Round Robin

Are you familiar with the concept of “round robin” letters? I have no idea if this is the sort of thing where everyone knows it duh, or not. Wikipedia, I notice, says that round robin letters are Christmas newsletters; I don’t think that is true, though perhaps it’s another usage of the term. I could have clicked the citations but I am eager to get back to The Good Wife: I just finished the first season and that is a cliff-hanger I would like to get back to.

This is how a round robin works. Let’s say you have a friend group of four, and Friend A starts it: she writes a letter, and she mails it to Friend B. Friend B reads the letter, writes his own letter, puts both letters in an envelope and mails them to Friend C. Friends C and D do the same, and Friend D mails the whole packet back to Friend A, so that Friend A receives an envelope containing four letters: her own plus three more. Friend A reads the three new letters, then takes her own letter out and writes a new one and puts it in, then mails the packet on to Friend B. And ’round and ’round it goes: after the initial start-up, where it is just one letter and then just two letters and so on, the envelope will always have four letters in it.

Everyone can also put in photos, or newspaper articles, or recipes, or whatever, and each person just takes their own stuff back as it comes back around to them. (This system requires participants who will not lose things, and who will not put a letter in a pile of mail and not get around to it for months.)

Anyway. I just mention this concept in case it could be useful at some point. One of the things I like about it is that in order for one to start, it isn’t necessary for EVERYONE to have EVERYONE’S addresses: if one person sends to one address they know, and THAT person sends to one address THEY know, you can build a circle pretty quickly. It works even better if some people in the circle have access to photocopiers, and/or can be the hub of several circles.

Oh! That reminds me. Our old and much-loved printer finally went into well-deserved retirement, and we had to replace it. The old printer was a Brother brand printer, and so we got another Brother. This one:

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Brother DCPL2520DW Wireless Compact Multifunction Laser Printer and Copier [edit: it also scans]. It is excellent. We print to it from four desktop computers and two laptops. I do not know how that magic works; I have my own personal IT guy who takes care of that. But one of the things I like best about it is that it’s ALSO a regular old photocopier: you lift the top, put your piece of paper in, and press a button. It’ll even do double-sided copies. This is the ink we buy for it: one-pack or two-pack.

I don’t have many basic throwback life skills, as we’ve discussed. But if the need arises I can put out a double-sided newsletter, yo.

20 thoughts on “Round Robin

  1. Kara

    I heard this term for the first time ever, this week. I was reading an old essay of Marian Keyes and she was talking about the Christmas Round Robin letter. I totally didn’t understand what she meant at all, and now I do. Thanks!

  2. Kathy

    The only way I can believe that this would happen currently would be friends that have been doing it for years and want to continue. Because email.

  3. Grace

    Oh! This is such a fun idea! While I love email in my inbox, I just adore snail mail. And several letters at one time! I’m going to have to do this. And Swistle, if you ever do put out a newsletter, I want to be on that mailing list!

  4. el-e-e

    I’m gonna admit, when you first starting talking about prepping — maybe that’s capital-P Prepping — I thought it was adorable overkill. But now…. things like the necessity for a paper newsletter seem PLAUSIBLE. Thanks for this! (Should we print it out???)

  5. Wendy

    Oh, I loved round robins! I was in 5 or 6 of them, when my kids were babies/toddlers, and now I keep in touch with those pen pals via Facebook. I loved pen pals in general — starting at age 11 or so, I kept in touch with anywhere from 20-100 different people at a time. At one point I started doing letters on tape (dictated onto a cassette with a Walkman while I drove to work, usually). The round robins came in later, and they were awesome for those of us who liked to write and receive long letters. We would type them, double-sided ;), and the letters would be around 10 double-sided pages each. It got to where we had to use big manila envelopes to mail them (which most of us decorated with rubber stamps and markers).

    Ah, those were the days — thanks for the memories :)

  6. Jenny Grace

    And there is the hopeless piece, where I cannot individually stop it. Shouting does not seem effective. Even contacting my representatives seems ineffective. I’m in California. We are no swing state.

  7. Rachel

    The Good Wife!!! All the heart eyes. One of my all time favorite shows, and it just gets better and better.

    1. Joanne

      I really REALLY enjoyed The Good Wife, I watched it all late night last summer. No one else in my house wanted to watch it so I got it all to myself.

  8. Alice

    Back in highschool, when email was in its infancy, my friends and I wrote snail mail letters to each other during the summers. I still have them and they are awesome. OH! ALSO! We had a newsletter as well – it was for our club (named “The Club”) which was exclusively for us gals who had never been kissed or had a boyfriend ;-) Our president actually printed up newsletters every so often with opinion pieces and interviews with other gal friends who could give boy advice, etc. I still have a few of those and they are GOLDEN.

    In summary please include me in the round robin letters when our government shuts down and the internet fails kthx.

  9. LeafyNell

    My mom and her sisters did a Round Robin letter for a few years. It would take about a year to get around to the 4 of them. I loved reading those letters! And I loved that when it was your turn to write a new letter, you got to keep your old one – I often wish my friends had saved my old letters as I wasn’t much of a journal-keeper as a young girl and those were probably funny, angst-y letters back then.

  10. laura

    I wrote in Round Robin letter for years with my friends from camp. We also decorated and matched and wrote zines together. And then one time through it stopped with a good friend who got really sick and the letter just ended. I do agree that email has by and large replaced the round robin, but I would totally do that again if I could get some people together.

  11. Judith

    The Good Wife is amazing. One of the most consistently excellent TV series I’ve ever watched. It’s so rewarding to see her grow and see the relationships between the characters develop. You’re on season 1? I envy you, I’d love to watch it again for the first time. Some of the twists will make your head spin. I can’t wait for the coming (and apparently last, booh!) season.

    I have one of those Brother printer-etc. things as well, a brother to your Brother, if you will. I also think it’s excellent. My IT-person somehow didn’t manage to make the wireless printing on this one work, although it worked just fine on its also-a-Brother predecessor. My IT-person also is me, so I can’t even fire her for gross incompetence. Pity.

      1. Judith

        We haven’t gotten it yet here (Germany). It’s only about to start now on some TV station, and it doesn’t come out on DVD or on Netflix until after it’s finished there. I don’t have regular TV and also refuse to watch those shows in the dubbed version, so that would only leave buying the DVDs from the UK for now. But since doing that would cost the same as four months of Netflix, I’ve decided I can wait a litte longer and just try and avoid spoilers in the meantime.

  12. Gigi

    I’ve had a vague idea of what a Round Robin was but it was fuzzy. So thank you for clearing that up. And yes, I can see how it would be useful if needed….

    But let’s talk about your printer. Do you absolutely love it to pieces? Does it print in color? (I took a quick glance at the link but didn’t see whether it did or not). I ask only because ever since we upgraded to Windows 10 our printer is useless and we are in the market for a new one. But us, being us, are paralyzed by which one to get – thus we’ve been without a printer for over a year.

    1. Swistle Post author

      I DO love it to pieces, yes. I forgot to mention it also scans. It doesn’t print color. We went back and forth on that, and finally went for just black ink.

      1. Gigi

        Thanks! I’ll look into that style/brand then. But I think we need one that prints in color…but maybe not now that the boy is out school….hmmm

  13. Melissa H

    I still have mild guilt about the time I killed the international round robin I was in with girls I worked with during college when I worked at a girl scout center in Switzerland. I found the unsent letter packet in my car MONTHS later and I think I gave up and threw it away. And then had no way to re-start since the internet was very very young at that time.

    My grandma was in a round robin for much of her adult life. It’s actually pretty cool to think about years of letters going in circles. Thanks for the reminder despite the depressing context.

    1. Anna

      Months is nothing! I have a group of friends (also Girl Scout friends!) with whom I have shared a round robin notebook of letters since the early 2000s. It is more like a scrapbook at this point. The first notebook was lost when one girl’s things were lost in college summer storage, and I haven’t seen the second notebook (known as Hildegard) since maybe 2013. That was before my two year old was born, so I can provide quite the update if Hildegard ever comes my way again! We do also email sometimes, so she (the toddler) won’t be a total surprise, can you imagine?

  14. christa lamb

    In the UK, a ’round robin’, is a Christmas newsletter that one family (may) send to another family. It is something of a joke that most people use it to boast about their offspring’s achievements etc.

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