Writing Between Paragraphs An Essay Forms

This week, wanting so much to write on the day that would have been my son’s 44th birthday, but not knowing how to put my heart-filled words on the page, I reread “Canoe” by Sherrie Flick, a story in 446 words about a daughter grieving her father. Those words ultimately inspired an essay for me … Continue reading

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4 More Podcasts of Writers in Conversation and 7 More Writer Resource Links Sure to Help and Entertain You in Your Writing Life

The list is endless, of course, but here are some of my favorites. First, four more podcasts from the Writing It Real archives and then seven more resources I’ve learned about and very much enjoyed recently. My hope is that each of us can get a hit of the old-time lazy hazy days of summer … Continue reading

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20 Online Sites to Increase Your Reading Pleasure Despite Today’s Pressures and Lack of Time

This week I am posting links to 20 sites that I’ve been “reading around” online. It’s summer and supposed to be those slow, lazy days, but there is so much going on for so many of us, that we may long for some online literature to come to our rescue when we aren’t quite settled … Continue reading

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We All Have Opinions: The Argument and Persuasion Essay

Following the opinion pieces by Amy Hewes posted over the past two weeks, here is instruction on writing the argument and persuasion personal essay. It appeared in Writing It Real in 2014. I look forward to hearing from you in the comment section about your own experience writing in this form and about how this … Continue reading

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Keeping the Political Personal: “To Give or to Deny” by Journalist Amy Hewes

As I wrote last week, I feel lucky to have recently had journalist Amy Hewes on my KPTZ FM radio program, “In Conversation: Discussions on Writing and the Writing Life.”  Here’s the link to listen to our conversation.  In it, Amy explains how she goes about writing her opinion pieces, and her explanation will help those … Continue reading

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The Opinion Piece: The Great Connector by Amy Hewes

I was lucky enough to have recently had journalist Amy Hewes on my KPTZ FM radio program, “In Conversation: Discussions on Writing and the Writing Life.”  Here’s the link to listen to our conversation.  In it, Amy explains how she goes about writing her opinion pieces, and her explanation will help those of us interested in … Continue reading

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Learning from Others’ Pieces Written in the Second Person

A participant in my recent online class,”You: Writing in the Second Person” shared a website with us: Dead Housekeeping: Moody Home Tips, which features a string of short pieces in the second person contributed by writers on subjects as disparate as how to feed the yellow cat, how to have a house guest, and how … Continue reading

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Listening to How a Poem Sounds Helps You Write Both Poems and Prose — Meaning is in the Sounds!

[The following article in honor of National Poetry Month appeared in slightly different form in March of 2003.] John Keats created the term “negative capability,” the idea that a poem holds within it one thing as well as its opposite. For example, when we eulogize someone’s death, we also celebrate their life. When we ache … Continue reading

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Tornado Watch by Carol Smallwood

Writing It Real contributor Carol Smallwood is a poet with several volumes to her name, a retired career librarian who has produced books of value to those who direct and run libraries and educational programs, and she is the editor of writing books for new and experienced writers and teachers of writing. In 2018 she … Continue reading

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Flash! It’s a Great Form to Practice!

What is flash writing and why do authors like to write flash pieces? It’s quicker to write than a novel or memoir. It’s a challenge to see how much you can say with a short word limit, up 500 to 1500 or under 300 for microfiction (6 words, 50 words, 101 words, 150 words, 250 … Continue reading

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A Writing Buffet-Help Yourself!

It’s time for some post-New Year’s inspiration so I am reposting a slightly updated article that is full of quotes to inspire and approaches to creating new material from that inspiration. Thirteen years ago, my grandson Toby turned three.  All of his grandparents attended his party in Seattle.  The day after, a work team was … Continue reading

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A Joke and a Limerick: Two Kernels for Good Writing

The two flash stories I am sharing this week offer you kernels for writing clever stories yourself. A Story with a Joke at Its Center Click over to “World’s Best Joke” https://www.passagesnorth.com/archives/issue-34/worlds-best-joke/ by Allen Woodman, one of my favorite short, short stories. I came across it in a book of flash fiction called Flash Fiction Funny edited … Continue reading

Enabling Voice by Molly Tinsley

We praise writing for its voice, but run into problems when we try to describe exactly what it is we’re responding to. Just as we each have an identifiable voice when we speak, there is something we call a writer’s voice that distinguishes his or her work. Faulkner’s fiction sounds different from Hemingway’s. A Mary … Continue reading

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A Wonderful Genre: Models and Lessons to Help You Write Flash

For the past month, I have been teaching an online class in writing in the flash subgenre. Last Saturday, I taught an all-day in-person seminar on the genre. So, this week, I am sharing some of my lesson ideas and links to model flash pieces, which I hope will encourage you to try your hand … Continue reading

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Moving an Essay Toward Completion — Pam Robinson’s “Table of Plenty”

Pam Robinson’s entry into the fall 2011 Writing It Real contest is an essay about her memories of her mother’s cooking and life on a farm. As I spend time harvesting onions, potatoes, tomatoes, cucumbers, various beans, Asian pears and soon apples and second crop radishes from my own garden, I resonate with the harvest … Continue reading

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Prose Poetry in a Smoky Time

I was sitting at my dining table this morning with a cup of coffee looking out over the still smoky and haze-ridden sky we had experienced on the Olympic Peninsula for a week because of fires in Eastern Washington and in British Columbia. Sometimes we couldn’t see the islands so close to our shores here … Continue reading

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To Love the World and Let the World Love You: August Advice for Writing Poetry

August is the Gregorian calendar month named after the Roman Augustus Caesar, the man responsible for spreading the Roman Empire over the earth. He wrote about his great accomplishments, writings some think of as the typical age-old boastings of a politician. However, others wrote after his death that upon innumerable occasions he donated money to … Continue reading

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Nahid Rachlin on Her Writing With Generous Excerpts from Her Memoir

This past weekend, I was in conversation with fiction writer and memoirist Nahid Rachlin about her books and writing career. for my radio show on KPTZ ?In Conversation: Discussions on Writing and the Writing Life.? It had been over a decade since she and I had last held an interview, printed in The Writer?s Chronicle … Continue reading

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Stay in the Physical World: How Using Sensory Detail Builds the Inner Story

Creative writing requires that we create experience through our words. We can’t just say a day was amazing, or it was depressing, or that a character felt ecstatic about something without our readers becoming disengaged. If we do that we have created distance between ourselves as writers and our material and, eventually, between the story … Continue reading

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Style Is the Wardrobe, Hairdo and Makeup a Storyteller’s Voice Wears

[This article originally appeared online for the Eleven Stories online writing program.– Ed.] My mother called me after the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle to talk about the bride’s gown. The daughter of a ladies coats and suit designer, my mother grew up immersed in New York city’s fashion district. She called Markle’s … Continue reading

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Endings Part II–Twists, Surprises, and Morals

Here’s the second part of the series I created for Kahini’s Eleven Stories program. I hope you enjoy the short stories as you follow along on the included documents as I read. And, of course, I hope you enjoy my discussions of these kinds of endings: twists, surprises and morals, oh my!

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An Approach to Writing Flash Nonfiction

Flash prose, sometimes called flash literature, is creative writing between 500 and 1500 words. This term includes further subgenres prose poetry, short essays and vignettes. Like the longer essay, or something now called short memoir, the flash personal essay evokes experience and arrives at discovery through the writer’s telling. Because it is short, it maintains a firm focus … Continue reading

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Endings: From Seeds Planted in the Openings

We have to leave a story, of any length, both satisfied and wishing the story stays with us—having fallen in love with the protagonists or having been at least drawn close to their situations, we want to carry the characters inside of ourselves, as if they are friends we know we won’t see again, people … Continue reading

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Omniscient Narrator–Have fun with the all-seeing!

I’ve made a short video for a program called 11 Stories that has “aired” for the people in that program. I am sharing it with Writing It Real members this week. In the video, I give a lesson on the third-person omniscient point of view in writing.  I think those of you writing flash nonfiction or fiction … Continue reading

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For Writers, “Finders Keepers” Can Mean “Finders Re-arrangers”

[This article appeared in slightly different form in 2014 — ed.] As writers, our ears are tuned for measuring the quality of the words we hear around us. Sometimes, our ears catch speech we think is pure poetry or could be if read that way. We find that with a little rearranging these words express more humor, more … Continue reading

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The Flash Sequence: A Form for Saying the Unsayable

The flash sequence uses poetic leaps of association for examining the impact of difficult-to-articulate circumstances. Sometimes it is accomplished in journal entries, other times with meditations about place, or people or objects. Sometimes it is composed of collections of scenes. Whatever the container of the sequence, the form is undoubtedly a psychological exploration, often of … Continue reading

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Anna Quinn’s Novel The Night Child Holds Lessons for Writers

In The Night Child, Nora Brown, descends into the kind of fragmentation that results when traumatic events have been repressed, her world becomes anxious and dark. In Anna Quinn’s skillful hands, both the world inside of Nora (who is no longer able to repress terrifying memories) and the world of loving people in her adult … Continue reading

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To Explain How a Poem Grows

This winter’s holiday school break, my grandson, now 15 and a half years old and equipped with his driver’s permit, took a two-week intensive driver’s education class. I certainly felt the passage of time as I remembered using an image of my son Seth receiving his driver’s license as I wrote a poem for him … Continue reading

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A Talk for All Writers

Listening to successful children?s book writer Patrick Jennings during an interview with him for ?In Conversation: Discussions on Writing and the Writing Life,? I realized again how much authors of books for young readers have to teach all of us who write. Listen to my recent interview with Patrick, in which he reads from his … Continue reading

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Writers’ Strategies, Questions, And a Writing Exercise

A few years ago, I had the pleasure of interviewing memoirist and novelist Pam Houston. At the time of the interview, her book, Contents May Have Shifted, was Port Townsend?s Community Read. I did the taping on behalf of our local library. In this podcast, Pam talks about her writing and, in particular, the writing … Continue reading

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A Must Read for Personal Essayists: “Learning to Drive” by Katha Pollitt

This is a revised and updated article based on one from 2002 when I first read “Learning to Drive: A Year of Unexpected Lessons” by Katha Pollitt, published in The New Yorker magazine. I hope you’ll read the essay and go on to read my discussion of it, which includes an excerpt of review of the film (now … Continue reading

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What is Epistolary Writing? Why Write in Epistolary Form?

The word epistolary comes from the Greek epistol?, which means “letter.” Writers use the letter form in writing personal essays, poems, creative nonfiction and fiction because the form provides a ready-made container to hold an exploration of events and experiences. Writing in the letter form quickly builds intimacy with readers because a letter is addressed to someone … Continue reading

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Reading Tarn Wilson’s The Slow Farm as a Writer Reads

For this video lesson, I have selected three passages from a memoir I love and admire, Tarn Wilson’s The Slow Farm.  I discuss them as a lesson on using details and sensory information to evoke the point-of-view of a memoir’s protagonist–the writer’s. Here Tarn is using her point-of-view as young a child. We learn at … Continue reading

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Continuing: A Short Study of Writing Memoir As an Accumulation of Short Pieces

It may seem hard to imagine how to write a life in short pieces rather than with a more traditional narrative arc, but it works. Here are excerpts from memoirs-made-of-pieces that I like very much: Excerpts from Abigail Thomas’ What Comes Next and How to Like It. Excerpt from Kim Stafford’s 100 Tricks Any Boy Can Do: … Continue reading

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A Three-Part Study Guide to Writing Short Memoir

Part One To get a feel for short memoir, you might enjoy reading from Writers’ Digest magazine’s column called “5-Minute Memoir.”  Here are links to a few of the columns: Writing from the Mat Hidden in Plain Sight The Beauty of Bones Here is a column I wrote for the October 2012 issue: Writing Grief … Continue reading

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Admiring and Learning from Flash Writing by Jim Heynen

I have been an eager reader of flash stories by Jim Heynen for years. I’ve read The Man Who Kept Cigars Under His Cap, One-Room School House: Stories About the Boys, The Boy’s House: New and Selected Stories as well as his newest collection Ordinary Sins: Stories. You can visit this web page to view … Continue reading

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Reading as a Writer Reads — Taking a Lesson from the Writing in Just Fall, a Novel

I am an avid fan of Jane Friedman’s blog on writing and publishing. She is informative and up-to-date, presenting her expertise with scope and clarity. This week, I read her interview with screenwriter turned novelist, Nina R. Sadowsky.  I was impressed with the author’s words on how a background in screenwriting informed her novel writing. … Continue reading

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A Useful Review for Employing the Five Senses in Writing Scenes

In writing, we only feel included as readers when our senses are involved. As we read with our senses involved, we learn more about ourselves and others by encountering the way the others record surroundings through their senses. As writers, we have a fuller picture when we allow our characters and ourselves as speakers to … Continue reading

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Acknowledging the Value of Your Writing: Exercises for Week One and Two of Four

I have been teaching a class called “Writing is a Friend with Extraordinary Benefits” for a couple of years now through Women on Writing. I have been extremely engaged in what my students write and thrilled by the evidence that by writing from certain models the writers have reaffirmed their belief in the value of writing. After … Continue reading

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What It Takes – An Exercise to Keep You Writing

This time of year, we are often flooded with memories of our childhoods, especially of winter holiday times. Some of the memories may be of difficulties and some may be of times filled with excitement and joy. Happy or sad, peaceful or filled with anxiety, these memories can lead to vivid writing. In drafting writing … Continue reading

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Writing Our Own Stories Helps Others Write Theirs: Essay by and Interview with Joan Leof

Joan Leof’s collection of essays Matryoshka: Uncovering Your Many Selves Through Writing Personal Essays and Questions for Reflection is intended to share her personal experience essays in a way that encourages others to write from their experiences. After reading her collection and asking Joan’s permission to reprint one of her essays for Writing It Real … Continue reading

We Write to Feel and to Make Others Feel What is Genuine

When someone asks (or you ask yourself) why you write, I bet that many of the motivations you think to cite are on this list: • to understand your experience, • because you have a story in your heart, • because you can’t keep yourself from writing, • because you hope at least one other person on the … Continue reading

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Rants and Raves — A Great Writing Strategy from Karen Lorene

“If I’d only known what was in this book forty years ago, how much more money would I have made and how fewer problems would I have encountered?” Karen wonders. Isn’t that true for all of us in our lives—if we knew what we know now we could have done better at what mattered to … Continue reading

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Haiku Poets Focus on What Matters Most: An Interview with Robert Epstein

Robert Epstein has invested years in conceiving and writing books, among them a series of impressive haiku anthologies. This National Poetry Month, I am delighted to post an interview with him that gets to the heart of how haiku connects us to the sacred and demonstrates what we come to poetry for — to understand and to share … Continue reading

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Celebrating and Learning from Poets — Final Four!

As April and National Poetry Month come to an end, we finish our series of poets on their poems. Stan Rubin, Michael Spence, Nicole Persun and Nancy Levinson have each offered us a poem along with their thoughts about writing it. I follow their work with writing prompts based on their contributions. Stan Sanvel Rubin … Continue reading

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Celebrating and Learning from Poets — Another Batch of Three

This week I am posting poems by three more poets whose work I have been following. Each has offered words about the creation of the particular poem included. And, as before, you’ll find writing ideas from me based on each of the poems. Let these poems live inside of you for a bit after reading … Continue reading

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Celebrating and Learning from Three More Wonderful Poets

We present three poets, offering one of their poems along with words about its creation. My writing ideas are each based on one of the poems and are useful whether you are writing poetry or prose.

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Celebrating and Learning from Three Wonderful Poets

It’s National Poetry Month and I am celebrating poets I know whose work I have been following both in their books and by attending readings in my town and surrounding areas. Each of the next weeks, I will publish a poem by each of three of these poets along with their own words about their … Continue reading

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People Who Write — Sandra Hurtes’ Story of Blog to Book

Sandra Hurtes created a blog, felt she had a book there, and engaged in the process of selecting and shaping the entries and adding to the material to create a book-length account of herself as writer.  The result is the very recently published The Ambivalent Memoirist: Obesessions, Digressions, Epiphanies, which has already garnered praise and … Continue reading

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On Meeting the Lost Boys of Sudan, Personal Writing at the Intersection of History

Writing It Real member Betty Shafer met five of the Lost Boys of the Sudan during a time that she was mourning personal losses and considering a major life change. Entwining their story of tragedy and survival during an historic upheaval with reflections on events in her own life, Betty arrives at clarity, strength, and … Continue reading

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A Coming-of-Age Vignette, Sage Advice, and the Writing Exercise They Inspired

When you read the following excerpts from Rhonda Wiley-Jones’ memoir, At Home in the World: Travel Stories of Growing Up and Growing Away, you’ll likely remember incidents from your own youth when you learned important things about yourself, perceptions that allowed you to see yourself in new ways. I’ve included a writing exercise to use … Continue reading

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Using Anaphora — A Model for a Speech

When my daughter Emily Bender was writing a Valedictorian speech to be delivered at her UC Berkeley graduation, she was nervous about having something worth saying. With all of the demands of her life as a graduating senior, she had mulled the speech over but not found a way of tying things together. The she … Continue reading

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Keeping Journals Can Help Writers by Inviting Scrappiness

In an essay William Matthews wrote as a contribution to my anthology The Writer’s Journal: 40 Writers and Their JournaIs, later reprinted in Keeping a Journal You Love, the late poet suggested that a journal “en­courages scrappiness. Things needn’t be finished, just stored, the way one might ‘store’ a five-dollar bill in a trou­ser pocket in the closet … Continue reading

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A Jumpstart for Writing Your Memoir: Lessons from Dr. Audrey Young’s Book

In a local bookstore, I came across What Patients Taught Me: A Medical Student’s Journey, a memoir by Audrey Young, MD, about how her medical school training in a special University of Washington program facilitated her growth as a person-centered physician. I read the book’s preface standing there by the staff picks. During her rotations … Continue reading

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Celebrating National Poetry Month, Part 2

The Work of Marc J. Sheehan, Jefferson Carter, Lana Hechtman Ayers and Marilyn Stablein As I wrote last week: I think of poetry as my “home page.” It is where I land when I want to deepen my appreciation, my observation, my understanding and my memory of the worlds I inhabit. Reading and writing poetry, … Continue reading

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Celebrating National Poetry Month, Part 1

The Work of Susan Rich, Janée Baugher, Peggy Shumaker and Ellaraine Lockie I think of poetry as my “home page.” It is where I land when I want to deepen my appreciation, my observation, my understanding and my memory of the worlds I inhabit. Reading and writing poetry, I click over to the world within … Continue reading

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A Look at Diane Lockward’s Poetry

I was introduced to Diane Lockward’s poetry as a member of a Yahoo group dedicated to poets helping one another publicize their work. I read and very much enjoyed her collection What Feeds Us. A 2006 Quentin R. Howard Poetry Prize winner, the volume is as witty as it is heartbreaking. Diane’s poems draw her … Continue reading

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E-Reading

As the publishing industry moves online, you may have ordered books on your computer or gone on your local library’s website to request books or an inter-library loan. But would you ever consider reading a book on a computer or subscribing to your favorite magazine’s electronic edition? Each year, a greater portion of the books … Continue reading

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Instant Literary Pleasure

All of us are in front of computers more than we ever imagined we’d be. Though we often talk about longing for time to curl up with a book, we still find ourselves instead in front of a screen. I’ve had to accept reading on the screen in my life as a writer and editor, … Continue reading

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Insight at the Intersection of Past and Present

In Betsy Howell’s book Acoustic Shadows: Men at War and a Daughter Who Remembers Them, the author searches for an understanding of her family’s emotional legacy. After her parents’ deaths, she realizes that there is no one to tell her what she never learned about their pasts. Somehow, she must find what she needs to … Continue reading

To access this post, you must purchase Lifetime Membership In Writing It Real, Generate Four Starts in One Week + Membership, Four Half-Hour Consults + Membership, Flash: Sudden Fiction and Non-Fiction + Membership, Fiction Writing Workshop + Membership, Epistolary Writing Online Workshop + Membership, Develop One Piece Start to Finish + Membership, Online Personal Essay Writing Workshop + Membership, Writing Exercises to Heal Grief + Membership, Sampler Platter + Membership, Lyric Essays Online Workshop + Membership, Poetry Writing Workshop + Membership, One Half-Hour Consult + Membership, Phone Consult: 3750 Words or Six Poems + Membership, Coaching & Mentoring Services + Membership, Write What You Know Online Tutorial + Membership, Book-length Manuscript Evaluation + Membership, Development and Line Editing + Membership, Writing Healthy Starts + Membership, Eight Half-Hour Consults + Membership, Writing Contest + Membership, Befriending the Giant + Membership, Introduction to Scrivener — Plus Membership, Writing for Young Readers Plus Membership, Keep Goin’ On Your Writing over the Holidays Plus Membership, You: Writing in the 2nd Person Online Workshop Plus Membership, Write More Healthy Starts Plus Membership, Summer Reading Summer Writing Plus Membership, In-Class Writing and Responses – Your Writing Will Surprise You! + Membership 11:00 AM, In-Class Writing and Responses – Your Writing Will Surprise You! + Membership 2:00PM, Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor – How Editing Helps You Find Your Way + Membership 2:00PM, Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor – How Editing Helps You Find Your Way + Membership 11:00AM, Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor – How Editing Helps You Find Your Way 11:00AM or Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor – How Editing Helps You Find Your Way 2:00PM.

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“Embarkation”: A Poem by Meg Files

Embarkation by Meg Files The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.  –Marcel Proust We believe we are prepared for this trip: all-terrain shoes, tiny clotheslines, mesh-sided shirts, new underwear, Columbia shorts, everything cute enough for each other. At the Quito airport, the driver holds a sign–Sally … Continue reading

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Finding the Sacred Through Careful Attention

When author Margaret D. McGee moved with her husband David into a house in the woods on the Olympic Peninsula, she started keeping a nature journal. As she formed the practice of writing short entries a few times a week, she realized that paying attention to nature outside her house was beginning to change her … Continue reading

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Making Historic Time Real

Recently, I heard from author Linda Collison in response to a Writing It Real e-mailing. Linda and I had met years ago during a visit my husband and I made to the Big Island in Hawaii. She and her husband were friends of the couple who owned the bed and breakfast we stayed at. Linda … Continue reading

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Love Letters from a Fat Man by Naomi Benaron

Author Stuart Dybeck was the final judge for the 2006 G.S. Sharat Chandra Prize for Short Fiction. I imagine his delight when he read Naomi Benaron’s original and moving collection Love Letters from a Fat Man. How could he not have chosen the volume as the winning manuscript? From its title story, which comes first … Continue reading

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Good Neighbors Bad Times by Mimi Schwartz

When writer Mimi Schwartz hears a story during a trip to Israel that corroborates the one her late father used to tell, she is compelled to conduct an ambitious research project about her father’s birthplace, a village where, he said, Christians and Jews lived cooperatively for hundred of years, a village where Christians remained supportive … Continue reading

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In Our Hands by Arnold Arem, M.D.

“In 1833, British anatomist Sir Charles Bell published a book whose premise was that the very existence of the human hand proved the existence of God.” So opens Arnold (Arnie) Arem’s book In Our Hands: A Hand Surgeon’s Tales of the Body’s Most Exquisite Instrument; from the get-go, we understand that we are in the … Continue reading

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Using Journals in Nonfiction Writing: Three Excellent Examples

Those of us committed to seeing personal experience in print often consider our journal entries a valuable source and form for literature. Usually, we are thinking of mining our own journals and compiling selected entries, but the three books I discuss this week show us how we might use other people’s journals in creating books. … Continue reading

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Writing Childhood’s Dark Side

Writing It Real contributor Janice Eidus’ newest novel, The War of the Rosens, is the story of 10-year-old Emma Rosen, a thoughtful girl who is writing poetry amidst the anger, confusion and angst of her leftist and atheist father Leo, her subservient socialist mother Annette and lovelorn older sister May. Amidst May’s hateful ripping up … Continue reading

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First You Have to Teach a Lesson

In How I Learned to Drive, Paula Vogel’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play, the main character enters, stands center stage and addresses the audience. “Sometimes to tell a secret, you first have to teach a lesson,” she announces. The lesson the play uses as its central theme is one about driving–the connective tissue of the play is … Continue reading

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Writing With Sense of Place

Writing that rivets its readers requires evocation of place, situation, and at least one person to inhabit the place and deal with the situation. This is true for all writing, even the most lyrical, imagistic or self-reflective. In her novel Veil of Roses, author Laura Fitzgerald makes use of opportunities to describe Tucson, AZ, where … Continue reading

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Poetry is a Chance to Live Without Looking Away

I spent a lovely day this week reading three books of poems I’ve wanted to sit down with for some time: The Love Hunter and Other Poems by Meg Files, Boxing the Compass by Holly J. Hughes, and Small Knots, poems by Kelli Russell Agodon. Reading these three collections, one after the other, I understood … Continue reading

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On In Pieces: An Anthology of Fragmentary Writing

What definitions, thoughts and dreams I’ve snagged from In Pieces: An Anthology of Fragmentary Writing, edited by Olivia Dresher for Impassio Press. In her introduction, Dresher, a fragmentary writing enthusiast, introduces fragmentary writing this way:  “lack of a traditional beginning or end. Instead, the two are merged into a brief and concentrated middle, “a short … Continue reading

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On Cures Include Travel, Poems by Susan Rich

Susan Rich taught for the Writing It Real in Port Townsend’s summer writing conference last June. At the conference, she read from the poems that were soon to be published by White Pine Press in the volume entitled Cures Include Travel as well as those in her previous, The Cartographer’s Tongue. She introduced attendees to … Continue reading

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Miss Alcott’s Email: Yours for Reforms of All Kinds by Kit Bakke

Miss Alcott’s Email: Yours for Reforms of All Kinds is a remarkable memoir by Kit Bakke about a political activist, mother, nurse and management consultant’s midlife review interwoven with a biography of her political and literary soul mate Louisa May Alcott. From the start of the author’s introduction, I knew that reading the book would … Continue reading

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On Writing True: The Art and Craft of Creative Nonfiction

In their book, Writing True: The Art and Craft of Creative Nonfiction, writers and writing professors Sondra Perl and Mimi Schwartz offer a straightforward, encouraging look at how any of us can write our own moving and insightful accounts of life experiences. In addition, they include an anthology of creative nonfiction and offer tips on … Continue reading

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On Deep Light, New and Selected Poems 1987 – 2007 by Rebecca McClanahan

Already familiar with Rebecca McClanahan’s essays about her family from her book Riddle Song (as well as her other Writing It Real articles), I was delighted when I found that a new and selected volume of her poems was coming this year. I feel moved every time I read one of the volume’s 91 poems, … Continue reading

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Ted Kooser’s The Poetry Home Repair Manual

I’ve been teaching poetry writing since 1981, when I began working on my Masters in Creative Writing at the University of Washington. As a teacher, I have continually applied all that I learned through trial and error creating and revising my own work and all that I learned in the company of the many great … Continue reading

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Lasting: Poems on Aging, Edited by Meg Files

Which of us has not looked intently at the markings of age in others and then looked for those markings in ourselves? Which of us doesn’t hope for some wisdom to come along with the signs of aging? Which of us doesn’t hope it all means something? Finally, we have a volume of poems on … Continue reading

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A Personal Essay and a Contest It Inspires

This week’s article is an essay by one of our treasured correspondents with a contest announcement for Writing It Real subscribers inspired by the essay. Janice Eidus’ essay was to have appeared in an anthology that explored the theme and experience of being Jewish edited by the great comic Alan King, but when he died … Continue reading

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Fiction Inspiration from A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

We’ve seen movie versions, television versions, and stage adaptations of Dickens’s famous story. We have had the story read to us and in turn have read it to others.  Like people all over the world, we have been haunted by the mean, miserly character of Ebenezer Scrooge, which makes us think, amidst the gifts and … Continue reading

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Teachings from Felt Sense: Writing with the Body by Sondra Perl

Last March, I met Sondra Perl at the National Council of Teachers of English‘s Conference on College Composition and Communication in San Francisco. We talked about her book Felt Sense: Writing with the Body and I recognized the aspects of writing that she was addressing. I took my copy of the book home and excitedly … Continue reading

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Explosions and Recapitulations

Viewing poetry as a gift, Edward Hirsch writes in his book “How to Read a Poem and Fall in Love with Poetry:  “The question poses itself as how to keep alive an interior life in the face of our own and the world’s corruptions.” As an example of a solution, he presents Charles Baudelaire‘s prose … Continue reading

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For YOUR Eyes Only

Joanne Rocklin’s young adult novel, For YOUR Eyes Only is in the form of a young teen’s notebook. You can read an excerpt at Amazon.com to see how effectively the writing strategy evokes the main character and the world in which she is immersed. Writing for the Children’s Book Insider, Joanne Rocklin provided tips for … Continue reading

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Truth & Beauty: Ann Patchett’s memoir about her friendship with Lucy Grealy

Lucy Grealy, author of Autobiography of a Face, and five-time novelist Ann Patchett were acquaintances at Sarah Lawrence, where Lucy was legendary as a poet and inspired her classmates with her courage in facing and healing from constant surgeries to restore her face, scared and disfigured from cancer surgery when she was nine. When they … Continue reading

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On The Cartographer’s Tongue: Poems of the World by Susan Rich

From The Cartographer’s Tongue: Poems of the World Leaving Sarajevo by Susan Rich The bus driver stops to pick plums from an abandoned late summer garden, the pale blue carrier bags pulled from his bed where he sleeps underneath the bus. All night we watch movies, drink beer in the dark, cross borders where Bosnians, … Continue reading

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It’s Not How You Write, It’s How You Re-Write

This week we are very lucky to have an article about revision by poet Susan Rich, described by Naomi Shihab Nye on the back cover of her first prize-winning collection The Cartographer’sTongue as “a caring citizen of every heart-land.” Not only that, she is a brave and dedicated teacher: her article is filled with examples … Continue reading

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What is Poetry?

When I walked into an independent bookstore recently and saw Apprentice of the Flower Poet Z. on a table of new fiction paperbacks, I picked it up because of its title and then read the first of the back cover blurbs: “A splendid satire of literary life…Annabelle is the perfect naïf, the babe in the … Continue reading

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Prompts Inspired By In Brief: Short Takes on the Personal, edited by Kitchen & Jones

Janice Eidus, author and Writing It Real correspondent, currently teaches creative nonfiction for the University of New Orleans and uses writing prompts with her students based on the essay anthology In Brief, a book I discussed in my December 16, 2004 article. This week, she shares those prompts with us, and I offer a demonstration … Continue reading

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In Short – An Inspiring Essay Anthology Edited by Judith Kitchen and Mary Paumier Jones

“It is a matter of proportion,” Judith Kitchen and Mary Paumier Jones say about the criteria they used for selecting essays for an anthology entitled In Short and published by W. W. Norton in 1996.  Noticing that nonfiction writers they admired were frequently writing very short prose, they realized that what mattered in an essay … Continue reading

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A Story of Two Fathers and the Daughter Who Loves Food Too Much

Reading popular writing guru Natalie Goldberg’s newly published memoir, The Great Failure: A Bartender, a Monk, and My Unlikely Path to Truth, Harper San Francisco, 2004, I am drawn to the speaker’s many descriptions of the two influential male figures in her life, her bartender father and her now deceased Zen teacher. When she writes … Continue reading

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Sandi C. Shore’s Secrets to Standup Success

Most teachers who understand writing as a process say that the first step is to play with words.  They provide exercises for helping students jump and run and climb on the word playground.  But what if your teacher is a stand-up comic?  Well, then, she helps you define your personality, sharpen your comedic style, and … Continue reading

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Coaxing Imaginative Awareness

Braided Creek:  A Conversation in Poetry by Jim Harrison and Ted Kooser (Copper Canyon Press) offers wisdom, sensitive observation and love of essence.  On the book’s back cover, the editors have written that one of the poets said, “This book is an assertion in favor of poetry and against credentials.” According to my Webster’s, a … Continue reading

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Writing for Mother’s Day

With Mother’s Day approaching, I once again reread two poems by Stanley Plumly that I admire. In “Say Summer/For My Mother,” Plumly writes: I could give it back to you, perhaps in a season, say summer.  I could give you leaf back, green grass, sky full of rain… And in “Two Moments, for My Mother,” … Continue reading

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A Review of Tell It Slant

Two professors from the Creative Writing Program at Western Washington State University in Bellingham, Washington have put together Tell It Slant, an enlightening, comprehensive and very satisfying text on writing and shaping creative nonfiction.  The book includes a 237-page bonus anthology of 32 essays by notable writers Margaret Atwood, James Baldwin, Joan Didion, Annie Dillard, … Continue reading

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Reporting the Earthquakes in Life

In Daughter’s Keeper, a novel by Ayelet Waldman, the main characters are Elaine and her daughter Olivia. The novel succeeds as a portrayal of love redeemed between a mother and daughter against the backdrop of the United States’ drug enforcement system. Currently a Berkeley resident, author Ayelet Waldman is a graduate of Harvard Law School … Continue reading

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Useful Writing Strategies from The True and Outstanding Adventures of the Hunt Sisters

Not scheduled for release until January 2004, The True and Outstanding Adventures of the Hunt Sisters, an epistolary novel by Elisabeth Robinson, has already received excellent reviews.  If you are developing a wish list for holiday gifts, I recommend putting this book on that list.  It is a pleasurable read, by turns hilarious and poignant, … Continue reading

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A Look at Four Writers Who Inhabit the Moment

Lately, I’ve read a book of Buddhist wisdom by Vietnamese monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, poetry by the Northwest’s James Bertolino, essays by the Northeast’s Philip Simmons and memoirs by the Southwest’s Laurence Shames and by Timothy Doyle, who has lived in India for years.  In each of the author’s performances, I am reminded that when … Continue reading

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Embedded in The Dogs of Babel

On my vacation this year along the shores of Lake Michigan, I was reading the last chapters of an advance reading copy of The Dogs of Babel on the day it appeared in bookstores across America.  Little, Brown and Company introduced the book at this year’s Book Expo America to stimulate interest among booksellers, and … Continue reading

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Must Reads for Essay Writers

“Learning to Drive” by Katha Pollitt in The New Yorker Magazine, July 22, 2002: Click for more information on the columnist  “Learning to Drive” is an engrossing and humble piece of writing from a leftist writer of renown, who refused to shy away from using very personal material. Her essay narrates her driving lessons with … Continue reading

To access this post, you must purchase Lifetime Membership In Writing It Real, Generate Four Starts in One Week + Membership, Four Half-Hour Consults + Membership, Flash: Sudden Fiction and Non-Fiction + Membership, Fiction Writing Workshop + Membership, Epistolary Writing Online Workshop + Membership, Develop One Piece Start to Finish + Membership, Online Personal Essay Writing Workshop + Membership, Writing Exercises to Heal Grief + Membership, Sampler Platter + Membership, Lyric Essays Online Workshop + Membership, Poetry Writing Workshop + Membership, One Half-Hour Consult + Membership, Phone Consult: 3750 Words or Six Poems + Membership, Coaching & Mentoring Services + Membership, Write What You Know Online Tutorial + Membership, Book-length Manuscript Evaluation + Membership, Development and Line Editing + Membership, Writing Healthy Starts + Membership, Eight Half-Hour Consults + Membership, Writing Contest + Membership, Befriending the Giant + Membership, Introduction to Scrivener — Plus Membership, Writing for Young Readers Plus Membership, Keep Goin’ On Your Writing over the Holidays Plus Membership, You: Writing in the 2nd Person Online Workshop Plus Membership, Write More Healthy Starts Plus Membership, Summer Reading Summer Writing Plus Membership, In-Class Writing and Responses – Your Writing Will Surprise You! + Membership 11:00 AM, In-Class Writing and Responses – Your Writing Will Surprise You! + Membership 2:00PM, Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor – How Editing Helps You Find Your Way + Membership 2:00PM, Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor – How Editing Helps You Find Your Way + Membership 11:00AM, Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor – How Editing Helps You Find Your Way 11:00AM or Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor – How Editing Helps You Find Your Way 2:00PM.

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