“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

Continue reading

The Annual Christmas Dress Shopping Trip

This week, I am sharing my developmental editing responses to another Honorable Mention essay in our Summer 2009 No-Contest Contest. You’ll see Karen B. Call’s original contest entry, my written responses to her work and then her revised essay. You’ll see the benefit of reader response that encourages writers to invite more detail into their … Continue reading

Continue reading

Tenderness and Meat Loaf

Continuing in our revision diary category posts, this week we are sharing an essay by Jack Shea, one of two essays that our guest judge Brenda Miller chose as honorable mention in our recent contest. My developmental editing comments inserted into Jack’s entry and Jack’s re-entered revision for our Writing It Real Fall 2009 No-Contest … Continue reading

Continue reading

The Berry Patch

Reading the draft Joyce sent to us for the Fall 2009 Writing It Real No-Contest Contest and the tweaked version, you’ll see an example of the importance of polish editing. Although an essay might be “all there” on the page, rearranging some paragraphs and tweaking the ending can make a huge difference in the effect … Continue reading

Continue reading

Porch Swings

In this article, we present Lisa Kee’s winning essay from our Fall 2009 No-Contest Contest. Each entrant submitted an essay, which I read and responded to. All entrants had the opportunity to revise their essays after reading my comments and re-submit. Our guest judge, Brenda Miller, author of Season of the Body and Blessing of … Continue reading

Continue reading

Julie Barker’s First Place Essay Overturned

In this article, we present Julie Barker’s winning essay from our Fall 2009 No-Contest Contest. Each entrant submitted an essay, which I read and responded to. All entrants had the opportunity to revise their essays after reading my comments and re-submit. Our guest judge, Brenda Miller, author of Season of the Body and Blessing of … Continue reading

Continue reading

“Walking to School” by Nancy Kane

“Walking to School” is an essay that is very close to being completely satisfying. I want to share the essay and the comments I sent Nancy in our recent No-Contest Contest to provide the experience of workshopping an essay using the three-step response method I advocate. I believe that as we become skilled at offering … Continue reading

Continue reading

Incognito Street: How Travel Made Me A Writer by Barbara Sjoholm

Barbara Sjoholm‘s memoir in essays, Incognito Street: How Travel Made Me a Writer, Seal Press, 2006, evokes a 1970s-style Bohemian travel life and will arouse memories in many readers. Those who knew they wanted to write when they were young will remember the way they looked at the world, what they saw and felt. And … Continue reading

Continue reading

Getting to the Details

I am fortunate to have the opportunity to work with people in developing their essays. Writing It Real subscriber Beth Einstein entered our spring essay contest and recently took me up on my offer to work with her essay for a Revision Diary article. I thank Beth for her continuing work on her entry (the … Continue reading

Continue reading

The House of the Seven Gambles – Revised

When I judged Mary Ann Payne’s essay submitted for Writing It Real’s first 2006 personal essay contest as our runner up, I wrote to her with comments about her ending and ideas for strengthening it.   Here is the essay she submitted followed by those comments and Mary Anne’s revision: The House of Seven Gambles By … Continue reading

Continue reading

Relying on the Lyric

On July 8, 2004, I posted an instructional exercise article, “Put Summer on the Page,” encouraging writers to use the opening of Ray Bradbury’s novel Dandelion Wine for inspiration in writing their own memories. Recently, I worked with Michelle Vanstrom on the writing she created from the exercise, which yielded a moving eulogy to her … Continue reading

Continue reading

Medicare Essay

This year Marlee Millman wrote an essay to read to her family and friends who were gathering to celebrate her 65th birthday in her hometown of Chicago. She was excited and wanted to have a speech prepared. She emailed me: Hi Sheila, Here’s the beginning of my essay on meeting Medicare. It’s hard to believe … Continue reading

This post is only available to members.
Continue reading

An Inland Navy

In last week’s article I reviewed Natalie Goldberg’s The Great Failure: A Bartender, a Monk, and My Unlikely Path to Truth. Near the end of the book, when Goldberg’s elderly father, who’d been operated on for colon cancer, sits down to hamburgers with her at a restaurant, my back bristled.  In my opinion, the author … Continue reading

This post is only available to members.
Continue reading

Writing It Real Subscribers’ Braided Poem

In May, I posted an article called “Coaxing Imaginative Awareness,” in which I reviewed Braided Creek: A Conversation in Poetry by Jim Harrison and Ted Kooser.  After reading the review, some Writing It Real subscribers teamed up to work on creating braided verse inspired by the results of these two poets.  One of these teams, … Continue reading

This post is only available to members.
Continue reading

The Development of a Poem by Betty Shafer

When Betty Shafer sent me the following poem for help in revising it, I read it and found something haunting stayed with me after I read the lines. Look Again We return to find our land barren Weeds choking walls and fences And silent rotting houses. But when we look again we see Ruby red … Continue reading

This post is only available to members.
Continue reading

On the Development of the Poem “Under Cover of Green”

Shortly after I posted the September 11, 2003 instructional exercise for Writing It Real, subscriber Christine Robinson sent me some writing of hers that resulted from using the exercise.  In this week’s article, I want to show you what she wrote and how she developed the draft, which she thought resembled a prose poem, into … Continue reading

This post is only available to members.
Continue reading

Revising the Poem “A Different Christmas”

When Karen Rippstein wrote to me that she wanted my help in shaping a poem from a prose piece she had written about a specific Christmas with her daughter, I was intrigued. Most of the people I’ve worked with bring poems or essays and want to stick with the genre while revising.  But after writing … Continue reading

This post is only available to members.
Continue reading

Suzan Huney’s “Choice Bits”

At a writing conference workshop on developing the personal essay, Suzan Huney read the draft of an essay spawned by thumbing through her address book.  Her musings on the people she found in her book led to memories of her grandmother’s address book and then to consulting it directly. As she continued her drafting process, … Continue reading

Continue reading

Finished Essay: “When Love is All You Have”

The only thing that distinguished this particular examining room from dozens like it was the huge wall chart of hearts in all manner of disease and disarray.  The rest of the room was familiar and predictable – high narrow table sitting cattycorner, white enamel cabinets with boxes of disposable gloves and canisters of gauze in … Continue reading

This post is only available to members.
Continue reading