To The Letter… Penpals of Prose Redux?

Firstly, I should say Happy Australia Day to all those lovely Australian readers of this blog, hope you are all having/have had/will have (the time difference confuses me) a wonderful day. There is an Australian twist in today’s post so there is a link, if an ever so slightly tenuous one, to what I am going to blather on about today. You see I want to talk about letter writing, an art form I forget how much I love until every so often something jolts me back to reminding me just how marvellous it is and then reprimands me with a feeling of regret that I don’t do it often enough.

Most of the post I receive at home consists of two things; bills or books. Oh and occasionally letters from the NHS reminding me that I have varying appointments. Whilst I love the books that arrive the other stuff I could happily do without, why they call it ‘correspondence’ I don’t know as none of the bills you get are going to become great endless reams of written outcries telling Sally of Customer Care about your life, she just wants your cash, she isn’t interested in your broken heart or how much you laughed seeing that man fall over the other day. *Sigh*.

I hadn’t thought of pen pals and letter writing for a while until I read Marieke Hardy’s ‘You’ll Be Sorry When I’m Dead’ which I told you all about yesterday. She runs events in Australia all to do with letter writing and in her book says about the letter that ‘they exist in a tangible, rich way that their cheap instant-gratification-grasping distant cousin emails can only dream of’ which is so true. I am rubbish with lengthy emails to friends and the like, it doesn’t compare to the letters I sent in my teens to friends of about 8 sides of A4, me pouring my heart out, probably about something inane and ridiculous. The utter joy of getting an inane and ridiculous 10 sided response was wonderful if only I could have bottled that feeling. Instead I am going to quote more Marieke, she explains it better than I can.

‘I love getting letters. Doesn’t everybody? Saying you like receiving personal letters in the post is like stating that you rather enjoy breathing, or having ears on either side of your head: it’s taken as a given, and not to be used as a quirky character trait to lure in members of the opposite sex on dating sites. Even seeing the spidery, in-my-day-we-sent-letters-via-donkey-and-wolfpack handwriting of an elderly relative can send a cheap frission when indulging in a dressing-gowned visit to the front gate.’

It suddenly seemed obvious who I should try and become pen pals with… Marieke Hardy of course. With our wicked sense of humour, ok she has no knowledge of me or mine (but that’s so beside the point), love of books and the written letter it would be ideal. So I tweeted her. Now, before I tell you what I tweeted I should admit I have tried to attract the wily Miss Hardy’s attention on twitter before, mainly fawning which admittedly isn’t very cool and sort of screams ‘fan’ or ‘pllllllleeeeeease acknowledge me’ (though some might see this post in the same vein, not the case, this is all about letters thank you), and nada. No response. So I had to think on my feet and not just retweet or quote or be inane in a pointless way, I had to attract her attention. So I used two things I have picked up from seeing her on the box and reading… a love of books and a love of beards, again me and Marieke have that in common, and it worked…

Now ‘certainly’ may seem like a fob off, and initially I thought so too (my middle names aren’t ‘grumpy cynic’ for nothing), but when a DM with an address arrived (noted it’s a P.O. Box address in case I should fly all the way to Australia and simply pop by for a cuppa, stranger things have happened) I had that joyous moment of feeling slightly like I wanted to be sick everywhere and needing to phone everyone I know and tell them news that possibly might leave them non plussed. Instead I just grinned.

This was several weeks ago, I am still drafting the first letter. Why? Well because first impressions are always important (I am seeing the letter writing as a clean state not the twitter/blog fawning, moving swiftly on) and in my head, though neither of us owns a book shop, this could become the noughties version of ’84 Charing Cross Road’ one day. A friend taking the proverbial asked me if I had bought a ‘special pen for the prose of perfection… a quill maybe?’ my response post swearing was ‘no, nothing is finer than your simple black Bic’ and its true I write my nicest handwriting with said pen.

It isn’t just Marieke I am writing to though, as it seemed my friend Dom has also had letters on the brain. This is Dom of the ‘we both love Nancy Mitford and refer to each other as characters in her novels’ fame. We haven’t seen each other in over a year, we would meet in London once or twice a week, speak on the phone everyday etc, and suddenly letter writing to each other seemed so much more personal than an hour on the phone twice a week. No one can listen in for a start, so that’s another one. Multiple pen pals isn’t cheating is it? Ha!

You may remember that a while back, in fact almost two years ago, I started a little project called Penpals of Prose. I wanted to join people who loved book and the written word and create a way of them being able to contact like minded folk from all around the world. It was a much bigger, and so took much longer to organise plan and administrate, project than I thought it would be as so many people wanted to take part. What I forgot to do, amongst all this setting up lovely friends to write gorgeous letters to each other, was actually participate myself. I have no pen pals of prose, not one, and now the email account I made for it has gone defunct (I checked this morning, and have emailed to reactive it), silly me.

I am wondering… should I start that all over again and write myself too? Or should I simply see if any of you out there would like to start writing to me wherever in the world you are? I will write back by the way, this isn’t just a plea for you to fill my letter box with endless lovely letters you never hear back from. My email address is on the about page if you want to make contact. In the meantime, as its Australia day, I think it’s time I put pen to paper and finish this letter to Ms Hardy in my best black Bic handwriting.

19 Comments

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19 responses to “To The Letter… Penpals of Prose Redux?

  1. Certainly start it again! There is nothing better than finding people with a similar love of literature or even a different one (for juicy debate purposes).

    I must admit I rather failed at the last time but would love to participate again if able to.

    And yes, you should definitely participate, just organising the fun is never the same as being part of it as well.

    • I think I might. Google are claiming I didn’t start ‘penpals of prose’ gmail account so that might mean starting from scratch which I am less keen on after last time. Took me ages. I might fight back and try and persuade them, or simply try and work out what the hell the password was I made up for it.

      I should have participated last time. Silly me. I shredded everyones private details after they were all matched though for data protection.

  2. Louise

    Several years ago I saw an advert for people to write to soldiers in Iraq and other such places. They were mainly for soldiers who didn’t have an immediate family back home, you’d write a letter and send it off and it would be distributed randomly. I did do this, it really is a wonderful thing 🙂

    • Oh wow that sounds incredible. Very worthy cause.

      I completely forgot to mention in this post I used to write to two prisoners in America, no really, but sadly they both lost the priviledges (not through my influence) and so they fizzled out.

  3. lovely simon letter writing is such a dying art ,all the best stu

  4. I love letters – 2 friends recently sent me real letters and I wrote back, so am really hoping this starts lots of it as I miss it from my teenage/uni years.
    Write to me! I’m not as well read as you but I am an avid reader and always like discussing books. I have a tumblr but to be honest don’t really blog much at the moment so it’s just reposts of things I’ve read.

  5. Ah, the good ole’ snail mail. I too love getting a hand-written envelope through the door and actually do have a couple of pen-friends but due to hectic daily life (it does have an annoying habit of getting in the way of our pleasures, doesn’t it?) none of us get those handwritten fat enveloped through our door as often as we would like. I’m going to email you right now, Simon, so I can use my trusty blue (favourite pen colour of choice) Bic and scrawl your name and address on an envelope, and who knows, there may even be a letter inside…

  6. My PenPal and I write to each other. It takes a few months for each of us to communicate with each, because our lives are so busy!

    We haven’t exchanged email address, so we are still writing by hand.

  7. I have gone to write letters recently and found that I don’t even own any stationery or even some lined paper! It seems that I’ve reduced my correspondence to brief note cards and that’s a bit sad. Perhaps, if you were going to write back, I would go buy some stationery and write a nice letter. 🙂

  8. Joanne in Canada

    I have about six or seven friends that I write letters to every year on their birthdays. This spreads them out instead of writing them all at Christmas or sending out a “newsletter”, and gives me an annual deadline. Some write back, some email, some phone, some visit, some don’t reply. Over the years I have stopped writing a few friends that didn’t reply, but it takes a long time. One I write in French (get out that dictionary!) One lives in Australia. I also write my two sisters-in-law (in Israel and Australia) on their birthdays. I like thinking about friends and relatives in “their” months. My friends give me very positive feedback about how nice it is to get a handwritten letter. It is also useful to reflect on your life and try to summarize it. I hope you find some penpals, Simon. I too watch The First Tuesday Book Club on line and am always keen to hear what Marieke has to say.
    PS A cafe in Ottawa (Ontario, Canada) had an evening of letter writing: http://www.apt613.ca/supportlocal/

    • I love the idea of a letter arriving to someone special on their birthday, I might have to do that myself in the future. What a lovely idea! Yes, I am going to start doing that indeed.

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