A Complete Guide to the Art of PenPaling


Luciana Karafa

A Collection of Letters from one of my penpals

Since text messaging, emailing, and all social media have become a big part of many people’s lives, the art of letter writing has become rare. Many people have forgotten about the surge of excitement you feel when you find a letter with your name on it waiting in the mailbox. They have forgotten the simple pleasures of sealing a letter, stamping it, and putting it out for the mailman. But this art is not completely lost; there are still many people who keep up with penpals and recently it has become quite a big thing on YouTube. There are many videos from which you can get ideas for stationary and what to include. I, personally, have had at least 2-3 penpals constantly since I was in the 3rd or 4th grade. I’ve had at least 21 penpals in all, some only lasted one or two letters, some many more. I enjoyed writing and receiving letters from all of them. I have a file box full of letters that I have kept and I love to go back and look through them.

How to get a penpal

Stationary (Luciana Karafa)

One of the hardest parts of penpaling is finding a penpal in the first place. Many of my penpals I knew in real life like one of my best friends who lived 5 minutes away or my cousin who lives next door to me. I would ask everyone to be my penpal. I loved penpaling so much that one time when I was 10 or so I saw a girl I had never seen before at daily Mass and I just went up and asked her to be my penpal. Another time I went to a potluck at a church where I didn’t know anyone and I left with 2 penpals. I also became penpals with college students who went to our church and 2 young adults I knew who ended up living overseas in Japan and India respectively. Before I heard of Discourse/Proboards I tried emailing parents of MODG students who had girls my age by looking at the MODG enrollment sheet. I became penpals with a couple of students in Ireland. When I joined Discourse in 10th grade I started a penpal program for the students and it turned out great. I also got a couple more penpals. This year another student has continued the penpal program and this is one great way to get a new penpal or two. Also I would suggest being penpals with a friend who has moved or someone you meet away from home. Another idea is to write to a seminarian in your diocese. I once did this as a part of a class at my co-op and my seminarian actually wrote me back and we were penpals for quite a bit.

The Letter itself
Sometimes it can be hard to know what to write in a letter. Try to think of some interesting questions or something you’d like to know about your penpal. Maybe you could tell them about the crazy thing your sibling did last week or the fun vacation your family went on. Try to give your penpal something to write about by asking questions and bringing up topics you could continue to discuss in future letters. Don’t stress about it being perfect, just be yourself.
Also two important tips that make a good penpal:
-Try your best to write back sooner rather than late
-Try to make your letters worth the wait by writing more than just one or two paragraphs and making them as engaging and interesting as possible

Fun things to include in your letter
After writing the letter itself I like to include some other fun things. Here is a list of some things you could choose.
Note: This is completely optional, don’t feel bad at all if you only send the letter itself.

wax stamp (Luciana Karafa)

Movie/Book/Song Recommendations
Little pictures/cutouts
Washi tape samples
Quote written on pretty paper
Stick of gum
Friendship bracelet
A recipe
Pressed flowers or leaves
A drawing by you

One of the things I sometimes do to finish off the letter is to seal the letter with sealing wax and a stamp as shown in the picture.

Why is it a good thing to have a penpal?
Well, first of all, writing letters is a great way to take a break from social media but still make friends who maybe don’t live near you. It is also a great opportunity to improve your handwriting! Almost every day when I was younger (and I sometimes still do this) I would run to check the mailbox as soon as I heard the mailman. It gives me a little something to look forward to and when a letter does actually come it is always exciting! One of the other things I love about penpaling is it gives me a great opportunity to buy pretty stationary and little extras to make my letters aesthetic.

I hope this was helpful in getting you started penpaling! Let us know in the comments if you have any questions. Also, we’d love to hear about your experiences penpaling!