Lettres Magazine: A Curated Collection of Love Letters

Preview of Lettres Magazine (Photo Courtesy of Agnes)

It’s only been a matter of weeks that I’ve known about the Lettres Magazine project, but I was immediately captivated—both by the mission of the project and by the energy and intention of founder + creator Agnes. Then, a week ago, when Agnes reached out to personally invite me to the upcoming launch party celebrating the birth of her project and the supporters who made it possible, a door opened for me to interview her and learn more about Lettres Magazine and the creative soul behind such a heartfelt offering.

So what is Lettres Magazine? In the words of Agnes:

Lettres Mag is a collection of 26 expressions of love from around the world. They are written to and from the people who matter most in our lives: friends, lovers, exes, strangers, mothers, fathers, and our own selves. It was created based on the belief that writing down deeper feelings through love letters is both healing for the self and uplifting to others in a non-paper, digital-savvy world.

Forever a lover of the handwritten letter and the mindfulness, connection, and tangibility that comes with, I am beyond inspired by Agnes’ curiosity, kindness, and vulnerability as it relates to the magic that happens through pen and paper, from one being to another. I have no doubt you will be too.

Agnes, Founder + Creator of Lettres Magazine (Photo Courtesy of Armando Rafael Photography)

Goodall Creative: Tell us a little about your creative journey + how it led you to Lettres Magazine.

Agnes: It’s a bit of a vulnerable journey, but here we go! Last March I got laid off from a toxic job and I was looking for roles in my industry of social media that might creatively satisfy me. But I got artistically hopeless when many positions seemed obsessed with just growing follower numbers and analytics, instead of focusing on the story and the deeper, intimate connection that social media can manifest. So while I was looking for jobs, a friend/mentor of mine asked me, “What would you do right now, regardless of circumstances, that would make you happy?” I told her that I’d love to make something tactile, something I can feel, like a magazine, a collection of real stories. Then she said, “I think you should make it.” And in that moment, her acceptance of my vision changed my world. It was time to stop trying to fit myself into a box and make my own box, dome, cube—whatever shape my world was going to be, it was going to be of my own making.

Relatedly, I had been making zines every month as part of a friend’s zine club, and there was something absolutely magical, lively, and right about making something with my hands. Working in social media, I adore the myriad ways we can tell stories today, but I think it is also paramount to remember the power of slowing down. Text messages, DMs, and Facebook posts are not the only ways we can show appreciation toward one another. So I wanted to unpack what deeper connection really looks like.

In sum, Lettres Mag came from my desire to connect deeply, to remind people of what that deep connection feels like, and to empower myself to create something tangible without any restraints.

Preview of Lettres Magazine (Photo Courtesy of Agnes)

GC: What can readers expect to find in Lettres Magazine?

A: The 94-page magazine is a collection of 26 very different expressions of love from around the world. They’re all love letters, but I hesitate to call them that because they’re not what you might expect with the term “love letter.” Even when I imagine a “love letter,” I think of a secret, romantic letter handwritten in cursive with a feather pen on vintage paper. But Lettres Mag’s pieces really break that stereotype. For example, there’s a song written to one’s passing father as she flies from Holland to New York, there’s a series of intimate portraits of someone’s high school best friend, a letter to oneself going through depression, a love letter to a stranger they haven’t met yet—I curated the collection so that they could be written to all sorts of people, not just significant others or exes. And the main thread that brings them all together is a sense of vulnerability, connection, and the reveal of a deeper emotion. Readers can expect lots of feelings expressed on paper, a journey through varied, even surprising, experiences of love and desire.

GC: How do you hope readers will be impacted by Lettres Magazine?

A: I hope people can be reminded of their power to feel, love, and create. Every day I find myself being inundated with content and noise, scrolling through endless stories, numbing my emotional sensations. But with this detailed, print creation, I want us all to snap out of any numbness and to remember the things, the people, the moments that make us feel most alive. I hope people’s hearts will open up—that they’ll remember the rich romance and magic we carry within ourselves and remember to share that generously whenever possible.

Preview of Lettres Magazine (Photo Courtesy of Agnes)

GC: What does your letter writing ritual look like?

A: I write handwritten letters very sporadically. It’s a very emotional experience—I write letters whenever I feel like I’ve been impacted by someone. So naturally, whenever I have a crush on someone, I write about it, like this missed connection, a love letter to a stranger.

Growing up, I always made a card for my mother for her birthday, Mother’s Day, or Christmas. I’d also make very detailed scrapbook-y cards for dear friends. I’m not sure how I cultivated that habit, but I just loved putting paper and stickers together as a way to express how much I cared for someone. I loved being able to say truly with a piece of paper, “This is from me to you.” But to be honest, I haven’t created something so crafty for someone in many years. I think Lettres Mag is my grown-up version of such an offering of love to the whole world.

GC: Tell us about one of the most meaningful letters you’ve ever received.

A: I love each and every piece of mail I receive; each one has such a different context while all sharing the same concerted, deliberate effort to speak to me. I have two alternative answers to this question. This first one sounds a bit vain, but the most meaningful letter that comes to mind is one that I actually wrote. I met an amazing Airbnb host in Montreal and stayed with her and her young daughter for a few days in April 2017. Staying with her and being invited to witness her precious relationship to her daughter was an unexpected gem of my time in Montreal, which I explored through this letter and left it with her on my last day. I feel something really great and powerful when I can be honest with my feelings and let another individual know how I feel.

My second alternative answer would be my mother’s everyday notes around the house. Once in a while, she’ll leave handwritten notes to remind me of rather mundane things, but I just love seeing the random piece of scrap paper she chooses to write on coupled with her handwriting that just makes me warm to see. Her most recent note was written in Korean on the back of a random business card, “Since your stomach hurts, put some rice in hot water with this side dish (with a drawn arrow pointing to the said bowl on the dining table).” Another time she left a handwritten map on a post-it to show where exactly she parked the car on the street so I could drive it. I treasure these notes because they indirectly show how much care she has for me; I know she is thinking of me every second of the day and finding these notes further confirms it.

Preview of Lettres Magazine (Photo Courtesy of Agnes)

GC: What have you learned in preparing the inaugural volume of Lettres Magazine?  

A: One of the many things I’ve learned is how underrated-ly long and slow the creative process can be. The big thing that daunted me in making this magazine in the first place was the printing production process. It has been a journey designing the layout of the magazine (I am not a trained designer!) and figuring out every step in the production of getting something digital into a real, bound, printed thing. The magazine is 94 pages and full color, so there are tons of details to think about all the time. I find that the way we tell stories today makes it seem like creative projects just pop out of people’s brains after a few teaser Instagram posts, but there’s so much unsexy work that goes into making the sexy stuff. This whole journey taught me a new responsibility I hold as a creator, to share the process of the mundane. I want creativity to be accessible so that others can find their own true creative voice. By sharing the hardest parts of the process, we can empower one another to create more earnestly from our hearts instead of shying away from our truest creative desires.

Preview of Lettres Magazine (Photo Courtesy of Agnes)

GC: What is your vision for this project?

A: The goal when I conceived Lettres Mag (and to this day) was to let me unleash my creativity without limits. It was my rebellion against the dearth of unbounded creativity in my field of professional work where people tend to obsess over followers, virality, or shallow metrics of success. I just wanted to make, feel, and share an emotional experience. With that in mind, I want the future of this project to perpetuate that real feeling of creating whether it’s through more volumes or through events and workshops that give people the space to write, be vulnerable, and share their deepest feelings.

I’m so passionate about connecting deeply and connecting especially with those who are seeking more in life and in themselves. I just want to empower those who don’t think they’re creative yet can’t stop dreaming and creating, who don’t feel like they belong on this planet and yet continue to yearn for home. I want to be there for them and tell them with a big heart, I love them. That’s the kind of experience I want Lettres Mag to provide, no matter what medium it may manifest as.

So I hope Lettres Mag expands beyond being a magazine. I think “feeling deeply” can be translated into various mediums and experiences, which, as an artist, I’m super excited to explore.

GC: Tell us about the upcoming launch party for Lettres Magazine.

A: I’m so excited for it! For one, the launch party on April 5th in NYC is a celebration of the Kickstarter project having been successfully funded to help bring Lettres Mag to life as a print project. We raised over $7,000 in a month to bring volume 1 and beyond to life. I’m so grateful for the community that has shown up to support this venture and I want to say thanks in person. Secondly, I’m designing it to be an experiential version of Lettres Mag Volume 1. So there’s going to be a live reading of select letters from the first collection; one contributor is performing a song on the guitar written to their passing father; another contributor is reading her grandmother’s Italian love letters from the ‘50s with her partner; and I may be singing a song! I get emotional just imagining it!

Besides the reading, there will also be a love letter writing station set up so guests can write their own letters to anyone. I want to challenge guests to write a love letter to a stranger; and my vision is to collect those letters and mail them to another guest in attendance, starting a sort of pen pal chain. We’ll see how this component pans out. 🙂

Preview of Lettres Magazine (Photo Courtesy of Agnes)

GC: How can we support or contribute to Lettres Magazine?

A: I have not yet set up a way to buy or support Lettres Mag, but if you follow the magazine on Instagram or sign up for the newsletter, I’ll share updates on how to support the project. Or anyone interested can write me at lettresmag@gmail.com and I’ll personally let them know when Lettres Mag is ready for online purchase.

GC: If you wrote a love note to yourself, what would you say?

A: Thank you for asking me this. I think this is the hardest question to answer here! In this present moment, I would write this. (To note: Agnes is my artist name I created for myself, while Erin is my birth name. So the letter would be addressed from Agnes to Erin.)

Erin,

You recently went to Mexico and your Airbnb host said, “I love you, Erin” on your last night as you both wept. You were stunned. You shared so much with her in just a few days with your broken Spanish and her broken English. You learned you don’t necessarily need language to communicate—you can communicate with your heart.

Ever since that moment, you realized even more deeply what your mission on this earth is; to dare to say “I love you” to everyone. To understand what it means to love everyone for who they are. To expand your heart to be so wide, no one could even understand it. You live for this challenge, to wake up each day and stare everyone in the eye whispering, “What if I loved you?”

I can feel your exhaustion and overwhelming energy you put into perfecting this project every day. I can also feel your lingering anxiety when you constantly refresh Instagram. But remember this, you have come so far. Remember to tell fear to come back another day. Because every day you have been growing with this venture, growing your heart and mission.

Today, I want to tell you, in the same way Paty inexplicably told you: Erin, I love you.

Now it’s time for you to keep exploring even more deeply what that mystery of love could possibly mean, and how you’re going to spread it like wildfire.

Yours,

Agnes

Agnes, Founder + Creator of Lettres Magazine (Photo Courtesy of Armando Rafael Photography)

6 comments

  1. This project is so cool! Thank you for sharing your interview with Agnes. The whole idea behind this magazine is unique and very personal. Also, from the pictures it looks beautiful, so she should not doubt her design talents. It looks simple, elegant and seems to really captivate the viewer.

    1. It really is a very unique + personal project! I’m so glad you enjoyed my interview with Agnes—she is one-of-a-kind.

    2. Hi Gabe! I just want to say thank you for enjoying my story and the project and taking the time to share it here! Your words mean a lot and I’m grateful for you to know about Lettres. Hope to stay in touch. xx Agnes

  2. Jessica,

    This is an absolutely wonderful find! So wonderful, in fact, that I reread your post just to feel the excitement again! As you know I also love letters and confessions left for others to see (I still look forward to Monday morning PostSecret updates), so I fully intend to throw some money at this project if the option is still available on Kickstarter! This book will doubtlessly find its way onto my coffee table regardless.

    I wanted to quickly highlight a few things Agnes said that really struck a chord:

    – “I’m so passionate about connecting deeply and connecting especially with those who are seeking more in life and in themselves.” I think this is exactly what the doctor ordered for our digital society. You and I briefly discussed this a few weeks ago when I asked your thoughts on how people communicate in the modern world. Our thoughts and feelings, written in our own hand, can mean so much more than the digital check-in we’ve become accustomed to.

    – Agnes went on to say later, “I hope people’s hearts will open up—that they’ll remember the rich romance and magic we carry within ourselves and remember to share that generously whenever possible.” I suppose I can admit I’m a “hopeless romantic” at heart, and this certainly resonates with me. I believe everyone’s heart has so much to communicate…and so many ways to do it. This plays into another comment Agnes made: “I think “feeling deeply” can be translated into various mediums and experiences.”

    – Love can be a real pain in the ass–at least romantic love. It sometimes comes from nowhere at inopportune times and can leave us wanting more, wishing for less, fulfilled, or at a loss. Agnes aptly said though, “Ever since that moment, you realized even more deeply what your mission on this earth is; to dare to say ‘I love you’ to everyone. To understand what it means to love everyone for who they are. To expand your heart to be so wide, no one could even understand it. You live for this challenge, to wake up each day and stare everyone in the eye whispering, ‘What if I loved you?'” …And why not love–or at least be willing and ready to–everyone? Why do we guard ourselves so readily but love so sparingly? What’s to lose when we give unto others? To look everyone in the eye and ask, “What if I loved you?”…how vulnerable, how calming, how interconnected, how hopeful.

    Thank you for another great, connecting post!

    – Brandon

    1. Hi, Brandon:

      I’ve reread Agnes’ words a number of times myself! She is a beautiful thinker, feeler, and writer, no doubt. Her perspective has caused me to, yet again, reconsider my approach to connection and slowing down.

      How we connect with each other really is a challenge in this digital age, for without the internet and without Instagram, I may have never met Agnes or discovered her project. But with the convenience of digital resources, it is so easy (too easy) to lose the depth of slower modes of communication. Just today, a friend on Instagram posted a snapshot of the introduction of an antique book on letter writing from the early-mid 20th century. It expressed great concern at the loss of letter writing due to the telephone and telegraph, and it even mentioned that news was more commonly shared through letters than the eventual daily newspaper. So how do we find the balance between modern convenience and the mindful ways of yesteryear? I’m still figuring this one out, but I think clear intentions and artificial boundaries are at the core.

      I have a feeling every lover of handwritten letters has a hopeless romantic somewhere inside of them. 😉

      You asked a critical question: “Why do we guard ourselves so readily but love so sparingly?” I think I would further that by asking: How do we establish wise, self-respecting boundaries while still allowing ourselves to love and give joyfully? Again, the solution is in balance. I am certainly still growing here, but I think establishing healthy boundaries is actually freeing in that it provides the personal nourishment necessary to love and give to others in a joyful manner.

      Thank you, as always, for your thoughtful comments!

      Kind regards,
      Jessica

      1. Hi, Jessica,

        In reading your comment I was reminded of a book I bought along with the Post Secret books. It’s called “Other People’s Love Letters,” and it’s a really great experiment in love letters. Some of the unique letters, such as pager and early text messages, showed the transition of the love letter’s medium of conveyance, but no less emotion was felt therein. The digital age may indeed reduce our mindfulness in eloquently speaking love; I wonder how kids born ten years from today will convey love when they come of age. Anyway, I definitely recommend you check for the book at your library or pick up a copy to thumb through (linked below). I pulled it out last night to read it again and noticed that I had actually placed Post-It flags on a number of the letters that spoke to me years ago. I’m looking forward to seeing why I marked those pages.

        Your question is something I struggled with a lot throughout my former marriage. Boundaries didn’t exist, and thus, paradoxically, neither did respect and open communication. I too work to clarify boundaries now; as you said, they should be freeing rather than confining. Though not exactly related to your comment, an article I found while reading some of the materials you gave me paralleled that paradox: A healthy dependency actually grants greater INdependence.

        – Brandon

        The references I mentioned:

        https://www.amazon.com/Other-Peoples-Love-Letters-Never/dp/0307382648

        http://www.scienceofrelationships.com/home/2012/5/14/the-dependency-paradox.html

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