Letters from the Pandemic: Welcome

Letters from the Pandemic
by Sasha Colby


Main Street, Vancouver, March 2020. Photo by Dan Toulgoet courtesy Vancouver Courier

Editor’s note: we are pleased to introduce Letters from the Pandemic: A 30th Anniversary Commemorative Public Writing Project of the Graduate Liberal Studies Program of Simon Fraser University (SFU).

Sasha Colby, Director of Graduate Liberal Studies, provides an introduction (below) to the Pandemic Letters project. The letters themselves, which will be posted regularly over the coming months, can be viewed in their own category on The Ormsby Review website.

Thank you, Sasha, for your initiative in making this happen and to everyone connected to GLS for their existing and coming contributions — Richard Mackie


Sasha Colby

As is often true in SFU’s Graduate Liberal Studies Program, the idea for Letters from the Pandemic came from the classroom. Or lack of classroom as Covid moved our MA seminars online. Pushed to find an alternative to the bonds forged before and after class, on breaks, in the aside to a classmate, I, like many other instructors in the GLS MA Program, turned to a weekly written submission to complement the online seminars. Inspired by many of the great literary friendships pursued through correspondence, I assigned the students a letter a week. “Dear -,” the beginning and ending of so many things. In this case, a beginning.

Pressed to write about class texts in a time of Covid, students, already so skilled at finding the intersection of their personal, professional and reading lives, began to create moving portraits of life and ideas in a time of contagion and containment. Though we were physically isolated, friendships and literary debate flourished across distance as letters were posted to the weekly forum. And always, always there was that documentary component, the traces and scenes of a particular moment.

Here was the spark for this larger collaborative community writing project, Letters from the Pandemic. GLS students, staff, faculty, alumni and friends have all been invited to write in on this, the occasion of Graduate Liberal Studies’ 30th Anniversary, to tell us what they are thinking, what they are reading, what they are feeling, what they are hoping. This project is enabled by the talents of our community, the patronage of Yosef Wosk, and the editorial acumen of Richard Mackie of The Ormsby Review.

The project is both commemorative and combative, commemorative of the relevance of GLS ideas on the occasion of the 30th Anniversary, combative against the idea that we have to think and feel our way through the Covid moment alone.

Enjoy these letters. They are for you,



Sasha Colby is Director of Graduate Liberal Studies at Simon Fraser University.

On the eve of the pandemic: champagne to mark completion of Liberal Studies 800, SFU, November 2019. Sasha Colby, lower right


The Ormsby Review. More Books. More Reviews. More Often.

Publisher and Editor: Richard Mackie

The Ormsby Review is a journal service for in-depth coverage of B.C. books and authors. The Advisory Board consists of Jean Barman, Robin Fisher, Cole Harris, Wade Davis, Hugh Johnston, Patricia Roy, David Stouck, and Graeme Wynn. Scholarly Patron: SFU Graduate Liberal Studies. Honorary Patron: Yosef Wosk. Provincial Government Patron since September 2018: Creative BC

“Only connect.” – E.M. Forster

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