Excerpts from My Sisters Wedding by Hannah Goodman

My Sister’s Wedding by Hannah Goodman (iUniverse, 2004) is a young adult novel that addresses alcoholism among family members and high school students from the point of view of a younger sibling who realizes her family is denying her older sister’s alcohol abuse and she is doing the same thing in a relationship with a … Continue reading

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Why You Get Form Rejection Letters

At every conference I teach, participants commiserate about rejection notices– not only about getting them but about the insulting nature of their standardized messages. Occasionally, someone has a story of a personalized rejection or of actually having received suggestions from an editor on the rejection slip. Usually, though, the talk ends the same way–wall paper … Continue reading

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Near the Light

We benefit from writing about how something important to us became a passion. Reliving the decisions leading up to reshaping our lives around our passions and reflecting on how our efforts changed us, we learn more about our journeys.  When we read accounts of others following their dreams, we experience the exhilaration of overcoming obstacles … Continue reading

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Describing How We Behave When Life Deals a Blow

Steven Winn, columnist and critic for the San Francisco Chronicle and past contributor to Writing It Real, tells a good story about a series of articles he wrote that were extremely popular. He was eating lunch with one of his newspaper’s editors and telling her about Como, the one-year-old rescue dog his family had adopted, … Continue reading

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For YOUR Eyes Only

Joanne Rocklin’s young adult novel, For YOUR Eyes Only is in the form of a young teen’s notebook. You can read an excerpt at Amazon.com to see how effectively the writing strategy evokes the main character and the world in which she is immersed. Writing for the Children’s Book Insider, Joanne Rocklin provided tips for … Continue reading

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Making a Daybook into Creative Non-Fiction

In March, 2005, Sarah Dickerson and I were on a panel along with Boise State University’s Karen Uehling and San Francisco writer Steven Winn in which we addressed attendees at the National Council of Teachers of English’s Conference on College Composition and Communication about using journaling in the classroom. I asked Sarah if she would … Continue reading

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Try Your Hand at Writing a Prose Poem

Beggar Woman of Naples by Max Jacob When I lived in Naples there was always a beggar woman at the gate of my palace, to whom I would toss some coins before climbing into my carriage. One day, surprised at never being thanked, I looked at the beggar woman. Now, as I looked at her, … Continue reading

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Truth & Beauty: Ann Patchett’s memoir about her friendship with Lucy Grealy

Lucy Grealy, author of Autobiography of a Face, and five-time novelist Ann Patchett were acquaintances at Sarah Lawrence, where Lucy was legendary as a poet and inspired her classmates with her courage in facing and healing from constant surgeries to restore her face, scared and disfigured from cancer surgery when she was nine. When they … Continue reading

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Finding a Voice for This

We come to journaling to record what we are doing and what we are thinking. As a writing teacher, I spend a lot of time onsite teaching and even more off-site creating lessons. When I was journaling about my son’s death, it is not surprising that I recorded the teaching part of my life as … Continue reading

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Keeping a Family Journal

School is almost out and the lazy days of summer are right around the corner. Well, the days we experienced as lazy when we were kids, anyway, because for a few months our schedules were more open. Some of us may be anticipating the time our children will have on their hands and others may … Continue reading

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An Interview with Jack Heffron

Jack Heffron was my editor at Writer’s Digest Books for almost a decade, and we have been teaching colleagues for going on six years now.I still have the editorial letter he wrote to me after he’d read Writing Personal Essays:How to Shape Your Life Experiences for the Page, my second book on writing and the … Continue reading

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The Flowering of Rabbit Hash

Writing It Real is happy to post an article this week by editor and creative fiction writer Jack Heffron. “The Flowering of Rabbit Hash” originally appeared this fall in Cincinnati Magazine.  Jack lives in Cincinnati where he works with Emmis Books.  As a fiction and creative fiction writer, Jack was hooked on an article idea … Continue reading

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On The Cartographer’s Tongue: Poems of the World by Susan Rich

From The Cartographer’s Tongue: Poems of the World Leaving Sarajevo by Susan Rich The bus driver stops to pick plums from an abandoned late summer garden, the pale blue carrier bags pulled from his bed where he sleeps underneath the bus. All night we watch movies, drink beer in the dark, cross borders where Bosnians, … Continue reading

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It’s Not How You Write, It’s How You Re-Write

This week we are very lucky to have an article about revision by poet Susan Rich, described by Naomi Shihab Nye on the back cover of her first prize-winning collection The Cartographer’sTongue as “a caring citizen of every heart-land.” Not only that, she is a brave and dedicated teacher: her article is filled with examples … Continue reading

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On A Condition of the Spirit: The Life and Work of Larry Levis

A few years back, I received an email from Christopher Buckley requesting permission to reprint a review I’d written in an anthology of work by and about the late poet Larry Levis. I was thrilled to share what I’d written many years earlier for Poet Lore, a literary magazine in the Washington DC area. I’d … Continue reading

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Do Not Betray Yourself or Your Community

…if you do not express your own original ideas, if you do not listen to your own being, you will have betrayed yourself. Also you will have betrayed our community in failing to make your contribution to the whole. — Rollo May, The Courage to Create It’s National Poetry Month and time to rededicate ourselves … Continue reading

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Pitch Perfect

This material was originally published in the Making the Perfect Pitch: How to Catch a Literary Agent’s Eye, edited by Katharine Sands Pitch Perfectby Jandy Nelson Years ago, I received a query letter that began: “I am a Vietnamese American man, a witness to the Fall of Saigon, a prisoner of war, an escapee, a … Continue reading

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Medicare Essay

This year Marlee Millman wrote an essay to read to her family and friends who were gathering to celebrate her 65th birthday in her hometown of Chicago. She was excited and wanted to have a speech prepared. She emailed me: Hi Sheila, Here’s the beginning of my essay on meeting Medicare. It’s hard to believe … Continue reading

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Writing About Your Day Job

So often, we believe we have to put our daytime work aside in order to write and in order to reach the place inside ourselves where writing comes from. But I believe we will be more successful at tapping into and mining the writing part of ourselves if instead of always waiting for the time … Continue reading

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Servings Per Container

After creating an exercise from which her fiction writing students wrote stories, Meg did the exercise herself.  She says, “In my story, a woman is suddenly afraid to leave a grocery store. Why? As I began the story, I didn’t know. I had this scrap of paper that said ‘Fear of exiting a supermarket.’ So … Continue reading

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