Unwritten Letters Project Book and Website by Alex Boles (Interview)
December 13, 2012 in Boles Alex, Book Club Possibility, Helping Girls and Women Around the World, High School Teachers, Journal Writing, Journal Writing, Middle School Teachers, Writing Skills Tags: bloggers, building self-esteem in kids, young adult nonfiction
I’m welcoming Alex Boles, whom I met through my critique group (she’s the sister of one of our members) and who has a very exciting and important website and book! I encourage everyone to check out the website here and then the book through the Amazon link at the bottom of the post. I will let her tell you about the book and the website because she took the time to answer some questions! This seems to be teen week on my blog this week because this is another book and website PERFECT for teens! Here we go:
Margo: Hi Alex! Welcome to Read These Books and Use Them. How do you describe the Unwritten Letters Project? When did you get the idea?
Alex: The Unwritten Letters Project (ULP) is a website dedicated to allowing people to release emotions in a cathartic, non-violent fashion. It’s a place where anyone can write a letter to those who they haven’t had the chance to say goodbye to, didn’t have the courage or resources to say these things to them before or just release feelings, or confessions about themselves or their lives. ULP is more than just a letter-writing, interactive website. It’s a place where people can come to release emotions they didn’t know they were feeling and use it to cope and heal. Reading the other letters helps people to realize that we’re not alone in this huge world, and chances are, someone else has gone through or is going through something similar. If you can’t connect with the people close to you, maybe you can through someone’s letter from across the world.
I came upon the idea for the Unwritten Letters Project in 2009. I was a junior in college; and once the book version was released, I became the youngest (and some say first) undergrad to publish a book at Truman State University. The idea was inspired by a number of films and a class I was taking at the time called “Family Communication.” After reflecting throughout the course on how I would communicate my feelings growing up, I realized I tend to write how I’m feeling in journals or through creative writing. I created the website to see how many others use the same writing method of coping. If others used writing or could see how writing can be healing, then I figured the website could help a lot of people through difficult times and overcome hardships.
Margo: So, it started as a website! What were people posting to the website? What did you post?
Alex: Yes, the Unwritten Letters Project is in its truest form, a website. At the beginning, professors at my university would use the site for classroom projects and assignments. I used those letters to create the original base of letters and then began a self-ran marketing campaign to solicit letters from across the globe. Seemingly overnight, I was receiving letters from countries like Japan, Germany, and Great Britain–sometimes in their native languages adding to each letters authenticity. People would write about current love interests, lost love, friendship, regrets, passion, their own lives and wishes. I would receive letters about bullying, suicide, and self-harm. It seemed to open up to somewhat of a confessional, and people began trusting me with their deepest secrets. I feel very overwhelmed and lucky to be trusted by thousands of people just trying to heal.
Truthfully, I have posted a few of my own letters. I posted my own letters more in the earlier years because I had some old letters from my past that I wanted to let loose. Nowadays, I let the readers’ thoughts make up the website. It’s always been more about letting others utilize the website than what I can get out of it.
Margo: What a wonderful service you are providing other people! Why did you decide to make it into a book?
Alex: I decided to make the Unwritten Letters Project into a book because I wanted people to be able to get as much out of this project as possible. It’s a “coffee-table” book–something you read to feel comfort and hope. It’s something to read to realize you’re not alone, and things will get better. I wanted something tangible that readers could cherish and pass down to their children as something that helped them get through life’s hardest moments. I also wanted to use the resources I had while I had them. My college experience was amazing, and my university was very welcoming of ambition. They let me saturate the campus with my dream and embraced my enthusiasm for the project and its message. I was able to go in to classrooms to spread awareness, and the University Bookstore even hosted a book signing where the president and provost attended with campus and local media present. I realized I had an amazing support system through school, family, and friends and wanted to take advantage of the resources at hand, so that I could continue to spread the Unwritten Letters Project.
Margo: How awesome! I went to TSU, too–way before you–it was still Northeast Missouri State University. (smiles) Anyway, what a great opportunity and what a great way you use that opportunity. So, how can teachers, parents, and counselors use the book with young adults?
Alex: Educators and professionals can definitely use the Unwritten Letters Project as a resource for learning or healing. It’s a great example of real life hardships and how people deal with, overcome, and react to these situations. Nothing is embellished or changed from the original letters. Every letter is pure raw emotion and real-life scenarios and actions. With so many fiction and fantasy novels becoming increasingly popular, we lose sight of reality and how people can really be affected by life’s decisions and our actions. Reading this book can remind us of our humanity. It reminds people that we feel, we’re alive, and we need to consciously make an effort to keep living our lives to the fullest each day. Because if we don’t, then we end up regretting the moments we didn’t have or wishing we would have done something when we had the chance.
Margo: WOW! That is powerful and so true and such an important message. Can people still post letters to your website?
Alex: Readers don’t post letters to the site directly. They submit the letters to a portal that sends them to a private e-mail. I then choose letters that are posted. I continue to receive letters on a daily basis and post as often as I can. I am definitely still accepting letters on the website. I encourage everyone to try writing at least one letter. I think you’d surprise yourself.
Margo: I hope some of my readers will consider it and use the website and book with their students/children. Do you have plans for future books?
Alex: I don’t have a second book planned for the near future, but I do have plans to publish more books with specific themes. As long as readership continues or improves, I will always run the Unwritten Letters Project. When the demand for another book increases, I will solicit publishers and agents. I’d like the second book to have a heavier following and possibly a blog/book tour if possible. Another book is definitely a possibility, but when it happens is up to the fans and future unknown publisher.
Margo: Thank you so much, Alex. I am just really in awe of what you are doing and think it is a wonderful idea and service. Readers, you can look inside the book on Amazon!