Letter-writing and getting out the vote

I was recently interviewed via email by Tanya Basu of MIT Technology Review for a story on letter-writing during the lockdown and about the upcoming election. The article is wonderful, and I really hope it will inspire others to pick up their pens, paper and smartphones to get the vote out!

Like what happens with most published stories, I thoughtfully wrote my response, but only a sentence was used. I figured it would be good to share my entire Q&A here anyway for those who are interested.

Q&A with MIT Technology Review

Tell me briefly who you are and about your Instagram page.

My name is Linda Yoshida, and I am a graphic designer and calligrapher in Southern California. I have been active on the Internet since I built my own website in 1993. I have always loved photography, documenting everyday life, and sharing it online, so when I found Instagram in June 2011, it felt like a very comfortable platform. I started learning calligraphy three months after I joined Instagram, so I naturally started to document my progress. I think I was probably one of the first calligraphers on Instagram, and many people found it fascinating to see such an old art form on a new social media platform. In over nine years, I have a modest number of over 19k followers, and have become friends with people from all over the world who appreciate the art of calligraphy.

A batch of postcards I wrote for the midterm 2018 elections.

Why did you decide to get involved with Postcards to Voters?

After the shock that was the November 2016 elections, I, like many others, felt hopeless and helpless. In January of 2017, I was inspired by the “rogue” national park rangers on Twitter and started writing letters to all 42 members of the House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources to ask them to protect public lands. This led to writing letters to the then Secretary of the Interior to oppose opening public lands to oil and gas development. A few months before the 2018 midterm elections, I was invited to a friend’s house to participate in Civic Sundays. People from the community of all ages were working together, phone banking, text banking, and writing postcards for Postcards to Voters. I went home feeling hopeful and inspired, and signed up with Postcards to Voters to write batches of postcards on my own.

42 letters sent to all the representatives on the House Committee of Natural Resources, February 2017

What did you hope to convey with including calligraphy in your letters?

In the pre-Internet days, it was common to get a letter in the mail. Now, getting a hand-written letter is special. Letters addressed in calligraphy stand out even more – it takes time and effort, and it shows. It makes the receiver feel special and appreciated. I hand-address all my correspondence in calligraphy, and I always get comments about how special they are. I hope my calligraphed envelopes stand out in the Capitol Hill mail rooms and make staffers open them first, and my postcards to voters get a second glance rather than being tossed into the junk mail pile.

Hand-written to the then Secretary of the Department of the Interior, April 2017

Why did you think it was important to document this on social media?

Almost everyone has a social media account now – it’s a great way to connect and share common interests with people all over the world. I have certainly been inspired by others’ beautiful work on Instagram and Facebook. By sharing my calligraphy online, I hope to inspire others to learn calligraphy, start writing government officials, or write postcards to encourage others to vote. I would like to think a small ripple that I started will build and grow into something bigger.

A batch of postcards I wrote for the midterm 2018 elections.

Between the pandemic and the election, letters are becoming increasingly important. What role have they played for you, and do you think you’ll continue writing them in the future?

I have been sending many cards, letters, and care packages to friends and family during this time. When we are physically isolated and socially distanced, it’s more important than ever to connect and to feel connected. Writing an email, making a phone call, jumping on Facetime or Zoom are all great, but sitting down with my thoughts, organizing them, then putting words down on paper is something different. It’s wonderful to give myself a small gift of time every day – to write a letter or practice my calligraphy. It quiets my mind so I can recharge and do my best to take on another day. I will definitely continue to do this for as long as I can.

Hand-written letters to California Senators Harris and Feinstein, March 2020

Thanks, friends, for reading the Q&A and for your support! To get involved, please visit Postcards to Voters to sign up. Let’s all get out the vote!