A Revision Success Story: Developing “The Longest Walk” by Arla Shephard Bull

Writing It Real member Arla Shephard Bull worked back and forth with me on developing an essay that was important to her to write. She had decided to use the third person as a way of distancing herself enough to approach the topic of a painful family trip. Despite a question she had about that … Continue reading
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Before and After: Shaping a Personal Essay Using the 3-Step Response Method

The back and forth you’ll read this week on the development of an essay-in-progress demonstrates the power of my three-step response method for helping writers revise. Years ago, Marjorie Ford sent me an essay-in-progress that she was having trouble developing to her satisfaction for meeting an upcoming anthology submission deadline. After I received her first draft, we immersed ourselves in the three-step response, back and … Continue reading
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To Follow Your Words, Not Your Keys, Home

Years ago, a poet friend of mine, Jim Mitsui, ended a poem with an image of people “following their keys home.” That image has lingered with me as a lesson about what the writing life saves us from, which is the dullness of always expecting the expected, and what it requires of us, which is … Continue reading
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How a Personal Essay Becomes Fully Manifest

Betty Shafer asked me to read an essay about losing her adult son. It had been a year since she began the essay following an emotional author reading I gave at the Colorado Mountain Writer’s Conference she attended in June 2001. Wishing to include memories about her son John in a book she was making … Continue reading
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If You Write Prose, You Can Write Poetry

A few years ago, Kathy Lockwood, one of my distance learning students, was having trouble writing poems because she was moving. She had to clean out and reduce her belongings, pack things up and move on, though she and her husband weren’t exactly sure where his work would be taking them. When she called for help, … Continue reading
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The Work of an Opening — To Achieve an Engaging, Smooth and Useful Beginning

Julaina Kleist-Corwin’s story is our third place winner in the spring/summer 2013 Writing It Real writing contest. Guest judge Terry Persun wrote to us that he chose the story because he liked the pacing and grew “to know the characters, all the while not knowing which to trust or which he liked better.” He also … Continue reading
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Expect It In The Casino by Diane C. Drury, Our Third Place Winner

The recent Writing It Real contest provided the opportunity for people to write about the world around them, send in a draft, receive my responses for help in revising, and then re-enter a revision for our final judge, Betsy Howell. In selecting Diane Drury’s poem “Expect It in the Casino,” Betsy wrote: Not all memoir … Continue reading
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Accepting the Personal in the Personal Essay

Accepting the Personal in the Personal Essay In this week’s “Revision Diary,” I am offering an account of how writer Mary Ann Payne and I worked from a journal entry to a finished essay.  Mary Ann told me that often when she tries to write an essay from a journal entry, she is unhappy with … Continue reading
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Hula Girl

On a cool, partly sunny Port Townsend summer day, I met with a writer’s group whose members have continued to gather and respond to each other’s writing years after meeting each other in a five-week essay writing course. After a lunch of soup, salad and strawberries that we dipped into chocolate (a favorite writing food … Continue reading
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Boating to Breakfast: Evolution of Mary Langer Thompson’s First-Place Winning Poem

In our spring/summer Writing It Real contest, writers and poets sent in writing inspired by the world around them. That’s a broad topic as we might be looking at the world close up and intimately or from afar. In selecting winners in our spring/summer Writing It Real contest, final judge Betsy Howell wrote of Mary … Continue reading
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Revising Older Poems — It’s Never Too Late to Take Another Look

April is National Poetry Month. Feeling a little badly that I hadn’t started new poems to celebrate the month, I decided to look through old files in a computer folder labeled “archived poems.” I had completely forgotten some of the drafts I’d created. When I read them, I thought, “Why hadn’t I stuck to doing … Continue reading
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Editing Your Story: Tight Editing Helps Writers Find the Gold

Finished writing has to sound natural, but it isn’t “just like talking.” When we talk, our listeners are aware that what we are saying is our story. As authors, we send our words out into the world without our gestures and tones of voice. When people read our words, they have to feel that what … Continue reading
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Shall I Fly Away?

We are pleased to post our third-place winning essay in the Writing It Real Winter 2011 contest. Inez Holger’s original entry into the contest sparked a few questions from me about where I wanted to know just a little bit more. Reading through those questions, Inez polished her essay, which contest guest judge Janice Eidus … Continue reading
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Cheating Death

Contest judge Janice Eidus chose “Cheating Death” as a winner in our winter Writing It Real writing contest, saying, “I admire how in succinct fashion the writer authentically captures the painful process of grieving, including the step of moving on.” I am pleased to present the first draft Mary Ann submitted to our no-contest contest … Continue reading
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Five Stars: An Adventure in Amatory Dining

Our guest judge, Janice Eidus, wrote of Alice’s essay: “I admire how the writer uses food as a romantic metaphor in such an original way. Also, the ending is truly an ‘inevitable surprise.'” This week, we share Alice Lowe’s finished essay, followed by an excerpt from the original draft she entered, with my responses. Alice … Continue reading
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Body Language: A Traditional Turkish Bath Experience

This week we are posting the third of our three winners in the fall 2010 Writing It Real contest. Rhonda Wiley-Jones has been a traveler since her teen years and, it seems from her essay, has learned to make good use in her writing of cultural surprises she’s encountered. This article contains the essay she … Continue reading
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Revising Pam Robinson’s Essay “Table of Plenty”

Pam Robinson’s entry into this fall’s Writing It Real contest is an essay about her memories of her mother’s cooking and life on a farm. Pam’s initial entry appears below along with my notes on the text. Pam’s revised entry and our contest judge’s complimentary words follow. With the coming of harvest, my memory takes … Continue reading
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“In The Fragments” by Sindee Ernst

When guest judge Anna Quinn selected Sindee Ernst’s essay as our Winter No-Contest Contest winner, she wrote, “A wonderful piece. Writer uses specific sensory detail beautifully to evoke feelings of leaving one’s childhood home and discovering another. Strong ending.” Sindee wrote back: Thank you so much for this great news. I enjoyed working on that … Continue reading
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“The Cheetah, The Spider and Me” by Gloria Orlando Ives

So often as writers we know we have captured something in our drafts and have brought the work as far as we can at the moment, but sometimes we miss seeing what our writing is leading us toward. That’s when we need an outside reader who can help us identify the core energy in our … Continue reading
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“He Was Surprised And So Was I” by Meg Hannah House

Meg Hannah House won third place in this winter’s Writing It Real No-Contest Contest for her personal essay “He Was Surprised And So Was I”. Our contest was designed so that entrants wrote in response to words they came across in print or heard on TV or the radio or overheard in conversations. All of … Continue reading
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