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Drake professor reads from her unpublished works

Photo by Taylor Soule

Amy Letter, assistant professor of fiction and new media at Drake, took to the lectern last Wednesday night in the Cowles Library Reading Room as part of Drake’s Writers and Critics Series.

Reading from her unpublished work “Blue Alyssa and the Sad Gray Crab,” Letter left her audience pondering the nature of time and the power of love.

Letter, who joined the Drake English faculty at the start of this semester, entered her first year of college at Florida Atlantic University as a chemistry major.  While taking a poetry class as an undergraduate, Letter fell in love with writing, marking a turnaround in her life.

After earning her bachelor’s degree in English, writing and rhetoric from FAU, Letter received her master’s degree of fine arts in creative writing from the University of Arkansas. She taught at FAU before joining the faculty at Drake. Letter’s work includes short fiction, poetry and nonfiction.

Described by Letter as a “science fiction romance about the nature of time and the limits of humanity,” the reading featured a unique amalgamation of science and creative writing.  Inspired by a particle accelerator that could literally alter the passage of time, Letter has been focusing on the dynamic of time in recent writings.

“I’ve been writing a lot of stories lately about time and breaking time and about time doing unexpected things,” Letter said. “Composing stories is to have a weird relationship with time because you’ll spend two years writing a story someone is supposed to read in 20 minutes. Within stories, you can read the story of a lifetime in an hour. Stories are always messing with our perception of time.”

Letter said she hopes that “Blue Alyssa and the Sad Gray Crab” will be an attractive concept to mainstream literary journals open to science fiction as she looks for publishing outlets.  The piece, which she said is finished, features references to Letter’s home state of Florida. However, she has enjoyed adjusting to life in Des Moines.

“In my entire life before here, I’ve owned one coat, and it didn’t get a lot of use,” Letter said. “So, there’s a lot to get used to here. Des Moines is a great city. It’s really beautiful. It’s amazing how friendly people are. It’s relaxed, very trusting. When you cross the street, people stop for you instead of speed up.”

Letter described the people living in Florida as having an “aggressive” lifestyle.

As an artist and a professor, Letter hopes to push her students to embrace creativity and reach their potential, an aspiration she has found incredibly fun thus far.

“I’ve been having so much fun since I’ve been here,” Letter said. “The students have been fantastic. I’ve just really found students here to be so interesting. They’re inventive and insightful.

“One of my biggest goals is to encourage my students to their fullest extent to feel their art, love their art, make it the best they possibly can,” she added. “I’m all about people being as creative as possible. The things people do in life and in school and in every other context should not just be words on a page. They should be more than that.”


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