The Art of the Handwritten Letter

Handwritten letters are essential parts of leading expressive and connected lives.  We write them because life presents meaningful reasons to put pen to paper. There are letters of friendship and end-of-life letters of farewell. There are letters of gratitude and letters of goodbye.  There are letters asking for forgiveness and those granting it. Thank you letters. Sympathy letters. The ‘Dear John’ or kiss-off letters. And, of course, the diva of them all — the love letter. As distinctive handwriting spools across pages of paper, our thoughts imprint and impact the reader. Unlike texts and emails, the writer invests the valuable commodity of time and for this reason they are cherished.

This eight-week course treats the handwritten letter as a practice worth preserving and an art worth elevating. At home and in class, we will apply narrative nonfiction techniques to letter writing as a way of transform it into more mindful, crafted, and artistic practice.

Montaigne was fountainhead of the personal essay, a genre that grew from letters he wrote to a deceased friend he missed. Conversational, intimate, and revealing, letter writing connected him to that person beyond the grave as it were.  You will learn how to borrow techniques from fiction and the personal essay genre to enhance your letter writing. Kathryn’s writing career began as a dedicated teenage letter writer to people around the world — a passion that grew into journalism, personal essays, narrative nonfiction, and eventually books.

Guests will join us to discuss different dimensions of the craft including how to write the hardest letters — letters of forgiveness, farewell, and condolence. Special guests include Katharine Norbury, author of the acclaimed The Fish Ladder, on writing forgiveness letters. Liz Maguire, an American curator of vintage love letters living in Dublin, talks about what she has learned from her collection.


  • Learn narrative nonfiction techniques to enhance your letter writing.
  • Read and write a range of letters including love letters, forgiveness letters, and farewell letters.
  • Enjoy lectures, discussions, and in-class work-shopping of your writing.
  • Explore principles of memoir and life writing to recall past events.
  • Learn how professional writers mind-map, outline, draft, and edit their work.
  • Tap deeper into your emotional life as writing is thinking and feeling.
  • Understand how narrative arc — beginning, middle, and end of stories — creates satisfying reading experiences.
  • Experiment with voice and narrative presence through in-class and at-home exercises.
  • Be inspired by live talks with artists, authors, and archivists.
  • Receive critical feedback and writing support.


  • £425.
  • Every Wednesday from September 8-October 27
  • 7-9 PM GMT / 2-5 PM Eastern / 11 AM-1 PM Pacific
  • Limited to 14 people. Eight 2-hour sessions.


Kathryn’s teaching philosophy is focused on encouraging a uniquely personal exploration of narrative nonfiction. At its core, she believe teaching is about responding to each student, whether they are emerging writers or writing beyond the level of content mastery. She creates a supportive learning environment that fosters creative expression, critical thinking, and individual artistic growth.


Kathryn is a New York Times bestselling author and passionate practitioner of narrative nonfiction whose work has been reviewed around the world. For more than twenty-five years, she has taught writing and literature courses at colleges and universities including Western Washington University, Everett Community College, and Plymouth University. She has a global mentoring practice, thriving online writing courses, and leads in-person writing and design courses throughout the United States.

£425, 7-9 PM BST, Wednesdays, September 8-October 27