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?
Rani, so nice of you to visit my blog, and also for sharing such a lovely incident in your life. And thanks for your good wishes on the book..if you read it, do let me know what you think!
Hi My dear Friend,
A few months ago, while cleaning my house's storeroom in my hometown Perlis, my father and I accidentally found a few shoe boxes of letters, postcards and stamps. You see, my father is an avid stamp and postcard collector, and he used to write to penpals to exchange stamps, postcards and other news about themselves more than 50years ago. I absolutely enjoyed unfolding the neatly creased and crispy letters filled with beautifully long hand written words from all around the world. Currently, this has also become my latest project every time I go home: filing, arranging and documenting the 'artifacts' and the stamps, and sharing this moment with my 76 year old dad!
p/s: on other note, Im going to get my hands on your ebook…and I will always be proud of u, my distant sifu 😉
Lynda, I do write long hand sometimes, but I'm actually doing letter-writing for the first time in years!
Sharon, I used to be like that. But ever since I did the first letter-writing workshop two weeks ago, I have understood its creative possibilities…and am now already corresponding with two writers. Let us see how it goes 🙂
Sounds like a very interesting project, but not one I'd like to get involved in. I have a stack of note cards on my desk that need a handwritten note in each of them and I have no idea when I might have time to get that done! 🙁
It's been a LONG time since I've hand written a letter. I do handwrite the first drafts of my novels, though.
Well, Terry, Bryce and Mish are on board so far 🙂
I intend to exchange writing prompts and exercises if possible, so short notes are welcome too. If you would like to exchange hand-written letters, just drop me a mail with an address where you can receive said letters!
I think this is so interesting. It has been years since I have written letters to anyone– can hardly read my writing anyways–lol–but I do write short notes in all my cards I send, I love them with a personal note. Thanks for visiting my blog–Singapore! My goodness you are so far away!
I am very excited and definitely interested in the hand-written-letter experience !! I can remember growing up and corresponding with pen-pals from all over the world (unfortunately I've lost track of and contact with all of them … how sad …)
I love writing by hand , in general , and can remember how it felt to run to the postman , eager to see if he would deliver a letter with a foreign stamp in the top right-hand corner !!
I have a fairly decent and legible hand writing so that is the least of my problems !
When do you wish to start ? I can begin right away !!
Talli, like I said to Bryce, mine isn't so great either, but that won't stop me from trying this project 🙂
It involves sending each other writing prompts and challenges, and creative sparks, and all that just sounds too good to miss.
Cinette, it is, and it is not.
Sometimes letters can be like morning pages, where you let your hand do the writing non-stop and spew out the blockage that is stopping you from going ahead.
At others they can be wonderful inspirations…in yesterdays workshop, for example, we had to write a haiku anticipating the contents of the envelope before we got to open it, and we wrote another haiku after we had seen the contents of the letter…it really got my creative juices going!
The concept of the letters reminds me of Morning Pages, in a sense. They are done longhand every morning, first thing, and help bring stuff to the surface that we may not have previously been aware of.
That's such an interesting idea. My handwriting is atrocious, though! I wonder if they'd even be able to read it.
Bryce, yes I'm well, thanks. 🙂
My own writing isn't much to go on about either, so if you'd like to be an author-penpal, just mail me your address at meringue dot p at gmail dot com and I will write you my first letter with my address!
What an interesting thought!
I'd offer to do that, but my penmanship is more like chicken-scratching. (Which I suppose speaks volumes for my personality.) HA!
Hope you are well.