Session Three Handout

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Session Three: Letter Assignment

Write a story about an incident or event from your past in the form of a letter to someone you know or would like to know. This person need not be living. The letter can also be to someone such as a grandchild not yet born, a historical figure, or a group of people such as “the children of the year 2020.” The main objective is to have a defined audience to whom you are writing.

Your letter should be from one to five pages long. Remember to keep your audience in mind. What details do they need to follow your story? What is appropriate to tell them, to not tell them? Try to make a mental note of details you selectively omit. It will help you gain a deeper understanding of narrative voice and the writing process.

Samples of assignment: “Letter to Myself, Revisited”  and “Letter” 

From “Letter to Myself, Revisited”


 Dear Mary Lou,

         Do you remember what it was like to be five years old? Of course you do. That was the year when your life changed completely. That was the year the gardener called you “Molly Cotton Top” and you learned the words to the song, “Mary Lou,” especially the part about people bringing pretty presents just for you.

         You and your brother Jack and your mother and father had just moved to Houston from Burlington, Iowa. It was the fall of the year. That has always been a restless time for you. Do you suppose that’s why? Because when you were at an age that treasures grandparents and sameness and routine, suddenly none of those things were a part of your life – and you thought they never would be again.

         Do you remember when your Aunt Mamie and Uncle Ed came from Burlington for a visit? The trunk of their car was filled with apples, just as your grandma’s cellar had been, and when they raised the lid, the smell of apples permeated the warm, humid air, blending the aroma of dying magnolia blossoms and fusing the two divergent cultures of Texas and Iowa into a unifed whole for you. Do you remember what your aunt said about Houston?

         She said, “Well, it isn’t Iowa.”

Do you remember what your father said about that? Of course you do. You weren’t allowed to repeat it. But then, he didn’t like Iowa. That’s why you moved.

From “Letter”


My Dearest Husband,

         You have been gone two years, but you are always with me. Nothing is the same but I try to continue on the best way I can.

         You spoiled and protected me in so many ways. For example, at one point in their teens, each of our sons came home ill after experiencing their first indulgence of alcohol. And when I was awakened by sounds in the bathroom and came in to check, you said, “Go back to bed, honey. He just has a virus.” Naturally, I accepted that explanation and returned to bed leaving everything in your capable hands. How naive I was!

         You would be proud to know that I have become a little more independent, realizing I am on my own and must assume certain duties. You should see me replacing batteries where needed and resetting the clocks and answering machine. These are not hard chores, but nevertheless I depended on you to handle these details and you were always there for me.

         I miss your going grocery shopping for me or the two of us going together. I used to joke and say “our social life for the week.”

         It was always pleasing when you complimented my cooking, simple as it was. When we had company, you commented how good the food was and I told you not to do that in front of the guests, thereby forcing them to agree. After that, you would catch my eye, smile, and nod your head, letting me know you were pleased with the meal. Remember the time you evidently didn’t enjoy the dinner and said, “You must not be feeling so well today?” What a gentleman!

         Please know you are in my heart.

         How proud you would be of our wonderful grandchildren. They seem to be growing so fast and becoming such fine youngsters.

Your Loving Wife