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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The Holiness of the Heart’s Affections

I recently came across the following quote from German philosopher Karl Jaspers whose work influenced theology and psychology: Truth, he wrote,  “only appears in time as a reality-through-communication. Abstracted from communication, truth hardens into an unreality.” For those of us who write from personal experience this means that our words supply the necessary blood, tissues, … Continue reading

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Private Writing as Playroom

This week’s article is an excerpt from Rebecca McClanahan’s instructional book Write Your Heart Out: Exploring & Expressing What Matters To You, published by Walking Stick Press.  This season, as we watch children in an environment where everything seems transformed, we re-experience the magic of childhood.  Rebecca McClanahan’s thoughts and advice help us retrieve the … Continue reading

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Sow More Seeds for Personal Essay Writing

I enjoy dipping into a collection of short fiction entitled You’ve Got To Read This as much for the pleasure of the fiction itself as for gathering new ideas about how to organize writing.  There is something about the way short fiction writers tell stories that inspires the essay writer in me.  When I opened … Continue reading

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On the Development of the Poem “Under Cover of Green”

Shortly after I posted the September 11, 2003 instructional exercise for Writing It Real, subscriber Christine Robinson sent me some writing of hers that resulted from using the exercise.  In this week’s article, I want to show you what she wrote and how she developed the draft, which she thought resembled a prose poem, into … Continue reading

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Study a Scene from David Beckman’s Novel-in-Progress

Here is a sample scene from the novel-in-progress that David Beckman refers to in last week’s interview about being mentored in his writing.  You will notice that he has made stylistic decisions in using sentence fragments to evoke the little boy Addison’s point of view.  He also uses terminology of the time period he is … Continue reading

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Working with a Writing Mentor

As a writing instructor, it is always interesting to me to talk with other writers who teach.  I enjoy hearing about the parts of the teaching process that excite them.  This past June, I had the opportunity to talk over breakfast with New York writer Janice Eidus.  She said: When I guide writers in their … Continue reading

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Useful Writing Strategies from The True and Outstanding Adventures of the Hunt Sisters

Not scheduled for release until January 2004, The True and Outstanding Adventures of the Hunt Sisters, an epistolary novel by Elisabeth Robinson, has already received excellent reviews.  If you are developing a wish list for holiday gifts, I recommend putting this book on that list.  It is a pleasurable read, by turns hilarious and poignant, … Continue reading

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Interview with Joni Cole, an Editor of the This Day: Diaries from American Women Project

At the May 2003 Book Expo America in Los Angeles, Joni Cole handed out advance copies of an exciting book, eventually released this September. Joni is a freelance writer with a Masters of Arts in Liberal Studies from Dartmouth College with a focus on fiction.  It is second nature for her to imagine and create … Continue reading

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An Exercise for Finding Starts in Personal Essay Writing

Although it might not be obvious, those of us who write personal essays can benefit greatly from not knowing what we have to write about.  That is surprising to people who think of the essay as researched knowledge with a professorial, didactic tone.  But to write an essay is really to “assay” or test out … Continue reading

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Jerome Gold of Black Heron Press on Independent Publishing

Every Labor Day Weekend at the Bumbershoot Arts Festival held at Seattle Center, Jerome (Jerry to his friends) Gold mans a Black Heron Press booth at the festival’s book fair.  In April of each year, he mans the booth at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books and also at the May Book Expo America … Continue reading

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A Look at Four Writers Who Inhabit the Moment

Lately, I’ve read a book of Buddhist wisdom by Vietnamese monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, poetry by the Northwest’s James Bertolino, essays by the Northeast’s Philip Simmons and memoirs by the Southwest’s Laurence Shames and by Timothy Doyle, who has lived in India for years.  In each of the author’s performances, I am reminded that when … Continue reading

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