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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

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