A Day in the Life of a Writer

Jack Heffron’s simple, masterful writing prompt will have you realizing how much content you have to write about in no time–well, in the time it takes to live a day and read the notes you put on paper. Taking notes in the way Jack suggests plus the bit of Fitzgerald he includes to show you … Continue reading

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Poems, Pastries and Politics

Why connect the writing of poetry with an appreciation of good food? On first consideration, the juxtaposition of poems and pastries might seem frivolous. Isn’t poetry sustenance for something more than the physical body? Recently, I taught a workshop at a local college advertised as “O Taste and Write: Food Poems,” and perhaps a subtext … Continue reading

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Ten Signs of a Scam Book Doctor

Long time professional editor, Jerry Gross developed a widely used code of ethics for editors and book doctors. Here are his 10 points to consider when evaluating someone to work with you on your manuscript. Ten Signs Of A Scam Book Doctor by Jerry Gross Working with an expert, ethical book doctor can often make … Continue reading

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Getting Your Writing Past Contest Screening Judges

About seven years ago, Sheila agreed to judge a personal essay contest for a writing magazine. Her task was to choose and rank the ten top essays among the submissions. Told to expect about 1,000 essays, she was surprised when 3,500 showed up at our door with only three weeks to choose the winners. I … Continue reading

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Magical Realism at Your Finger Tips

When he was a boy she was always painting the ceiling of his room. Once she painted it blue for a sky with lazy white clouds and faint daytime stars. And in one corner, as if just disappearing into his closet, the tip of an angel’s wing. “It could be only a bird’s wing,” she … Continue reading

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A Conversation Between Memoirist Beverly Donofrio and Novelist Kaylie Jones

In February 2005, old friends, novelist Kaylie Jones and memoirist Beverly Donofrio reunited to teach together in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. In the months before the workshops, they conversed with one another about their respective genres and the experience of having movies made of their books. The following is the transcript of that conversation … Continue reading

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An Interview with Young Adult Novelist Hannah R. Goodman

Earlier this year, Hannah R. Goodman emailed me about her book, My Sister’s Wedding, a young adult novel she published in 2004 that addresses the effects of alcoholism on individuals, friends and families and asked me if I would like a copy. The topic was on my mind as I had only recently spoken to … Continue reading

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Describing How We Behave When Life Deals a Blow

Steven Winn, columnist and critic for the San Francisco Chronicle and past contributor to Writing It Real, tells a good story about a series of articles he wrote that were extremely popular. He was eating lunch with one of his newspaper’s editors and telling her about Como, the one-year-old rescue dog his family had adopted, … Continue reading

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An Interview with Jack Heffron

Jack Heffron was my editor at Writer’s Digest Books for almost a decade, and we have been teaching colleagues for going on six years now.I still have the editorial letter he wrote to me after he’d read Writing Personal Essays:How to Shape Your Life Experiences for the Page, my second book on writing and the … Continue reading

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On A Condition of the Spirit: The Life and Work of Larry Levis

A few years back, I received an email from Christopher Buckley requesting permission to reprint a review I’d written in an anthology of work by and about the late poet Larry Levis. I was thrilled to share what I’d written many years earlier for Poet Lore, a literary magazine in the Washington DC area. I’d … Continue reading

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An Interview with Humorist Judy Gruen

I have been enjoying humor writer Judy Gruen’s essays since she published her first collection of them, Carpool Tunnel Syndrome: Motherhood as Shuttle Diplomacy, and began an Internet newsletter to deliver her humorous column, Off My Noodle, to a wide audience. She has since written a second book entitled, Till We Eat Again: Confessions of … Continue reading

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A Read Through Judith Kitchen’s Work

After reading In Short and In Brief, two anthologies of short personal essays co-edited by author Judith Kitchen, I re-read her collected essays in Only the Dance and Distance and Direction, and then her novel The House on Eccles Road. As I went to my bookshelf, I plucked Distance and Direction down first and returned … Continue reading

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Insights into Endings – Part 2

After reading essayist and editor Judith Kitchen’s observations about effective essay endings for last week’s article, I turned to In Brief, the second of two creative nonfiction anthologies Kitchen co-edited with Mary Paumier Jones and published with W.W. Norton. In the introduction to this 1999 volume, Kitchen and Jones write that in addition to an … Continue reading

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Insights into Endings

In “Endings,” an instructional essay for the literary journal Fourth Genre, Fall, 2001, Judith Kitchen asserts that in a piece of creative nonfiction, “the building of thought is what interests the reader.” “We look as much for how an author approaches a subject,” she writes, “as for the subject itself.” In reading and writing essays, … Continue reading

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Just My Two Cents Worth

Having been a student of Jack Grapes, I am privileged to be on his email list and receive messages about reading and activities that inspire thoughts about the nature of writing.  In a recent email from Jack about authenticity in writing, I read this opening question, “If you can’t do it in the journal, what … Continue reading

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A Conversation with writer Barbara Sjoholm

This past spring, The Seattle Times ran a review of Barbara Sjoholm”s new book The Pirate Queen:  In Search of Grace O”Malley and Other Legendary Women of the Sea.  The review opens: If Janet Forsyth lived in the here and now, instead of 17th-century Scotland, she would be on the front page across the country. … Continue reading

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Email Conversation with Poet and Non Fiction Author Tim McNulty

This March, I attended the first annual Burning Word Festival on Whidbey Island, a 30-minute ferry ride from my home, for a day devoted to listening to poetry and instruction by Washington State practitioners.  On the way over to the island on a very early ferry, I watched high school students in brightly colored sports … Continue reading

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An Interview with Book Lust author Nancy Pearl (the Most Avid Reader Anyone Knows)

After years of spreading the word far and wide about reading and drumming up interest in books and literature, Nancy Pearl, the Seattle Library’s Director of Programming and Director for the Washington Center for the Book, has a new book out herself.  It’s entitled Book Lust:  Recommended Reading for Every Mood, Moment, and Reason.  At … Continue reading

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A Conversation with David Horowitz, Poet and Publisher

This spring, I met publisher and poet David D. Horowitz, who was selling books from his Rose Alley Press, at the Redmond, Washington Poets in the Park Conference.  As I browsed the press’s well-designed, handsome books, David asked if he could read me a poem from one.  “Of course,” I said, and he read from … Continue reading

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Prompts to Make Shapely, Focused Stories (and Essays)

Writers often use prompts to help them come up with original ways of opening and organizing their work.  Whenever I dip into The Writer’s Idea Book and The Writer’s Idea Workshop by Jack Heffron, I find help for inventing and shaping ideas that I want to grow into finished pieces.  Here are some words from … Continue reading

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