Ellena Savage

About my TinyLetter

My Tinyletter started as a way to capture the slow time of writing for joy while I was thinking about a longer, tougher project – a Ph.D. thesis. I suppose it was a distraction. I was living in Berlin.

Outside the window where I wrote every day, a family of rock pigeons would sit on the ledge and talk to me. An enormous, breathing horse chestnut tree commanded the centre of the courtyard. My dreams during this time were vivid. And I was deeply in love. None of these contexts led to “good writing” – writing that contains at least one bad thing (according to Anne Boyer) – particularly as my main writing practice is memoir. But as always, I was writing, daily, anyway. Tinyletter gave me a platform to experiment and share my mundane little compositions with a small audience, without the fear that often accompanies publication.

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berlin in spring is a city of legs. on the u-bahn they are all lined up thick and long, tanned and waxed. docked at the upper thigh by beige or taupe or khaki shorts, each foot straddled by some sensible leather walking sandal. the germans have no imagination. they all dress the same. some visitors in this city enjoy that fact. that when they are here they are liberated from the duty to look something all the time, to look urbane or cruel or sexually perverted. the legs lined up on the u-bahn are the legs of young girls and women my age and women who look the age of women with adult children; it makes no difference. because there is no taboo about sex or even sexuality the nudity of the legs carries no suggestion. no one is fat and no one is thin. they are all the size of three square meals of meat and bread and a slice of cake at 4 p.m., plus a commitment to basic fitness. the reality of cellulite is accepted. 

“wannsee lakes”
yesterday went to wannsee lakes with tim and dom. walked for many hours round the lake trying to find the alleged longest lake beach in europe, so that we could walk along the water, but it turns out the bay is sectioned up into private blocks and docks and the longest strip which is ostensibly public is run by the city of berlin and they charge five euros at the gate to get in. you don’t own nature i muttered but of course THEY sort of do.

all the way round this enormous lake lakehouses with perfect green lawns. one of them, i saw, with a wide lawn a jetty an abstract modernist sculpture in blue and no trace of human beings bar two prim empty deck chairs at the littoral. this scene which i could only spy on through a tall bushy hedge was somehow more appealing than the water’s glassy surface even with its slow sailing yachts and jerky waterbirds. i thought of the film funny games. of course. and if i am honest a moment passed when part of me thought the owners of the wide lawn and jetty and empty deck chairs would be better off dead. black glossy cars with boat trailers attached inched their way into a barred yacht club car park careful not to knock against other glossy black cars.

once back in the city, just twenty minutes on the s-bahn, we got dinner at a lowkey italian place next to viktoriapark where the waitress flapped angrily and moaned audibly when i ordered. for now for once forevermore, maybe, i’m not the angry waitress working sunday evening while people come in for an insalata and an aperol spritz after a day at the lakes. it occurred to me without alarm that she might part of her think i’d be better off dead.

Q & A

Why did you start a TinyLetter?

Some writer friends had turned from blogging and prolific social media use to Tinyletter. It seemed to be a quieter, less combative space to comment on daily life, or to simply compile links. The only way for a reader to ‘comment’ is to directly email the author, which filters out aggressive interactions. I was also frustrated by my own publishing history: journalism was easy to sell; but the writing I was more interested in making had no obvious market. I was butting heads with editors, who were less excited than I was about my giving up the grammar. So Tinyletter became a space for me to just write what I wanted, without thinking about whether or not it would please an editor (or piss off a reader).

What is your experience of the community?

Because of the private feel of email – the known speaker speaks to the known addressee – there is no performative value in responding snarkily to a Tinyletter. I think this is one reason why the community feels so safe and supportive. I respond to Tinyletters I have loved, sometimes just with a love heart or a single line. And readers contact me to say hi, or to enlarge on something I’ve written about. It’s earnest, which I love.

What advice would you give?

There are no barriers to access! So use Tinyletter with an appreciation of that freedom.

Ellena Savage is a writer from Melbourne. Her essays, stories and poems have been published widely. Most recently: Chart Collective, Literary Hub, Cordite Poetry Review, and The Best of The Lifted Brow: Volume Two. She is a former editor of The Lifted Brow, and writes a column there about reading books. She lives in Athens at the bottom of a hill with her sweetheart and an almost-finished Ph.D. thesis.