What Your Furniture Tells You

The following exercise presented by Writing It Real in Port Townsend Writer’s Conference faculty member Susan Rich is from a poetry-writing workshop she presented at our 2007 writers’ conference. We publish it this week as a finale to our celebration of National Poetry Month. We hope you’ll email us your results from this exercise and … Continue reading

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Meg Files and the Poetry of Home

This week, in honor of National Poetry Month, we are proud to share an article by Writing It Real in Port Townsend Writers’ Conference faculty member Meg Files I have lived in three countries, in eight states, in fifteen cities, and on one island. I have lived in nine apartments, one duplex, one condo, and … Continue reading

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Get Your Writing Going this National Poetry Month

With poetry, we mourn the passage of time, celebrate connections, yell out at injustice, cry from the pain of unrequited love and exclaim our joy in love and gratitude.  Over the years, I have known I would start poems because of seeing the wet outline of my husband’s swimming trunks through his slacks as we … Continue reading

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More on Awakening the Travel Journal Keeper Within

In 1991, I edited a book called The Writer’s Journal: 40 Contemporary Writers and Their Journals. Novelists Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni and Robert Hellenga contributed journal entries that they had made while on trips. Sharing those entries with readers of The Writer’s Journal, both writers talked about a way in which their particular entry ended up … Continue reading

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A Found Exercise

You may have read that since 1976, Lake Superior State University in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula has published a yearly list of words/phrases to ban from the Queen’s English. This week, the school released words chosen from over 2000 nominations on the basis of misuse, overuse, or general uselessness in the committee’s eyes. The list’s publication … Continue reading

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Words for the Groups in Our Lives

This past spring, writer Jody Bower created a testament to the close circle of friends she has shared her adult life with. In writing about them, for them and for herself, she evokes a kind of organism made of lives that look distinct but are of one piece, like a stand of Aspens. There are … Continue reading

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First Words

Do you have a memory of an early piece of writing you did? A memory that has with it the feeling of enjoyment–that you really liked being able to articulate your experience and thoughts in words? I remember sitting down to my little desk in third grade to write the Chanukah scene for our class’ … Continue reading

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A Writing Lesson from Morrie, Rilke, and Coleman Barks

Years ago, I read Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom, a man who was Morrie Schwartz’ college student at Brandeis University. The narrative is about weekly visits to see his former professor, who is dying. What is so inspiring in this account is the teacher’s voice and thoughts as he prepares to die but must … Continue reading

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Cider Mills and Burning Leaves

For many of us, fall brings leaves to rake and sometimes to burn. It brings memories of visiting cider mills and eating sweet doughnuts as we sipped fresh apple cider. This week, take a moment to describe fall days either from the past or from right now. Begin by listing images of the season in … Continue reading

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Journaling Exercise to Get You Writing

I’ve been talking with parents these past few weeks about how their kids are doing with their return to school and all the newness: new teachers, new classrooms, new classmates, new textbooks, new notebooks, and new clubs to join. I know that when I am faced with so much new, I get especially concerned with … Continue reading

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Defining and Writing the Lyric Essay

I spent my summer writing a book called Perfect Phrases for Writing the College Application Essay. My effort was to come up with sentences (sometimes questions, sometimes statements) to help those who have to write the application essay focus and draw specific details from their experience and then organize the details into compelling personal statements. … Continue reading

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Starting with Pieces Yields a Whole

Following my reading of and writing in response to Impassio Press’s anthology In Pieces, An Anthology of Fragmentary Writing, I began a book American philosopher Ken Wilber’s A Brief History of Everything. The rich effects of reading each continue to bounce together in my mind. Wilber’s book offers a stirring discussion of the view that … Continue reading

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Making Metaphor Run Deep

Writing from our experience gives us the opportunity to know more after the writing than we knew in the experiencing alone. When we can combine our experiencing of outer events with our experiencing of inner events, using the outer as metaphor for the inner, we craft new tools for illuminating ourselves. Each of the tools … Continue reading

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Take Some Time for Playful Journaling, Part II

In a journal, writers write without knowing where their writing is going. They unload thoughts, explore obsessions, record insights and observations, and sometimes imitate other writers, noticing how their perceptions come across in the voice and sentence structures of those writers they admire. Sometimes they address their writing to others with whom they feel resonance … Continue reading

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Take Some Time for Playful Journaling

As a writer, I use my journal to both play with strategies I pick up from other writers’ work and test strategies I invent. In combination with observing the “show don’t tell rule” (use imagery and detail that appeal to the senses rather than intangibles that tell the reader how to feel — i.e. “the … Continue reading

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Writing from Anticipation

Here in the Northwest, despite the unusually cold temperatures we recently experienced, daffodils, crocuses and blossoming fruit trees add yellow, purple and pink to our current landscape. And under a week of consistently sunny skies, we find ourselves anticipating spring. We wake to light and prepare dinner before dark. The winter season’s short daylight slowed … Continue reading

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Finding a Voice for This

We come to journaling to record what we are doing and what we are thinking. As a writing teacher, I spend a lot of time onsite teaching and even more off-site creating lessons. When I was journaling about my son’s death, it is not surprising that I recorded the teaching part of my life as … Continue reading

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Writing for the Holidays

Yesterday, I saw a sign in a shop announcing Halloween items were now half off. I was shocked to realize that Halloween was now close enough for merchants to start reducing their inventory. They’d started selling Halloween goodies in August, and that feeling that there was lots of time before October 31 was still with … Continue reading

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Creating Rich Scenes Like the Pros

In the conversation we posted last week between Kaylie Jones and Beverly Donofrio, you read about what these two authors think about the similarities and differences between memoir and fiction. Kaylie Jones states: “…memoir becomes an exploration of the author’s life choices” and “In memoir, the writer is allowed to draw conclusions for us.” In … Continue reading

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Try Your Hand at Writing a Prose Poem

Beggar Woman of Naples by Max Jacob When I lived in Naples there was always a beggar woman at the gate of my palace, to whom I would toss some coins before climbing into my carriage. One day, surprised at never being thanked, I looked at the beggar woman. Now, as I looked at her, … Continue reading

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