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MAGAZINE PROVIDES AN OUTLET FOR PEOPLE WHO LOVE LETTERS

IN "A WOMAN OF INDEPENDENT MEANS," Elizabeth Forsythe Hailey wrote, "Please write again. Though my own life is filled with activity, letters encourage momentary escape into other lives, and I come back to my own with renewed contentment."

Have you noticed that letter writing is a lost art? When we're tempted to converse with a friend or relative, we think about how much time it will take to write a letter, and we call on the phone instead. We fail to realize that talking on the phone takes time too.I admit that a two-way conversation has exceptional appeal - but when it's over it's gone. For good. You can't linger over a passage you especially liked or leave the entire letter for posterity. So historians who will be looking for fragments of information or revelations of personality about our generation will have nothing.

Except The Letter Exchange.

It is a small magazine, published three times a year, by The Reader's League, a private business owned by Stephen Sikora, P.O. Box 6218, Albany, CA 94706. Dedicated to those who have "a taste for the simple pleasure of letter-writing," it is a vehicle for letter writers to express their diverse political, religious and cultural viewpoints.

According to Sikora, "We seek in these pages no other social contact or personal encounter. We meet each other only in the mail."

But besides the magazine, he offers a free forwarding service to those who want to carry on further correspondence with anyone found in the magazine. Contributors list themselves by category and number, and anyone wishing to write to a contributor sends a letter by number, encloses it in another envelope and mails it to The Letter Exchange.

When it is received, an appropriate label is put on it, and it goes to the contributor. It is even possible to send several letters in the same envelope. After the initial letter, correspondents can write to each other directly, if they choose.

There are risks involved, of course, so Sikora suggests caution - noting that the publishers have "no way to judge the integrity or intentions of its buyers." He advises writing enough to reveal interests. "Show your heart but don't spill it, and keep your purse strings firmly tied."

Good advice, since this type of vehicle may attract as many con artists as it does anyone else. U.S. subscribers pay $20 for one year of the magazine, and contributors pay 50 cents a word and may submit as many listings as they want.

There are some fascinating entries in the September 1992 issue under a variety of categories. Under Women's Interests, there is this: "Energetic, opinionated bookish, middle-aged Democrat seeks women correspondents. Please, no TV addicts or Pat Buchanan fans. - Judy."

Under Social Relations: "Fifty-one-year-old registered nurse, divorced, Southern, loves antiques, travel, long term letter friends to share down-to-earth letters about everyday living. - Marilyn."

Under Seniors: "Retired 80-year-old poet wants letter friends near my age who also write poetry."

Under Religion and Philosophy: "Since recent events have eliminated Armagedddon and New Roman Empire possibilities, is Biblical prophecy still worthwhile?"

Under Regional Interests and Travel: "Help! Trapped in Maryland climate entire life. Possible relocation to Arizona, Washington State or Oregon. Tell me about your state."

Under Literature: "Unusual reading and writing, cult and foreign film, surrealism, college radio, David Letterman, animal rights, rain."

There are numerous other categories. So if you long for the good old days of letter writing, take note.