National Life Writing Month may be unfamiliar to many of us, but it’s a time dedicated to writing and recognizing stories that include an author’s own personal and family experiences. It’s a fantastic time to honor family stories in a new way — by incorporating it into a new story, that reaches a whole new audience. Today, #CMCon23 Featured Author Tif Marcelo shares some very special family history, and how she included it in her own stories.
By Tif Marcelo
I was eight years old when I found it the first time—a worn, though soft, leather satchel in my mother’s closet. In it were tightly packed envelopes. But as with most children at that age, I was distracted and promptly forgot all about it, until I was in my early teens and encountered the satchel once more.
A lifetime had passed between the first and the second moments. My family had emigrated to the United States. Our lives had changed completely. Still, the satchel had remained in its same state, including its contents.
Then as a teen, I was a thousand-fold more curious. So, I fished out the envelopes, and to my delight, found that they were my mom and dad’s letters to one another in the early years of their relationship. The envelopes were arranged by date, yellowed and covered in stamps. Though my mom and dad had their distinct handwriting, their penmanship was impeccable, and in cursive. And in the envelopes were delicate pieces of papers.
Yes, I read them. Every single one. Each letter was so detailed, so eloquent. They spoke of their daily lives, sometimes waiting a week to receive each other’s notes. They recounted their classes, their hopes for the future, and the life they were going to build.
It was so romantic! The letters made such an impression that I have kept all of the emails and letters I exchanged with my husband. Every single email sent and received during his deployments still sit in my ancient yahoo email server. Sometimes I look back at those letters, where I talked about the instability of cable because of a snow storm in upstate New York, or how wickedly hot it was in Texas in July. Those were captured moments in time, moments that mattered.
My parents’ love letters also made such an impression that I try to fit in epistolary elements in my books, even if it’s a quick email or text exchange. I do think that magic occurs in between the lines. I think this is where imagination lies, where we nestle our biases. One day, I will write a novel that will be predominantly epistolary. Until then, I’ll continue to recall my parents beautiful letters to one another, and reread my own set of exchanged emails with my husband.
Have you written or received love letters? Do you send letters to friends or family? Let me know in the comments how you communicate with the people in your world.
For one commenter, I would like to give away a copy of my contemporary fiction, ONCE UPON A SUNSET, published in 2020. It’s a mother-daughter story that has some traces of WWII history in the Philippines. I hope you enjoy how I’ve incorporated my love of letters in this novel.
If you’d like to join Tif and a whole slew of fellow readers and awesome authors for a weekend of bookish shenanigans by the beach… you should DEFINITELY check out the Coastal Magic Convention. February 23-26, 2022 in Daytona Beach, Florida, Tif and I will be there with everyone for discussion panels, meet & greets, chill time, and a big book signing. **Masks will be required for the duration of the event.** We’d love to see you there!! http://CoastalMagicConvention.com