Arts & Culture

Hulin ’00 brings the novel to Instagram

Hulin ’00 converts manuscript to Instagram novel by pairing text excerpts with photographs

Senior Staff Writer
Thursday, January 28, 2016

An Instagram feed tells a variety of stories — the story of a friend’s family vacation to Martha’s Vineyard, the story of a distant acquaintance’s night out in New York, the story of a celebrity’s walk down the red carpet. For users following the account @heyharryheymatilda, Instagram also tells the fictional story of two twins in their 30s dealing with the vicissitudes of love and life.

“Hey Harry Hey Matilda” is an “Instagram novel”  and Rachel Hulin’s ’00 newest project. The epistolary novel follows twins Harry and Matilda and their almost-daily email correspondences through the struggles of relationships and adulthood.

Published about three times per week, the Instagram posts each include a snippet of these correspondences and a photograph. While some of the ties between the writing and photos are obvious, others are symbolic, Hulin said. Some images relate to the writing based on a “feeling” that both pieces share.

Hulin said it was her interest in social media that led her to try out Instagram as a publication format for her already-finished manuscript for “Hey Harry Hey Matilda.”

“I just realized that people were reading and looking at imagery so much in tiny parcels on Instagram,” she said. “It worked very well for me since I had already been shooting images that related to the book.”

Hulin decided to segment her finished manuscript into separate Instagram posts and, using her background as a photographer and photo editor, pair them with images.

The format of an Instagram novel allowed Hulin to start connecting with people interested in her work, she said. Since her previous novel had been a children’s book, Hulin felt it was important that she find readers interested in “Hey Harry Hey Matilda” as an adult novel. “I thought (an Instagram novel) would be a great way to introduce people to the characters,” she said.

Hulin thought people would relate to characters introduced to them on Instagram differently than those from a more traditional novel and that the more casual tone of the Instagram novel mixed in with the regular feed would allow readers to see Harry and Matilda posts “almost like they’re viewing friends,” she said.

The more personal connection created between Hulin’s characters and the novel’s readers aided by the Instagram format has led many readers to reach out with letters and emails addressed to Harry and Matilda. “Being able to take two characters from a book and allow people to feel like they know them was my goal,” Hulin said.

While Hulin isn’t sure what her next project will be, she said she would be interested in using another social media platform to engage with readers.

“I love using media of any kind to introduce people to projects,” she added.

Still, Hulin’s interest in new media has not led her to eschew traditional publication formats. “Hey Harry Hey Matilda” will be published through Doubleday, a publishing company, next year.

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