The word epistle comes from the Latin “epistula”, which means “letter.” Writers use the letter form to write personal essays, poems and fiction because the form provides a container to hold an exploration of events and experiences. Writing in the letter form quickly builds intimacy with readers because a letter is addressed to a particular person. Letters are a way of testifying, of sharing something internal, of unloading, of finding common ground, and also of raising your voice.
Ta-Nehisi Coates and James Baldwin, several generations apart, used the epistolary form to respond to the disaster of racism in American history. Alice Walker’s The Color Purple is an epistolary novel in which an impoverished black teenage girl, Celie, tells her story through writing letters to both her sister and God. Epistolary poems are poems that read as letters, like Elana Bell’s “Letter to Palestine,” which renders the political in a confessional voice.
In this class, we will examine epistolary writing across the genres, and explore how stories can be told effectively as letters. And, of course, we will draft our own epistles. This class is ideal for writers who enjoy experimenting with form or who would like to practice experimenting with form.
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Vanessa Mártir is a big-hearted, 1980s Brooklyn-raised bocona learning the heartbeat of silence in the countryside of upstate NY; an oil-and-water combination of imposter syndrome, ambition, procrastination, certainty, insecurity and drive. Vanessa writes essays, memoir and novels, is a wanna be poet & playwright, and the creator of the Writing Our Lives Workshop; the Writing the Mother Wound Movement, and most recently the Write Your Abortion Story class. Vanessa has been widely published including in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian, Longreads, Poets & Writers, The Rumpus, Aster(ix) Journal, and the New York Times' Bestselling anthology Not That Bad, edited by Roxane Gay, among others. She has partnered with Tin House and The Rumpus to publish WOL alumni, and with Longreads and NYU's Latinx Project to publish Mother Wound essays. She has also served as guest editor of Aster(ix) and The James Franco Review. When she's not writing or teaching, you can find Vanessa in her garden or hiking in an old growth forest. Find out more about her relentless belief in our stories at vanessamartir.com.
Vanessa is new to The Porch. Welcome!