Monday, 22 February 2016

From Writing Letters to Writing Books

From Writing Letters to Writing Books

It began at the age of 10.  A girl I had meet on my first trip overseas with my parents asked to be my penfriend, and my parents agreed for me.  Answering her letters was part of my homework, which I usually did reluctantly at first...until a year or two later, when I lived overseas for a year and missed my friends back home. 

Then letters from home became the most exciting and special thing in my life!  Suddenly, the written word was magical and full of power. 

A year later, and back home, I got excited about letters from new friends I had made overseas.  And then I realized it was just as exciting to receive letters from people I had not even met!

And so, my teenage years were spent "penpalling" with like-minded girls of my own age all over the world.  I began reaching out to unusual and exotic countries, curious to learn what life in a faraway country was like. 

While there were many ways of finding new penfriends, such as ads in some pop culture magazines, there were also "Friendship Booklets" which were sent around from one person to another.  Someone starts a booklet, stapling a few pages together and writing their name, address, age and interests on one page.  They enclose it with the letter to one of their penpals, who then adds his/her name, address and details, and forwards it to another penpal. 

This way, Friendship Booklets reached avid letter-writers and helped like-minded people connect, and waiting several weeks for a reply was the norm back then.

Once you found a like-minded penpal, letters became long and involved, often expressing thoughts and feelings that one couldn't speak easily to anyone face to face.  In this way, letter-writing became an important form of expression combined with creativity, as one still had to form sentences, paragraphs and write in an entertaining style to keep one's penfriends interested and involved.

Those letter-writing days are long gone now, thanks to email and a life busy with other things, but the creative writing and expressions through words have developed and enriched my life, and I thank penpals and Friendship Booklets for these rewards!

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