A Thank-You Note That Led to Story

by Jackie Houchin

Do you like receiving a thank you note for some little thing you did (or even said)?  I recently received “three thank yous” via email (one was from my very well-trained, sweet granddaughter for a gift I sent).

It used to be something we would pound into our kids’s heads when they got birthday or Christmas gifts. “Write Aunt Dottie a thank you!”  “Tell grandma you loved her gift!” 

One boy at church ALWAYS wrote such sweet notes to me as his Sunday School or AWANA teacher. They were well thought out, and even used “bigger words” than I expected. Many had little drawings of something I might have given him. I would tell his mom that she sure trained him well, but she told me, “Oh, that’s his idea. I don’t say anything.”  Sadly he’s graduated out of my class now.  I miss his notes and illustrations.  (Yes, I’ve saved them.)

I enjoy writing thank you notes as well. I’m always surprised when someone I sent a card to exclaims “Oh, what a wonderful surprise! That was so nice of you!” Sometimes I send an email, and very occassionally a quick text message. But I enjoy writing out my thoughts on real-life cards. And since my granddaughter now has a little business* making greeting cards, I get to use all kinds of them. She’s the artist and designer.

I also write birthday and holiday cards . Dear Kerry!  Don’t make so many cute ones I just HAVE to buy and use!!

    *     *     *

Recently there was an article in our newspaper, The Epoch Times, January 26, 2022, titled “The Importance of Thank-You Notes”. I loved the sentiments and agreed with what was written.

This morning, February 25, 2022, there was a response in the form of letter in The Readers’ Turn section.  It is a wonderful story of one particular thank you.  Here it is (I hope it’s clear enough to read.)

As we here at The Writers In Residence are always encouraging our readers to WRITE, have any of you recently received something in the mail – snail, email, or text – that you could turn into a short story, essay, blog post, or even a poem? Ok, yes, even a utility bill that came. (Have you seen how Natural Gas prices have skyrocketed?? You could write a letter to the editor, or the company!! Haha.)

But I had something else in mind. Something creative. I recently got a snail mail letter from my sister who will be 89 next month. She is super spry physically and mentaly. She is now taking a writing class, and had to write a small piece from each of 30 prompts. She did it, and now she says her local newspaper wants to publish a few of them. Wow! Who knew? MY sister!!!

So… a thank you note that caught your attention, a birthday card, a GALentine’s Day card (yes, my granddaughter makes those!) or perhaps a mailing from a charity with a photo of a needy child, a disaster, or a pet who needs a home might spark a thought. Maybe even a gardening catalogue with seeds from an old variety of flowers that your grandma grew might inspire you to write a mini-memoir.

Go look through your mail. If you’ve got an idea now, let us know below. If it turns out nice, I might consider posting it in one of our GUEST BLOG spots this year. Just go do it! Write!



Author: Jackie Houchin

First, I am a believer in Jesus Christ, so my views and opinions are filtered through what God's Word says and I believe. I'm a wife, a mom, a grandma and now a great grandma. I write articles and reviews, and I dabble in short fiction. I enjoy living near the ocean, doing gardening (for beauty and food) and traveling - in other countries, if possible. My heart is for Christian missions, and I'm compiling a collections of Missionary Kids' stories to publish. (I also like kittens and cats and reading mysteries.)

13 thoughts on “A Thank-You Note That Led to Story”

  1. Jackie, such a charming, imaginative, and jolly good idea, especially about turning junk mail into worthy prose. Congrats to your sister who proves the adage that it is never too late. I am inundated with appeals for charity, especially from veteran organizations that insist via the stacks of address labels they send me that I am a Mr. rather than a Ms. A book title comes to mind: A Case of Mistaken Identity!
    Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I like that title for a book or story, Jill. I get those beautiful address labels too, and CANNOT use them because the name is wrong. (And, I won’t be donating to them as well.) One fun thing, however about Mistaken Identity is that we – oh, once in 6 or 7 months – receive a package of goodies for someone neither of us knows. The person wasn’t a former resident here, just the wrong address someone put in for an order. Once it was a big heavy carton of ceramic bowls of all kinds, colors, sizes. Another time it was an assortment of very pricy skin care items. We contacted the company about sending it back, but they said – No, just keep it or give it away. Wow.


  2. Just like Jill’s post above, there are scads of ideas popping into my head about what could come from a letter received. Here’s a “What If” story: What if a letter arrives for the previous owner of the house you just bought, but you know the old owner had passed away and has no relatives. What if the letter was a confession of a crime that had world-wide consequences. What if the new owner of the house happens to be a spy? I just might use that opening in a book that uses the characters in my spy novels along with the three detectives in my three detective series. Those characters all know each other and this would be a way to bring them all together. Thanks, Jackie for the prompt. And you have gotten me to send thank-you notes after you sent me some very nice things since I moved to my new house. A tangible letter is always appreciated.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Those are some powerful and fascinating “what if’s” Gayle. And, like you said, they would fit in beautifully with your multiple written series. How fun. And thank you for the thank-yous. Haha! See, I told you people did that. There is one more magazine I sent you – something about Mid-West Living, I think. Enjoy them and/or stop them when you like. Just wanted to make you feel welcome in your new home.
      Also… for a prompt, you could find a letter in a piece of furniture that came with the house, that could lead to solving an old cold case crime……


  3. There’s a whole lot less snail mail than there used to be, and most of what I get is junk mail. But I love the idea of turning some of the flyers I get from pet charities into story ideas! I’ve kind of done that in the past with my Pet Rescue Mysteries, but now I’ll have to ponder some more. Thanks for the great post and ideas, Jackie!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love how you use pets – mostly dogs – in your mysteries, Linda. So cool, that some of them might have come from charity donation pleas. I just got a Best Friends magazine yesterday. A big article about fostering kittens or puppies. I know David Rosenfelt wrote a new mystery about a litter of puppies, coming out in October this year. Why not beat him to it? haha.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Jackie, Thanks for sharing that touching response. I love getting snail mail, but don’t send any too often. The important thing is to express thanks, whichever method you choose. I’m going to be taking a closer look at my flyers and junk mail. Oh, and I love that your sister is an aspiring writer!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I love about your sister! Bravo and congrats to her! You took me back a few years, remembering being “reminded” to send a thank you card. Great post, thinking about how I can use some of the “junk mail” I get in a story, ha, ha, hmmmm

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Jackie – what a fascinating topic! And, yes, what a plethora of ideas are triggered from the simplest of items – a gas bill, and Jill’s mistaken address labels. Lots of intrigue comes to mind there! Thank you for reminding us of the inspirations from basic, day-to-day living. Great post.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Such an interesting post, and not just because I had a similar experience to Steve in the article. I never thought of using mail as a writing prompt. As for sending mail, I do still send (mostly) hand-written thank you notes, even selecting the stationery based on the giver’s personality – my favorite ones for writers feature a typewriter. However, inspiring stories through mail would also apply to what I sadly write more often – sympathy cards and letters. Perhaps my reminiscences of their loved one reveals an unknown story, or prompts a forgotten memory.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I love this post — I, too, was brought up to write thank you letters and I still do it. I love receiving them (so rare these days) and keep all of them. When I took a wonderful creative writing class at UCLA years ago, my instructor (Kerry Madden) – talked about Nice Notes. These were geared for writers to write to writers whose work they admire and just tell them that. Sometimes – you get a reply!


    1. Dear Hannah Dennison. Thank you for the lovely comment on my post on The Writers in Residence. It came at a perfect time. And it was so sweet of you to write. I liked hearing about your writing class and the teacher. “Nice Notes” is a good title, so consider this one of them. (smile)
      love, Jackie Houchin

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: