HOW TO: Keep A Pen Pal

Whether you’re a curious pre-teen, in a budding long-distance relationship, or an elderly single looking for friendship, try these tips to keep a pen pal authorship exciting! Here’s how to keep a pen pal:

  • Travel Stories: Ever dream of being a travel writer? Try out your story-telling skills by exchanging your best travel stories. Read your library’s latest National Geographic, or watch the movie clip from “Under the Tuscan Sun” as Diane Lane describes a brief moment on an Italian plaza. The key is to get the details flowing without being cumbersome. Use all your senses, and spend about 10 minutes observing before you write. Begin with a stream of conscious about your observations, then make it into a story. Especially if your pen pal lives far away, descriptions of your own daily life and surroundings can be fascinating!

  • Aspirations: Everyone has hopes and dreams. Perhaps writing them out will bring you a step closer to pursuing them. Or if you’re getting restless, you might get inspiration for a new goal! What a nice thing to share with a pen pal.

  • Family History: Genealogy can be fascinating! My own great grandmother had come over on the last departing ship from a port in Romania during World War I, contracted scarlet fever soon after boarding, and was confined to the lowest desk to keep the disease a secret. Had the immigration officers found out, the ship would have been sent back to Romania. As a result of this suppressed sickness, she lost most of her teeth early in life, using a variety of dentures as dental technology increased. What fate-changing moments does your family boast?

  • Invention Ideas: Find yourself complaining of a common 1st world problem? Plan a solution. It doesn’t need to be ready for the patent office, but explore options and get your pen pal’s feedback.

  • Historical Bios: Learn about random historical figures and swap the best stories. Try Central European monarchs, Catholic saints, and infamous peacekeepers to get off the beaten path.

  • Movie/Book reviews: Share what you see.

  • Nostalgic Recipes – A great way to bridge generations, send your pen pal a favorite recipe with an accompanying memory attached.

  • Embarrassing Situations – This one can serve double purpose as therapy and conversation. While you describe the embarrassment, let the catharsis lead you into a healthy laugh at your own humanity. Swap stories!

  • Short Stories – If you’re already writing lengthy letters or emails, chances are you’re a comfortable writer. Use this opportunity with an attentive audience to flesh out stories you’ve imagined in your after-lunch cubicle coma and along the work commute.

  • Make up New Words – If you’ve ever played the board game, “Balderdash,” you know how fun new vocabulary can be. Make up a word and give three options to its intended meaning, with the answers at the bottom of the page, written upside down. If this is too complicated, write your normal correspondence and randomly insert your new words, making the reader figure out the meanings by simple context. Lean on Latin/Greek roots and onomatopoeia (words that are spelled imitating their natural sounds), such as “twang,” “bloop,” “squirt,” “anti-,” “pro-,”  etc.

Pen pal authorship can cultivate the lost art of correspondence, hone creative writing skill, and add spark to your social dimension!