Letter-writing is a lost art, replaced by quick tweets and fast Facebook comments. But today will be a read-letter day: Warm Cookies of the Revolution, the civic health club founded by Evan Weissman, is hosting "Speak Out," a session devoted to the power of letter-writing, at 6 p.m. at the McNichols Building.
I'll be one of the presenters, talking about why, in these days of cyberspace shouting, Westword still devotes space in the print edition to a Letters to the Editor column.
The short answer: Readers deserve a place to have their say.
The longer version: Before the Internet, every weekday the U.S. Postal Service would deliver three big tubs of mail to the Westword office. Today, our snail-mail delivery has dwindled to just a handful of pieces: some postcards hyping events, a few publications, and letters from prisoners, who do not have access to computers for correspondence.
Just about everyone else does, of course; if they don't own them, they can stop by a public library to search and spill their thoughts. And they do, endlessly, sending missives and messages about the stories we've run — and the stories we haven't.
Occasionally Westword will get thoughtful letters e-mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org, our main address. This morning, we received none. Instead, we got comments — many, many comments — posted after our stories on westword.com or, much more frequently, tossed off in response to Facebook posts of those stories. Or in response to other responses. Today, our most talked-about-story involves a Wheat Ridge public art project looking for proposals from artists — who will not be paid for their work. Says Kurt:
That's such bullshit. It'll be a good opportunity to get your work out there. I haven't eaten in 3 days and my rent's due next week. Tell me again how putting my work out there for free will feed and house me.
Responds Colorado Stickers:
At least you'll have something pretty to look at when you're homeless and on the street!
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After almost every Westword story, you'll spot a similar string. The comments can be smart, sweet or snarky. But they all keep the civic conversation going — and that's a greater good, even if lovely penmanship has been replaced by often unlovely tweets.
How do we decide which comments will be shared in print? I'll get into that at tonight's event. In the meantime, here's more from the Warm Cookies Facebook page:
1) Come write a letter to someone you love, or hate, or even to yourself.
(Bonus: try your hand at forgery or ransom notes with some fun games!)
2) Check out inspiring and strange and beautiful letters from history, and learn how to compose your own with Lighthouse Writers.
Or write a letter to the President and record it with the Narrators podcast.
3) Hear from city councilman Jolon Clark's aide Anita Bañuelos and Westword's editor Patricia Calhoun about letter writing's effectiveness.
4) Learn about some people currently in prison and how you can write letters to them.
5) Meet organizations working on crucial issues like immigration, the environment, homelessness, and aging economics, where letters are essential.
6) Discuss how we can go one step beyond letter writing for things we care about.
As always, delicious cookies! Plus: childcare will be provided
(please let us know if you'd like to utilize it)
See you at the McNichols Building, 144 West Colfax Avenue, at 6 p.m. tonight.