Sunday, January 30, 2011

Move Over Kristi Yamaguchi - Kristina McMorris

I lied.

There. I've said it. A confession, at last, in a public forum.

Then again, I suppose I shouldn't be too hard on myself. I was, after all, only nine years old, and knew very little about correspondence etiquette. All I knew was that my teacher's announcement of pen-pal signups sounded extremely exciting. My mind seized the idea that a young stranger from an adjacent state was destined to be my bestest friend ever.

We were both girls. We were both nine. We both lived in the Northwest. Clearly we were two peas in a pod.

The exchange of letters started out as pleasantly as I'd hoped. We shared generalities about our hobbies, our siblings, our schools. Everything was going just dandy until a dark revelation set in: Through words on paper, I could magically become anyone I wanted. I could be a gifted wonder of every activity under the sun.

So I did.

As the ink flowed across the pages, I transformed into a ballet-dancing, equestrian-riding, figure-skating, ribbon-winning swimmer. (Just for the record, I did actually win fifth place with the backstroke once.) Amazingly, these boastful fibs didn't accumulate over time. Oh, no. They were all dumped into a single letter, likely amid several other outlandish claims my mind has mercifully allowed me to block out—and yet, somehow my epistolary companion seemed to believe every bit of my stellar resume.

Now…with her living in another state, one might assume any notable repercussions would be easily avoided—but one would not be factoring in a road trip said pen pal and her mother took to my hometown. Where they wanted to meet in person. At an ice skating rink. Naturally, with all my rigorous training, she was eager to witness my fancy spins and triple toe loops.

My explanation, from what I recall, was something to the effect of: "Oh…well…I start those lessons next week." What's more vivid in my memory, of course, is the wave of utter embarrassment that swept through me, intensified by a knowing look in her mother's eyes.

On the upside, this humbling moment may very well have contributed to the premise of my debut novel, LETTERS FROM HOME. Want to know how? Then take a look at this:

Do you, too, have an interesting pen-pal incident to share? Have you ever been a sender or recipient of a less-than-truthful letter? Do you believe this doomed my chances for Olympic gold? To celebrate the release of LETTERS FROM HOME, I'm giving away a signed copy of the book to one randomly chosen commenter.

For unique 1940s recipes, book club features, and excerpts from my grandpa's letters, visit


greenduckie13 said...

I never had a pen pal:( I doubt it cost you Olympic gold!) Letters from home sounds good.

petite said...

I enjoyed your wonderful post today. Since it involves letter writing and pen pals that is something that has always interested me and fascinated me. I used to write to many pen pals all over the world. This was when writing letters was the major method of communication. I loved it. I miss it very much now since it no longer exists. Your novel sounds compelling and unique. Or letters were mainly about our lives and future ambitions. No real confessions of any type.thanks for this wonderful glimpse.

runner10 said...

I have never had a pen pal. Not much on letter writing.
Congrats on your new book. It sounds fabulous.

traveler said...

What a delightful and lovely post. I have always been a letter writer and loved receiving and writing letters.I was greatly influenced by my mother who wrote to relatives throughout her life no matter where they lived. She was a loyal and true correspondent to friends, cousins and family members. I am the same and will continue with this tradition. Your amazing website was extraordinary and special and brought me back to another era which I appreciated and do miss. Best of success and your book is a wonder.

Estella said...

My only pen pal was a boy in England. I never lied to him.

Laney4 said...

No, I don't have any interesting pen-pal incidents to share. What I DID write (and continue to do so, but now on a computer) were letters to my husband's family "out west" several times a year. I used a typewriter back in the day so that their elderly eyes could read them clearer (as I double spaced too). Those letters did come back to bite me, so to speak, because years later Dad's cousin, a nun, decided to "write" the family tree album. In it, she had photocopied correspondence to my husband's grandmother that I had written many years earlier. I am SOOOOO glad that I was upbeat, funny at times, and updated Grandma on all her grandkids and families in a NICE way, because all of Grandma's grandkids now have a copy of this family tree album where I talked "about them". You know, I would do the same thing today, because the elderly want to know how their family is doing, and quite often most of "the family" doesn't find time to provide them with that information. Because I could type (and write) quickly, I took it upon myself to bring them up-to-date every Christmas and a few times in-between. When I got a copy of the family-tree album, my heart raced, my face turned red, I had a hard time breathing, and I couldn't turn the pages fast enough to "check" that all was well. Lucky for me, all was indeed well.

While I have the opportunity, I'd just like to compliment you on your excellent grammar usage in your blog. It is nice to see commas placed after the second last item in a list (even though not mandatory), because I think it makes the sentences MUCH easier to read/flow and leaves less chance for misunderstanding. (I hope that makes sense to you.) I look forward to reading your book, knowing that it too should be easy (and enjoyable) to follow.

Kristina said...

@greenduckie13- Thanks for the reassurance regarding the Olympics, lol!

@petite - It's wonderful to hear that you used to keep up with pen pals all over the world. I'm sure the letters were fascinating to read, giving you a glimpse of different cultures.

Kristina said...

@runner10 - Thanks for taking the time to read and comment, as well as for your kind words!

@traveler - I love that you've continued your mother's tradition of correspondence. It's sadly becoming a lost art, but hopefully it will persevere thanks to people like you!

Kristina said...

@Estella - Not even a single, teeny tiny white lie? C'mon, you're supposed to make me feel less guilty, lol. Thanks for commenting!

@Laney4 - What a wonderful story about your family-tree album. No doubt, those letters meant a great deal to the relatives who received them -- which is clearly how they ended up featured in the book! Thank you so much for the thoughtful comment and compliment about my grammar. Considering my draw to red marker pens, perhaps I was an English teacher in a past life.... :)

Leni said...

I've never participated in a pen-pal program. As a child I read stories about the practice, but never knew anyone who had a pen-pal.

Virginia said...

I have never had a pen-pal. I never was very good at writing so I never tried to get a pen-pal. Letters from home sounds really good.


Michele L. said...

Ooo...very interesting post Kristina! I love writing letters and receiving them1 I am an avid card maker too! I go to a card making club once a month called Close To MY Heart. It is so much fun!

I did have some pen pals when I was younger. I still write to some people but not many. They are senior citizens that are in nursing homes. They love receiving cards and letters. One lady has passed away. I still send cards to one lady who is 96 years old.

The art of writing letters has really fallen by the way side in this day of technology where an e-mail is so easy to send and free! But a card is so personal and the thought that goes behind it when selecting it and writing it is very sentimental and means so much. I wish more people mailed cards!

Kristina said...

@Leni and Virginia - Thanks for taking the time to read and comment!

@Michele L - I've never heard of a card-making club. I love that! I'll definitely have to check it out. I absolutely agree about how much more touching it is to receive a heartfelt, handwritten note than an email. Thanks so much for the post!

Nas Dean said...

Your book sounds interesting. I didn't actually had a penpal, but there were school friends who movd overseas and to other schools, we kept in touch.

pageturner said...

I had a penpal as a teenager and went and stayed in Germany with her for three weeks. It was the year Prince Charles married Lady Diana Spencer and I always remember that German radio, had POP SONGS, in ENGLISH, about the wedding. How bizarre was that?!

Kristina said...

@Nas Dean - Through the years, I've had friends who were in the States as exchange students -- one from Italy and another from Scotland. We, too, kept up letter writing, but sadly our correspondence disappeared eventually. Now I wish I had kept in touch!

@pageturner - That is so funny about the pop songs about their wedding!! Definitely bizarre...but at least they make for a great memory. :)

Kristina said...

Thanks to the random choice of my youngest son, the winner of a complimentary copy of LETTERS FROM HOME is....."traveler."

Congratulations! Please email me directly at with your mailing address.

If you have any trouble sending your email, please let me know by posting another comment.

Thanks, everyone! If you, too, ever read my debut, I'd love to hear your thoughts. :)