DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.

Zach Savich

Epistolary Acts: Letter Writing as Academic Practice




“Dear,” I write, and the letter feels its way forward, until I say “sincerely.” Letters and emails require direct communication that can feel purposeful, formative, and connected to meaningful conversation. Framing writing activities as acts of correspondence can help students

  • make writing choices for diverse audiences and purposes;
  • demonstrate fluency with course concepts;
  • complicate their thinking about “intelligent” and “academic” writing;
  • view writing as contributing to communities and conversations;
  • foreground that meaning-making is a collaborative act;
  • practice a form of professional communication.



1. Within a Course

  • For reflection and retention
    • “Write a postcard to yourself in three months about what you hope to remember.”
  • For peer review
    • “Write a letter to your partner that connects their work to another work.”
  • For analysis
    • “Write me an email that identifies a pattern in these pieces.”

2. Across Courses

  • For collaboration
    • “Exchange emails with students from Course X to generate three ideas for collaborative projects that would combine our areas of study.”
  • For demonstration of mastery
    • “Write a letter to a future student about the distinct stages of learning this concept.”
  • For addressing objections
    • “Write a note to a future student who is skeptical of this process.”

3. Toward Other Contexts

  • For adaptation to a specific audience
    • “Write a letter than explains this concept to a child/friend/invested community.”
  • For advancing ideas
    • “Write a letter to an expert in this area, asking specific questions.”
  • For responding
    • “Write a letter to the author that responds to a specific passage.”
  • For professional purposes
    • “Write an email to a potential employer that concisely shows your understanding of this concept and articulates the skills you have gained because of it.”

Presenter Handouts:



DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.

Presenter Biography:

Zach Savich is an Assistant Professor in the BFA Program in Creative Writing at the University of the Arts. His newest book of poetry is Century Swept Brutal (Black Ocean, 2014). He is also the author of the poetry collections Full Catastrophe Living (2009), Annulments (2010), and The Firestorm (2011), as well as a book of prose, Events Film Cannot Withstand (2011). His work has received the Iowa Poetry Prize, the Colorado Prize for Poetry, and the Cleveland State University Poetry Center's Open Award, among other honors. A graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, he co-edits Rescue Press's Open Prose Series.

DRAFT: This module has unpublished changes.