Random. Quirky. Independent. Imaginative. Sarcastic.
I spent a month in Ithaca, New York as a part of the New York State Summer School for the Arts film program during the summer between my junior and senior years of high school, I believe in 2008. I wanted to receive letters from my friends and family to keep me close to them since we weren't supposed to use our phones during classes and lectures which ran most of the day and night. So I gave my address to my friends and family and wrote letters back to them, and that got me thinking. What if I could write letters to strangers who were similar to my friends? What if I found people who had interesting stories to tell who would want to know about my life in exchange for sharing their unique experiences? I made friends at the program and we lived from all parts of the state, so we exchanged addresses and numbers and began writing letters. I guess ultimately I decided to seriously start a search for new pen pals during the start of my senior year in high school. I realized I wanted to see what other people were like in other parts of the country and, in some cases, other parts of the world. I wanted to hear these people talk about their daily lives, their interests and opinions, and see their creativity come out to play.
I like creating or buying stationery to write my letters on. It's so much fun to design something myself or discover new ways to write letters to my friends. I also like waiting. I know that sounds weird, but I love to wait for a letter to arrive. There's something magical about it, like developing film. You have to wait for it to finish developing and even then, you still don't know what's going to show up in the frames. That's how I view letter exchanges. As for what I dislike about the art, I'd have to say when you get a pen pal who doesn't seem to put in as much effort as you do. For example, when you find someone who writes less than a page for each letter, responding with one sentence answers or less. It becomes obvious they are only collecting pen pals and that bothers me.
My friends don't care much for penpalling. My parents, luckily, let me exchange letters without much concern, but my friends are always on my case about how expensive it is and they always ask me, "How is it you have a stronger bond with someone you've never met than with me?" I have a friend or two who find it interesting, and that's all I ask for. Not someone to smash the dying art of penpalling, but to embrace it and consider the possibilities.
I still stay in touch with my first real pen pal. As in, the first person I never met but found online. I have been buddies with her for almost two years now. Her name is Winslow and she is one of the coolest people I've ever had the chance to communicate with. We exchange little gifts with our letters which can be written on anything from handmade paper to index cards to Alice in Wonderland stationery to strips of paper to little journals. We have this ongoing recommendation list where we put down our favorite movies, music, and books. We're both huge indie fans, so any music and movies we find tend to be obscure or of the indie variety. I love Winslow dearly and I would love to meet her someday and just go on an epic road trip across the country, living in a tent at night and just having a blast.
I have about 12 pen pals who I still keep in touch with. I know, it sounds like a lot but I can tell who each person is usually just by their handwriting and what their envelope looks like. I used to have over two dozen pen pals but unfortunately most of those people were one-timer pen pals and stopped writing after their first letter. The pen pals I currently have are from all over the USA from places such as California, Georgia, New York, Nevada, and Texas, and I have one from Australia, one from Europe, and two from Canada. Some are about 17 or 18, some in their mid-twenties, others past their forties.
Yes, I'm searching for new pen pals. See below for my e-mail address.
Someone who isn't afraid to talk to me about their personal problems, but who is willing to give advice when I talk about mine. I look for equality in a pen pal friendship, and for something unique or different in each person. Sharing something in common with me is nice, but not necessary.
I usually find my pen pals from www.Interpals.net or LiveJournal groups.
Tell us a funny/interesting story from your Penpalling experience?
I was having a rough time dealing with some personal issues once, and my second oldest pen pal who is from Georgia sent me a letter that was made up almost halfway of stickers. She wrote the words she didn't have stickers to represent and used what stickers she did have as the words for me to read. It made me so happy and honored that she had spent so much time finding the right stickers to replace the right words, and I could only imagine how many drafts she went through of the letter before she made the final draft to send to me. It was, hands down, one of the coolest letters I have received to this day. And of course I keep all my letters, but that letter will always have a special place in my heart.
This is my old system as I'm in the process of switching to a new, more efficient system. I have colorful photo boxes I bought on sale from A.C.Moore in which I keep my incoming letters that I've responded to. When I receive a letter, I write the date on an index card that has the person's name written on the top of it. I keep stickers and stamps and deco tapes in a small snap-lid box, my big stationery in a large snap-lid box, and my small stationery or kawaii stationery in photo organizers, sorted by category (fairy tale, Hello Kitty/Sanrio, Disney/cartoon, animals, and miscellaneous). I have a snap-lid box full of envelopes to use, as well. My new system will include the computer, somehow. I'll probably make an Excel sheet and list my pen pals and the dates they've sent me letters. I'll get folders or binders for each person and put their letters inside, as well as note the gifts they give me. I have a binder already which has the name, address, and e-mail address of each pen pal I have, as well as their username from wherever I met them and a profile if they had one up. The names are listed alphabetically so I can just pop in the information of a new pen pal easily.
Yes and yes. The funniest gift I ever sent wasn't necessarily funny, but it was pretty neat. My pen pal Winslow is obsessed with anything Alice in Wonderland. So I made her a pair of Alice in Wonderland earrings out of Scrabble pieces, paint, and pictures. I used the A and W Scrabble pieces, pasted a picture of Alice and a picture of the Cheshire cat on each earring, and sent the pair to her on a queen of hearts mini playing card in an organza bag. Her reaction was pretty funny. She wrote in all capital letters for, like, three lines. It was awesome.
I love to read about the unique experiences each person has. What makes their day work or what people they meet, or how they've been influenced by certain things. I like to write about unusual things that happen to me sometimes, or ideas for movies and stories, fashion designs, etc.
I like to ink stamps I've carved myself and stamp them on the envelopes, or decorate the envelopes with lots of stickers. If carving stamps sounds hard, it's really not too difficult. With the right tools and the right rubber pad, you can make just about anything.
I like JanetStore and some shops on Etsy such as Xiwang (http://www.etsy.com/shop/xiwang). I also make my own stationery sometimes. Aside from Target, I rarely find stationery I like in a store. I guess there aren't too many places for stationery in my city.