[Pamela Williams] As long as there has been romantic love, and the tools with which to write, there has been the cherished love letter. To the best of my knowledge, no modern form of communication has yet been able to match the endurance of words — passionately written by hand — with kisses of real ink on paper. So tell me, please, why don’t we write more love letters?
Are we afraid to commit ourselves to paper? Do we not know how to express ourselves? Or could it be something simpler … that there are many among us whose handwriting is literally illegible? That we never learned cursive? For those who wish to create an indelible impression in the form of a love letter, allow me to introduce your new best friend, Bryn Chernoff.
Bryn, aka Paperfinger, is the creator of a beautiful (literally and figuratively) thing: a love letter service. Yes, a love letter service. Simply put: You provide the passion, the prose or the poetry, and Bryn will become your personal scribe.
Bryn, how and when did you come up with the idea to create your love letter service?
Generally, my approach to life is “Can I write that? Can I write on that? Can we handwrite this?” So I’m constantly seeking ways to use calligraphy and handwriting to capture important words, convey a message, set a certain tone, and communicate a personal touch. In 2008 when I started Paperfinger, I started offering the love letter service in hopes that people would still value the impact of a handwritten profession of love. Thankfully they do.
What is the most wonderful opening line from a love letter that you’ve transcribed thus far?
This was from a man serving in the armed forces in Afghanistan to his wife at home in New Jersey. It’s the most moving letter I’ve ever written. I still get teary re-reading it. It started with:
“Although the demands of life in Afghanistan seek to divert my attention in many ways, my mind and my heart return to you constantly and are never far from home.”
Do you keep copies of the love letters you’ve transcribed? Will you write a book someday?
I don’t keep any copies … I photograph my work, however I commit to a promise of confidentiality on all letters, so while I might share excerpts here and there, I keep the full letter private for my clients. I’ve got some book ideas, so stay tuned!
What if someone needs help drafting the letter — what do you recommend?
A lot of folks think that a love letter needs to use grand language or the most poetic phrasing. The point is not to try and turn into Shakespeare just because you’re writing a letter. The most romantic thing about a love letter is feeling treasured and knowing that someone took the time to appreciate you thoughtfully and expressively.
Just write simply, as though you had to explain to someone else what you truly love about that person. Once I included composition service for a guy who was really intimidated by writing it himself. So I e-mailed him with a bunch of questions. His lengthy e-mail reply was so romantic — he didn’t need to fancy up the words at all; the core of what he loves about her came so easily and simply. If it’s hard to fill in a full letter, I also suggest finding inspiration in other historic love letters or poems … or by including a few lines from one of those letters or poems, perhaps the song lyrics from a meaningful song.
Could you share a unique or unusual request you’ve received (in the letter transcription category)?
I’ve written a marriage proposal once, which was a really exciting project. (She said yes!) He hand-delivered it to her as his act of proposing, and I thought it was terribly romantic. A beautifully written proposal as well.
Can you tell us anything about the reactions people have had to their letters?
Although I hear wonderful feedback from my clients who requested letters, most of the recipient reactions are imagined on my part, since it’s usually a very private moment. I really don’t mind it that way, because I know I’ve created a very special way for someone to express love — my role is as scribe, so I don’t usually solicit reactions. What’s significant is the exchange between the two people — knowing that your loved one arranged for a calligraphed letter and getting lost and absorbed in the romance of that gift. I’m in the shadows, and it suits me.
If someone wrote a love letter to you, what do you hope it would say?
Something really simple that made me feel completely known and appreciated.
Bryn started Paperfinger out of a love for writing by hand. She scribes letters on fine Italian paper with a classic pointed calligraphy nib which she dips in Sumi ink. A wax seal on the envelope is the final finishing touch. Bryn usually turns letters around in three to four weeks and works a bit faster for Valentine’s Day requests. Bespoke transcriptions are available at Felt & Wire Shop and at Paperfinger. The last day to place orders in time for Valentine’s delivery is Wednesday, Feb. 8th.
All love letter excerpts shown here calligraphed by Paperfinger
Excerpt (opening photo): Marlene Dietrich to Ernest Hemingway, August, 1952
Love letter photographs: © 2012 StudioAlex
Photos of hand-addressed envelope and Bryn Chernoff: Jen Huang
Editor’s note: originally published Friday, Jan. 27, under the title “Dear sweetie, please write me a love letter. I don’t care if you have lousy handwriting.”