New Adventures: Beginner Modern Calligraphy

A little adventure this time: a Beginner Modern Calligraphy workshop with Holly Anna Calligraphy.

Handwriting has been my nemesis. It is too slow for the speed of my thoughts. So I typed. I have relied on typing since 5th grade.

My hand-writing languished. Penmanship was taught but not enforced. Second grade, we competed to see who could write the smallest. Cursive was punishment. In the end, only I could read my scribbles. Now, some days, if I am actually writing my thoughts, it seems I cannot do that.


My thinking penmanship
Day to day penmanship
When things are looking good


A couple weeks ago, in a memorable bout of good mothering, my daughter and I transcribed a poem onto a piece of paper and painted the rest of the paper with images we imagined from the poem. I wished for some way to elevate my penmanship. Fortunately, this workshop was just around the corner. The kindness of the teacher, Holly, made me feel comfortable to such a commitment. It seems I often have to cancel last minute because of some Peter-related issue.

Workshop day arrived! I left the kiddos with my parents and drove off apprehensively to Modesto. Would I feel comfortable? Would it be too difficult to be away from Peter? I already spent the morning away from him. My thoughts swirled with worries about Peter, the heat, and my parents’ energy levels. I thought of Celeste how long it was since I visited the cemetery.

I found the location easily, next door to Vito’s, once Oceania, where Kyle and I spend a couple dates gazing lovingly into each other eyes. Down a narrow, paved walkway with branches of bright pink bougainvillea dropping dried petals like a flower girl there stood the chalk board sign which read, “Calligraphy Workshop.” I seemed to arrive with the early crowd.

Opening the antique glass-paned door, a burst of cold air welcomed me inside from the 104-degree outside, afternoon temperature. A handful of women sat around plastic folding tables ornamented with white paper bags, cream colored tags tied with ivory ribbon. Each tag was decorated with a name, our names in gold ink calligraphy. I thought of my wedding place cards and how we printed them on the computer using Apple Chancery. I thought how pretty they would have been like this. I thought of how long that would take. I thought, better not to regret, and instead, I observed the room.

To one side were products, beautifully created prints with watercolor flowers and words of wisdom scrolled across their centers. A gray couch, a punch of distinctive lighting overhead, and the easy manner of Holly meeting and greeting participants as they entered made everyone new to her feel as though this would be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

“We’ll start on time!” she said, to honor those who came early. Everyone was there by the starting gun and off we went, peacefully thumbing through the workbook she created. I laughed out loud at the collective gasp of joy when Holly announced the paper in the Rhodes book provided was see through. We could trace the workbook letters, no need to soil it with our attempts to learn.

We started by learning about our tools and drawing lines, then strokes.


Every letter is a combination of strokes. It becomes manageable when you see it that way, even the “m’s.”

After tracing and repeating, building our muscle memory, I began to experiment with names.


I wrote Celeste’s name over and over again. I made me feel close to her as if I were creating something for her. Like a junior high girl doodling her name with her crush’s last name. I tried to flourish a heart around Miriam’s name and draw a train around James’ name. I think of the term “fail forward.”

Never did I think my handwriting could be beautiful. Never did I think I could write that lovely handwritten note Mrs. Post is always talking about. But I did. And I can.

This is the benefit of learning from another person, and along side people. While I could have looked online and studied some strokes, signing up for a workshop means someone who has tried the field of materials gives me her most-recommended pieces. I need not hunt around for the best price. She refilled my ink pot before I left. I asked for help on the flourishes. She gave me her perspective. She gave her alphabet.

In modern calligraphy, there are no strict rules. You are presented with the information and you make it your own. It is a project that looks much better to every other eye than yours. It is forgiving. I need that in life. This is something I can do.

I already have my first card reading to put in the mail.

(This is not a sponsored post).


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