Revisiting ‘simple pleasures’
Jackie Wyse-Rhodes, assistant professor of religion, has always enjoyed sending and receiving mail. So when a friend referred Jackie to the “League of Extraordinary Pen Pals” in 2014, she was excited to pick up a new hobby.
The League of Extraordinary Pen Pals was founded by a stationery designer and one of her pen pals. While members use their real names, they also construct an alias that’s usually indicative of their interests and hobbies, and find pen pals via a database of addresses and social media information, along with interests and hobbies.
The league also put together a Facebook group and a monthly newsletter to better create a sense of community among its writers. (It does require a small annual fee to ensure legitimacy in its members’ intentions and to maintain the newsletter.) It is not uncommon to receive welcome letters upon joining the group, and such letters occasionally serve as an interlude into an established pen pal friendship.
Jackie, known to the group as “Translator of Ancient Runes and Interpreter of Mystical Signs” in reference to her interest in ancient texts, tends to write letters to five members regularly and sends postcards to another 12. Her pen pals cross international borders from Europe to Canada and, while she finds common ground with them though television shows or graphic novels, she also notes differences in culture. The league, she says, is “a way to get to know people I’d have never met.”
Jackie is also part of other, similar clubs. One is called “Snail Mail Monthly,” a smaller group that consists of about 20 members worldwide. Unlike the pen pals league, Snail Mail Monthly swaps its members’ information, and the members put together parcels for one another every other month with a certain theme.
“Postcrossing” is another comparable group in which she participates. This group focuses on sending postcards rather than letters, with the postcards sent to members around the world.
In a new-age world where email and Skype are thriving, Jackie has an explanation for her re-interest in tactile mail. “I think it reflects a return to the simple pleasures of my childhood,” she says.
Venessa Owsley ‘18
Jackie, known to the group as “Translator of Ancient Runes and Interpreter of Mystical Signs” in reference to her interest in ancient texts, tends to write letters to five members regularly and sends postcards to another 12. Her pen pals cross international borders from Europe to Canada.