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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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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Birthday Memories Offer Kernels For More Writing

This week, in the last of four articles presenting writing generated from Writing It Real exercises, I have included the work of three subscribers who sent me results from the exercise I proposed in Remembering Your Birthdays, August 19, 2004.   After reading Mitch Albom’s The Five People You Meet in Heaven, I felt certain that … Continue reading

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Instructional Exercise based on Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine

Just before most of us turn our clocks back, and we are well into fall, I’d like to share two subscribers’ results from the exercise I proposed in “Put Summer on the Page,” July 8, 2004. In that article, I excerpted words from Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine and discussed a writing strategy that facilitates collecting … Continue reading

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Remembering Your Birthdays

In Mitch Albom’s tale, 83-year-old Eddie Maintenance, as children call him because of the stitching on his work shirt, dies in an amusement park accident at Ruby Pier, where he has spent decades making sure that all the rides are operating safely.  In the course of the book and our introduction to Albom’s version of … Continue reading

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Put Summer on the Page

Ray Bradbury’s novel Dandelion Wine has long been a favorite of mine. In one summer, the novel’s protagonist, twelve-year-old Douglas Spaulding, encounters the richness of life.  The book opens with the announcement that he is allowed to sleep in his grandparents’ cupola one night a week during summer vacation, and upon waking, he performs a … Continue reading

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Writing to Explore Admiration, Part 2

Many of us know the poem “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night“ by the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas, who is pleading in his famous villanelle that his father not easily give in to death.  The archetype of the father is strong in all of us, even if our own fathers remain enigmas to … Continue reading

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Three Days and Three Nights

In The Heart Aroused:  Poetry and Preservation of the Soul in Corporate America, poet David Whyte writes: The core of difficulty at the heart of modern work life is its abstraction from many of the ancient cycles of life that allow the silence and time in which true appreciation and experience can take place.  The … Continue reading

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The Story of One Poem’s Evolution

About 10 years ago, I wrote this poem, which was distributed on a lovely poster illustrated with a picture of a rocking chair with wings on its back and a moon on its seat.  The chair was poised on the roof of a house, amidst a block of other houses without winged rocking chairs atop … Continue reading

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Sow More Seeds for Personal Essay Writing

I enjoy dipping into a collection of short fiction entitled You’ve Got To Read This as much for the pleasure of the fiction itself as for gathering new ideas about how to organize writing.  There is something about the way short fiction writers tell stories that inspires the essay writer in me.  When I opened … Continue reading

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Study a Scene from David Beckman’s Novel-in-Progress

Here is a sample scene from the novel-in-progress that David Beckman refers to in last week’s interview about being mentored in his writing.  You will notice that he has made stylistic decisions in using sentence fragments to evoke the little boy Addison’s point of view.  He also uses terminology of the time period he is … Continue reading

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An Exercise for Finding Starts in Personal Essay Writing

Although it might not be obvious, those of us who write personal essays can benefit greatly from not knowing what we have to write about.  That is surprising to people who think of the essay as researched knowledge with a professorial, didactic tone.  But to write an essay is really to “assay” or test out … Continue reading

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A Strategy for Creating Insight in a Personal Essay

On this September 11, two years after the tragedy at the World Trade Centers in NY, many of us who write believe more whole heartedly than ever that getting our words on the page makes a difference in our lives and in the lives of those who read our words. The World Trade Centers tragedy … Continue reading

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Subscriber Response to Instructional Exercises

“Poetry is a form of necessary speech,” Edward Hirsch writes in How to Read a Poem and Fall in Love with Poetry, and “poems strike something deeper than thought itself…experience that takes us to the very heart of being.” Over the months, subscribers have sent results from exercises in Writing It Real, exercises meant to … Continue reading

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A Prompt for Finding Essay Topic Ideas

At Yourdictionary.com, linguists maintain a page about word definitions and histories. I signed up on the web to have these words and stories about their usage emailed to me each day. Some of the words are ones that I’ve never heard or even read. Others are words I use everyday and never think about.  After … Continue reading

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