Thoughts on an exchange of letters via postal mail
I’d be delighted to correspond with ppl via post again.
Great newsletter! When the pandemic began in 2020 I started mailing postcards to friends. Often these cards had my artwork on them. I still mail postcards now. Perhaps at less volume than I did during the lockdown days.
Mark, this is wonderful - what a terrific idea!
I used to have a couple of penpals, and I treasured our correspondence. One early correspondent was a girl I'd met on holiday, and we wrote to each other for years - we became firm friends, and I really treasured that friendship. My first boyfriend - we were twelve! - would write to me from boarding school. I'd get a four-page letter every single week, which I would struggle to respond to at such length and regularity. Talk about pressure... 🙄 And when I was a teenager we each had either a French or German penfriend from one of the twin towns of the town we went to school in. Excellent language practice! I didn't have anything in common with my German penfriend but we still found plenty to write about, so that was interesting from a social perspective as a well as a language one.
Gosh, I've really enjoyed remembering this stuff - thank you for making me thinking about it!
What a nice idea! I still send snail-mail letters back and forth with my great-aunt Ruth who lives in the U.S. We usually exchange a letter a month, and she always sends greeting cards for birthdays and Christmas. I got a sympathy card from her in the mail this week with a handwritten note expressing condolences on the recent passing of my great-aunt Donna and my grandfather (Ruth’s younger brother).
I want to do this; I miss fun mail (your latest mail to me not included). Great post ☺️
Love the handwritten letter. For the right person, prison pen pal exchanges are also a great (and still very existent and appreciated) outlet for this.
Im hopeless when it comes to real mail... I can hardly keep up with emails & texts & Substack notes... sigh!
Mike’s handwriting is fantastic, by the way!
My cousins and I (three girls, born six weeks apart) wrote letters for years! I still have most of them, a bundle dating from probably age 8 or so through age 14, when my parents finally got the internet at our house (it was 2006). Now, we write emails, the three of us just moving our gel pen updates to email. I have every one of those too. I have loved this relationship, and writing to one another makes things real.
Interesting thing, when you interviewed me, one of my uncles read it and I was informed it made him a little sad about the decline of physical mail. So I've been meaning to send an actual snail mail letter to him for a while. My handwriting is bad though so I'm going to type it.
Pen pals always seemed like a thing that happened on TV and not in real life, never knew anyone who even had a pen pal. Must be too young for it.
I don't often send social emails, tend to either call or text. With my friends it feels like I have to be the one to start things or we go too long without talking. Wish I was geographically closer to them.
Ha, that's good. I have always thought of missives as being lengthy or even formal or official. And yes, in our day circle-strike cancellations can be collected by doing that but no one in 1861 would have been doing that. It is a mystery worthy of some kind of narrative, I imagine.
I love that you used to exchange audio and video cassettes in addition to letters! I was matched up with my childhood pen pal by a shared birthday, but the more we got to know each other, the more we realized we had in common- a sister the same age, a brother the same age, living in a rural, farm town (me in Indiana, her in Wisconsin). Our families eventually planned a weekend trip and we all got to meet each other.
There is a friend I have who I met on the internet, but we both decided to get off of social media at the same time, so we started writing each other letters. He's in California, I'm in Maine. We only send them a few times a year, but I love receiving them so much (also he's a great artist and draws incredible things on the envelope -- I can't reciprocate in that department). I find I really love the slowness of it. And I miss the more frequent letters of my teenage years. A lot of me becoming a writer was writing letters to my friends, telling them a story that I hope made them laugh.
In my teens I had a pen pal who lived in eastern Canada, and I lived in western NY. She had the most beautiful handwriting I'd ever seen. I don't remember how we got matched up, possibly through Girl Scouts. I think our correspondence ended with our high school graduations. It felt so exotic to write to someone in another country, and I loved writing her. I came from a family of letter writers on my mom's side. I had regular correspondence with her mother (my grandmother) and one of her aunts (my great aunt). After I moved away from home, my mom also wrote to me often. I've saved some of their letters--you're motivating me to dig them out.
Sending greeting cards has been a constant part of my life since I was a child. In the olden days, it was expected to send and receive them regularly. I'm one of the earliest members of the Hallmark Rewards program. They even sent me a thank-you card (naturally) on the program's 25th anniversary. I still USPS-mail a couple hundred cards a year (from me or from me and my husband) to family and friends for birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, babies, sympathy, thank you, graduation, congratulations, and holidays like Christmas. Every year I get compliments on our 2-page annual holiday letter, which we print and include in our snail-mail Christmas cards.
When I moved to my current city, I left behind a good friend who sent postcards to remind members of the next meeting of her writing group, which I was part of. After I left town, she and I started sending postcards to each other and have kept it up for 30 years, even after email came along.
I still have some samples of my handwriting over the years, and it's interesting to see how it's evolved. I mourn the fact that handwriting is no longer taught in schools. There is a BIG difference between writing by hand versus typewriters (which are having a comeback) and computers. I think differently when I write by hand. It also feels more personal.
Thanks for the wonderful question!
I exchanged letters with a fellow writer that has since moved to a different platform. It took forever (same pesky border issues), but was really fun to do. He very diplomatically described my handwriting as "a challenge," and in turn, I received 2 pages of the graceful penmanship I'd ever read.
Love this. So romantic. It makes me think of the book of Henry Miller’s and Anais Nin’s letters to each other, which I devoured as a teen and I can’t imagine that we’d now publish a book of some author’s emails. Like no.
I sometimes send mail to my old friends in Uganda, usually a letter plus something I think they will like from the states but it’s an expensive gamble. Usually the shipping costs more than the item and it take months to arrive and sometimes never arrives.
But I like it when it does arrive. Makes everyone happy.
Liked this a lot - there's been a lot lost in the decline of postal correspondence. I recently found a box of letters from my grandmother in the 1970s and again various ones from university friends who went abroad immediately after graduation. The amazing thing is that I must have responded, but I have no recollection of doing so! But there's something about the way writing a post (especially by hand) requires you to slow down - and that's something from which we could all benefit. And as for names ... we're all interconnected by repeated names in my family. Which can make for some odd misunderstandings at times.