Writing Between the Lines: A Personal Essay Writing Idea

I receive news headlines online from the Washington Post. It is unusual for one of their tech headlines to capture my interest, let alone to inspire a creative writing idea. But yesterday, a headline about a tech book review caught my eye because of the book’s title: The Human Face of Big Data: How information … 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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Sparking Young (and Older) Writers’ Minds Using Abantu

What is Abantu? Years ago during a summer writing workshop at Centrum Foundation in Port Townsend, WA, poet Robert Hass (who went on to serve as a recent U.S. Poet Laureate) taught students a short couplet form that he had read was an oral tradition among the Bantu people of Africa.  In class, he recited … Continue reading

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In Conversation with Midge Raymond, Author of How to be an Everyday Writer: Tips and Prompts

This week author and publisher Midge Raymond, whose newest book is How to be an Everyday Writer: Tips and Prompts, offers us some of her quickie prompts and answers questions about her career and writing. Sheila Midge, you have succeeded in publishing collections of short stories and novels and you have wonderful nonfiction essays out there. You’re … Continue reading

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The Letter Form: To Say It in Writing is to Hear It

Recently, Samantha Smith, a middle school student from our town, placed as a Washington State champion in The Library of Congress’ national contest Letters About Literature. Each year, students are asked to write a letter to their favorite authors, living or dead. The winning essays from each state are sent to Washington DC and national … Continue reading

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Images Are What Pop for Readers, Not Telling: Exercises to Increase Your Expertise

Most of us find it hard sometimes to believe that the specifics of what we see, taste, touch, smell and hear relate our inner perceptions and feelings (or those of our characters) without explanation. We may be writing with specifics and then, without realizing it, begin to explain and annotate, argue and attempt to persuade … Continue reading

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Dreaming a Job, Defining as Essay

On a writing retreat, I read through a manuscripts-wanted listing in an arts commission newsletter and noticed a magazine asking for short essays by women on work. I thought about my work roles and how I felt about them–mother, teacher, co-owner of my husband’s computer networking business, poet. How I wished that my “job” as … Continue reading

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Letter to a Columnist

I have always been a reader of letters to Ann Landers and other newspaper columnists to whom the public writes. Even after my own children were grown, I continued to read the Sunday column in Parade Magazine, in which teens wrote in about their concerns, and the following week, other teens responded with what they … Continue reading

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Writing Better Holiday Letters

The holidays are a time of turning to traditions that symbolize our love and connection to our families, friends, communities, earth, and the divine.  With the pragmatism characteristic of Americans, many of us have made holiday card sending into a vehicle for mailing yearly catch-up letters.  These letters allow us to perform the task of … Continue reading

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Writing For Thanksgiving–Rituals and Memories

Each year in the US, the period of time from the last days of summer through the end of December seems more and more like an overgrown garden. It is hard to perceive the holidays separately from one another. There are no pathways between them, no mulch to keep them apart. How can we sort … Continue reading

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Writing with Feeling, Grounded By Place

Our connections to the important places of our lives are deeply personal, based on unique experiences and relationships. At the same time, the feelings that bind us to those places can be shared and understood by most everyone because they are tied to universal human experiences and longings — to the comfort of home, the … Continue reading

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Mining Words and Word Histories for Writing Personal Essays

It wasn’t all that long ago that I finally developed the habit of not relying on context alone to understand a word new to me, but instead began looking it up and thinking about the dictionary definition. This way, I have added many words to my vocabulary from textbooks and articles: “synecdoche,” “vatic,” “orphic,” “hagiography,” … Continue reading

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Inspiration from “Back in Eugene: Three Vignettes”

At this past April’s Writing It Real in Port Townsend Writer’s Conference, participant Janet Love read the following vignettes to the group. She had the idea of developing a piece about exploring her life since moving she from northern California to Eugene, Oregon by being sure to mention one of her three children in each … Continue reading

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Music of the Spheres

This week we are proud to post our second place winner in the recent WIR writing contest. Music of the Spheres By Charles Blondino He sits into the leather chair large enough for three of him. “I just learned to play this,” he says and lifts his guitar. We both watch the fingers of the … Continue reading

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Write as Tukwilla’s Youth of Arrival Write

“…poetry, like bread, is for everyone.” — Salvadoran poet Roque Dalton Many people say they don’t enjoy poetry or they don’t find it accessible. But they didn’t have Merna Ann Hecht for a teacher. She teaches her students how they can find the small stories that tell the larger story through poetry. As a poet, … Continue reading

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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