It’s understandable when a stranger doesn’t get why you’d rather write letters than send emails. Sad, but understandable. What’s a bit unnerving though is when your own postal workers don’t get why we like to have a plethora of stamps to choose from, or why we’d prefer they put custom labels on the place reserved for it and not over our mail art. If you’re not into this hobby of mine, I’m sure you’re rolling your eyes that people actually give a damn about such things, but everyone has their own hobbies whether it’s sports, cars, or role-play. Using my mother and her students to my advantage, I will answer some of the questions people have about pen palling so maybe everyone who doesn’t love it can at least understand why there are those of us who do.
Disclaimer: My mom’s students do not speak English as a first language, and seem to be more interested in asking my questions about writing in general than this particular hobby… though I’ll find ways to sneak it in.
Why do you like to write letters and have pen pals?
I think anyone who has written letters for at least a year has been asked this, usually with the addition of “when email is so much faster” at the end. To be honest, I think there is such a thing as too fast. When I’m talking to someone via email, the paragraphs seem to get smaller and smaller as we run out of things to talk about, and then things come to a complete halt. With a letter, not only are you adding a personal touch to your words, you allow the anticipation to build. In the time that passes between letters, you not only will hear what’s new with your pen pal, but have your own stories to share as well, much like when you’re hanging out with a friend you haven’t seen for a while.
Speaking of, I don’t get the opportunity to go out and about much, so writing letters has been a convenient way for me to socialize. Instead of going to hang out with a friend, I can sit down with a pen and some paper and write a friend instead as it’s convenient for me. It actually works out really well because I think I have a much easier time expressing myself when I write compared to when I speak.
Do you have any pen pals in other countries?
For the most part I just write people in the US since A) the postage is significantly cheaper and B) I’ll likely hear from them sooner than if they lived further away, but I am no stranger to exceptions. I even have written a handful of my mom’s students in the past :-)
How do you come up with ideas for writing?
The nice thing about having pen pals is that each letter is a continuation of what you talked about before. One of my pals will say something whether it’s about her relationship or about a show she’s interested in and that will give me material to work with. It’s like you’re constantly getting ideas from something that was already an original idea of yours.
This blog kind of operates the same way. I’ve been toying with the idea of doing some sort of Q&A on here for a while, and it got to the point where I felt it was something I could involve my mom with. Everything seems to start as a little seed and you just have to decide whether it’s worth planting or not.
What topics to you like to write about?
In the League of Extraordinary Pen Pals, I go by Wonder Katerz and that is (mostly) because of my love of asking questions. Sure, I like talking about books, TV shows, and the like, but what really is fun for me is asking questions based on what I already know about my pen pals. If someone hints around to family drama, for example, I’m going to dig around for a bit of dirt. I’d just like to say that I don’t judge my friends, I’m just a curious person.
Is there something you wrote that you feel is one of your best ever?
Out of everything I’ve written, I’m especially proud of the I-Search papers I did in my Honors English courses. The first one was a mash-up with a personal essay where I explored my feelings for Gabe when we first were reconnecting, and the second was when I was seriously considering donating eggs. I love the fact that I was able to find topics of my own that were worth researching instead of being assigned specific things.
Are you embarrassed when you make mistakes in prepositions or grammar?
I do strive to use the correct usage of there, their, and they’re and whatnot, but mistakes happen. Especially when I have Logan to distract me or something happens on TV that catches my attention. If it’s just a small mistake I will usually scribble it out and write what I originally intended, but bigger blunders call for some white out.
Would you laugh at your friends who make grammar mistakes?
Laugh? No. When I know it’s a common mistake that a friend is making, like how one person says “even know” when she means “even though,” I will let them know, but if it truly was a once-in-a-lifetime mistake I don’t bother pointing it out.
How much do you worry about grammar? Do you try to improve your grammar?
I wouldn’t say I worry about it; it fortunately is something that just comes fairly natural to me. I definitely want to keep improving because I think I have the potential to become an editor. Just because I excel at editing though does not mean it’s something that everyone needs to stress over. If you’re writing for fun it should be exactly that– fun! Editing is something that can happen later once you’ve found a story worth telling.
Do you want to be a writer in the future?
I believe I’m already a writer, I just don’t get paid for it. ;-) I would love to write professionally though. The dream is to be a writer &/or editor for a newspaper.
Have you written a novel? Would you like to?
There is always going to be a part of me that would like to write a novel, but there’s a bigger part that doesn’t believe that’s very realistic. Fiction just isn’t my forte, and when I do write it I can usually say what I wanted to say within the confines of a short story. If I were to publish a book, perhaps it would be an anthology of short stories.
How often do you practice?
I find time to write every single day. In a perfect world I’d get a letter every day so when I came in from getting the mail I’d always have something to respond to. On the days I don’t receive any mail I will write out a postcard or two, work on upcoming blog drafts &/or journal a little bit.
Do you consider yourself a good writer?
I do, and I think pen palling only solidifies that. If I were to become an author, I have already gotten really good with having a conversational tone. Sometimes when I’m reading a letter I will laugh-out-loud at something my pen pal has said, and it makes me want to return the favor. I think one of the best lessons any author can learn is to know your audience. If you, for example, want to write a book geared towards teenage girls, using words in every other sentence that will have them looking at a dictionary (or an app equivalent) is asking them to find a different book instead. Having the array of pen pals that I do, I have gotten used to modifying the way I write to each of them. I haven’t personally changed to accommodate them, but I know the sort of subjects they’d rather I talk about with them.
Do you think that writing is difficult?
It certainly can be. Back in high school we had to do a paper where the central theme was “nature” and that’s just not a topic that interests me very much. I decided to find a way to make it Kate-friendly and that way was to bring up the benefits of having vehicles like those in The Flintstones, something I was/am very much familiar with. The show, not driving those vehicles. In this life we’re always going to have things we don’t want to do, and it’s usually in your favor to just make the best of it. I think once you get over the “I don’t want to write this” mentality, you’ll find that writing it wasn’t as difficult as you thought it originally was.
How can we fall in love with writing?
I think it’s all about venues. I know I like having this blog to spread the word that snail mail is still very much alive, but I have also enjoyed keeping a journal where I’m the only person to ever see its contents. I think just by asking this question, there is already a part of you that loves writing, but you haven’t found your voice yet. I’d suggest writing a quick note to your friend, something a bit more elaborate than what you’d text him or her. Decorate it with stickers or washi tape. Send it in the mail and imagine their reaction when they receive it. Instead of thinking of everything you write as a homework assignment, think of it as something you could use to have fun &/or bring something fun to someone else.
I think this is a nice note to leave you on, though I’d be happy to answer more questions anyone has about pen palling. If this blog is any indication, I enjoy this subject very much. Gabe is coming around to the idea of getting a P.O. Box in addition to the mailbox we already have, and if/when that happens, I will definitely welcome you sending me questions that way, hehe, but for now, the comment section here will have to suffice.
Take care and happy writing!
Sincerely, Kate ~!~