“Letters have the power to upset, alter and even ruin lives, the embodiment of the idea that the pen is mightier than the sword.” — Evan Fallenberg
Epistolary literature usually takes the shape of letters, but the form also encompasses other documents including journal entries, news articles, blog posts, and emails. For fiction, a heightened sense of realism and accessibility are among the benefits of the form. And then there’s the epistolary memoir, what Parul Sehgal calls “a life told in the form of a letter.”
In this one-day, five-hour seminar, students will explore how stories — fiction and nonfiction, short and book length — can be told effectively as letters. Through the lens of contemporary literature — excerpts from The Secret Lives of Church Ladies, The Heads of the Colored People, Heavy, and Breathe: A Letter to My Sons — we’ll consider the ways the epistolary form frees, constrains, and focuses — sometimes all at once.
This class is ideal for writers who enjoy experimenting with form or who would like to practice experimenting with form. Students will draft fiction and/or nonfiction letters during class that they (or their characters) will never send, letters that convey what they wished they’d said, letters that lament, letters that disrupt, and more. Students may share their work during class if they wish, but no formal feedback will be given.
Class meetings will be held over video chat, using Zoom accessed from your private class page. While you can use Zoom from your browser, we recommend downloading the desktop client so you have access to all platform features.
- Learn how to strategically choose addressees and subject matters in order to create a compelling literary letter
- Learn how to identify the goals of a literary letter and what to include in it to achieve those goals
- Learn how to choose and develop a tone/voice suitable for the subject matter and goals of a given literary letter
- 10% discount on all future Catapult classes
Students should expect to do some reading (about 90 minutes worth) prior to the class and be prepared to discuss the readings during class time.
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