A Read Through Judith Kitchen’s Work

After reading In Short and In Brief, two anthologies of short personal essays co-edited by author Judith Kitchen, I re-read her collected essays in Only the Dance and Distance and Direction, and then her novel The House on Eccles Road. As I went to my bookshelf, I plucked Distance and Direction down first and returned … Continue reading

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Two Essays by Judith Kitchen

Yellow by Judith Kitchen (Reprinted by permission of the author from Distance and Direction, Coffee House Press, 2001, this essay first appeared in the Great River Review.) Lately the rush hour traffic begins before you have to put your headlights on. The season’s turned. I’m thinking back to summer solstice, thirty-five years ago, in Denmark. … Continue reading

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Insights into Endings – Part 2

After reading essayist and editor Judith Kitchen’s observations about effective essay endings for last week’s article, I turned to In Brief, the second of two creative nonfiction anthologies Kitchen co-edited with Mary Paumier Jones and published with W.W. Norton. In the introduction to this 1999 volume, Kitchen and Jones write that in addition to an … Continue reading

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Insights into Endings

In “Endings,” an instructional essay for the literary journal Fourth Genre, Fall, 2001, Judith Kitchen asserts that in a piece of creative nonfiction, “the building of thought is what interests the reader.” “We look as much for how an author approaches a subject,” she writes, “as for the subject itself.” In reading and writing essays, … Continue reading

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In Short – An Inspiring Essay Anthology Edited by Judith Kitchen and Mary Paumier Jones

“It is a matter of proportion,” Judith Kitchen and Mary Paumier Jones say about the criteria they used for selecting essays for an anthology entitled In Short and published by W. W. Norton in 1996.  Noticing that nonfiction writers they admired were frequently writing very short prose, they realized that what mattered in an essay … Continue reading

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An Inland Navy

In last week’s article I reviewed Natalie Goldberg’s The Great Failure: A Bartender, a Monk, and My Unlikely Path to Truth. Near the end of the book, when Goldberg’s elderly father, who’d been operated on for colon cancer, sits down to hamburgers with her at a restaurant, my back bristled.  In my opinion, the author … Continue reading

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A Story of Two Fathers and the Daughter Who Loves Food Too Much

Reading popular writing guru Natalie Goldberg’s newly published memoir, The Great Failure: A Bartender, a Monk, and My Unlikely Path to Truth, Harper San Francisco, 2004, I am drawn to the speaker’s many descriptions of the two influential male figures in her life, her bartender father and her now deceased Zen teacher. When she writes … Continue reading

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Excerpt from Writing and Publishing Personal Essays by Sheila Bender

This week I am sharing an excerpt from my new book Writing and Publishing Personal Essays, just out from Silver Threads in San Diego. The excerpt demonstrates the power of extended metaphor for writing the essay. **** Telling It How It Never Was to Find Out How It Is One of the exercises you can … Continue reading

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Birthday Memories Offer Kernels For More Writing

This week, in the last of four articles presenting writing generated from Writing It Real exercises, I have included the work of three subscribers who sent me results from the exercise I proposed in Remembering Your Birthdays, August 19, 2004.   After reading Mitch Albom’s The Five People You Meet in Heaven, I felt certain that … Continue reading

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Instructional Exercise based on Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine

Just before most of us turn our clocks back, and we are well into fall, I’d like to share two subscribers’ results from the exercise I proposed in “Put Summer on the Page,” July 8, 2004. In that article, I excerpted words from Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine and discussed a writing strategy that facilitates collecting … Continue reading

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Villanelles by Writing It Real Subscribers

It seemed to me that if we copied Thomas’ technique of speaking in paired commands, we might write well.  Although I didn’t expect readers to necessarily write tight villanelles as a result of the exercise (I actually suggested repeating the lines throughout an essay), two Writing It Real subscribers sent me the villanelles they’d created … Continue reading

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Writing It Real Subscribers’ Braided Poem

In May, I posted an article called “Coaxing Imaginative Awareness,” in which I reviewed Braided Creek: A Conversation in Poetry by Jim Harrison and Ted Kooser.  After reading the review, some Writing It Real subscribers teamed up to work on creating braided verse inspired by the results of these two poets.  One of these teams, … Continue reading

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Jiggs

Excerpted by permission of the author from Helen’s Garden: What we learned about life and love in a small country school, by Helen Mitchell, Niche Press, 2003. One of many stories in Helen’s Garden, “Jiggs” reminds us that we are all learners and sharing the process of one’s learning fosters friendship. Jiggsby Helen Mitchell “Horses! … Continue reading

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A Fortunate Meeting with Helen Mitchell and her book, Helen’s Garden

On a sunny day in mid-July, I visited a lavender farm in Sequim, WA with my friend Judy from Northern California.  She was beginning to grow lavender herself, and as a merchant at her local farmers’ market, she was eager to add lavender products to her offerings. At the small organic farm, we met Helen … Continue reading

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Sandi C. Shore’s Secrets to Standup Success

Most teachers who understand writing as a process say that the first step is to play with words.  They provide exercises for helping students jump and run and climb on the word playground.  But what if your teacher is a stand-up comic?  Well, then, she helps you define your personality, sharpen your comedic style, and … Continue reading

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Just My Two Cents Worth

Having been a student of Jack Grapes, I am privileged to be on his email list and receive messages about reading and activities that inspire thoughts about the nature of writing.  In a recent email from Jack about authenticity in writing, I read this opening question, “If you can’t do it in the journal, what … Continue reading

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The Lonely Voyage of Betty Mouat, Part II

In the latter half of Chapter III of Barbara Sjoholm’s The Pirate Queen:  In Search of Grace O’Malley and Other Legendary Women of the Sea, the author finds a woman who tells her the truth about women’s fishing history in Norway. “The Lonely Voyage of Betty Mouat” (c0ntinued) Excerpted by permission of the author from … Continue reading

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The Lonely Voyage of Betty Mouat

The Lonely Voyage of Betty Mouat We are pleased to present Chapter VIII of Barbara Sjoholm’s new book in two parts.  In this chapter, the author tracks down information on a woman who at age 59 was the sole survivor of a boating accident off the Shetland Islands in the winter of 1886.  Looking for … Continue reading

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A Conversation with writer Barbara Sjoholm

This past spring, The Seattle Times ran a review of Barbara Sjoholm”s new book The Pirate Queen:  In Search of Grace O”Malley and Other Legendary Women of the Sea.  The review opens: If Janet Forsyth lived in the here and now, instead of 17th-century Scotland, she would be on the front page across the country. … Continue reading

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Remembering Your Birthdays

In Mitch Albom’s tale, 83-year-old Eddie Maintenance, as children call him because of the stitching on his work shirt, dies in an amusement park accident at Ruby Pier, where he has spent decades making sure that all the rides are operating safely.  In the course of the book and our introduction to Albom’s version of … Continue reading

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Email Conversation with Poet and Non Fiction Author Tim McNulty

This March, I attended the first annual Burning Word Festival on Whidbey Island, a 30-minute ferry ride from my home, for a day devoted to listening to poetry and instruction by Washington State practitioners.  On the way over to the island on a very early ferry, I watched high school students in brightly colored sports … Continue reading

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Prose and Poetry from Northwest Poet, Naturalist and Nonfiction Writer Tim McNulty

In the few days he had between meeting his deadlines and leaving for a month at a remote fire lookout in the North Cascades National Park, naturalist, author and poet Tim McNulty took the time to answer some questions that I had posed to him about his career. In addition, he also graciously gave me … Continue reading

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Try Your Hand at Fiction

Summers in Port Townsend, WA, an arts organization called Centrum hosts a ten-day writers conference.  It is a sensational time, with nationally known poets and writers teaching participants who are serious about writing. Highlights include craft lectures and readings in a small auditorium across from tennis courts at the State Park entrance.  Almost twenty-five years … Continue reading

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Review of Make a Real Living as a Freelance Writer by Jenna Glatzer

In Make a Real Living as a Freelance Writer: How to Win Top Writing Assignments (Nomad Press, 2004), writer Jenna Glatzer, who is Editor-in-Chief of absolutewrite.com, may insult some of us in her early chapters as she offers tips on blazing trails toward magazine article publishing, but by Chapter Six, her book is of real … Continue reading

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The Argument and Persuasion Essay

What does it take to write persuasively and to move others to read and stay interested in your point-of-view?  What does it take to write to change their thinking and behavior? Eda La Shan, the early childhood specialist, once said something about dealing with children that I remember when writing argument-and-persuasion essays.  She said that … Continue reading

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Put Summer on the Page

Ray Bradbury’s novel Dandelion Wine has long been a favorite of mine. In one summer, the novel’s protagonist, twelve-year-old Douglas Spaulding, encounters the richness of life.  The book opens with the announcement that he is allowed to sleep in his grandparents’ cupola one night a week during summer vacation, and upon waking, he performs a … Continue reading

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Nancy Pearl’s Introduction to Book Lust

Copyright ©2003 by Nancy Pearl. Reprinted from Book Lust by Nancy Pearl with permission of Sasquatch Books. I love to read. And while I might not absolutely agree with the Anglo-American man of letters Logan Pearsall Smith, who said, “People say that life is the thing, but I prefer reading,” I come awfully close to … Continue reading

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An Interview with Book Lust author Nancy Pearl (the Most Avid Reader Anyone Knows)

After years of spreading the word far and wide about reading and drumming up interest in books and literature, Nancy Pearl, the Seattle Library’s Director of Programming and Director for the Washington Center for the Book, has a new book out herself.  It’s entitled Book Lust:  Recommended Reading for Every Mood, Moment, and Reason.  At … Continue reading

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Writing to Explore Admiration, Part 2

Many of us know the poem “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night“ by the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, who is pleading in his famous villanelle that his father not easily give in to death.  The archetype of the father is strong in all of us, even if our own fathers remain enigmas to … Continue reading

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Ashes

This essay first appeared in Tiny Lights: A Journal of Personal Essay, Volume 9, Number 2. Feldman Brothers’ mortuary of Denver called two days after Seth’s death to say we could come to get his ashes.  My husband Kurt and I left for the mortuary with the idea of driving to scatter some of our … Continue reading

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A Conversation with David Horowitz, Poet and Publisher

This spring, I met publisher and poet David D. Horowitz, who was selling books from his Rose Alley Press, at the Redmond, Washington Poets in the Park Conference.  As I browsed the press’s well-designed, handsome books, David asked if he could read me a poem from one.  “Of course,” I said, and he read from … Continue reading

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Coaxing Imaginative Awareness

Braided Creek:  A Conversation in Poetry by Jim Harrison and Ted Kooser (Copper Canyon Press) offers wisdom, sensitive observation and love of essence.  On the book’s back cover, the editors have written that one of the poets said, “This book is an assertion in favor of poetry and against credentials.” According to my Webster’s, a … Continue reading

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Prompts to Make Shapely, Focused Stories (and Essays)

Writers often use prompts to help them come up with original ways of opening and organizing their work.  Whenever I dip into The Writer’s Idea Book and The Writer’s Idea Workshop by Jack Heffron, I find help for inventing and shaping ideas that I want to grow into finished pieces.  Here are some words from … Continue reading

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Resources for Writers of Personal Experience

It’s spring-cleaning time, and I’ve gone through my files and bookshelves to update resources for those who write from personal experience.  Here is Part I of my annotated list of resources, including books, journals and websites: Books on How to Write Essays and How To Find Subjects from Your Experience for All Your Writing The … Continue reading

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Writing for Mother’s Day

With Mother’s Day approaching, I once again reread two poems by Stanley Plumly that I admire. In “Say Summer/For My Mother,” Plumly writes: I could give it back to you, perhaps in a season, say summer.  I could give you leaf back, green grass, sky full of rain… And in “Two Moments, for My Mother,” … Continue reading

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Notes on chixLIT: the Literary Zine for Chicks Ages 7 to 17

When I was a girl of 10 and already a writer in my own mind, I was frustrated that no one took my writing seriously. I nevertheless decided that I would be a Rhodes Scholar and a winner of a Pulitzer and a Nobel by the time I was 30, at which point I would … Continue reading

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Three Days and Three Nights

In The Heart Aroused:  Poetry and Preservation of the Soul in Corporate America, poet David Whyte writes: The core of difficulty at the heart of modern work life is its abstraction from many of the ancient cycles of life that allow the silence and time in which true appreciation and experience can take place.  The … Continue reading

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On Poetry Collaboration

Editor’s Note: All the poems printed in this article are a collaboration of the two authors, James Bertolino and Anita K. Boyle. “Hard Candy” first appeared in the print journal Cranky, No. 1, 2004 as did James Bertolino’s instructional essay on poetic collaboration;  “One Day” appeared in StringTown, No.6, 2003 and “On Edge” appeared in … Continue reading

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The Debris of Abstraction and Sentimentality

Feeling overwhelmed by data, random information, the flotsam and jetsam of mass culture, we relish the spectacle of a single consciousness making sense of a portion of the chaos…” — Scott Russell Sanders As readers of essays and poems, we understand what Sanders means, and we are grateful to writers who provide the spectacle of … Continue reading

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A Review of Tell It Slant

Meg Files is a novelist, short fiction writer, creative nonfiction writer, poet and writing instructor extraordinaire.  She has helped hundreds of students write and publish their writing, and she always takes their concerns seriously.  Recently, when one student’s problem with writing lingered, Meg wrote a letter in which she imagines herself offering this student standard, … Continue reading

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A Review of Tell It Slant

Two professors from the Creative Writing Program at Western Washington State University in Bellingham, Washington have put together Tell It Slant, an enlightening, comprehensive and very satisfying text on writing and shaping creative nonfiction.  The book includes a 237-page bonus anthology of 32 essays by notable writers Margaret Atwood, James Baldwin, Joan Didion, Annie Dillard, … Continue reading

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Letter to a Young Perfectionist

Meg Files is a novelist, short fiction writer, creative nonfiction writer, poet and writing instructor extraordinaire.  She has helped hundreds of students write and publish their writing, and she always takes their concerns seriously.  Recently, when one student’s problem with writing lingered, Meg wrote a letter in which she imagines herself offering this student standard, … Continue reading

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Put Your Ear To Work In Writing Your Essays

When essayists learn to listen closely to the music they are making on the page and examine what the changes in the music mean, they learn to make the sounds of exactly what they have experienced and of exactly what they have learned. That is when essays reach true depth and speak most clearly — … Continue reading

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Reporting the Earthquakes in Life

In Daughter’s Keeper, a novel by Ayelet Waldman, the main characters are Elaine and her daughter Olivia. The novel succeeds as a portrayal of love redeemed between a mother and daughter against the backdrop of the United States’ drug enforcement system. Currently a Berkeley resident, author Ayelet Waldman is a graduate of Harvard Law School … Continue reading

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The Development of a Poem by Betty Shafer

When Betty Shafer sent me the following poem for help in revising it, I read it and found something haunting stayed with me after I read the lines. Look Again We return to find our land barren Weeds choking walls and fences And silent rotting houses. But when we look again we see Ruby red … Continue reading

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One Author’s Road to Creating Intimate Non-Fiction

This week’s article is an interview with author Susan K. Perry, Ph.D.  Her latest book is Loving in Flow: How the Happiest Couples Get & Stay That Way.  Susan makes good use of her personal experience in a second marriage as well as the experience of other couples to help her readers understand how they … Continue reading

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There’s Help Out There for Building a Writing Life You Love

While I was living in Los Angeles these past several years, I was lucky enough to meet Barbara Caplan-Bennett, a fellow member of the Independent Writers of Southern California.  A novelist and trained action coach, Barbara is a person who helps writers redesign their approach to life so they can write. Here’s how she writes … Continue reading

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The Story of One Poem’s Evolution

About 10 years ago, I wrote this poem, which was distributed on a lovely poster illustrated with a picture of a rocking chair with wings on its back and a moon on its seat.  The chair was poised on the roof of a house, amidst a block of other houses without winged rocking chairs atop … Continue reading

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Delivering Your Personal Essays to Market, Part 2

Continuing from last week’s article, which included resources for publishing markets as well as six stories from writers on how they got into print, this week we share six more stories by writers of essays, children’s books, short fiction, nonfiction books, magazine articles and radio commentary.  These writers discuss the way they made connections with … Continue reading

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Delivering Your Personal Essays to Market, Part 1

To publish your work, you must consider many markets and match your material to them:  literary small press publications, national large circulation publications, local newspapers, regional and national newspapers, radio, industry publications and online sites and publications.  It is rare for a writer to start at the “top” with national publications before publishing locally and … Continue reading

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