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Writing Prompt: Women of Letters

13 March, 2016
painting 'Newspapers, Letters and Writing Impl...

Painting:  ‘Newspapers, Letters and Writing Implements on a Wooden Board’ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

These days, I so rarely get ‘here comes the postman’ letters that it seems odd to comment on writing letters. However, the Women of Letters is unusual, a popular ‘talk letters’ event.

Selected women—usually well-known to the public—are given a set topic and  respond to it in a form of a letter. Each woman can choose who or what the receiver is, plus whether that recipient is from the past, present or future. At a WoL event, each invited woman reads out her piece before a live audience.

The topics selected for these events work well as writing prompts. See what you can do with the following.

For an added challenge, imagine you’ve been invited to read your letter at a WoL event. Consider what and how to develop your piece to connect with a diverse audience. Will your letter be funny, poignant, angry, revealing? Will you draw on real life events or provide a fantasy?

Here are a some topics. I’ve included questions to help you reflect on what you could include and what approach you could take to develop your idea:

  • A complaint letter
    Is it from the past, present, or future? Is it funny or serious? About a person, animal, or an object?
  • To my most treasured possession
    Was it from the past—your own or someone else’s? Is the perspective about the possession unusual?
  • To the moment I knew it was time to go home
    Was it related an interesting period/job/phenomenon in your life? About a particular day? Can you do something with the word home? Was there a turning point, e.g., a decision made, an action taken?
  • A love letter
    Are you writing to your younger self? To a relative? An animal?  A physical condition? A habit? A location? Is it to do with something now gone, vanished? Or something you’ve learned or unlearned?
  • To the things I never told my mother
    What were the circumstances surrounding the ‘not telling’? What do you think now about not telling? Are the things never told funny? Tragic? Or . . .?
  • An apology
    Is this about a change of some sort? A sarcastic response to a irritating person or thing? Is to do with a misfortunate or confusing event from the past?  Are you writing to your younger self?


  1. To my most treasured possession
  2. To the person I never got over
  3. To the best day of my life
  4. The letter I wish I had written
  5. To the best present I ever received
  6. To my ghosts
  7. To my turning point
  8. To the thing I can’t resist
  9. To the night I’d rather forget
  10. To the life I could have lived
  11. To my first pin-up
  12. To my nemesis
  13. To the host of that party
  14. To my first boss
  15. To the best decision I ever made
  16. To the song/story I wish I had written
  17. To the person I misjudged
  18. To my twelve-year-old self [or pick any age]
  19. To the moment it all fell apart
  20. To the photo I wish had never been taken
  21. To my most treasured possession
  22. To the one who changed my life
  23. To a little white lie

Source: Marieke Hardy and Michaela McGuire, 2012. adventures in the art of correspondence from Women of Letters. Viking Press (Penguin Grp), Melbourne.


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