The Letter Project

June 8, 2012

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Filed under: Letters,Mailart — Theresa Williams @ 7:32 pm
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A SMALL SAD STORY from Lauren Carpenter to Theresa Williams

Illustrations on back of letter.

very tiny drawing from lower right corner of envelope back

May 26, 2012

Special Delivery (303, 304)

Filed under: Letters,Mailart — Theresa Williams @ 4:59 pm
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Works arrived today from two former students…

From Lauren Carpenter to Theresa Williams (front)

From Lauren Carpenter to Theresa Williams (back)

From D. M. Crockett to Theresa Williams (Letter portion)

From D. M. Crockett to Theresa Williams (green sleeve containing artwork)

Artwork, from D. M. Crockett to Theresa Williams


July 13, 2011

Special Delivery (88)

Filed under: Mailart — Theresa Williams @ 8:24 pm
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From Lauren Carpenter to Theresa Williams

July 7, 2011

Special Delivery (81)

Filed under: Mailart — Theresa Williams @ 2:53 am
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This one is dated 8/09.  On the back it reads:  …maybe I’ll go somewhere (someday) with a growing music scene…I’ll make friends…with a band…draw their posters…get to shout in a song…or two…and that will be enough to stand in front of the stage, feel the music slam thru my ribcage knock me out of my head for a moment knock me straight into my guts…someday.  [for now I’ll sing in the shower]– Heart, Lauren

From Lauren Carpenter, To Theresa Williams

February 5, 2011

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Filed under: Mailart — Theresa Williams @ 10:37 pm
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Lauren Carpenter's Flower

This is a letter I got from Lauren Carpenter in September 2010.  On one side is a hand-painted flower and the letter text is on the back, printed in very small letters which is typical of Lauren’s hand printing.  When she wrote this letter, she was tired, sad and worried for her writing.  I’m posting the letter now in light of the fact that she is beginning to get accepted into MFA programs.  –TW


Thank god it’s September!  The past few months were all heat & stress.  Work was frustrating.  I didn’t write much.  I felt tired all the time–too tired to read.  I moved into a new apartment with Ryan & our friend Jessi (maybe you remember her from the program–but I’m not sure she ever had one of your classes).  And it was so hot.  Punishing heat.  I’m sure it was no better in BG–or out West!

But now it’s cooling down, and so am I.  Ideas are starting to click in my head, again.  What a relief!  I was starting to worry that I’d lost something, that my talents & ambition & everything I’d learned were just wearing away like a coat of paint, blistering in the sun and chipping away.  Self-doubt comes so easily.  Do you ever feel that way?  I get into a panic mode when I can’t write.  Oh no I can’t write today but I HAVE to, or I’m a horrible person.  That sort of thing.  Terrible!

But September’s better.  It always is.  Mild days, cool nights with the slightest bite of winter, fresh apples in the store, the smell of woodsmoke on the wind, fields turning to rust & straw–all of that just feeds my ol’ soul.  Visiting BG for Black Swamp was a good break from routine, too.  Did you go?  Ryan & I went to see “Trombone Shorty” on Saturday night with Brad Modlin.  My goodness, that boy loves to dance.  On Sunday I wandered the booths with my family and bought myself a coffee mug, a nice ceramic one with a handsome green glaze.  A small purchase, but hugely satisfying.  There’s something comforting about hand-made ceramics.  Earth & human art, right in your hands…

More later.  How is your semester going?  Tell me about your writing projects!  I know you have a lot brewing…

Peace and cool breezes,

[Heart] Lauren

February 14, 2010

Special Delivery (52)

Filed under: Mailart — Theresa Williams @ 12:10 am
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"Recently I Realized": From Lauren to Theresa

 The text on this mixed media card reads: 

Recently I realized I don’t know myself at all–I try to describe what I feel and in the next moment it sounds like a half-truth or a LIE.  Trickster Heart!  Am I sad?  What do I want?  Am I happy?  What makes me happy?  What have I become?  No easy answers.  But I don’t think I’m afraid.  LC

October 25, 2009

Special Delivery (29)

Filed under: Mailart — Theresa Williams @ 12:57 am
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Photographs, prismacolor markers, colored pencils, and rubber stamps on Strathmore paper.

This is an illustrated letter I made for Lauren Carpenter.    The title of the letter is “In Response to Your Comments on writing about suffering.”  The front image is a photograph of Cristo with Mourning Figures.   It’s a photo I took at the Millicent Rogers Museum in Taos, NM.  This museum has a large collection of Hispanic devotional art (art that really speaks to me).  In the top corners are lemons, bottom corners hummingbirds. 

Inside the card is a scanned image of a postcard I sent to myself from New Mexico.  On the card I attempted to explain my idea of what the sculpture says about human suffering.

On the back is a photograph of a bird’s nest with eggs.  The image is partially in response to Lauren’s comment about birds (see letter 28).  I took the photo one day after I’d been working in my flower garden.  I went inside the house briefly and when I returned to the garden, the nest had already been invaded.

In the letter I try to put Lauren at ease.  Writers will always write about suffering; it’s natural to want to do so.  We do this as a way to order our thoughts because chaos is terrifying to us.  I told her that at some point she will want to write about joy again, too. 

  • Not in the letter but perhaps of interest:  Writers may enjoy the books Poetry As Survival by Gregory Orr and Writing as a Way of Healing by Louise DeSalvo. 

October 11, 2009

Special Delivery(28)

Filed under: Mailart — Theresa Williams @ 4:33 pm
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PS from Lauren

PS from Lauren

 Some letters are piling up here at The Letter Project.  I’ve been trying to decide what to post as a follow-up to Lee Martin’s wonderful letter to Amos.  When I received a letter yesterday from Lauren, I knew I wanted to post part of it.  In the letter she mentions being at the library in Columbus and running across a book she thought I’d like:  More Than Words, by Liza Kirwin, which is a collection of illustrated letters from the Smithsonian.   I plan to buy a copy of this book. 

Although much of Lauren’s letter is private, disclosing feelings about  difficulties she’s going through just now, I was deeply moved by her PS about a dead starling and am pleased to post it here, along with a scanned image of that part of the letter. 

To give some background: some time back I posted a photo on my blog of a dead baby bird.  My blog entries go straight to Facebook and are stored in my Facebook notes.  At Facebook, Lauren commented on the photo, saying how dead baby birds made her sad.  In this PS she describes finding a dead starling, its beauty, and her regret at not having removed it from the street.  She was moved to illustrate her thoughts by making a drawing of a starling.  A personal anecdote to share:  The narrator in my novel The Secret of Hurricanes is named Pearl Starling.  I don’t think Lauren knows this.  But this fact does speak to our alike-ness. 

I love the illustration in Lauren’s letter because it represents, to me, a bubbling over of thought, a further attempt to make one’s inner terrain understood.  I’m proud to be the recipient.

There is such power and potential in a letter for sharing and for making all sorts of connections, not just a connection from one person to another but also within oneself as one writes the letter.–TW


I saw a dead starling in the street on my way home.  It was lying on its side, its body very stiff; must have been hit by a car.  It had its speckled winter plumage. 

I think I identify very strongly with starlings.  I felt really bad about not stopping to move it from the street.

(Perhaps I was a bird in a past life.  Or in the next one–I wouldn’t mind)

not quite right…(drawing from a photo) very stocky birds, with a lot of personality, loud, messy, crotch[e]ty, sort of humorous

September 12, 2009

Special Delivery (25)

Filed under: Mailart — Theresa Williams @ 1:05 am
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microlette 1

microlette 1 002_edited-1

Microlette.  From Lauren to Theresa.   Approx 2 1/2 x 4 1/2

Handcrafted, a combination of printing technique and paint.  It fits easily into a regular size envelope.  The letter on the back, written in pencil  is:  “The Sun Comes From the West.”  

May 31, 2009

Special Delivery (06)

Filed under: Letters — Theresa Williams @ 11:03 pm
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I received this letter from Lauren recently.  Lauren was in several of my classes at BGSU and recently graduated.  She is in that odd place students find themselves after 16 years of school–a little happy and a little sad.  In this letter she writes of how she is coping with her freedom from school.  I always tell my students not to put their creative lives on the back burner after graduation:  in this letter  she says she is taking that advice.    –TW


First off:  I hope this letter finds you well.  I know (via Facebook) that you’ve had some serious sorrows of late.  My condolences to your family.  Know that I am thinking of you.

But you are going West, correct?  I’ve never been–I can imagine it, of course, but imagining only gets us so far, eh.  I think I’d suffer in the desert heat, but I’m sure the vistas are worth it.  Enjoy your journey & your destination.  Are you planning to do some writing out there?

I think a change of place would be good for my writing–I’ve been wishing for mountains lately, some kind of elevation, and more trees–but Bowling Green does feel different not that I’ve graduated.  Like it’s my town now, I’m not just an interloper.  Or maybe that’s not quite the feeling…Still, I have been enjoying myself so far this summer, and I have been writing.

I won’t pretend it’s easy!  But “we all know that art is hard” (to quote some song).  And still I feel really good about what I’m doing now.  Poetry, poetry, and fiction )to read).  I’ve been experimenting with long lines–not CK Williams long, but longer than I’m used to.  Not entirely sold on it (I keep leaning towards shortness, concision, sharpness).  Good to experiment though.

Read The Unbearable Lightness of Being what, last week?  And now I’m really fascinated with the idea of eternal return.  Fascinated by the novel altogether.  Trying to work in some of its ideas into my own work.  (Without being derivative.)

So my writing is not going to be set on the back burner, trust me.  It’s on almost all the burners, and there’s plenty more stuff waiting in the fridge.  I’ve been striving to be open to all experiences & consider them in their turn.  To live close inside my skin, rather than deep inside my head.  Summer’s especially good for that, it’s so sensory.

Still, it’s easy to doubt one’s work, isn’t it?  I don’t expect these feelings to go away, especially in a society that stresses success (especially monetary success).  I feel a little antsy when I hear about people my age who are charging out of the gate, headed for grad school and med school and so on.  It’s even worse when they’re BFAs (in any of the arts)!  If they can do so well, why am I still here, just writing alone?

Not alone, though.  Right?  There’s still you, and everyone at BGSU, really, which feels like a little hub of creativity, a quietly buzzing beehive.  And there’s my old classmates, and Ryan of course (though I’ve got to prod him into completing more stories–he’s got such great ideas).  And I’ve also befriended Christof Scheele, who has kindly agreed to read my new work & comment on it (how I miss workshop!).  He’s loaned me some really fascinating volumes of poetry, too:  Paul  Celan & Georg Trakl.  Plus some of his own work, which I like immensely.  He seems to walk a fine line between the ordinary & the strange, but even the strangest feel accessible to me–unlike, say, some of Larissa’s work.  Of course Larissa is brilliant, and I love the moody mythic feel of it, but sometimes I feel like I’m hammering on a locked door.  Can’t quite decipher what the poem wants me to feel or realize.

Though I might just be a lazy reader.  I’m still so used to reading really fast (which is why I read more fiction, I guess).  Usually need to read poetry 2, 3 times.  Which I’m learning to do more regularly.

One last thing:  submitted some poems to 9 journals, early in May.  Don’t expect to hear from them soon, being summer, though Redivider did reject me very quickly.  Huzzah for my first rejection!  Plenty more of those to come.  But if on the off chance I do get accepted, I will let you know, of course.

All right.  Enjoy your trip.  More letters later, I am sure! 

Always your student,


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