Penpalling & Letters

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Meeting penpals before the existence of the Internet

Since the birth of Penpalling & Letters a series of polls have been popping up from time to time. Most of the habitual readers do know about this section located on the right column of the Blog: Penpalling Polls. Those of you who are new to P&L, don't forget to have a look at the questions. All of them are related to penpalling and to letter writing and maybe the results are interesting for everybody who likes the letter world. All the polls are indefinitely open and new ones are posted from time to time. Today we are going to check the one related to "Meeting penpals before the existence of the Internet". For sure most of us who have been into letters before the arrival of the Internet to our lives remember how we met penpals back then. What do you think? Was it more difficult to meet people interested in penpalling at those times? Was it easier? In the graphic you can see some of the possible ways to contact/get to know penpals during those times. Surely there are other possibilities, but those are the most common ones I could think of. As you can see all the choices are pretty similar in amount of votes: "Magazines" has got the highest number of them until now, followed by "Penfriend Services". Also, the option "Other" has got a good number of votes. If some of you are willing to tell or explain how you met your pals before the Internet, we are ready to listen. Remember that you can tell your story here on the P&L Blog or at our P&L group in Facebook.

Finally, don't forget to keep an eye in the Polls Section from time to time as new polls are coming up often!

If you are looking for advice on penpalling check: "Tips on letter writing"

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Letters to Juliet (2010)

Letters to Juliet is a 2010 American romantic comedy film starring Amanda Seyfried, Chris Egan, Vanessa Redgrave, Gael García Bernal and Franco Nero. Directed by Gary Winick, the film was released theatrically in North America and other countries on May 14, 2010.

Letters to Juliet is an enchanting love story: a tale of encountering new sparks and rekindling old flames. When Sophie (Amanda Seyfried), a young American, travels to Verona, Italy -the city where Romeo and Juliet first met- she meets a group of volunteers who respond to letters written to Juliet seeking romantic advice. Sophie finds and answers a letter that has been lost for 50 years, and is stunned when its author Claire (Vanessa Redgrave) arrives in Italy with her handsome but overprotective grandson (Christopher Egan) to find the fiance she left decades before. Fascinated by Claire's quest, Sophie joins them on an adventure through the beautiful hills of Tuscany searching for Claire's long lost Lorenzo. The journey will change their lives forever, as they discover it's never too late to find true love.

[Information taken from Letters to Juliet - Official Website, The Internet Movie Database, Wikipedia and iTunes Movie Trailers]

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Penpalling & Letters is on Facebook now!

Penpalling & Letters is on Facebook now, as well as the Penpalling & Letters Group! By joining you can read all the posts published until now, participate in discussions about the letter-writing world or explain about your chosen answer at the penpalling polls. Besides, we will be talking about our own experiences when penpalling and sharing facts, ideas or opinions. At last, but not least, we will also be discussing about our homelands, culture, languages, customs, typical food, legends, festivals, traditions... Everybody is welcome to join and participate!

Note: You have to be logged in Facebook to see the Penpalling & Letters profile or group. Just click the image above and you will find your way there.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Deciding upon penpalling

Have you been thinking for a while to get involved into penpalling? Would you like to write letters to people all over the world but you still need to be given the last push? Are you wondering how to get started?

To start writing a letter you just need pen and paper, plus and envelope, plus stamps... Isn't it easy? However, you also need to figure out what you exactly wish to achieve when penpalling, which are your expectations when writing letters and what you are looking for in these future penfriendships...
You will need time and dedication as any activity would need, will and wishes to write if you are not used to, patience, deciding which way to be in touch with a penpal is the one you prefer, what are you looking for in a penpal...

1. Think about which way to stay in touch with a penpal fits you the best. My favourite one are letters, but some people prefer e-mail, messenger systems, Skype, social networks, penpalling websites, SMS... It depends on each individual and what this person prefers.
Remember that letter writing requires buying paper, pen, envelopes and stamps to send the letters. If you prefer e-mailing or messenger systems... you will need an Internet connection.

2. Think about what you are looking for in penpalling and in a penpal. Try to find and get in touch with someone who is similar to you or that have similar penpalling ideas. Decide in which part of the world you would like to have a penpal, which age, gender... your pal should be, in which language you would like to correspond, if you would like to talk about hobbies and interests you are already into and you like or maybe getting to know someone who has completely different likings and who is willing to introduce you in something totally different but new and interesting for you.

3. Plan how much time you have to do penpalling. Penpalling implies dedication and commitment. You are going to exchange your thoughts, experiences, ideas, dreams, hopes... and even private life with a friend far away who has feelings. Therefore, make sure about the free time you have to write and stay in touch with your penfriends. Wouldn't it be sad to stop writing to a nice penfriend because you don't have the time to do it anymore?

4. Before start writing, discuss thoroughly with your future pals what you are looking for when penpalling and what you aren't. Discuss if you prefer handwritten or typed letters and if you agree in the more convenient way for both of you. Mention about the length of letters you are used to write. Some people is disappointed when receiving very short missives. Others find that long letters don't suit them. So discuss and talk about it to make things clear before getting disappointed later on. Also discuss about the frequency you plan to write and send letters. Some people want to receive letters every month, other people prefer one very long, meaningful letter every several months... Are you using stationery or you don't like it? Even if this is not a key point when writing letters in my opinion, some people is addicted to write on cute paper. However, remember that many others don't have access to those cute papers for whatever reason. You have to value and weigh the friendship. In the end you will see that the written words are the most important part of the letter, not the papers where those were written. Do you like asking and answering questions? Make sure your pal does as well. If you don't like one-sided letters and you are looking for continuous interaction and conversation with your pal don't be afraid to tell what you are exactly looking for and expecting.

5. Make sure about your wishes of swapping stuff or not. Some penpals do like exchanching little items together with their letters (postcards, transportation tickets, stickers...) from time to time. Other people do heavy swaps of everything and anything frequently. Therefore speak about it before a misunderstanding occurs.

If you are looking for advice on penpalling check: "Tips on letter writing"

Monday, 18 October 2010

Mail & History II

It is believed that the first attempt for the development of a real postal system comes from Ancient Persia, although this could not be proved.
Xenophon, the best documented claim, attributes the invention of a real postal system to the Persian King "Cyrus the Great" (550 BC), while other writers believe it was his successor "Darius I of Persia" (521 BC). However, other sources have claimed much earlier dates for an Assyrian postal system, as those in times of Hammurabi (1700 BC) and Sargon II (722 BC).
Nevertheless, sending and receiving mail may not have been the primary mission of this postal service. Probably, the main role of the system was that of an intelligence gathering apparatus. It seems that this fact is well documented and the service was later called "angariae", a term that in time turned to indicate a tax system. The Old Testament (Esther, VIII) mentions this system: "Ahasuerus, King of Medes, used couriers for communicating his decisions".
The Persian system worked on stations called "Chapar-Khaneh", where the message carrier, called "Chapar", would ride to the next post. There, he would swap his horse for a fresh one, as the most important was "maximum performance and delivery speed".

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Tips on letter writing I

As it was told in the post: "Tips to write a first letter", have in mind that the first letter you send to a pal may be the most important one. Why? Because you have in your hand that this person replies to you or not. I am quoting here one of the paragraphs belonging to this post: "The first letter is the key when starting a penfriendship. In this first letter you have the chance to present yourself in a way that your future penpal should think you are a person worth to be known. Don't ruin your only possibility of making a very good impression of yourself by writing an uninteresting, awfully boring text or a letter of a very poor quality".

It is clear that you have to put in effort when writing the first letter but don't become discouraged if you don't get any reply. Sometimes, even if your letter is an interesting one, the addressee doesn't reply. This is one of the negative aspects of penpalling, and not always you get an explanation why your letter remains unanswered. Don't give up, though! If all of us who are into letters would have given up when something like this happened, no-one would be writing letters by now...

In these new series of posts about "Letter writing tips" I will be presenting tips and ideas to write successful letters. They should be useful and helpful for everybody, so feel free to use them to your advantage when writing missives.

- Here they go the first ones:

1. When contacting your new pal, tell where you found his/her ad and contact data. I think that mentioning this information is important when getting in touch with someone. Since very few people post their postal address online, you should write and explain about this when contacting this future pal through e-mail.

2. Never send mass letters, neither introductory or the next ones you are about to write. Mass letters cause a very poor impression and some people insist on sending those again and again. Of course the basics about yourself are what they are and they cannot be changed, but you are mistaken if you think you can write exactly the same text to everybody. If you do, you risk not getting any reply as people won't be interested in penpalling with you. You should take the time to add some extra details to your basics and adapt those to each pal you wish to contact to. If this person has written and ad you already know some information. Use this info you already know to underline what attracted your attention and got you interested in this person, why you would like to be pals and why she/he should become your penpal and start writing to you...

3. Don't forget to mention some essential information: gender, age and location. To some people those might not be too important, but others prefer to write to people of their same gender and in a similar age range. Please, be always respectful regarding people's requests and don't be annoying. They have already made their choice. Be sure there are lots of people out there willing to have penpals and no doubt you can find someone else who is interested in being your correspondent.

4. Use the tips I already mentioned here to write your first letter. You don't have to follow them step by step, but I am sure they will be of great help when trying to build your future letter!

5. Don't force anybody to write you back by any means. You should never make anyone feel obliged to reply to your letter. They will reply if they want and wish to do so. Keep in mind that all of us are different and the person who wrote the ad is the one who decides whom to be penpals with. Also, remember that there are always reasons which explain why people don't reply and this does not mean they ignore you or that they don't want to take a few minutes to reply to you.

6. At the same time that it is not advisable to insist too much if someone does not seem interested in being our pal, don't give up and don't feel discouraged if you receive several negative replies or you don't receive a reply at all. As I said above, even if you write a good, meaningful letter it may occur that the addressee does not reply. Don't blame yourself, either. There are many reasons why people don't reply: they already have too many penpals and don't wish to have more, they consider they have found better penpal matches already, something else is going on in their lives and cannot reply... Also, some people receive lots of requests, and even if a short message declining the petition sounds correct, it gets difficult to send those to a high number of people.

If you are looking for advice on penpalling check: "Tips on letter writing"

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Sandbook.Net PenPal and Swappers Magazine

In this post I have the pleasure to announce that Team is working on a penpalling magazine at the moment. It is planned that the first number will be published in the following weeks. Both the sending and the digital copy of the magazine are for free.

What is the magazine about?
It will contain articles and news about penpalling, ads from stationery shops, links to penpalling websites, penpal and swappers ads... among other topics.

What do you have to do to receive it?
Send an e-mail to: magazine[at]sandbook[dot]net enclosing your name, year of birth, country, interests and hobbies, and of course, your e-mail address. As soon as the first issue is ready you will receive the magazine in your mailbox!

What do you have to do to post a penpal/swapper ad?
Send an e-mail to: magazine[at]sandbook[dot]net and enclose:

  1. Your name, age, country and e-mail address

  2. Your message (tell about yourself, hobbies, interests... etc)

  3. For how long you would like that Team runs your ad (during one, two, three... magazines). If you don't specify about the length of time, it will be run for the first issue and will choose to rerun it later on or not.

What else can you do to get involved in the magazine?

  1. Send a message to: magazine[at]sandbook[dot]net to promote your blog/website/small business if any of those deals with penpalling (you can send your logo/banner as well).

  2. If you are interested, you can also write an article. The best ones will be published!

P.S.: Postal addresses won't be published for safety reasons. Friendship requests will be received through you e-mail address and then you choose yourself to whom to send your postal address. Also, if you insist on having your postal address published, you will be disregarding Team warning. In such a case you will have to send Team an e-mail underlining that you want to have your postal address published despite this warning.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

The legend of "Baszta Dorotka" in Kalisz

Welcome to a new adventure belonging to the Travelling around the World sharing Cultural Heritage, Folklore and Background section. This time we are in Central Europe to meet Justyna. The shoreline of Justyna's country is bathed by the Baltic Sea and extends from the Bay of Pomerania to the Gulf of Gdansk, while the Tatra Mountains (the highest mountain range of the Carphatian Mountains) form a natural border in the south of this land. Neighbouring countries are Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania and Russia. Let's visit Poland then!

Justyna is very good at crafting and she presents her creations in her own Blog: "Handmade by Just-in", which I highly recommend! It is very interesting and full of great ideas!

Hello Justyna! Welcome to Penpalling & Letters! Where do you come from in Poland?

I come from Kalisz, which is the oldest town in Poland; it has about 100,000 inhabitants nowadays. It is located in the southern part of "Greater Poland" ("Wielkopolska"), which is a region in west-central Poland. It is famous for being a part of the "Amber Trail", has numerous bridges and some popular factories like "Big Star" (jeans and other clothes), "Hellena" (juices and drinks) and "Kaliszanka" (cookies and sweets). Some of the factories are now part of bigger corporations like "Jutrzenka" or "Nestlé". For more info you can visit: "Kalisz".

How did you discover penpalling and how long have you been into it?

When it comes to penpalling, I used to have a penpal (or rather an e-mail pal) a few years ago, but we somehow lost contact with each other. After I found out about Postcrossing (a few months ago) I thought about going back to writing letters and meeting people from all over the world so I put an ad on the "forum" and now I have several penpals (from USA, Finland, Australia, France, Canada and Netherlands).

Have you been into Postcrossing for a long time? How did you get to know Postcrossing? How did you get interested in postcards? Are you collecting them for a long time?

As I mentioned, I got to know about "Postcrossing" a few months ago, at one of the Polish forums: "". I liked the idea of getting in touch with people from other countries, so I'm on Postcrossing more for exchanging ideas and getting to know other cultures than getting postcards. I don't collect them (although I used to when I was a child and I still have quite a collecion - now getting bigger and bigger...;)) but I like getting nice ones, especially those showing something connected with other cultures. I'm also thinking about decorating my house with some of the great postcards I got :)

Are you interested in stuff related to letters? Pens, stationery, stickers? Do you also collect any other things?

I love cute stationery, as it makes writing letters even more enjoyable and I like everything that's pretty and useful, so yes, all kinds of pens, pencils and stickers. I used to collect many different kinds of things when I was a child, but now I feel I don't have enough space for that... Instead I'm really into crafts and if I can say that I collect anything, that will be craft magazines. Or crochet hooks! ;)

And here it is the "Legend of Baszta Dorotka in Kalisz".

Once upon a time there was a rich "starost" (from Polish "starosta") who had a beautiful daughter. Her name was Dorotka. She didn’t like sophisticated and expensive dresses, but she loved elegant shoes. For that reason, her father employed a shoemaker who visited the castle once a month to prepare the shoes especially for Dorotka. After some time, Dorotka and the shoemaker, whose name was Marcin, fell in love with each other. When "black death" came to Kalisz and Dorotka couldn’t come out of her room, Marcin stood outside her window every day. He also tried to remove all the dead bodies that were lying in the street, so that she didn’t have to watch them.
Her father was against their relationship, of course, as he thought that Marcin was not good enough for his daughter and forbade them to meet. That didn’t change Dorotka’s feelings and the young couple was trying to meet whenever it was possible. Unfortunately, one day, when Marcin was in Dorotka’s room, someone came in and he had to escape. He wanted to jump out of the window, but, sadly, he fell down and died. Dorotka was very sad and still refused to marry any of the other candidates. "Starost" got very angry and said that if she didn’t stop crying for Marcin and was so stubborn, he would lock her in one of the towers with no food and water. He was hoping that it would make Dorotka change her mind, but it didn’t. She still wanted to be faithful to her lover, Marcin. Seeing that, her father carried out his threat and locked her in the tower, where she died of thirst and hunger. In the end, "Starost" regretted very much being so strict, as he loved his daughter a lot.
Later, they used to lock other disobedient girls in the same tower and call them "Dorothies". Finally they called the tower itself by the name of Dorotka: "Baszta Dorotka". It can still be seen in Kalisz, right next to the park and St Joseph’s church.

Although this legend is a bit sad and gloomy, I like it as it teaches us not only being faithful till death but also that we should never get too angry with those that we love and try to understand them.

Hope everybody enjoyed this story and getting to know Justyna! See you soon again to share a new and interesting topic from somewhere in the world!

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Mail Trivia VI

Did you know that...

pigeon post is a method of communication as old as the ancient Persians from whom the art of training the birds probably came?

Pigeons are effective to carry messages due to their natural homing abilities. The pigeons are transported to a destination in cages, where they are attached with messages. Then, naturally, the pigeon flies back to its home where the owner can read the mail.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Tips to write a first letter

Do you find difficult writing the first letter to a new penfriend? Some people really enjoy writing first letters, others don't like it at all...
I must confess that I belong to the first group! Why? I really find fascinating telling a future friend about myself and don't find it is that difficult or boring. Also, I never found myself wondering what to write in a first letter (the practice along the years might also help). I think there are plenty of stuff to write about in a first letter, lots of details you can describe and tell and not only about yourself...

The first letter is the key when starting a penfriendship. In this first letter you have the chance to present yourself in a way that your future penpal should think you are a person worth to be known. Don't ruin your only possibility of making a very good impression of yourself by writing an uninteresting, awfully boring text or a letter of a very poor quality.

So, what should be written in a first letter? Here there are some tips which might help you to write a succesful first letter:

- Present yourself. Tell about your name, age, when is your Birthday... but don't be scarce when writing about these as you might lack the core of your presentation. You have to be chatty and develop it in a way it sounds interesting, not a mere formality.

- Tell about the place you come from, where you were born/grew up, were you live now if you moved, or even the places you lived along the years. At this point you can add some facts: relate why the place you were born, the place(s) you live(d) in are famous for... This way your penpal not only gets to know the name of a city somewhere in the world, but why this place is famous or which features are typical of this area.

- Talk about your family. Your husband/wife, boyfriend/girlfriend, children, parents, brothers and sisters, grandparents, cousins... Maybe you have a favourite member of the family whom you share most of your adventures and you trust blindly. Perhaps you would like to tell your pal about this special person in your family. Here you also can write about your pets if you have any. After all they are like family members as well.

- Mention about your studies or your work. Maybe you are into the same field and you are interested in discussing with your pal about it in future letters. You can also tell about the places where you studied/worked, talk about anecdotes of those years, how you are living/lived your times as a student or at work.

- Write about what you like doing, your hobbies and your interests. Even if we don't like the same stuff, it is interesting to share this information with your penfriend. Perhaps you discover a new liking you had never heard about before...
I find nice to mention likings in general, but, for instance, if you like music, TV series or movies I recommend you not to write a list of all those singers/bands/TV series/films you like. It is good if you mention about a favourite one and then develop this topic in the next letters. Nevertheless, listings of such stuff are quite boring to read in my opinion.

- Develop some of those likings individually. If you like penpalling, you can write about how you discovered letter writing, how long you have been into it, how you met your first pals, which are your expectations regarding the new penfriendship...
If you are interested in music, mention which kind of music you like the most, where you usually listen to music, at which moment of the day, maybe you even play an instrument and your pal does as well...
If you are into sports do tell if you practice any, which ones are your favourite to practice and the ones you follow, which sportmen/sportwomen you like lots and are a fan of...
If you think a bit you can write every detail about everything you are into. This way your pal will find your letter much more interesting to read, instead getting into listings full of stuff which surely are very boring to go through.

- Name some random stuff you might like, besides your hobbies. Sometimes we discover that another person in the other corner of the world likes rainy days, walking in the woods or your favourite fruit!

- If you feel like it, describe yourself. It is not easy, but probably your future penpal would like to hear about your personality traits and how you think you are.

- Perhaps you would like to advance some of your dreams, ideas, hopes, points of view, opinions or future expectations in your life. Maybe you share some of them and both of you develop these topics in next letter exchanges...

Still there are some other topics you might write about in a first letter to a new penfriend. It is not necessary to write a lot about every little characteristic because you have plenty of letters to develop each of those topics in a more detailed way. However, as I said at the beginning, writing too less is as bad as writing too much! Everything should be done in a reasonable manner and remember that writing a meaningful first letter is in your hand!

If you are looking for advice on penpalling check: "Tips on letter writing"