorizing full books when I was very little, but soon, by the age of three, I had taught myself how to read. (Mom says I pulled a random, unfamiliar book off the shelf while we were in the library and sat down and read it to her.) And so, naturally, I have surrounded myself with books ever since. Mom realized, when I was young, that time-out was an ineffective punishment for me. When she came in to let me out of my room, she was greeted by my solemn face as I pored over a book. “Oh, I’m not done yet, thank you,” I said dismissively. Words have always held a deep, deep pull for me. For whatever inexplicable reason.

 2. WORDS, WRITING THEM

Once I learned how to read, I then devoted myself to learning how to write. From the age of 7 until the present, I have kept a journal, mostly in handwritten form. As a child, I acquired scads of pen pals all over the country and the globe (some of whom I am still in touch with). I have always been fanatic about high-quality writing instruments and would hoard my good pens from the rest of the family. I took up calligraphy in middle school, and I am presently a calligrapher on the side. Loving words as much as I do, it has made sense to me that I should also love the process of physically writing them.

IMG_6918.JPG
Recent calligraphy on wedding invitation envelopes. Bluestocking Calligraphy.

3. WORDS, EDITING THEM

I was a persnickety child who loved rules. Applying this legalistic devotion to my love of reading, I cared tremendously for words and it hurt me when others did not equally care for them. (It still does. The large majority of writers on the internet, especially in the comments section, are constantly hurting my feelings, in a grammatical sense.) As a young girl, I was naturally good at spelling and at picking up the dictates of grammar (primarily through the natural osmosis of excessive reading).

I eventually went to college and got a dual degree in English (dreamy and fun) and journalism (practical and cut-throat). I thought I was going to be a reporter, because I loved print media and writing, but reporting made me extremely anxious, and I swiftly realized that I was not cut out for the competitive, high-energy demands of the job.

Around that time, I had an aggressive but insightful journalism professor who encouraged me to try copy editing. He goaded me to apply for a nationwide copy editing internship program, and I did. I got accepted and got to spend a glorious summer at the Denver Post copy editing and hiking. I had found my calling.

Copy editing, as I’ve written about before, brings me a lot of joy, and I’m really happy to be in this odd little profession. It’s a career for rule-loving introverts and jubilant nerds, and I’m delighted to be one of their number.

Quiet, simple home

4. SPACES, EDITING THEM

The leap that this personality bent takes is this: I seem to have a parallel approach to both words and spaces. I like to edit sentences. I also like to edit rooms. Or my wardrobe. Or other people’s junk drawers. Reading Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up was a revelation. I spent about eight hours over the Christmas holiday cleaning out and organizing my parents’ closet, and it was fun for me. I loved it. The fastest route to my domestic happiness is a clean kitchen. I cannot abide visual clutter (even though I can get very lax about some things, like sweeping or dusting or vacuuming curtains, ever, in their lifetimes).

The epiphany was that my deep need for a tidy home maps perfectly onto my deep need for a tidy sentence. There’s a reason why I am this weird, obdurate person! It’s all very consistent. I understand that the reason I insist on Inbox Zero … is the reason that I can’t read a restaurant menu without itching for a red pen… is the reason that I compulsively make lists for everything I want to accomplish… is the reason that I read voraciously still… is the reason that I have to fold my shirts in a particular way… is the reason that an un-alphabetized bookshelf is anathema to me…

So. This is a poorly articulated question, but here it is: Do you find, like me, that your interests and hobbies converge into this seamless presentation of your (rather uniform) personality? In other words, the reason that you love X is because it’s really a very similar thing to your other great love, Y.

I’m sincerely curious to hear from you. I don’t think I’m alone in this…

Calligraphy prints for sale

Forgive the shameless self-promotion, but I have to note here briefly that I have some calligraphy prints for sale, just in time for the holidays.

Prints start at $25.

Shaker Dictum | Bluestocking Calligraphy print

Prints can also be framed for you in advance, which I find to be a huge benefit in gift giving. I’m always hard-pressed to find suitable frames when giving art, and Society6 make this very simple.

Joanna Newsom print | Bluestocking Calligraphy

PLUS, as a big bonus, between now and 25 December 2014, a portion of proceeds will benefit New City Arts Initiative, a nonprofit that aims to support Charlottesville artists and create engagement between artists and our community. It’s an organization that’s near and dear to my heart, so I’m thrilled to be able to offer this collaboration.

Emily Dickinson | Bluestocking Calligraphy print

I have been wanting to sell prints for a while, and I have a very encouraging and accommodating husband, who has been urging me to explore this new venture. Regardless of the outcome, it’s been a fun foray into another arena for my work.

Prints can be found in my shop or on my Society6 page.

The gift of a good letter

Via: Pinmarklet

I have been writing letters since I was little. As I was heavily steeped in historical fiction since childhood, I had a high, romantic ideal of handwritten letters; most of my peers, thankfully, did too, and so we started writing each other, even though some of us lived only 10 minutes apart. (This was still in a pre-e-mail era, mind you. Or, at least, pre-computer literacy for children.)

If you’ve ever written me a letter, chances are that I still have it. From my last estimate, I have 18 shoeboxes filled with letters that I have received throughout my young life. Some make me laugh in embarrassment over the things we once felt were of vital importance. Some make me tear up, like my treasured letters from my Great Aunt Lib. All of them bring me a lot of joy.

I am grateful that I still have a legion of friends who write me letters on a regular basis. My grandmother is my most faithful correspondent, and I have gotten to the point where I can decipher her compact, slanted cursive like a pro. Windy often writes us sweet notes about life in Southern Pines. I have two correspondents in the U.K., Diane and Natalie, both of whom send me gorgeous letters, often written with fountain pens and sealed with red wax. Angela writes me beautiful, thick, sincere letters, filled with well-crafted stories and confessions.

A letter to Catherine; stationery from Courtney.

I love writing and receiving letters and I will stand behind them until the USPS goes out of business (which may be sooner rather than later). It’s not like it’s a new thing to talk about how letters are more elevated and sincere than e-mails; everyone knows that. And I like e-mail; I use it every day and it’s a wonderfully efficient mode of communication.

But I think that’s what I like about writing letters in 2011. They are not efficient. They cost you time and money; e-mail is free and costs you comparatively little time. You can write and send an e-mail in less than a second. But a letter is a serious endeavor. I like them because they require so much more effort. What kind of stationery does this letter require? Am I going to write on letterhead or in a note? Will my handwriting be long and florid, or rushed and intent? What stories will I tell? What moments will I confess? All of these things have to be taken into account. Gmail never forces me to much thought beyond the expectation of a direct and quick answer.

And so you sit down and write a letter and maybe agonize a little over it. You put it in the mail and then you wait. And wait. And maybe you get a reply; maybe you don’t. Either way, the practice of self-imposed delayed gratification builds character. I venture that it is the laboring and the waiting that matter.

Monday Snax

This past week…

Sean, Julie, and baby Phinehas! (Sorry for the blurriness. Dark in there.)

We got to meet the perfectly charming Phinehas Edwards McDermott! Welcome to Earth, new McDermott. We are so glad to have you here.

And I got new glasses, which make me both totally serious AND crazy. I also got shot for the Charlotte’s new style section, which was confirming to me at what a truly terrible model I am. But Sean and Stephanie were super-nice about the whole thing. Thanks, friends.

SNAX:

Liz + Matt. Just some shameless self-promotion: I just finished this calligraphy project for our dear friends, Liz and Matt, and I had a blast doing it. This was my first time doing an invitation suite, which was turned into a fabulous letterpress invitation by the matchless Patrick Costello. A lot of fun! (AFP Calligraphy)

A Reunion with Boredom. Charles Simic discusses life without electricity, reading, and how much he owes to boredom. A thoughtful and lovely piece that will make me strive to appreciate our frequent power outages. (New York Review of Books)

Just Like a Woman. In defense of Jane Austen as a legitimate and important writer, in response to V.S. Naipaul’s remark, which is a campaign that I am 100 percent behind. It’s a little late to be responding to him now, as his comment is kind of old news, but I do wish Austen would be rescued from the plight of being constantly written off as a “chick lit” writer. Thanks a lot, Keira Knightley. (Los Angeles Review of Books)

Findings. My favorites, among the lighter findings surveyed: “Florida could be up to 50 percent older than previously believed” and “Chemists discovered why van Gogh’s yellows were fading.” (Harper’s)

The Slow Art of Tea. A re-posted article from the Curator that talks about one of my favorite daily rituals. (The Curator)

There’s Nothing Like… Even though Tom Wolfe got on my nerves in From Bahaus to Our House, I’m going to side with him on this one: What an unfortunate place to live. (Unhappy Hipsters)

Before & After: Music Room Redo with Custom Shelving. Wow, so THIS is how you can make built-in bookshelves. Going to be trying this one day. (Design Sponge)

Table and Chair, Pen and Paper, Text and Time. If I was an artist, I think I’d like to do what Helga Schmid is doing. (Le Projet d’Amour)

Yaron Steinberg’s Installation, How He Imagines His Brain. Amazing. (The Fox Is Black)

When the Fog Lingers in the Forest. I just keep coming back to her blog, because I want her life. So dreamy, rustic, idyllic. (La Porte Rouge)

The College Ranking in Which a Black School Beat Out Princeton and Yale. And, might I add, UNC-Chapel Hill beat out Princeton, Yale, Duke, UVA… Interesting stuff. (Good)

Eggcellent Living Quarters. Um, can we get chickens, just so I can build them a coop like this one? OMG. The Ritz-Carlton of chicken coops. (Pawesome)

How to Buy Houseplants (Once and For All). I need to people to tell me about these hardy plants, because I am skilled at letting them die. This is a helpful introductory guide. (A Cup of Jo)

Week 5: A letter a day

In honor of my sister Grace, I am imposing a set of weekly challenges on myself. For 12 weeks, I will attempt a different “challenge” each week–to do one thing every day for seven days, ranging from serious to silly. At the end of each week, I’ll let you know how it goes.

I’ve been writing letters since I could scribble and I’ve had pen-pals (from Japan to Peru to all over the U.S.) since I was probably 8 or 9. As you probably know if you’ve spent any amount of time with me, I have a lot of love for the handwritten word. I think it’s a deep shame that its value is vanishing in the 21st century. I still write a lot of letters today and I am thankful for a great cadre of women who are willing to write me back! In tribute to them, I set out this week to write a letter a day.

(You can click on the photos to enlarge them.)

Day 1: To Windy

I’m always a little bit intimidated when I write my mother-in-law, because she is a legitimate calligrapher; she’s the real deal. But she’s always been 110% supportive of my calligraphic endeavors and I am so thankful to have her as a resource! I think it’s such crazy fate, that I would end up with an amazing mother-in-law who also practices calligraphy. Windy is one of the most optimistic and open-hearted people I’ve ever met. She’s also a lot of fun. I’m very thankful for her and for the ways she has welcomed me into her family.

Day 2: To Ma-Maw

My grandmother is probably my most faithful correspondent. I get her little letters and notes almost once a week and I always look forward to them. She fills me in on her busy schedule and other family happenings; I tend to get most of my family news through her. She’s spunky and sweet and I love her to death.

Day 3: To Mom

I don’t often write my mom letters–we tend to stick to e-mails–but I felt like she deserved a note, because everyone deserves a handwritten note in the mail! Mom also has excellent handwriting, even though she pretends like she doesn’t. She also possesses a great collection of stationery that’s constantly making me envious (and anxious to snatch some whenever I come home!). Writing her is always very smooth and comfortable, because I don’t ever have to justify or explain myself to her. She already knows. Moms are omniscient like that.

Day 4: To Kathryn

Kathryn was one of my first friends at UNC and most recently served as one of my bridesmaids. As our friendship has progressed, Kathryn has remained my rock when I struggle with life’s big questions or with doubts about my faith. She’s always been there for me. K.B. is now in law school in Raleigh and I’m confident she’s making a big splash there. We’ve exchanged a few letters since we swapped states and I always love hearing from her; I really want to make her handwriting into a font, too.

Day 5: To Emily

Emily overwhelms me with her sincerity, imagination, and laudable skill in self-expression. Her letters are gems. Somehow she always knows what to say and exactly how to say it. I’ve missed her more than I can say and my letters to her are mostly messy, rambling things about our lives and artistic ambitions. She’s always been so encouraging to me and I couldn’t do without her. I’m going to stay with her next weekend in Durham and I am absolutely thrilled about it. Can’t wait!

Day 6: To Catherine

Catherine is the classiest woman I know. She is not only a curator of finer things, but she is also experienced in the practice of finer things (e.g., she is an impeccable dresser, a gifted ballerina, and an accomplished violinist). She also has a heart of gold and seemingly endless reservoirs of sympathy. Catherine is also deeply hilarious and I love nothing better than a whole day with her.

Day 7: To Angela

Angela is my loyal, endlessly entertaining, and honest friend who is also a brilliant writer, programmer, MFA graduate student, Slate journalist, and Mary-Kate Olsen enthusiast. She can literally do everything. I love her so much and earnestly believe that my life would be comparatively dull without her. Her letters are bursts of energy and joy and always very creatively packaged.

WHAT I LEARNED:

  • Sometimes, starting a letter without the standard pleasantries (“How have you been? How’s the weather?”) is easier. Now, I prefer to jump right into a subject. My English correspondent Diane has always been very good about this.
  • Having pretty stamps makes me a whole lot happier about sending letters. I am loving these Chinese New Years stamps that G. picked up for me.
  • I think I’ve always inherently known this, but writing letters is a therapeutic experience for me. It is very calming to sit down and write a letter at the end of a long, hectic day. Thankfully, I have sympathetic listeners!

Next week, I will be attempting to write and edit those pesky short stories that have been lingering on my laptop for weeks…

Friday thoughts

Our street at dusk
Our street at dusk, back when it was warm outside. My Flickr pro account expired. Boo.

Little things I am thinking about today:

  • My side business of calligraphy. I ordered my first set of business cards this afternoon and I feel very grown up about it. Thanks to the encouragement of Natalie, I’m going to drop by the downtown stationer, Rock Paper Scissors, and give them some samples.
  • Why my right hand is always freezing at work.
  • Kemp and Rose coming to visit next weekend and then our long-awaited trip to our old stomping grounds (a la Durham and Chapel Hill) the following weekend.
  • Lent, which is coming soon and which means that my consumption of sugar will have to end. Contemplating the desire to gorge myself on chocolate before it arrives. But I had a bowl of real oatmeal this morning with only raisins in it–no sugar at all!–and I felt very proud of myself. I think I can do it. I feel like my taste buds have been subtly prompted by my brain to reject overly sweet things lately, in preparation for this sugar fast. I thought the yogurt was going to kill me today it was so sweet. And that’s never happened before.
  • Getting a nice* camera. I wish the bank made it easier to create little folders in your savings account so I could start designating small chunks of money toward a camera fund. (*Canon DSLR)
  • Will I be the kind of old woman who hoards kitschy knickknacks? Is that a generational thing? Is it only indicative of women who grew up in the Great Depression? Or does that mean I’ll eventually fall into that category, having grown up in the Greatest Recession?
  • Grace, who is adjusting to her new life in Nepal now. She’s working with a documentary filmmaker for a month and then she’s off to the ashram/orphanage. Such a crazy girl. I miss her.
  • Throwing away even more clothes. I need to stop wearing things that are too small for me.
  • A weekend with Guion! He’s been busy with school stuff all week and I feel like I haven’t seen him much. I miss him. We’re going to go on dates around town and watch “Annie Hall,” maybe even finish “Lost” (at last!).

Happy Friday! Post for you on Sunday about my lifelong, tortured love affair with the Japanese language.

Monday Snax

I decided to send a few belated Valentines and used my copperplate nib so I could go all-out with the flourishes. Happy V-Day from the two of us!

Happy Valentine’s Day! Guion and I have enjoyed a particularly laissez-faire holiday and went out for dinner on Saturday and then tonight, he’s promised to make me filet mignon with fingerling potatoes. Who needs chocolates and roses when you have the best husband ever? That’s what I want to know.

And this week’s Angela quote, even though it’s not true about me:

(ALSO WHY ARE YOU LOOKING AT MY LIFE-LIST? THERE ARE ONLY TWO THINGS ON IT (YOU INSPIRED ME TO MAKE ONE, BUT THINKING BACK ON IT, ALL OF YOUR ASPIRATIONS ARE LIKE ‘GET PUBLISHED IN THE NEW YORKER AND DONATE EARNINGS TO CHARITY’ WHILE MINE ARE LIKE ‘EAT 10 HOTDOGS IN ONE SITTING WITHOUT THROWING UP”)
–E-mail from Angela

That said, here are some Snax on a bed of red rose petals:

The Cheapskate’s Guide to Making Valentine’s Day Plans. Still don’t know what you’re doing yet with your lovebird? Let Mint’s sarcastic flowchart help you out. (Mint)

Google Art Project. If you use the Internet at all, then you already know about this, but I’m posting it here because it BLEW MY MIND. Google Art Project. OMG OMG.  I just went to the MoMA on my lunch break, and then I strolled around the Palace of Versailles before checking out a few paintings at the Met. Yes. This is basically Google Street View for art museums. It’s not without its drawbacks, but it really is an amazing prototype. Have fun! (Google)

Missing Summer. Sad about how cold it still is outside? Then these photos might make tears come to your eyes; they certainly made my eyes get misty (even though today we’re going to enjoy a high of 61!! This calls for a garish number of exclamation points!). (Clever Nettle)

Fly Me to the Moon. Danielle has a conversation with one of her students about what it is that astronauts actually do. Hilarious. I miss getting to hear these stories around the dinner table at 208. (Gallimaufry of a Girl)

Period Films! Um, yeah, I’ve probably seen all of these. At least three-quarters of them. And I’d watch them all again today. A collection of stills from period films, just because. (Where the Lovely Things Are)

John Stezaker. An artist who merges vintage photographs of people with vintage landscape postcards. Sounds dull, but the results are actually quite fascinating and beautiful. (Freckle Farm)

Princeton, 1969. Great photographs from a Life magazine feature from 1969, which was the year that women were admitted to Princeton. I loved the images of these young women and their fashion aesthetics, but it also made me think about how little college students have changed in 40 years. (Miss Moss)

Sadie North. Another gem Miss Moss found from the Life magazine archives. I hope I’ll be just like this woman when I’m her age. Look at her on that bicycle and mowing her lawn and snuggling that baby! Who says that old age has to slow you down? Not Sadie North. (Miss Moss)

Reviewers on Reviewing. Interesting and clever thoughts about the state of book reviewing today, considering Zadie Smith’s new post as the book critic for Harper’s. (The Book Bench)

Six Expressions that Hollywood Will Turn into #1 Movies. Because you know they will. (Best Week Ever)

Rifle Paper Co. 2011 Sneak Peek. Really love the palette and design for this stationery/notebook line. (Rifle Paper Co.)

Sights & Sounds: Sam Beam of Iron & Wine. Did you know that Sam Beam did all of the cover art for his albums except for “Creek Drank the Cradle”? I didn’t. That’s one talented, bearded, whispery musician, and here’s his interview with the ladies at Design Sponge about his artwork. (Design Sponge)

Monday Snax

So, yeah, not a lot of time for blogging this past week. But a lot of time for browsing blogs, apparently!

We had a nice, peaceful weekend, got to see some old UNC friends who came up for the UNC-UVA football game. And I got to read for hours and hours on Sunday, and that was lovely. I have missed being the triumphant reader. I’m plowing through three large books (The Corrections, The Feminine Mystique, and Love in the Ruins) at a breakneck pace, since they’re all due back to the library fairly soon and I don’t think I can renew them. The first two are great; the third I’m reading for book club and I’m really not liking it. Percy’s racism and sexism is kind of unforgivable. At first, I chalked it up to the protagonist’s bigotry, but now I’m not so sure.

I also finished another calligraphy job for my dear Katherine’s wedding! You can check it out here.

Easily digestible snax for your Monday afternoon. Flurgh. Smaller than usual, because my post got deleted again. Oh, well. Guess you’ll never know what interesting things are on the Internet this week.

Writing on the Wall. Grace painted this verse from Galatians on the wall of Brandi’s baby’s nursery. Amazing! She free-handed it, too. I think my calligraphy business is in danger… (Como Say What?)

Visual List Maker. Again. This child amazes me. Why didn’t I inherit this talent? So cool. (Only by Grace)

From Japan: Colors and Prints. One of my favorite days in Tokyo was wandering around the art museum, looking at historic prints. These are lovely; they remind me of how totally enamored I am with Japanese art. (Oh Joy!)

Last Night I Had This Dream. Angela is dreaming that Guion and I have doppelgangers–who are unfaithful to one another! What could this mean? (Wxtchou)

I Would Make This Face Too If Someone Handed Me a Wolf Puppy. This is not an intelligent link; I just think it’s funny. Who is handing Hayden Panettiere a wolf puppy? Where does one obtain a wolf puppy that one may subsequently pass off to a young starlet?? These are the enduring questions of my life. (Best Week Ever)

Anatolian Shepherd Puppies for Sale. Will you just look at some of these faces? Man. This woman is a friend of my boss’s. I need one of her puppies. (Bay Haven Farm)

Between Two Ferns with Bruce Willis. “Did you know that some actors turn down roles?” (Best Week Ever)

The Zach Galifianakis Swimsuit Calendar. On a related note: I’m so glad this happened. (Vanity Fair)

The Definitive Gossip Girl Hookup Chart. Again, I would like to reiterate that I do not actually watch this show, but I know enough about it to find it hilarious. This flowchart in particular demonstrates the extreme absurdity of this production. Courtney, you had better study this like it’s a midterm before you go to Manhattan. (New York Mag)

A Micnic! Our utterly fabulous wedding photographer, Meredith, just got a Mini Cooper and took this adorable outing (Mini + picnic = micnic) with her boyfriend and sweet Lab, Orvis. Wish I could have been there! Looks divine.  (And Unlimited)

Rubber Stamp Business Cards. Dang. If I only had $64 to throw away… (Oh, So Beautiful Paper)

A Zadie Friday. I’ve always liked Zadie Smith, even though I never really love her novels when I finish. I think she’s a great writer, though. I read the piece “Sweet Charity” in The New Yorker this morning over my muesli. (The Book Bench)

Berlin #4. I’ve never been much interested in traveling to Germany until I saw this post. So charming and autumnal. (Ida Nielsen)