“Mother,” an essay from Helen Goehring’s Collection Transformed by Grief

I am pleased to share an essay by Writing It Real member Helen Donnelly Goehring from her recently published collection, Transformed by Grief: A Personal History. Helen’s essay “Taking Notes: Assisted Living” was a winner in Writing It Real’s 2012 essay writing contest. Eight years later, she has a whole collection out! Many of us … Continue reading

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No Guarantees by Jennifer Jamieson Woods — Chapter 40

Chapter 40 of No Guarantees Josie went to work as usual on Monday morning. Although she was a person who found comfort in the predictable rhythm of life, today she felt irritated and bored with her life. She felt stuck at Casey’s without any alternative. She was going to have to divorce Rod. She didn’t … Continue reading

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A Reading and a Print Interview with What Love Feels Like Authors Dave Cunningham and C.K.Tyler

I am delighted to introduce authors Dave Cunningham and C.K. Tyler who have collaborated on a newly published novel entitled What Loves Feels Like: The Dawn of Human 2.0. In the video below and the Q&A following, the two speak to their experience of writing the book in collaboration and its short journey to publication. … Continue reading

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PDF, E-Reader and Kindle Version Downloads Available for On Mishearing: Miseries, Mysteries and Misbehaviors

The Writing It Real August 2020 article is a compilation of writings by Writing It Real members for On Mishearing: Miseries, Mysteries, and Misbehaviors. EBook Formats We will soon have three different formats available. Which one you choose depends on how you intend to read the anthology. But for now, only the PDF is operational. … Continue reading

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Prologue to Reclaiming Venus: The Many Lives of Alvenia Bridges

  You may have already read Maya Smith’s description of how she is approaching the writing of her book about the life of Alvenia Bridges, a woman of many lives. She answered questions about obstacles and joys of writing the book as well as how she used her academic research training to approach her interviews … Continue reading

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How and Why We Write

The Writing It Real March 2020 article is a compilation of writings by Writing It Real members on a topic dear to our hearts–how and why we write. EBook Formats We have 3 different formats. Which ones you choose depends on how you intend to read the anthology. Print on Paper If you want to … Continue reading

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Tell It Slant: Author Brenda Miller on Writing Creative Nonfiction and a Generous Excerpt from the Book

Introduction to an Excerpt from Tell it Slant (Available from Powell’s and Amazon as well as your favorite bookseller). By Brenda Miller In 2001, when Suzanne Paola and I began talking about writing a textbook for creative nonfiction, no such book existed. We had been cobbling together our own instructional materials for years, and together … Continue reading

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Writing Between Paragraphs An Essay Forms

This week, wanting so much to write on the day that would have been my son’s 44th birthday, but not knowing how to put my heart-filled words on the page, I reread “Canoe” by Sherrie Flick, a story in 446 words about a daughter grieving her father. Those words ultimately inspired an essay for me … Continue reading

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Excerpt From Molly Tinsley’s Novel Things Too Big to Name, Followed by a Q&A wth the Author

This spring, thrilled to be reading a new novel by Molly Best Tinsley, both a teaching colleague and Writing It Real contributor, I was even more thrilled to have found a novel that I could not put down from the moment I began reading to the moment I read the very last word on the … Continue reading

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Writing the Emotionally Important Scenes

A Princeton professor I once read while for some reason I had no pen or device to record his name and the name of the article wrote that when we read a novel we are speeding up time as one book can contain may days, months, and years. But when we write, he said, we … Continue reading

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Learning from Others’ Pieces Written in the Second Person

A participant in my recent online class,”You: Writing in the Second Person” shared a website with us: Dead Housekeeping: Moody Home Tips, which features a string of short pieces in the second person contributed by writers on subjects as disparate as how to feed the yellow cat, how to have a house guest, and how … Continue reading

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In My Opinion: Letter to My Husband’s Uncle

5/9/19 Hello Harlan, We had a wonderful time recently celebrating my mother’s 92nd birthday with my daughter’s family and her in-laws, who have moved from the Midwest to a town just north of Seattle to be near their son and grandsons. They are originally from the southern part of India and came here years ago … Continue reading

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A Note from 40 Years of Teaching Myself and Others to Write

Sometimes I go to sleep with my heart full of sadness. A student’s poem that day about a bicycling daughter killed by a bus as it made a turn, someone’s essay about losing her son to a strep infection that went to his heart, and someone else’s essay about grieving the mother she had and … Continue reading

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“Sanctuary,” Contest Winning Essay by Nancy Lamb

Our guest judge Holly Hughes, wrote this about Nancy Lamb’s essay: In this essay, the narrator recalls her first visit to Martin’s Ranch in the red rock canyons high above Santa Fe and her first experience with the landscape as sanctuary that’s still part of her today. In fresh descriptive language, the writer brings us … Continue reading

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Tender is the Harvest, A Winning Essay by Laurie McConnachie

Our contest judge Holly Hughes  wrote these words in choosing Laurie McConnachie’s essay as one of our three winners: This is a deeply moving account of a daughter who lost her mother to a brain tumor when she was in her late 20s—and how she learns to move through grief and open her heart to … Continue reading

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Beginning Again with Tree Spirits by Katlaina Rayne

I am pleased to share another essay by a Writing It Real member. “Beginning Again with Tree Spirits” illustrates the diverse topics our members write about. Reading Katlaina’s essay will definitely change your relationship to the trees and forests in your towns and counties as well as inspire courage to write about topics you fear … Continue reading

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Creative Writing: Carpe diem, quam minimum, credula postera

I met poet, novelist, and playwright Gary Langford through a long time friend of mine who met Gary years ago in Australia when they were both young men. In the years since, Gary has written in many genres, run a University Creative Writing Program, taught theater, and much, much more. Here he breaks down writing … Continue reading

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The Past is Always in the Present, A New Year’s Greeting

About the size of my palm, the orange glass turtle with stout yellow feet has been with me since 1972. We started out in Matawan, New Jersey, where my 7th-grade class presented him to me as a goodbye gift–I was moving to the West Coast with my husband, a transferring medical student. The turtle was … Continue reading

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In a Season of Lists, Write a Litany to Help Yourself Keep Writing

It is holiday time and amidst the tornado-like whirl of shopping, decorating, traveling, baking, cooking, and gathering with family, friends, colleagues and community, of offering help in shelters and churches, it may seem hard to write. And even harder still to write to discover what is at the bottom of our hearts and minds. The … Continue reading

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To Love the World and Let the World Love You: August Advice for Writing Poetry

August is the Gregorian calendar month named after the Roman Augustus Caesar, the man responsible for spreading the Roman Empire over the earth. He wrote about his great accomplishments, writings some think of as the typical age-old boastings of a politician. However, others wrote after his death that upon innumerable occasions he donated money to … Continue reading

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Nahid Rachlin on Her Writing With Generous Excerpts from Her Memoir

This past weekend, I was in conversation with fiction writer and memoirist Nahid Rachlin about her books and writing career. for my radio show on KPTZ ?In Conversation: Discussions on Writing and the Writing Life.? It had been over a decade since she and I had last held an interview, printed in The Writer?s Chronicle … Continue reading

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“Talk Much?” by Morgan Baker 3rd Place Winner

When our 2018 winter contest judge Kelli Agodon awarded 3rd Place to Morgan Baker’s personal essay “Talk Much?” she commented: As someone who loves finding words inside of words and who has struggled with dyslexia, I thought “Talk Much?” was an intriguing look at what the world (or the words) look like through dyslexia. The … Continue reading

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“Driving Home” by Barbara Simmons, 2nd Place Tie Winner, Winter 2018 Contest

Our fall/winter 2018 contest judge Kelli Agodon felt that two poems tied for 2nd place. We posted one last week, ?Grave Site Visit? by Nancy Levinson, and this week we are posting the second second-place winning poem, Barbara Simmons “Driving Home.” Kelli wrote this about her choice of Barbara?s poem: “Driving Home” is a lovely … Continue reading

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“Grave Site Visit” by Nancy Smiler Levinson, 2018 Winter Contest Winner

One of two writings tied for second place in our fall/winter 2018 writing contest is “Gravesite Visit,” a poem by Writing It Real member Nancy Levinson. Our guest judge Kelli Agondon described her choice this way: “Gravesite Visit” is a beautiful meditation on the healing powers of poetry and how poems (and writing) can help … Continue reading

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“Disturbing the Calm” by Judith Kvinsland, 1st Place

Our contest judge, Kelli Agodon, wrote this of her first choice piece in the fall/winter 2018 writing contest: Judith Barker Kvinsland’s essay, “Disturbing the Calm,” explores how sometimes, despite the ease of our lives, we need to take a risk. It is a thoughtful exploration of family, responsibility, and location, where the author learns something … Continue reading

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Omniscient Narrator–Have fun with the all-seeing!

I’ve made a short video for a program called 11 Stories that has “aired” for the people in that program. I am sharing it with Writing It Real members this week. In the video, I give a lesson on the third-person omniscient point of view in writing.  I think those of you writing flash nonfiction or fiction … Continue reading

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A Writer’s Digest Prize-Winning Essay

Who among us wouldn?t envy the stamp of approval Vicki Horton?s personal essay ?Fishing with My Father? received from Writer?s Digest magazine in 2016? In answer to some of my questions about this writing and her writing life, Vicki responded: As you know writing is done mostly in isolation. I am my worst critic and … Continue reading

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One More Waltz, An Essay by Nancy Lamb

There are times in a person’s life when everything is tinted gray and the future looks too dark to step into. Then in one single shift of the universe, something happens—we turn left, instead of right; we answer the phone, smile at a stranger, or meet an old lover. Something moves. And the light reappears. … Continue reading

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“Sanctuary,” an Essay by Nancy Lamb

All of us benefit from the memory of a place held dear. Such a memory keeps us breathing; such a memory calms our nerves; such a memory refreshes when life’s difficult times enervate us. Read Nancy Lamb’s well-drawn description of Cow Creek Canyon, a place she experienced as a child, and then try your hand … Continue reading

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Game Stories: A Prompt that Works

Two weeks ago, I posted an article with writing ideas for getting started on new material and asked those who wanted to do so to send me accounts of the games they have played and enjoyed, especially in childhood. My thanks to Nancy Levinson, author of Moments of Dawn: A Poetic Memoir of Love & … Continue reading

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“Grave Matters”: Mary Ann Payne’s Writing Exercise Result

I am pleased to share long-time Writing It Real member Mary Ann Payne?s writing in response to the writing exercise I shared last week. Grave Mattersby Mary Ann Payne It?s time to bury the piano. Chop it up in tiny pieces and put it in a deep hole in the backyard next to the cement … Continue reading

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Contest Winner Linda Robertson’s Poems

In our final week of posting contest entries from the fall/winter WIR writing contest, we have seven poems by Linda M. Robertson. Our contest judge Sharon Bryan wrote this about selecting these poems as winners: These poems speak in a voice that makes me want to listen to everything it says. They are so well-crafted that … Continue reading

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“Long Meg Speaks” by Emma Hunter, a Winning Essay in the Fall/Winter WIR Contest

Our fall/winter writing contest guest judge Sharon Bryan chose Emma Hunter’s essay, “Long Meg Speaks,” as one of three winners. This week, we have the judge’s words about the essay as well as the author’s words about writing it, and, of course, the essay. Emma wrote this in answer to my request for words about … Continue reading

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Writing It Real Fall/Winter Contest Winner Dorothy Ross’ “A Night at the Plaza”

[I will be posting the work of our recent three winners this week and then for the next two weeks. I hope you enjoy their comments about the writing of their work, our contest judge Sharon Byran’s comments, and, of course, the writing. – Ed.] Here is Dorothy Ross on why she is writing the … Continue reading

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Poetry and Essays by Carol Smallwood: Observer, Librarian, Philosopher

Librarian, poet and author Carol Smallwood came to my attention over the years when she emailed calls for essays to consider for anthologies she was editing. I was very pleased to learn about these anthologies and very pleased when she accepted my essays for inclusion in Poetry: Tips on Writing, Teaching and Publishing by Successful … Continue reading

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Sheila Reads Her Poems for National Poetry Month

For National Poetry Month, tonight I am reading from my own poetry at the link below. For me poetry is an everyday experience and so there aren’t any huge production values or perfect lighting in this video. Just me sharing my poems and talking to you about what I hope poetry accomplishes for humanity. You can … Continue reading

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The Way I See It

“The Way I See It” is the “Prologue” from Writing Personal Essays: Sharing and Shaping Your Life Experience, Published in print and digitally by Sheila Bender’s Writing It Real, March, 2017 [Note: I wrote a slightly different version of this essay for the 1995 edition of my book. Everything I realized then remains important to … Continue reading

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Writing the Eulogy

As my mother?s 90th birthday approaches, my husband and I have sorted through photographs from nine decades of her life. He is making a photo essay book to be given to her this Sunday and shared with guests at the party we are making. As we sorted, I reached into a manila envelope and to … Continue reading

Why I Want to Write

[Editor’s note: Sometimes I teach a class for Women on Writing that I call “Writing is a Friend with Extraordinary Benefits.” The following essay by Katherine Clarke is reprinted with permission of the author, is an example of what happens in this class — one writer’s words offering extraordinary benefits for each of us who write.] Like many people … Continue reading

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A Passion for Writing Might Save Us in These Times

What are we writers to do in a nation where so many young and old seem to have gone mad, publically shouting and bullying, using crude names for those of the female sex and for people of non-Christian religions and for people of color — here in a country where over decades we?ve: Passed legislation … Continue reading

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Making Books from Lists Part II: Adam Diament’s Kosher Patents

Adam L. Diament, the author of Kosher Patents: 101 Ingenious Inventions to Help Jews be Jewish, is a practicing patent attorney in Beverly Hills, California. He earned a B.A. in Religious Studies with an Emphasis in Judaism from the University of California, Berkeley in 1997 and a law degree from the University of San Diego … Continue reading

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Writing the Dear Mom Letter with Deborah Berger

 Deborah Berger asked women to write letters about what they never told their mothers.  Ultimately, she edited a selection of the contributions, along with profiles of their authors, into Dear Mom, Women’s Letters of Love, Loss and Longing. In her introduction to the work, she writes, “We are always linked to our mothers: both to … Continue reading

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Excerpt from Richard-Gabriel Rummonds Fantasies & Hard Knocks, My Life as a Printer

This book is a big one?in every way. In its 813 beautifully designed pages and over 450 gorgeous photos and images, a story unfolds not only of fine handpress printing but the man who printed works by many great 20th Century writers as well as prepared food for them and others in his own kitchens … Continue reading

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Another Fall/Winter Winner: Afrose Ahmed’s “the world did end…we just didn’t notice”

Our fall/winter contest judge Stan Rubin was struck with the lyric qualities in Afrose Ahmed’s entry, “the world did end…we just didn’t notice.” He wrote in his comments: “A gorgeous piece of lyrical writing. The odd but wonderfully sustained angle of vision—post-apocalyptic, witty, and liminal all at once—establishes its own rhythm and deepens to revelation. … Continue reading

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Contest Winner — The Meditation Room

Stan Rubin, our guest contest judge, shares these remarks about his choice of Amanda Noble’s essay, “The Meditation Room”: A nuanced portrayal of the shifting stages of private grief––and its gradual acceptance. This process is depicted with precision, intelligence, and sophisticated self-awareness. The writing keeps a sharp focus. A lot of emotional terrain is deftly … Continue reading

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Fall/Winter Writing Contest: Emma Hunter’s “God’s Breath and Bolognese”

Contest judge Stan Rubin, a master teacher, poet and friend of writing, wrote that Emma Hunter’s essay: Gracefully lives up to its rather daunting title, with wit and philosophical sweep. Concisely renders a dual vision — adult and child, the mundane and the cosmic — with natural dialogue and internal reflection, in a realistic scene. The relationships are delicately and … Continue reading

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Finding Form

Tarn Wilson delivered this paper for a panel on “Hydra-Headed Memoirs & Well-Connected Essays” at the 2015 Nonfiction Now conference. I am delighted to have her permission to post her words for Writing It Real readers. Tarn’s lovely memoir is The Slow Farm. She uses her experience writing it to inform other writers about her … Continue reading

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Excerpt from Route 66, a Nonfiction/Fiction Book Project by Jack Heffron

In this excerpt from Jack Heffron’s book project?that combines fiction and nonfiction, you’ll notice the strength of Jack’s?scenes and dialog, exactly the craft skills?he?will be teaching this year at the June 9-12 Writing It Real conference. In the book, Jack told me, the protagonist, Jack Finney, is a retired advertising executive who recently has been … Continue reading

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Excerpt From The Third Law of Motion, a Novel by Meg Files

The opening of Meg Files’ fine novel The Third Law of Motion?introduces the?book’s first-person narrative as we enter protagonist Dulcie White’s life as a college-bound high school student. In alternating chapters throughout the book, the young woman’s sometimes boyfriend, a confused and needy?young man, also narrates, but in the third person. Meg does an expert … Continue reading

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Excerpt from Good Morning Sam by Phyllis M. Washburn

The following is an excerpt from Phyllis M. Washburn’s book Good Morning Sam. In this part of the story, Phyllis and her husband Ralph rescue Sam, a mute swan, from bleeding to death. In all, the couple shared twenty-four years with mute swans and the book documents their time in narrative and photos. To read my interview … Continue reading

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Third Place Winning Essay — Winter Contest 2014

This week we present the third place winner in our 2014 Writing It Real Essay Contest. Our guest judge Midge Raymond selected Lisa Hunter’s essay, “Twelve Random Cards: A Self-Portrait in Archetypes.” Midge wrote this about her selection: “This clever self portrait, while a memoir of self-examination and brief stories, also allows us as readers … Continue reading

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Second Place Winning Essay — Winter 2014 Contest

We are pleased to post the second place winning essay in this past winter’s Writing It Real essay contest. Our guidelines said the number 12 was to be somewhere in the essay in honor of Writing It Real’s 12th Anniversary. Our guest judge, Midge Raymond, co-founder of Oregon’s Ashland Creek Press, chose Maureen Mistry’s “The … Continue reading

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First Place Winning Essay — Winter 2014 Contest

We are pleased to post the winning essay in this past winter’s Writing It Real essay contest. Our guidelines said the number 12 was to be somewhere in the essay in honor of Writing It Real’s 12th Anniversary. Our guest judge Midge Raymond, co-founder of Oregon’s Ashland Creek Press, chose Gillian Herbert’s “Three of Twelve” … Continue reading

To access this post, you must purchase Lifetime Membership In Writing It Real, Generate Four Starts in One Week + Membership, Four Half-Hour Consults + Membership, Flash: Sudden Fiction and Non-Fiction + Membership, Fiction Writing Workshop + Membership, Epistolary Writing Online Workshop + Membership, Develop One Piece Start to Finish + Membership, Online Personal Essay Writing Workshop + Membership, Writing Exercises to Heal Grief + Membership, Sampler Platter + Membership, Lyric Essays Online Workshop + Membership, Poetry Writing Workshop + Membership, One Half-Hour Consult + Membership, Phone Consult: 3750 Words or Six Poems + Membership, Coaching & Mentoring Services + Membership, Write What You Know Online Tutorial + Membership, Book-length Manuscript Evaluation + Membership, Development and Line Editing + Membership, Writing Healthy Starts + Membership, Eight Half-Hour Consults + Membership, Writing Contest + Membership, Befriending the Giant + Membership, Introduction to Scrivener — Plus Membership, Writing for Young Readers Plus Membership, Keep Goin’ On Your Writing over the Holidays Plus Membership, You: Writing in the 2nd Person Online Workshop Plus Membership, Write More Healthy Starts Plus Membership, Summer Reading Summer Writing Plus Membership, In-Class Writing and Responses – Your Writing Will Surprise You! + Membership 11:00 AM, In-Class Writing and Responses – Your Writing Will Surprise You! + Membership 2:00PM, Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor – How Editing Helps You Find Your Way + Membership 2:00PM, Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor – How Editing Helps You Find Your Way + Membership 11:00AM, Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor – How Editing Helps You Find Your Way 11:00AM or Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor – How Editing Helps You Find Your Way 2:00PM.

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Excerpt from Susan Bono’s Collection What Have We Here

The following essay by Susan Bono is the title essay from her new collection What Have We Here: Essays about Keeping House and Finding Home. We reprint it this week with her permission. To learn more about Susan’s writing and the place of the personal essay in her writing life, please see last week’s interview. What Have We … Continue reading

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Letter to My Son

Writing It Real members and students know my love of the epistolary (letter) form in literature and the many examples of it I offer as writing models. During the holiday season, a time of letters from those near and far, I am especially inspired to write to my son, Seth. At the letter’s end, I … Continue reading

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Grandma’s Fridge

Years ago, Jennifer Wagley entered a vivid, funny account of her perceptions of her grandmother’s attitudes toward food — buying, keeping, and serving it. It turns out she did this in 12 paragraphs, and as you know, we are celebrating our 12 year Writing It Real anniversary asking for essays that use the number 12. Check our contest guidelines … Continue reading

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The Honor of Writing a Foreword to an Anthology

The following is the 2013 foreword I was honored to write for the anthology Times They Were A’Changing: Women Remember the 60s and 70s, edited by Linda Joy Myers, Amber Lea Starfire and Kate Farrell. Paying tribute to the vibrant decades during which I was a college student and next a mom to two young children was certainly a … Continue reading

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Last Words, Glenn Fleishman’s Essay on Loss

Glenn Fleishman’s expertly executed and moving personal essay about the his mother’s death and the last time he saw her will resonate with any of us who are striving to write the details of loss and our lives at the time of our loss. Notice the mix of medical information and terminology, with personal medical … Continue reading

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My Marital Status

After reading that I’d mentioned an interview he did with Marion Woodman in a Writing It Real article, James Kullander contacted me. After reading the whole article, he offered permission to share another essay originally published in the December 2007 issue of The Sun magazine. “My Marital Status” takes a moving look at love and commitment, at what … Continue reading

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Writing Your Way in the Back Door: The Painting as Entry

Christine Hemp offers us her thinking about how we may find our prose and poetry’s true subjects followed by a writing exercise for practice and two sample poems. [This article and exercise were originally published in Now Write! Nonfiction: Memoir, Journalism and Creative Nonfiction Exercises from Today’s Best Writers and Teachers, from Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin, edited by Sherry … Continue reading

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Celebrating and Learning from Three Wonderful Poets

It’s National Poetry Month and I am celebrating poets I know whose work I have been following both in their books and by attending readings in my town and surrounding areas. Each of the next weeks, I will publish a poem by each of three of these poets along with their own words about their … Continue reading

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Michael Shurgot’s 2nd Place Winning Essay “The First Time I Should Have Died”

Our guest judge Molly Tinsley’s notes about choosing Michael Shurgot’s essay for our second-place winner are these: “Great propulsion. The building of tension, the sense of time running out, the hints of questions left unanswered — all are the strategies of an accomplished story-teller. The detachment of the retrospective voice hooked me in further, the … Continue reading

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First Place Winning Essay – “Why I Write” by Mary Kurtz

Our fall/winter writing contest judge, Molly Tinsley, chose “Why I Write,” a personal essay by Mary Kurtz, as our first-place winner. Molly said in her notes about this essay: “Emotional control of the narrative makes Mary’s experience all the more riveting and poignant. I was swept up by the vivid flow of habitual action interrupted … Continue reading

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On Meeting the Lost Boys of Sudan, Personal Writing at the Intersection of History

Writing It Real member Betty Shafer met five of the Lost Boys of the Sudan during a time that she was mourning personal losses and considering a major life change. Entwining their story of tragedy and survival during an historic upheaval with reflections on events in her own life, Betty arrives at clarity, strength, and … Continue reading

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New Year’s Thoughts and Advice From My Correspondence With My iPad Mini

December 31, 2013 Dear Mini, Today marks our six-month anniversary of being together!  Six months! And you, my love, remain ever fresh and surprising, ever so original! We haven’t parted for even a day since that July afternoon when I gave in to the gleam in your eye and brought you home. I want to … Continue reading

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Foreword to Times They Were A-Changing

It was an honor to be asked to write the foreword to the newly released anthology Times They Were A-Changing, edited by Linda Joy Myers, Amber Lea Starfire, and Kate Farrell, whose selection of forty-eight powerful stories and poems by women about life changing experiences in the ’60s and ’70s vividly re-creates those two decades … Continue reading

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Writing a Eulogy Starting with a Remembered Trait

When asked to write a eulogy for a family member you cared for, you may find that your memories and those of others who knew the person you are writing about might span a lifetime but with gaps. Thinking of a physical trait you strongly associate with the person who has died and opening the … Continue reading

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Using Anaphora — A Model for a Speech

When my daughter Emily Bender was writing a Valedictorian speech to be delivered at her UC Berkeley graduation, she was nervous about having something worth saying. With all of the demands of her life as a graduating senior, she had mulled the speech over but not found a way of tying things together. The she … Continue reading

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On Writing the Eulogy

As writers, we are frequently the ones asked to write eulogies for friends and family members. Even if we are not asked, we may feel moved to write eulogies to honor those we loved and then to share our writing with a literary audience. Reading author David Reich’s eulogy for his father and considering the … Continue reading

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A Keynote Address Using Personal Experience

As the writers among our circles of family, friends, colleagues and associates, we are often approached to write addresses and eulogies, toasts and speeches. On September 19, 2013, I presented the keynote address at Providence Hospice of Seattle’s annual Pediatric Luncheon. It is a fundraiser for the organization’s work with grieving and terminally ill children and … Continue reading

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The Work of an Opening — To Achieve an Engaging, Smooth and Useful Beginning

Julaina Kleist-Corwin’s story is our third place winner in the spring/summer 2013 Writing It Real writing contest. Guest judge Terry Persun wrote to us that he chose the story because he liked the pacing and grew “to know the characters, all the while not knowing which to trust or which he liked better.” He also … Continue reading

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2nd Place Winner in Our Spring/Summer 2013 Contest

Our guest judge Terry Persun chose Cyndi Lloyd’s story “Recess” as the second place winner in Writing It Real’s Spring/Summer 2013 Writing Contest. He commented: I like the way this writer was able to draw out several different personalities in such a small space. I felt as though I knew these men and the older … Continue reading

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First Place Winning Essay 2013 Writing It Real Spring/Summer Contest

This week we are proud to publish the first of three winning essays in our recent contest. In choosing Hildegard Hingle’s essay as the first place winner in Writing It Real’s 2013 spring and summer writing contest, guest judge Terry Persun sent these words: This so reminded me of Nicholas Sparks. At first, I’m unsure … Continue reading

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Judith Kitchen on Reading as a Writer Reads Part 2

Applying her method of reading as a writer reads to Pam Houston’s Contents May Have Shifted, Judith Kitchen asks, “So is this memoir, masked as novel? Or novel, masked as memoir? That’s one of the first questions that a reader of this book asks. “What does it matter?” you might venture.   Here is our guest author’s explanation. Reading … Continue reading

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Judith Kitchen on Reading as a Writer Reads Part 1

For our community read this past March 2013, the librarians in Port Townsend, where I live, chose Pam Houston’s novel Contents May Have Shifted, a story, they felt to be about love and freedom in middle age, something dear to the hearts of many in this community. At the top of the month the library … Continue reading

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“March 9th, Day Zero” — Excerpt from Stumbling Through the Dark

Thelma Zirkelbach describes her memoir as “a story of love and loss and unexpected courage.” In the following excerpt from Chapter 11 of Stumbling Through the Dark, Mazo Publishers, 2013 (posted here with permission of the author), Thelma’s husband Ralph is undergoing a red cell transplant. How does one commemorate what is supposed to be … Continue reading

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Parking Garage – A Personal Essay on Widowhood

Along with editors Barbara B. Rollins, Becky Haigler, and Robyn Conley, Thelma Zirkelbach edited the anthology On Our Own: Widowhood for Smarties. We posted an interview with Thelma last week about the process of finding contributors and publishing the anthology. This week, we are pleased to post an essay by Thelma from the 2012 book. … Continue reading

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Our Third Place Winning Essay – Salvation by Pam Robinson

Pam Robinson is our third place winner in the Writing It Real winter, 2012 writing contest. Our guest judge, Shanti Bannwart, sent these words along about Pamela’s essay: The piece begins with a quote that provides almost a summary of the story that follows. And the almost is the trigger here, whetting the appetite of … Continue reading

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Our Second Place Contest Winner: Navy Blue by Kate Foley Cusumano

We are proud to post the second place winner in our Winter, 2012 Writing It Real contest. Kate Foley Cusumano is a former Navy officer and elementary school teacher. A Midwesterner at heart, she’s been influenced by years in Alaska, Hawaii, Japan and Italy, among other locales. Kate is currently an adjunct professor for the … Continue reading

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I Grew Up in That Place – First Place Winning Essay, Winter 2012 Contest

The contest results are in and we are proud to publish the first-place winning essay in our winter, 2012 contest. Guest judge Shanti Bannwart sent these words about Kate Allen’s “I Grew Up in That Place”:  The essay is a touching example of the mythological Hero’s Journey – or better the Heroine’s Journey: the challenge of encountering … Continue reading

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Excerpt from Meg Files Novel The Third Law of Motion

This excerpt is from Chapter 15 of The Third Law of Motion by Meg Files, published by Anaphora Literary Press, 2011, reprinted here by permission of the author. Lonnie had already started work as an inventory clerk in a new discount store just outside town, and we’d used the Christmas money from Dad for rent and … Continue reading

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Talking Recklessly

 “Talking Recklessly” is excerpted by permission of the author, Kim Stafford, from his memoir 100 Tricks Any Boy Can Do: How My Brother Disappeared published 2012 by Trinity University Press, San Antonio, TX. When we were young, our father had a habit of abruptly increasing the voltage by announcing, “Let’s talk recklessly!” This meant any … Continue reading

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Our Dreams Choose Us

After I began studying with poets at the University of Washington in the early 80’s, I had a closet in my bedroom under my house’s eaves converted into a writing nook with a skylight. Sitting there at night, I could see the stars and sometimes the moon. During the day, sunshine and Seattle’s famous clouds, … Continue reading

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A Holiday Letter

After a request from a Writing It Real member to write more on the topic of composing holiday letters, I decided first to write my holiday letter and see what lessons came. I started with the scene of a recent night’s wakefulness and let that scene lead me to associations concerning some of the events … Continue reading

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In Praise of Inadequate Gifts

Former Writing It Real intern, Tarn Wilson, shares an exquisite, humble essay about the times we confront loss in the lives of those we don’t know well and the times others address our own losses. This essay first appeared in Harvard Divinity Bulletin, Vol. 40, Nos. 3 and 4 (Summer/Autumn 2012): 13-16. Copyright 2012 The President … Continue reading

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Expect It In The Casino by Diane C. Drury, Our Third Place Winner

The recent Writing It Real contest provided the opportunity for people to write about the world around them, send in a draft, receive my responses for help in revising, and then re-enter a revision for our final judge, Betsy Howell. In selecting Diane Drury’s poem “Expect It in the Casino,” Betsy wrote: Not all memoir … Continue reading

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Taking Notes: Assisted Living — Evolution of Helen Goehring’s Second Place Winning Essay

Our judge Betsy Howell wrote about her selection of Helen Goehring’s essay: “We learn from people when we stop and really see them, when we know something of their lives, past and present, and all that has made them who they are. The author in this essay sees many reasons for hopefulness, even as the hard … Continue reading

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Boating to Breakfast: Evolution of Mary Langer Thompson’s First-Place Winning Poem

In our spring/summer Writing It Real contest, writers and poets sent in writing inspired by the world around them. That’s a broad topic as we might be looking at the world close up and intimately or from afar. In selecting winners in our spring/summer Writing It Real contest, final judge Betsy Howell wrote of Mary … Continue reading

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Trim Twist Demonstrator

Have you ever come across a call for submissions for a themed anthology or special issue of a magazine and thought, “Oh, I have something I could write that would fit”? Combing the submissions-wanted section in Poets & Writer’s magazine and signing up with Creative Writing Opportunities to receive daily emails about literary magazines and … Continue reading

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Excerpt from Women of Strength by Betty Jane Cooper Johnson as told to Suzan Huney

Suzan Huney used what she’d learned about taking and publishing oral history in her recent book, Women of Strength, by Betty Jane Cooper Johnson as told to Suzan Huney. The following excerpt from their work together illustrates the way oral histories evoke time and place as well as the personality of the interviewee, while informing … Continue reading

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Lust for Life

The following is excerpted from Chapter 7 of Dancing on One Foot: Growing Up in Nazi Germany by permission of the author. On May 8, 1945, a radio announce­ment declared the end of World War II and the women of the neighborhood got very busy. They made huge pots and bowls full of green peppermint … Continue reading

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Bagging Africa’s Big Five

Dorothy Ross’s winning personal essay takes her readers to Africa and a photo safari involving more action than the writer had bargained for. The details the author chooses put us right into the situation with directness and good humor, attributes of good writing. Bagging Africa’s Big Fiveby Dorothy Ross Thirty-six hours after leaving San Francisco, … Continue reading

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Monday Morning at the Fracture Clinic

I admire Karin Goldberg’s recent Writing It Real contest winning description of an accident she suffered and her description of waiting for help. Though in shock, she did what she could to remain in control. In the days after the accident, she comes to an insight of value to all of us writers. Monday Morning … Continue reading

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American Union

I admire Cecile Lusby’s first-place winning essay in our recent Writing It Real contest for its use of dialog to involve the reader in the author’s life-changing childhood experience and for the way the essay spans time, letting us know the impacts of our interactions with others affect us for a lifetime, and working out … Continue reading

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Go Ahead: Write About Your Parents, Again

Tarn Wilson writes, “Then, in my newest piece of writing, my mother returned like a zombie, dominating in all her horror and glory. She was stubborn and unyielding and I had no powers against her. After I’d wallowed around in the shame of my retrogression, I decided to re-examine my assumptions.” It is with delight that … Continue reading

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Carrying the Raindrops – Journey to Writing Poetry

Just after she’d learned to walk, my 15-month-old daughter and I spent a cloudy afternoon at Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo.  Her favorite animals were the birds that wandered the grounds because she saw she could send them into flight by toddling towards them.  A day later, we saw ourselves in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.  A reporter … Continue reading

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Casting On

Christi Killien and her husband, who she refers to as the Bearded One, have been developing what they call a farmlet on their property in Washington State, learning about sustainable living. A fiction writer who suspended story projects for many years, Christi found her interest in writing rekindled from the couple’s ongoing projects on the … Continue reading

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The Yoga of Writing

Personal essayist Brenda Miller is keeping a blog entitled Spa of the Mind, a phrase she borrowed from a chapter in William Powers’ book Hamlet’s Blackberry. By keeping this blog, Brenda is dedicating herself  to exploring “the ways we find respite for our weary minds in a connected world.” She wonders how “we find and cultivate inner space … Continue reading

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Of Eucalyptus And Elm Trees And Fathers, Too

The guest judge for Writing It Real’s summer/fall 2011 writing contest was Susan Bono, who chose “Eucalyptus And Elm Trees And Fathers, Too” as our third place winner. Susan wrote about the work that it “flowed so naturally. The writer uses the eucalyptus tree that used to be part of her view to trigger a … Continue reading

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Making Peace

Susan Bono, our guest judge for the Summer/Fall Writing It Real contest, chose the following essay as our second place winner. She writes of the essay: “I felt like the writer touched all the bases as she ran home. I was very satisfied with its shape and scope. This writer takes the simple act of … Continue reading

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I Know How the Wild Goose Feels

Our Summer/Fall WIR guest contest judge Susan Bono awarded first place to Sher Laughlin’s essay. Susan enjoyed the essay’s “many layers of emotion and craft.” She wrote that the essay “employed great use of scene, dialog, imagery/symbolism and moved effortlessly between the tension of the unfolding incident and the narrator’s ever-expanding drama, realizations about beginnings … Continue reading

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The Adventures of Super Joni! (And Her Amazing Dog E-Pie-Pie)

When Writing It Real contributor Joni Cole sent me a review copy of her new collection of essays Another Bad-Dog Book: Tales of Life, Love, and Neurotic Human Behavior, I was excited to get started reading. The book proved both funny, sometimes sidesplitting so, and poignant, especially when she writes about her elderly father. This week … Continue reading

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Excerpts from Connie Leas’ Nonfiction Books

This week, Connie Leas offers us excerpts from her two recent nonfiction books. In last week’s article, you read about how the author decided to write on topics that interested her; now you get to read her approach to offering others the information she finds and digests. Excerpt 1 – from The Art of Thank … Continue reading

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16 Reflections on Writing a Buddhist (or Any) Poem

I In the high reaches of the Bear River Mountains of Northern Utah the leaves of the big tooth maples are turning red, and the sky arches a rich blue over the campus of Utah State University. I think of my own college student days, the world opening before me with continents of thought and … Continue reading

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Lucy’s Choice

Here is our third place winner in the recent WIR essay and poetry contest. We posted our first place winner last week and we’ll be posting the second place winner — a poem — next week. When you read Hildegard’s essay about an elderly friend, think about the ways in which the essay grounds us … Continue reading

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Mother’s Curse

[DAP userId=”10″]This is a Special Edition for Kate Bracy’s readers. We hope you enjoy it. Please consider trying Writing It Real for two weeks for only $.99.[/DAP] I admire the way Kate M. Bracy threads her essay with the words of the “mother’s curse,” using them four times  (at the beginning, a couple of times … Continue reading

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Your Best Friend, Not Mine

Personal essays can be effective arguments that lobby to persuade others to rethink behavior or at least understand a different point of view. As you read this week’s account of Kurt VanderSluis’ incident with a dog, note the way his narration of the incident as well as his narration of his inner response to it … Continue reading

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Smoking

Two years ago, Jack Heffron read this personal essay at our Writing It Real conference in Port Townsend. An exercise Jack offered this past conference involved writing a confession about something you haven’t confessed before. His assignment made me remember the entertaining and true-to-human nature essay he’d read to us the year before. Now Jack has given Writing … Continue reading

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Far As I Can Remember

Last week we posted Nancy Rekow’s foreword to the oral history she wrote from interviews with Minnie Rose Lovgreen, her neighbor of many years. This week we post an excerpt so you can experience Minnie’s voice and the skill with which Nancy selected transcriptions from the many interviews. There is more information about the book … Continue reading

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Things Fall Apart

Last month, I met journalist Lawrence W. Cheek, who is on the faculty of the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts low-residency MFA program on Whidbey Island. He is at work on a boat he has named Nil Desperandum (never despair) as well as a new book about boatbuilding as character building. He has generously shared … Continue reading

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Earning Our Turns: Celebrating Romance Nordic Style

This week, we are very pleased to post the first place winning essay in Writing It Real’s Fall, 2010 contest. Our guest judge this time around was Ellie Mathews, who wrote about her choice this way, “In her essay, ‘Earning Our Turns,’ Alessandra Bianchi takes the reader with her on a ski trip via minute … Continue reading

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Perspective

[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

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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

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“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

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A Need to Write

Recently, I met Beckie A. Miller online and learned that her writing career began with the need to write about loss. This week in our series on writing grief, I am sharing her first published essay, a recent humorous essay she’s written, and her commentary on the development of her writing life. Beckie describes the … Continue reading

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Tethered

Writing one’s way through grief is a process that helps us integrate our loss into our interior life. Writing about loss, we face life without the physical presence of someone we loved dearly. Having written a memoir about the loss of my son and teaching an online class called “Writing Grief” for those who want … Continue reading

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To Delight in the Feel and Taste of Words in My Mouth

This week during National Poetry Month, William Mawhinney offers us an account of the way sound is at the root of his poetry practice. His books, Songs in My Begging Bowl, which appeared in 2002, and Cairns Along the Road, which appeared in 2009, are both available through him for $10 each. To order, email … Continue reading

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Retracing Her Great-Great-Grandfather’s Footsteps

The following is an excerpt from Acoustic Shadows: Men at War and a Daughter Who Remembers Them by Betsy Howell. At 31, after the death of both her parents, Betsy sought solace in a family heirloom–the diary of her great-great-grandfather James Darsie Heath’s journals documenting his service in the Union army during the Civil War. … Continue reading

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First

Seven years ago this October, Kurt and I launched Writing It Real. It would have been Seth Bender’s 27th birthday, had he not died in December, 2000 in a snowboarding accident. The magazine’s first article was “A Special Birthday,” explaining our purpose in offering the magazine so people would have the “right food and the … Continue reading

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Los Tulares: The Place of the Rushes

Many of us have a connection to place and want to use research about that location’s founding, settlement, history, flora and fauna in our writing. Eileen Apperson’s essay about Los Tulares provides a good example of how love of place and fact finding can make an informative essay that preserves and shares valuable knowledge. Los … Continue reading

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A Quiet Ache

This essay, which won an American Jewish Press Award, originally appeared in the April 2004 Hadassah Magazine, April 2004. It is included in a collection of essays by Sandra Hurtes, On My Way To Someplace Else, that will be out next month from Poetica Publishing Company. Pre-orders may be made at OnMyWayEssays@yahoo.com. The price is … Continue reading

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Our Baby, Not Yours

Barbara Graham’s essay about the birth of her granddaughter, Isabelle Eva, and the changes it made in her and her family are not only the subject of this wonderful essay but also the inspiration for a whole anthology of writings by women writers on grandmothering, Eye of My Heart published this year by HarperCollins. Last … Continue reading

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Writing in Style

Last week we posted an interview with memoirist Sue William Silverman. This week’s article is an excerpt from her new book, Fearless Confessions: A Writers Guide to Memoir, and  is reprinted here with the permission of the author and University of Georgia Press. Writing In Style I love red shoes. Always have, always will. I … Continue reading

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Excerpt from Wounding’s Grace: Confessions of an Extraordinary Heart

I am pleased to present the second place winner in our spring 2009 Writing It Real No-Contest Contest. Mary Oak has woven her childhood longings and adult experience into a rich tapestry in the service of informing many through her life review. As she writes in her bio information, after surviving a cardiac arrest in … Continue reading

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The Hershey Bar Incident

Kathy Krause’s personal essay “The Hershey Bar Incident” entertains as well as reminds readers of something very important–how many times as adults we make promises to children and then don’t come through, thus eroding the admiration the children have for us and leaving more hurt behind than we willingly acknowledge. Kathy’s well-drawn descriptions of what … Continue reading

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What the Moment Can Hold

The first time I hold my daughter’s daughter I feel so sad. I don’t remember feeling this when her sons were born. It is a strange feeling, the wrong emotion for this happy time, but I can’t help it. I’m remembering when the baby in my arms was my daughter, when it was all still … Continue reading

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An Introduction that Puts Argument to Work

In this slightly abbreviated excerpt from another of author Elaine Partnow’s introductions, we see an argument at work that informs as it asks us to consider the absence of women from lists of notable playwrights.  Partnow has put her book together, she says, to “allow women playwrights throughout history to resurface, as well as to … Continue reading

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Words of Introduction Outline a Book

Elaine Partnow wrote this introduction for The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Your True Age, which she co-authored with her sister Judith Hyman, Ph.D. You will see the work a book’s introduction can do for managing readers’ expectations of how a book is ordered and how they will participate in learning. Youth is as much a … Continue reading

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“The Blue Hornet” by Nicki Jack

It is with pleasure that we post our third place winner in Writing It Real’s 2008 No-Contest Contest. Nicki narrates a Christmas morning in a way that goes beyond Christmas memories. She does a fine job of helping us see life through the eyes of an eight-year-old girl with two brothers. Her use of setting … Continue reading

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“White Bird Morning” by Mai Lon Gittelsohn, 2nd Place Winner Winter 2008

I enjoy “White Bird Morning” by Mai Lon Gittelsohn for many reasons. The poem situates me in the familiarity of an early Sunday morning and then takes a turn into territory that is new to me. It isn’t long before the rich detail informs me that the poem is about the circumstances of a particular … Continue reading

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“The Legend of the White Zucchini,” An Essay by Mardi Link

Mardi Link’s essay is a wonderful example of how narrating a story about a time you found something important to you allows you to weave themes of sadness and joy together into a full experience for the reader. The details in this essay, from the ones about the speaker’s sadness and lethargy following a divorce … Continue reading

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An Essay and a Poem

Love And Hate On Night Watch By Katrina Hays Originally published in Sea Stories Journal, Winter 2008 Offshore sailors have ridiculous and sublime ways to spend their time. One of these exercises in necessity and boredom is the night watch. I both adore and despise night watch. There is no middle ground here. Being awake … Continue reading