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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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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Keeping a Family Journal

School is almost out and the lazy days of summer are right around the corner. Well, the days we experienced as lazy when we were kids, anyway, because for a few months our schedules were more open. Some of us may be anticipating the time our children will have on their hands and others may … Continue reading

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A Writing Buffet

This past Sunday, my grandson Toby turned three.  All of his grandparents attended his party in Seattle.  When I returned home the next day, a work team was in my house preparing to paint and redo my closets. My bookshelves were unscrewed from the wall to be transported to my new study, which has been … Continue reading

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The Most Promising Fictional Characters are Obsessed

“Our most promising fictional characters are obsessed,” says Meg Files, Writing It Real correspondent and author of Write From Life: Turning Your Personal Experiences into Compelling Stories. “They’re looking desperately for love or passion or parents or fame. They’re searching for answers to questions they can barely ask. Their obsessions offer writers a way to … Continue reading

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An Idea to Launch Essays

Three days ago, the weather grew suddenly cold where I live in Port Townsend, WA, and for the last two mornings there has been light snow and frost on our roofs and on the ground.  This is not typical weather for Western Washington, so when I arose and saw sudden snow falling fast and sticking … Continue reading

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Keeping a Writer’s Journal

I am currently teaching an online course entitled Journal Like the Pros for Writers.com. Each week, participants use prompts and examples I send to them to comb their memories and observations and put words on the page that surprise them with wit, charm, and poignancy. The entries the participants send affirm the idea that when … Continue reading

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