I’m still beaming with leftover gratitude, food and cake from my birthday celebration weekend! I feel like I got to celebrate 3 days in a row. How lucky am I!?!!
And now it’s your turn to be lucky because I’m sharing a really sweet penpal interview with you today. Here’s Jocelyn!
Please tell us about you!
Greetings, fellow snail mail enthusiasts! I’m Jocelyn. I’m 24, and just moved back to my hometown of Asheville, North Carolina over the summer, after living elsewhere (elsewhere being a variety of places in two different countries) over the last six years. It’s a pretty cool town, and I’m enjoying being near my family again, but I don’t intend to stay forever – too much to see in the rest of the world! Right now, though, I’m content. I’m serving my second year with AmeriCorps VISTA, a national service program dedicated to fighting poverty. Members serve full-time for one year (or two, in my case, although the second is in a different position) with an educational institution or community organization, in exchange for a small living allowance and a great experience. I’m currently serving as VISTA Leader for a project that has 18 members placed in schools & non-profits around Asheville, all to benefit public education and children living poverty. Being VISTA Leader means my job is to support all of our members and the organizations they serve with, coordinate the project, and on the side, help with school volunteer coordination. Oh, and I also recently took on a part-time job with the Girl Scouts, but that hasn’t really started yet so I don’t have much to say about it.
How I look on a normal day/when I have exciting mail.
Other than writing letters (obviously), getting things done for America, and traveling (see above re: the rest of the world), I spend my time pursuing my quest to make the perfect grilled cheese sandwich (it’s more complicated than you’d think!), digging through the bins in all of our local thrift stores, enrolling in more MOOCs than I could possibly complete, buying more books than I could possibly read (and reading as many as I possibly can), competing in bar trivia nights (my team is now in a serious feud with my parents’ team), talking to my dogs (three of them – Rocky, Tosca, and Evvy) like they’re people, watching more television than is good for me, lusting over the variety of stationery supplies available on etsy (and spending too much money there), dabbling in various creative pursuits (currently, those are photography, adult coloring books, and meditative drawing), making bad jokes & cringe-worthy puns, arguing about public policy and feminist theory with random people I meet in bars, and expanding my knowledge of the various bottles of wine available for less than $5 at my local grocery store.
How I feel when my mailbox is empty.
Describe your personality in 10 words!
Adventurous, impulsive, opinionated, food-motivated (just like the dog trainer said about Rocky), extroverted, curious, intersectional feminist, long-winded, rule-breaker (parenthetical asides don’t count against my ten words, right? ;) And those hyphenated bits are single words!).
What I do as an AmeriCorps VISTA: Getting things done for America!
How long have you been penpalling? How did you first start? Tell us about your first penpal!
I’ve been penpalling on and off for about ten years now. Unfortunately, I lost touch with pretty much all of my penpals over the last few years of moving around a lot. It was also a transitional period for a lot of them, I think, as they were around my age, and it’s hard to keep things up in that uncertain early-adulthood stage! Anyway, I just got back into penpalling earlier this year, and I’m very happy I did. I love getting happy mail! My family thinks it’s a little weird; my dad only opens his mail twice a month. True story.
My first penpal was in 5th grade, and I remember literally nothing about her, unfortunately. I just remember we had class penpals. I don’t even remember where the other class was located. Apparently, I have a terrible memory. What I do remember, though, is how exciting it was when my teacher got that package of letters in the mail every few weeks!! I actually ended up taking on a second penpal when someone in my class moved, that’s how excited about it I was. I don’t remember anything about the second penpal, either, but when I started getting two letters, penpal day was even more exciting. Now, I want to make penpal day as many days as I possibly can, because those are the best days!
Some of my recent outgoing mail.
How many penpals do you have now and where are they from?
I’m not entirely sure how many penpals I have, because I feel like I’m still settling into penpalships, as I just got back into this hobby a few months ago. So I’ve written letters to a lot of people, and received a lot of letters, but I’m not sure how many of those will become regular penpals as time goes on. Right now, I’d say there are three people who have become regular penpals, but I’m sending and receiving a lot more mail since I joined the League of Extraordinary Penpals, so we’ll see. (Also, I totally recommend joining the LEP if you are a penpal enthusiast. Which I’m assuming you are, if you’re reading this blog. And no, Denise and Julie did not ask me to say this! It’s just an awesome group!)
What are your favorite topics to discuss in letters?
I’m happy to discuss how my day’s been, what’s going on in life, etc., but I think the best letters are the ones that go beyond that and into topics we both really care about. Just recently, I’ve written letters about grilled cheese sandwiches, awesome women in history that I should have learned about sooner, various political topics, Buffy the Vampire Slayer from a feminist perspective, and how a film about child soldiers relates to the depiction of violence committed by children in fiction.
I’m not always that serious, though, I promise. I also wrote a letter that included this joke:
Q: What is cheese’s favorite music?
Shockingly, I realized I couldn’t find a picture of myself eating a
grilled cheese sandwich, so this will have to do. Here, I am eating
a tiny sandwich from 100 Montaditos, one of my favorite restaurants
(it is a restaurant based on tiny sandwiches, with US locations in
Miami, DC, and New York) in Miami last year. This used to be my
LinkedIn profile picture, if that tells you anything about my personality.
What are you looking for in a penpal?
Someone who’s up for talking about anything, and is passionate about at least a few things. Like I said, talking about the weather or what I’m cooking for dinner is great, necessary, even, but I don’t want that to be all our penpalship consists of. I even like to talk about the things many people like to avoid, like politics and religion. (Unless what I’m cooking is grilled cheese sandwiches, which I am very passionate about.) And if you have strong opinions about punctuation, that would be great. My favorite is the semicolon, closely followed by the ampersand and the Oxford comma.
Also, someone who will write the first letter, because I hate that most of the time.
One of my favorite punctuation marks & best Goodwill finds ever!
What do you like the most about penpalling?
Meeting and befriending people I wouldn’t otherwise meet in the course of my normal daily life. That’s also one of my favorite things about traveling, so it’s nice to be able to recreate a little of that magic through letters.
In what language(s) do you correspond?
English only, I’m afraid. My skills in other languages are more limited to the weather and dinner types of conversation, and I don’t want to limit my friendships to that.
A sample of my handwriting.
What are some of your habits in regards to letter writing?
If my first letter is a generic intro letter, it will probably be short because I hate writing those. Otherwise, I write medium-long letters, which I consider to be at least 2 sides of A4 (or 4 sides of A5) paper with reasonably-sized handwriting, often considerably longer. But I’m not keeping track or anything, if you send me a shorter letter than that, I don’t mind, as long as it’s interesting! My favorite place to write is in a coffee shop, with a nice hot beverage and a view out onto the street. (But in reality, I do most of my writing in my bed with a lap desk or at my kitchen table, because convenience.) I often like to set the scene when I start my letters – telling my penpal what’s going on around me as I write. It takes me anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to write back, depending on what’s going on in my life, but I think my average reply time is around 2-3 weeks. I don’t mind if it takes you longer to reply, of course. Any letter in my mailbox is exciting, no matter when it arrives!
I also recently acquired an instant camera that prints out what I call “tiny polaroids” (even though it is a Fujifilm camera) so you might receive some of those in a letter from me. I am very excited about it. I have a wall of them above my desk, mostly with pictures of my coworkers.
Some of my tiny polaroids on the wall over my desk. These are my coworkers
and fellow VISTAs, some of them prepared for their photos to be taken
and some of them less prepared.
Has anything strange/funny ever happened to you since you’ve been penpalling?
I got an envelope just the other day with no return address that contained only a single, unused one-cent stamp and a vocabulary flashcard for people learning English with the word “larger” on it. No earthly idea what that’s about.
Have you met any of your penpals?
Sadly, no, though I’d love to someday!
One of my best friends and me at the Minnesota State Fair in September, posing with
a butter sculpture. The butter sculptures are the busts of finalists in the beauty pageant,
and after the fair, they get to take home their butter sculptures. What do you do with
a 90 pound block of butter with your face carved into it???
Are you currently looking for more penpals?
Definitely! Feel free to send me an email (email@example.com) or just go right to the snail mail if you want. My address:
11 Barger Rd
Asheville, NC 28803
And now it’s your turn! Who wants to be interviewed here on the blog? Send me an email so we can work out the details of you becoming one of our next Penpal of the Week features!