The Scarlet & Black

The Independent Student News Site of Grinnell College

The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Letter writing in Burling

“Wednesday Nights at Burling” always holds something special. This week, the event series featured “Letter Writing at Burling.”

To set the mood for the night, books with written correspondences were arranged on the tables in the Northwest corner of Burling.

Jose Gonzalez '11 picks out some stationery on which to write during Wednesday night's letter-writing workshop in Burling Library. Photograph taken by Ben Brewer.

“[The books are] from all time periods and present letters as historical documents,” said Librarian Rebecca Stuhr, who is responsible for the arrangement.

The event was hosted by the Library SEPC in collaboration with the Library staff and the Letter Writers Alliance.
“Our friend Maia Larson [copy editor for the S&B], who is also on the SEPC suggested that we have an event that involved letter writing,” said Kathryn Vanney ’11 of the Library SEPC. In planning since the February, the first part of the event featured a short introduction and two short informational speeches about letter writing as a form of art and communication.

Tad Boehmer ’12 of the Letter Writers’ Alliance spoke about the art form and quoted useful advice about letter writing from Lewis Carroll. For example, if you are planning on attaching something to the letter put in the envelope right away, otherwise, chances are that you will forget it.

“This is the first big event [of our club],” Boehmer said. Even so, The Letter Writers’ Alliance has been a Club at Grinnell since last fall semester. They meet Wednesday nights in Bobs at 9 p.m.

Following Boehmer’s talk was a short speech by Professor Heather Lobban-Viravong, English, about her personal connection to letter writing and her research on letter writing as a literary tool.

Letters are often used as a stylistic device for novel writing. They are in many books including “The Color Purple,” “Poor Folk” and “The Sorrows of Young Werther.”

To add a more personal touch, Lobban-Viravong read from a letter written by her former Korean roommate during graduate school, illustrating how even banal seeming letters communicate far more than emails through the writers handwriting, smell and other features.

Head of the Letter Writers Alliance Tad Boehmer '12 reads an excerpt from Lewis Carroll's advice on letter-writing as a part of the Library SEPC's sponsored event in Burling Library on Wednesday. Photograph taken by Ben Brewer.

“I find especially sentimental letters… inspiring,” Lovvan-Viravong said. “I think it’s great that people can communicate… and talk about personal issues that way.”

Lobban-Viravong has taught tutorials on letter writing as a literary genre and tries to encourage students to pick it up themselves.

The event was not, however, all talk and no action. After the two speeches were over, attendees were encourage to take some time and write their own letters to someone.

A table filled with letter-oriented goodies provided all the necessary implements: stationeries, pens, pencils, sticker stamps and two ancient looking, but still functional, typewriters. The organizers also provided live music to set an intimate atmosphere.

“I want to be one of those people who write letters,” said attendee Rebecca Heller ’11. ”Hopefully this will be a good inspiration.”

“I have a collection of postcards from all over the world that people sent me on my wall,” said Sara Woolery ’11, a student in Lobban-Viravong’s tutorial. For her, letters are a unique and important form of communication.

“Letters are a way of saying… some things we otherwise wouldn’t say,” Woolery said.

This event made clear that even though letters may have a hard time competing with emails in terms of efficacy and speed, there is much more to letter writing than just getting a message across.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover
Donate to The Scarlet & Black
Our Goal

Comments (0)

All The Scarlet & Black Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *