TreeHouseLetter

Readers receive one to two letters a week, with 2 to 10 minute read time. Includes features on prose, poetry, and craft, as well as the best writing and ideas out there.

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Recent Letters

Notes on a Year of Love

3 Min read The Music in Prose Simile and metaphor 2 books AVAILABLE ON PODCAST On Spotify On...

Why I Write

5 Min read Creative process AVAILABLE ON PODCAST ON SPOTIFY The main window with view of pine,...

The Last Recital

2 Min read Piano music, composers Writer's Toolbox: the series and the infinitive phrase AVAILABLE...

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Reader Favorites

Essays that changed me: Rachel Cusk and “Making Home”

5 min read The Music in Prose Rachel Cusk St. Augustine, Montaigne Why an essay breathes AVAILABLE ON PODCAST Spotify iTunes Google Podcasts The essay can make the best of people cringe, with its connection to the dreaded common application or the college assignment....

On Becoming Sheepdogs, a Modern Fable

AVAILABLE ON PODCAST Anchor.fm Spotify iTunes In the wake of recent events regarding the tragic death of George Floyd and the ensuing protests, this letter seems more relevant than ever. It has been updated to relate my own experience and the role of the brave men and...

Are We Killing the Fat Man? The Corona Trolley Dilemma

AVAILABLE ON PODCAST SPOTIFY ITUNES ANCHOR.FM THE TROLLEY PROBLEM The Trolley thought experiment, first put forth by the philosopher Philippa Foot, pits two schools of moral thought against each other: deontological ethics and utilitarianism. In simple words, the...

More Than a Vietnamese Folktale – the Goddess of Compassion

“To my mind, Kuan Yin’s gentle form is a worthier symbol than the figure of a tortured being hanging from a cross or of an awesome father god.” John Blofeld I’ve known Kuan Yin for some years now as Quan Am, her Vietnamese name.  My Vietnamese mother is Buddhist and...

Number One Deterrent for Burglars or Anyone Else Visiting Your House

  Ten years ago our lives changed.  A lot.  We don’t do things by halves in our family, so we moved into a new home, I gave birth to my third child, and if that was not enough, we bought the biggest, baddest dog we could find.  A third pet.  I’ll share more about...

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On Life

On the Double Negative, Circular Definitions, and Children

4 min read Double negative 2 Book recs, 1 short story Roe v. Wade A Double Negative by Lydia Davis At a certain point in her life, she realizes it is not so much that she wants to have a child as that she does not want not to have a child, or not to have had a child.*...

Simba the Designer Dog? The Perfect Combination of 5 Breeds

3 Min read Dog DNA Wordplay with breeds AVAILABLE ON PODCAST On Spotify On iTunes Simba in June at 7 months, post "Breed Reveal" Bel-Ger-Sam-Box-Sky. Belgersamboxsky. Bel-Ger-Box-Sky. Belgerboxsky. Shep-Sam-Box-Sky. Shep-Box-Sky. Herd-Box-Sky. Box-Herd-Sky. BoxShepSky...

Why I Write

5 Min read Creative process AVAILABLE ON PODCAST ON SPOTIFY The main window with view of pine, poplar and birch in the TreeHouse where I do most of my writing. MacBook with this letter on a portable table. I sit in a Herman Miller office chair, an essential for the...

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Stories

What Makes a Speech Great? An Admiral Tells 3 Stories

6 min read Writer’s Toolbox Public speaking AVAILABLE ON PODCAST HERE Admiral McRaven commemorates the 11th Anniversary of Operation Neptune's Spear What makes a speech great? There are a lot of good speeches and good speakers. But a great speech is one you remember....

1000 Push-ups? Getting Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable

6 min read Memoir rec Work-outs, push-ups and running AVAILABLE ON PODCAST CLICK HERE On Spotify On iTunes Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. That’s the short take on Living with a SEAL*, 31 Days Training With the Toughest Man on the Planet. Jesse Itzler, the...

What I Learned Walking With a Friend

8 min read True Story Military service Road walking, trail notes AVAILABLE IN PODCAST - CLICK HERE Not 30 miles as the crow flies, that’s how far I was from my childhood home. It was gray and threatening rain, the time in spring that’s cool, tree buds just coming in,...

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On Education

Graveside Gratitude, Giving Thanks in November

AVAILABLE ON PODCAST iTunes Spotify Anchor.fm         I learned more from two friends in death than I had learned from them in life. I had not known them well and perhaps that is why, but they were men I met whose lives touched mine, in a fashion,...

Poetry Dinner Night – A Quarantine Scene

Does she or doesn’t she? Do you recognize this from the 1956 ad campaign? Does it elicit unsavory thoughts? This Hall-of-Fame advertising slogan was used for Clairol’s Hair Color and within six years seventy percent of women were dying their hair. Maybe you remember...

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On Literature

Exercises in Style: a Writing Tribute

3 min read Book rec Writing Toolbox Wordplay Ages 9 to 99 AVAILABLE IN PODCAST HERE Titles begin with letters as human forms Narrative One day at about midday in the food line, behind the checkout of a more or less busy Costco, I observed a person with a very big...

Bedside Counselor on Parenting in Anger, in Two Translations

6 min read Book rec Prose for emergencies Writing feature AVAILABLE IN PODCAST, CLICK HERE For solace and for counsel, I have several books I find myself returning to again and again, and to this one, most recently, as my third child prepares to leave home.* For...

A Poet Warrior Learns Kindness

4 min read Book Rec, Tokaido Road Poetry for Emergencies AVAILABLE IN PODCAST Spotify iTunes Google Podcast It made me feel flawed as a human, this passage from Lucia St.Clair Robson's book, Tokaido Road. The protagonist Cat is disguised as a young man when she meets...

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Bookshelf

On the Double Negative, Circular Definitions, and Children

4 min read Double negative 2 Book recs, 1 short story Roe v. Wade A Double Negative by Lydia Davis At a certain point in her life, she realizes it is not so much that she wants to have a child as that she does not want not to have a child, or not to have had a child.*...

“The Q-tips Are for Your M4” and the Art of the Paragraph

3 Min read Writer's toolbox Improve writing immediately Book rec AVAILABLE ON PODCAST On SPOTIFY The Q-tips are for your M4, Norah's uncle said as she held them up when unpacking her 7.62 ammunition canister. Norah reached in the green ammo can and took out 100 feet...

“Django with One Finger,” a Living Music Icon

4 min read Book rec Music in Prose Songwriting AVAILABLE IN PODCAST I finished Willie Nelson's memoir or musings from the road, as he titled it. The book is a short reflection on a long life, punctuated throughout with song lyrics and crude jokes and notes from family...

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On the Military

“The Q-tips Are for Your M4” and the Art of the Paragraph

3 Min read Writer's toolbox Improve writing immediately Book rec AVAILABLE ON PODCAST On SPOTIFY The Q-tips are for your M4, Norah's uncle said as she held them up when unpacking her 7.62 ammunition canister. Norah reached in the green ammo can and took out 100 feet...

“Keep the Faith for Which They Died”

4 Min read 3 Poems by John McCrae, a Poet Warrior Poetry for Emergencies Memorial Day The "MURPH Challenge" or Workout of the Day AVAILABLE IN PODCAST On SPOTIFY Click links above to listen to the poems This Memorial Day I read other poems written by the Canadian...

What Makes a Speech Great? An Admiral Tells 3 Stories

6 min read Writer’s Toolbox Public speaking AVAILABLE ON PODCAST HERE Admiral McRaven commemorates the 11th Anniversary of Operation Neptune's Spear What makes a speech great? There are a lot of good speeches and good speakers. But a great speech is one you remember....

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Writing Features

The Music in Prose

Notes on a Year of Love

3 Min read The Music in Prose Simile and metaphor 2 books AVAILABLE ON PODCAST On Spotify On iTunes My book group chose to read love stories. We read seven or eight books, a mix of modern and classic. The night was perfect, the trees lush and full; my skin felt alive...

“Django with One Finger,” a Living Music Icon

4 min read Book rec Music in Prose Songwriting AVAILABLE IN PODCAST I finished Willie Nelson's memoir or musings from the road, as he titled it. The book is a short reflection on a long life, punctuated throughout with song lyrics and crude jokes and notes from family...

Essays that changed me: Rachel Cusk and “Making Home”

5 min read The Music in Prose Rachel Cusk St. Augustine, Montaigne Why an essay breathes AVAILABLE ON PODCAST Spotify iTunes Google Podcasts The essay can make the best of people cringe, with its connection to the dreaded common application or the college assignment....

Poetry for Emergencies

“Keep the Faith for Which They Died”

4 Min read 3 Poems by John McCrae, a Poet Warrior Poetry for Emergencies Memorial Day The "MURPH Challenge" or Workout of the Day AVAILABLE IN PODCAST On SPOTIFY Click links above to listen to the poems This Memorial Day I read other poems written by the Canadian...

A Poet Warrior Learns Kindness

4 min read Book Rec, Tokaido Road Poetry for Emergencies AVAILABLE IN PODCAST Spotify iTunes Google Podcast It made me feel flawed as a human, this passage from Lucia St.Clair Robson's book, Tokaido Road. The protagonist Cat is disguised as a young man when she meets...

Poetry for Emergencies: Ukraine, Howard Nemerov, and the War Dead

6 Min read Howard Nemerov 2 Poems TreeHouseLetter feature:  Poetry for Emergencies   AVAILABLE IN PODCAST iTunes Spotify.com anchor.fm/emelle Poetry is a way of getting something right in language. Nemerov It's a batshit crazy world, especially for our friends of...

Toolbox

On the Double Negative, Circular Definitions, and Children

4 min read Double negative 2 Book recs, 1 short story Roe v. Wade A Double Negative by Lydia Davis At a certain point in her life, she realizes it is not so much that she wants to have a child as that she does not want not to have a child, or not to have had a child.*...

Notes on a Year of Love

3 Min read The Music in Prose Simile and metaphor 2 books AVAILABLE ON PODCAST On Spotify On iTunes My book group chose to read love stories. We read seven or eight books, a mix of modern and classic. The night was perfect, the trees lush and full; my skin felt alive...

Why I Write

5 Min read Creative process AVAILABLE ON PODCAST ON SPOTIFY The main window with view of pine, poplar and birch in the TreeHouse where I do most of my writing. MacBook with this letter on a portable table. I sit in a Herman Miller office chair, an essential for the...