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

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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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