I’m both excited and sad about the interview I’m about to publish, because it will be the last one I’ll be posting for a while. I asked Denise if she would like to interview penpals and feature them on the blog from now on, and she said yes! I’ll still be around, don’t worry – you can’t get rid of me that easily! I’ll still be blogging about topics related to letter writing, and I’ll be designing stationery as usual, but Denise will be the one doing the interviews and posting the penpal ads as of tomorrow.
That being said, I’m happy to introduce you to a wonderful LEP member – are you ready to meet Sophie AKA Rambling Reader?
Please tell us about you!
Greetings ladies and menfolk of the interwebs! I’m Sophie, a 28-year old biology PhD student currently residing in the most excellent city of Ottawa, Canada, but originally hailing from the west of England. I’ve only been in Canada since late August but it already feels like home, and even the encroaching winter hasn’t put me off yet.
When not science-ing I love walking, photography, reading (especially historical fiction, autobiography and popular science) and doing incredibly geeky cross-stitch cards for friends. I have also been known to write the odd letter from time to time. I can be found on twitter as @sojopotter, where I sporadically post about nature, science and anything else that gets me excited.
When not writing, I can often be found enjoying cake and other delicious things.
This was taken in Cornwall, UK, where I lived by the sea for a year.
Describe your personality in 10 words!
A key personality trait of mine is that I am abysmal at doing 10-things lists- no matter what the subject I always end up trying to shoe-horn extra entries in (the entire LOTR trilogy counts as one film right? Likewise all 8 Harry Potter films…). However, I will attempt self-control here: Supportive, enthusiastic, pensive, indulgent, concerned, pragmatic, rambling, loyal, massively nerdy.
How long have you been penpalling? How did you first start? Tell us about your first penpal!
My first penpal was the daughter of my godmother- we started writing when we were about 6 or 7. I have no idea what we could possibly have found to talk about at this age, but it lasted into our teens.
My longest active penpal relationship is also one of my best friends- we met at school when we were 9, and when she moved a year later we started writing. When we were teenagers we would write several times a week, covering MANY sides of paper in rambles and school drama. She was like a journal that provided commentary and advice. She has only threatened to blackmail me by revealing the hideous “text shorthand” nature of many of those letters once- truly a saint!
I love all animals, even the ones that aren’t quite as fluffy as others.
How many penpals do you have now and where are they from?
This is a tricky question as I have only recently returned from a hiatus from penpalling whilst I moved to Canada, so I’m not sure how many people are still willing to write to me. I would guess it was around 15 though- the majority from the UK, USA and Canada, and mostly people I met through the League of Extraordinary Penpals!
What are your favorite topics to discuss in letters?
I’m a pretty open book when it comes to penpalling, so if someone wants to write about something, I’m usually happy to respond. I love to swap book recommendations, cake recipes, tales of trips and adventures and enthusiasm for almost anything.
Some of my penpals have previously provided me with really helpful insights when I was struggling with decisions about my work (prior to the whole PhD debacle!), and I love learning new things from my penpals. One penpal in particular has got me involved in a microfinancing initiative called Kiva, and also turned me on to an excellent UK-based publishing house that focuses on “forgotten” books by female authors.
Beautiful Ottawa, where I currently live. I am in love with my new home.
What are you looking for in a penpal?
Patience, and legible handwriting (or typing! Whilst I personally prefer to handwrite, I have no problem at all if my correspondents choose to type their letters). Beyond that, it’s nice to have some shared interests but I also like to hear from people with really different backgrounds and lives to me. As long as people are open-minded, and have at least one thing that excites them, I’m very happy to write to them. And a love of beautiful stationery never hurts either!
What do you like the most about penpalling?
It’s really hard to pick one thing. I love learning about new things and new places, and getting to “meet” people that I would never know otherwise. I really enjoy the cathartic feeling that writing gives me, and appreciate the time away from a computer screen. I also love the amount of time and creativity that people put into making their mail beautiful, and the generosity of the things they include sometimes. Having recently moved to a new country, much of my apartment is now decorated in the lovely things people have sent me.
Letter and well-stamped envelope.
This turquoise pen is my current favourite for letter writing.
In what language(s) do you correspond?
I like to think of it as Sophish. It resembles English, but it also contains some made-up words, and a smattering of French/Spanish/German for emphasis.
What are some of your habits in regards to letter writing?
I try to respond to my letters in the order I receive them, though sometimes people can skip the queue if they’ve captured my attention, or I have the perfect paper/stamps for them. I generally write at home, either at my desk or curled up in a corner on my bed. I have a wide range of different writing paper that I try to match to the recipient (if nothing else because I feel it’s a shame to waste, for example, Doctor Who paper on people who have never seen it, when so many of my correspondents are avid Whovians). I like to write with colourful pens if the paper allows. My letters can vary wildly in length but will commonly be around three sheets of writing paper, written on both sides. I am *reasonably* good at writing straight even without lines, though this can vary if I get excited. Since moving to Canada I try to buy my stamps from eBay, partly because it’s a cheaper way of getting them, but also because I love the variety of different stamps that this allows for.
Having not long moved to Canada, much of my interior decoration
is mail-based. This is the side of my fridge!
Has anything strange/funny ever happened to you since you’ve been penpalling?
I’ll be honest, to me the strangest thing that’s happened is finding out that there are so many other people interested in penpalling. Until this year I had more or less assumed it was just one of those weird, outdated things about me (I also still buy paper books and physical CDs. I’m one of THOSE).
I suppose one of the strangest things was receiving a digital mixtape from a penpal in Washington which contained a lot of (fairly niche) British comedy that I’d been meaning to listen to for a long time. It was fairly bizarre that it took a friend from overseas to actually get me to listen to it!
Have you met any of your penpals?
I have met three of my current penpals. As mentioned before- Rhiannon and I went to school together and have stayed in letter/visiting contact ever since. I also used to work with Ceri and Cat, and started to write to them once I moved 200 miles away and joined LEP. Ceri I already knew fairly well as we worked quite closely together, but Cat was much more of a casual acquaintance. Since writing though, I definitely know them both much better! I would love to meet others in the future as well.
This case is meant to be for a tablet, but serves as my portable stationery stash.
It is only the tip of the iceberg.
Are you currently looking for more penpals?
Every fibre of my body tells me the answer to this should be no, but in reality if people would like to write to me, and can cope with me not always being the most prompt of respondents, I would love to hear from you! If you are interested in corresponding, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for being my last one, Sophie! ;)
Now if you’re reading this and you’d like to be featured as Penpal of the Week too, get in touch with Denise – she’d love to interview you!