When I was about seven years old, my grandmother got me a subscription to a kiddie magazine called "National Geographic's WORLD". It was essentially just National Geographic for kids -- lots of articles on geology, ecology, and indiginous foreign cultures.
One section I particularly loved was a monthly column where they'd profile kids around my age who had interesting hobbies and activities. A couple months after being subscribed, they had a picture of a girl surrounded by letters. The article profiled her -- it seems that she had something like a hundred pen pals from all over the world, and was going for some kind of world's record for letter writing.
I loved letters. Both of my grandmothers would send them to me from time to time, and I had this book that I utilized far too much called Free Stuff for Kids where you'd send away for everything from t-shirts to stickers to printed socks. It drove my mother batty.
Still, the seed was planted.
In fifth grade, I got an additional subscription as a gift, whose name I've forgotten. It was a crafts and activities magazine for kids, and in the back, there were classified ads, offering everything from sea monkeys to x-ray glasses. Somewhere in there was an ad that offered to send you the name of a pen pal for only a dollar. You'd just send out your name and address and a buck (plus a SASE), and they'd send you a pen pal from any country you chose. I'd save up all the change I could find, and mail off four quarters taped to an order form about once a month for a good six months or so.
At my height, I had around fifteen pen pals from Argentina, Holland, and Switzerland, among others. Of them, I ended up with just a few long-term pals, mostly here in the US. This is because my mother finally put down her foot and told me that I had the choice of paying for my stamps myself or cutting down the number of letters I was writing. Since there weren't many job opportunities for a nine-year-old in those days, and I wasn't allowed to have a paper route, I stuck with the US pals.
FAST FORWARD TO A MONTH AGO
Somehow, I started thinking about friendship books. I have no idea what spawned it -- just one of those weird random thoughts that come to mind for no apparent reason. I did a google.com search for them, and found TONS of people were still doing them.
In the last month, I've amassed a few trading partners, and I've rekindled my love for the written word. Again.
This time, I have my own job, and can buy my own stamps. :)