Penpal Tip: Hazel says...

[Note: I will sometimes post tips I have received on penpalling from penpals to whom I am currently writing. This is the first such post.]

Here I have some tips from Hazel in New York. We have been pals since June 2016. She is a faithful penpal and often writes even more than once a month.


Hazel says: I think someone who is beginning to penpal, they have to love writing, people, learning about different cultures etc and have an adventurous mind.

I totally agree with Hazel. If you don’t love to write, after the first few letters, you’ll probably stop writing or you will be slower to respond. If you don’t love people and learning about different places, if a penpal writes something that you find strange or something you are opposed to (whether philosophically or morally), you might offend them with your response. Remember, if we are all alike, then some of us are unnecessary. As cliché as it sounds, variety really is the spice of life.

So spice up your life with people from different places and expand your mind...and your writing skills.

Keep calm and write on!


Ask and Ye Shall Receive?

it came in the mail.PNG

What if you could ask your mailbox for something...and you would receive it?

This is the story of Liam, a boy who desperately wants mail. So he writes a letter to his mailbox. His mailbox delivers, sometimes more than he was hoping for! This light-hearted children's book by Ben Clanton made me and my eight-year-old son laugh out loud in parts.

More than an idea in an easy-reading book, penpalling is making a request of your mailbox. We never really know how the mailbox will respond. Sometimes, our requests go unanswered, although we send letter upon letter.  Sometimes, the letters seem to come at a steady pace and we are hard-pressed to have the time to responsd.

In addition to letters, some penpals send little gifts or even boxes of stuff for your birthday or Christmas.

I have found, still, that the best response from my mailbox is a steady stream of letters in a correspondance relationship, where I get to know the penpal: her family, friends, the things that bring a smile to her face and those things that make her sigh.

What's coming in your mail?

Keep calm and write on!

But What Should I Write About?

PENPAL TIP - Ask questions

Part of being a penpal is to get to know your correspondent. If you don't want to know the other person, there's no good reason to get a penpal.

In a face-to-face conversation, you can show interest by your facial expression or murmured words of agreement or tracking of the other person's conversation. With pen and paper, one of the best ways of showing interest in the other person is to ask questions.

While reading the letter, it helps to have a pen or a highlighter so you can underline parts where your penpal wrote something interesting about which you'd like to follow up with a question. But there are times when your penpal may write a letter that doesn't have a lot of points you can follow up. What do you do?

Pull something from pop culture or from the news to speak about.

You can also look online to find lists of questions to ask new friends. I have found two good lists here:…/fun-questions-to-get-to-know… or…/.

Many other questions can be found with a simple Google search. As well, you can ask about their family or the town where they live or grew up.

If you had a face-to-face friendship and never once asked a question of the other person, that friendship would likely not develop. The same is true of a correspondence.

Keep calm and write on!

The Power of Penpalling

I read the story: I Will Always Write Back by Caitlin Stoicsitz and Martin Ganda.

Wow. This story was just great – a success story as far as penpalling is concerned. It started in September 1997 when Caitlin Stoicsitz, a 7th grader in rural Pennsylvania (USA) and Martin Ganda, who was in his 8th year in school in rural Zimbabwe.

The book chronicles how Caitlin and Martin are paired as penpals through a school project and how they grow to be friends through their letters. Even more, we learn that the two families are connected as Caitlin's family help Martin's family through some difficult financial times in Zimbabwe. Martin and Caitlin eventually meet in 2003 and their friendship continues.

I was gripped with the story from the beginning. It was well-written and very interesting to see the juxtaposition of Caitlin’s life with Martin’s life. It was also nice to get real feelings from each of them.

The book is a great advertisement for the power and benefit of encouraging youth to get penpals. This penpal relationship (which is perhaps the only one that endured from all the kids in Caitlin’s class) taught both sides a lot about the other country and people in general.

I would highly recommend the book.

Keep calm and write on!



Penpal Tip: Include a Return Address

I have been penpalling for decades. Although I learned the proper way to write a letter in grade school, until recently, I never included a return address on my letter. I thought it was a bit too much, given that I’m quite religious about always including the return address on the envelope. I figured, My new penpal doesn’t need it in both places.

But experience has taught me what logic did not. Including your return address inside the envelope is insurance. If something happens and your envelope is mangled or doesn’t arrive in the pristine conditions in which you sent it, the return address on the letter will insure that the penpal can write you back.

There have been times when I could not read the return address on the envelope, because the post office has put their mark at just that point. And then I am stuck. I have a lovely letter from a potential new penpal but I cannot respond to it. Not a good way to win friends and influence people.

I encourage you to put a return address on your letter, as well as on the envelope. (The latter is more for you – in case your letter doesn’t reach your intended recipient, it will come back to you.) I would even encourage you to include your return address in each letter. Doing so makes it easier for the penpal, rather than having to look up your address when they reply. The easier it is for someone to respond, the more likely they will do so in a timely manner.

Keep calm and write on!