LEX A magazine for Letter Writers. My Interview with Lonna and Gary from Minnesota
I started to correspond in 1992. For a pure and lucky case.
I can't forget that year. A lot of changes in my life this friend from Sardinia, Tatiana, in a night plenty of stars, while we were walking together enjoying an ice-cream bought at the local bar telling to each other our amazing dreams for the still unknown future, traveling, discovering the world and so on, she confessed me she started to correspond in English with some Northern European girls. "You should give a try. It's nice. One of them answer immediately". I didn't know. She said me: "Come on: it will be a great adventure! Why don't you try? It's funny."
Convinced by my friend about the possibility of this big new writing adventure when Tatiana once back home sent me from Cagliari the various addresses of her pen-pals I wrote to these three girls. Apart the shock of writing in English, it meant mental organization of a phrase structured in another language and the instant process starts to take place only when you know very well a language, 24 years ago you can't imagine what it meant! I have found very good pen-pals with which I corresponded with for a lot of time.
My dream has always been the USA, but I haven't never been there, and so I thought that if I had European correspondents, I could have given a try also to some American pen-friends.
I so contacted the United States Information Service for some help. The USIS is a branch of the American Library located in the American Embassy in Via Veneto, Rome.
It was a cloudy and raining late afternoon. I went to a public phone with some coins, always not sufficient for concluding the call properly. I remember I called the American Embassy I think three-four times for the complete lists of the first three pen-pals associations addresses.
I wrote three letters, writing down few lines per association, sealed the letter, posted it, and I waited.
What I wrote? Where I lived, my age, why I wanted to correspond, my passions. It wasn't so difficult. I started to receive the first letters.
I also sent a letter to The Letter Exchange in 1993. I contacted the association now for discovering something more of their world.
Yes because from a certain time at this part, twenty years, as also other aspects of our old life, the world of correspondence declined dangerously with a negative impact for the present and the future.
People will just remember our tweets in the remote future? Our posts on Facebook? Is it enough?
I don't know you, but I haven't found too often through the net the same good human qualities in people that I find through written letters.
Maybe it's because our brain rush much more, and we are at the constant search of something to watch, something to say. It's a busy brain. We are stressed because our brain receives a lot of informations. We don't know the other ones sufficiently good and we don't know often what to do for changing it. E-mails are impersonal.
We don't know dreams, expectations, problems, pains, joys of most of our internet friends.
Time ago I run out my writing-paper and I went to a store for buying new one. The 17 years old son of the owner of the store asked me what was for.
Alarmed I thought: "Possible that a culture of centuries and centuries of handwritten words is over?"
Youngest one don't know at all the meaning of an handwritten letter. Whatsup, Viber, Skype Facebook, Instagram, Snap Chat. No one wants to wait anymore. Youngest ones don't know the meaning of waiting.
Since there I want to try to give voice to people who have chosen also a different life, more balanced, searching for the modern, but also for the old-fashioned way of living. People who still love the old-fashioned way of communicating via letters.
I discovered that some associations of pen-friends are disappeared with the time, defeated by the use, abuse and power of the net. Most of them are gone from a decade or more. Maybe a choice, maybe the possibility for people of contacting with simplicity someone through the web in a quickest, apparent way.
LEX doesn't seem to feel any crisis. Correspondence is a joyous experience and all its members strongly motivated.
Beautiful website, wonderful magazine, this reality was located the first time in Albany, California, his founder Steve Sikora.
Created in 1982, although at that time international listing published with name last name and address, Steve's idea was also the one of assigning a code number to each subscriber using later a forward mail service.
12.000 devoted subscribers the first 18 years, Steve continued this activity helped by his mother and his sister. He forwarded 165.000 letters. At the end of 2000 Steve Sikora decided to giving up after the publication of 51 issues of LEX.
At the same time a couple from Minnesota addicted to LEX, great fans of this system of writing, Lonna and Gary (Gary started to be a LEXER from 1986 Lonna only in 1999) decided to resuscitating the association of pen-friends they missed so badly after just two years.
LEX I discovered is one of the nicest realities dedicated to the correspondence of all the USA.
It's precious and written with a sophisticated treat.
Their method as said before not the conventional one. You won't find correspondents per age for example or with their name or last name written down in the pages of their stunning magazine.
It works differently.
LEX has a lot of categories.
Art & Photography, Daily Life, Literature, Work & Career, 30 in total, and you will find listing of people in each category. Then, when you find the soul attracts you the most you write him/her.
Maybe sometimes you don't know if that person is also a male or a female or if the gap of age between you and that person will be immense. But the fascination of LEX is this one.
You can ask so: how can you receive a letter from a person you don't know the name yet?
You can use the confidential forwarding service created firstly by Steve that connects letter writers anonymously through Lex Numbers until you feel comfortable exchanging addresses. Or you may correspond entirely using the forwarding service.
LEX is not intended for personal contacts as also explained in the guideline of the magazine, but just for people wants to meet other souls through the pages of a letter.
The magazine is published three times per year on February 15, June 15, and October 15. There is a lot of fantasy in term of requests from Lexers and looking at this magazine you have the perception it is written with great love.
Subscribing per a year cost $23.00 if you live in USA, $24.00 if you live in Canada and $26.50 worldwide. You will receive twenty free words per issue for listings.
Your listing will appear in a specific category or you can use the listing for various categories as well. But what if you need other words? You can buy them at the cost of $.50 cents per word.
Lonna and Gary lives in North Oaks, Minnesota, a State dedicated to the correspondence. It's very cold there, and you imagine that, during the winter-time writing letters, for sure can keep the sparing time of a day more interesting and intellectually fertile..
So let's talk with Lonna and Gary about LEX.
When did you hear of LEX?
"Gary read about Lex in an article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune in 1986. He subscribed immediately". Gary adds: "Lonna didn't decide to write letters until much later".
Why did you decide once Steve gave up to re-start the publication of LEX?
"Well, we missed Lex! We liked it's unique system of Lex Numbers and forwarding. The groups that match people by age, gender, location, didn't particularly appeal to us. So, we decided the only thing to do was resurrect Lex".
The kind of correspondence you promise is like a hump in the dark
because there are not addresses and no possibilities to discover who
he is searching for a correspondent. Why did you choose this kind of
"The Letter Exchange was originally started by Steve, and we like the Lex Number system he set up. When people have to gradually get to know each other through letters, they sometimes find themselves enjoying a correspondence that they never would have started if they had known things like age, and made hasty assumptions, in advance".
Who is a LEXER? A writer, a screenwriter, a common person in search of friendship...
"All of those and more. Librarians, reporters, engineers, artists, students, homemakers, retired people, teachers... People who like to write letters seem to come from all walks of life".
Who is the oldest subscriber and where is she/he is from?
"We don't ask subscribers for information about themselves, but we know from their listings that there are Lexers in their 90s. Oldest in length of subscribing... There are still two active Lexers who have been subscribers since the beginning!"
Loyal pen-pal for sure.What LEXERS are searching for?
"We think it varies from person to person.... Exchange of ideas, friendship by mail, learning about other cultures and ways of life".
Your idea of correspondence is beautiful, truly romantic, researched
and there is plenty of culture in every issue of our magazine. What does correspondence
mean in our times and how much this world changed because of the net?
"Letter writing today is like candles and fireplaces, things that used to be essential but now are valued for their own sake.
Many people especially like handwritten letters, although Lex's focus is letters through the mail, typed, printed, calligraphed, or whatever.
With the internet encouraging fast and brief communication, it's more satisfying than ever to take the time to read and write a real letter".
Do you think that the correspondence will always survive or that in
the close future we will assist at a new revival?
"We think that letter writing will continue in the future, practiced by a smaller group of dedicated writers. Other technologies, e-mail, text, chat, social media, have siphoned off some writers, but we think letter writing has its own satisfactions and will continue to attract people in the future".
I read LEXERS don't love to meet people with which they're in contact with. Why?
"We have heard that some people choose to get together, and sometimes the experience is positive and has deepened the correspondence but sometimes it's been negative and people have stopped writing because of it".
From how many places do you receive listing for being published?
"Lexers live all across the U.S. We have subscribers in almost all 50 states. Maybe 5-10% of subscribers are International, living mostly in Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, with a sprinkling from other countries".
How many letters can receive each LEXER?
"It varies. We don't keep statistics but some people have reported receiving dozens of letters to a single listing, sometimes more than they can reply to. Others have received only a few or even none to a particular listing".
How many correspondents did you have?
"Wow.. A lot. We really haven't kept any track but over the years...hundreds! Gary was corresponding with about 75 people, many of them postcards pals".
Many thanks Lonna & Gary and happy and joyous work.
If you want to contact LEX
The Letter Exchange
855 Village Center Drive, #324
North Oaks, MN 55127-3016
Anna Maria Polidori