In this piece which commemorates the end of Nest’s first run, Sam Tempest gathered the voices of those involved in this collaborative epistolary project. We learn from this Greek Choir what was it like to write and be a part of Nest.
It all began with a curious desk ornament, but you’ve already heard that story. It’s been eight months and fifteen letters since then. None of us knew what to expect. Since there has never been anything like this on FalWriting, I thought you’d want to hear about it.
Nest was an attempt to take the epistolary form and make it contemporary and exciting again. It felt new and promising.
One of the first tasks was to commission writers with Shere's help. We weren’t looking for writers that specialised in specific genres; rather, we wanted people who were enthusiastic about the project and could bring their own colours to it. They certainly did take the project in different directions, and one of the things that excited us the most was to see it jump from genre to genre. I think we’ve had everything from romance to thriller, with varying levels of drama.
I wrote Letter Six, which I would classify as teenage fiction. We’d only had adult perspectives by that point, so I wanted to switch it up a little and chose to write from the perspective of Olya’s daughter, Sara. It had been hinted at that she was a baby, but because it wasn’t explicitly stated, I took it upon myself to age her up. Nest was super interesting in that way because us writers did not communicate with each other – as a result, we had the freedom to manipulate those things.
In my case, Sara was writing to Clara, her childhood best friend/now lover. Their correspondence wasn’t picked up in the following letter, but it was continued by Lucy in Letter Eight, and Gemma in Letter Twelve. So, you never knew what would intrigue future writers; what one writer introduced was not always picked up by the next, but it could emerge again a few letters down the road.
I was very self aware that we had to have some little tendrils of information in there that people could pick up and use for their own letter so that’s why I focused so much on place because I thought that might be quite an interesting thing for someone to explore. This is rather unusual for me; I was constantly thinking about the person who would be picking up the line after me and it was really fun.
I thoroughly enjoyed writing my letter, which took place about halfway through the story and gave me a strong foundation to work from. As mentioned in my podcast interview, it has inspired my general creativity and encouraged me to write in this format again.
When exploring ideas for Letter Thirteen of Nest ,Sam Tempest and I wanted to expand the peripheral of the stone-skin epidemics effects on the greater community. We strayed from the monologue template and developed a narrative that involved three Bodmin men corresponding about love, God and some imminent remains. We focused on character development, and that each character needed to have their own unique and ‘honest’ voice. We were careful not to slip into the use of overly formal English that often happens when writing a letter. It was fun to collaborate with someone, and a good practice on character voice.
I'm sad that the Nest project is coming to an end because it's been a very enjoyable experience that has allowed writers from our courses to express their creativity.
Nest has been a welcome addition that's proven successful, and I’m excited to see what we come up with for the epistolary project next year.
It did end up taking an almost-apocalyptic turn, with many people turning into zombie-like creatures and roaming the streets of Cornwall. In the era of conspiracy theories and serial killer documentaries, it only makes sense. Shere had told me many times that Nest was one Big Experiment.
Just before the first Nest letter was published you were told to:
‘Expect letters. Expect quirky stuff. Expect nests.’
I think its safe to say those expectations were met.
The collected voices of 15 writers.
brought together by Sam Tempest
Nest is our epistolary project, written collaboratively by students and staff and published every fortnight right here on Falwriting. You can find out more about Nest here.
If you just arrived to this series or want to reread the letters, you can find Letter Fifteen, Letter Fourteen, Letter Thirteen, Letter Twelve, Letter Eleven, Letter Ten, Letter Nine, Letter Eight, Letter Seven, Letter Six, Letter Five, Letter Four, Letter Three, Letter Two and Letter One here.
You can also listen to the letters and the writers discussing their inspiration in our Nest podcast here.