The Sum of All Its Parts

Caroline Arnold, who has published over 100 nonfiction books for children, is a pro at finding information on sophisticated topics and making it fit the page limits set by her publishers.  To do this she uses captions, sidebars, glossaries, charts and maps, time lines, and lists of resources for further reading as well as authors’ … Continue reading

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Embedded in The Dogs of Babel

On my vacation this year along the shores of Lake Michigan, I was reading the last chapters of an advance reading copy of The Dogs of Babel on the day it appeared in bookstores across America.  Little, Brown and Company introduced the book at this year’s Book Expo America to stimulate interest among booksellers, and … Continue reading

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From High Midnight

Meg Files enjoys researching and uses what she learns to set her stories and to inform her characters.  In the excerpt below, 19-year-old Hanna accompanies her father, who is researching for a magazine feature article, on a car trip to a Western rendezvous.  Using modern characters with an interest in traditions of the West, Meg … Continue reading

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In Passing

Last week you read an article by Susan Bono on the personal essay–writing them, teaching them, and starting a magazine for publishing them.  This week’s article is a personal essay by Susan Bono, which appears in the anthology Saltwater, Sweetwater–Women Write from California‘s North Coast, Floreant Press, 1997.  You will see why this essay, rich … Continue reading

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Lessons from Years of Facilitating Personal Essay Writing

A couple of years ago, I began receiving Tiny Lights, a publication out of Northern California that is dedicated to the personal essay.  I was struck by the caliber of the essays in each issue and contacted the publisher of the journal to find out more about her publishing vision and dedication to the genre.  … Continue reading

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Writing a Father’s Day Poem

When I was writing monthly poetry writing columns for Writer’s Digest Magazine, I created strategies for writing poetry that utilized as a jumping off place the topical thoughts our culture promotes each month.  I wanted to help those who wanted to write poetry liberate themselves from the influence of the advertising buzz and Hallmark card … Continue reading

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Behind the Scenes

This essay first appeared in slightly different form in The Diarist’s Journal, Volume II, Issue #2 The first week of my first graduate poetry-writing workshop at the University of Washington, our teacher William Matthews came to class in paint-stained clothes.  A new arrival at the University, he was just moving into his house on Seattle’s … Continue reading

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What I Learned at the Halfway House

When my daughter told me to read a personal essay in her school’s alumni magazine, I did.  I enjoy finding the many places personal essays inhabit and I appreciate their great value.  In this case, Stanford sophomore Sheena Chestnut wrote a narrative about using a personal story to help others learn a sophisticated use of … Continue reading

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An Interview with Writer’s Boot Camp Program Director, Robert Morgan Fisher

I had lunch recently with novelist and screenwriter Robert Morgan Fisher, who supervises the online screenwriting program at Writer’s Boot Camp (WBC) in Santa Monica, CA.  His first novel, called Set the Poem Free, won 2nd place in the 2000 Publishing Online North American Fiction Open.  He was awarded $5,000 and briefly published online.  The … Continue reading

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Tips on Places to Publish, Interesting Journals, and other Resources

The Diarist’s Journal is published three times a year in February, June and October by Hollie Rose. The publication is a rich and lively discussion of journaling, diary keeping, and the community surrounding it. The journal is calling for submissions of reviews of diary-form novels as well as opinion pieces on keeping diaries for publication, … Continue reading

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Research and Creative Writing

Novelist and poet Meg Files recently spoke on a panel at the Associated Writing Program’s annual meeting.  She talked about researching for writing her novels. After her talk, Meg and I conducted an email interview about how her research affects her writing, her imagination, and her teaching. What research did you do for your first … Continue reading

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Creating Psychological Time in Narratives

Recently, I had the good fortune to study with Jack Grapes on Tuesday afternoons along with a dynamic group of poets, novelists, screenwriters, and monologue writers.  Together we learned Jack’s method of enhancing writing and hooking readers into our stories and events. In a handout that Jack has given me permission to quote, he summarized … Continue reading

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Revising the Poem “A Different Christmas”

When Karen Rippstein wrote to me that she wanted my help in shaping a poem from a prose piece she had written about a specific Christmas with her daughter, I was intrigued. Most of the people I’ve worked with bring poems or essays and want to stick with the genre while revising.  But after writing … Continue reading

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An Email Chat with Sebastian Matthews, Founding Editor of Rivendell

As I prepare the following interview with Sebastian Matthews, I’m thinking of an encounter I had at a workshop I co-taught for teachers early this spring at the headquarters of the Los Angeles Unified School District.  An administrator for the Peer Assistance program smiled broadly after hugging one of the attending teachers hello. She turned … Continue reading

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Finding Your Writing’s Occasion

Poet Stanley Plumly, a teacher of mine, used to say that poems must weigh more at the end than at the beginning. What matters to us has emotional weight, and as with poetry, the personal essay supplies a vehicle for writers to find out what matters and to feel the weight of what matters. As … Continue reading

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The Other Side of Silence

Personal essayists, poets and memoir writers face many questions about making personal truths public.  In the following essay, author Migael Scherer evokes the effects on her readers as well as on herself of her writing about painful truth. Even as she is about to accept a distinguished award, she must brace herself for the dissonance … Continue reading

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Migael Scherer’s Writing Made a Difference to Journalists

When writing moves us to struggle against a taboo, especially one that demands silence, we can expect powerful resistance.  It is natural to feel alone, even besieged.  The resistance to our words comes both from ourselves and from others.  If we respect the struggle of our readers to understand with us, so also may come … Continue reading

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Listening for A Poem’s Discovery

If March comes in like a lion, they say, it’ll go out like a lamb and vise versa.  I’d like to combine this notion with an idea that Keats termed “negative capability.” He said that a good poem holds within it one thing as well as its opposite.  For example, when we eulogize someone’s death, … Continue reading

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Janice Eidus’ Correspondence, Part Two

After our initial correspondence, posted on 12/12/02, author Janice Eidus answered some more questions I posed based on what she’d written to me.  I am delighted to share the continuation of our correspondence this week: When you do decide to write an essay, are you exploring issues that are the same or different than the … Continue reading

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“Vito Loves Geraldine,” A Short Story

In our interview with her on 12/12/02, Janice Eidus says, “But there I was, years later, writing about a tough-cookie, teased-hair girl from the Bronx, modeled on the older Italian girls in my neighborhood who had seemed so exotic and fascinating to me, so far removed from my own Jewish, politically progressive household. And I … Continue reading

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