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

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Fallow Time

[From What I Thought I Knew, Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing, Inc., 2008]Faint light is leaking through the bedroom mini-blinds, but there’s no good reason to get out of bed. It’s late winter in Southern Indiana. The sodden ground is blotched with dirty patches of snow, and wilted lawns droop, defeated under ashen clouds that have hung overhead … Continue reading

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Buttons

In July, Nina Soifer sent three poems into the Writing It Real No-Contest Contest. I was very taken with “Buttons,” a poem that evokes specific childhood time the young poet spent with her grandmother: Buttons Sometimes when I look at my hands, the way the blue veins bulge and the knuckles protrude a little, I … Continue reading

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An Escalating Din

[This week we present the second place winner in our first No-Contest Contest. The work Nicole Janeen Jones sent in moved me very much. Most of the essay was fluid and kept me engaged in the weightiness of Nicole’s subject and the urgency of her occasion. There were some places in the essay, however, that … Continue reading

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The Perfect Rock

“After Marisa’s first seizure, when the two of us were in the hospital, the nurse told me I was doing a great job, and that I was a wonderful mother.” I read the opening of Betsy MacWhinney’s essay and immediately worried about her daughter. However, as I read further through the essay, my feelings of … Continue reading

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Grooming

Mary Zelinka opens her essay “Grooming” with a statement that lets us know up front that she is going to tell us an emotional story: “I wanted to hate Papa Burke, but by then I loved him too much.” I do not yet know who Papa Burke is, or what his relationship is to the … Continue reading

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Becoming a Woman of Color

“Becoming a Woman of Color” by Rebecca Mabanglo-Mayor offers a satisfying and moving read. A lyric essay in structure, it is built in sections that each begin with a command: Imagine, Remember, Picture. The symmetry between beginning and ending the essay with the word imagine and the repeated commands of remember and picture sandwiched between … Continue reading

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The Ungarnished Truth

This week we are posting an excerpt from Ellie Mathews’ memoir The Ungarnished Truth. The excerpt is a kind of a how-to essay. Ellie details the winning recipe she entered into the 1998 Pillsbury Bake Off Contest, telling us how she came up with it and a little about her approach to cooking daily meals. … Continue reading

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Dotting the Dragon’s Eye

This week, Jack Heffron, writer, editor and faculty member for Writing It Real In Port Townsend’s annual late June writer’s conference, shares “Dot the Dragon’s Eye,” Chapter Seventeen in his instructional book The Writer’s Idea Workshop: How to make your good ideas great, Writer’s Digest Books, 2003. Whether you are writing fiction, creative nonfiction or … Continue reading

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The Gestures I Remember Him By

Winter is one of the birthday seasons in my family. Among those birthdays, my late father’s comes February 20 and then mine, March 6th. Growing up, I marveled about how both he and I were Pisces, when we seemed so different in our temperaments. Like many men of his era, Bert J. Lillian equated vulnerability … Continue reading

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Mother’s Day

Thelma Zirkelbach, who won an honorable mention in a previous Writing It Real personal essay contest, has a talent for evoking those she is close to. In this winning essay, she writes about her mother as she is today and as she was in the past, calling up a lasting evocation. More of my thoughts … Continue reading

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An Algebra Problem

Our second place winner this time around is from Lebanon. Her teacher at the Beirut Evangelical School for Girls & Boys submitted several of her students’ essays. I was delighted to have chosen Nour’s essay as a winner and especially delighted to have received this note from her in response to my email of congratulations: … Continue reading

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Bad Dreams

Our winning essay this winter is an account of events the year the author was 15. Her use of simple short sentences is especially effective for writing about childhood trauma and for reminding us about children’s disenfranchisement. More of my comments on how the author’s writing succeeds follow the essay. Roberta Taman notes that she … Continue reading

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Baking Powder Biscuits

I thought Ma was my own birth mother until I was about twelve years old. And why wouldn’t I? When in one of her buoyant moods, she boasted that my good looks, smarts, generosity, even my willfulness were owing to her side of the family. When she said that, my heart raced and my face … Continue reading

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Out of the Trenches and Chasing Butterflies

This week, Writing It Real presents the first place winner in our Spring Personal Essay Contest. Following the essay, Sheila has posted comments on what she admires in the way the essay works. Out of the Trenches and Chasing Butterflies By Perry Hessenauer Have you ever found yourself having an experience so painful to your … Continue reading

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