I get messages every week asking me how to find penpals, so I figured I would do my best to answer the question in a blog post that everyone can see.
First of all, understand that this is not an overnight process. I’ve always been interested in mail, but I didn’t really thrust myself into the snail mail community until 2008. It has taken me years to build up the list of contacts I have, and I’m extremely grateful for the people who I’ve met through the wonders of the post.
In 2008, my boyfriend sent me a link to Postcrossing. He knew immediately that it was something I would be interested in. I had no idea something like that even existed! After a while, I searched for similar sites and happened upon Swap-Bot. For almost two years, all I really did was swap postcards, letters, and supplies with people who I was “assigned to” on those sites. After a while, though, I grew tired of not being able to establish longer-lasting connections with the people I was corresponding with, and focused my efforts more on developing relationships with these like-minded people.
In 2011, I decided to do the 365 Days Of Mail Art challenge. I had way less than 300 contacts, so in an effort to not send tons of things to the same people over and over, I had to expand my resources. That was the year that I met lots of the people who I still correspond with.
At this point in my life, I just respond to the things I receive. I don’t have time to seek out new penpals, but I do my very best to keep up with the ones I already have, and any new people who find me. Whenever I meet people in person who find out I “still” send snail mail, their first question is always “How many penpals do you have?” and I find this a tough question to answer. I get mail from approximately 25 different people every week. Some of those people find me through my blog and are writing thank you/fan mail. Some of those people are friends who I’ve grown so close to that I’ve bought plane tickets to visit them. Some of those people only send postcards. And some of those people I’ve been exchanging with for years and continue to send me beautiful and elaborate pieces of mail art.
The rate at which people write back always varies. Some people have a turnaround time of one week, which is extremely impressive, and others won’t write back to me until five calendar holidays have passed. The level of intimacy I experience with my penpals varies drastically, as does the medium of mail. Know that just because you like to send long letters doesn’t mean that the people who receive them will reciprocate. If you’re looking for something specific in terms of snail mail, you should be up front with your recipients about that from the beginning.
Now, after all that hulabaloo, here are some sources for you to find people to write to!
This site will send you addresses and profiles of people all over the world. The people you receive from are different from who you send to. You have the option of sending to your own country as well, but understand that by signing up for this you are more than likely going to be sending a lot of international mail.
Pros: Getting (approximately) the same number of postcards that you send. Receiving mail from countries you’ve never been to, and learning lots about other cultures. Having the opportunity to customize what you send to others’ profiles, thus making their day when something hits the mark.
Cons: Costs can get expensive. If you’re sending from the US, each international postcard you send is $1.15. You don’t get to develop too much of a connection with the people you’re corresponding with; it’s very much a one-way street. Lots of users claim to dislike “handmade” cards, which can feel like it’s limiting your creativity.
Here, you will find themed swaps that you can sign up for. You will have a partner(s) that you send something specific to, and a deadline to send it by. You will get “rated” on the things you send. The swaps can just be postcards or letters, but they can get very intricate and specific as well. Other swaps include: whimsy jars, craft supplies, mix CDs, zines, artistamps, electronic information, ATCs, mail art, and even candy.
Pros: It’s a little easier to develop relationships with the people you meet on this site. There are many international users, and you can receive products that you don’t have access to at home. Many people put a lot of effort into their swaps, and will even send “extras”. It’s a great outlet for creativity, and there are interest-specific groups that you can become very involved in. If you have an idea for a swap, you can host it yourself.
Cons: The environment can be very catty and judgmental. You are getting rated for everything you send, and you wouldn’t believe how many people will get mad at not receiving a “heart”, which means you went “above and beyond”. And one non-perfect rating can jeopardize your chances for even being able to sign up for future swaps. I found myself doing a lot of trading of supplies without actually creating anything. It’s great to gather unique materials, but if you’re spending all your time organizing supplies and not actually making, you might not be fulfilling your potential.
The Internationl Union Of Mail Artists is a place that is specific for mail artists. Are you really into rubber stamps, artistamps, and unique art that you can send through the mail? This is the place for you. This is the place where I found many of my contacts during my 365 challenge.
Pros: It’s great for fluxus/networking: think Facebook for mail. There are interest-specific groups, and lots of very passionate and generous people. Even lots of famous mail artists have profiles on IUOMA.
Cons: I actually can’t think of one. It’s perfect for what it is.
This is a very basic site, that can be really great. All you need is to make a profile, and you will have instant access to hundreds (thousands?) of profiles. You can write as much in your profile as you’d like, and you’re able to leave comments on others’ profiles. There is a “Random Address” option, that will instantly produce the profile (and address) of someone else on the site.
Pros: Great for random acts of kindness. If you have something that you want to gift to someone else, you can find random addresses to send to. You can also search by keyword, so if you search “horses”, anyone with that word in their profile will pop up. You never know what you’re going to get.
Cons: Lots of inactive profiles. My suggestion is to only send to people with “updated on XXXX” in their profiles. I’ve had more “return to sender” mail happen as a result of this site than anywhere else. (And make sure you put “updated on” in your profile, too!) You never know what you’re going to get.
This is another networking-based site. Full profiles, pictures, and more. Finding a penpal is up to you, because you won’t be “matched” with anyone.
Pros: Easily able to search for people that meet any specifications you have for penpals. Do you want someone in your country, of the same gender, around the same age? This will make it simple.
Cons: Many people don’t use this strictly for snail mail. Lots of users have profiles for IMing, e-mailing, dating, etc.
This is simply a storage site. Make an account and send your URL to friends (or post it on social media) so they can add their information.
Pros: Easy to keep track of contacts. Only you have access to the information.
Cons: Someone has to already have access to your URL in order to add their information.
Other things to keep in mind are snail mail blogs. You can always interact with people in the comments section, and keep an eye out for swaps the authors might be hosting or linking to. Put these sites in your blog reader:
Cappucino And Art Journal
Red Letter Day
Letter Writer’s Alliance
The Missive Maven
The Suburban Penpal
Wreck This Girl
52 Letters Project
Mail Art 365 – this project is still going on, and you can join at any time
League Of Extraordinary Penpals – a membership group
Mail Me Some Art – mail art swap
LetterMo – a challenge run every February
I strongly recommend attending a letter writing social, as well. Cities that have really embraced these types of socials are DC, Chicago, Indianapolis, and San Francisco. If you’re close to those areas, you’re in luck! But guess what? If there isn’t one near you, you can run it yourself. See socials I’ve been to before.
Feel free to add me and/or check out my profiles on any of these sites: Postcrossing / Swap-Bot / IUOMA / Send-something / Interpals / Postable
And furthermore, if you’re looking for a penpal, please make it known in the comments below! Maybe you’ll find a new penpal here today. If you know of additional sites that can help someone find a penpal, please list that as well.
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One more great website to use to dip your toes in mailart is http://mailmesomeart.blogspot.com/ . You get back as many postcards as you send and meet wonderful people….and Karen is awesome!
What about LetterMo? http://lettermo.com/
Yes! Every February lots of people send letters every day and log it at LetterMo. And Karen IS awesome. You should definitely participate in her swaps!
Thanks for posting these links/sources. I”ve got a whopping number of two pen pals and have been looking to expand. The mail social in DC looks interesting enough, too, so may check that out in the future.
GREAT post, Mary…so many wonderful resources presented here! I have been so haphazard in my mail art over the past year, and really want to get back into it and get organized about it. We’ll see what I manage! But I feel really inspired by what you have presented here.
Hey Mary — great post! Thanks for the shout out for my blog too. I am going to put the link there. Good job.
I found a number of my penpals through the Call for Correspondents via Good Mail Day: http://goodmailday.com/2011/12/16/2012-call-for-correspondents/
The post is technically for 2012/2013 but people still occasionally post addresses there and it’s a good resource.
The Letter Writers Alliance (LWA)http://16sparrows.com/LWA/ has a service where they will match you with a pen pal. I haven’t tried it but I know plenty of people who have!
Most importantly: to get a letter, send a letter! 🙂
I LOVE LOVE LOVE LWA!! I’ve been a member for about a few years now. It’s so great!
Yes!! I love having a membership card and stuff like that, it’s so official!
Hi heather, my name is Victor and I live in Klamath falls, OR. If you are interested in sending a letter or swapping art, my address is PO Box 1412 Klamath Falls, OR 97603. Have a nice day!
I sent you a few things, Victor.
what a great, comprehensive overview. I like the breakdown of pros and cons. (and thanks for the MMSA and comment love!)
Thanks Mary. I’m interested in snail mail/ pen paling b/c I’m tired of just receiving junk mail everyday. And I luv crafting and photography and it would give me a chance to share it w/ people who also may appreciate it. I will be checking out these websites soon. 🙂
Thank you for the resources – I hadn’t heard of several of them!
The trick with Swap-bot is to join groups of like-minded people. I have several very good penpals from groups I started or joined.
I believe the rating system actually helps to weed out flakey individuals rather quickly, so if you put a lot of time and effort into your mail, you won’t get left with nothing in return (most swap hosts are willing to “angel” and send you something if your partner doesn’t).
It’s true that it can be tough to overcome bad ratings, but if you send what the swap specifies ON TIME, you won’t get bad ratings. Swapping in groups helps with the heart thing because, again, you’re among like-minded people who will enjoy what you send!
I have been looking to get into snail mail art again. If anyone would like and extra friend.
12106 sycamore terrace drive apt E
Cincinnati ohio 45249
Sending you a flyer.
Word up, folks! Ravin’s address bounced. I got my mail returned. Peace.
Good to know, thanks Daryl! Sorry about you wasting postage.
Hi, send me a flyer too! Really looking forward to actually writing letters. I was taught it was always the best way and way more personal. Can’t wait. 3630 2nd street n.e. Minneapolis, Mn. 55428 Thanks, Bella
Hi Bella! Sorry I missed you. (As if I don’t check this page every month or second Sunday! My bad!) Got a flyer and letter ready to post!
I have always had and loved art and penpals and now I’m ready to combine the two! I love nature, science, philosophy, and anything quirky.
1 Ardoyne Road
Sending you something quirky!
Hey! I am currently looking for a pen pal who would like to exchange post cards, letters, and maybe small parcels if you’re up for it. I just really love to give little gifts!
Email me; firstname.lastname@example.org
Hi there, great article – Another great reference for penpals by post and even epals is Global Penfriends (www.globalpenfriends.com). The site is family friendly and has helped me from being lonely to having so many penpals i almost don’t have time to write to them all. This site has helped me and I want to spread the word.
Thanks for the tip, Tris!
https://www.penpaland.com recommended !
Penpalling and Letters is a community of people interested in the art of letter-writing. At present it exists as a Facebook group only so anyone interested in joining needs to have a profile in this social network. The environment is friendly with serious letter-writers from all over the world. Moderators take care of it in a daily basis and we have built a caring, safe place.
Anyone who is serious about letters is welcomed to join but please, notice that we are strict regarding troublemakers and people who is not truly interested in letters.
Thanks for being so positive about IUOMA
Av loved it
What an informative post! Thank you. I have been wanting to get back into penpal-ing again, and this is a great start.
You’re very welcome!! I hope you enjoy snail mail!
I have a 15 year old granddaughter who is a Freshman in high school in Georgia. She presently does not have a computer…I would like for her to have a pen pal preferable in the United States. I can send you her address and maybe get her introduced with pen pals. I would prefer someone in her age group.
Hi Patricia, I’m not actually doing any services where I connect penpals together. This post is just a round-up of sites where you can find a penpal yourself. Sorry!
http://www.letspal.com <= 100% free penpal website
so wont be matched well then I wasted a lot of time looking thank you very much
This isn’t a matching site, this is just an article to help you find resources that *will* match you.
Hi Mary. Thanks for the great tips. Now is my time to get into letter exchanges. Much appreciated. Happy 2017
You’re very welcome! Happy writing!
Great article! I am thinking of taking up the 365 days letter writing challenge this coming year. I am looking for a few pals to help make this process flow a little smoother. I’m seeking Women only at least 21 years of age, that are interested in having a long term pen pal, that love writing and receiving letters. If you are interested send me a brief description (age, hobbies, interests, location) of yourself to OfficialLilCountryBelle@gmail.com. As for me, I am a 34 year old mom from GA. I will reply to all relevant messages and will send you my interests and hobbies as well. Thanks!
Hi Mary, thanks for all your info. I have also used Sassociations in the past and found some wonderful snail mail pals. I am looking for a few more. If anyone is interested you can send me a message at email@example.com and I will send a message back.
hello am new to this place and this works
please write me at 3665 flat mountain road highlands nc 28741. I need someone, I can write back, and forth to please tell me about you, and please place a photo and a letter of questions, and a complete detailed description of you , your likes, dislikes, and desires, etc.
Oh good! Looks like there are new comments here. I do have some specific needs for pen pals but otherwise I’m just wanting to get back to pen, paper and OFF the waste of social media! I see a few people throwing up their own pen pal style ads/comments here so I would like to include mine:
Mind you, postage stamps aren’t mandatory for me anymore. Just the good chat and discussion. Unfortunately another thing I’ve noticed is an uncertain fear of my varied skills and people slowly backing away. This is sad just because I recall so many success stories shared online when we were all in awe of each other instead of scared. In any case I’ve discovered the doers and go-getters are often less worried about that. So I hope you reading this are one of those types!
Another option for mail art and possible continued contact I’ve found recently is Pocket Letters – they are more creative than just a post card or letter, but can be casual or long term – you decide that when you set it up and can specify in your profile. The site is: http://www.pocketletterpals.com/
I’m a long time pen paller. My mom said I ‘wrote’ letters to my great-aunts starting when I was 3 or 4 – those poor, sweet, patient ladies! Around the time I was 14 I discovered a series of books for young teens called “Pen Pals” that came with a coupon you could fill out and send in for your “very own pen pal”! Wow! 🙂 This was before the internet folks. 🙂 I found some amazing pals that way, met a few, and was introduced to Friendship Books through that – I wrote to every single person in those FB’s! And I still write to one lady today – got a letter from yer yesterday, as a matter of fact. Never met her, but we’ve been pals for nearly 30 years now. I have pals from all over the place, all ages, life styles – you name it. Been the best experiences of my life and have met some truly amazing people. Wouldn’t change it for the world. 🙂
I’m a member of swap-bot and have ‘met’ a few new folks through that site as well – some just because I joined a ‘write a letter’ swap and I actually REPLIED to the letter they sent me! They were very surprised to get a reply, and it’s worked well for us. 🙂 I”ve had bad experiences there as well, but there’s good and bad to all, right? When I feel the need to be crafty, swap-bot is great, same for when I just need something new to do here and there.
Some of pen pal websites here :
If you want to make Asian friends such as Korean, Japanese or Chinese, you will like these than others.
I’m not sure if this was intentional but the April 6th 2017 post with the url of penpal [hyphen] net [dot] info bounced me to a yahoo search engine about nets (basketball, etc.) so I tried it again. Then I got taken to one of those official looking warnings about spyware and having to call a number before my system was held “hostage” in one of those scams. Thankfully, I’m wise to that scheme as a few loved-ones have already been through it, and I managed a backdoor to shut my browser down. So, I just wanted to give a heads up on that one. Seemed legitimate and now I’m using my virus scanner, just in case! (So far it’s detected nothing, but I was quick!) Peace.
And as we say in the “ghost story” world? There’s *always* room for one more! 😉
i recommend this website https://www.letspal.com
Looking for a penpal who is interested in possibly exchanging artwork letters etc. I’m new so not sure how all this works.
Hi, I run a pen pal match survey on my website at amstationery.com
Maybe you could add it to the list?
I’m a single female looking for pen pal friendship, I have a loving heart and am a very respectful and kind Woman, I don’t normally be on the site here, please kindly get back to me directly on; caitllivan@gmailcom