ABCs of Creative Nonfiction: L is for Letter

Posted by on Jul 17, 2016 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

bernstein_picDear[1]Or: Hello, hi, hey, hola, salutations. Or: Skip it and just say the reader’s name. You don’t want to come on too strong if this is the first time your pen hits the page. Reader[2]Who is your reader? Give her a face. Sit her down at the marbled gray table across from you as you both sip on iced coffee, water, vodka-disguised-as-water. But that reader needs a face. You need to … Continue reading ,[3]I mean it, give your reader an identity; we’re not moving forward until you get this point. Who do you envision reading your work? How does your tone shift when you think of your mother reading … Continue reading
I sat with scissors at my desk today and cut pink polka-dotted baby clothes into tiny strips.[4]Well, that’s one way to open a letter. But it’s a start! Now that I have a face for you, Reader, I can see how you react. I can hear your questions about context and I feel your concerns that I … Continue reading How are you today?[5]Because I care about you and want to make sure you’re on your way. Write a sentence down today. Who would you address it to? What do you need to show them in order for them to understand your … Continue reading
With Love,

[6]Risk sentimentality! It’s ok to say love if you show it on the page, if you really mean it. I mean it, Reader—you’re mighty swell.
Laura

[7]Stand by your work. [8]Laura Bernstein’s work is featured in Passages North, The Normal School, Tupelo Quarterly, and Spry Literary Journal, among others. She serves as Director of Communications for a NY Times … Continue reading

References

1 Or: Hello, hi, hey, hola, salutations. Or: Skip it and just say the reader’s name. You don’t want to come on too strong if this is the first time your pen hits the page.
2 Who is your reader? Give her a face. Sit her down at the marbled gray table across from you as you both sip on iced coffee, water, vodka-disguised-as-water. But that reader needs a face. You need to stare at the freckles in her laugh lines as you’re telling your story. See how she reacts. Writing isn’t a one-sided thing, you know. You’re learning something new, and you want your reader to do the same.
3 I mean it, give your reader an identity; we’re not moving forward until you get this point. Who do you envision reading your work? How does your tone shift when you think of your mother reading your work? Your boss? Your surprisingly literate labradoodle? In my Composition & Rhetoric course, my students used to write the most formal, constrained journal entries. All I wanted were thoughts on Julia Alvarez’s How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents. However, my students were so used to giving answers instead of reflections. One class, I asked them to write their weekly assignments as a letter without the usual formal header; they had to address me specifically and sign their names in pen. And you know what? Those worries about an “academic voice” and what I potentially wanted melted away. Noting that their entries were an interaction between two individuals (the student and me) gave them a strange permission to write with honesty. They started to notice details and ask questions.
4 Well, that’s one way to open a letter. But it’s a start! Now that I have a face for you, Reader, I can see how you react. I can hear your questions about context and I feel your concerns that I hate babies. Fear not: I’m making a shadowbox of my daughter’s baby clothes. Don’t worry about your ideas being short in the beginning of your writing process—sometimes getting a sentence out is taxing. Writing a sentence means you’re on your way.
5 Because I care about you and want to make sure you’re on your way. Write a sentence down today. Who would you address it to? What do you need to show them in order for them to understand your thoughts? What questions do you demand your readers to ask themselves?
6 Risk sentimentality! It’s ok to say love if you show it on the page, if you really mean it. I mean it, Reader—you’re mighty swell.
7 Stand by your work.
8 Laura Bernstein’s work is featured in Passages North, The Normal School, Tupelo Quarterly, and Spry Literary Journal, among others. She serves as Director of Communications for a NY Times Bestselling author.

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