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Mom taught me to write thank-you notes, and so I try to do so. I admit I have fallen behind in recent years. In part this is good news: How fortunate I am to be unable to fairly thank everyone who does me a good turn, a kindness, or delivers my pocket notebook to the high school office after finding it in the bleachers the morning after my daughter’s final volleyball game.

Right this very moment, there is a to-thank list as long as my forearm taped to my desk. Many of these are related to a recent book tour. I feel a thank-you is especially important in this instance since the visits were brief but the hosts’ preparations were long. Less professionally, I only recently mailed a thank-you to my cousin for hosting us in Nashville last summer. We are scheduled for a return visit soon and I feared the thank-you note and we might arrive simultaneously.

I scribble many of my thank-you notes on postcards left over from various book promotions. Economic self-interest is in play (recouped printing costs, cheaper stamps, and I might accidentally sell a book), but I solemnly swear the sentiment in the scribble is as authentic as the signature.

When a postcard won’t do, or might come off as crass, I go first class. During a book tour several years ago, I was kindly gifted stationery embossed with my name. I found this most authorial, and enjoy dashing off notes thereupon with a fountain pen, as if I were Mark Twain’s penmanship-impaired stepchild. Trouble is, this stationery is square and of a dimension that, if folded, slops around in a standard envelope most inartistically. Because aesthetics are my part-time thing, I went online and to extra expense obtained envelopes that were not only the dimension of the stationery but conveyed a rough-hewn artfulness. They are the color and texture of a feed mill gunny sack.

How I loved jotting my thanks, then slipping the paper unfolded into the envelope to be stamped and sent. How sweet it was to imagine the words drawn uncreased from within to warm a deserving heart. How shamed I was last week when I sent one to a local artistic collaborator whose husband happens to be both a friend of mine and a former post office employee, which is to say he didn’t mind informing me that his wife’s card arrived postage due and envelopes that size require another 21 cents.

In short, this means that over the course of a few years my thank-you notes have cost their recipients a collective $117, minimum. My embarrassment is matched only by my admiration for the character and courteousness of these folks in that only now has someone raised a stink, and even that in the name of friendship.

The extra stamps are now on hand. My thanks will no longer arrive by invoice, and my commitment to the gracious habit is renewed. The world is speedy, vituperous and rude; a handwritten word of gratitude seems a sweet comma between it all.

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An original “Roughneck Grace” column exclusive to the Wisconsin State Journal. Audio versions may air on “Tent Show Radio” ( Read more from Michael Perry at