Saturday, September 3, 2011

Penpal Interview: Bev Sykes

Bev Sykes gives this PenPal Interview for Sandbook PenPal Magazine, August 2011, issue 10.

Hello there! How are you doing? Tell us more about yourself, your hobbies, personal life, interests.
Thank you for asking. I am a bit warm today because the temperatures are in the mid-90s, but I am enjoying the fan here on my desk. I am Bev Sykes, retired from medical office management but writing theater (not movie) reviews for the local newspaper here in Davis, California. Walt and I have been married 46 years and raised 5 children. We have 1-1/2 granddaughters (baby due in September). I love writing, reading, TV, movies, theater, photography, PhotoShop, mucking around on the computer, travel and giving friends tours of my hometown, San Francisco.

If you have to describe yourself in only 5 words what would they be?
Fat, funny, sarcastic, loyal, affectionate.

Tell us something about your town, city or country.
Davis is a medium sized town, 60,000 people (it has doubled in size since we moved here nearly 40 years ago), located about 80 miles east of San Francisco and about 20 miles from Sacramento, the capitol of California. It is a university town, with one of the best veterinary medical schools in the US. The terrain is very flat and bike lanes are very wide, so lots of people bike and we are known as the City of Bicycles.

How did you start penpalling? When was that? And why did you decide to start Penpalling?
I had my first penpal, a girl in England, when I was in grammar school. I think I just read an ad from a Mrs. Chegwidden (seriously) who offered to find penpals for girls who wanted to write to someone of the same age in England. Sadly, I no longer remember my pen pal’s name. I have always written letters but kind of switched to e-mail for a long time, being a person who likes instant gratification. But I miss the actual writing of a letter (though I type, rather than hand write my letters because even I can’t read my handwriting). I went search on the internet last year, to find out about connecting with penpals and discovered this whole huge community, which I am enjoying exploring.

What do you like / dislike about Penpalling/correspondence?
I love the interaction with people, learning about other lives and other countries. I haven’t been back into official "penpalling" long enough to have made it past the initial "getting to know you" phase and into perhaps deeper discussions. But I am enjoying the whole process. Nothing, really, that I dislike about it. Yet.

How do your friends react when they discover you are into Penpalling? Are they also into it or they give you the "strange" faces?
My friends and family always think I’m a little strange.

Do you still stay in touch with your first penpal? Tell us about your first penpal even if you have lost touch with them. We might be able to help you locate him/her.
As I said, that was a long time ago–maybe 50 years and I don’t remember her name. We probably wrote to each other for a year or so.

How many Penpals do you have? Where are they from?
At this point too many to count (I always was an overachiever), but I can sense that some of the ones I have will fall off the radar in the foreseeable future. I know that some will remain and it would be nice to have a couple of dozen good penpals to keep indefinitely. There are probably more from the US than anywhere else, but also from Australia, the UK, New Zealand, Canada and perhaps one or two other countries. I have a few email penpals who are from Germany, England, and Russia.

Are you searching for new Penpals? If yes, please give us some contact information that we can publish in the magazine so that people can write to you back.
I would never say no to someone who wanted to exchange letters with me. My address is: Beverly Sykes, 539 Villanova Dr., Davis, CA 95616 USA
What are you looking for in a penpal?
Someone who will write regularly, without too horribly long a gap between letters, who is open to exchanging ideas, even when opinions differ, who won’t try to convert me to any sort of ideology, but who can respect my ideas as I would respect hers (would prefer not to correspond with men).

Where do you find new Penpals from? Do you rely on FBs or Facebook or other websites/blogs.
I don’t think I’ve found any from FBs or Facebook. They have come either from Sandbook, from SendSomething, from LWA (Letter Writers Alliance) or from one of the many penpalling blogs I follow. I also write to two soldiers in Afghanistan, with whom I connected through Soldiers Angels.

Tell us a funny/interesting story from your Penpalling experience?
The only story I have is perhaps more odd than funny. I got a couple of names from a site for people who like to write long letters. My letters usually run about 3-4 typewritten 8-1/2x11 sheets of paper, which I think of as relatively long. But I was not prepared for the thirty typed page letter of introduction that I received from one of those long-letter people! I responded (4 pages) but have not heard back from her. Not sure if I will!

How do you keep track of your mail? Share your tip on how to organize ourselves.
I do everything on computer and type my letters, so I have copies of what I have written. Each person has a separate file and I keep track of the dates of incoming and outgoing letters, what stationery and/or envelope I used, and what (if anything) I sent off to each person. Incoming mail right now is kept in a plastic sleeve in a binder. Each pen pal has one sleeve and I just put all the mail from that person in her plastic sleeve. I can see that as I keep at this, I will have to switch to a better system, especially for incoming mail!

Do you swap things? Do you like sending gifts to friends? If yes, what is the most funny gift you have ever sent/received?
I have sent a few things along with letters, like postcards and stickers and occasionally some stationery. I sent one penpal a book because she was interested in the subject matter.

Have you met a penpal? If so, let us know how the meeting went.
I had an e-mail relationship with a woman in Australia, starting in about 1999. She was a friend of a friend, but we clicked and began writing to each other daily. In 2000 she came to the U.S. and spent 6 weeks with us (she said "if it doesn’t work out, I can always get a bus tour somewhere"). It worked out better than either of us expected and 3 years later, I traveled to Australia to spend six weeks with her. We still remain in contact.

What do you usually like writing/reading about in the letters?
I write about what’s going on in my life (like everyone else) and especially like to write about oddball things that have happened, like something unusual that I saw in the theater or read in a book, weird things the dogs have done, places we have visited, etc. I love hearing that same kind of thing from other people, and I sometimes ask questions that will help elicit a response. I also like being asked questions because it lets me know what the penpal is interested in reading about.

When it comes to making cute and personal letters, everyone has his/her own style. Tell us your trick how to make a letter/envelope unique? Do you decorate it? If yes, how? Give us some tips on how to make the letters more interesting.
I just learned how to make envelopes and am going crazy turning every oddball piece of paper into an envelope. My favorites were a Trader Joe’s shopping bag, a coffee bean bag from Peet’s coffee, and an air sickness bag from China Air. Theater programs are great material for making envelopes, as are old calendars and I always seem to have an inexhaustible supply of both. As for the letter itself, I don’t have much of a creative gene, so I often use pre-printed stationery, or decorate plain pieces of paper with stickers. Nothing really creative.

Where do you buy your stationery supplies from? Do you prefer traditional shops or e-shops? If so, give us some links.
I have a ton of stuff leftover from other projects many years ago, so I haven’t had to shop much, but have bought things from Etsy, mostly from sites that I read about on blogs. And of course, I’m a sucker for Michael’s.

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