What to Say?

This topic contains 28 replies, has 16 voices, and was last updated by Profile photo of Lyndsay Wood Lyndsay Wood 6 months, 3 weeks ago.

  • Author
    Posts
  • #32965
    Profile photo of Lyn Thorne-Alder
    Lyn Thorne-Alder
    Participant

    I’ve started writing letters, and I find that I’m at a loss what to say in anything longer than a postcard!
    Asking the recipient about their life is good, of course, but especially for friends I speak to every day on social media, what do I talk about that they won’t already know by the time the letter gets there? (Especially when mailing internationally!)
    Are there go-to ides you use for opening conversations?

  • #32996
    Profile photo of
    Anonymous

    @Lyn Throne-Alder Loads of ideas out there if ya Google “writing prompts” and similar searches, but maybe you can begin by telling them about your LetterMo challenge and why you’re doing it; then, focus on one thing and write about how it made you think/feel. “Thing” = something you read, watched, thought about, ate, dreamed, etc. Letters are wonderful for drawing out thoughts! Enjoy!

    I’ve started writing letters, and I find that I’m at a loss what to say in anything longer than a postcard!
    Asking the recipient about their life is good, of course, but especially for friends I speak to every day on social media, what do I talk about that they won’t already know by the time the letter gets there? (Especially when mailing internationally!)
    Are there go-to ides you use for opening conversations?

  • #33131
    Profile photo of Carrye
    Carrye
    Participant

    Less is more, I think. It makes it easier for the recipient to answer quickly.

    @@aldersprig

    Pinterest has tons of ideas!

    http://www.snailmaillove.com/blog/2015/7/1/5-tips-for-writing-a-first-letter-to-a-new-penpal

    Questions can also be presented as mail tags
    http://www.mailmadeeasyshop.com/2015/09/mail-tag.html

    I like the booklet idea, too.
    http://penpaloftheweek.com/2012/11/30/beautiful-booklet/

    I want to try file folder mail this go ’round

    Outgoing // file folder mail #penpals

    A post shared by H E L E N (@happymail__) on

    www.postable.com/mizlit / Postcardly referral: https://postcardly.com/ref/0polzmqh /Patreon Member/SendSomething.Net
    InCoWriMo 2017 Participant https://incowrimo-2017.org/ Letter Writers Alliance Member

  • #33222

    I find that I tend to describe the minutae of my day, which is stuff I don’t share on social media. Like the fact that I can hear the trains in the distance and that there’s a slight draft from the fireplace because I forgot to close the flue. (Speaking of which, I should go do that now.)

    --
    Mary Robinette Kowal
    http://www.maryrobinettekowal.com

  • #33261
    Profile photo of Sharon Bowman
    Sharon Bowman
    Participant

    I often spend the first letter describing myself and my world (husband, dog, work, hobbies). I other letters I speak about my travels, completed or future, or various random thoughts related to my day, my family dynamics, etc., stuff that is on my mind that day. Depending on the person, I chat about pens and inks. And, of course, once I have a letter back, we can dialogue about each other’s info. For example, we chat about marital struggles and successes, dog and human child triumphs, retirement planning, problems with neighbors, problems and successes with work, and projects we are working on. Sometimes we exchange recipes, photographs, or other odd things that we know will make sense to the other one. In a few cases, we have discussed religion and politics – those topics only after knowing each other for a while. And sometimes we are able to provide advice for the other, based on our expertise.

    In other words, once you have exchanged a couple letters, you will find it easier to give more random details than occur in your social media postings.

  • #33307
    Profile photo of Ruth Feiertag
    Ruth Feiertag
    Participant

    Lyn,

    I find that writing — actual manuscript, pen-in-hand writing — calls up ideas and insights that I wouldn’t have discovered typing. It takes a little time to get back in the swing of letter-writing.

    You can hold back some items from social media to use in your letters. I have a friend (Hi, Jaynie! Are you reading this?) with whom I e-mail daily, but we have divided topics into ones that go into e-mails and ones that go into letters.

    I think Mary’s advice about lingering over details is excellent. Some of the best letters I have ever received dwelt at length on one topic. And Letter Month can be an excellent motivator to write to people who have been significant in your life to tell them how much they have meant to you and why.

    And there’s always the option of making something up. No one says that you have to stick to the facts. Start with “Once upon a time” and see what your pen puts on the paper next. I’ll bet lots of people would be fascinated by the details of your last alien abduction. I heard a rumour that you had to turn down an offer of a knighthood from the queen — again. If you get desperate, tell some family stories. You could make those up too, but only if you’re sure you won’t get caught : ).

    Ruth

    Ruth Feiertag * www.postable.com/ruthfeiertag * http://www.penknife-editing.net

  • #33345
    Profile photo of Bridget Larsen
    Bridget Larsen
    Participant

    People have told me that my introduction letter is very interesting, if you listen to how my husband describes me- manufactured in Fiji with Chinese parts and exported to Australia and having intimate relations with the US (that’s married to him a US Citizen). Hahahahaha even for me that’s pretty funny.

    So i tell my marital status, kids, animals, hobbies, adventures lately or the last year, by the time I finish it’s a novel.

    I write like I would chat with someone IRL.

    My blog: http://bridgetlarsen.blogspot.com.au/

  • #33378
    Profile photo of Lyn Thorne-Alder
    Lyn Thorne-Alder
    Participant

    Thanks, everyone! There’s a lot of good ideas here.

  • #33382
    Profile photo of Ruth Feiertag
    Ruth Feiertag
    Participant

    I just found this on (if I may mention it here) the InCoWriMo site:

    http://incowrimo.org/how-to-write-a-letter/

    I haven’t watched it yet, so I don’t know how helpful it is, but it’s another resource.

    Ruth

    Ruth Feiertag * www.postable.com/ruthfeiertag * http://www.penknife-editing.net

  • #33508
    Profile photo of LR McArthur
    LR McArthur
    Participant

    Here are some site suggestions that may give you ideas and inspiration:

    https://www.thepencompany.com/blog/pen-pals/pen-pal-questions/

    http://lettersandgifts.tumblr.com/post/100110490648/100-things-to-tell-your-penpal

    http://www.onecraftymumma.com/2014/10/25-things-to-write-to-a-pen-pal-about.html

    "Letter writing is the only device for combining solitude with good company." ~Lord Byron

    Please click this link and enter your contact information www.postable.com/lrmcarthur
    InCoWriMo 2017 Participant https://incowrimo-2017.org/ Letter Writers Alliance Member

  • #33550
    Profile photo of Lyn Thorne-Alder
    Lyn Thorne-Alder
    Participant

    Wow, thank you, @lr-mcarthur!

  • #33712
    Profile photo of Sara Glassman
    Sara Glassman
    Participant

    I often have some small story about my day that I can turn into a funny little vignette. Either one of my (far too many) pets has done something, or something has happened at one of my jobs that is amusing. For example, a lady yesterday returned a book because she couldn’t find her granddaughter’s address. I can only speculate about what else was going on there…

    Sara Glassman - * Postable: www.postable.com/saraglassman * website: www.medusaslibrary.com

  • #33941
    Profile photo of Ruth Feiertag
    Ruth Feiertag
    Participant

    Sara,

    That sounds like the start of a great YA novel.

    Ruth

    Ruth Feiertag * www.postable.com/ruthfeiertag * http://www.penknife-editing.net

  • #33968
    Profile photo of Mia
    Mia
    Participant

    The first letter can be quite daunting. I used to write something akin to a CV mentioning some hobbies (all about me)- but now have changed what I first write. Perhaps I have always wanted to visit the area you live in or have already been. Perhaps the name of your street evokes some memory or connection. Perhaps I have a relative or friend shares your first name and then there is a little anecdote to tell (how they had posters of Tom Jones, Sean Connery and/or other music/film stars, etc – your reply could be, “It wasn’t Tom Jones on my wall but David Bowie..”).. The old fail-safe – the weather (have you been affected by the storm/tornado…?). I even imagine we are friends already.

    You want something to stir a response, even just in their thoughts (oh yes, The Hunt for Red October …). Some first letters I’ve received here/InCoWriMo/Swap-Bot have been so incredibly boring and have been a struggle to reply to. There should be a couple of questions, but don’t make it an interrogation/job interview. However, even “It’s been cold recently, hasn’t it?” isn’t really a question, but it does allow for a response.

  • #34122
    Profile photo of Melissa Krueger
    Melissa Krueger
    Participant

    I’ve started writing letters, and I find that I’m at a loss what to say in anything longer than a postcard!
    Asking the recipient about their life is good, of course, but especially for friends I speak to every day on social media, what do I talk about that they won’t already know by the time the letter gets there? (Especially when mailing internationally!)
    Are there go-to ides you use for opening conversations?

    In years past, I was doing intro letters… but after a while that gets a bit tiresome and repetitive. This year most of my focus is on responding to letters that have been waiting here for months (my father passed away last summer, so letter writing just went by the wayside for a variety of reasons). I’m writing to some new folks, too – and I’m just approaching it as if sitting with them over a cup of coffee. Random slice of the day, as if we’ve known each other for years or we’re coworkers going out for lunch. You’re not going to lay everything out in your life in the first go, then – but it starts a connection from a casual chat.

    It’s a bit different, and I don’t know if it will work… but LetterMo seems like as good a time as any to try a new approach to letter writing. 🙂

    Postable: http://www.postable.com/melissakrueger ** Blog: http://www.measi.net/measiblog/

  • #34814
    Profile photo of Ruth Feiertag
    Ruth Feiertag
    Participant

    Melissa,

    I am sorry about your father’s death. Mine died almost ten years ago; I still miss him. No wonder letter-writing had to get pushed aside. I think you and Mia have the right idea. Start small and build up topics from there.

    Ruth

    Ruth Feiertag * www.postable.com/ruthfeiertag * http://www.penknife-editing.net

  • #35199
    Profile photo of fly
    fly
    Participant

    Start with something trivial. It doesn’t have to be the weather, but just anything. “Just got back from the grocery store…”
    Add a detail or two “can you believe they were out of tomatoes?” or “have you ever tried star fruit?” or “the cutest little kid was pushing a shopping cart…”
    Go from there “tomorrow I will be making my own spaghetti sauce…”

    Then continue. It is easier to start a conversation with something simple and ease in to the meat of things.

    This is the Year Of The Postcard... can you help me?
    MML - PO BOX 864 - Mt. Juliet, TN 37121 - USA

  • #35700
    Profile photo of Elizabeth
    Elizabeth
    Participant

    A very interesting topic. Can’t say I usually have a problem. Write depending on my mood, I suppose – from mundane housework to philosophy of life…moderated by relevance to the letter being replied to. Had wondered if the everyday (type of weather for instance), might be boring, but the replies here are reassuring…
    I don’t correspond to many people on social media (one or two with emails). I can’t see that I would use both means for the same person.

    Elizabeth.
    On the English coast.
    Hoping to hear from creatively inclined people UK and Europe. See profile for other interests...

  • #36776
    Profile photo of Christina
    Christina
    Participant

    I confess that last year to prep for Month of Letters I downloaded a PDF called “The Book of Questions.” It has 1001 “getting to know you” questions. For people with scant or blank profiles I would write dozens of questions. If people had full profiles I’d still have tons of questions, but they’d be very specific and custom to their rarer interests: I tell them I’m trying to win the “nobody ever asked me that before” prize.

  • #36982
    Profile photo of Ruth Feiertag
    Ruth Feiertag
    Participant

    Christina,

    That’s brilliant. Here’s a story I think you’ll appreciate.

    A few years ago, my husband, son, and I went to visit my family. One night, we all went out with friends who have a son the same age as ours. The two boys — young men now — don’t see each often, but they always pick up as if they’ve never been apart. Our friends also have a daughter a little younger than the boys, a straight-arrow, A+ student who has her life plotted and planned and never goes to bed without finishing her homework. During dinner, my husband noticed that no one was including the girl in the conversations. Pierre leaned over and said, just casually enough, “So, Emma —— how’s the parole going?”

    To her credit, Em didn’t miss a beat. She flipped her hair back and started telling Pierre that it was ok, but her parole officer was kind of a jerk…

    That was definitely a question no one had ever asked her before.

    Ruth

    Ruth Feiertag * www.postable.com/ruthfeiertag * http://www.penknife-editing.net

    • #37311
      Profile photo of Christina
      Christina
      Participant

      Heh! Ruth that is a great story! I’m also finding penfriends here asking me questions I’ve never had before, and sometimes I steal ’em!

      One question I used on my first foray into penfriendship: “What seven famous people, alive or dead, would you invite to dinner? What would you serve them? What dinner music would you have, if any? Would you play parlour games afterwards?” To me it seemed a good way to peek into the recipient’s mind, learn their beloved foods and music and entertainment.

    • #52134
      Profile photo of Sharon
      Sharon
      Participant

      Awesome! =)

  • #37055
    Profile photo of Lyn Thorne-Alder
    Lyn Thorne-Alder
    Participant

    There are a lot of helpful answers here!

    I am one of those on-Twitter-and-Hangouts-all-the-time sort of people, so I have been going more philosophical with my online friends and looking up questions to ask for the others.

  • #37119
    Profile photo of
    Anonymous

    @rfeiertag Great story 🙂

    Christina,

    That’s brilliant. Here’s a story I think you’ll appreciate.

    A few years ago, my husband, son, and I went to visit my family. One night, we all went out with friends who have a son the same age as ours. The two boys — young men now — don’t see each often, but they always pick up as if they’ve never been apart. Our friends also have a daughter a little younger than the boys, a straight-arrow, A+ student who has her life plotted and planned and never goes to bed without finishing her homework. During dinner, my husband noticed that no one was including the girl in the conversations. Pierre leaned over and said, just casually enough, “So, Emma —— how’s the parole going?”

    To her credit, Em didn’t miss a beat. She flipped her hair back and started telling Pierre that it was ok, but her parole officer was kind of a jerk…

    That was definitely a question no one had ever asked her before.

    Ruth

  • #37561
    Profile photo of Mia
    Mia
    Participant

    One of the forum games on my snailmail forum is Five Questions, Answer by Snailmail. The questions can be silly, some silly ones you have to think about (you got up this morning, you got dressed, but which leg did you put in your trousers first?), others about hobbies, interests, places you’ve been or would like to go, music, food, drink, …. The famous people to dinner has been asked (6, I think, and where you’d seat them…). Periods in history you’d like to visit, if you had a time machine to hand… etc.

  • #37681
    Profile photo of Ruth Feiertag
    Ruth Feiertag
    Participant

    Christina and Mia,

    Those are good questions. A while back, my sister-in-law sent me an e-mail about getting together with the twelve women one finds most interesting. I think the idea was to invite living people one knows, people who would likely accept the invitation. Unfortunately, as she and I discussed, while we both could think of a dozen women we’d like to invite, most were scattered around the country and the travel cost was too prohibitive.

    Ruth

    Ruth Feiertag * www.postable.com/ruthfeiertag * http://www.penknife-editing.net

  • #37893
    Profile photo of Melissa Krueger
    Melissa Krueger
    Participant

    Melissa,

    I am sorry about your father’s death. Mine died almost ten years ago; I still miss him. No wonder letter-writing had to get pushed aside. I think you and Mia have the right idea. Start small and build up topics from there.

    Ruth

    Thanks Ruth. It’s been a strange few months. It’s nice to be back into writing to just *write*. LetterMo has always been a great freedom experiment with different letter styles to just get back into the groove.

    Postable: http://www.postable.com/melissakrueger ** Blog: http://www.measi.net/measiblog/

  • #38155
    Profile photo of Ruth Feiertag
    Ruth Feiertag
    Participant

    That’s true. I wrote differently to different people, which I’m sure is true for all of us.

    Ruth

    Ruth Feiertag * www.postable.com/ruthfeiertag * http://www.penknife-editing.net

  • #55585
    Profile photo of Lyndsay Wood
    Lyndsay Wood
    Participant

    Ask what they do in free time. Any hobbies, favorite books and things and just make sure you give a little info about yourself too. Would love to write let me know

    Please feel free to add your address at: postable.com/Ninniewatkins

You must be logged in to reply to this topic.