I have had Joshua Radin singing in the background today. His musical aesthetic matches the grey of this day. Even though things are fairly dreary here, I have a bright ray of sunshine to share with you!
Here’s my interview with Jen!
Please tell us about you!
Hi! My name is Jen Chastain-Escalante. For brevity’s sake (and because Chastain-Escalante doesn’t fit on most debit and insurance cards and the like), I often just go by Escalante for my last name… I’m fine with either. I’m 34 (35 this summer), and I live in Portland, Oregon, with my amazing hubby of 5 1/2 years, Bryan, and our two fantastic pups, Indy (Boxer, 5 years old), and Olly (Border Collie/Pittie/Pointer Mix, almost 4 years old).
I love where I live. I’m pretty smitten with my entire life, really. I work from home as a freelance writer, and also spend time fine tuning my hiking guide, and writing the beginnings of a novel. I’m an Instagram junkie – I love posting photos, and seeing a bit into the lives of others; we all have so much to learn from one another, if we just ensure we’re open to the experiences. In hand with that, I also really adore traveling, especially getting really immersed into the local culture. I grew up living all over (Navy Brat), so I’m always looking for the next place to visit, near or far! I’ve slowed down on the actual moving, though… In my adult life I’ve lived in: San Diego, CA (my hometown); Seattle, WA; Sandpoint, ID; Fort Collins, CO; and now Portland, OR… which I don’t see myself leaving anytime soon!
My hubby and me (last summer). This is the most dressed up that either of us get. ;)
Describe your personality in 10 words!
I am a spontaneous, adventurous, silly, funny, somewhat nerdy, bookworm! Ten words! ;) My hubby said I should add kind, generous, smart, and outgoing to the list. He’s a keeper! ;)
How long have you been penpalling? How did you first start? Tell us about your first penpal!
Being a Navy Brat and having to leave a new friend behind (or having them move away), every three months to a year growing up, I’ve been penpalling off and on since I was about 7 years old in an effort to keep in touch with people I like! (And later, to meet/connect with people I like!) My first penpal was my best friend, Joanna. I’ve unfortunately lost touch with some, and others (like Joanna) have moved to e-mail relationships… but my love of penpalling has never died! I still write to a pen friend who I was matched with in a high school penpal program at the age of 15. Our letters aren’t as long or frequent as they once were (I blame Facebook, haha), but we do still write! :)
Olly and Indy (this is the most dressed up they get, too).
How many penpals do you have now and where are they from?
I think I’m up to 20 penpals! Wowzahs! I’ve got penpals in several states: Washington, Oregon, Idaho, California, Michigan, Oklahoma, Texas, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virgina, and New York. My international penpals are in: Australia, England, Sweden, France, South Africa, and Russia. My penpals range in age from 20 to 65, and they’re all quite different from each other.
What are your favorite topics to discuss in letters?
I like the getting-to-know-you parts of letters… not just the basics, but the little things that collectively paint a better picture of someone. I love discussing adventures and neighborhoods/cities, hobbies, and everyday stuff like gardening or cooking or relationships… all of it! I love to know what books people are reading, too. :)
My first homemade envelope! A recent thing, and now I’m addicted!
What are you looking for in a penpal?
I look for someone who is willing to let me into their life and build a friendship… share small things and bigger things, and someone who thinks of writing me when something happens in their life, or when they go somewhere… because that’s how I am! I appreciate someone who is more on the laid back spectrum when it comes to writing… I mean, I don’t want to be waiting months to hear back from someone, but I don’t expect a pal to write me every week, either, so it’s nice to write to someone who can understand that I may have some extra time to churn out two or three letters one month, and only one the next. Oh, and shared interests are of course a big bonus! Love dogs, owls, foxes, nature, books, and wearing flip flops whenever possible? Mega bonus! ;)
The hubs and me in hoodies… our natural state!
What do you like the most about penpalling?
Keeping or forming friendships. And fun stationery! And stickers!
In what language(s) do you correspond?
English. I’ve mostly forgotten how to write in Spanish, unfortunately.
I hold my pen weird, I know.
What are some of your habits in regards to letter writing?
I write my letters sitting on the couch, at my desk, or at my table in the backyard. I often write postcards on my car’s dashboard, or in hotel rooms, or cafes. My response time varies greatly with how many people have replied at once, and what else I’ve got going on… I’d say an average of two weeks? I haven’t kept track… I write back different lengths, depending on who I’m writing to… I think penpals usually develop a flow and some are 2-4 pages every few weeks, some are 10 pages every other month… I guess my average is 4-6 pages.
I wish white pens lasted longer!
Has anything strange/funny ever happened to you since you’ve been penpalling?
Hmmm… nothing springs to mind. I guess that’s good, as it just means all of my penpals are lovely and sweet! ;) They send me wonderful letters and chocolates and teas and recipes and other goodies… I’m a lucky gal! Oh! I have gotten a few odd things (reminiscent of trash, honestly), through SwapBot. So yeah, no new SwapBot swaps for me, ha!
Have you met any of your penpals?
Other than the ones I knew prior to penpaling, nope, not yet! I’m 100% open to that, though!
A morning off to a great start!
Are you currently looking for more penpals?
While not actively pursuing new penpals at this exact moment (thanks to the AWESOME LEP welcome pile I have to write my way through!), I’m always open to new penpals! I love hearing from people all over the world… write me, find me on Instagram… let’s connect! :)
And now it’s your turn, send me an email so that I can interview and feature you here on the blog!
Guess what? As I have finished putting this post together, the sun is peaking out of the clouds. I told you Jen was a ray of sunshine!