BRATTLEBORO—The Brattleboro Literary Festival invites everyone to join them online Friday, August 12 at 5 p.m., when the August edition of the Literary Cocktail Hour features Colleen Kinder, Jacquelyn Mitchard and Peter Orner with Letter to a Stranger: Essays on Those Who Haunt Usthe book in which 65 extraordinary writers grapple with this mystery: How can a fleeting encounter with a stranger leave such an eternal mark?
When Kinder appealed to the authors to write a letter to a stranger about an unforgettable encounter, she opened the floodgates. The responses — “intimate and addictive,” critics say, all written in the second person — started pouring in.
These short essays by a group of remarkable writers, including Elizabeth Kolbert, Pico Iyer, Lauren Groff, Gregory Pardlo, Leslie Jamison and 60 others, “are organized around themes such as gratitude, wonder and farewell and guide us through the world and through the mysteries of human connection,” a press release read.
The plays are full of observations about how to live and what we seek, and how a stranger’s charged gaze, shared smile, or asked question can stay with us for a lifetime.
Letters are addressed to a first responder after a storm, a player met on sworn service, a waiter in Istanbul, a taxi driver in Paris, a room full of travelers watching reality TV in La Paz, and dozens of others.
Kinder is an essayist and editor whose work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The New Republic, National Geographic TravelerSalon.com and America’s Best Travel Writing. She has taught writing at Yale University, the Chautauqua Institution, and Semester at Sea.
A Fulbright Scholar, Kinder earned an MFA from the University of Iowa. She is the author of Delay the real world and the co-founder of the online magazine Out of assignment, at the origin of certain pieces of this anthology. She lives in Manitoba and her website is colleenkinder.com.
Mitchard is The New York Times best-selling author of 22 novels for adults and young people, and recipient of the UK Talkabout Prize, Bram Stoker and Shirley Jackson Awards, and shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction.
Mitchard’s first novel, The deep end of the oceanwas the inaugural selection of the Oprah Winfrey Book Club, and her essays have been published in magazines around the world, anthologized, and incorporated into school curricula.
Orner, a two-time Pushcart Prize winner, is the author of six books, including the novel love and shame and love; the collection Stories of Esther, PEN/Hemingway Award finalist; and Maggie Brown and others.
His memoirs Am I alone here? was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. His fiction appeared in The Atlantic, La Revue de Paris, Tin Houseand Grantaand was anthologized in America’s Best Short Stories.
A recipient of the Rome Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Fullbright in Namibia, Orner holds the Dartmouth Professorship of English and Creative Writing at Dartmouth College.
The online literary cocktail on Friday August 12 is free and open to the public. Register on bit.ly/LitCocktail23.
Wednesday, August 17, at 5 p.m., inspired by the letter to a stranger anthology, local author Barbara Morrison is hosting a free hybrid letter-writing event in which attendees are invited to learn how to write their own letter to a stranger who has impacted their life. Everyone is welcome.