Saturday, December 26, 2009

Pen Pal Update

So, since I owe almost all of my pen pals a letter at this point (Christmas cards that arrive late from me or with postage due do not count), this is a perfect time, instead of getting to that letter-writing, to post my end-of-year musings on the 2009 Pen Pal Experiment.

  • I wasn't sure how this experiment was going to work, or if it would work at all. I can now see that it has worked beautifully, as far as I am concerned, and that I still consider it to have been my best new idea of 2009. This has not been the best of years for me, and it has been wonderful to engage in the art of letter-writing, to get to know new people, and to correspond with old friends in a new way. I need that during trying times.
  • I've discovered that I'm less-inclined to comment on every single blog post my pen pals write (although I often still do). I didn't think that letter-writing would be that different from blogging and commenting and occasionally emailing people, but it has been. It's far more intimate, and I find it much more satisfying than merely commenting on blog posts.
  • I've learned that I should not have promised to send everyone twelve letters in one year. I don't think a single pen pal received that many letters from me. That's because I also learned that I can't send letters unless I am getting some sort of response. Unlike blogging, which is like writing anything for a general audience, letter-writing is very specific. Each of my pen pals and I address things that are of interest to the two of us that might not be of interest to anyone else, and we also address more personal stuff not appropriate for blogging. We ask each other questions and respond. I can't keep writing if I don't get responses. Also, there is that tiny bit of paranoia that if someone I don't know very well doesn't respond, did I do or say something that offended or hurt him or her, and if I did, does he or she want to hear from me ever again? That basically means that each of my pen pals got however many letters equalled his or her responses to mine.
  • Thanks to Mandarine's brilliance and a discussion with Ms. Musings, I figured out that I could solve the old forgot-what-I-wrote-in-my-last-letter problem by creating drafts and then copies. First, I did this by typing up my letters on the computer, printing them out, and then copying them over by hand onto nice stationery. I would slip the printed version into the envelope with my pen pal's last letter, so it would be handy when their next letter arrived, and I could refer back to it if needed. However, when I discovered I was typing up letters, letting them sit in the computer for 2 weeks, and copying out old news that no longer mattered, I came up with a better solution. Why on earth have photocopiers if they aren't to be used for copying letters? So, now I just photocopy my hand-written letters before sending them.
  • I'm a stationery-aholic. I kept telling myself I would use up old stationery before buying new, but now that I have this great excuse to use stationery, I cannot resist looking at it whenever I happen to be somewhere that sells it. And, well, once I start looking, it doesn't take too long to take the big leap to buying.
  • You know how when you watch old movies, people keep their letters all tied up in nice bundles? I thought this was a terrific idea, so I went down to the Amish bookstore (which is also a craft store. Oh, and which also happens to sell stationery) and bought some ribbon -- a different ribbon for each pen pal. I tie each one's letters up with his/her ribbon and keep them all in a drawer designated for this purpose. One day, when I find what I am looking for, I will buy some sort of pretty storage basket for them.
  • I didn't think to send gifts to any of my pen pals, but two of mine sent me Christmas gifts and one sent me a birthday present. How nice that was! I'm terrible when it comes to sending such gifts on time, but I'm thinking it might be nice to surprise my pen pals occasionally with little gifts.
  • When I am fantasizing, I sometimes wonder: if I ever become a famous author, which of my pen pals will put up these embarrassing letters on ebay for sale? Conclusion? None! My pen pals are all fabulous. I love them all. I'm not kidding. You should be exchanging letters with them.

In 2010, I'd like to add 2 more pen pals, so if you are interested, please leave me a comment, and after the new year, I will draw 2 more names out of the hat.

And now, I am taking some time off blogs and blogging until after the new year, so everyone: Happy, Happy New Year! I hope yours is full of great health, great friends, great books, and great blogs. I'll "see" you in 2010, when I will kick off with my annual list of best and worst reads of July-Dec. 2009 and my 2009 reading statistics.


litlove said...

Have a lovely blogging holiday until the New Year, Emily! And I'm so glad to hear the penpals have worked out so very well. How delightful! I hope to be purchasing your collected letters in a lovely bound volume one day!

Anne Camille said...

As I was reading this, I thought: I should do this. And then I reached the last paragraph and see that you are asking for additional penpals. I guess that's my cue: add my name to your list & I'll keep my fingers crossed that you'll draw my name.

Have a wonderful New Year and I look forward to reading more here. I'm thinking I might try posting more frequently on my blog in 2010 (that is, regularly, not just more than once every 2 months as it has been recently), so I hope you'll stop by there too and occassionally leave one of your delightful comments.

A basket of letters, bound in colorful ribbon, sounds very homey!

Rebecca said...

I think your penpals idea was an excellent one! I love getting your letters and our long distance, leisurely conversations. I still have to remember what I wrote to you, though. Now I like your storage suggestion too. I'm going to get ribbon and a basket.

Melwyk said...

I used to write to so many penpals- don't know how I got out of the habit, as I love writing and receiving letters and love stationery too! Can I be included on your possibles list for 2010?

Stefanie said...

Your pen pals idea was one of the best things about 2009! I had to laugh about the stationery because I got some for Christmas with some new sealing wax too. I've got my letters tied with ribbon too. I won't be selling them on e-bay but The Collected Letters of Emily has a nice ring to it :) Happy New Year!

Rebecca H. said...

Add me to the list of people interested in being a pen pal. I've had a great time writing to Becky and would love to expand my letter-writing habit (now that I think about it, it's high time I wrote Becky ...).

ZoesMom said...

I agree that your pen pal idea was an excellent one. I've really enjoyed it and as a result getting to know you even better. It is so much more intimate than blogging and that is very nice. Every time I get a letter, it is very exciting.

I've been keeping my letters wrapped in elastic bands, but a basket is always a good idea.

Anonymous said...

What a nice project! I'm glad that it worked out for you. I used to be addicted to stationery and I am now addicted to ribbons... please count me in for your next draw, I'd love to write letters and receive some from you!

Pete said...

Wow, Emily, your letter writing and storing system is impressive! I think the book idea would be fantastic. Here's hoping ;-)

Jodie said...

I really love this idea and all the organisational tips you've picked up from having pen pals this year. I'd love to be included in your list of possibles for next year :)

knitseashore said...

Happy New Year! I've always enjoyed writing letters, but it seems in today's world that there are few people who still want to do that! It does take longer than sending an email, but it's so much fun when you receive a response in the mailbox! Thanks for including me in your experiment!!

Did you notice, when you spend an evening writing letters, that your hand begins to hurt?! That surprised me! I guess we don't tend to do much writing of any kind anymore, unless we make a point of doing so. :)

mandarine said...

And thanks to you I finally found the ideal letter-writing technique: type it up on the computer, print it out with my very own handwriting font (yes, that's a pretty personal technique), and mail the printed version. And I keep the digital version.