By now you might have picked up on the fact that February is International Correspondence Writing Month, and you may yourself be participating full on, writing a letter a day to someone, or maybe just writing a letter or two this month for the fun of it. We held our first Pen Pal Match Up this month, in preparation for InCoWriMo, where you put a little bit about yourself, and we matched you all up - someone writing to you, and someone for you to write to first. You did not have to be participating in InCoWriMo to sign up for a pen pal, it was just a timing thing for us to host this. Classiky Stickers Swallows Toronto Canada We had almost 350 people from 19 countries sign up, which is a bit astounding to me, since we primarily consider ourselves a pretty tiny "Canadian" shop - with our brick and mortar here in Toronto, and only shipping online within Canada. How did you all hear about us?? The largest age bracket was 30-39, and this was also, proportionally, the most international one. I had one person who entered into the 50+ category who left a comment about still being young at heart, which made me laugh out loud (actually quite a few of the extra comments made me laugh). The smallest category was under 20, although I had a few requests for us to host a kid's pen pal match up, which we might get going on soon. Stay tuned! We had some very cool people sign up for the match up, including:
  • a dual US/Canadian citizen airline pilot
  • several musicians/artists
  • someone who eats a lot of popcorn (if I had entered myself into the pen pal match, I might have matched myself with this person based on this fact alone)
  • a Brazilian who now lives in Italy, but for a period of time lived in Waterloo, Canada
  • a midwife
  • someone who grew up on her family dairy farm
  • several calligraphers or budding calligraphers
  • someone learning origami
  • an Indian studying astrophysics at a graduate school in Germany
  • a few stay-at-home moms
  • someone who wrote: "The king of hearts is the only king without a moustache." which I did not know, and which I thought would've come from a customer of ours who designs really amazing playing cards (which we used at the cottage for our team retreat!), but actually came from someone else...
And of course many more. I was thrilled and delighted by the response, which was amazing. In total, we had around 350 people join in, which sounds daunting to organize, but became a bit overwhelming when we got right down to the actual sorting. I sat on the bed surrounded by piles of paper organized by age and by special requests and by willingness to develop a long-term correspondence and by people I need to send follow-up emails to. It was nuts. Letter Writing Club Toronto Mostly everyone who marked as being open to an international match up received one, if not two international pen pals, depending on their age bracket, but it depended a bit on your age bracket and the specific requests of the people in it. I was surprised to see I had the highest number of folks specifically requesting a non-international match up from the US, and I had not anticipated the difficulty of matching up international people with other international people given that most of our pen pals were from Canada. The biggest mistake I made on the form was not indicating the mailing address in separate boxes, as you do when you order things online, or fill out government forms: a separate box for your street address, city, postal code, country, etc., rather than one big box for your entire mailing address. I had selected one big box because I had thought about international addresses not always conforming to Canadian or US standards, but I ended up having to email quite a few people with clarifications on their mailing address because they had put their email address instead of a mailing adress, or incomplete mailing information, missing towns or postal codes or more. I also wanted to mention that I had a few people request pretty specific things, like LGBT friendly, or politically leaning one way or the other. I did my best (which, getting later into the evening, got a bit squirrelly, I admit), but I'm hoping and trusting that, if you were one of these people worried about these things, everyone you might be matched up with is open-minded and will appreciate that the great part of getting to know someone new might be getting to know a different perspective in life. Also, it was mainly difficult because a lot of people didn't put how they felt about very many issues, just...if they had kids, or had a special hobby, or ate a lot of popcorn. Clairefontaine Triomphe Paper Stationery Toronto Canada In total, it was much, much more work than I initially anticipated when I said to Jon, "let's run a pen pal match-up!" - although most of the work fell to Jon's side of things, which I guess is usually how things go when these ideas strike. Jon and the team spent literally hours and hours emailing people to confirm addresses, and then to email 350 people out their matches, and then having to follow up with people emailing in looking for their match because a large number of our emails got caught in spam folders, and then coordinating a last minute (much smaller) second round of pen pal matches for people submitting information late. Some of our staff even took piles of matches home to email from home because there just weren't enough hours in the day to get the emails out, alongside our normal shop and shipping operations. But it has been incredible to read emails and letters and messages from some of you excited and nervous and thrilled at the idea of writing a letter to someone completely new to you. Running a shop involves a lot of logistics and counting and taxes most days, but it is a pretty wonderful thing to be able to help tangibly facilitate hundreds of people picking up their pens and writing and maybe making a new friend or a life-long connection. We're loosely planning on having another one in the summer, if you missed out on this round or are thinking of signing up again. I think for the next one, though, we may have to go for something more randomly sorted - according to your favourite colour, or your favourite animal.      
February 12, 2017 — wonderpens

Comments

Stepcam

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Pen Pal Match Up Opens Again: One for Adults, One for Kids - Wonder Pens - Life Behind a Stationery Shop

Pen Pal Match Up Opens Again: One for Adults, One for Kids - Wonder Pens - Life Behind a Stationery Shop said:

[…] If you’re curious about how previous pen pal match ups have gone, you can check out this blog post. […]

Peter

Peter said:

After writing a few letters to one of the pen pals, my writing is a wee bit better. The other pen pal you gave me to write to initially didn’t respond. He was Texan, so I guess he was expecting more!

The random sort sounds interesting though!

wonderpens

wonderpens said:

Glad to hear your writing is a bit better! I’m sorry your Texan didn’t work out, I hope you have better luck this time, if you join again.

And I should say it’s not QUITE random, but there is definitely going to be a little bit more variation than before. :)

Stepcam

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wonderpens

wonderpens said:

It was our pleasure! And in fact, we’ve gotten to hear from so many folks, old and new, that it really was such a wonderful thing for us as well. I’m looking forward the summer pen pal match as well, and also your visit to the shop if you’re ever in the neighbourhood :)

wonderpens

wonderpens said:

Thanks so much for your kind words! Wishing you many letters and wonderful correspondence :)

wonderpens

wonderpens said:

We’ll be having another one in the late summer, stay tuned!

Abegail G

Abegail G said:

That’s awesome! Sad I missed it. Definitely looking forward to the next match up :)

wonderpens

wonderpens said:

Will be coming back at the end of summer, stay tuned! :)

wonderpens

wonderpens said:

I love my pen roll! It does start out quite stiff – actually I put my personal one that I’d used for a year+ (quite heavily) on display just so people could see how much it really softens up, and someone bought it!

I don’t find the buckle particularly cumbersome for me personally, but that may be because if you don’t buckle it up, things can really go wrong in a bag… :)

If you’re ever in the shop, which may be quite a trip for you, don’t hesitate to ask to see my pen roll, or one of the staff’s (a few of us have them), to see how it feels over time. Hope that helps :)

Deborah

Deborah said:

Sad that I missed it :(

greg

greg said:

Just wanted to say great job, and thank you too the whole team. I have sent and received my first letters, which brightened by day.

thanks again

Nikki

Nikki said:

Massive thanks for setting this up! I’d definitely be up for signing up again.

Excellent work, and if I’m lucky enough to make it to Toronto again (all the way from Mid Wales), I’ll definitely make sure I drop by the shop :)

Julie-Anne Mendoza

Julie-Anne Mendoza said:

Hi Liz!

I’ll be looking forward to the summer penpal match up! I’m catching up on the blog, and I keep noticing lovely photos of your penroll. I’ve looked at them in the stop but they’ve always seemed quite stiff in person, and I’m worried about the buckle strap being cumbersome. Does the leather soften up with use?

wonderpens

wonderpens said:

Yes, please stay tuned! We’ve had so much great feedback, so I think we will try for it again this summer :)

wonderpens

wonderpens said:

Haha, you were the one I was thinking of! And that is too funny. :)

wonderpens

wonderpens said:

Hi Marilyn, I’m sorry that you have not received either an email with your initial pen pal or a response to your email inquiry. Have you checked your spam yet? I will look into this now and someone will send you a follow-up email once we figure out what’s going on. As you might be able to tell from reading the blog post, it was not only an incredible amount of logistical work, it was our first time handling something of this nature, and I sincerely apologize if your name (or others) have fallen through the cracks. It was certainly not our intention to have anyone disappointed by this initiative. Thank you so much for your understanding. -Liz

wonderpens

wonderpens said:

We do plan on doing another one this summer! We’ve had a lot of people say it’ll be their first pen pal in years (or ever!) and it’s been really wonderful to be a part of this. Stay tuned for the summer! :)

wonderpens

wonderpens said:

Thank you for signing up! It was a lot of work, but well worth it, as we’ve heard back from so many people. And as long as your writing can be read, that’s the most important thing :)

wonderpens

wonderpens said:

Yes, that’s right! Who would’ve dreamed it would be so popular! We always get questions about “who’s using fountain pens” and “who is even still writing this days” – but I guess people still are :)

Peter

Peter said:

I didn’t realize just how many people signed up & just how much work it took to get it all in action.

Thanks a bunch, maybe with this my writing will improve. It is terrible these days! But at least it can be read…

Lynda

Lynda said:

Wow, your dedication to this is really impressive! I hadn’t been aware of this pen pal group or I’d have requested for my husband and myself, so hopefully you do another in the summertime – sounds like fun. :)

Marilyn Elphick

Marilyn Elphick said:

Hi Liz
This is the second email I have sent with regard to getting a pen pal with no response. I will be very disappointed if I have been left off the list.
Regards
Marilyn

wonderpens

wonderpens said:

I’m so glad to hear it! Wishing you the best with your new pen pals!

wonderpens

wonderpens said:

Oh no, could you check your spam, and if it’s still not there, send us an email info@wonderpens.ca and we’ll check on things here?

Nadine

Nadine said:

Wow! That was a lot of work for all of you.
Who ever dreamed it would be so
Popular and complicated ?!?!?!?
Thank you for making all of this possible.

Karen McNamara

Karen McNamara said:

This sounds like so much fun! Sorry I missed out but I will keep my eyes open this summer for the next one.

Gregory Furan

Gregory Furan said:

Not sure whether I got linked up with a penpal or not. Don’t think I received a confirmation. Didn’t see it if it came through my inbox.

Silvie

Silvie said:

Wow, that was a lot of work for you guys! I really appreciate it! It is so much fun!

Brendan Hong

Brendan Hong said:

The King of Hearts did have a moustache in the past, but through various re-drawings and this being done poor by unskilled artist, it got shaved off.

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