Here’s a hint: if you’re throwing a party this festive season and serving mince pies, they go down so much better when they’re warm. At this particular party they were warm and free, which obviously made them even better. But a cold mince pie is no good to anyone.
Anyway, we were at the launch of the second issue of The Letters Page last night. Wine flowed, pies were eaten and, more importantly, the issue was officially launched. So if you were one of the nearly one thousand people to receive the issue in your inbox last night, I was there when they pressed the button.
No, it’s not that impressive is it? Pressing a button and a load of letters get delivered. Not like in days of yore where letters were handwritten for love, heartbreak, sorrow, laughter or confession.
The Letters Page, for those of you who don’t know, is a new literary journal celebrating the letter in all its glories. Led by Jon McGregor, Nottingham’s only cycling Booker Prize nominee, the journal is released three times a year and consists of letters, composed on a theme. This issue’s theme is pen pals.
The launch party had two letters read out by two of the writers, Ruby Cowling and Ruth Gilligan. The format feels fresh, which is strange when you think about it. I don’t think it’s just the novelty value. Ruby’s piece, written about the Wailing Wall, arrived in the office folded exactly as if it had been inserted into the Wailing Wall, apparently. (All submissions to The Letters Page must be made by post.) The journal highlights the possibilities of paper, of the written form, of the intimacy that can be contained with a letter.
The journal is partly edited and compiled with the help of students at the University of Nottingham. Chatting to them at the party, they’re all very excited about the project, learning a lot about how to put something like this together and really pleased that The Letters Page is already filling a gap that some of us had forgotten existed.
Any good party has ice breaking activities for guests and this one had a postcard for guests to fill out and send to a friend, inviting them to sign up. This provoked a very modern dilemma – how many postal addresses do you know by heart? I had to Google the one I sent. We were also given the chance to write to Santa.
The new edition features a cover page that you can fold into an envelope to send the journal on. An excellent idea, I thought, until I tried to do it. I’ve printed off two copies of the first page so far and haven’t mastered it. If anyone does, please drop me a line on how you managed it. In the mean time, go and sign up for future editions to be delivered straight to your inbox and download the latest edition from The Letters Page website.