Snail Mail: Communication with Meaning


Reflecting on this English 131 class brings a monthly feature of the course to the forefront of my mind. The monthly letters were, by far, my favorite assignments throughout the course. I must admit that I haven’t written a letter to be mailed to someone since I was in elementary school. Letter writing seems to have become a lost art in our modern society, especially in the millennial generation. Even when I was mailing letters, I was too young to realize just how fulfilling it is to sit down and spend quality time writing a thoughtful letter to an important person. Our society loves digital communication because “the wonderful thing about email is its immediacy. A conversation can be had – a decision made, a plan refined – in a matter of minutes, no matter where in the world the two parties happen to be. A letter, by contrast, always arrives from the past” (McGregor). Although letters are not the speediest forms of communication, there is an undoubted sense of anticipation factored into receiving a letter. Not only is it exciting to be sent a letter, the process of writing a letter is equally as stimulating. It is truly satisfying to tuck the letter neatly into its envelope, write the appropriate information on the front, stick a stamp on the corner, and finally seal the envelope in an act of gratification. I am very thankful to have been reintroduced to writing letters. Not only was letter writing a break from the screen of a laptop or phone, but it was also an effective and meaningful way to communicate with some very special people: my dad, mom, and my roommate’s mom in Scotland.

Ever since I moved out of my home and away from my parents, communication has become a vital tool within the family dynamic. My parents, however, have never been technologically savvy and they struggle to use their cell-phones, much less communicate with me consistently through text. My dad has an especially difficult time with his device, and was extremely pleased when he received my letter in the mail. My dad has sent and received many letters because of his strong belief in handwritten communication, and I wanted to write him a letter that he would remember for years to come. The process of sitting down at my desk to write my dad’s, as well as my other recipient’s letters, was drastically different from sending a text or an email. I have always felt that writing longhand requires more thought, as well as more editing, and I found that to be completely true, if not more so, in the process of writing these letters.  

My mom was also pleasantly surprised to find that I had written her a letter. Although my mom does has a love/hate relationship with her cell phone, she is more reliant on technology than my dad is. She is able to text me throughout the day, and enjoys doing so, but she found my letter to be extremely meaningful because she was not expecting to hear from me through any other form of communication besides text or the occasional call. She was so grateful that I had taken the time to write a page and a half worth of words dedicated to how thankful I was for her. It was clear that reading written words off of a page was more impactful to her than reading words off of a screen. Letters provide tangible evidence that a person cares about another person enough to cogitate words and write them down on a piece of paper for that person. I learned recently that my mom even keeps the letter in her purse to read throughout the day. That knowledge alone is enough to keep me writing letters for the rest of my life.    

As important as sending letters to my parents was, sending a letter on a journey to another country took the cake. For my final letter of the semester I decided to send a letter to my roommate’s mom who I had the good fortune of spending time with over a two week period when she came here to visit. From the information my roommate has shared with me, her mom is a sentimental person who greatly appreciates any form of thoughtful gestures. I wanted to make sure I conveyed my thankfulness for the multiple restaurant trips, as well as the quality conversation she and I engaged in during her time spent here. Out of the four letters I wrote this semester, I spent the longest amount of time writing hers. Most of the writing process for the letters I wrote, especially hers, took place in my mind; I thought long and hard about the specific phrasing of the sentences in my head until I felt that the words were ready to be written down. I am eager for the letter to be sent, and I hope that she will write back so that I can carry on writing letters to her in Scotland.   

Throughout the semester I looked forward to the end of the month when I would be sending a letter to a special person in my life. It was refreshing to take my time with the writing process, not worried about a deadline or format, just making the effort to write the most considerate letter I could compose. Some of my most thoughtful writing in this course has taken place in the monthly letters, and predominantly benefited my ability to think more critically about my work. Sending these written letters goes hand in hand with spending time away from the screens that have taken over the way we communicate with others. Truth be told, “the physical heft of a letter gives the communication a psychological weight that email and texts just don’t have” (McKay). I also believe that writing longhand instead of typing, invigorates my mind and allows for my writing to be very raw and truthful. It can be easy to type whatever comes fastest to mind when texting or emailing, but writing longhand encourages a more thought-provoking, and ultimately, a more meaningful writing process.

Works Cited

McGregor, Jon. “From Me, with Love: the Lost Art of Letter Writing.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 26 Nov. 2016,

McKay, Kate. “How to Write a Letter.” The Art of Manliness, 26 Nov. 2017,

Annotated Bibliography

Beatty, Robert. Serafina and the Black Cloak. Disney/Hyperion, 2015.

Serafina and the Black Cloak is Robert Beatty’s young adult novel rooted in adventure and the supernatural. Set in Asheville, North Carolina and more specifically the Biltmore Estate, a young girl and her mechanic father live in the basement of the famous mansion. Serafina is the girl who must stay hidden away in the basement, never to be seen by the owners of the house, The Vanderbilts, and their guests. Serafina is not like the other girls her age; she has unusual yellow eyes, only eight toes, the ability to see well in the dark, and she is extraordinarily stealthy which comes in handy for catching the rats that scamper throughout the house. Although Serafina loves her Pa, she spends most of her time wondering where and who her mother is. One day Sera’s less than normal life becomes even more abnormal when she witnesses a girl vanish at the hands of a man in a black cloak. In the process of hunting down the cloaked man she is joined by new companions including the nephew of the Vanderbilts, Braeden, and his dog. Serafina makes it her mission to bring peace back to the Biltmore and she also learns more about herself and her origin along the way.

Collins, Billy. Snow Day. The Poetry Foundation, 2016.

In the poem, “Snow Day” by Billy Collins, the speaker describes the snowy scenery outside, as well as the different activities that will or might take place during the wintery day. The buildings and ground are covered in the snow and the speaker contemplates going outside with his dog to take in the snow, but he also enjoys looking at the snow from the inside while he drinks his hot tea and listens to the radio. On the radio the speaker hears a multitude of schools being closed and the speaker observes three girls, out in the snow due to the schools being closed, who are whispering about an unknown topic which provokes the speaker to wonder what the children are discussing.

Lewis, Michael. “Chapter One.” The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game, Norton, 2006, pp. 15–16.

In an excerpt from Chapter One of Michael Lewis’ The Blind Side, the scene of Joe Theismann’s career ending injury is set and described. Lewis depicts the event second by second, specifically using the classic phrase for measuring time in seconds, “One Mississippi”. The play begins with a handoff to the running back which turns into the “throw back special” in which the ball comes back to Theismann who then has to avoid a linebacker. He does the successfully, but Lewis writes that he is now “at the mercy of what he can’t see” which is the New York Giants’ Lawrence Taylor. Lewis turns three and a half seconds into a descriptive paragraph, painting a detailed picture of the events leading up to Theismann’s career ending injury.

Richtel, Matt. “Blogs vs. Term Papers.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 20 Jan. 2012,

In Matt Richtel’s article “Blogs vs. Term Papers”, several professors and esteemed writers are quoted concerning their different perspectives on blog entries and term paper writing. There has been an ongoing discussion amongst writers and teachers as to which of the two is best at encouraging critical thinking and writing. Duke University’s Cathy Davidson has advocated for shorter pieces of writing in the form of blog entries, while others such as Douglas B. Reeves consider term papers to be more appropriate for higher education writing. Stanford University’s Andrea Lunsford argues that both forms of writing should be utilized at the college level, believing that term papers should have a life beyond submission for a grade. She encourages students to turn their academic papers into blog entries, as well as other forms of creative writing.

Smith, Zadie. Swing Time. Penguin Books, 2017.

In Zadie Smith’s best selling novel Swing Time, two young girls are introduced to each other through dance and build a relationship with each other that makes a lasting impact on the both of them. Swing Time presents the adolescence and adulthood of the two girls, one of which is the nameless narrator that the account is told from and the other is her friend Tracey. Multiple hardships and difficulties arise for the pair, some of which that take a serious toll on their friendship throughout their lives. The account swings back and forth in time depicting the development and derailing of the complex friendship, as well as the events that take place throughout their lives shaping them into adults.

Twenge, Jean M. “Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 19 Mar. 2018,

The article “Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation” by Jean Twenge, focuses on a generation absorbed by smartphones and the dramatic effects that the devices have on the latest generation. Twenge refers to this generation as iGen, and although iGen has proven to be safer physically than the generations before it, the mental health state of iGen is in danger. Twenge examines a major factor of this mental health crisis, and notes that it can be traced back to smartphones and the social media that the generation has access to through smartphones.

The Unknown “I”

The identity of the main character in a novel is a major aspect of the novel itself, but what if the main character is left nameless? Zadie Smith presents her audience with this exact situation in her novel Swing Time. The novel is the first person account of a character that Smith chooses to remain nameless. The novel depicts the adolescence and adulthood of the narrator, as well as the numerous events and hardships that take place throughout this character’s life. A firsthand account told by a nameless narrator can prompt the reader to question Smith’s reason behind this choice, but her unique portrayal could be traced back to some of her own experiences, or to an effort to help the reader relate to or better understand a life plagued by dramatic twists and turns.

Zadie Smith may be referring to some of her own real-life experiences and in an attempt to distance herself from those experiences, she leaves the narrator’s name unknown. There are many occasions in the book in which the narrator reflects on events or feelings experienced in the past using the two words, “I remember”. Upon thinking back to a dance Tracey did as a tribute to a famous dancer Smith writes “I know I never saw her do this but even now I feel I have a memory of it” (214). Could this unknown “I” simply be Zadie Smith herself? It is possible that the events Smith shares with her audience are too painful to acknowledge as her own. A viable solution to this problem is to leave the narrator’s name out of the storyline. If Smith is writing about her own circumstances it is completely understandable for her to struggle to accept those experiences as her own and instead attach the events to a nameless character. In the novel, the narrator reflects on a very disturbing childhood experience involving boys from her school violating their female classmates. The narrator states that writing about the event “is the first time I have presented them in any way to anyone–even to myself” (66). This reflection could, in fact, be Smith’s first time acknowledging what took place in her childhood. If this is the case, despite the pain that Smith may feel when reflecting on these distressing events, she must find importance in including the events in the novel. She recognizes the undeniable importance in writing this account for her readers, regardless of her possible desire to detach from these experiences.

Smith could potentially be utilizing an anonymous character in order to provide the reader with an opportunity to relate to the narrator. Presenting the reader with an unnamed narrator not only helps the reader relate to the narrator’s traumatic experiences, but also relate on an even deeper level to the feelings and emotions the narrator has when dealing with these experiences. Reading a description of an unnamed character’s emotions and feelings makes it very easy for the reader to empathize with the character. A character’s name connects heavily with their identity. If that piece of the puzzle is missing from a character’s makeup the reader is more likely to step inside the character’s shoes to fill that key part of their identity, ultimately making the narrator’s experiences and sentiments far more relatable.

Not only does the depiction of a nameless character’s account help the reader to relate to that character, but it also helps the reader to better understand those hardships and events that might feel far fetched in comparison to the reader’s own life experiences. Smith’s decision to leave a major character like the protagonist unnamed allows the reader to separate a name from a character, automatically applying a more ambiguous connection to the account. Identifying the character by a given name makes it easier for the reader to distance themselves from that character’s experiences. The reader is aware that the character is different from him or herself. To an extent, separating the name from the character gives the reader the rare ability to make said character whoever the reader wants them to be. An unnamed character can become a friend, lover, or perhaps even a family member thus making it even easier to connect to and understand the character’s hardships. It is possible that Smith wanted the reader to have the freedom to assign a name or role to the character while successfully maintaining the control an author must have when writing so in depth about the life of a character.

One might think that a novel like Swing Time could put readers in a constant state of confusion. Confusion as to whether the book is a version of the author’s memoir or an unorthodox branch of fiction. The beauty of Swing Time, however, is that Smith has given her readers freedom to interpret the narrator’s identity in whatever way feels appropriate to each specific reader. The narrator could simply be the author’s spokesperson in an unconventional version of an autobiography. Or the reader might choose to submerge themself into the character’s life, finding solace in relating to certain events that the narrator experiences. Another option made available to the reader is that of assigning the narrator a role to connect to the reader: a friend, a long lost cousin, anyone that helps the reader better understand the events that take place throughout the narrator’s development in life. The attraction of this novel is that there is freedom to choose who the narrator could be and in choice the reader is able to better understand the importance of Zadie Smith’s Swing Time.

Works Cited:
Smith, Zadie. Swing Time. 2016. Penguin, 2017.


Casey Abee

625 7th Avenue Northeast

Hickory, NC 28601

Cell: 828-390-0809



  • Enthusiastic child care worker effective at providing quality care and promoting a positive environment for all children.



  • Differentiated instruction and care
  • Positive reinforcement methods
  • Understands developmental disorders
  • Active listener
  • Reliable and trustworthy
  • Outstanding communication skills
  • Energetic and playful
  • Behavior management techniques
  • CPR certified



Child Care Provider, 05/2017- Current

Calvary Kids- Valdese, NC

  • Modeled proper social behaviors and exhibited concern for children and other staff.
  • Physically and verbally interacted with children throughout the day.
  • Administered medication and first aid to sick and injured children.
  • Engaged in creative and entertaining games with the children.  
  • Tutored children in elementary level subjects.
  • Promoted appropriate behaviors by using positive reinforcement methods.
  • Maintained a child-friendly environment with inclusive activities.



2021 Lenoir-Rhyne University- Hickory, NC

Elementary Education major

Special Education minor

  • High school diploma
  • Dean’s List, Fall 2017
  • GPA: 3.89



  • I have volunteered at J. Iverson Riddle Developmental Center and cared for adults who have intellectual and developmental disabilities.  
  • I babysit multiple children with ages ranging from 2-12.


My Connection to Sports

From the young age of five years old, sports have greatly impacted my life. Tee-ball was the first athletic activity I decided to take up at that tender age of five. Over the years, I have participated in five different sports: volleyball, softball, tennis, basketball and soccer. My dad’s persistence to get me involved in sports was what got the ball rolling for me, but after I got my first taste of a sport, the desire to play and be involved only increased. Once I discovered multiple sports, I hungered to try as many of them as I possibly could. In elementary school, I played as many recreation sports for my small town as the recreation department would let me play. As the seasons changed, so did the sports. I went from soccer to basketball and then on to softball and the cycle continued up until I reached middle school, where I was forced to pick between certain sports that took place in the same season. From then on, I played volleyball, tennis and softball fervently. Sports have created and helped flourish many of my closest friendships, while also providing me with a sense of purpose and importance in middle and high school. As cliché as it may sound, sports gave me a place to fit in and become the person I am today. Although I’m not playing a sport in college, I still feel very connected to certain sports and make an effort to attend as many sporting events as my schedule allows. I will always be thankful for the gift of sports and the many lessons I’ve learned from them.