The word epistolary comes from the Greek epistol?, which means “letter.” Writers use the letter form in writing personal essays, poems, creative nonfiction and fiction because the form provides a ready-made 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 someone in particular. Therefore, when we read epistolary writing, we are engaged in the relationship the writer has with the understood recipient of the letter and feel a part of that relationship. Importantly, every letter already has an occasion upon which it is being written — the writer knows what has propelled her to speech and learns that she can express the situation to another.
Here are long-time favorite writings of mine that are in the epistolary form:
Here’s an excerpt: http://www.spiritualityandpractice.com/books/excerpts.php?id=16488
And here is the prologue explaining the author’s idea for the book: http://www.bradsachs.com/understands_prologue.ht
You can also visit Amazon and use the Search inside feature to view more letters: http://www.amazon.com/When-No-One-Understands-Adulthood/dp/1590304071 by Sachs.
What has moved you as you’ve read some of the letters at links I’ve provided? Make a list of the moments and phrases that have done this work.
Now, think about a topic that would compel you to speak to another in the form of a letter:
Would you like to change someone’s mind about an important social issue by recounting an experience you’ve had?
Would you like to share a family heirloom with a particular family member and tell them why they are the one to receive it?
Would you like to praise someone but are usually too shy to tell that someone what you admire and why?
Would you want to admonish a person or entity to set things right?
Do you want to write a letter to a celebrity, inventor, historical figure or fictional character?
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