Tuesday, May 31, 2016

World Stamp Show 2016 - NYC Recap

On Sunday, May 29th, I attended the World Stamp Show, held at the Jacob Javits Center in New York City. I kicked off the morning with a little Letter Writers Alliance meetup at a cafe near the Javits. What better way to get myself out of bed at 7am than the promise of coffee and letter writing with other likeminded people? The city was quiet-- Memorial Day weekend plus Sunday morning equals no one but tourists and service industry workers out and about at 9am.

Curtiss JN-4 "Jenny" Biplane, the subject of the infamous "Inverted Jenny" 24-cent stamp error. Inverted Jenny stamps have sold for more than $1 million USD each.

I really wanted the Views of Our Planets stamps, but they didn't come out until May 31st.

I was tired that morning, and anxious about meeting new people and going to things alone, but determined to follow through. I am very glad I did. It's a lovely treat to be surrounded by people with similar interests-- and neuroses around said interests. Like how good the hand-cancel on your first day cover is.

Mail out to League members... and myself! I would absolutely work this counter for eight hours, eight days straight. How does one get the job of cover canceler?

I stood at a table writing postcards and letters to League members while others frantically but precisely affixed postage stamps to their covers to get them canceled. That scene is all totally normal, right?

This lovely person took all my fake credit card money after someone else took all my cash. When I find myself in Clive, Iowa, I'll definitely be paying a visit to their store, Coins, Stamps, & Stuff. They were very helpful and nice. These bins (there were about four times more bins than what you see here) all contained full sheets of US stamps at face value.

Even though the USPS had, essentially, package Tetris on a gigantic video screen, Canada Post wins coolest booth because Star Trek! *swoon*

I've been interested in mail and stamps since I was a small child, though I've never been a "serious collector." I'm more interested in using different kinds of stamps to liven up my mail, and always try to buy commemorative issues before definitives (though let's be real-- if they're not American flag stamps, I will likely buy them). I still love seeing what stamps make their way through to me. It was way more exciting as a kid, because the Internet wasn't widespread enough to just look up stamps from other countries with a click. I had to patiently wait for mail to actually arrive at my house so I could see what cool stamps were being used on letters from the Philippines my Lola would mail to my mom. I'd steam them off by putting the envelopes in the rice cooker (Bonus: I used jasmine rice as glue to, um, stick stamps back onto a different envelope when I had envelope-addressing accidents. At least, this is what I did then. I doubt the pressure-adhesive would steam off very well these days.)

I got two sheets of these stamps, which I couldn't find at the previous stamp show I attended.

For me, letter writing has always been the package deal. I love everything to do with it-- stationery, stamps, pens, stickers, you name it. I'm so excited to send these little squares of paper through the mail! What's your favorite part about writing letters?

This is part of my haul. I couldn't get everything into one shot.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

A Frog's Ode to LEP

We have a super sweet and creative member in France who has written a poem in dedication to our fabulous community!

Thanks for these words Faiz AKA Frogzy!  

Faiz is an author of funny children's books. His website is fun, bright and colorful!

Saturday, April 30, 2016

When Your Reply Pile is Weeded

In the service industry, we call it "getting weeded" or "being in the weeds." It's when you're serving, and your restaurant is dead, and all of a sudden-- out of magical thin air-- five tables with four people each come in all at the same time, and need their dinner NOW, because there's a concert starting in an hour and a half at the theater next door that they're all going to. That awful run-on sentence? That's what getting weeded feels like. You keep going and going, and can't catch up. More people show up. Everyone is needy. Table Six needs more water. You've asked table Twenty what they'd like to order approximately seven times, and they still aren't ready. The steak medium rare for table eleven is steak medium well and they need another done. The chef is on a cigarette break. Your bartender is ignoring your drink ticket and instead chatting to the one person sitting at the end of the bar. Your head is going to explode.

This is the moment, everyone, where if you have been doing this long enough, you walk into the keg room, or the walk-in refrigerator, and you curse the world, and you cry.

Sometimes, this is what I feel like when I look at the pile of letters that I need to reply to. Some days, my reply pile procreates and makes little mini reply piles throughout my apartment. Often, I'll pat myself on the back for mailing out three letters in one afternoon, and then come home to five in my mailbox.

This should make me happy, Dear Reader. Getting Real Life Letters in your mailbox should, for the most part, make one happy. Just like having a restaurant full of customers should make a server happy. If you don't have customers, you don't get tipped. If you don't get tipped, you don't take home much money. Right? But sometimes-- even though they, your customers and your pen pals, are what keep you going-- you just want to yell at everyone to get the hell out. Of your restaurant. Of your reply pile. Just leave me the hell alone already.

And then, not more than a minute later, you emerge. From the icy heart of the keg room, you crack your knuckles, throw out some expletives, and wipe the smeared mascara from under your eyeballs.

Because what must be done must be done. You got this.


Strategies for making your reply pile less daunting:

Remember that this whole pen pal thing is supposed to be fun. If it's not fun, something needs to change.

Only take a few letters out of your house with you at a time so you're not having to pick from several to reply to.

If you need to catch up to lots of people with lots of news, type out said news in a printed form letter / newsletter and send a more personalized, but much shorter, handwritten reply along with it.

I am totally giving you permission to break chronological order and reply to whomever you want to, in whatever order.

In fact, you can even throw all your letters into a bag and pull one out to reply to at random.

'Snowball' your replies. Start with the shortest letter you intend to write first. Then the next shortest. If you get a couple of shorter pieces done, you'll feel less behind, and your reply pile will look smaller.

In the same vein, send a postcard to pen pals that have been waiting a while for a reply. Let them know you are, in fact, not dead, and still very much interested in writing to them.

Bring a letter writing kit with you wherever you go so you can write when your flight is delayed or when waiting on a long line or while at a baseball game. (I've been told I should watch out for foul balls and home runs, but I figure I can just shield myself with my clipboard.)

It's okay to stop writing to some of your pen pals if you feel way in over your head. Write them a letter explaining why you can no longer write to them. Thank them for their friendship. If you would like to keep in touch with them but simply can't write anymore, let them know they can follow you on [insert social media here]. Follow them back.

What tips do you have to reduce reply pile guilt?

Friday, March 25, 2016

Staff Announcement, or: Hello Kimmie!

Hi there. I'm Kimmie.

I've been penpalling since I was a wee child, and fully committed to being a letter writer some time around the year 2000. It was a thing nerdy punks did, and being a nerdy punk, well... letters it was. (Zines too, natch. Mail in general made-- and continues to make-- my heart swoon.)

Sad because though I got to play pinball all day,
the ice cream stands were all closed for the season.
Asbury Park, NJ.
I am thrilled to join the team at League of Extraordinary Penpals HQ this month. As a member of LEP since the beginning, I’ve enjoyed watching it morph, grow, and mutate into a magnificent collection of humans unlike any in the world. I have LEP to thank for best friends, companions in snarky swearing, joyous mail days, inspirational motivation, a dear sweetheart, an extensive fountain pen collection, and the deep knowledge that I am not alone in my weirdness.

Hanging out with my BFF Shark Girl.
Buffalo, NY.
I'm a born and raised New Yorker, and I still live here. When I'm not writing letters, dusting my typewriters, feminist rabblerousing, setting my fantasy football lineup (I commission the LEP Fantasy Football League), or cleaning my fountain pens, I can be found being a bookseller or bartending/serving.

If there's anything I can do to help make your LEP experience a magical one, or if you're thinking of joining the League and have any questions, don't hesitate to contact me: cpt.fancypants@kimmiedearest.com.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Oregon Meetup

Many thanks to our member Tamra in Oregon for sharing her meetup experience with us....

On a rainy Sunday afternoon, at the end of January, eight ladies gathered in a side room of the Gresham (Oregon) library to write letters, make cards, create envelopes, design Valentines, share supplies, eat tasty food and, of course, have fun. It was the first meet up of the Oregon-based League of Extraordinary Penpals. It was a wonderful time—but it had its share of frustrations and complications along the way.

I came up with the idea one afternoon when Nicole Orr, another LEP-er (as well as best friend and daughter) and I were getting out Valentine’s Day supplies. As usual, I had far more than I needed, and so I thought, wouldn’t it be fun to share these with other letter writers? Where would it be hosted though? There was my house but that meant I would spend the next two weeks cleaning frantically, which is never fun. (Cleaning and fun ARE oxymorons, right?) I called the library closest to my house and reserved their meeting room. One problem solved.

Next, I went to my LEP database and looked up anyone living in Oregon. I invited my already-made pen friends Jen Chastain-Escalante, Tee Cary, Christine Mauser, and Teri Staudinger. (And Nicole Orr, of couse!) I asked everyone to invite other pen friends. Teri brought Doris. I brought Jennifer (from The Letter Writer’s Exchange).

The morning of the meeting, I called the library to verify they provided tables and chairs. They found no indication of my reservation. Panic, panic. I told them I had email confirmation and they quickly put me down on the schedule. When I arrived at the library, they had—once again—misplaced my reservation. They gave me a much smaller room, which was a challenge to arrange to accommodate eight people, endless paper supplies and tons of food, but we managed.

For two and a half hours, LEP-ers and non-LEPers cut, punched, glittered, wrote, stamped, double-face taped, and glue dotted. We nibbled here and there too, but mostly we talked, laughed, shared, and got to know each other face to face instead of just on paper. It was a wonderful time, and we parted already discussing what we would do at the next one, tentatively scheduled sometime in early March. (Spring! Easter! St. Patrick’s Day!) I can’t wait to do it—and thank you SO MUCH. League of Extraordinary Penpals, for bringing us together in the first place.

Oh, and any Oregon or Washington area LEP-ers, if you want an invite to the next get-together, just email me directly at writinggoddess2@comcast.net and I will put you on the list.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Mail art from our members

We have some seriously talented members in our LEP community and I think it's about time we start showing off their mail art!

So, I'll kick this off with a few pieces and hopefully I'll soon be able to share more submissions from our members!

A lovely second letter getting to know the very generous Alethea! 
(Submitted by Rosie T. in the UK.)

Autumn/Halloween themes 
(Submitted by Lisa S. in the USA.)

Here is a collage of pictures of my Halloween swap that I'm pretty proud of.
(Submitted by Arlene S. in the UK.)

This is a happy doodle envelope, one of my favourite ways to decorate an envie. I love to 
draw in ink and use pencils to add some colour. I also love typography and 
always write the address in fancy lettering when I create mail art. 
I think the houses are so cute!
(Submitted by Alison B. in Australia.)

All handmade: two scrapbook paper envelopes, one woven envelope made from scraps of 
scrapbook paper, and a stamped stationery and envelope set!
(Submitted by Jen E. in the USA.)

Thank you for your submissions, LEP mail artists! Whether you decorate your envelopes or keep them simple, we can all agree on one thing... sending and receiving letters is one of life's most beautiful things!


Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Shine On LEP Members!

One of our members was inspired to write a poem about the LEP and it will certainly make you feel good about our penpal club!

The letters dripped from my pen and scampered cross the page.
They ran hither there and yonder where they screamed as in a rage.
But finally they gathered up and into word and phrase they fell.
Then sentences just appeared and this story they did tell. 
There is a League who still believes in paper and in pen.
They are comprised of him and her and those and sometimes them.
They believe the written word extends the reach of human touch.
And in this world gone so insane we need this so very much. 
Quixote like they joust the windmills of human despair.
You see they are our champions and friends extraordinaire.
Their lances are their fountain pens and they write letters long and true.
But most of the time they send a brief, "Friend, how'd you do?" 
They believe in Dulcinea beauty in each and everyone.
Their souls as brilliant as the fire radiating from the sun.
So shine on LEP members, I raise my glass and give a hail.
Send bundles of letters bright and bold and play havoc with the mail. 
~ Christopher Bombardier AKA Last Cloud Warrior

Thank you Chris for penning such sweet words for our community!