an intermittent series featuring narratives from emerging writers, poets, and artists.

Colton Adrian on “The Lost Art of the Handwritten Rejection Letter”


Photo by Colton Adrian

I wouldn’t feel so bad if the rejection letters I regularly receive for my writing were hand-written on papyrus and signed with a red-lipped kiss. There might be a few ink runs or smears where the writer rubbed her hand across the paper or crooked creases that make the letter undeniably human. Instead of feeling like a piece was read and spit out by a robot, I would receive personal, motivational words exclusively for me.

Although this romantic notion is extremely desirable to writers and artists alike, it applies to anyone who corresponds with another person, whether that may be a local pen pal or a relative across the world.

The pure physicality of the paper, the ink, the envelope, brings alive the senses. The letter is filled with the fragrance of the writer, the tangibility of the letters, the stains or crossed out words across its pages. These details bring a deeper connection than a digital copy in 12pt font, and the scents alone can bring forgotten memories rushing back.


Photo by Colton Adrian

Such memories are important, especially to those not living in our same society. In places like prisons, war zones, research camps or just remote locations, people cherish a handwritten letter because they have so little where they are to begin with. The tiny drawings in the margin or familiar handwriting can be just the motivation someone may need in such trying conditions.

It is that personal touch, that piece of humanity that gets left behind within a handwritten letter that is perhaps the most rewarding part of them. A small thing like knowing a relative glided a pen back and forth on a piece of paper held down by their own hands brings an extra reality to the letter. It brings the writer into the letter, rather than reigning over it from a distance. It lets the paper speak.

Even if the letter isn’t signed with a kiss or covered in calligraphy on ancient papyrus, such a hand-written letter can’t be easily deleted in two clicks. Fortunately for me, my emailed rejection letters can be.

Colton Adrian is twenty-two. He plays with dirt at work and writes when he’s not doing that. He escaped via C-section and was birthed in Williamsburg, Virginia. He’s been there ever since and has been plotting a breakout involving a pen and a pad for the last two years.


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