Each Letter in the Mail is a unique creation of the author, and is unlike any other. Letters can be black-and-white or color, one or many pages, handwritten or typed, contain pictures, doodles, and drawings, or not. Some are comics! Think of them as the letters you used to get from your creative friends, before this whole Internet/email thing. Every letter is signed by the author and then scanned and printed, and each includes an address at which subscribers can write back to the author (although we cannot guarantee that addresses from older letters are still correct). All letters are written specifically for the Letters in the Mail program and aren’t available anywhere else. The Rumpus is allowing for individual sale of past letters in case there is a need or desire for a particular author. To subscribe monthly or yearly and make sure not miss out on the great future letters not yet sent, please visit therumpus.net/letters.
Please see below for a list of past authors who have participated in the program. Some letters will require additional postage. Click to read a brief biography of the author and/or description of his or her letter. We will be updating this list periodically.
Asendorf, Aracelis González
Bidwell Smith, Claire (2012, 2013)
Brown, Lisa (w/Stephen Elliott)
Catron, Mandy Len
Elliott, Stephen (February 2014, July 2014)
Farrell, Darren (w/Cecil Castellucci)
Febos, Melissa (January 2013, March 2017)
R. O. Kwon
Lee, Christine H.
McBee, Thomas Page
Olin Unforth, Deb
Ortiz, Wendy C.
Specktor, Matthew (March 2012, August 2012)
Van den Berg, Laura
Viswanathan, Padma (March 2012, September 2014)
Wade, Julie Marie
Weijun Wang, Esmé
Williams, Naomi J.
Wuertz, Yoojin Grace
Elisa Albert is the author of After Birth (2015), The Book of Dahlia (2008), How This Night is Different (2006), and the editor of the anthology Freud’s Blind Spot (2010). Elisa‘s fiction and nonfiction have appeared in Tin House, Post Road, Gulf Coast, Commentary, Salon, Tablet, Los Angeles Review of Books, The Believer, The Rumpus, Time Magazine, on NPR, and in many anthologies. She lives in upstate New York with her family.
Sandy Allen writes to us about writing her first book and the projects she’s been working on since finishing it—including taking up gardening and a tractor named Myrtle! Sandy’s debut book, A Kind of Mirraculas Paradise: A True Story about Schizophrenia, was published by Scribner on January 23, 2018. Originally from Northern California, she received an MFA from the University of Iowa’s Nonfiction Writing Program. She is formerly a BuzzFeed features editor and also co-founded the online literary magazine Wag’s Revue. She lives in upstate New York.
Steve Almond writes from Fairbanks, Alaska about fate, and what success really means. He includes lots of doodles. Steve spent seven years as a newspaper reporter in Texas and Florida before writing his first book, the story collection My Life in Heavy Metal. His non-fiction book, Candyfreak, was a New York Times bestseller. His short fiction has been included in The Best American Short Stories and Pushcart Prize anthologies, and his collection God Bless America won the Paterson Prize for Fiction. His most recent book, Against Football, came out last year and was a New York Times bestseller.
Robert Arellano needs your help naming a giant, grimy teddy bear with a cigarette-burned eye. Subscribe and read Robert’s letter to learn the story behind the bear. Robert is the author of six novels including the Edgar Award finalist Havana Lunar.
Kristen Arnett writes about some weird months after her two best friends break up, and one of them temporarily moves in with her. Kristen is a fiction and essay writer who has held fellowships at Tin House and Lambda Literary Foundation. She was an honorable mention for Glimmer Train’s Short Story Award for New Writers as well as a finalist for the 2014 William Richey short fiction contest at Yemassee Journal. Her work has appeared or is upcoming at North American Review, The Normal School, Superstition Review, Timber Journal, The Rumpus, The Toast, and Burrow Press Review.
Aracelis González Asendorf writes from sunny Florida about the joys of family and the Cuban tradition of pig roasts! Aracelis was born in Cuba and raised in Florida. Her short stories have appeared in Kweli Journal, Puerto del Sol, Sunscripts, Creative Loafing, and The Acentos Review and have been included in the anthologies 100% Pure Florida Fiction and All About Skin: Short Fiction by Women of Color. She has been a contributor at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, a recipient of a New York State Summer Writers Institute scholarship, and a Pushcart Prize nominee.
Martha Bayne writes us a moving and wide-ranging letter about Greece, Lake Michigan, San Juan, Detroit, California, and her father’s failing health. Martha is a writer and editor based in Chicago. Currently, she is Editor-in-Chief of Belt magazine, producing independent journalism for the Rust Belt, and she edits, with Zoe Zolbrod, the Sunday page of The Rumpus. Her features and essays have also appeared in the Chicago Reader, Time Out Chicago, the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times, Bookforum, the Christian Century, the Washington Post, The Rumpus, and the Baffler. In 2009 she started the Soup & Bread series of hunger-relief fundraisers at Chicago’s Hideout bar and music venue, and in 2011 Evanston-based independent press Agate Publishing released her Soup & Bread Cookbook: Building Community One Pot at a Time, a narrative cookbook combining recipes from Soup & Bread with stories exploring the wide-ranging social functions of soup. She is also a company member with Chicago’s Theater Oobleck, and tends bar occasionally at the Hideout. Come by sometime and say hello.
Nicky Beer sends us a letter crammed with all of the experiences and adventures she has during her first twenty-four hours in Spain. Nicky is the author of The Octopus Game, winner of the 2016 Colorado Book Award for Poetry, and The Diminishing House, winner of the 2011 Colorado Book Award for Poetry. She is an associate professor at the University of Colorado Denver, where she is an editor for the literary journal Copper Nickel.
Georgia Bellas writes to us while sitting in an airport drinking a gin and tonic and then from the mountains while crickets sing, hoping to bring you a little joy and to find out all about you, too. Georgia is a writer, artist, and filmmaker. Her work appears in a number of journals, has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and is included in Sundress Publications’s 2014 Best of the Net anthology. You can follow her teddy bear, host of the award-winning weekly Internet radio show Mr. Bear’s Violet Hour Saloon, on Twitter @MrBearStumpy.
Aimee Bender sends a handwritten letter that begins, “Dear Reader, writing a letter is reminding me of other letters.” Aimee is the author of five books: The Girl in the Flammable Skirt (1998) which was a NY Times Notable Book, An Invisible Sign of My Own (2000) which was an LA Times pick of the year, Willful Creatures (2005) which was nominated by The Believer as one of the best books of the year, The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake (2010) which recently won the SCIBA award for best fiction, and an Alex Award, and The Color Master, a NY Times Notable Book for 2013. Her short fiction has been published in Granta, GQ, Harper’s, Tin House, McSweeney’s, the Paris Review, and many more places, as well as heard on PRI’s “This American Life” and “Selected Shorts”. She has received two Pushcart prizes, was nominated for the TipTree award, and the Shirley Jackson short story award. Her fiction has been translated into sixteen languages. She lives in Los Angeles, where she teaches creative writing at USC.
Arielle Bernstein writes to us about letters: why they make her anxious, what she loves about an old-fashioned letter—imperfect handwriting, sentence-level mistakes, vulnerability exposed on the page—and how letters differ so much from more impersonal modern, electronic forms of correspondence. Arielle is a writer based in Washington, DC. Her work has appeared in the Atlantic, Salon, The Millions, and PANK Magazine, among other publications. She is a Professorial Lecturer at American University and editor of TORCH at The Rumpus. You can follow her @NotoriousREL.
Claire Bidwell Smith wrote an early Letter in the Mail, which went on to be published in The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2012. In her second letter, she talks about parenthood, and shares an uncomfortable memory of her father. Claire is a therapist specializing in grief and the author of two books of nonfiction: The Rules of Inheritance and After This: When Life is Over Where Do We Go? both published by Penguin. Claire has a bachelor’s degree from The New School University, and a master’s degree in clinical psychology from Antioch University. She teaches numerous workshops around the country and has written for numerous publications including the New York Times, The Huffington Post, Salon.com, Slate, Chicago Public Radio, The Rumpus, the Guardian, Psychology Today, Yoga Journal, and BlackBook Magazine. Claire currently works in private practice in Los Angeles.
Tabitha Blankenbiller sends a wonderful letter about what we love but won’t talk about with our “fancy literary friends.” She shares a list of her own obsessions, including color photos of each, and wants to know your unspoken favorite things, too! Tabitha is a Pacific University MFA graduate living outside of Portland, Oregon. Her essays have appeared or are forthcoming in Tin House, Electric Literature, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, The Rumpus, Catapult, and a number of other journals. Her debut essay collection Eats of Eden is available from Alternating Current Press, and she Tweets food and fashion Instas at @tabithablanken.
Kyle Boelte sends a letter about how writing his book freed him to try the drugs he’d been afraid of all his life and the failure of his “Jesus year.” Kyle is the author of The Beautiful Unseen, a book about fading memory, his brother’s suicide, and San Francisco’s fog. He was born in a small town on the high plains of Kansas and grew up near Denver, Colorado. A finalist for the Annie Dillard Award, his writing has appeared in ZYZZYVA, Orion Magazine, Full Stop, and High Country News.
Laura Bogart tells us about a woman she once lived with, and how their relationship came to an end. She writes that, “when you grow up mean, you have an uncanny ability someone up for the cruelest cut, to cut her to her core.” Laura’s letter includes a beautiful illustration. Laura‘s work has been featured here at The Rumpus, and on Salon, The Manifest-Station, DAME Magazine, Press Play, and The Nervous Breakdown—among other publications. She has awarded a Grace Paley Fellowship by the Juniper Institute at UMass Amherst. She is currently working on a novel tentatively titled Your Name is No. You can follow her on Twitter: @LDBogart.
Sari Botton writes about her grandmother, and how she’s “been haunted all [her] life—and fucked up—by the ways [she’s] been compared to her.” Sari is a writer living in Kingston, NY. She is the editor of the award-winning anthology Goodbye to All That: Writers on Loving and Leaving New York and its follow-up Never Can Say Goodbye: Writers on Their Unshakable Love for New York. She has worked as a journalist, essayist, New York Times bestselling ghostwriter, and teacher of various kinds of writing at the college level, and for the Moth-style storytelling non-profit TMI Project. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, New York Magazine, The Village Voice, Harper’s Bazaar, Marie Claire, More, The Rumpus, plus other publications and anthologies.
Dan Bransfield writes a gorgeously illustrated letter about summer in San Francisco while on an “urban hike.” Dan is a Chicago-born pizza and pun enthusiast based out of San Francisco. Find him on Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat (danbransfield).
Lisa Brown is an illustrator, writer, and cartoonist who shares all the activities of her day—and she wants to know about yours, too! This letter is fabulously illustrated. This letter also went out as a Letter for Kids, and the adult version includes a note from Stephen Elliott explaining why we wanted to share this letter with grown-ups, too. Visit Lisa at her website.
Andi Buchanan sends a very funny letter about a very serious subject—Andi writes to us about the leak in her brain and all the things she can and sometimes can’t do because of it. Andi is a New York Times bestselling author whose work includes The Daring Book For Girls series, the young adult novel Gift, and the memoir Mother Shock, in addition to several collections of writing on motherhood and feminism. She lives in Philadelphia with her family.
Amy Butcher asks in her letter, did we enjoy our Halloweens? Then, she tells us about about one of her most memorable Halloweens, when she was fifteen years old. Amy is the author of Visiting Hours (Blue Rider Press/Penguin-Random House) and an essayist with work in the New York Times, The Iowa Review, Guernica, Gulf Coast, Fourth Genre, The Rumpus, the Paris Review online, Tin House online, and Brevity, among others. She current teaches writing at Ohio Wesleyan University and lives in Columbus.
Chloe Caldwell writes to us on stolen paper, while cat-sitting and stressing about where to find an envelope and a stamp, all about her life right now. Chloe is the author of the novella Women and the essay collection Legs Get Led Astray. Chloe’s next essay collection, I’ll Tell You in Person, is just-released from Coffee House & Emily Books. She teaches creative nonfiction writing in New York City and online. She grew up in the hamlet of Spencertown, New York and after living in New York City, Washington, Oregon, and a brief stint in Berlin, currently resides in Hudson.
Mandy Len Catron writes to us about the intimacy of letter-writing, two famous literary pen pals, and reading from her first book at her hometown library. Originally from Appalachian Virginia, Mandy now lives in Vancouver, British Columbia. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, The Rumpus, and The Walrus, as well as literary journals and anthologies. She writes about love and love stories at The Love Story Project, and she teaches English and creative writing at the University of British Columbia. How to Fall in Love with Anyone: A Memoir in Essays is her first book. It was recently long-listed for the 2018 RBC Charles Taylor Prize.
Melissa Chadburn shares a secret that only one other person knows (before she writes her letter), and then tells us a sad story, in the hopes of breaking down barriers and making connections. When Melissa is not teaching at UCSD, she can usually be found protesting somewhere. She has written for Guernica, SLAKE, Salon, McSweeney’s, American Public Media’s Marketplace, and a dozen other places. Her essay, “The Throwaways,” was noted in 2013’sBest American Essays and Best American Nonrequired Reading. Follow her on twitter @melissachadburn.
Margaret Cho writes about eating on airplanes, and why she’d rather starve than eat in-flight. She also shares a story of one of her very first flights to Los Angeles. Visit her website here.
Nicole Chung writes to us about Battlestar Galactica, summer travel, and how she seeks out things that scare her in this scary time we live in. Nicole is the Web Editor-in-Chief of Catapult and the former Managing Editor of The Toast. She has written for the New York Times, the Times Magazine, Shondaland, Longreads, BuzzFeed, GQ, and Hazlitt, among others. Her first book, a memoir of growing up adopted and searching for her Korean birth family, will be published in fall 2018. She would love to have lunch with you, but she doesn’t live in New York.
Kate Colby takes comfort in writing a letter to us while while “embroiled in an extreme emotional situation.” Kate‘s seventh book of poetry, The Arrangements, is forthcoming from Four Way Books in 2018. Fruitlands won the Norma Farber First Book Award in 2007. She grew up in Boston, is a founding board member of the Gloucester Writers Center in Massachusetts and currently lives with her family in Providence, RI. More of her recent thoughts can be found at the Ploughshares blog.
Lucy Corin writes to us about her badass childhood friend J and what happened when she went searching for on the Internet and social media. Lucy is the author of two short story collections, One Hundred Apocalypses and Other Apocalypses (McSweeney’s Books) and The Entire Predicament (Tin House Books) as well as a novel, Everyday Psychokillers: A History for Girls (FC2). She won an American Academy of Arts and Letters Rome Prize and is currently an NEA fellow (perhaps the very last fiction cohort on earth). She lives in Asheville and Northern California, teaches at the University of California at Davis, and is at work on a novel.
Tasha Coryell writes an intimate letter about gossip, beauty, and the loss of a friend. Tasha teaches English at the University of Alabama where she received her MFA. Her debut collection, Hungry People, was published by Split Lip Press in 2018. When she isn’t posting on twitter (@tashaaaaaaa), Tasha volunteers for the Tuscaloosa County Democratic Party.
Adrian Cotter shares his experiences traveling on planes and trains, and discusses the different people he’s met while doing so. Adrian also talks about why “good things to come to those who wait” may be the worst advice he’s ever received. This letter accompanied by beautiful illustrations.
Molly Crabapple writes a beautifully illustrated letter about the street cats of Istanbul, and one cat in particular and the special bond it shares with a bodega shopkeeper. Molly is an artist, journalist, and author of the memoir, Drawing Blood. Called “An emblem of the way art can break out of the gilded gallery” by the New Republic, she has drawn in and reported from Guantanamo Bay, Abu Dhabi’s migrant labor camps, and in Syria, Lebanon, Gaza, the West Bank, and Iraqi Kurdistan. Crabapple is a contributing editor for VICE, and has written for publications including the New York Times, the Paris Review, and Vanity Fair. Her work is in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art.
Antonia Crane writes from a balcony in the “magnificently beautiful, and warm” Akumal, about an hour outside of Cancun, where she has traveled for a writers’ retreat. She talks about the men in her family, and her mother’s illness and passing, and the way she rebuilt herself after losing her mother. Antonia’s letter is accompanied by beautiful illustrations from Ariel Schrag. Antonia is a writer, teacher and performer in Los Angeles. She is the author of the memoir Spent by Barnacle Books/Rare Bird Lit. Her other work can be found her at The Rumpus, and in Playboy, Dame Magazine, Salon, PANK, Black Clock, The Believer, Frequencies, Slake, the Los Angeles Review, The New Black, and lots of other places. She can be found running up Griffith Park mountain and here.
Elizabeth Crane writes her letter in the midst of post-Hurricane Sandy chaos. She talks about how strange it is to see the subways stop running, her “long-standing issues with the ‘everything happens for a reason’ idea,” and her existential crisis about whether she’s meant to continue pursuing the writer’s life or not. Elizabeth is the author of three collections of short stories, When the Messenger is Hot, All This Heavenly Glory, and You Must Be This Happy to Enter, and a novel, We Only Know So Much.
Leesa Cross-Smith sends us a handwritten letter on hotel stationary about traveling, anxiety, and making lists. She also includes a list of questions she’d love to hear your answers to. Leesa is a homemaker and has been a finalist for both the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction and the Iowa Short Fiction Award. She is the author of Every Kiss a War (Mojave River Press, 2014) and the forthcoming novel Whiskey & Ribbons (Hub City Press, March 2018). Her work has appeared in Oxford American and Best Small Fictions, among many others. She is the founder/editor of WhiskeyPaper and lives and writes in Kentucky.
Mensah Demary writes a beautiful letter about not surrendering hope, but instead clinging to it to remain sane in these anxiety-filled times. “There is no human endeavor without hope. Even as I write, I hope to find you home, safe, able to read my words, open to revolt.” Mensah is an editor for Catapult, an independent press based in New York. A writer for over fifteen years, Mensah’s work appears or is forthcoming in Pacific Standard, The Millions, VICE, The Common, Lit Hub, and elsewhere. Originally from New Jersey, Mensah lives and writes with his partner and boy/girl twins in Brooklyn.
Colin Dickey begins his letter by telling us about how he used to hate email, and reminds us that a letter is so much more than its content—a letter is an experience. Colin is the author of Ghostland: An American History in Haunted Places (Viking), plus two previous books of nonfiction: Cranioklepty: Grave Robbing and the Search for Genius, and Afterlives of the Saints: Stories from the Ends of Faith. He is also the co-editor (with Joanna Ebenstein) of The Morbid Anatomy Anthology. He teaches writing at National University.
Anthony Doerr sends his thoughtful letter from a yurt (and if you don’t know what that is, don’t worry—he explains and even offers an illustration drawn by his eight-year-old son). He writes about “choice and the Too-Muchness of Everything.” Is it important for us to limit our choices and the amount of information we consume, if only “to keep ourselves from drowning?” Anthony was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio. He is the author of the story collections The Shell Collector and Memory Wall, the memoir Four Seasons in Rome, and the novels About Grace and All the Light We Cannot See, which was awarded the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for fiction and the 2015 Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction.
Ben Dolnick writes a very funny letter about the “strangeness of traveling alone” while his plane is delayed for hours at the Sea-Tac airport. Ben is the author of three novels: Zoology, You Know Who You Are, and At the Bottom of Everything. His writing has appeared in the New York Times and on NPR. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and dog.
Monica Drake sends a moving letter about her beloved dog Ruben. First, she describes walking around her Portland neighborhood with Ruben. She includes photos of everything she and Ruben see. But as they walk, Monica tells us about Ruben’s cough. Ultimately, we learn Ruben is sick and must be put to sleep. Monica continues to go for walks, but it doesn’t feel quite the same. Monica has an MFA from the University of Arizona and teaches at the Pacific Northwest College of Art. Her debut novel, Clown Girl, was published by indie press Hawthorne Books, and has won an Eric Hoffer Award as well as an IPPY. It’s been translated into Italian, and recently optioned for film by the brilliant Kristen Wiig (SNL, Bridesmaids). Her most recent novel, The Stud Book, is out now (Hogarth Books, April 2013) and doing great.
Camille Dungy writes from The Island of Beautiful Women about discipline, dedication, and one very special turtle volunteer. Camille is author of Smith Blue (Southern Illinois University Press, 2011), winner of the 2010 Crab Orchard Open Book Prize, Suck on the Marrow (Red Hen Press, 2010), and What to Eat, What to Drink, What to Leave for Poison (Red Hen Press, 2006). She is editor of Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry (UGA, 2009), co-editor of From the Fishouse: An Anthology of Poems that Sing, Rhyme, Resound, Syncopate, Alliterate, and Just Plain Sound Great (Persea, 2009), and assistant editor of Gathering Ground: A Reader Celebrating Cave Canem’s First Decade (University of Michigan Press, 2006). She is a two-time recipient of the Northern California Book Award (2010 and 2011), a Silver Medal Winner in the California Book Award (2011), and a two-time NAACP Image Award nominee (2010 and 2011).
Stassa Edwards sends a letter about how after escaping Florida for Washington, DC, a temporary return turns into a permanent one. She wonders about what it means to be from someplace while spinning on the teacups at Disney World with her daughter, a rite of passage for all Floridians. Stassa is a writer at Jezebel. In addition, she has also written for Cabinet Quarterly, Aeon, Lapham’s Quarterly, and The Awl. She is currently working on a book on the history of hysteria.
Kristy Eldredge writes to us about her quest to become a comedy writer and the difference between youthful friendships and adult ones. Kristy is a humor and fiction writer who also reviews books and makes comedy films. She has written a novel about the collapse of late capitalism and Hegel’s failure to point the way for future visionaries that mysteriously hasn’t found a publisher yet.
Stephen Elliott’s most recent letter finds him having just returned to Brooklyn from LA, where he finished work on his new movie, Happy Baby. Stephen writes a personal and rambling letter about writer’s block, simplifying his life, and more. His earlier letter shares stories from his life. Stephen is the founder of The Rumpus.
Cai Emmons writes to us while on vacation, from a cottage by the sea, about whether we are what we pay attention to. Cai is the author of the novels His Mother’s Son and The Stylist. Her newest novel Weather Woman (Red Hen Press, October 2018), is about a meteorologist who discovers she has the power to change the weather. Cai’s story collection, Vanishing, will be published in the fall of 2019. Formerly a playwright and screenwriter, her short work has appeared in such publications as TriQuarterly, Narrative, and Arts and Culture, among others. She teaches in the University of Oregon’s Creative Writing Program.
Ben Fama writes about the release of his 2015 poetry collection, Fantasy, a hot summer spent with a difficult dog as a favor to a friend, an absent partner in Berlin, and the very little writing he’s managed to accomplish given all that. Ben is the author of Fantasy (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2015), the artist book Mall Witch (Wonder, 2012), as well as several chapbooks. His poems have appeared in Boston Review, Jubilat, Denver Quarterly, LIT, and on the Poetry Foundation website. In 2015 he was selected is a participating artist in MoMa PS1’s Greater New York show, as well as Performa 15. He is a co-founder of Wonder, and lives in New York.
Darren Farrell sends an awesome letter from the other side of the planet. He writes about what it’s like living in Seoul, South Korea and even shares a recipe for bulgogi! This letter comes with a note from author and Letters for Kids Correspondence Coordinator Cecil Castellucci explaining why Darren’s letter is perfect for kids ages 1-101!
Melissa Febos, in her beautiful 2013 letter, writes from a hotel in Marfa, Texas, where is she is meeting her new love. She talks about how there isn’t ever enough time to do all the things we want to do, how “when Jung comes knocking, [she] answer[s],” and meeting her birth father. In her 2017 letter, Melissa writes to us to us about the self-indulgence of guilt, what lovers take from us when they leave, and deciding to take a temporary vow of celibacy. Melissa is the author of the memoir, Whip Smart (St. Martin’s Press 2010), and the essay collection, Abandon Me (Bloomsbury 2017). Her work has appeared in The Kenyon Review, Tin House, Granta, Prairie Schooner, Glamour, Salon, New York Times, Guernica, Dissent, Poets & Writers, Lenny Letter, and elsewhere. Her essays have won prizes from Prairie Schooner, Story Quarterly, and The Center for Women Writers and she has been featured on NPR’s Fresh Air, CNN, and Anderson Cooper Live. She is a three-time MacDowell Colony fellow and has also received fellowships from the Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference, Virginia Center for Creative Arts, Vermont Studio Center, The Barbara Deming Memorial Fund, Ragdale, and Lower Manhattan Cultural Council. The recipient of an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College, she is currently Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Monmouth University and MFA faculty at the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA). She serves on the Board of Directors for VIDA: Women in Literary Arts and lives in Brooklyn.
Rich Ferguson writes to us about discovering that he enjoys fatherhood, and what he’s learned from being awake at the “The Devil’s Hour” of 3 a.m. and all the strangeness that happens in the middle of the night. This unique letter includes hand-drawn illustrations. Pushcart-nominated poet Rich has shared the stage with Patti Smith, Wanda Coleman, Moby, and other esteemed poets and musicians. He has performed at the NYC Fringe Festival, the Bowery Poetry Club, and is a featured performer in the film What About Me? He has been published in the LA TIMES, The Rumpus, Sensitive Skin, and his spoken word/music videos have appeared in international film festivals. Ferguson is a poetry editor to The Nervous Breakdown. His poetry collection 8th & Agony is out on Punk Hostage Press. His debut novel, New Jersey Me, has been published by Rare Bird Books/Barnacle Books.
John Fischer writes to about family while at a Cleveland clinic where his younger brother has just had heart-valve replacement surgery. John is a Brooklyn-based writer and his writing has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, chosen as a notable selection in 2013’s Best American Essays Anthology, and featured by Longreads.
Janet Fitch shares her reverence for “the traces people leave… Letters. Windows. Addresses. Brownstones. Letter openers.” She saves every letter she receives, and when she learned that her best friend threw away letters Fitch wrote to her when they were living apart during college, she was furious. After all, “a letter is something you cherish.” Janet was born in Los Angeles, a third-generation native, and grew up in a family of voracious readers. As an undergraduate at Reed College, Fitch had decided to become a historian, attracted to its powerful narratives, the scope of events, the colossal personalities, and the potency and breadth of its themes. But when she won a student exchange to Keele University in England, where her passion for Russian history led her, she awoke in the middle of the night on her twenty-first birthday with the revelation she wanted to write fiction. She is a faculty member in the Master of Professional Writing Program at the University of Southern California, where she teaches fiction. She is the author of Kicks, White Oleander, and her most recent novel, Paint It Black, named after the Rolling Stones song of the same name. The movie version is in the works.
Helena Fitzgerald sends us a stunning and insightful letter about what holidays ask of us, and what they give us in return. Helena Fitzgerald has had writing published in Rolling Stone, Hazlitt, GQ, the Atlantic, The New Republic, Catapult, Electric Literature, Racked, Nylon, VICE, Brooklyn Magazine, and The New Inquiry (where she is a former editor), among many others. She writes a popular tinyletter called Griefbacon and is currently at work on several longer-form projects, including a novel about the 1977 NYC blackout. She’s on twitter @helfitzgerald.
Gina Frangello tells us about her friend who was a pathological liar, and ultimately ended up committing suicide. Gina wonders whether things might have been different if she’d stayed friends with this person, and whether any of us are powerful enough to keep another person alive. Gina‘s next novel, Every Kind of Wanting, will be published by Counterpoint Press in fall 2016. Her last novel, A Life in Men (Algonquin 2014), was selected for the Target Emerging Authors series and has been optioned by Universal Cable Productions/Denver & Delilah. She is also the author of two other books of fiction: Slut Lullabies (Emergency Press 2010), and My Sister’s Continent (Chiasmus 2006). She co-founded and served as the Executive Editor for many years at Other Voices Books, and has also been the fiction editor at The Nervous Breakdown and the Sunday editor of The Rumpus. Gina is on faculty at UCR-Palm Desert’s low residency MFA program in Creative Writing.
Amy Fusselman writes to us about an auction at her son’s school, the endless food choices at Twitter HQ, meeting the man that is the voice of the NYC subway system, one particular auctioneer with an almost pornographic name, and how people can change things for the better by making even the smallest choices. Amy is the author of three books of nonfiction: The Pharmacist’s Mate, 8, and Savage Park: A Meditation on Play, Space, and Risk for Americans Who Are Nervous, Distracted, and Afraid to Die. Her forthcoming book, Idiophone, will be released in 2018 from Coffee House Press
V.V. Ganeshananthan writes to us about epistolary novels, her own letter-writing history, and making hot dish in the Midwest. V.V., the author of the novel Love Marriage, is at work on a second novel, excerpts of which have appeared in Ploughshares, Granta, and Best American Nonrequired Reading. She teaches in the MFA program at the University of Minnesota.
Roxane Gay begins her letter writing about how to have a breakdown, but ends up writing about “about how to find your way home when you are impossibly lost.” This is a deeply moving letter about the secrets we carry within ourselves. Roxane‘s writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Best American Mystery Stories 2014, Best American Short Stories 2012, Best Sex Writing 2012, A Public Space, McSweeney’s, Tin House, Oxford American, American Short Fiction, West Branch, Virginia Quarterly Review, NOON, the New York Times Book Review, Bookforum, Time, the Los Angeles Times, The Nation, The Rumpus, Salon, and many others. She is the co-editor of PANK. She is also the author of the books Ayiti, An Untamed State, Bad Feminist, and Hunger, forthcoming from Harper in 2016.
Kate Gavino, writer, artist, and ardent defender of the New York City G train, tells us about the stops that call out to her in this beautifully illustrated letter. Kate is the creator of the blog and book, Last Night’s Reading (Penguin Books). Her work has been featured in BuzzFeed, the Guardian, O Magazine, Rookie, the Paris Review Daily, The Rumpus, and Brooklyn Magazine.
Sarah Gerard writes about her lifelong, childhood friendships and her only friend from that group of friends who hasn’t turned out happy. Sarah is the author of the forthcoming chapbook BFF and the novel Binary Star, which NPR calls a “hard, harrowing look into inner space.” Her personal essays, criticism, interviews, and short fiction have appeared in the New York Times, Tin House, Music & Literature, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Joyland, BOMB Magazine, and elsewhere.
Emily Gould begins her letter by talking about a piece she wrote for a magazine that she wasn’t happy with. She’s also preoccupied with money, mostly because she doesn’t have any and just quit her job teaching yoga (even though she likes yoga). Then she thinks about what art does—”opening a portal and allowing an immense new energy into the world”—and what it means to work on a writing project. Emily is the author of a novel, Friendship (2014), and a memoir, And The Heart Says Whatever (2010).
Marie Helene-Bertino writes to us from her giant desk, and tells us about the importance of celebrating the minor happenings in our lives. Marie‘s debut novel 2 A.M. at The Cat’s Pajamas is a Barnes & Noble Fall ’14 Discover Great New Writers pick and a Best Book of 2014 at NPR, Popsugar, BuzzFeed, Flavorwire, and others. Her debut collection of short stories Safe as Houses received The 2012 Iowa Short Fiction Award and was named an Outstanding Collection by The Story Prize. She teaches in the Creative Writing Department at NYU and in the low-residency MFA program at IAIA (Institute of American Indian Arts).
Dean Haspeil sends a letter in the form of a comic, and reminisces about Montero Bar & Grill, the first bar he ever fell in love with. Dean is an American comic book artist. He is known for his collaborations with writer Harvey Pekar on his American Splendor series as well as the graphic novel The Quitter.
Lee Herrick writes to us about his love of lists, and he includes a photocopy of two bar napkins on which he and his wife wrote a list of one-hundred band names they’d call a band if they ever started one. Lee is author of two books, Gardening Secrets of the Dead and This Many Miles from Desire, and the forthcoming Scar and Flower (Word Poetry, 2019). His poems appear widely in literary magazines, textbooks, and anthologies, including Columbia Poetry Review, The Normal School, Visions Across the Americas, and Indivisible: Poems of Social Justice, among others. He is a Fresno Poet Laureate Emeritus and serves on the Advisory Board of The Adoption Museum Project. Born in Daejeon, Korea and adopted at ten months old, he lives in Fresno, California and teaches at Fresno City College and the MFA Program at Sierra Nevada College.
Brandon Hicks sends us a very creative, funny, non-traditional letter. He really wants to get to know you so, he has included fifteen thought-provoking questions he would like you to answer. And in return he reveals a bit of himself in hand-drawn short cartoon vignettes. Brandon is a writer, cartoonist, university student, and generally unemployed person living in New Brunswick, Canada. He sometimes posts things to his Tumblr, which can be found here.
Allyson Hoffman shares with us the people she’s grateful for, the things that make her happy, and the places that she loves, using words and very special drawings. She even includes some extra doodles at the end so that you can make your own illustrated letter about what you are grateful for. Allyson is a writer from West Michigan. Currently, she is pursuing an MFA at the University of South Florida. Her previous work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Rumpus, Third Point Press, and Midwestern Gothic.
Tayari Jones sends us a handwritten letter about living in Las Vegas for a year, what it feels like to put writing out into the world, and self-care. Tayari is the author of the novels Leaving Atlanta, The Untelling, Silver Sparrow, and An American Marriage (Algonquin Books, February 2018). Her writing has appeared in Tin House, The Believer, the New York Times, and Callaloo. A member of the Fellowship of Southern Writers, she has also been a recipient of the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, Lifetime Achievement Award in Fine Arts from the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, United States Artist Fellowship, NEA Fellowship and Radcliffe Institute Bunting Fellowship. An Associate Professor in the MFA program at Rutgers-Newark University, Jones is spending the 2017-18 academic year as the Shearing Fellow for Distinguished Writers at the Beverly Rogers, Carol C. Harter Black Mountain Institute at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
Rahul Kanakia writes to us about being in love. He shares how he met his love, how things progressed, and how he was and still is overpowered by his feelings of love. Rahul’s first book, a contemporary YA novel called Enter Title Here, is coming out from Disney-Hyperion in August 2016, and his stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Apex, Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, The Indiana Review, and Nature. He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Johns Hopkins and a BA in Economics from Stanford, and he used to work in the field of international development. Originally from Washington, DC, Rahul now lives in Berkeley. Follow him on Twitter: @rahkan.
Lisa Ko writes about her lifelong love of snail mail, beginning as a child when she used to send letters to fictional characters she invented. She also tells us about her real-life pen pals, and wonders whether grammar matters in the age of emojis. Lisa is the author of The Leavers, a novel which was a finalist for the 2017 National Book Award for Fiction and won the 2016 PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction. Her writing has appeared in Best American Short Stories 2016, thee New York Times, BuzzFeed, O. Magazine, and elsewhere. Visit her at lisa-ko.com.
Suzanne Koven writes about the important role sending letters held for her in her childhood and adolescence. Then, she shares a story she’s “never really told anyone about before,” about the summer of 1973 when she was sixteen years old and moved from her childhood home in Brooklyn to an apartment in Manhattan with her parents. Suzanne is a primary care internist and writer. Her award-winning column “In Practice” appeared in the Boston Globe. Her interview column “The Big Idea” appears at The Rumpus. She has contributed essays and reviews to The New Yorker.com, The New England Journal of Medicine, The Rumpus, The L.A. Review of Books, Psychology Today, Boston Globe Books and other publications. Her work has been featured on NPR, The Millions, The Daily Beast, TheAtlantic.com, Forbes.com, The Huffington Post, and KevinMD.com.
R. O. Kwon sends a wonderful letter about the times she kept quiet but wishes she hadn’t, resolving to speak up in the future, and wanting to “live loud and wide and tall.” R. O.’s first novel, The Incendiaries, was released in July of 2018. She is a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellow. Her writing is published or forthcoming in The Guardian, Vice, Time, Noon, Electric Literature, The Rumpus, Playboy, and elsewhere. She has received awards from Yaddo, MacDowell, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, Omi International, the Steinbeck Center, and the Norman Mailer Writers’ Colony. Born in South Korea, she has lived most of her life in the United States.
Caroline Leavitt rites a wonderful letter about how she changed from being cruel and sharp-tongued to being a kind, generous, and openhearted person. Caroline is the critically acclaimed author of Cruel Beautiful World, and the New York Timesand USA Today bestselling author of Is This Tomorrow, Pictures of You, Girls In Trouble, Coming Back to Me, Living Other Lives, Into Thin Air, Family, Jealousies, Lifelines, and Meeting Rozzy Halfway. Her many essays, stories, book reviews, and articles have appeared in Salon, The Millions, Psychology Today, the New York Times Sunday Book Review, the New York Times Modern Love, Publisher’s Weekly, People, Real Simple, New York Magazine, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, and numerous anthologies. The recipient of a 1990 New York Foundation of the Arts Award for Fiction, she was also a National Magazine Award nominee for personal essay, a Nickelodeon Screenwriting Fellow Finalist, and a recent first-round finalist in the Sundance Screenwriting Lab competition.
Christine H. Lee writes to us about taking down walls, including her physical mask of makeup. This is a moving letter about being true to and comfortable with yourself. Christine has a memoir (Whole 2016) and a novel (Golem of Seoul 2017), both of which are forthcoming from Ecco. Her short fiction and essays have appeared in journals and anthologies such as ZYZZYVA, Guernica, The Rumpus, Hyphen, BuzzFeed, and Men Undressed.
Don Lee writes to us about the writing life, regularly running into Richard Yates at a Boston bar year ago, and carrying on the for the sake of the work. Don is the author of the novels Lonesome Lies Before Us, The Collective, Wrack and Ruin, and Country of Origin, and the story collection Yellow. He has received an American Book Award, the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature, and the Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction. He teaches in the MFA program in creative writing at Temple University and splits his time between Philadelphia and Baltimore.
Lorelei Lee writes a letter while in an airport, about her grandmother who drinks Jägermeister, talks about feminism, and is the only person who really understands her. Her grandmother is preparing for her death with Post-It notes. Lorelei’s letter includes illustrated conversations between Lee and her grandmother, and is funny and sweet and a little bit sad. Lorelei is a student, writer, and porn performer. Her writing has appeared or is upcoming in Transfer, $pread Magazine, Animal Shelter, and Denver Quarterly.
Eugenia Leigh shares her theory on the “Jesus Year,” or the year a person turns thirty-three, and the work it takes to become the “truer” version of yourself. Eugenia is a Korean American poet and the author of Blood, Sparrows and Sparrows (Four Way Books), winner of the 2015 Debut-litzer Prize in Poetry and finalist for both the National Poetry Series and the Yale Series of Younger Poets.
Lyz Lenz sends a very funny letter about the various uses of fine china and her dislike of vinyl siding. Lyz is Managing Editor at The Rumpus. Her writing has appeared in New York Times Motherlode, The Butter, The Toast, Aeon, the Guardian, Jezebel, The Hairpin, Forbes, Real Weddings, AOL, Yahoo Shine, and she’s been syndicated on MSNBC and MSN Glo. Her short stories have been published on Storyglossia and the Iowa Writes Project and one was just turned into a movie, which premiered at the Newport Beach Film Festival. You can see clips of her work here.
Edan Lepucki sends us a handwritten letter about starting her maternity leave, her thoughts about several books she’s read recently, and a few of her other obsessions. Edan is the author of the New York Times bestselling novel California and the novella If You’re Not Yet Like Me. A contributing editor of The Millions, she is the founder and director of Writing Workshops Los Angeles. Her work has also been published in the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times, Narrative Magazine, and McSweeney’s, among other publications.
Joshua Levy writes to us from the backyard of the mansion which he rents a part of. He tells us about its owner, the appearing and disappearing dogs, and the people coming and going—including one special person with whom he’s moving to Portugal. Joshua is a regular contributor to CBC Radio. His poetry and fiction have been published by the Oxford University Press and Vehicle Press, as well as in numerous Canadian literary journals and newspapers. He is also a regular storyteller at the Canadian chapter of The Moth.
Tao Lin writes about some biographies that he’s read, about how serious relationships are difficult for him because he likes being alone, and about how people confuse him sometimes. In the margins, he includes, among other things, drawings of cats and owls, and an outline of the first twenty-thousand words of a novel he’s working on. Tao is an American novelist, poet, essayist, short-story writer, and artist. He has published three novels, two books of poetry, one short story collection, and one novella in print as well as an extensive assortment of online content.
Kelly Luce believes that every letter “should contain a poem, a recipe, and a secret,” and in this wonderful handwritten note she shares all three! And, she’d love for you to write her back and share yours. Kelly is the author of Three Scenarios in Which Hana Sasaki Grows a Tail, winner of Foreword Review’s Editor’s Choice Prize for Fiction, and the novel Pull Me Under, one of Elle‘s Best Books of 2016. Her work has appeared in New York Magazine, the Chicago Tribune, O Magazine, The Sun, and other publications. She is a Contributing Editor for Electric Literature and was a 2016-17 fellow at Harvard’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. She lives in an old grist mill in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Rebecca Makkai writes a handwritten letter from her home airport O’Hare, sharing with us its secrets. She also tell us the best traits of other airports, and some funny games you can play while waiting in them. Rebecca asks you to share your knowledge of airports with her, too. Rebecca is the Chicago-based author of the novels The Hundred-Year House, winner of the Chicago Writers Association’s Novel of the Year award, and The Borrower, a Booklist Top Ten Debut which has been translated into eight languages. Her short story collection, Music for Wartime, will appear in June of 2015. Her short fiction was chosen for The Best American Short Storiesfor four consecutive years (2011, 2010, 2009 and 2008), and appears regularly in journals like Harper’s, Tin House, and New England Review. The recipient of a 2014 NEA fellowship, Makkai will be visiting faculty this fall at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.
Sarah Manguso writes about her past letter-writing experiences, and more recent ones, too. She asks a question that hopefully you can answer. This letter is printed in a special format at Sarah’s request. Sarah is the author, most recently, of Ongoingness: The End of a Diary. Her five other books include The Two Kinds of Decay and The Guardians. The recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and the Rome Prize, she lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, where next spring she will be the Distinguished Visiting Writer at St. Mary’s College.
Alex Mar can’t sleep and she writes to us about all the things she contemplates after suddenly awakening from a dream in the middle of the night. Alex is a writer based in her hometown of New York City. Her first book, Witches of America (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), was a New York Times Notable Book of 2015 in nonfiction, a New York Times Editors’ Pick, among The Millions’ “Most Anticipated Books” of 2015, one of The Believer‘s “Favorite Books” and Huffington Post Books’ “Most Notable” of 2015, and a Marie Claire “Top Book-Club Pick.” Some of her recent work has appeared in The Believer, New York Magazine, the New York Times Book Review, Elle, Tin House, The Oxford American (where she is a contributing editor), and The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2015. Her essays were included in both Longreads’s and BuzzFeed’s “Best of 2016” year-end lists. She is also the director of the feature-length documentary American Mystic.
Anna March shares a story she’s never told before, of running away, being lost, and how she found comfort and purpose at the Chesapeake Library. Anna‘s writing appears regularly in Salon and here at The Rumpus and her work has been widely published including in the New York Times‘s Modern Love Column, New York Magazine, VQR, Hip Mama, and Tin House. Her memoir, Happy People Live Here, and novel, The Diary of Suzanne Frank, are both forthcoming and she is at work on a collection of essays. She is the co-founder of The Lulu Fund: Supporting Gender and Racial Justice and lives in Los Angeles where she is active with LITFOLKS. Follow her on Twitter @AnnaMarch.
MariNaomi sends a beautifully illustrated letter about dangerous situations—the kinds we find ourselves in real life, and the kinds we fantasize about. MariNaomi is the author and illustrator of the graphic memoir Kiss & Tell: A Romantic Resume, Ages 0 to 22 (Harper Perennial, 2011).
Alana Massey sends us a handwritten list of action items with which we can do what we please, but she’d really love to know which ones you choose to act on and if you felt they were worthwhile. Alana is a writer covering identity and culture and the author of the essay collection All The Lives I Want. She lives in the Catskills where she enjoys books, cats, champagne, and all those trees they have up there.
Thomas Page McBee writes a poetic letter about New York City, and trying to fall in love with himself. Thomas Page McBee was the “masculinity expert” for VICE and has written the columns “Self-Made Man” for The Rumpus and “The American Man” for Pacific Standard. His essays and reportage have appeared in the New York Times, Playboy, TheAtlantic.com, Salon, and Buzzfeed, where he was a regular contributor on gender issues.
Roe McDermott writes from her life, to you in your life, about all the different types of love we find ourselves experiencing: NoOtherOptionlove, MisplacedLoyaltylove, CouldDieForYoulove, LovingWhereYouArelove, ThisCouldBeHome(AtLeastForNow)love, and more. Roe is a journalist, arts critic, and sex columnist from Ireland, who writes for Hot Press magazine, the Dublin Inquirer, and a number of other publications. In 2014, she was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to undertake an MA in Sexuality Studies. Her research topic is an exploration of the experiences of Irish women who have travelled to the UK to have abortions. Roe currently lives in San Francisco, where she’s working on her first collection of essays, indulging her book-buying addiction, and figuring out where home is. She spends too much tweeting from @roemcdermott.
Rick Moody tells us about his recent experience with identity theft, and how it made him go offline for a while. “In the absence of a vigorous online life,” he writes, “I have been feeling, well, kind of free.” Rick is the author of five novels, three collections of stories, a memoir, and a volume of essays entitled On Celestial Music. The Wingdale Community Singers, in which he plays and sings, have released three albums, of which the most recent is Night, Sleep, Death (on Blue Chopsticks/Drag City). His new novel, Hotels of North America, was released in November 2015. Rick is also a columnist here at The Rumpus.
Susannah Nevison sends a moving and beautifully honest letter about leaving—places, parties, relationships, one’s own body—and her past history as a “Very Messy Leaver.” Susannah is the author of Teratology (Persea Books, 2015), winner of the Lexi Rudnitsky First Book Prize in Poetry. Recent work has appeared in, or is forthcoming from, Guernica, 32 Poems, Public Pool, and elsewhere. She is a 2016 Clarence Snow Fellow at the University of Utah, where she is finishing her doctorate.
Maud Newton writes that she has “never truly been in love with anyone who couldn’t write a beautiful letter.” Then she tells us about the best letter she ever received. Maud has written personal essays, cultural and literary criticism, and fiction, and is currently writing a book about the science and superstition of ancestry for Random House. Her essay on “America’s Ancestry Craze” was the cover story of the June 2014 issue of Harper’s Magazine. Newton’s work has also appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Narrative, the New York Times Book Review, Granta, Bookforum, the Awl, Longreads, Tin House, the Oxford American, Humanities, the Los Angeles Times, the Boston Globe, the Paris Review Daily, and many other publications and anthologies, including the New York Times bestseller, What My Mother Gave Me. You can follow her on Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, and Instagram.
Celeste Ng sends us a handwritten letter about a small bird she connected with at the Cambridge Public Library and why she stills thinks of that bird today. Celeste grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Shaker Heights, Ohio. She attended Harvard University and earned an MFA from the University of Michigan. Her debut novel, Everything I Never Told You, won the Massachusetts Book Award, the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature, and the ALA’s Alex Award. She is a 2016 NEA fellow, and she lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Her second novel, Little Fires Everywhere, was published by Penguin Press on September 12, 2017.
Anna North has been inspired to think in lists, and as the end of summer nears, she shares her lists of all the best things about summer and about fall. Anna is the author of the novels America Pacifica (Reagan Arthur Books/Little, Brown, 2011), and The Life and Death of Sophie Stark (Blue Rider Press, 2015). She is also a staff editor at the New York Times.
Jason Novak sends a letter that is really a poem about growing old, followed by a series of haunting illustrations to accompany the poem. Jason is an illustrator based in Oakland, California.
Idra Novey writes to us in Penn Station, where she’s waiting for an Amtrak train to Philadelphia for a reading, about all the baffling revelations a day of public transportation provides. Idra is the author of the novel Ways to Disappear, a New York Times Editors’ Choice. Exit, Civilian, her second poetry collection, was selected for the 2011 National Poetry Series. Idra has also translated the work of several prominent Brazilian writers, most recently Clarice Lispector’s novel The Passion According to G.H.
Deb Olin Unferth shares her early years of living in Chicago just after completing graduate school. She writes about a movie she watched throughout these years, and considers the reason why she was so enamored with this film during her post-graduate years. Deb is the author of the story collection Minor Robberies, the novel Vacation, winner of the 2009 Cabell First Novelist Award and a New York Times Book Review Critics’ Choice, and the memoir, Revolution: The Year I Fell in Love and Went to Join the War.
Wendy C. Ortiz wants to have a conversation with people and books. And she wants books to have conversations with books and people. Wendy is the author of Excavation: A Memoir (Future Tense Books, 2014), Hollywood Notebook (Writ Large Press, 2015), and the forthcoming Bruja (CCM, 2016). Wendy wrote the year-long, monthly column “On the Trail of Mary Jane” about medical marijuana dispensary culture in Southern California for McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Hazlitt, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, The Nervous Breakdown, The Rumpus, and Brain, Child magazine, among many other places. Wendy lives in Los Angeles.
Derek Palacio writes to us from “ a place that is not home” about the person to whom he wrote the most difficult letters in his life. Derek holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the Ohio State University. His short fiction has appeared in Puerto del Sol and the Kenyon Review, and his story “Sugarcane” appeared in The O. Henry Prize Stories 2013. His novella, How to Shake the Other Man, was published by Nouvella Books in spring 2013. His debut novel is forthcoming from Tim Duggan Books, an imprint of the Crown Publishing Group. He is the co-director, with Claire Vaye Watkins, of the Mojave School, a free creative writing workshop for teenagers in rural Nevada. He lives and teaches in Ann Arbor, MI.
Jen Pastiloff writes about the different kinds of pain a body can experience, and how maybe “one pain becomes all pain.” She also thinks about the power of words, spoken and unspoken, and those already written and those yet to be written. She reminds us that it’s important to remember, and “to make sure we are seeing.” Jen is a writer living mostly on an airplane. She leads her signature Manifestation Yoga Retreats/Workshops all over the world. She is the founder of the The Manifest-Station website. She is currently finishing her first book Beauty Hunting.
Summer Pierre sends us a beautifully illustrated letter about leaving her family to take a solo road trip to visit a friend. She shares the she has thoughts along the way, as well as her memories of road trips from her youth. Summer is a cartoonist, illustrator, and writer living in the Hudson Valley, New York. She is the author of The Artist in the Office: How to Creatively Survive and Thrive Seven Days a Week and Great Gals: Inspired Ideas for Having a Kick-Ass Life. She also does a semi-weekly diary comic Paper Pencil Life. Her writing and art have appeared in The Rumpus, Hobart, The Nashville Review, and Booth Literary Journal, among other places.
D.A. Powell sends a letter in which he writes his way “around the edge,” literally and figuratively. He considers that “every broken thing tells something about love or wrath.” D.A. was born in Albany, Georgia, on May 16, 1963. He attended Sonoma State University, where he received his bachelor’s degree in 1991, and his master’s in 1993. He received his MFA degree from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop in 1996. He is the author of the trilogy of books Tea (Wesleyan University Press, 1998), Lunch (Wesleyan University Press, 2000), and Cocktails (Graywolf Press, 2004)—which was nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award. His poetry collection Chronic (Graywolf Press, 2009) received the Kingsley Tufts Award and was nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award. His most recent books are Repast: Tea, Lunch, Cocktails (Graywolf Press, 2014) and Useless Landscape, or a Guide for Boys: Poems (Graywolf Press, 2012).
Chad Prevost writes about the history, both interesting and creepy, of his home and the land he lives on. Chad has a PhD in creative writing from Georgia State. He writes on parenting and technology in the 21st century for Torch. Chad has led workshops and been on panels at places such as the Meacham Writers’ Workshop, Yale Writers’ Conference, Lost in the Letters Festival, AWP, and as a literary excursion leader in Tuscany and Lisbon. Chad and his wife, Shelley, live on Missionary Ridge in Chattanooga with their three children.
Kelly Ramsey sends a letter about a beautiful Texas day and her neighbor, Thornton Wilder, but mostly about the sudden silence of her letter-writing friend. Kelly’s work has appeared in American Short Fiction, The Mississippi Review, Hobart, Covered with Fur, Orion, and elsewhere. She was a fellow at the MacDowell Colony in 2013 and 2015. She lives in Austin, Texas.
Emily Rapp writes a letter about all the letters she’s sent and received through her life. In the end, she concludes that “all letters are love letters.” A former Fulbright scholar and graduate of Harvard University, Emily is the author of the books The Still Turning Point of the World and Poster Child: A Memoir, in addition to many essays and stories in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Bark, Bellevue Literary Review, The Sun, Body + Soul, StoryQuarterly, Good Housekeeping, The Texas Observer, and other publications. She is the recipient of a Rona Jaffe Writers’ Award, a James A. Michener Fellowship at the University of Texas-Austin (Michener Center for Writers), and the Philip Roth Writer-in-Residence fellowship at Bucknell University. She has received awards and grants for her work from the Fine Arts Work Center, the Jentel Arts Foundation, the Corporation of Yaddo, and the Fundacion Valparaiso. She has taught writing in the MFA program at Antioch University-Los Angeles, where she was a core faculty member, the Gotham Writers’ Workshop, and UCLA-Extension. She is currently professor of creative writing and literature at the Santa Fe University of Art and Design. She is at work on a novel.
Rob Roberge pens a letter about his father, and the guilt he feels regarding a particular scene in his upcoming memoir. He writes about that familiar dilemma that faces those of us who write about our real lives: Should he remove the scene to spare his father’s feelings? Or leave it in, making for a better book but risking his relationship with his parents? Rob is the author of four books of fiction, most recently The Cost of Living. His memoir, Liar, will be published by Crown in February 2016.
David Roderick sends a ten-page missive in which he gets back in touch with his handwriting skills while enjoying a new bookstore in his town. He writes about his children, his surroundings, his secret morning exercise, and of course, poetry. And, he includes a poem from his book, The Americans! David‘s first book, Blue Colonial, won the APR/Honickman Prize and was published jointly by the American Poetry Review and Copper Canyon Press in 2006. The Americans, David’s second collection, was published as part of the Pitt Poetry Series in 2014. Shenandoah awarded David its annual James Boatwright III Prize for a sequence of poems from the book. A larger sample of poems won the 2012 Campbell Corner Poetry Prize, selected by Phillis Levin, Vijay Seshadri, and Elizabeth Spires. David’s alter-ego hosts The Rumpus Late Nite Poetry Show. He lives in Greensboro with his wife, the poet Rachel Richardson, and their two daughters.
Ethel Rohan writes to us about depression, anxiety, and a lunch meeting that made her realize she’d turned a corner. Ethel is an award-winning novelist, essayist, and short story writer. A longtime San Francisco resident and Irish ex-pat, she swapped the Atlantic Ocean for the Pacific. Visit her at ethelrohan.com, or the beach.
Paul Rome writes about going on a mission to IKEA to find a new writing table. And then, while sitting at his new table on a Sunday afternoon, he writes some more, about time and how it’s difficult to imagine the way things were even though you lived them and witnessed them changing. Paul is a writer and coffee shop manager. He has written for Huffington Post, PEN America, The Minetta Review, and Mercer Street. His first novel, entitled We All Sleep in the Same Room, was nominated for the 2014 PEN/Bingham Prize for debut fiction.
Jim Ruland sends a handwritten letter, with hand-drawn illustrations, and in it he tells us all about trying to woo his 10-year-old daughter into liking Babymetal. Jim is the author of the novel Forest of Fortune, the short story collection Big Lonesome, and co-author with Scott Campbell, Jr. of Discovery Channel’s Deadliest Catch of Giving the Finger. He is currently collaborating with Keith Morris, founding member of Black Flag, Circle Jerks and OFF!, on his memoir My Damage, which will be published in the Fall of 2016. Jim is the books columnist for San Diego CityBeat and his column, The Floating Library, appears every three weeks. He also writes for the Los Angeles Times and Razorcake. His work has appeared in numerous publications, including The Believer, Esquire, Granta, Hobart, and Oxford American, and his work has received awards from Canteen, Reader’s Digest, and the National Endowment for the Arts. He runs the Southern California-based reading series Vermin on the Mount, now in its eleventh year. Jim is a veteran of the US Navy and has worked as a copywriter for advertising agencies, entertainment enterprises, and Indian casinos. He is an avid enthusiast of punk rock music, tattoo culture and strong coffee. Jim lives and works in San Diego, California.
Matthew Salesses writes to us about equality, possibilities, and missing Linsanity. Matthew is the author of The Hundred-Year Flood. He was adopted from Korea and has written about race and adoption for NPR’s Code Switch, the New York Times Motherlode, Salon, and The Rumpus, among others. He is currently a PhD candidate in Creative Writing & Literature at the University of Houston. His previous books include Different Racisms: On Stereotypes, the Individual, and Asian American Masculinity (essays) and I’m Not Saying, I’m Just Saying (a novel). Follow him @salesses.
Kevin Sampsell writes about how he didn’t turn out the way he thought he would (“I wanted to be a football player or a radio DJ or a cheesy pop star like Donnie Osmond”). He shares that he didn’t read much as a child or teenager; it wasn’t until he was twenty-one and a girlfriend made fun of him that he started reading. Once he did, he entered “a sort of Phase Two” of his life. He learned that books made him want to write, and that “we all build ourselves through them.” Kevin is an editor (Portland Noir and other books), publisher (Future Tense Books), bookstore employee (Powell’s Books) and author (the short story collection Creamy Bullets, the memoir, A Common Pornography and the novel, This Is Between Us). His stories and essays have appeared in publications and websites such as Salon, The Rumpus, McSweeney’s, Tin House, Best Sex Writing 2012, and Best American Essays 2013. He lives in Portland, Oregon with his son, wife, and Internet celebrity cat, Boo Boo.
Jaya Saxena sends a letter all about her fascination with the institution of marriage and the traditions surrounding it. Jaya is the co-author of Basic Witches: How to Summon Success, Banish Drama, and Raise Hell with Your Coven. She is a Staff Writer at ELLE.com.
Elizabeth Schmuhl writes a moving letter about the sacred ceremonies of the more than one-hundred-year-old farm that is such a part of her. Elizabeth Schmuhl is an interdisciplinary artist whose work has appeared in PANK, Paper Darts, Big Lucks, Metatron, Michigan Quarterly Review (Summer 2014), Leste, and elsewhere. She illustrates essays for The Rumpus and teaches at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Her forthcoming book, Premonitions, will be published by Wayne State University Press in 2018.
Danniel Schoonebeek writes about searching for an America that may not exist, and shares an excerpt from his next book C’est La Guerre. Danniel is the author of American Barricade (YesYes Books, 2014) and Trébuchet, a 2015 National Poetry Series selection (University of Georgia Press, 2016). A recipient of a 2015 Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship from Poetry Foundation, recent work appears in Poetry, the New Yorker, American Poetry Review, and elsewhere.
Shanthi Sekaran writes to us about a trip she took to Mexico City to promote the Spanish edition of her novel, Lucky Boy, and includes wonderful color photos! She also writes about language, heritage, and her grandmother—and shares a story of what happens when something is lost in translation. Shanthi is a writer and educator from Berkeley, California. Her recent novel, Lucky Boy (Penguin Random House), was named an IndieNext Great Read, and an Amazon Editors’ Pick. The New York Times calls it “brilliantly agonizing” and USA today says “Lucky Boy pulses with vitality, pumped with the life breath of human sin and love.” Her stories and essays have appeared in the New York Times, Canteen Magazine, The Rumpus and Lit Hub. She’s a visiting writer at St. Mary’s College of California, and has two sons.
Dan Shewan writes about courage and about how we need to remind ourselves of those everyday moments of courage when we are all brave enough to do what’s needed. Dan is a nonfiction writer and essayist based in New England. Dan’s work has appeared in a range of publications, from national newspapers to small literary journals. He is currently working on his first book. Follow Dan on Twitter @danshewan, or read more of his work at danshewan.co.
Matthew Siegel contemplates what it means to be a writer. He concludes that “so much of being a writer… is making the decision to do.” And, that he is still figuring out how to do. Matthew‘s first book Blood Work won the 2015 Felix Pollak Prize in Poetry from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He was a Wallace Stegner fellow at Stanford and holds degrees from University of Houston and Binghamton University. He currently teaches literature and creative writing at San Francisco Conservatory of Music.
Melanie Simonich writes about her father, the moon, and a unique friendship that began (and continue to this day) when she responded to a Letter in the Mail from Antonia Crane three years ago. Melanie is based in Boston and works in advertising. When she’s not writing headlines, she’s working on writing longer things.
Erin Somers sends her letter having just turned thirty, and writes to us about aging, her first year in New York when she was twenty-one, and how this past year was truly her great, big New York year. Erin‘s writing has appeared in or is forthcoming from One Teen Story, Slice Magazine, Green Mountains Review, and elsewhere. Her piece for our Funny Women column, “Modern Vice,” will be published in a humor anthology from Oxford University Press. She lives in Brooklyn. Follow her on Twitter @SomersErin.
Matthew Specktor has written two letters in the mail. His first is “a winding and discursive narrative that [is] half about Marlon Brando, and half about the vanishing of Los Angeles.” In his second letter, he wonders about what happens “when you get forward thinking” and what the whole point of “this Letters in the Mail thing” is. Matthew is the author of the novels American Dream Machine and That Summertime Sound, as well as a nonfiction book about the motion picture The Sting. His writing has appeared or is forthcoming in the Paris Review, The Believer, Tin House, Black Clock, and Salon, among other publications. He is a senior editor and founding member of the Los Angeles Review of Books.
Leigh Stein writes a letter about digital dualism—are her friendships formed via an online community second class to her “real life” relationships? Leigh is the author of the novel The Fallback Plan and a book of poems, Dispatch from the Future, which was a Rumpus Poetry Book Club pick. Her memoir, Land of Enchantment, is forthcoming from Blue Rider Press on August 2, and she co-directs the non-profit organization Out of the Binders.
Darin Strauss writes to us about the good, the bad, and the ugly during his summer exile to a surprising location. Whether he’ll survive the experience with his dignity intact—and be allowed to return home—is anybody’s guess. Darin is a bestselling American writer whose work has earned a number of awards, including, among numerous others, a Guggenheim Fellowship and the National Book Critics Circle Award. Darin’s most recent book, Half a Life, won the 2011 NBCC Award for memoir/autobiography.
Darcey Steinke writes to us about what she’s been thinking while enduring the snow and cold of Brooklyn and Princeton. Darcey is the author of the memoir Easter Everywhere (Bloomsbury 2007) and the novels Milk (Bloomsbury 2005), Jesus Saves (Grove/Atlantic 1997), Suicide Blonde (Atlantic Monthly Press 1992), Up Through the Water (Doubleday 1989), and Sister Golden Hair (Tin House 2014). Her nonfiction has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, the Boston Review, Vogue, Spin Magazine, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, and the Guardian. Her web-story “Blindspot” was a part of the 2000 Whitney Biennial. She has been both a Henry Hoyns and a Stegner Fellow and Writer-in-Residence at the University of Mississippi, and has taught at the Columbia University School of the Arts, Barnard, The American University of Paris, and Princeton.
Ben Tanzer writes a very funny letter in an attempt to woo one of you to be his new husband and join him and his existing family at his imaginary compound on some beach somewhere. Ben is the author of the books Orphans, which won the 24th Annual Midwest Book Award in Fantasy/SciFi/Horror/Paranormal and a Bronze medal in the Science Fiction category at the 2015 IPPY Awards, and Lost in Space, which received an Honorable Mention in the Chicago Writers Association 2014 Book Awards Traditional Non-Fiction category, and now The New York Stories, among others. He has also contributed to Punk Planet, Clamor, and Men’s Health, serves as Senior Director, Acquisitions for Curbside Splendor, and can be found online at This Blog Will Change Your Life, the center of his vast lifestyle empire.
Kevin Thomas sends a beautiful, illustrated letter following the death of his dog Mo-Bear. Kevin was born in Southern California and grew up in the Pacific Northwest. His work has appeared in Barrelhouse magazine and on OccupyWriters.com. His first book, a collection of the first three years of these strips, is forthcoming from OR Books. Sometimes he overshares on Twitter.
Jia Tolentino sends a handwritten letter about a letter she received from a stranger in response to a piece she wrote, why she has yet to respond, why feeling like she’s not enough can be a useful feeling, and that maybe she’s always wanted to write an advice column. Jia is a contributing writer for the New Yorker‘s website, formerly the Deputy Editor of Jezebel, and a contributing editor at the Hairpin.
Laura Turner sends us a handwritten letter about her morning routine, the lost art of writing in cursive, and the many wonders of peanut butter toast. Laura Turner is a writer living in San Francisco. She holds a BA in Political Science from Westmont College and an MFA in creative nonfiction from Seattle Pacific University. She is currently at work on a book project about the cultural history of anxiety. Follow her on Twitter.
Gabriel Urza writes a very funny letter about the changes and emotions a pregnancy brings. Gabriel received his MFA from the Ohio State University. His family is from the Basque region of Spain where he lived for several years. He is a grant recipient from the Kellogg Institute for International Studies and his short fiction and essays have been published in Riverteeth, Hobart, Erlea, The Kenyon Review, West Branch, Slate, and other publications. He also has a degree in law from the University of Notre Dame and has spent several years as a public defender in Reno, Nevada.
Laura van den Berg writes to us on a train while traveling from New York City to Albany and extolls the virtues of transit and dogs. Laura was raised in Florida and earned her MFA. at Emerson College. Her first novel, Find Me, was voted “Best book of 2015” by NPR, Time Out New York, and BuzzFeed and was longlisted for the 2016 International Dylan Thomas Prize! She is also the author of two collections of stories, What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us (Dzanc Books, 2009) and The Isle of Youth (FSG, 2013). What the World was a Barnes & Noble “Discover Great New Writers” selection and shortlisted for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award. The Isle of Youth was named a “Best Book of 2013” by over a dozen outlets, including NPR, the Boston Globe, and O, The Oprah Magazine; a finalist for the Frank O’Connor Award; and received The Rosenthal Family Foundation Award from the American Academy of Arts & Letters and the 2015 Bard Fiction Prize. Laura lives in Brooklyn with her husband and dog, and she is currently at work on a new story collection and a new novel, both forthcoming from FSG. Beginning in the fall of 2016, she will be a Briggs-Copeland Lecturer in Fiction at Harvard.
Padma Viswanathan’s first Letter in the Mail can be found in Best American Non-Required Reading 2012. This letter is written by hand (in cursive!) and begins, I’m sorry, I must start out by recounting a dream. In her second letter, Padma writes about her aim as a writer and why writers write, empathy and compassion, and whether literature has the ability to make people better. Padma’s debut novel, The Toss of a Lemon, was published in eight countries, a bestseller in three, and a finalist for the Commonwealth (Regional) First Book Prize, the Amazon.ca First Novel Prize, and the PEN Center USA Fiction Prize. Her second novel, The Ever After of Ashwin Rao, has been published in Canada, the US, India, and Australia. In Canada, it was shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and was a national bestseller. Her short fiction appears in various journals; her story “Transitory Cities” won the 2006 Boston Review Short Story Contest. Her plays include House of Sacred Cows and Disco Does Not Suck. She publishes cultural journalism and reviews in such venues as Elle Canada, The National Post, and The Rumpus. She has also published several short translations of Brazilian fiction. Canadian by birth and temperament, she now lives on a hilltop in Arkansas with her husband, children, parents, and an ever-shifting array of animals.
Julie Marie Wade writes to us about a prose poem that she finds especially inspiring in our current political moment, and sends us her list of “things that don’t suck,” including lightning bugs, nesting dolls, and more—and she wants to read your lists, too! Julie is the author of ten collections of poetry and prose, including Wishbone: A Memoir in Fractures, Small Fires, When I Was Straight, Catechism: A Love Story, and SIX. Her newest collections are Same-Sexy Marriage: Poems (A Midsummer Night’s Press, 2018) and The Unrhymables: Collaborations in Prose (Wild Patience Books, 2018), co-authored with Denise Duhamel. Wade teaches in the creative writing program at Florida International University and reviews regularly for Lambda Literary Review and The Rumpus. She is married to Angie Griffin and lives on Hollywood Beach.
Esmé Weijun Wang writes to us about her big dreams and how although chronic illness is the great thief, all difficulties will have a resolution and she will continue to pursue her dreams. Esmé is an essayist and the author of The Border of Paradise: A Novel (2016). Her work has appeared in Salon, Catapult, The Believer, Jezebel, and elsewhere. At esmewang.com, she provides resources to assist aspiring writers in developing resilience on the path to building a creative legacy. Esmé is the recipient of the 2016 Graywolf Nonfiction Prize and is at work on a collection of essays about schizophrenia.
Naomi J. Williams writes to us about all the Naomis she has been confused with through her life, and wonders whether you’ve been mistaken for someone else, too. Naomi is the author of Landfalls (FSG 2015), long-listed for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize and the National Book Critics Circle’s John Leonard Award. Her short fiction has appeared in journals such as Zoetrope: All-Story, A Public Space, One Story, The Southern Review, and The Gettysburg Review. A five-time Pushcart Prize nominee and one-time winner, Naomi has an MA in Creative Writing from UC Davis. She has received fellowships from Hedgebrook, Djerassi, and the Sustainable Arts Foundation. Naomi was born in Japan and spoke no English until she was six years old. Today she lives in Davis, California, where she teaches creative writing and serves as co-director of the literary series Stories on Stage Davis.
Colin Winnette writes a story, makes a confession, and then asks you some serious questions. Be prepared to answer. Colin is the author of several books, including the SPD bestseller Coyote (Les Figues Press 2015) and, most recently, Haints Stay (Two Dollar Radio 2015). His writing has appeared in The Believer, 9th Letter, McSweeney’s, Gulf Coast Magazine, and many other publications. He lives in San Francisco.
Peter Witte sends a very special illustrated letter about what it means to be a “keeper,” and the anxiety that accompanies attempts to shed some of his possessions. He also asks whether you too are a keeper, or are you a shredder? Peter‘s writing has been published by The Sun and online by River Teeth, Tin House, and Hobart. His comics have appeared in The Rumpus and Hobart. He and his wife, a philosopher, live in University Park, Maryland, with their two children and a handsome dog. He loves eating popcorn.
Yoojin Grace Wuertz writes to us about forward movement, the benefits of moving slowly, and a trip to Italy she took to attend a festival celebrating the Slow Food movement—and what she learned there about her own South Korean food heritage. Yoojin was born in Seoul, South Korea, and immigrated to the United States at age six. She holds a BA in English from Yale University and an MFA in fiction from New York University. Everything Belongs to Us is her debut novel, which was selected as a New York Times Editors’ Choice, longlisted for the Center for Fiction’s First Novel Prize, and included on Kirkus Reviews’ Best Fiction of 2017. Her writing has appeared in Guernica, the Times Literary Supplement, and The Massachusetts Review, among other publications. She lives in northern New Jersey with her husband and son.
Chellis Ying shares a story about somebody finally fulfilling their childhood dream. She encourages us to travel, “because the more you understand other cultures, the more compassionate you’ll be to your friends, parents, and co-workers. Travel because no matter if you’re young or old, going to a new place is scary, and throwing yourself into the unfamiliar allows you to grow.” And, she tells us about her own most recent travels. Chellis has been published in Best Travel Writing, Mental Floss, Publishers Weekly, and was the runner-up for the Richard Bausch 2010 Short Story Contest. She’s told stories for True Tales of Love and Lust and was a guest on the On the Page podcast. She received her MFA in Writing at the University of San Francisco and a BA in Literature at Kenyon College. She has worked extensively in publishing and movie marketing with a focus on China-US projects.
Rachel Yoder sends us a hilarious letter about how in order to overcome her baby fever, she begins to raise to chickens—yes, chickens! Rachel grew up in a Mennonite community in the Appalachian foothills of eastern Ohio. She now lives in Iowa City with her husband and son. She and Mark Polanzak are the founding editors of draft: the journal of process, a literary journal. draft features first and final drafts of stories, poems, and essays, along with author interviews about the creative process. She is also the creator and host of The Fail Safe, an interview podcast that explores how today’s most successful writers grapple with and learn from creative failure. Rachel’s short stories and essays have recently appeared in The Southern Review, StoryQuarterly, Catapult, and Gulf Coast. Her work has also been awarded The Editors’ Prize in Fiction by The Missouri Review and with notable distinctions in Best American Short Stories and Best American Nonrequired Reading. She earned an MFA in Fiction from the University of Arizona and an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from the University of Iowa. She is currently a 2017 Iowa Arts Council Fellow.
Lidia Yuknavitch writes a letter about the only thing that can be done in times like these, the importance of breathing, and remembering we are all pieces of each other and the stars and all the elements around us. Lidia is the author of the bestselling novel, The Small Backs of Children (winner of the 2016 Oregon Book Award’s Ken Kesey Award for Fiction and the Reader’s Choice Award), the novel Dora: A Headcase, and three books of short fiction. Her widely acclaimed memoir, The Chronology of Water, was a finalist for a PEN Center USA Award for Creative Nonfiction and winner of a PNBA Award and the Oregon Book Award Reader’s Choice. Her novel The Book of Joan was released by Harper in April 2017, as is her forthcoming book based on her recent TED Talk, The Misfit’s Manifesto (Fall 2017). Lidia founded the workshop series Corporeal Writing in Portland, Oregon, where she teaches both in-person and online. She received her doctorate in Literature from the University of Oregon. She lives in Oregon with her husband Andy Mingo and their renaissance man son, Miles. She is a very good swimmer.
Matthew Zapruder talks about “the little moment of fear and uncertainty” that accompanies the act of writing, and how the Rumpus Letters in the Mail are actually a lot like poems. Then, Matthew shares a poem with us. Matthew is the author most recently of Sun Bear (Copper Canyon, 2014) and Why Poetry, a book of prose about poetry, forthcoming from Ecco/Harper Collins in 2017. An Associate Professor and Director of the MFA Program in Creative Writing at Saint Mary’s College of California, he is also Editor at Large at Wave Books, and Editor of the Poetry Column for the New York Times Magazine. He lives in Oakland, CA.
Zoe Zolbrod writes her letter about another letter she must write but keeps postponing, and what happens when she finally writes it. Zoe is the author of the novel Currency (Other Voices Books, 2010) as well as a new memoir, The Telling (Curbside Splendor, 2016). Her essays have appeared in places such as Salon, The Nervous Breakdown, and The Rumpus. She is the Co-Editor of the Sunday Rumpus.