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#Microblog Mondays 101: Pen Pals

Not sure what #MicroblogMondays is? Read the inaugural post which explains the idea and how you can participate too.


Speaking of letters (uh… I spoke of letters about two weeks ago), I remember having a pen pal through my elementary school.  Everyone’s pen pal was from a different country (though everyone wrote in English, so even if your pen pal was living in a non-English speaking country, the letters were all written in English), and the letters were sent weekly to the school so you didn’t have to give out your home address.  My pen pal was an Australian girl my age.  We continued to write each other after that year, but it fizzled out a few months later.

When I got to college and discovered Usenet, it sort of scratched that pen pal itch because I was speaking with random people around the world.  One boy (from Ballarat) and I had a standing date every day to log in at the same time and find each other on the board and chat while we worked.  Blogs further removed the itch because it’s like having hundreds of pen pals at once.

But every once in a while, I sort of wish I had a letter writing pen pal again.  Not a friend that I speak to through other means, but someone on the other side of the world where we only communicate back and forth through letters.

I remember being so excited every time a letter arrived.  I guess I also wish that I had time built into my day to be a pen pal.  Not sure how sustainable it would be as an adult.

Did you have a pen pal growing up?  Did you ever get to meet?


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1. Traci York, Writer 12. G 23. A.
2. Middle Girl 13. Cyn K 24. Jean Marie Murphy
3. Lori@ Laughing IS Conceivable 14. Empty Arms, Broken Heart 25. Amber
4. Persnickety 15. Kechara 26. swatibassi
5. Accio Baby! 16. Laura @ Mama, Eden & Me 27. Mary Francis
6. Different Shores 17. Just Heather 28. Baby Blue Sunday
7. Lori Holden 18. Loribeth (The Road Less Travelled) 29. Cristy
8. the OCD infertile 19. Inconceivable! 30. deathstar
9. Infertile Girl 20. Mali (A Separate Life)
10. Isabelle 21. Mali (No Kidding)
11. Karen (River Run Dry) 22. Journeywoman



1 Traci York { 08.01.16 at 6:46 am }

Never did the pen pal thing – as obsessive as I was about journaling, you’d think my handwriting would be somewhat decent, right? And that I enjoyed putting pen to paper, since I did it every day, true? Yeah, my chicken-scratches got worse over time, and much like yourself, Usenet scratched that itch for me. In fact, a group I created back in ’99 is still semi-active, and I pop back in once or twice a year to say, “hello.” I do miss having that scheduled time to hang out and chat, but I do that in smaller ways now through social media. so it helps.

2 Middle Girl { 08.01.16 at 7:58 am }

I’ve had a variety of pen pals over th years. I have folks that I communicate with via email, though I much prefer pen and paper. r). I get my pen and paper letter writing out via Girls Love Mail–but I don’t get letters back. I miss getting letters.

3 Persnickety { 08.01.16 at 8:28 am }

I had a couple of different of penpals through the years- some lasted for a few years, though I lost contact eventually. I never really got Usenet, so that didn’t work for me.
I did do postcrossing fro a few years, which isn’t penpals, but I participated in regular round robins in a particular group, so it became like a shifting group of penpals, where I did connect with people over time. I miss postcrossing – should go back.

4 Lori Shandle-Fox { 08.01.16 at 8:32 am }

It’s the one time when I wish I had a better handwriting because the illegibility of it is the only thing that’s kept me from writing letters. I think it’s probably from having read too much Jane Austen but I love the idea of handwritten letter writing. We did the same as you in school. I had one from Georgia for months. She sent me peaches. One day I suddenly never heard from her again. I wrote again but heard nothing. My mother gently suggested that it might have had to do with that in my last letter I talked about being Jewish. Obviously, to this day, I hope she was wrong and that the timing was just a coincidence. I also had a guy in Korea. Then there were friends of friends whom I’d never met in person. So exciting to see those letters arriving in the mailbox. Now all I get are ads and Verizon bills.

5 a { 08.01.16 at 9:06 am }

I had a pen pal from New Jersey when I was in elementary school. It lasted a little while, but drifted off. And, since I am older than you, I would communicate with friends via letter when I was in college (long distance calls were too expensive and computers were not commonplace). Then, until they all died, I would write to my aunts and my husband’s grandmother. Now it’s just text messages once in a while.

6 Different Shores { 08.01.16 at 9:25 am }

I never had an official penpal, but I’m so glad my teens and half my twenties were lived pre-email – the hysterical excitement of getting a letter covered in airmail stickers from a holiday romance was amazing. My sister wrote me ten-page long missives when I was at college which I’ve lost – if I had them I’d have a complete history of our family dramas, now forgotten. But if I get a letter now, I think are you kidding, I have to read that – result of having no attention span from Facebook/Twitter and co…

7 Lori Lavender Luz { 08.01.16 at 10:09 am }

I did. I can’t remember her name or how we “met,” but I do remember getting orange personalized stationery at Mount Rushmore one year, and sealing her letters with red wax and an “L” press. I wonder what her life is like…

8 Lavonne @ the OCD infertile { 08.01.16 at 10:22 am }

I did have a pen pal. I think it was grade school, maybe junior high. I don’t remember much about it. I would love to do it now, I’ve tried sending a few cards to people and I usually just get a thank you in the form of a facebook message. LOL! Snail mail truly is the best mail and I wish it was utilized more.

9 Working mom of 2 { 08.01.16 at 10:47 am }

I never had a pen pal in the strictest use of the term but I did write to a few kids that moved away when I was in elementary school etc. when I was 13, a girl that I knew through sports moved away – – literally only one state over, but it seemed like a long way. She wasn’t even that good a friend of mine but when she moved away she gave our little group her address and so we started writing and pretty soon we would write frequent long letters sharing everything going on in our lives, e.g. boys. What was sad was that she actually moved back a year or so later and then it was like we didn’t even know each other and had nothing to say to each other. She stop doing the sport that we did and I haven’t seen her since – – over 30 years later. But for about a year she was my closest confidante.

10 Cristy { 08.01.16 at 11:50 am }

I’ve had 2 pen pals, both of which failed early on. They just didn’t seem interested.

But how I love letters. Like you, I get excited to get handwritten correspondence.

11 Karen { 08.01.16 at 12:14 pm }

I LOVED my penpals and writing letters to my friends in between semesters when I was in college (I know, I’m dating myself). I would absolutely make the time to have a penpal as an adult as well. LOVE writing handwritten letters!

12 G { 08.01.16 at 12:37 pm }

I never had a penpal.

But, I spent several summers at a 3-week long summer program out of town. Every year, I made new friends there and wrote to them all year; some I stayed friends with for years, only seeing them at the summer program.

I, too, miss the paper letters; even later, when I started typing them because my handwriting is atrocious, it was just such a rush to get a letter in the mail. Now, I rarely get (or send) fun stuff. But, I also know that I don’t have time.

I used to keep running letters going for days before sending them off. As soon as mailed a letter, I would start the next one and just add to it until I got a reply, then add a little more in response to the reply and send it again. I called them “journal letters.”

13 Shail { 08.01.16 at 12:52 pm }

I adored writing letters and had quite a few pen-pals in senior year at school. One was from Canada and another from Nigeria, apart a few from the different states of India. The times were such and my parents did not approve that I had to give up my hobby.

14 Cyn K { 08.01.16 at 12:57 pm }

I briefly had a pen pal but what I remember more is writing letters to my grandma. She was a snow bird, living in Florida for the winter. I would write her long letters about what was going on in my life. I could fill pages. I have no idea what all I wrote about. I was just a kid but I guess between school, church, and 4-H, I must have thought I had tons of interesting things to share.
I kept up letter writing through college slowly transitioning from pen and paper to long email messages. A friend from high and school tried to resurrect our letter-writing heyday but I think I dropped the ball. Or pen.

15 Sharon { 08.01.16 at 12:57 pm }

No formal pen pal, but in junior high, I made a few friends at a band camp I attended out of state, and we continued to correspond regularly through high school. (With one of them, the regular correspondence continued through college, and we actually renewed our friendship via Facebook several years ago.)

16 Laura { 08.01.16 at 2:21 pm }

I’ve never had a penpal! I used to write to my godparents. My sister had a penpal for aaaaaages though

17 JustHeather { 08.01.16 at 2:30 pm }

I remember at least one pen pal in elementary school. Her name was Heather also and she ended up being a friend’s cousin. Like Persnickety said, I did Postcrossing for a few years, officially and via the forum. Through the forum I met a few ladies that I still keep in touch with, sometimes we still send letters. Mostly postcards or tea or random small packets.
I’d be up for writing at least one letter to someone(s), if they’d like to write (at least) one letter in return.

18 loribeth { 08.01.16 at 3:38 pm }

Oh wow, did I have penpals!! As a teenager, my sister & I were both (gulp) Bay City Rollers fans (lol), and we collected BCR fan penpals like some kids today collect Pokemons. At one point, I had something like 100 of them, from all over the world, although most of them didn’t last more than a couple of letter exchanges. It was almost like a competition among fans to see who had more penpals. Ones from overseas, and especially Scotland, were particularly prized. I suppose these days all the action is on message boards & social media forums, but the arrival of the mailman, with all those envelopes from all over the world, was the highlight of my day. I am still in touch with three of my penpals from those days, albeit none of us write many actual letters any more. One lives in Victoria, B.C., and I mostly just hear from her at Christmas. Another is in New Zealand and we have been writing each other for (gulp!) 40 years this year… at one time, we would send fat packages with 50-100 page letters; these days we keep in touch through Facebook & email, and she reads & comments occasionally on my blog. The other is in England and is not on social media, but her partner is & I keep in touch with her that way. Love that I still have these people in my life!

19 Beth { 08.01.16 at 4:05 pm }

I did. I loved having a pen pal. Thanks for the blast from the past – I hadn’t thought about that in years.

20 katherinea12 { 08.01.16 at 4:14 pm }

I always liked the idea of pen pals, but I am terrible at writing letters reliably. The longest pen pal of sorts I had was someone I met online in the fanfic community when I was in college and we exchanged e-mails for several years along with periodic packages and actual letters as well. We never met in real life, though.

21 Mali { 08.01.16 at 7:46 pm }

I had a penpal from Bangalore, India. I still remember her name. We corresponded for a a few years, but then I never heard from her again. My urge for penpals was then overtaken by meeting friends through the AFS exchange programme – both in NZ and then when I was in Thailand. Of course, when I was in Thailand, my own friends and family were my penpals! I also have worked in our foreign service, so corresponding with friends was also through letters, until email took over. I still exchange the occasional letter with blog friends. Even though we might chat on Fb or our blogs, or occasionally email, there’s really something about a letter, with our own handwriting. I wish we did it more.

22 Amber { 08.02.16 at 1:10 am }

I remember doing the pen pal thing, but can’t remotely remember who my pen pal was or how long it lasted. I remember loving the idea, but can’t at all remember actually getting a letter or writing one, so I doubt it lasted very long.

23 JeanMarie { 08.02.16 at 1:23 am }

I had several pen pals over my youth and actually still have some of their letters. Some lasted for many years while others faded out after a year or two.

I find myself still oriented in that way with my students. We are constantly writing to one another; they share progress or ask questions and a stream of email correspondences ensues.

I still love writing to people. The process of sitting quietly and pondering over each sentence, changing words, feeling my expression…. I still love it.

Thanks for reminding of these old-fashioned pleasures. I love that I grew up in a time when we had pen pals and when we knocked on the front door of our friends home and asked ” can Jeanie come out to play?”

24 swati bassi { 08.02.16 at 1:40 am }

I never had a pen pals but yes wrote lots of letters to my mom and siblings when I went outstation to study.

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