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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Letter 06 Dan-To-John; Christmas Cattle

Dear John                           December 19th, 1970

I feel bad that I knocked football after reading your letter. I had no idea that you are a football player. I think my problem with football on Thanksgiving is watching it on T.V. I've been at a high school game once, and that was fun. I've played in the yard before, and that was fun.

I think you're right about the teamwork part. Being a goalie, I can't score any points. I can only stop the other team from scoring. It is literally impossible for me to win a game.

So cool the Goliath guy couldn't move you! That's almost as good as getting a Christmas present!

Speaking of Christmas, I have to tell you something. I figured out that Santa Claus isn't real.

[Drawing of Santa claus smoking corn-cobb pipe]

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Page 2

Mom had a bunch of presents in her closet marked "From Santa" to us kids hidden in her closet. I spilled the beans to my little sister and brother. We all still love Christmas though. It's sweet of Mom to go to all that trouble to make it fun for us. I didn't open the presents or anyything.

Last week, my brother was running in the basement and broke the handle on my Mom's iron by knocking it off the ironing board.  My Stepdad was really mad when he found out. When he asked who did it, my little brother lied and said it wasn't him. My Stepdad made all three of us pull our pants down and get our butts in the air on the couch. He asked each of us who did it. If we said "not me," or "I don't know," we got a whack on the butt with the dreaded paddle.

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Page 3

It was super unfair! My little sister wasn't even there when it happened. We must've been spanked ten times each before my little brother admitted to breaking the iron.

After my little brother confessed, my Stepdad sent my sister and I to our rooms. He gave my little brother one heck of a spanking for lying. I wish he would have just admitted it right away. He probably would've gotten way lerss spanks. He is the most stubborn kid I know.

Mom made a couple of new friends here in town. Arlene has four kids, and Jennifer has six. I think Jennifer's oldest - her daughter Suzy is really pretty. She's our babysitter now. She's fourteen. I haven't said anything to her, but I can't help watching her when we're watching T.V.

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Page 4

The other night, Suzy let me watch Dracula with her after my little brother and sister went to bed. That old vampire sure was scary! I was really glad when Van Helsing opened the curtains and turned him into ash. I didn't let Suzy know I was scared, though. I don't want her to think I'm just a baby.

I found out that the field down at the end of our block has cattle in it. The other kids say there is a mean old bull in there who will gore you with his horns if he catches you. The field belongs to Doc Cruise, who is the local vet. There's an old chimney out in the field. One of the neighborhood boys ran out to the chimney and back on a dare. The bull must not have seen him. I never saw anything in the field but regular cows.

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Page 5

The whole field is fenced in with barbed wire. The kid had to climb over it coming and going. The bull may not have spotted the kid sneaking into the field, but the cows definitely got their revenge a couple of days later!

At the other end of our block, our street becomes Main Street. Right where it changes, there is a Catolic church on the Northeast corner of the intersection. There is a State highway that runs along Main Street, and it curves North at that intersection. That curve is marked at fifteen miles per hour. Mom says the ramp curve is tilted the wrong way there. At least three semi-trucks have tipped over at that curve this past year by going just a little too fast.

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Page 6

Well, a couple of days after that kid ran into the bull's field, a cattle-hauler tipped over at the church curve!

[Drawing of tipped-over 1970-period semi-truck tipped over at limestone church with cattle roaming loose]

I heard that one of the cows was loose in the I.G.A. grocery store, but I didn't get to see it. There were cows running loose all over town! I heard it took the town all day to round them up. They made all of us kids beat it for home, though. Good thing! I don't want to meet up with a scared cow in the meat aisle!

I'd better go. Mom is saying lights out. I hope you have a great Christmas!

Your friend,


Wednesday, November 8, 2017

We Have A New Domain For This Blog

http://www.PenPalsOnPaper.com will now go directly to this blog - it's a bit easier to remember, don't you think?

Regards, and thank you for reading and contributing.


Friday, November 3, 2017

Letter 04 Reply: Football & Siren Song - John to Dan

Dear Dan,

Being the most sought after goalie for soccer makes you a genuine athlete. But the best part is all the fun you have doing your team proud. There isn’t anything more rewarding than being an essential part of a team. Most great accomplishments are not done individually but as part of a group effort. And you are learning what teamwork is all about. That lesson will serve you well as you get older.

Me, I’m on the football team. However, I’m a third string. I get to go to games out of town. And that is great fun. As third string players we scrimmage after the real game is over. But I don’t feel at all bad. Just learning the ins and outs of football is a blast.

And then coach gave me a magnificent confidence builder the other day. He marked a spot on the field and told me to stand there. He instructed me not to budge an inch while a player much bigger than me crashed into me. We were wearing pads of course. So this huge behemoth hit me with all he had. I gave as good as I got. And I didn’t budge and inch from the mark coach made in the turf for me. This went on for several minutes. It just goes to show that will power can overcome even size when getting bashed by Goliath. When the hitting was over I felt like a million bucks.

On the bus home from a game one of the cheerleaders got all sweet with me. But I made it clear I wasn’t ready for that sort of thing. Though another player said she could teach me about the birds and bees. My resistance was strong as those ancient Greek sailors who tied themselves to the mast of the boat with the sirens singing.

Glad you learned about your state and corn husking. I love learning things like that way more than math. But I’ll need to know math when I get older for whatever I do. That’s what my teacher said. Enjoy your fall my friend.

Your friend,

Letter John is replying to:

Letter 04 - Dan-To-John; Soccer And Such

Letter 01: Ice Age Territory - John to Dan Reply

Dear Dan,

Well I finally made it out of Natchez for a trip. My grandparents took me all the way to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. So we were near your neck of the woods. This was the furthest west I’ve ever been. And when we crossed into Kansas from Missouri there was a sunflower forest! There was a sign saying this area was covered by glaciers in the ice age. And at one time bison roamed those parts.

It would have been great to see you out there in the windblown plains. Something about the Great Plains with their wide open skies makes me want to sing cowboy songs under the stars. But I’ll make it out there. You and me will ride bikes in the big sky country. When I think of those men hunting Wooly Mammoths in the Arctic frost my heart is filled with wonder.

I hope you get that bike of your spiffied up like you want. I know you will. God those sand burrs sure would make me keep my shoes on. Here in the south we have black stinging caterpillars. They fall from the trees and crawl all over the yard. Stepping on them barefoot is asking for some big hurt.

Those pioneer books are a great find. Living in your little bitty town sounds good for the soul. Hey I wrote a poem about going to Kansas. Here it is:

My First Trip West

Saffron sunflower forests rose
Under turquoise vault of heaven
Welcomed me to pelagic plains
On the edge of an ice age land
Where bison once roamed free

Your Friend,

Letter John is replying to:

Letter One - Moving To Genoa

Monday, October 30, 2017

Letter 05: Dan To John - Thanksgiving 1970

Dear John,      November 26th, 1970 - Thanksgiving

I just got your two letters. (Happy Thanksgiving, by the way!) Mom got them both a couple of days ago, but waited until today to give them to me so that I would get my homework done. You're not the only one who needs to get back to his arithmetic! Haha! Mine isn't because of a girl, though.

It's a good thing your friend Jeff was there at the bayou! Otherwise I might've had to find another way to practice cursive writing - like doing homework! Haha! Just kidding. I'm glad the snake didn't bite you.

I'm writing on Thanksgiving Day because everyone else is stuffed with turkey and napping in front of a football game. B!O!R!I!N!G!

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Page 2

I would way rather watch cartoons like Spider Man or Space Ghost, or ride my bike, or read a book about Davy Crockett or Jim Bowie than that stupid game.

The part about Tracy wrapping you up like a mummy for Halloween sounded really fun. I would love to have seen a picture of that. My costume was Frankenstein this year. My little sister had the really neat costume this year, though. My Mom sewed her up this amazing green dinosaur costume. It had a long tail, and she looked like a cross between the Sinclaire gas station dinosaur and a tyranosaurus rex.
[Drawing of dinosaur trick-or-treating]

I don't know what you are talking about with tracy being "bossy for a girl." I've never met a girl that wasn't bossy! Haha! Not that I listen...

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Page 3

Wow, it sounds like you have a bad crush on tracy. I had a sort-of girlfriend last year when we lived in Madison, Wisconsin. Her name was Sandy Lee Bailey. She didn't ask me all kinds of questions, though. We snuck into the bushes under the railroad tracks one day. I think we were both shy. I kissed her, and held her hand. It was the first and only time I ever kissed a girl. So far...

Most of the time Sandy Lee and I would ride her pedal Mustang around on the sidewalk at the apartment complex we both lived in. She lived two buildings down from us. She and her family moved to another State this Summer too. I miss her a little. I'll probably never see her again. You know with moving...

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Page 4

I've never been on roller skates. It looks like fun, but I'd probably fall on my butt! There was a girl in our apartments in Madison that had the steel roller skates that you strap on your shoes and skate in the street with. I never got to try those. She told me that you really have to watch out for pebbles.

I wonder why tracy is worried about kidnappers? Do you think she is reading too much Nancy Drew?

I am so looking forward to Christmas. I'm hoping to get some new hotwheels and track. My Stepdad took a piece of track to use as a paddle! I wish I could burn that thing! I have to go. The apple pie is ready. Write soon!

Your friend,


[Drawing / diagram of hotwheel-track paddle in left margin]

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Letter 03 - John's Reply To Dan

Dear Dan,

That Powwow sounded better than any TV show. We have one here in Natchez every year in March. They let the spectators dance with the Indians. The event is held at a historic Native American site by some Indian mounds. It may sound strange but though it’s in March it ushers in the year for me. The drumming and songs are like church but in a different way. Once I stood atop a mound and looked down on the circle of dancers. I imagined it was hundreds of years ago when the tribe lived there. But hey sometimes I let my imagination run wild. The kids don't call me space cadet for nothing. Ha ha!

But that was back in spring. This past weekend my grandparents took me to our house by the bayou in Louisiana. We took my friend Jeff along. He is part Choctaw but for some reason doesn’t talk about it. He doesn't speak the language. But Jeff and I paddled the boat across the bayou. Boy did I nearly get in trouble. I didn’t notice that I was about to step on a cottonmouth. That snake was sunning on some tree roots. Jeff yelled at me to stand still. Then he went back to the boat for a paddle. Jeff hacked that ole snake to pieces. He probably saved my life. We weren’t anywhere near a hospital. No telling what would have become of me if he'd gotten his fangs in me. I hear them cottonmouths got some powerful venom.

That evening Jeff and I camped out in the tent by the bayou. A fierce thunderstorm passed over but we weren’t afraid. We just talked while those thunderbolts crashed down. It was a great way to end the summer.

Glad you made it to the pool. That is a real chuckle about what the Indians called your little brother he sure was brave but foolhardy to take on a high school kid at his young age. Well grandma is calling me for dinner. Keep in touch.

Your friend,


Letter 03 that John is replying to Link

Letter 02 - John's Reply To Dan

Dear Dan,

Wow! You saw the moon landing live! I saw it on playback. But that is great that your classmates didn’t cut up. I think I want to be an astronaut when I grow up. Those guys jumping around on the moon look like they had barrels of fun. But right now I’m enjoying life on earth. You know I think this girl is serious about me. I got me a girlfriend. I never thought that would happen. I must be crazy at my age to go steady. Being with a girl feels stranger than walking on the moon. But boy it beats watching TV. And for the first time I feel romantic. What a weird notion for a freshman. But here it is and real as can be.

Her name is Tracy and for Halloween she wrapped me in sheet strips as a mummy. I got butterflies in my stomach as I’d never been that close to a girl before. But she is so cute that I really enjoyed it. If I ever get married it would be to her. So I thought she just liked me as her guy pal. Boy was I mistaken.

Here’s how it all started. She was climbing out of the pool when she asked if I liked her. I said as a friend. She smiled and said “I think more than that.” So she told me to meet her at the skating rink on Saturday night. She seems kind of bossy for a girl. But I kind of liked it. Pretty soon we were going steady.

At the rink my best friend Keith had me and Tracy wrap our arms around each other so close that I could smell her perfume. She was kind of nervous and said she’d never been like this with a boy. So my heart did flip flops. But Tracy seemed to enjoy it as she held me there long enough for me to catch my breath.

Tracy had some mighty funny questions for me. She asked me “John if Brigitte Bardot were to want you for her own would you leave me?” Tracy is such a kidder. But this time she wasn’t joking. So I told her, “You’re prettier without makeup than Brigitte all dolled up.” Tracy had a smile like she’d won a jackpot in Las Vegas. So then she pulled an even bigger one out of her hat. She said, “If a kidnapper were to say, ‘It’s either you or the girl’ what would you say?” So I told her “What any gentleman would do.” Tracy hopped like a girl in a game show.

God that girl is sweet on me. It feels like true love. I got a crush on that girl. Now if only I could get back to my arithmetic. Mom thinks I’m girl crazy.
Your friend,

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Historical Accuracy And Changes In Perspective...

Historical Accuracy And Changes In Perspective...               10-22-2017

One: I arrived in Nebraska in the Summer of 1969 at the age of seven, not in 1970. Summer school and the Apollo Moon landing were a year earlier than I wrote of them in this work.

Two: I was not a big writer at the age of eight. I was much more a reader. This is the reverse of my current pattern. Perhaps there has been so much input in my past literary life that the synthesis of it all is boiling over, and must spill out onto pages. It started with a little online poetry in the late 1990's, and the dam has burst.

Over >

Page 2

Pertaining to item 1; It took me a bit to realize that I was off by a year. I was a child of seven and eight years old when we lived in Nebraska. I am now fifty-five years old. The events I am writing of happened well over forty years ago.

3: I believe that writing by hand satisfies the artist in me. I have always loved to draw. Writing with pen and paper is both visually satisfying and extremely tactile. The feel of pen and paper in my hands touches something deep in me. Also, I can create any kind of special character I wish with ease. There is no waiting for nagging software to update before I begin what I sat down to work on. I can draw an illustration without a mouse.

The freedom to zero in on one task is an incredible luxury of the human mind.

Dan Stafford

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Poem - Only Over The Moon...

Only Over The Moon...

Height plays on the wind,
Agile interplay of darkness and soft light,
Above the glassy waves that ripple,
The fluctuating depths,
Which is the link that binds us all.


By: Daniel A. Stafford
(C) 12/15/2015

Monday, October 23, 2017

Letter 04 - Dan-To-John; Soccer And Such

Dear John,        September 20th, 1970

September has been fun so far. We have been playing soccer at recess. It turns out that I'm not so good on the field, but I am the best goalie in the whole school. Everyone wants me on their team.

[Drawing of foot kicking soccer ball]

The craziest thing happened! Someone stole my bike when I was swimming at the pool last Saturday before school started. My Mom offered a $10.00 reward to anyone who brought it back. A couple of the neighborhood boys found it ditched in the bushes a few blocks from the pool. Both tires were flat. Now I am saving up to buy new ones.

Over >

Page 2

Some of the cool things we learned this month at school:

1. Nebraska is the "Corn Husker" State. (Also, the word "State" is always capitalized if you are talking about a State or country.) Corn husking is getting an ear of corn out of the green covering and getting rid of the tassles. [Drawing of husking corn]

2. The State flower is the "goldenrod."

3. The State bird is the "Golden Oriole."

In Cub Scouts, we went to a place called Council Bluffs and learned how to make plaster casts of animal tracks. The ones I did were from a raccoon. Pretty cool!
[Drawing of raccoon track]

So how are you?

Your friend,


John's hand-written reply:

Letter 04 Reply: Football & Siren Song - John to Dan

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

An Emphasis On Writing More Slowly In The Practice Of Cursive Script...

An Emphasis On Writing More Slowly In The Practice Of Cursive Script...

I have found that slowing down my hand while writing in cursive script greatly increases the readability and aesthetics of my handwriting.

Even if I need to increase the speed of my writing due to time constraints, my writing is still improved by the slower practice. As you can plainly see, this does not prevent me from making the occasional mistake.

Still, if you were reading a sample of my handwriting from earlier years, you would clearly see a difference.

Over >

Emphasis On Slow Writing, Continued...                                Page 2

I must strongly advocate slower writing practice for the artistically-inclined writer as well. The results will better please your eye.

Another benefit is reduced cramping of the fingers and hand. A larger table with more rounded edges also helps with "writers' cramp."

Slow it down, and step your penmanship game up!

[Happy face drawing] Dan Stafford

Monday, October 16, 2017

Companion Notes For Letter 03 Dan-To-John

Companion Notes For Letter 03, Dan-To-John:                                   10-15-2017

I realize that the use of the term "Indian" to refer to persons of Native American heritage may seem offensive to a number of modern readers. It is not intended in that spirit.

These letters are base on actual events in my life. At the time that the events in this letter happened, I don't know if the term "Native American" existed yet. I certainly didn't know of it in 1970. I was eight years old that year. Such sensitivities did not find common usage until much later. I will not revise history. Doing so leads to forgetting lessons we should be learning from our past.

Over >

Companion Letter 03 Notes...

I am aware that the term "Indian" in reference to Native American people was born of ignorance, and later became derogatory. However, I am fifty-five years old as of this writing. I had no such awareness at the age of eight.

I have a great respect for Native American peoples and cultures. I was given no say in the conduct of history before I was born. The use of the term is sadly historically-accurate.

Perhaps our culture can learn from the fact that it is necessary for me to write this note simply because I am writing about my childhood.

My apologies to any who are offended.

Dan Stafford  [Vulcan greeting gesture from the original Star Trek television series. L.L.P. P.L.L.
(Live long, and prosper. Peace, and long life.)

Letter 03: August 25th, 1970 Dan-to-John - The Pow Wow...

Dear John,                      August 25th, 1970

It's been a fun month. I made it through Summer school. There are about five more pioneer books I'll have to wait for the regular school year to read.

This past weekend, we went to an Indian powwow at the fairgrounds just outside of town. I was talking to one of the Indian kids there, and he told me that their tribe had been having their powwow at this spot since the Great Spirit first created people.

[Drawing of Native-American drummer and dancer]

The beads on their costumes are way more detailed and pretty than I can draw!

Over >

Page 2

You remember my red-headed little brother, right? He's only five, and he picked a fight with a high-school kid over Summer! When the Indian kids met him, they gave him an Indian name: "Red Tornado." Ha ha! I laughed so hard at that one!

I'm looking forward to this month. Mom is going to let me be in the Cub Scouts [again] this Fall.

Meanwhile, I need to finish this letter. Mom is taking us to the swimming pool. School starts in two weeks, and the pool will close for kids. I don't want to miss it. This might be the last time I get to swim until next Summer!

So, how have you been? What have you been doing?

Your friend,


John's reply letter to Dan Link

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Preface To Pen Pals On Paper...

Pen Pals On Paper - Book Project

A tribute to slow time, and the art of writing in the World of Paper...

While the world debates abandoning teaching cursive writing in a world of digital files and keyboards, this blog celebrates the art of writing by hand. Without the Digital World, this project is neither possible nor necessary. It is meant to be a beautiful marriage of both mediums.

Over >

Pen Pals On Paper - Continued...

There are several reasons to retain cursive writing. We shall discuss that shortly. First, however, I would like to distinguis between "handwriting," and cursive penmanship.

While the term "handwriting" is often used interchangeably with "cursive writing," they are not the same thing. "Handwriting" also includes printing by hand. Cursive script is only cursive script. It is a distinct subset of handwriting.

Onward now we go, into the discussion of the reasons we may wish to retain the art of cursive writing...

Over >

The Benefits of Cursive Writing In a Digital World:

  • Fine hand-eye coordination; The act of writing by hand emphasizes fine motor skill pathways in the human brain. This ability can be useful for many tasks in life. It also may help enable any latent artistic talent for drawing and painting by hand.
  • Uniqueness of style: Handwriting, both cursive and printed, are as unique to each individual as are fingerprints or iris patterns in the eye. In an era where most textual communication was done on hand-written letters or notes, the author of a message was easily identified by persons familiar to them.
Over >

Benefits of Cursive - Continued...

People familiar with a writer would have years of reading a particular author's handwriting, and be able to recognize it at a glance.
  • Distraction-Free Writing; Writing on paper has no "notifications." No computer program or "app" can make something pop up on a page in your notebook. If you set your phone on silent, place it screen-down on the table, and open your notebook, the only thing that can disturb you while writing is yourself, a visitor, or a disaster. You are much more likely to write down a well-thought-out and complete narrative than on a keyboard. 
Over >

Benefits of Cursive Writing - Continued...

  • Style and Aesthetics; In my mind, cursive writing on paper is more beautiful than fonts on a computer screen. You are seeing writing that took a person years to develop the skill to do. It is unique, and also has an ability to convey context that digital fonts lack. You can tell if a writer was rushed, for instance. Their writing will become sloppy and cramped. There is a quick and easy freedom to adapt writing on-the-fly. [small drawing of a house-fly] It is easy to insert "special characters," or small illustrations. It makes a form of artistic [symbolf for "cents"]. Writing in cursive is a graceful art inherently designed for the human eye.
 Over >

The Down-Side of Cursive Writing...

Simply-put, handwriting can't currently be hyperlinked. You can't click on paper and go to a different topic.

Replication isn't an issue for cursive script. Digital scanners and facsimile ("fax") machines have been with us for a very long time.

It's really the [in-]ability to link to other documents from within writing on paper that the Digital World looks down upon. Yet, is that really such a detriment? I would argue that in many cases, the lack of links in a paper document is actually a benefit.

Over >

Why Hyperlinks Are Often a Detriment to the Reader...

  • Distraction-free reading... Hyperlinks entice the reader to abandon the very subject they came to a given document to learn of. Links in the body of a text are like land mines to thorough reading. Following them in mid-text leaves the original subject incompletely-learned. It leads to "subject-hopping." I see this as akin to, but much more damaging than "channel-surfing" on television. Reading comprehension and depth-of-learning would be far-better served if hyperlinks were confined to footnotes or an appendix at the end of a document.
Over >

How Can We Marry The Benefits of Hyperlinking With the Readability  of Paper Documents?

  • By writing documents, scanning them, and embedding them in a digital compilation with a well-hyperlinked appendix.
I fully realize that this is more effort than most modern writers are willing to undertake. Learning the handwriting of a new author may also be more than some readers are willing to do. Yet what does that really ay about our culture, and [about] us?  Perhaps that we have been conditioned to value the fast, the shallow, and the mass-produced over the patiently-crafted. You must decide for yourself...

Dan Stafford  10-14-2017

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Cursive Writing Chart - A "Rosetta Stone" For Cursive Writing...

Cursive writing is about both beauty and efficiency.

Aesthetically, cursive writing is a more ornate script, asnd if done well, it is more pleasing to the eye. Practicing *slowly* helps develop better readability, otherwise known as "penmanship."

What it does for efficiency is that cursive writing reduces the need to lift the pen off the paper as you write. This increases writing speed. It also reduces ink splotches and smears. That was incredibly important before ball-point pens were invented.


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Letter 02: July 31st, 1970 - Dan To John...

Dear John,                                    July 31st, 1970

We just had the most amazing day in Summer school! Our teacher stopped the class. The n she shut off the lights, and rolled a T.V. out into the classroom. [Black-and-white] She said "You all will have to watch this, children. It is history being made!"

John, we got to watch men land on the MOON! It was the neatest thing I have ever seen!

When the Eagle landed at Tranquility Base, and astronaut Neil Armstrong made the first-ever footstep on the Moon, you could have heard a pin drop! It was totally quiet, except for the T.V. Not a single kid was goofing off.

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Page 2

Did you get to watch the astronauts land on the Moon, John? I really hope that you did!

I'm still reading the pioneer books, too. Right now, I'm reading about Buffalo Bill. His real name was William Cody. He had a traveling Wild West show. It sounds to me like a carnival.

They have a municipal swimming pool here in Genoa. I'm taking swimming lessons there. My little brother did a belly flop off the high-dive. He said it hurt really bad! Also, there is a Tasty Freeze across the street. They have frozen cherry-dipped bananas! Those are my new favorite!

Your friend,


[Drawing of Apollo Lunar Lander & astronaut on Moon]

John's reply letter to Dan Link

Guidelines, Plan B...

Guidelines, Plan B...

O.K, since only John & I are doing this so far, we are going to post our letters on the blog and a bunch of other places, and just have fun.

Keep calm, and carry on.



Sunday, October 8, 2017

Guidelines And Overview For "Pen Pals On Paper" Contributors...

*Note: Please rely on the electronic text version of these guidelines. There are a couple of additions in the text that were forgotten in the hand-written version. The electronic text version will supercede the hand-written version.


The objective of this project is to...

  • Capture the feeling of the era where all textual correspondence was on paper;
The “Paper World” reached its zenith in the late 1980's and early 1990's, just prior to the advent of cheap – relatively – personal computers and affordable dial-up internet.

The written communication media of choice for long distances was hand-written letters on paper. Cheap pens and pencils were available everywhere. So were spiral notebooks, and three-ring binders full of loose-leaf paper. Postage stamps were a few cents. Paper envelopes were everywhere.

E-mail didn't exist yet. Phone calls outside your local calling area cost 0.20¢ per minute, and international calls over a dollar a minute. Air mail could be sent overseas for about $2.50 per letter.

  • Capture the experience of childhood in the “Paper World.” ;

To a child in the world of paper, having a friend move to another town or State often meant never seeing or hearing from that friend again. No email. No cellphones. No text messages. No Facebook. No internet.

A typewriter was prohibitively expensive for most kids. The only way that a child could possibly keep in touch with a friend that moved was by hand-writing and mailing letters.

Few kids had that kind of perseverance or follow-through. You might get one or two letters, and then you grew apart and grew up. The things you have in common at eight years old matter less each year.

However, there were a few unique kids who became “pen pals.” Some were kids who moved apart in childhood. Some were kids who signed up to be a pen pal to another kid in another State or country.

Those few amazing children around the world – and I and one of my oldest and dearest friends were two of them – are the main reason that I was able to even conceive of this very unique book project.

Overview continued:

The many international poets who have been writing to and with each other on internet poetry forums since the 1990's are also due credit here. I learned to do collaborative writing projects on those online poetry boards. One of those poets – John Hindle – and I were having a discussion online about our respective childhoods. That conversation inspired me to conceive of this book project.

You see, our generation is the bridge between the digital and paper worlds....

  • Possibly the most difficult objective of this project is to highlight and make glaringly obvious the critical and increasing difference between the digital and paper worlds. The crux of that difference is this: the opportunity to engage in long-term, sustained focus and concentration on a single subject for an extended period of time.

We as children and young adults were able to read a book or magazine on paper for hours without a phone call, text, or other notification intruding. That is a seeming luxury in the digital world. It has also been de-emphasized to an extreme in the modern workplace.

The change from the paper world to the digital world also brought into the modern workplace the concept of “multi-tasking.” This is something that study-after-study has shown that the human brain is not evolved to do. Yet technology makes it seem like it should be doable. After all, if information is coming in from a hundred sources at once, shouldn't workers be force-trained to adapt? Especially if it will mean less workers, and more money for executives?

Granted, there were telephones in the workplace long before there was an internet. Yet prior to the early 1900's, all business was done either by mail or in-person. Craftsmanship – the highly-knowledgeable and well-thought-out execution of a job or commission was prized.

These changes have been reflected in every aspect of modern life. The effects are noticeable beginning in school, and extend well beyond.

Overview continued:

Have you noticed yourself losing patience with the length of this piece? Would you have done so as easily in 1975?

This is what this project is attempting to make relateable to audiences who have never experienced – and never will – the full-on paper world. If our generation – the bridge generation – fails to point this out, no one living after us will know.

What we have given up of the human condition will not only be lost, any potential to retrieve it will be as well... It is in our hands, literally.

Daniel A. Stafford – 2017


  • Try to begin your series of pen-pal letters as if you were eight years old, and writing to your pen pal about once per month. This is a believable frequency of correspondence for a child or teen in the paper era. Actual frequency is up to you and your pen pal.
  • Work in teams of two, as pen pals have traditionally written. Pen pals of the same gender would have been most common, yet opposite-sex pen pals are also an option.
  • When posting (sending) a letter, please scan the paper copy, and post (send) the scan and a keyboarded text version as well. *The point to first writing – or printing – your letters by hand is two-fold: 1) To give the book the look and feel of the paper world. 2) To get you mentally and physically in the “zone” of the paper world. 3) The keyboarded text is for future readability.
  • Should this book – or series of books – go to publication, all proceeds will be evenly-divided among participating writers, less and documented expenses incurred to achieve publication.
  • Literary credit will be to the writer of each individual writer.
  • Copyright of submitted letters shall be retained by the original author. However, right of first publication shall be granted to the4 collective group of contributing writers, with Daniel A. Stafford having a tie-breaking vote in any decision on publication.

Guidelines continued:

  • Right of secondary publication shall be given collectively to all participating authors, and shall require the majority consent of all surviving authors. Daniel A. Stafford shall have a tie-breaking vote in all such decisions.
  • Contributing your work to this project constitutes acceptance of these terms.
  • You may only contribute your own original work. Submission of any material not created by you shall mean a loss of all rights to any monies or other contributions to the project, and you bear sole legal and financial responsibility for any copyright violations caused by your actions.
  • Transmit copies of all submitted letters to both your pen pal, and to Daniel.A.Stafford62@gmail.com .
  • Do not post letters online, anywhere. Do not publish leters in any printed publication. Doing so constitutes first publication, and requires the majority consent of all contributing writers. (Exception is made for this overview and guideline, and for two example letters to be composed by Daniel A. Stafford for the purpose of generating interest by potential audiences and publishers.) Violating first publication will require the exclusion of your and your pen pal's submitted work from any subsequent publication, and will result in the loss of any right to a share of the proceeds in any subsequent publication. *It will also result in the loss of any voting rights by you for this project's decision-making process.
  • Any writer contributing to this project may seek a publishing deal for the entire project, but majority consent of all contributing writers is required to execute on any offer of publication. Daniel A. Stafford shall have a tie-breaking vote in all such matters.
  • You may choose your pen pal as you see fit. However, your pen pal must see and accept these guidelines before contributing to this project. *Failure to comply before submitting any material from a pen pal not agreeing to these guidelines shall constitute copyright infringement on your part, with the attendant penalties already mentioned.

Guidelines continued:

A note from Daniel A. Stafford, creator of the Pen Pals On Paper project:

It is my hope that this will be a fun and rewarding project for all writers who participate in it. Yet this project has serious goals as well. I have striven to be fair and encouraging to my fellow writers in composing these guidelines, while remembering those serious goals, and making them possible.

Thank you sincerely to those who embark on this journey with me.

Daniel A. Stafford - 10/08/2017