Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Writing Vivid Details: A Letter to Something I Love or Something I Hate

Writing in English requires attention to detail. Writing is considered far more interesting and lively when vivid details are included to help us see or hear or feel or experience what is being discussed.

LIEP Instructor Karen Greenstone
To encourage the use of greater and more vivid detail, LIEP instructor Karen Greenstone asked the members of the Advanced Writing class of the Loyola Intensive English Program to choose something they love or something they hate, and to write a letter to that loved or hated item, being very specific about why they feel so much love or hate. Karen credits her colleague Stephanie Ceraso, an instructor in the English Department of the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania for the idea of this project.

The letters turned out to be so delightful and vivid that we want to share four of them with you! We hope that you will enjoy these imaginative and detailed letters as much as we have!

The four writers whose letters are featured in this post are pictured below.

Angélica Aguirre of Ecuador, Emmanuel Priva of Haiti, George Kawas of Honduras, and Rosa Cevallos of Ecuador
Angélica Aguirre of Ecuador

Angélica Aguirre of Ecuador is a professor of English at the Pontifcia Universidad Catolica del Ecuador (PUCE), or the Pontifical Catholic University of Ecuador. She specializes in introducing beginning-level students to the English language. Here is her letter to something she loves.

My Beloved Chocolate,

How are you today? It has been a long time we have not been together. I would like to know why you have left me alone. Can you tell me what has happened? You have always promised to be with me everyday, but you are not here anymore. Why?

I have not liked your silence, and I have missed your presence. Have you forgotten our moments when I used to call you my Little Dark, my Little White? I wish you were here in any form: chips, tablet, bar, decorated or just plain.

I would like to close my eyes and imagine the pleasure to be with you, the delight to smell your fragrance and the satisfaction to taste your flavor. I have talked with everybody about you and all of them have known you pretty well so far. I supposed it was a nice relationship only between you and me, but I was wrong.   I have asked everybody if they have known something about you and all have answered me affirmatively. Besides, they have not only known you, but also, they have bought you, bitten you, tasted you.

As you see, you have been very famous: babies, children, teenagers, young adults, middle age adults and seniors love you. Furthermore, they have met you in different situations and conditions. In important events, you have been the principal guest: Christmas, birthdays, weddings and anniversaries. You know that you have always been welcomed in any condition: in a cup of warm chocolate, in vanilla and chocolate ice cream, chocolate mousse, chocolate cake, fruit in chocolate dip.

My Sweet Chocolate, I want to be sincere with you.  It was a pleasure to meet you. I will never forget you.  You will always be in my mind. I would have never abandoned you if I had not had diabetes.


* * *

Rosa Cevallos of Ecuador
Rosa Cevallos of Ecuador is the Chief Financial Officer of the Pontifcia Universidad Catolica del Ecuador (PUCE), or the Pontifical Catholic University of Ecuador. She has written a letter to something she hates!

Dear International Phonetic Alphabet,

I want to present you my respects. I believe that I need to explain to you why I do not call you by your nickname IPA, as you asked me the day we met. I do not have that familiarity with you; besides my letter will not be as nice as I wanted.

As you know, we met each other since only a couple of weeks ago, and, although it is a short time, I regret to confess that I cannot stand you.

I have really tried to understand that you are very useful and many people love you, because, obviously, your intentions are the best. What you intend is to build bridges to improve understanding and communication in foreign languages; you are looking for a good understanding of one of the most important parts of a culture: their language. I know all that, even though I cannot change my feelings towards you.

Please do not misunderstand me. You are not bad, but the circumstances of our first date have not been the best. The abrupt discovery of you changed my schemes, and the change was not pleasant. I had no idea that I would meet you that day, so I was not properly prepared. It was so surprising to see you there, with all those signs that are incomprehensible for me; some of them I can not even pronounce today. And, worst of all, is that I am obliged to use them, and I do not like doing things for obligation.

I believe that if, before the day we met, I had read some interesting article or essay about your life, I would understand you better, and our relationship could be more durable, but now I am not sure.

However, I think we should get a second chance; would you like to drink a coffee next week? So, we could talk and know each other better. I sincerely hope that you answer me positively.

Best regards,

* * *

Emmanuel Priva of Haiti
Emmanuel Priva of Haiti is a seminarian preparing for priesthood in the Catholic Church. His religious order is the Society of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart, or the Josephites. This summer, Emmanuel is living and assisting at Saint David Catholic Church in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans. Here is Emmanuel's letter to something he loves.

Dear Workout,

I am very fascinated by writing you this small letter. I am so grateful because you have done and you are still doing a great job for me. You have been so helpful for me in the last few years; I have realized I am really unable to live without you. I never imagined that you should occupy this great place in my daily life.

My Dear Workout, I want to thank you because you are helping me to keep at a better level my hyperglycemia. Thanks to you, I don’t have any problems to sleep at night; I don’t get upset with anybody, I am not feeling tired at all, I have a strong appetite, I don’t feel any serious pain in my whole body, I am not feeling depressed, and I am feeling very equilibrated. This means you are doing a tremendous job in my life, my Beloved
Workout. Even though you are very demanding and rigorous with me, which means you want me to be with you every day for at least 3 hours, I still love you.

I will be very mad if something prevents me from being with you daily, which means a severe pain in my body. I hope you will continue to be very helpful for me, my Dearly Beloved Workout. Without you, my friend, nothing is really possible.

A few days ago, I saw my physician for a general check up, and he told me to continue to spend time visiting you. My physician saw a lot of improvements in my health, which means my heart is doing so well and my whole body is working well. My blood pressure and blood sugar are both under control. Because of you, my friend, I hope to have a long life.

Thanks so much and don’t forget you are always in my daily prayer.

God bless you and your own family.

With love, appreciation, and peace,

* * *

George Kawas of Honduras
George Kawas of Honduras is a civil lawyer. He plans to obtain his LL.M. degree from the College of Law at Loyola University New Orleans. Here is George's essay to something he loves.
Dear Poker,

I want to say that I love you. I admire how you can get inside people’s mind and control their deepest thoughts in an unconscious level. It is incredible the intensity and suspense you provoke between men, when we play this psychological game against each other. I have played you without knowing if I would be the winner, but you have always held my hand, leading me the on right way. Life would not be the same without you.

It is unbelievable how you can play mind tricks with people, making us believe that we have a winning hand, and realizing at the end your deception. But let’s not return to the past; you already promised not to do that again, and I promised to forgive you. Even though I have lost money playing you, I still love you and I know you love me back.

Thanks to you, I have developed the ability of reading my adversaries’ body language; if they twitch an eye, scratch a leg, or breathe heavily, I can perceive their bluff.

Additionally, you have helped me develop the ability of hiding emotional behaviors, by controlling my body’s spontaneous reflexes, and avoiding my rival’s opportunity to figurate out the cards I hold.

Since the beginning, you have been giving me courage to keep playing and raising bets. I am grateful for those moments of satisfaction you have given me, with the support of your son, Full House; your two daughters, Strait and Strait Flush; and especially your older son, his majesty Royal Flush. I could not live without any of them.

Thanks to you, I have learned to make blind decisions in my life. Just like in poker, if I do not risk anything, I would never know if I was right or wrong; if I achieved glory or ruin. If you ever leave, I will miss you, like the flower misses the sun.           

For all these reasons, I thank you and I will see you soon.

Always yours,

* * *

Thank you, Angélica, Rosa, Emmanuel, and George, for sharing your delightful, imaginative, and detailed letters with us, and to LIEP instructor Karen Greenstone, who initiated this project!

We end this post with two photos showing members of the Advanced Writing class sharing their letters in small reading groups.

Reading Group 1: Angélica Aguirre of Ecuador, George Kawas of Honduras, Gorn Witchurungsee of Thailand
Reading Group 2: Stéphane Baechler of France, Felix Garmendia of Venezuela, Rosa Cevallos of Ecuador, Emmanuel Priva of Haiti

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