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Photographed by MJ Kroeger

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Mother's Day Issue

The Art of the Handwritten Note by Marcie Pantzer

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Late last year, a New Jersey lawmaker made waves for introducing legislation that would require—gasp!—children to learn cursive in school. Yes, cursive. Handwriting. Writing. With your hand. Cue the online outrage. "Cursive needs to die already," read one headline. "How about we teach kids something useful instead?"

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We strongly beg to differ. Sure, we're as obsessed with our smartphones as the rest, and love the convenience and expediency of tap-tap-tapping on our keyboards, but there's something about the handwritten letter we just can't quit. And we're not the only ones who subscribe to this thought. Plenty of ink has been spilled lately in the fourth estate trumpeting the return of old-school penmanship. Instead of digital wiping out analogue, the latter's become more precious and treasured. Who would have thought?

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Well, Marcie Pantzer, for one. The former Town & Country editor founded her own stationery company, Dear Annabelle—named after her daughter—and doubled down on the handwritten correspondence. Today, she's the latest to share an at-home master class with us—just in time for Mother's Day and that all-important heartfelt card to mom. And if you're worried about bad handwriting, don't worry—Pantzer's got a pro tip for you, too.

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Q&A

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What inspired Dear Annabelle?
Dear Annabelle was inspired by my life-long love of paper and letters. I have been collecting stationery since I went to sleepaway camp as a little girl. I loved sending letters to my family and friends, and I remember the thrill of receiving letters back, instantly recognizing the distinct handwriting of my mother or grandmother on the envelope. I wanted to build a company that was based on this singular joy, of sharing love through letters. Dear Annabelle is about celebrating what is classic, beautiful and timeless.

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And the inspiration behind the name…
Annabelle is the name of my daughter, who is a source of so much inspiration for me. She was part of my motivation to start this company; I wanted to show her that she could do and be anything she wanted in this life. I had always felt that starting my own business was an impossible dream, but growing it from the ground up has been one of the most exciting and joyful experiences I’ve had. I hope it inspires Annabelle to follow her own impossible dreams.

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What are Mother's Day traditions?
My husband and four children always do a terrific job spoiling me on Mother’s Day. My favorite tradition is sleeping in late and being served a yummy breakfast in bed by my kids, complete with all of my favorites, like fried eggs and croissants. My husband always remembers to send me fresh flowers on the Saturday beforehand from Plaza Flowers in New York City, one of my favorite neighborhood florists. He and my kids also plot for weeks on a fun piece of jewelry to give me on Mother’s Day.

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And what were your Mother's Day traditions growing up?
As a child growing up in St. Louis, I remember going to our local mall, The Galleria, every year with my dad and my sister Laurie to pick out a Mother’s Day present for my mom. Alas, one year we insisted on buying her a huge piece of art from a frame store in the mall and she quickly returned it the following Monday.

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Best Mother's Day gift given and received?
Being a lover of stationery and sentimental notes, my favorite gifts are the handmade cards that my children make for me every Mother’s Day. I save them all in a keepsake box and love looking back at them from time to time. Another favorite gift was a special Buccellati ring that my husband gave me on my first Mother’s Day (which fell two days after my daughter was born).
This year, I am excited to be sending my mother and mother-in-law Flower Flash boxes from my favorite florist, Lewis Miller. I know that they will love having fresh blooms in their homes as we are spending so much time indoors. I will, of course, send them both notes of gratitude for being such great inspirations to me as a mother.
I am also planning to surprise my closest mommy friends with Cheery notepad sets from my stationery collection, Dear Annabelle. Moms are working extra hard this spring juggling home-schooling, jobs, life… and I want to be sure to make them feel spoiled and loved. These pads will certainly brighten up their WFH desk situation.

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There is a sense of permanence that is delivered with a letter. You can hang it on your bulletin board. Your children or grandchild could uncover it years from now.

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The importance of the hand-written letter…
Receiving an actual letter, that you can hold and save and re-read, is so uncommon today. There is a sense of permanence that is delivered with a letter. You can hang it on your bulletin board. Your children or grandchild could uncover it years from now. My husband’s aunt has a collection of love letters from her husband. When he died last year, she was so grateful to have all of the letters to cherish and read.
I also think that handwriting is so soulful—you can see really someone’s style in their handwriting. Even if it is messy or imperfect, it says something about the person. Think of the great artists whose handwriting is so recognizable—Matisse and Andy Warhol. And you can tell a lot about a person by the type of stationery they use—the type of paper they’ve chosen, the color of their ink, their personal monogram…

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Most memorable one you've ever received…
I was extremely close to my grandfather, who passed away several years ago. He was very good about sending letters. He had handwriting you could recognize from a mile a way and he always used a red felt tip Paper Mate pen. When I graduated from college, he wrote me a letter that I still keep in a box above my desk—all about taking risks as I started my new chapter. When I need a reminder to be courageous—like when I started this business, for example—I take it out and channel his belief in me.

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What's the proper etiquette for texting/emailing vs. handwritten letters?
The etiquette is gradually shifting—it’s now considered acceptable to email or text for most communication. That being said, a handwritten note or letter never goes out of style. A well-written thank-you after an important job interview or a delicious dinner makes such a big impact. Often I will send a quick text to thank a friend for a fun evening or thoughtful present, and then follow up with a lovely note. There can never be too much gratitude in the world.

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Insider tip for those with bad handwriting…
I find that my handwriting has gotten worse and worse as I do more things on my computer and phone. But when I do write notes or letters, I try to slow down and put thought into how I’m forming each letter. This practice not only delivers more beautiful notes, but it acts as a kind of meditation—a break from the endless typing and texting we do all day.
I also feel more inspired when I use a nice pen. There is something about holding an elegant pen that makes me relish in the act of writing. I love pens that roll nicely across the paper and ones that don’t easily smear. (My favorites are Muji pens from Japan, Gelly Roll and Mont Blanc pens.) And paper’s important here, too—Dear Annabelle uses smooth finish paper, not textured, making the feel of writing smooth and graceful.

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Top 5 Tips: The Art of the Thank-You Note

1. Better late than never. I actually think it is best to let a few days pass; otherwise, it can feel like you just rushed to get it off your to-do list.
2. A little funny goes a long way. Adding an inside joke or a humorous aside makes every letter that much worthier of a smile.
3. Keep it short and sweet. No one wants to read an opus.
4. Compliments to the chef! I always praise the hostess of a dinner party or the gift giver of the gift. It feels so good to be flattered, and it’s rare that you get it in writing.
5. Use Dear Annabelle notecards! Just kidding—sort of. ;)

Photographed by Claiborne Swanson Frank

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