Today, I’m going to attend the second part of a two-day writing workshop held by Miriam Nash in Singapore.
The interesting part is that it is a writing workshop involving letters. Yes, hand-written letters.
More info on the workshop:
For over a year, Singapore-based poet Miriam Nash has exchanged letters with UK poet Karen McCarthy Woolf. They blogged about this process on http://opennotebooks.co.uk/, observing how letter writing has opened up new themes in their work, given their writing focus and helped them develop a free and natural voice.
This experience led Miriam Nash to create a workshop for residents of Singapore where they would be able to correspond with people in London over the duration of a fortnight.
In the first part, which was held on the 15th June, the participants wrote letters to each other, (it is an eerie experience being given a letter by a complete stranger who is sitting right beside you), then worked through a few writing exercises. We subsequently wrote a letter to one of the writing prompt ‘objects’ that emerged from those exercises.
That letter, along with a small visual prompt, got sent on the 15th of this month to participants at a similar workshop in London. Today we’ll receive letters from the London participants, if we are lucky and all went well with the post.
Writing a letter brought back so many memories of the days when they were the only reasonably economical way of communication over large distances. It reminded me of the times I used to write to my father, and got long letters back in return. I’ve tried to revive that correspondence, but without success. I still have stacks of his letters, and sometimes, when I miss my parents, I pore over them.
But that is a very different experience from holding a correspondence with another writer. It is not like writing to a family member who has no relationship with writing whatsoever. I wonder it would be to receive hand-written letters from another writer, what discussions it would spark, and what new directions my writing and that of the other writer would take as a result.
Writing by hand is also being so vulnerable, because it tells the reader so much more than a printed sheet of words. The handwriting changes with emotion, the paper used and the envelope all create a different sort of experience than sending and receiving e-mails.
So, I’m wondering if I could find another writer willing to undertake the experiment, send me hand-written letters, and receive hand-written letters in return. Since international letters take something like two weeks or more to reach, even the most prompt correspondence would possibly involve writing a letter twice a month.
I do understand that this involves privacy and copyright concerns, and in my opinion, like in all relationships, the trust develops over time. Like in the workshop, a correspondent could begin with writing based on a prompt, or a chatty description of the local weather (which itself can be interesting if the correspondents live in different countries), and then take it from there. Not all correspondences would continue, because only people who find it a gainful experience would continue writing to each other despite busy writing and life schedules.
Have you ever hand-written letters to another writer? Would you like to try it?