Naming the best letters of the year

Allison Web-Bohl led all writers for the 2000 MILER Award.

By Regina Villiers. Originally published January 10, 2001 in The Suburban Life added, January 15, 2021.

    If your shorts are in a bunch because that cost of a letter just went up by one cent, let me try to convince you that a postage stamp is still the best bargain around.  A letter is a gift of the spirit, and I defy anyone to give a more personal, more lasting gift for only 34 cents.

     Each year at this time, while glowing in the spell of holiday mail-and it was especially good this year-I ply my pen in the defense of snail mail.

     E-mail is quick, and it communicates.  But it’s impersonal, and it’s mechanical.  To me, no communication equals the glow of pulling a letter from my mailbox to recognize the handwriting of someone I care about.

     At the end of the year, I always like to reflect and go over the year’s mail, my personal mail and mail about this column.   Several years ago, I started awarding the MILER, a mythical award I just made up, to the best letter-writer of the year.  Why not?  They give best awards for everything else.

     This year was a good year for my mail.  I received lots and lots of “keepers.”  I usually declare my “best” correspondents ineligible, because they’re often professional writers.

     But among the eligible, nonprofessional writers this year, the winner was a clear-cut-no-brainer.  She won the MILER by a mile.  The 200 MILER Award winner is: (drum roll, please) Allison Webb-Bohl.

     Allison is a young writer.  She was my student two years ago in the Sellman school newspaper class in the 30-day program.  We were no more than 15 minutes into the first day till she told me she intended to be a writer when she grew up.

     People are always telling me they are going to be writers.  Someday.  Most never do.  But the difference was that Allison wrote.  She already was a writer.  By the second day, she searched in her Trapper and gave me a poem she had written.

     Allison flourished and grew in that class.  Not only did she produce the required class writing, she wrote extra projects, poetry and writing, for herself.  Just because.  She was a teacher’s dream.  That entire class was a teacher’s dream class.

     She’s in sixth grade this year.  But she’s still writing.  She’s on the staff of the school newspaper, ‘the Sellman Times,” as is Benj Woodhouse, another member of the “dream class” of 1999, and maybe others.

     She has a gift.  To me, poets have to have a little something extra, a feel for images and phrasing.  They treasure words.  It’s a natural thing.  Poets are born.

     Allison’s letters to me this year have been fat, treasure filled gifts.  She includes poems she has written.  Her most recent letter included her poem, “Lighthouses.”  Her rhythm and phrasing are perfect throughout.  “From the salty air, a lighthouse is born.  Through the midst of the morning…”

     Allison loves music and writes songs too.  In August, she wrote “My friend, Caitlyn, and I have a little group called the ‘Blue Butterflies.’  We’ve written four songs.”

     She also writes about her favorite singers and music.  Her letters keep me up on today’s world, and they are a pop culture degree program for me.  She likes ‘N Sync, but not as much as the Backstreet Boys.

“And Christina Aguilera is the best girl singer you will ever be able to hear,” she wrote at the end of August.

     During the summer, she wrote too.  She told me that she and Maura Messerly, another “dream class” member, were writing a book during the summer about an 11-year-old girl who tells the story of the coming of the third millennium.  Who knows?  It could get published.

     Her books will be published some day.  She’ll be there at bookstores, signing her books, and I’ll be first in line.  

     Yes, the 2000 MILER winner was among the easiest decisions I’ve ever made.  Having Allison for a friend and correspondent is one of the life’s special joys.

     The price of a postage stamp is small indeed for such a gift.