Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

The language of love


September 13, 2018

Jenna Kunze photo.

Tom Lang

"I have sort of a back story with roses," local author and summer resident Tom Lang said at his workshop Monday at the library, where he guided writers on the art of crafting love letters.

Eight years ago on Valentine's Day in his home in Bali, Lang went to the store and bought a rose for each of his 14 Balinese neighbors, setting in motion a reputation, a theme and, ultimately, the illustrations to accompany his book, "How to Write a Love Letter."

"Bapak mowar," or Mr. Rose, as the locals call him, continued the tradition for the next three years, delivering one rose per day to a person he felt struck by- all genders and ages included. Locals knew that if his pockets were empty, he'd already given out his rose. "Now, everyone looks at my pockets," Lang said.

This ritual aligns with Lang's own ideas about love letters as random acts of appreciation. A good love letter, according to Lang, can be sent to anyone, at any time.

"Intentionally, the book has a mixture of red, pink, yellow, white, orange, and purple roses to reinforce that love letters are written for many reasons and that all of us have many loved ones on many levels," he wrote in his book.

Lang insists that "building a backstory" is the simple yet revealing process of writing a good letter. To help participants choose a recipient, he gave context to many of the love letters he's sent and received, ranging from one to the 10-year-old son of his ex-partner, to words written in the sand, to a letter to dissolve a fight with a friend who finally responded seven years later.

In his workshop, Lang guided 17 attendees through a series of six prompts, paired with rose illustrations by artist Nur Ilham, to "awaken details" and articulate feelings in their love letters. After that, he gave a step-by-step guide to help make the letter cohesive.

The only materials needed are a pen and paper, your three favorite songs, and a quiet writing space, Lang said. Prompt questions range from writing three favorite qualities about your loved one, to listing a favorite memory together, to what surprised you about a person who exceeded your expectations.

"I thought it was really thought provoking," Teresa Hura said after the event. She wrote her letter to her two children, and said that maybe she'll give it to them on their birthdays.

Bill Tutor said that Lang's guidance will help in communicating with the woman he's loved nearly all his life.

"The reason why I'm here is because I've been in love with a lady for 45 years," Tutor said, explaining that they've been together a handful of times, but it never worked out on her end. "I'm of the mind that once you love someone, if it's real you just never stop," Tutor said. "You never give up hope."

Rustin Gooden said the workshop exceeded his expectations, and was surprised by "how easy it really is, (to write about love) once you have the template."

"What I really liked was the story about [Lang] saying nice things about who walks into the coffee shop every day," Gooden said. Lang relayed a game he had played at a cafe with his partner's son, where they said one thing they loved about each person who walked in the door.

"It's not what [Lang's] getting I guess, it's what he's able to give," Gooden said. He's making an on-the-spot connection with someone...and I see it and I like it."

Lang's book is available for purchase at Babbling Book, or online at He says his book is being translated into several different languages, which speaks to how universal the message of love can be.


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