The Penpal! I had loads of them as a teen in the late 80s and early 90s. Letter writing was the way to stay in touch with friends that it was just impossible to meet up with. So there were new friends from a regional Guide camp (who lived just the wrong side of the county to go shopping with). Chums from Swim camp who lived in other bits of the UK. Fans of various bands that I’d sat next to at concerts, and former school friends who had moved away.
Then excitingly there were international pen friends. People who I had never meet, living in locations that I would never visit, who I could now claim a connection with. Contact details were gleaned from imported magazines. Details of daily lives exchanged along with friendship books and stickers.
Penpal letters were also a good excuse to buy loads of coloured paper, pens with lurid ink and stickers. And it gave me an excuse to carry a correspondence case around with me.
Times changed, didn’t they?
The way to stay in touch changed. Myspace, text messages, email addresses, Facebook. These days I’m more likely to ask if someone I meet at a convention or event if they are on Twitter or Instagram. But none of these really compare to the joy of letters.
So I recently signed up for some new penpals. I wanted to enjoy the thrill of filling blank pages and sharing in a more personal way than social media allows. I want letters through my door.
A new pen pal wrote to me first and I was so delighted to read pages from this new friend to be in Canada. I know that I’m going to be exposed to different experiences and viewpoints by reading her letters. Yes, we can follow each other on social media but our main form of communication will be via letter. So we’ll be forced to really reflect in order to describe things in detail, and figure out the structure of a longer piece of writing.
And what is the etiquette?
Should letters be handwritten or typed? And if they are typed is a computer as acceptable as typewriter? Or has the riser of the PC and printer made penpals a possibility to for those who can’t or don’t want to handwrite? Is it OK to try and find your penal on social media? Should you share your Instagram account details so they can find you? Or is that missing the point?
I’m so excited to have an excuse for more stationery shopping. I’m also collecting bits and pieces to add to my letters from tea bags to postcards to pressed flowers.
P.S. If you’ve got a new pen pal (or an old one) why not stock up on stickers to cover your letters and envelopes? It’s a stick up is a collection of 9 different types of stickers for a tenner