Author touts joy of letter-writing in new book | Nvdaily

Maurertown author Elizabeth Cottrell has a secret formula for writing notes and letters from the heart.

Using the acronym NOTES, she said the five keys to finding the right words are to write “natural,” as if speaking to the recipient; be “open” by using your heart and mind; “tell” specifically what you want to say, “empathize” with what the recipient is going through and “share” a memory or example.

These are some tips that she uses in her book, “HEARTSPOKEN: How to Write Notes that Connect, Comfort, Encourage, and Inspire,” which is scheduled for publication on July 15.

“This is so much for me like a ministry, a movement,” she said.

Cottrell, 72, has maintained a blog for many years and started to think about including the information in a book about 10 years ago, but she didn’t get down to work until she was stuck at home during the COVID-19 pandemic. Her daughter de ella pointed out that her suddenly empty schedule de ella offered a great chance to write a book.

For Cottrell’s birthday, her daughter gifted her time each week with an accountabiity coach, who would call regularly, ask how the book was coming along and encourage Cottrell to stay on task between phone calls.

“It was such a lovely gift on the part of my daughter,” she said.

The book took her about a year to write and pull together from her blog posts. Then she spent nearly another year researching publishers before signing with Koehler Books in Virginia Beach, which publishes fiction and nonfiction and also published books by some other local authors and friends of Cottrell.

The book’s forward is written by Woodstock author Jason Wright, who wrote “The Wednesday Letters” and “The Wedding Letters,” both of which portray characters finding joy and peace in writing letters as well as reading the letters that loved ones wrote each other over the years.

“I was just so pleased,” Cottrell said. “He just said, ‘Yes, I’m in.’”

Though she grew up writing notes and letters to various people and loved receiving letters in the mail, Cottrell said her passion for the art of letter writing really grew about 25 years ago when she received a thank-you note from someone she had sent a condolence letter to.

It’s what she calls her “conversion story” in her book:

“A letter from a stranger was the lightning bolt that changed my appreciation for the potential of personal notes forever; from that day on, I saw them as a force for good in the world,” she writes.

“The letter was from a woman devastated by the loss of her son:

‘I truly appreciated the encouraging letter you sent my son’s fiancée after my son took his own life. She shared it with me, and it came during one of the most difficult and testing times of my life. I know I have read your note over 25 times; it was a lifeline which kept my spirits up.’

Cottrell doesn’t remember what she had written in that condolence letter.

“[But I know it came from my heart and carried a genuine desire to comfort her,” she writes in her book. “What that did for me personally was just make me more of a note writer.”

Now she’s hoping to inspire others to write letters that do the same for others, whether they’re sending thanks, sorrow or congratulations.

In addition to her own experiences, Cottrell drew from advice that members of her letter-writing Facebook group, Heartspoken Life, offered over the last four years.

“How to encourage children to write notes. How to reach out to people in awkward situations,” she said.

“People talk about the power of that visceral reaction to holding the letter, recognizing the handwriting, feeling the presence of that person if it was someone they knew,” she said.

Cottrell also researched what other experts have said so she could include details like etiquette and manners.

“But what I really wanted with this book is to convince people of the power of this as a tool of nourishing relationships,” she said. “It’s just an overlooked simple way to reach out to people.”

“HEARTSPOKEN,” which takes its name from Cottrell’s blog and Facebook group, is available for preorder at, and For more information, visit or


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