You: Writing in the Second Person

There are many strong essays and stories written in the second-person point of view. One I’ve come across recently, “Bread” by Margaret Atwood, is especially instructive for its use of scenes to build an argument.  With just the right details of place, situations, and people in those places, the you (who is her character and … Continue reading

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

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

Write Your Own Manifesto

For several years now, I have been interviewing writers, editors, writing program directors and publishers for “In Conversation: Discussions on Writing and the Writing Life,” my regular program on KPTZ FM radio. At Writing It Real, we archive the programs, after they have aired, to maintain permanent links to all of the interviews. Over the … Continue reading

A Way Into Discovering More Than You Knew You Had to Say

William Zinsser edited a book in 1988 called Spiritual Quests: The Art and Craft of Religious Writing. In his introduction to the book, Zinsser states “the act of writing is ultimately a sacrament for both writer and reader.” The act of writing sustains the writer in his or her quest. In writing, spiritual energy seems … Continue reading

Find the Motto Writer Within: Outcomes from the Writing Exercise

A couple of weeks ago, I posted an exercise I call “Find the Motto Writer Within.” Here are three writers’ outcomes from that exercise: The first is by Barbara Furniss, one of the writers I gathered to try out the exercises for A Year in the Life: Journaling for Self-Discovery. The second is by Dorothy Ross, … Continue reading

20 Prompts for Article Writing

Want to write an article for a local publication, an online site or a niche publication in a field of interest to you? Here are some prompts to get you going: Write a tourist type tour of your town for those who live there. Write an idiosyncratic tour of your town for tourists who don’t … Continue reading

23 Prompts for Revising

Author Joyce Carol Oates says, “The pleasure is the rewriting.” Author John Irving says, “More than a half, maybe as much as two-thirds of my life as a writer is rewriting. I wouldn’t say I have a talent that’s special. It strikes me that I have an unusual kind of stamina.” I enjoy revising and … Continue reading

Making Books from Lists Part II: Adam Diament’s Kosher Patents

Adam L. Diament, the author of Kosher Patents: 101 Ingenious Inventions to Help Jews be Jewish, is a practicing patent attorney in Beverly Hills, California. He earned a B.A. in Religious Studies with an Emphasis in Judaism from the University of California, Berkeley in 1997 and a law degree from the University of San Diego … Continue reading

When Digital Isn’t Real: Fact Finding Offline for Serious Writers

When Marlene Samuels found a publisher for her deceased mother’s World War II memoir, The Seamstress: A Memoir of Survival, her editor at Penguin-Berkeley had two conditions. She would have to ensure the accuracy of all the book’s facts (the names of every town and city in Eastern Europe during the early 1900’s up to … Continue reading

A Love Story: Interview with Phyllis M. Washburn on her book Good Morning Sam

Phyllis Washburn sent me a copy of the book she’d written, Good Morning Sam, which includes many of her husband Ralph’s photos. In photos and words, theirs is the story of the mute swan Sam, whom they named when he accepted them as part of his natural world. Over the years, the couple saved Sam … Continue reading

Wash and Shine the Fruit of Your Labor

I believe that we write in three stages–we act as playful inventors on the page, move on to the task of shaping our experience, and finally edit what we have written. Although these stages sometimes overlap a bit, on the whole, they are best thought of as separate. Just as we must never short circuit … Continue reading

Get Real Response to Your Writing from Anyone

We too often receive unhelpful, even harmful, response from first readers of our early drafts. We may feel our writing is being ripped apart or our readers are more interested in fixing punctuation and grammar than in our subject and feelings. Or we may hear, “That’s nice,” which is deflating and doesn’t really help us move deeper into our … Continue reading

Carol Smallwood, Poet, and Anthology Creator Extraordinaire, Tells Us How She Does It

As both an accomplished writer and a career librarian, Carol Smallwood knows a lot about what women ask when they wish to learn about the writing and publishing process. Over the years, I’ve received email invitations from Carol asking for contributions to anthologies whose subjects have rung true as extremely useful for women writers. I … Continue reading

Sand Spirit Cards — A Tool for Writers

Before embarking on a third revision of A New Theology: Turning to Poetry in a Time of Grief, an intense book-length personal narrative, I worked with writer, photographer and shamanic practitioner Pam Hale Trachta for guidance in knowing what I wanted to do in developing my manuscript. Because it is about my son’s death in … Continue reading

On Making Audio Memoirs

Not long ago, Writing It Real member Dorothy Ross wrote to me about her newest project — recording the narratives she’s written about her life for her family to have in the form of audio files. I listened to a few of them and was so pleased to hear her physical voice. I immediately wanted … Continue reading

Clearing Out Publishing Brain Fog

Some of us write and don’t allow ourselves to even think we will publish because it seems out of our reach; others of us worry about publishing way too early, and, therefore, don’t write what we might. Writing comes first, of course, and that means writing what you have in you to write and need to write. When … Continue reading

Poet, Author and Writing Community Builder Esther Altshul Helfgott on Two New Books and Her Writing Life

Esther Helfgott’s life-long writing habit helped her weather her husband Abe’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s and the grief of slowly losing their thirty-year partnership. Using writing as a tool to handle this profound life change, she created the moving memoir, Dear Alzheimer’s: A Caregiver’s Diary & Poems. When her husband Abe died, she began writing the … Continue reading

What Have We Here: A Conversation with Susan Bono About Her New Collection of Essays

For writer and small press publisher (Tiny Lights) Susan Bono, the last thirty years have mostly been about trying to stay ahead of a husband, growing kids, aging parents, and an eccentric old house, in spite of detours, deadlines, unexpected changes, and inevitable losses. But through it all, she’s been taking notes. In her collection of … Continue reading

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