Subscriber Response to Instructional Exercises

“Poetry is a form of necessary speech,” Edward Hirsch writes in How to Read a Poem and Fall in Love with Poetry, and “poems strike something deeper than thought itself…experience that takes us to the very heart of being.” Over the months, subscribers have sent results from exercises in Writing It Real, exercises meant to … Continue reading

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After the Ball

After posting last week’s interview about Steven Winn’s ideas for finding contacts on the publishing scene, I am pleased to reprint his wonderful essay about a spring day during a most difficult passage in his life.  The essay originally appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle on Father’s Day 2002 under the headline “Good Day at … Continue reading

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Make the Stretch to Get Your Foot in the Door

The Sunday July 20, 2003 edition of the San Francisco Chronicle was proud to report that its journalists are serving the Bay Area community well.  Arts and culture critic Steven Winn was among four Chronicle writers who placed in the 15th annual American Association of Sunday and Feature Editors’ Excellence in Writing contest.  This marks … Continue reading

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A Prompt for Finding Essay Topic Ideas

At Yourdictionary.com, linguists maintain a page about word definitions and histories. I signed up on the web to have these words and stories about their usage emailed to me each day. Some of the words are ones that I’ve never heard or even read. Others are words I use everyday and never think about.  After … Continue reading

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An Email Exchange with Amy Holman, Director of Poets and Writers Publishing Workshops

As the creator and director of Poets & Writers’ Publishing Seminars Program, Amy Holman addresses the needs of writers (including herself).  She teaches writers what they need to know about matching their work with the right editors and agents.  In a recent email interview, Amy described the goals and successes of the publishing seminars program.  … Continue reading

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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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