Do you write and receive family newsletters in December? We usually mail around 65 cards, each containing a letter. Last year, it was half of a page saying we’d be spending Christmas in the Keys. This year, it’s five small pictures on one sheet, with a sentence explaining each photo. I used to write a page devoting a paragraph to each family member, but noticed a lot was repetitious from the prior year and a bit boring.
My favorite newsletters are the poems we receive. One friend, Sally, who lives in Vermont, sends a comical poem about her children, grandchildren and a British male suitor. My 95-year-old friend, Louise, a well-published writer and avid sports fan, sends a clever poem about what she’s up to. You don’t think a 95-year-old can be up to much? Think again!
My least favorite letters are those that are three pages long, typed in 10 pitch on forest green or red paper. Now who, over 50, can read print that small against a dark background? Not only that, but when a letter of such length arrives right before Christmas, along with five others daily, I must admit I skim those or put them aside for reading sometime in the new year, right before the many cards hit the recycle bin.
I like the rule of thumb that says, “Write one page only.” But what folks tell me is, “We did so much this year, I can’t keep it to one page.”
The challenge is to make the story come alive, write it in as few words as possible, and hold the reader’s interest from start to finish … kind of like writing an article query letter to a busy newspaper editor!
When the writer tries to recount all that the family has accomplished over the year, this can either overwhelm the reader or puts him straight to sleep. Try to zero in on a couple of memorable moments and bring them to life with humor. Like the time you baked two dozen cookies for the holiday cookie exchange, only to find out that one dozen remained on the waxed paper when it came time to wrap them. (Bad Fido!)
Stay clear of, “In January we went to Peoria; in February Harold’s second-cousin-once-removed visited, in March we painted the house …” By the time “in April” comes around, the reader is long gone.
Folks also send attached family newsletters to their e-mails. I can’t imagine having my computer in-box loaded with these while trying to get through the usual daily social e-mails, those work-related and my online writing magazines. Plus, a walk to the snail mailbox and seeing it stuffed with white crispy envelopes is like anticipating a special surprise … like opening a brightly wrapped, sparkling present, it’s part of what makes the holidays so much fun.
Fun, until in great anticipation, you tear open the envelope to find a colorful, glowing card that has only a signature at the bottom …From Ralph! (Who’s Ralph?)
A Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah to Bothell and Kenmore!
Suzanne G. Beyer is a Bothell resident.