Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Day 6

With over 300 people signing up on incowrimo-2017.org website, how do you choose who to write to for InCoWriMo-2017?

There are a few people from exotic places such as Suriname, Mexico, Serbia, New Zealand... I could write to people whose addresses have intrigue.

There are many streets named after people - first names, surnames or even their full names.

Then, there are roads with nature in mind - hill, creek, woodland, valley. Do deer go down the path and lane?

There's roads with names of buildings, e.g. church, station, also other places - Sheffield, Dallas, Newport, although none yet who live on a London Road.

As for place names, many are not unique. I didn't realise there was a Whitby in Canada, but this isn't the Whitby of Dracula-fame. As I write, 3 people have signed up from Plymouth - one is in the UK, and the other two are in different states of the US. I wonder if they will write to each other.

The weekend of the 4th & 5th of February saw me scrolling through the address book and at speed. I was selecting an address from what was on screen when the scrolling stopped. I wrote 4 letters over the weekend and these have now been posted.

Thursday, 26 January 2017

Does penpal gender matter?

Earlier this month, I read from cover to cover the National Geographic's special issue for January 2017 on the Gender Revolution. I had never read any of their magazines from cover to cover, so this is a first! I found this issue so illuminating. Only in the last 25 or so years have I become aware of other sexualities/genders. 

The humanist Gene Roddenberry was a great influence on my teenage and young adult years. There was one episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation introducing the Trill to the crew of the Enterprise. One Trill fell in love with Dr. Beverly Crusher and they had a romance. He was injured and he was dying but the symbiont inside needed a new body to act as host. However, it was too long a wait for a new Trill host to arrive but an interim solution became available - transplant the symbiont into Picard's No. 1 - Will Riker. This worked for a while and the romance continued with the dear doctor. When the new Trill host arrived and the symbiont transplanted, I recall the look of utter horror/disgust on Crusher's face when she sees the Trill is female. The Trill female still had the feelings of romance for the doctor, but Beverly felt uncomfortable. 

Continuing, Deep Space 9 has a Trill officer - Jadzia Dax. She meets one of her symbiont's past host's spouse's symbiont's new host and the love was still there; the two symbionts still loved each other even though their respective hosts were female. This showed me that there is more to love/attraction than the outward appearance.

So, what has this got to do with letter writing?

Traditional online penpal ads/profiles often state that they only want  female penpals. Some of these go on to add, "out of respect for my husband." I looked up the definition for respect - due regard for the feelings, wishes, or rights of others. How does having a male penpal go against the right of others? If I rewrite and infer... "Because of my husband's wishes, I am not allowed to make friends with men, as he thinks I will want to throw my body at them, have affairs with them." I wonder then how this husband would cope with his wife having a lesbian penpal; would he fear she'd tempt her away and corrupt her? And would he have opinions on transgenders who were female or who are now female, or what about those who are intersex, examples - 1) a model has come out recently as intersex, having been born with undescended testicles, and the testes removed when she was 10, and 2) a writer and film maker grew a beard and had a period aged 12. So, would you discriminate on grounds of gender or sexuality? Should spouses (or even parents) dictate who you should be friends with?

The word I like is prefer. This allows you to keep an open mind. I did prefer to write to females 20 years ago, but I did also have some male penpals and I was pleasantly surprised. 

The February letter writing projects can give the freedom to write to new people, to discover the world. 

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

InCoWriMo's official site has been updated.

But, I would take what is written with a big pinch of salt.

This is just part of The List. You may need to click the picture to read the wording.
These 28 people (and one crustacean) would love to receive your correspondence!
Don’t let a lack of at-the-ready recipients keep you from accepting the InCoWriMo Challenge. With this list, you don’t even need a personal address book.
All of the names on this list are real, live people (well, almost all the names). I’ve spoken to each personally (trust me) and while they may not be able to respond to the flood of letters that InCoWriMo provokes, they each confess, proclaim, and affirm that they crave your correspondence.
Then, look at one of the names..

The official site is now open to people to add their own address/comments via Disqus, having been updated by Eric who seemingly couldn't be bothered to update the site at all for 2016. For those who took part in 2015 and checked the site regularly, you may recall the site disappearing altogether along with the fountain pen forum.

Monday, 9 January 2017

February creeping up - InCoWriMo-2017 is on the horizon.

It is almost that time of year for the February letter writing frenzy. I will be taking part in InCoWriMo-2017, organised by a snail mail enthusiast I have the pleasure of calling a penfriend, from an InCoWriMo event in the past. InCoWriMo-2017 is for "ordinary" people: I say "ordinary" in a good sense because everyone can take part and send some letters to each other, not just to fountain pen company CEOs and celebrities listed on the InCoWriMo site with currently nowhere for "ordinary" people to sign up. You don't even need a fountain pen to take part, but the project would like you to send a handwritten letter everyday.

A similar project, A Month of Letters Challenge (LetterMo) for sending letters every postal day also allows the use of typewriters. There are little challenges within the main challenge, e.g. posting at a different postbox, using nice stamps, wax seals.

The fountain pen is my weapon of choice, but the gel pen used to be an implement of choice before I rediscovered fountain pens. I am happy to receive letters written in fountain pen, ballpoint, Sharpie, fineliner, even typewritten... 

The paper can be ordinary. In my teenage years, a friend moved out of the area and went to a new school. She wrote letters on refill pad paper during some of her lessons! There are writing pads, lined or plain, white or cream or other colours, perhaps patterned or with a logo. If you are lucky, you could find some nice writing sets, but the ratio of paper to envelopes is often too low. If you have a printer, you can print your own designs (or use one of the many templates available online).

Some people like to decorate the letters with stickers, or washi tape. Some might say this is childish, but someone said that penpalling is only a children's hobby. I am in my 40s and I use stickers and washi/deco tapes. I have received letters with stickers on from people even older than me, and even received a missive from a gentleman in his late 50s on Diddl writing paper. 

I have differentiated between InCoWriMo and InCoWriMo-2017. The original InCoWriMo was updated in February 2015, and then nothing until this month. InCoWriMo did still occur on a fountain pen forum and the original site in the comments section of the 2015 list, for 2016. However, with the original site looking dead in the water, my dear penfriend and snail mail enthusiast took it upon himself to create a new website for InCoWriMo-2107 in October. There are over 60 real people signed up already and the first week of January is only just over. So, it is with pleasure I support InCoWriMo-2017, for real people. 

Letter writing is fun, both the writing and the receiving. I do hope newcomers to InCoWriMo-2017 will enjoy sending and receiving missives. Letters are for life, not just for February and you may find yourself finding new friends - penfriends are real friends too. 

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

KeptSafe over the holidays, stay safe for 2017!

I was going to be at my mother's for the holidays but did not know when I was going to leave home and when I'd be back. So, with the risk of not being able to get back into the house with mail posted through the front door, I used Royal Mail's KeepSafe service. It worked a treat and this is all the nice post from penpals & correspondents around the world (excluding business post and the Christmas cards from family & non-postal friends) accumulated from the 19th December 2016, arriving today (4th January) 2017. It took me almost 2 hours to go through the post! 

Look at all those lovely stamps. With many more people getting post for the festive holidays than at other times of the year, they get to see more stamps. However, if they do not collect stamps, where do the stamps go? Some end up in the bin, I'm sure, but there is a better solution - send the stamps to charity. I have been trying to compile a list of charities around the world. So far, it has been easy to find charities in the UK accepting stamps (and there are at least two companies you can send stamps in to with the name of a particular charity from a wide variety), but not having as much luck around the world. Oxfam in Canada has a webpage for collecting stamps, but Oxfam in the US doesn't. So, if you know of any charities outside of the UK wanting stamps to raise money, please let me know. 

Friday, 9 December 2016

Christmas Cards

It is the season to be jolly, so I bought Christmas cards from charity shops to send to my penpals around the world. For the greeting, I like the wording similar to either Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, or, Season's Greetings. However, many just have Christmas greetings so that means writing in Happy New Year.

Now, the weight of the cards can be an issue, with some really fancy ones over 20g. This then falls into the 20-100g postage band. No good. So, limited to smaller cards. I bought square cards, some bigger than others. The smaller ones are a good weight and even allow room for a sheet or two of paper for a letter. So, I write my letters and enclose  them with a smallish square Christmas card. I post it, having looked up at the pricing leaflet from Royal Mail I picked up in May, with correct postage. I head over to Twitter but am dismayed when one post office tweeted about a minimum size for international mail. I responded to Royal Mail wondering if my slightly shy of a minimum 14cm on one dimension on the envelopes (supplied with the cards) would still get to Germany and USA. The reply is yes, as long as enough postage has been used but also to check https://personal.help.royalmail.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/121 - this shows indeed a minimum size.

However, another current Royal Mail link mentions nothing about minimum size: http://www.royalmail.com/personal/international-delivery/international-standard (accessed 9th December 2016)

In the US, there may be a surcharge on square letters as the one dimension falls into non-machineable thingywhatsit (maybe a "which way is up" problem for the machines). I was wondering then whether Royal Mail will head down that route in the future and add a surcharge.

So, I have a bunch of under 140mm square Christmas cards to get through. There is no reported minimum size for domestic mail. So, I can use for them.

What a jolly scene. I have sneaked a few of the into 7 inch by 5 inch envelopes and this is under the 20g.

I bought also smaller cards to fit into the C6 (roughly 6 inch by 4 inch) envelopes. However, these ones I have to write in the New Year greeting. This size or even lightweight cards to fit into the C6 envelopes are rare.

So, I thought, if I have to write in Happy New Year, why not go for blank cards. I came across some nice folded gift tags and thought - they'd do for festive cards. I can then place more emphasis on the letter... size doesn't matter (it is the thought that counts?) and I can write my own greeting.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

My old letters

On a recent visit to my mother's to help her sort through boxes in the garage, I came across a couple of folders with my old correspondence in. After leaving university, I decided I wanted to make new friends and thought again about penpals (I had a few through the youth penpal service or whatever it was called, through my school). I came across a free ads paper and in it, there was a form for writing adverts to be shown in their sister papers overseas. There was a penpal section. I found the draft of my advert: 
Female, 21, wishing to make new friends. Loves photography, nature, travel, cacti and Star Trek.
I placed the ad, with my postal address (I'm not at the same address now) in various papers - New Zealand, some in Europe, some in the US and Canada. I had forgotten how many replies I had actually received. I am not sure I wrote to everyone who had sent a letter. I know most of that correspondence was not successful. I still have most of the letters, although most of the envelopes had the paper with stamps torn off. I also back then had drafted replies, some typewritten with many typos. One draft reply said:

I like nuts. Some people say I am a weirdo, or nutcase. I prefer to be a lunatic...
I am pondering why most of the correspondence had been unsuccessful. One comment I had attached to one letter was that it was from a religious nutcase (the letter contained only religion, nothing personal about the writer, no hobbies, no weather). Other letters asked for photos of myself. I think that this may have put me off - what does a person's appearance have to do with penpalling. OK, it may be good to put a face to a name, so some letters came with photos (no, the people were fully clothed). Another reason for failed correspondence - I think I had found a new boyfriend and didn't find much time for my postal pals of either gender. I did keep one correspondence going but the amount of letters exchanged slowed down when I had a toddler (now correspondence is just a note with a Christmas card), but I don't know what made that correspondence special to last so long.