Letter to Christi on December 27, 2010

In 1992, my colleague Christi Killien and I published Writing in a Convertible with the Top Down with Warner Books. It is a book of correspondence between the two of us about writing, the craft tools we’d learned and the way our ideas and words came from our personal experiences, especially those with our children. … Continue reading

Interview with Bryan Cohen

An interesting email arrived one day recently — a young man from Chicago was hoping I’d take a look at 1,000 Creative Writing Prompts: Ideas for Blogs, Scripts, Stories and More, his new e-book of prompts for writers. Having written many, many prompts myself, I was eager to see what he’d put together, and I … Continue reading

An Interview with Danica Davidson

I often hear from people eager to share their experience as writers with Writing It Real subscribers. I write back to them all with interest in how their experience can clarify aspects of the writing life as well as inspire others to add to their lives as writers. When Danica told me her story, I … Continue reading

On The Evolution of a Columnist

[Writing It Real subscriber Tina Traster used a time of great change in her personal life to build a bridge from her work as a newspaper journalist to making money with her passion for writing personal essays. This week we hear from her on what writing in the new genre has meant. At the end … Continue reading

A Look at Diane Lockward’s Poetry

I was introduced to Diane Lockward’s poetry as a member of a Yahoo group dedicated to poets helping one another publicize their work. I read and very much enjoyed her collection What Feeds Us. A 2006 Quentin R. Howard Poetry Prize winner, the volume is as witty as it is heartbreaking. Diane’s poems draw her … Continue reading

Working with the Espresso Book Machine

This year, I was introduced to the Espresso Book Machine at a Northwest bookstore and learned there were three of these machines in Western, WA, all of them not too far from where I live. Not too long after that, I met an author publishing his books locally by using one of them and giving … Continue reading

The Importance of Choosing Your Scenes and Turning Points

Because we experience life chronologically, without a clear beginning, middle or end, memoirists tend to write in an episodic way — “this happened, then that happened, and after that… ” — and are often overwhelmed by a huge array of memories and details. When deluged by details and feelings, it’s difficult to sort out what … Continue reading

Keep Your Perspective

[We continue this week with more sage advice from a talented memoir author and psychotherapist who has guided many in writing their life stories. We think you will make good use of her idea for moving ahead even when your material seems too difficult. –Ed.]  When we write memoir, we try to capture real life … Continue reading

Writing from the Inside Out

[Early in her newest book, The Power of Memoir: How to Write Your Healing Story, Linda Joy Myers describes well our feelings as memoir writers: This scenario is a common one with memoir writers — the struggle between the desire to write and all the issues, conflicts and worries that come up at the very … Continue reading

Worth 1000 Words

Creative nonfiction writer and novelist, Judith Kitchen shares with us a fruitful exercise she created for those of us searching for new ways to use photographs to inspire our writing. A photograph is both a pseudo-presence and a token of absence. . . — Susan Sontag, On Photography Traditionally, photographs have been used in nonfiction … Continue reading

I Just Do Not Understand You

[This week we offer a second exercise from Dinty W. Moore, author of The Accidental Buddhist and Crafting the Personal Essay and editor of Brevity magazine. –ed.] Too often, we write about other people because we think we know something about that person, or because we feel that we can weigh in with intelligent correctness … Continue reading

Just Add Water

[This week we are proud to present the first of two exercises that Dinty W. Moore, author of The Accidental Buddhist and Crafting the Personal Essay and editor of Brevity magazine, uses to help his students work in creative nonfiction. –ed.] Many writers habitually compose memoir-based nonfiction as if someone had once ruled “all childhood … Continue reading

Ekphrastic Poetry

[This week we are starting a series of postings with poetry and creative nonfiction writing exercises offered by writers who teach. No matter what genre you favor, try the exercises they describe, and you will most certainly surprise yourself with new and interesting writing. — ed] The term ekphrastic comes from the Greek ekphrasis—ek “out … Continue reading

Interview with Jan Vallone

I am pleased to post this interview with author Jan Vallone, whose memoir excerpt  “Perspective” appeared as our article last week. It is always a pleasure to correspond with authors about their experience, process, hopes, desires, disappointments and successes and Jan’s descriptions of herself as a goal oriented new writer will resonate for many. Sheila … Continue reading


[The following is a chapter from Jan Vallone’s memoir Pieces of Someday. The speaker is a lawyer and 44 -year-old mother of two who longs to become a writer and a teacher of writing. To make the career change, she examines her past, including the demands of her father that she not become a teacher … Continue reading

Searching for the Writing Life

[This essay appeared in The Summerset Review in 2005. The honesty of the author as she investigates her post-MFA-in-Creative-Writing life will resonate with many of us who dream of a life in which our writing is our main focus, a life in which the time we spend working is on behalf of our writing, which … Continue reading

Who Keeps Journals?

I recently came across notes I’d taken while working on The Writer’s Journal: 40 Writers and Their Journals. I’d long relished the journals of Emerson and Thoreau and liked reading about how the transcendentalists, including Louisa May Alcott, shared their journals with one another. But when I solicited the poet Henri Cole as a contributor … Continue reading

To Keep Our Senses Open

It isn’t easy for us to write up to the standards we demand of ourselves when we are writing about those we love who are no longer with us. The more we wish to honor them and the life we resolve to live by incorporating their spirit into ours, the harder it seems to write. … Continue reading

My Mother the Queen

This week we are proud to post “My Mother, the Queen,” our first place-winning essay in Writing It Real’s 2010 Spring Contest. I think you’ll find the author’s use of an extended metaphor to describe her mother both poignant and useful. The metaphor facilitates the author’s humor, expressions of love, and evocation of patience while … Continue reading

“Release,” A Poem by Kristin Henry

After I read Kristin Henry’s poem “Release,” I was drawn to reread it many times over the days I was reading contest entries. I admired its embedded rhymes (“back away./ Her airy body; delirium-like, but true. I’ve/heard them, too) and its rhythms, the way its italicized dialog tells a rich, full story, and the way … Continue reading