On Writing Grief

At times of loss, those of us who write have a strong tool to use in working through our emotions. Whether our loss is a pregnancy, a child, a spouse, a parent, a marriage, our health, a job, an opportunity or a location, writing can help us find a sense of our new selves, selves … Continue reading

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Writing About A Road Not Taken

Most of us regret having taken actions regarding life decisions because of fear or confusion or not wanting to disappoint others. How our lives would be different now if we had seized the opportunities life presented is something we can’t know. And we may be perfectly happy in our current lives even as we retell … Continue reading

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Building My Writing Life

In classes and at writers’ workshops, people often want to know how they can make their lives writing lives. Many ask how they can begin to earn income from writing. The answers to both questions vary, depending on what kind of writing they want to create, whether they want to write for print publications or … Continue reading

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What Good Talking!

The first time I taught a seminar in keeping a writer’s journal, I was stuck with the fact that everyone around the table said they enrolled partly to develop discipline as a writer. They came to class believing that learning the discipline of keeping a journal could be a foundation for being a “real writer.”  … Continue reading

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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

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What is Poetry?

William Wordsworth famously defined poetry as “the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings” and Emily Dickinson explained the sensation of poetry this way, “If I read a book and it makes my body so cold no fire ever can warm me, I know that is poetry.” Today, Mark Flanagan writes for About.com that poetry is “the … Continue reading

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What is Creative Writing?

These last few months, I’ve been researching for a book I’m writing for McGraw-Hill’s education department. It’s called Creative Writing Demystified and is meant for use in high school and college classrooms. Creative writing is a broad term that covers a lot of ground, and when I share this title with writers I know, they … Continue reading

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The Enneagram and Me: Writing Is My Spiritual Practice

In 1988, while I was living in Berkeley with my husband Kurt, who was on a computer network assignment, I came across a book: The Enneagram: An Ancient system for Understanding Yourself and Others in Your Life,by Helen Palmer. I couldn’t put the book down as I read descriptions of nine personality types and found … Continue reading

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Three Waters for Success

According to a Japanese Shinto tale, Enchin, a priest from Nara, was told in a vision to look for the clear water origin of the Yodo River. After a long search, he stumbled upon a place deep in a forest where mist, like a belt of white clouds, hung over a waterfall at the foot … Continue reading

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Today is Under Construction

Built of timber over the years from 1601 to 1626 as a residence of the Tokugawa Shoguns, the Nijo Castle in Kyoto is preserved as a UNESCO World Heritage site. I walk in the July heat toward the building’s large winged roof with my daughter Emily, one of her graduate students Laurie, and my eldest … Continue reading

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The Flower That Splits the Rock

Tell all the Truth but tell it slant by Emily Dickinson Tell all the truth but tell it slant— Success in Circuit lies Too bright for our infirm Delight The Truth’s superb surprise As Lightning to the Children eased With explanation kind The Truth must dazzle gradually Or every man be blind— Sometimes, we fear … Continue reading

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Trusting Scrappiness

I have been reading Sebastian Matthews’ book, In My Father’s Footsteps: A Memoir, about growing up the son of the late poet William Matthews. I was fortunate to have William Matthews as my thesis advisor at the University of Washington. Years after my graduation from the program in creative writing, I edited a book about … Continue reading

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As the Dark Days Move into Light

In October, my publisher’s essay spoke about the way I wrote and read poetry to help me after losing my 25-year-old son Seth in a snowboarding accident on December 27, 2000: When I finished one particular poem, I saw that not only did I hurt from profound helplessness to keep Seth from dying, I also … Continue reading

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Thoughts Upon the Birthday of My Son Seth, 1975-2000

My son Seth Bender, to whom Writing It Real is dedicated, would have turned 31 this October 1. He died in a snowboarding accident December 27, 2000, the year he was 25. In the months following the tragedy, the only connection I could feel strongly was to the sun. Certainly, it could have been because … Continue reading

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Digesting World News August, 2006

Every time I open Yahoo on my computer, I look at the upper right-hand corner of the screen to type in what I am searching for and avoid looking at the left-hand area with its news images of death and destruction. When I listen to radio news or watch news on television, I feel too … Continue reading

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You are My Heroes

It isn’t an easy path to write from personal experience. There are no guarantees that editors will want to publish what we have to say and no guarantees that we will successfully find a way to say it, publication or not.  What is guaranteed is that committing words to the page and revising our writing … Continue reading

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Writing is Like Junking

During the winter holidays and New Year’s season, I usually search my files for writing I’ve done on previous holiday seasons, just to see what I was thinking in other years. Looking through my files this past week, I became interested in writing I did a decade ago, when I was exchanging letters with Christi … Continue reading

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A Note to Students of Writing

I once created a daily writing exercise for myself by opening the dictionary to random pages and, eyes closed, circling my finger until it landed on a word.  “This is something like throwing the I Ching,” I thought.  I read the definitions of the words my fingers landed on and wrote the words at the … 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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Try Your Hand at Fiction

Summers in Port Townsend, WA, an arts organization called Centrum hosts a ten-day writers conference.  It is a sensational time, with nationally known poets and writers teaching participants who are serious about writing. Highlights include craft lectures and readings in a small auditorium across from tennis courts at the State Park entrance.  Almost twenty-five years … Continue reading

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