Pen Pal Tips and Tricks

I love writing letters. For two or so years now, I’ve been writing to several serious pen pals and many others on a more infrequent basis (like some which were only for a single swap match). I thought I’d share some of my tips and tricks for making and keeping pen pals.

Finding a Pen Pal

  • People you already know – a friend from high school or an aunt you wish you were closer to. Ask a mutual friend or your mom for addresses. I bug people for addresses via FB messenger or by posting a generic link to my Postables page, asking for addresses if people want a holiday card or a random happy mail.
  • A website for something you’re interesting in. For example, Ravelry has two different groups for finding pen pals. If the site you use doesn’t have groups, you can probably start a forum thread, asking if people are looking for pen pals. When you find a pen pal with a common interest, you automatically have something to talk to them about.
  • Postcrossing – Designed for one-time pen pal interactions using postcards and assigned totally at random, but you can use it for extended pen pal relationships. The site allows you to message the person who sent you a given postcard and you can use that space, should you wish, to request a longer pen pal experience.
  • Swapbot – I’ve not used this site myself, but many of my friends highly recommend it. Most swaps follow a theme which can get you started towards an ongoing pen pal relationship.
  • Geek Girl Pen Pals – Just what it sounds like. Really into Harry Potter or Dr. Who or something similar? The site organizes pen pal matches each month and the forums are always a good place to find someone looking for a pen pal.

Writing Your First Letter

First letters, let’s face it, are awkward. You may know nothing about your new pal, short of their name and where they live. It’s like having to introduce yourself to someone at a cocktail party, but with the added benefits of being able to take as long as you want and not having to do it verbally. Here’s a few things to try, if you’re stuck.

  • Basic introduction – Where you’re from, where you live, if you’re in a relationship and/or have kids, what you do for a paycheck or for fun
  • Currently – List what you’re currently…watching, listening to, reading, feeling, making, planning, loving, and enjoying (a really large list is over here on Digi.Shop.Talk). This will reveal more about your daily life than you’d think and gives you an interesting framework for writing about yourself without, you know, writing about yourself.
  • Take advice from Natalie Goldberg – Start with “right now…” or “At this moment.”

Later Letters

  • Ask questions – Everyone likes to talk about themselves, so asking a question is a great way to get someone to do so. I’ve been asked all sorts of things from pen pals. If you need ideas, here’s 100 Questions No One Ever Asks (from Amiyrah of 4 Hats and Frugal) and 50 Things to Tell Your Penpal (from Mary of Uncustomary)
  • Don’t only talk about yourself. Yes, I am really going there. Your pen pal has written you a lovely letter and you should respond in such a way to show that you read their letter and that you care about what they wrote.

Next Time

In my next post about snail mail, I’ll share creative ideas for making your mail stand out. You can probably expect this post next week, as I have a bit more research to do for it.

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Pen Pal Tips and Tricks