University of Iowa

Transforming Letters into Essays: A Workshop on Audience and Form

Weeklong July 22 to July 27 2018

Many of us have either a digital archive or a paper-weighted box of letters we have written that capture our voice, our daily dramas (large and small), and sometimes even our most fully-articulated selves. Indeed, sometimes when we read essays, we feel intuitively that they capture the spirit and style of a great letter. In this workshop, we will work to transform the “best bits” of letters we have written (or even received) into essays that transcend the particular time and place of their origin. The workshop is intended for beginning or intermediate nonfiction writers who want to explore turning their personal missives into nonfiction that is suitable for a wider audience. Workshop time will be spent composing new letters for this purpose, revising letters we bring to class for a wider audience through daily exercises, and reading with a helpful critique our early drafts of essays based on letters. Throughout the week, we will focus on how to discover the shape of material embedded in our prose once we decide to enlarge our audience.