Interview with Jennifer Jamieson Woods About Writing Her Autobiographical Novel No Guarantees

Last week, we posted Chapter 40 of Jennifer Jamieson Woods’ autobiographical novel No Guarantees.  This week’s post is an interview with the author about writing the novel she needed to write. Sheila Jennifer, thank you for sharing the story of writing No Guarantees as well as Chapter 40 from the book for Writing It Real … Continue reading

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A Reading and a Print Interview with What Love Feels Like Authors Dave Cunningham and C.K.Tyler

I am delighted to introduce authors Dave Cunningham and C.K. Tyler who have collaborated on a newly published novel entitled What Loves Feels Like: The Dawn of Human 2.0. In the video below and the Q&A following, the two speak to their experience of writing the book in collaboration and its short journey to publication. … Continue reading

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Marketing Conversation with Marcella Smith, Publishing Coach and Career Book Buyer

This month’s article is a video of a discussion many of us have been waiting for! I am talking with Marcella Smith, publishing consultant and Barnes and Noble career book buyer. In our conversation, Marcella fills in gaps for us in our understanding of how book representation works. With this knowledge, we are equipped to … Continue reading

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Maya Smith’s Description of How She is Writing Reclaiming Venus: The Many Lives of Alvenia Bridges

Maya Angela Smith is an associate professor of Francophone studies at the University of Washington, Seattle with a PhD in Romance Languages and Linguistics from UC Berkeley. Her scholarship broadly focuses on the intersection of race, language, and mobility among marginalized groups in the African diaspora, particularly in the postcolonial francophone world, seen most notably in her academic monograph Senegal … Continue reading

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How and Why We Write

The Writing It Real March 2020 article is a compilation of writings by Writing It Real members on a topic dear to our hearts–how and why we write. EBook Formats We have 3 different formats. Which ones you choose depends on how you intend to read the anthology. Print on Paper If you want to … Continue reading

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Excerpt From Molly Tinsley’s Novel Things Too Big to Name, Followed by a Q&A wth the Author

This spring, thrilled to be reading a new novel by Molly Best Tinsley, both a teaching colleague and Writing It Real contributor, I was even more thrilled to have found a novel that I could not put down from the moment I began reading to the moment I read the very last word on the … Continue reading

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Writing the Emotionally Important Scenes

A Princeton professor I once read while for some reason I had no pen or device to record his name and the name of the article wrote that when we read a novel we are speeding up time as one book can contain may days, months, and years. But when we write, he said, we … 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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Listening to Writers–New, Emerging and Well-Published

Every month, two of my 30-minute interviews with writers air on  KPTZ 91.9 FM. Over many years now, I have interviewed not only well-published poets, journalists, novelists, memoirists and other creative nonfiction writers, but those who are at the beginnings of their writing lives or have just had their work accepted by literary journals and … 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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Keeping a Travel Journal You Love, Part 2 from Tarn Wilson

NINE TRAVEL JOURNALING EXERCISES Exercise 1 – Ask For What You WantAs one of my first entries, I set goals or ask for what I want from a trip. The activities are slightly different: setting goals implies I have the power to make the trip successful by defining my vision and making conscious choices.  Asking … 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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Keeping a Travel Journal You Love, Part 1

[Summer often means travel and/or entertaining guests who have traveled to see you. Often times, we think of this as taking time away from our writing, but keeping a travel journal can keep us writing during our travels and during others’ visits to see us. I find no better advice on keeping a travel journal … Continue reading

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Moving Your Reader in Time and Space

How do we move our writing and characters in time and space without slowing our readers down and certainly without confusing them? We must learn to stop doing what I call “taking the reader down the hall,” filling in the whole journey, every bare light bulb hanging from the ceiling and every crack in the … Continue reading

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Hey, Writing-in-Progress — Will You Be My Valentine?

The relationship began three winters ago. Driving a country road in the early dusk, I hit a deer–or as a knowledgeable friend suggested afterward, a deer hit me. A buck with branching antlers leaped from the trees on one side of the road, attacked the hood of my car with an ear-splitting crunch, then disappeared … 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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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

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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Writing Toward a Clearer, More Centered Self Involves Poetry But Don’t Be Afraid!

Writing poetry, no matter what genre you usually work in, is truly an experience of re-creating a self. In writing poems from experience and from meditative and reflective moments, you become the maker of something that builds increased intimacy with your truest self. From this intimacy, you grow by creating a self that is more … 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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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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Taking Inspiration from Allen Ginsberg’s Poems to Have My Say

Tuesday, as I waited for election returns, I thought of Allen Ginsberg’s poem “Howl,” written in 1955, so full of despair at what he had seen around him. I wondered what I would howl when I found out whether or not Democrats had gained a majority in the House of Representatives and, therefore, become able … 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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Hiring the Journal Keeper (and/or the Writer Within)

  …the heart…and the learned skills of the conscious mind… make appointments with each other, and keep them, and something begins to happen. Mary OliverA Poetry Handbook Whether you are someone who sets out to write poems, essays, stories or articles or keeps journals, the thinking and analogy I make in this excerpt from my … Continue reading

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From The Writer’s Portable Mentor: What About Self-Publishing?

Essayist, nonfiction author and poet Priscilla Long has given me permission to share an excerpt from her recently released new edition of her already classic book for writers, The Writer’s Portable Mentor. All of Priscilla’s advice is clear and sound. I am grateful for the opportunity to share some of her thinking with Writing It … 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 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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Author Experiences with Book Titles

Have you had a difficult time finding a title for your work? Needed help from others or resented help from others when you thought your title was just right? Here are 12 stories by 12 writers about how titling worked for them. I think you’ll enjoy the read and realize that there are two kinds … Continue reading

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Crafting Stories for Children (and Adults)

This week’s article by Nancy Lamb is a repost from 2008. It includes information on easy readers as well as on shaping other stories for children (or for any reader, really).  Nancy Lamb, author of The Writer’s Guide to Crafting Stories for Children, has edited many books by those hoping to enter the young adult … Continue reading

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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

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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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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

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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

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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, a … Continue reading

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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The Interview: A Way to Write More Complex Characters in Your Memoir

Often when I try to write about my mother the same details surface. In my childhood memories she is always busy either working or participating on different committees; when she is home she is tired and does not like to cook. Now that I am an adult, my mother and I talk on the telephone … Continue reading

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Interview With Memoirist Tarn Wilson, Part II: The Art of Remembering

Last week we posted the first part of my interview with Tarn Wilson about her memoir The Slow Farm. Tarn and I talked about how she used artifacts to reconstruct the past and how she structured her book. This week Tarn and I discuss the art of remembering. Tarn tells us about how she finds … Continue reading

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Interview with Memoirist Tarn Wilson, Part I: Reconstructing the Past

I am a person who saves things, from the obviously important letter my father wrote me right before he passed away to the “might need it someday” notes from middle school. I have shoeboxes of unorganized photographs, rocks and shells from past trips sit on my bookshelves, and, rolled in a back closet corner, sit … Continue reading

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Interview with Bonnie Rough on Her Book Carrier: Untangling the Danger in My DNA

Bonnie Rough’s memoir, Carrier, which won the 2011 Minnesota Book Award, includes extensive research via family stories, interviews, pictures, legal records, letters, and more, but it is her compassionate portrayal of her grandfather, Earl, who passed away soon after her birth, that keeps readers turning pages. He lived with hypohidrotic ectodermal dysplasia (HED), a genetic … Continue reading

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Interview with Memoirist Sue William Silverman

I am pleased to publish this interview with award winning memoirist Sue William Silverman about the writing of her newest memoir and her advice to those of us who write from personal experience. The Pat Boone Fan Club: My Life as a White Anglo-Saxon Jew, follows two earlier memoirs, Because I Remember Terror, Father, I … Continue reading

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Need to Breathe New Life into the Journal Keeping Habit? Hire the Journal Keeper Within

It’s spring — we’ll be getting busy with outdoor chores, vacations and other summer activities before long. Less time for writing, you might be thinking. But an effective way to keep up your writing is to commit to keeping a writer’s journal where you can explore language, memories, writing ideas and more. But when in … Continue reading

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Celebrate National Poetry Month by Writing Poems! Yes, Even If You Think You Can’t!

National Poetry Month started yesterday. This week’s article is an oldie but goodie, originally published in 2007 and updated for 2014. In Port Townsend, the daffodils have been up several weeks. As usual out here, it looks like we’ll get rain this next week and certainly lots during the month of April, but I remind … Continue reading

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Where Does Creativity Start?

You may think that being creative requires that you have an idea for a finished product. But an important attribute of creativity is that it produces what it will, not necessarily what you were thinking it ought to. You may think creativity requires completing laborious hours of work. But many people experience creativity seeming to … Continue reading

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On Writing From Life

Our writing contest guest judge, Molly Tinsley, is now reading and making her selections of three contest winners in the recent Writing It Real contest. While we are waiting for the results, we are reprinting her article about writing memoir. It appeared orignally in the November 2013 issue of Author magazine.  Molly’s words on writing from … Continue reading

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Our Writing Minds Depend on This

Writing depends on our willingness to observe closely and our ability to allow ourselves to engage emotionally with what we are observing. So often, though, we don’t remember to take time to look around rather than look only at our screens because of the mad crush of email, texts, instant messages, facebook posts, tweets, and … Continue reading

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That Crazy Little Thing, a Novel that Tackles What’s Big for a Writer and Her Characters

That Crazy Little Thing a debut novel by Kate Bracy has garnered wonderful reviews from readers and critics because of the author’s writing, the way she has developed her characters and how they explore issues of love — between friends, parents and their children, and adults looking for partners who understand them. Following Kate’s answers … 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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Writer Tells All – A Narrative About Self-publishing

Are you thinking of self-publishing and wondering what the process is like? It never hurts to hear from one who has successfully navigated the process. With humor and self-awareness, Rhonda Wiley-Jones takes us on her journey as writer turned self-publisher. Reading her narrative is like sitting in the chair next to her. When she’s done … Continue reading

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From Idea to Publication: Rhonda Wiley-Jones on Her Memoir Project

When Writing It Real member Rhonda Wiley-Jones published her travel/coming-of-age memoir, parts of which she had worked on through Writing It Real contests and editorial help, I was eager to hear what she’d learned in her process of moving from the initial essays to a book-length manuscript. What follows are her interesting and thoughtful replies … Continue reading

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On Writing the Eulogy

As writers, we are frequently the ones asked to write eulogies for friends and family members. Even if we are not asked, we may feel moved to write eulogies to honor those we loved and then to share our writing with a literary audience. Reading author David Reich’s eulogy for his father and considering the … Continue reading

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Everyday Book Marketing for Authors

On September 29, 2013, Midge Raymond is participating in the launch of Adventure by the Book’s Author Academy in San Diego. Adventures by the Book, founded by Susan McBeth, offers worldwide opportunities for readers to connect with authors’ travel and events. The Author Academy, an ongoing series of monthly events for authors, is a new … Continue reading

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Look, Listen, Touch, Smell, Taste: 7 More Ideas for Your Writer’s Journal

There is a pleasure in the thought that the particular tone of my mind at this moment may be new in the universe; that the emotions of this hour may be peculiar and unexampled in the whole of eternity of moral being. — Ralph Waldo Emerson, April 17, 1827, Charleston, South Carolina How can you … 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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Writing Important Life Occasions

Our lives present us with births, deaths, marriages, anniversaries, and other beginnings and endings. The following prompts excerpted from A Year in the Life: Journaling For Self-Discovery can help us focus our attention on our joy or grief and keep us from the stumbling block of thinking too hard instead of just writing for awhile. Birthdays … Continue reading

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Judith Kitchen on Reading as a Writer Reads Part 2

Applying her method of reading as a writer reads to Pam Houston’s Contents May Have Shifted, Judith Kitchen asks, “So is this memoir, masked as novel? Or novel, masked as memoir? That’s one of the first questions that a reader of this book asks. “What does it matter?” you might venture.   Here is our guest author’s explanation. Reading … Continue reading

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Judith Kitchen on Reading as a Writer Reads Part 1

For our community read this past March 2013, the librarians in Port Townsend, where I live, chose Pam Houston’s novel Contents May Have Shifted, a story, they felt to be about love and freedom in middle age, something dear to the hearts of many in this community. At the top of the month the library … Continue reading

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The Practice of Productivity

This week, I am pleased to re-post an excerpt from writer Priscilla Long’s excellent text The Writer’s Portable Mentor: A Guide to Art, Craft, and the Writing Life. I heartily agree with the many readers who find the book one of the most accessible, thorough and useful writing guides they’ve read. We can all benefit … Continue reading

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In May I Rush to Use Sensory Details

As adults, we are so used to summarizing and editorializing. We have learned that abstractions are considered “smart” in writing and having opinions makes us sound even smarter. That’s what our teachers wanted from us on papers and on essay tests. But creative writing, whether that is in poetry, fiction, personal essay or in longer … Continue reading

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Writing the Situations Life Throws Your Way – An Interview with Thelma Zirkelbach

Former romance writer Thelma Zirkelback has two books out now (and a blog) on the subject of widowhood, one an anthology she co-edited of writings by women who have coped with their new life situation (On Our Own: Widowhood for Smarties) and the other a memoir about her interfaith marriage and and the loss of … Continue reading

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Change It Up: Trying New Forms Encourages the Writing Mind

“Grandma, do you know what limericks are? I wrote one today. Do you want to hear it?” my 11-year-old grandson Toby asked after telling me about a guest poet’s visit to his fifth grade classroom. Of course, I wanted to hear it. Toby recited: In the Sounds of the Night In the sounds of the … Continue reading

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On Writing and Publishing Poetic Memoir, An Interview

Nancy Smiler Levinson set herself the goal of writing about what she was living through during her husband’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. The result was a powerful, filled with love, and ultimately affirming memoir, all in free verse, Moments of Dawn: a poetic memoir of love & family, affliction & admiration.  A professional writer for decades, Nancy … Continue reading

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Facilitate Poetry’s Ulterior Purpose

April is National Poetry Month. That means nationwide, the month of April is filled with even larger numbers of poetry related events than other months of the year. Hopefully, reading about them in your local newspapers and on websites will encourage you to attend, and listening to poets will spark your interest in participating in … Continue reading

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He’s Over Sixty and He’s a Rapper! Interview with Robert Komishane

Robert Komishane is a Port Townsend, WA poet who turned in middle age to rap and hiphop for inspiration when he wanted to switch from writing free verse to writing in form. Four and a half year’s later, he’s still having fun and gaining attention for his efforts. I interviewed Robert via email to learn … Continue reading

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Five Tips for Inspiring Quality Writing from Life Experience

Tip #1 — Find An Occasion Poet Stanley Plumly says that poems must weigh more at the end than they do at the beginning. As with poetry, the personal essay and memoir supply a vehicle for writers to find out what matters and to feel the weight of what matters. As writers, we take ourselves, and … Continue reading

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Taking Chances

After years of writing, editing, publishing authors and teaching, Jack Heffron knows why we get stuck and how to work around that and back into our material. He’ll be teaching with Meg Files and Sheila Bender at our Writing It Real in Nashville April 25-28 conference. Join us for a chance to work with Jack as … Continue reading

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A Children’s Book From the Heart: Interview with Penny Holland

Creating stories to delight children and help them understand sophisticated social concepts is a primary objective of children’s book authors. But it is often hard to cut to the essence of situations in language children understand. Penny Claire Holland had the story for a children’s picture book many years ago, but let her manuscript sit … Continue reading

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Authornomics Interview with Sheila Bender

Authornomics is an author interview series created by Andrea Hurst and Associates agency. The August 16, 2012 interview I did for the series was chosen as one of their year’s best. The many good questions the agents there asked gave me the opportunity to discuss writing and the writing life in ways meaningful to me. … Continue reading

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Lasting Impressions – Excerpt from The Art and Craft of Storytelling

Author Nancy Lamb has published two books on writing fiction with Writer’s Digest Books, The Art and Craft of Storytelling: A Comprehenisve Guide to Classic Writing Techniques, from which we present an excerpt this week, as well as The Writer’s Guide to Crafting Stories for Children. She is a master at explaining the elements of … Continue reading

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Navigating the Online Publishing and Promotion World

Over the last years, it has become respectable and even desirable to publish online and in ebook format. Traditional publishers, now often called legacy publishers, are scrambling to figure out how to survive in the digital age. With the mushrooming of digital opportunities, websites, publicists and book industry people are dedicated to helping authors find quality … Continue reading

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Judging the Personal Essay

In 2007, I wrote about the way I judge essays in a contest. As Writing It Real members enter their work for our 2013 Fall contest, I am reposting my thoughts on the judging process. When I judge, I separate judging into three steps and view the roles I take on, first of friend, then of … Continue reading

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What Is Fantasy Fiction?

Fantasy author Brian Rush’s article on writing for the fantasy fiction audience is filled with the history of the genre. He helps us see that even if we don’t think we like reading fantasy fiction or don’t ever write it, we actually have some experience with this, in truth, very old genre. Brian’s article is … Continue reading

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For Those Who Want to Experience a Writing Retreat

Susan Rich is a veteran of many writing retreats and served on the selection committee for Hedgebrook Writers’ Retreat. If you are interested in finding a writer’s retreat to spend some time away from home in an environment conducive to writing and sharing your work with other artists in residence, you’ll be interested in poet … Continue reading

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Writing Memoir and Poetry, Studying with Mentors and Peers: Interview with Anne McDuffie, Recent MFA Low Residency Program Graduate

Have you wondered about the value of MFA programs or wanted to learn what the MFA candidates learn? Here’s an opportunity to receive enrichment from a recent MFA candidate’s experience–Anne has offered loads of links to journals and writers you will want to know about. Sheila I am pleased by the opportunity to talk with … Continue reading

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The Non-Writing Writer

When Writing It Real member Jean Erler sent me the following essay as part of work she wanted to further develop, I knew that Writing It Real members would relate to what she was describing, a stance we writers take all too often toward our role as authors. I helped Jean polish the essay, and I … Continue reading

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Remedies for Writer’s Envy

In her blog on her writer’s life,  the author of When the de la Cruz Family Danced shares her personal approach to dealing with what she calls “writer’s envy.”  Whether you have published or are seeking to publish, it is not hard to identify with what Donna reveals. Writing takes a lot of energy and … Continue reading

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There are Limits

There is a place for essays of every length in the world of creative nonfiction. Susan Bono, publisher and editor of  Tiny Lights: A Journal of Personal Narrative, offers us some thoughts on writing short personal essays as well as examples of her own.  Noticing what subjects appeal to you and how you place yourself … Continue reading

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Experience at a Writers’ Conference on the State of Publishing

At every writer’s workshop and class I teach, participants ask about self-publishing and publishing with established presses. Here’s novelist and short fiction writer Donna Miscolta’s blog piece on being in the midst of learning what presses and agents are saying and how writers seem to be feeling in the midst of it all. When I … Continue reading

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Turning Interests into Books

I enjoy exchanging information with those I meet, especially about books and writing. A summer day at the beach with my youngest grandson Rafe led to discovering an interesting writer and later to learning her writing and publishing story. My five-year-old grandson Rafe wanted to connect with two little girls he’d met at camp who … Continue reading

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Raspberry Picking

I’ve been teaching several classes this month that concentrate on moving writing forward by using details–specific images that come in through the senses–and by receiving first reader response to drafts. That made me think of posting Chapter Eight from Writing In a New Convertible with the Top Down, a book I co-authored years ago with … Continue reading

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Self-Editing Tips

Several years ago, I wrote Perfect Phrases for College Application Essays, a book for high school students. No two application essays should be alike, so the “perfect phrases” refers to phrases useful for researching oneself for subjects to write about and phrases useful for making transitions. I learned quite a lot in deconstructing the essay … Continue reading

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An Interview with Danica Davidson

I often hear from people eager to share their experience as writers with Writing It Real subscribers. I write back to them all with interest in how their experience can clarify aspects of the writing life as well as inspire others to add to their lives as writers. When Danica told me her story, I … 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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The Importance of Choosing Your Scenes and Turning Points

Because we experience life chronologically, without a clear beginning, middle or end, memoirists tend to write in an episodic way — “this happened, then that happened, and after that… ” — and are often overwhelmed by a huge array of memories and details. When deluged by details and feelings, it’s difficult to sort out what … 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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Keep Your Perspective

[We continue this week with more sage advice from a talented memoir author and psychotherapist who has guided many in writing their life stories. We think you will make good use of her idea for moving ahead even when your material seems too difficult. –Ed.]  When we write memoir, we try to capture real life … Continue reading

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Interview with Jan Vallone

I am pleased to post this interview with author Jan Vallone, whose memoir excerpt  “Perspective” appeared as our article last week. It is always a pleasure to correspond with authors about their experience, process, hopes, desires, disappointments and successes and Jan’s descriptions of herself as a goal oriented new writer will resonate for many. SheilaJan, … Continue reading

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Searching for the Writing Life

[This essay appeared in The Summerset Review in 2005. The honesty of the author as she investigates her post-MFA-in-Creative-Writing life will resonate with many of us who dream of a life in which our writing is our main focus, a life in which the time we spend working is on behalf of our writing, which … Continue reading

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Who Keeps Journals?

I recently came across notes I’d taken while working on The Writer’s Journal: 40 Writers and Their Journals. I’d long relished the journals of Emerson and Thoreau and liked reading about how the transcendentalists, including Louisa May Alcott, shared their journals with one another. But when I solicited the poet Henri Cole as a contributor … Continue reading

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Write an Ending Your Readers Will Savor

A saying goes: Readers pick your current novel if you impress them on the first page, and they’ll buy your next novel if you wow them on the last page. Though all readers enjoy an impressive beginning, the impact of a strong ending can’t be overlooked. Think back to the experience of finishing the last … Continue reading

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The Greatest Block of All

This week’s article by British author Jo Parfitt recounts the story of her early writing success and extracts the elements of that success for others to emulate. Getting a book published does not have to depend on who you know (although publishing contacts are always helpful, of course!) and if you graduated from a writing … Continue reading

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Exactly How to Write the Narrative Essay

[This essay was adapted by the author from her book Naked, Drunk and Writing: Writing Essays and Memoirs for Love and for Money] For all its charm and sometimes apparent aimlessness, an essay has a skeleton, an underlying structure that makes it work. Often it’s the age-old structure of a story. By “story” I don’t … Continue reading

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Creating Voice in Poetry and Prose

Voice is one the most essential features of successful writing; if we fail to create an authentic, credible voice in our work, that work will fail — in spite of other virtues it may have. However, voice is often referred to as something elusive and indefinable. In their book, A Poet’s Companion, Kim Addonizio and … Continue reading

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Build Your Writing Life

When I think about how I began cultivating my writer’s life, I realize had been doing so even before I knew what I was doing. But once it began a more conscious process, about a year later, I became overwhelmed. I didn’t know writers’ jargon or the prerequisites for developing into an accomplished writer. I … Continue reading

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A New Way to Publish

This article appeared on May 26 2008 among the article archive on the valuable NAWW.org website. Having met Penny several years ago at the Whidbey Island Writer’s Conference, I already admired her energy and support for writers. Her information in this article is just as encouraging for those considering self-publishing as a way of finding … Continue reading

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Glimmer Train Comes Through

Earlier this year, I submitted a story to Glimmer Train, a fine literary magazine that boasts, “Each quarterly issue presents about 260 pages of literary fiction—eight to twelve brand new stories by luminaries and fresh new voices making their way into print. A feast of fiction!” My story wasn’t accepted, but receiving the editor’s copyrighted … Continue reading

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The Story of a Century in the Pacific Northwest

If you’ve been identified as the one in your family, neighborhood or group of colleagues who writes, you may find yourself called upon to create writing for projects you hadn’t imagined setting out to do. One such request could be to put together an oral history. This week, novelist and writer Kit Bakke shares her … Continue reading

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Learning the Art of Public Speaking Can Help Writers

People have told me that fear of public speaking ranks high among the biggest fears we have. I know from my experience as a poet and writer who has given and attended readers for almost 30 years, that reading our writing before others, whether as open mic participants, workshop members or featured readers, gives us … Continue reading

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21 Free Gifts from the Virtual World

After all the gift giving, charitable donations and holiday trips away this time of year, you’ll find the free resources listed below particularly attractive. Each link has inspiration and information to help you fill the well of your creativity. Stock up and let the generosity of writers, editors and publishers help you make and keep … Continue reading

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2007 Bedell Nonfiction Now

On November 1-4, I attended the Bedell Nonfiction Now Conference at the University of Iowa. The conference’s mission is to explore the history, present, and future of nonfiction in its myriad forms, and, as you might expect, the conference was packed with excellent panels, speakers, and readings focused on personal experience writing. Thursday November 1, … Continue reading

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Creating A Lyric Essay Using the Interview Approach

I spent my summer writing a book called Perfect Phrases for Writing the College Application Essay. My effort was to come up with sentences (sometimes questions, sometimes statements) to help those who have to write the application essay focus and draw specific details from their experience and then organize the details into compelling personal statements. … Continue reading

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What Keeps Us Writing?

Most of us writers collect quotes from writers on writing. Whether we hang them above our desks, write them in journals, put them in our email signatures, or use them as epigraphs for our own writing, they remind us of what we find most important about writing and encourage us to keep on writing, even … Continue reading

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Figuratively Speaking: A Perception of Resemblances

Last week we discussed poems in Rebecca McClanahan’s impressive collection, Deep Light. This week, we hear from her as a skillful user of figurative language and enjoy the exceptional opportunity to learn how to stretch our metaphor making muscles. The following work is an abridged version of Chapter 5 from Word Painting: A Guide to … Continue reading

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About the Three-Step Response

Reprinted with permission of Writer’s Digest Books from Writing Personal Essays: How to Shape Your Life Experiences for the Page by Sheila Bender, Writer’s Digest Books, 1995 About The Three-Step Response To help the writer understand what kind of contact his or her writing makes, my responsibility as a reader of the work is to: … Continue reading

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Putting Life Experience on the Page

I’m reading over 70 personal essays about rich human experience. The essays that came to us as entries in our contest are having a great impact on me. As I read, I move among countries, among ages, among decades and among social groups. I learn about topics new to me and revisit familiar ones with … Continue reading

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On Lurches and Launches: Narrative of a Book Launch

Everyone wants to help. Everyone has advice. My audiences split along the divide of wanting to know more about Louisa May Alcott, wanting to know more about me or wanting to know more about the genesis of the book (that’s what I get for inventing a new genre, the “bio-memoir”). Some people also feel compelled … Continue reading

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Keeping Your Computer Organized

A month ago, when I asked Writing It Real subscribers if they would like an article on technical computer issues writers face, there was a big response. Almost all the comments were about hard drive organization: Any tips you can give, sequentially and logically, to organize my hard drive would indebt me to you forever. … Continue reading

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Overcoming Writing Inertia

Recently, I read Writing Brave & Free: Encouraging Words for People Who Want to Start Writing by Steve Cox and Ted Kooser to learn how they encourage others who want to write. As always with books on writing, I am on the look out for sparks that ignite the exercise-making part of my brain.  In … Continue reading

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Keeping a Writer’s Journal

Writers write. A journal is way to do that, without knowing where you are going with the writing, to unload thoughts, obsessions, insights and observations, and sometimes to imitate other writers, seeing how your perceptions might come across in the voice and sentence structures of those they admire. Sometimes you can imagine your writing addressed … Continue reading

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27 More Tips for Writers (76-102)

If you don’t know how to start a piece of writing about a person, try remembering something that person believed. Write that belief out and attribute it to the person. What can you write that bounces off of those words? (You can do this when you have a non-personal subject, too, by starting with a … Continue reading

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25 More Tips for Writers (51-75)

Always take some time to read what you are writing aloud after you have finished a draft. Note the places that are hard to say or seem to go flat or inspire you. Try taking out the flat spots, extending the inspired spots and rewriting the hard-to-say-out-loud spots– the difficult places often require more or … Continue reading

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Working with a Free-Lance Editor or Book Doctor

 The following essay is one of a collection of 39 essays by distinguished editors about the practical and theoretical aspects of publishing that appear in Editors on Editing:  What Writers Need to Know About What Editors Do, edited by Jerry Gross, Grove/Atlantic, 1993.  It is reprinted with permission of the author. When should a writer … Continue reading

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Secrets to the Success of Motivational Speakers Might Help Us Succeed as Writers

Writing in BOOK PROMOTION newsletter, Francine shares the following quotes and biographical information about four dynamic motivational speakers and book authors: “Whatever your mind can conceive and believe it can achieve.” Napoleon Hill (1883-1970) “You become what you think about.” Earl Nightingale (1921-1989) “You can have everything in life that you want if you will … Continue reading

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Getting Your Writing Past Contest Screening Judges

About seven years ago, Sheila agreed to judge a personal essay contest for a writing magazine. Her task was to choose and rank the ten top essays among the submissions. Told to expect about 1,000 essays, she was surprised when 3,500 showed up at our door with only three weeks to choose the winners. I … Continue reading

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Book Packagaing: Under-Explored Terrain for Book Free-Lancers

This article was originally published by Writer’s Digest Magazine.  Reprinted here with the permission of the author. I’m willing to bet my favorite pen that most people who are reading this have no idea what a book packager is. Until I worked for one, I didn’t know they existed, either. Book packaging is a quiet … Continue reading

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Writing is a Wave in the Mind

I am a young schoolgirl watching the early dark fill my bedroom windows. I sit at a small drop leaf desk doing vocabulary homework, folding paper long ways in half and writing the date in whichever upper corner the teacher has asked me to. By now I’ve heard stories about Plato and Socrates. Thinking about … Continue reading

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25 More Tips for Writers (26-50)

To write a good character, you have to imagine that you live in the character’s body and listen for his or her inner voice. Ask the character you are inventing what secret he or she most wants to keep.  Decide if the story you write will reveal that secret or just inform the characters gestures, … Continue reading

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Why You Get Form Rejection Letters

At every conference I teach, participants commiserate about rejection notices– not only about getting them but about the insulting nature of their standardized messages. Occasionally, someone has a story of a personalized rejection or of actually having received suggestions from an editor on the rejection slip. Usually, though, the talk ends the same way–wall paper … Continue reading

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Making a Daybook into Creative Non-Fiction

In March, 2005, Sarah Dickerson and I were on a panel along with Boise State University’s Karen Uehling and San Francisco writer Steven Winn in which we addressed attendees at the National Council of Teachers of English’s Conference on College Composition and Communication about using journaling in the classroom. I asked Sarah if she would … Continue reading

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Do Not Betray Yourself or Your Community

…if you do not express your own original ideas, if you do not listen to your own being, you will have betrayed yourself. Also you will have betrayed our community in failing to make your contribution to the whole. — Rollo May, The Courage to Create It’s National Poetry Month and time to rededicate ourselves … Continue reading

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Pitch Perfect

This material was originally published in the Making the Perfect Pitch: How to Catch a Literary Agent’s Eye, edited by Katharine Sands Pitch Perfectby Jandy Nelson Years ago, I received a query letter that began: “I am a Vietnamese American man, a witness to the Fall of Saigon, a prisoner of war, an escapee, a … Continue reading

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Writing About Your Day Job

So often, we believe we have to put our daytime work aside in order to write and in order to reach the place inside ourselves where writing comes from. But I believe we will be more successful at tapping into and mining the writing part of ourselves if instead of always waiting for the time … Continue reading

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Review of Make a Real Living as a Freelance Writer by Jenna Glatzer

In Make a Real Living as a Freelance Writer: How to Win Top Writing Assignments (Nomad Press, 2004), writer Jenna Glatzer, who is Editor-in-Chief of absolutewrite.com, may insult some of us in her early chapters as she offers tips on blazing trails toward magazine article publishing, but by Chapter Six, her book is of real … Continue reading

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The Argument and Persuasion Essay

What does it take to write persuasively and to move others to read and stay interested in your point-of-view?  What does it take to write to change their thinking and behavior? Eda La Shan, the early childhood specialist, once said something about dealing with children that I remember when writing argument-and-persuasion essays.  She said that … Continue reading

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Resources for Writers of Personal Experience

It’s spring-cleaning time, and I’ve gone through my files and bookshelves to update resources for those who write from personal experience.  Here is Part I of my annotated list of resources, including books, journals and websites: Books on How to Write Essays and How To Find Subjects from Your Experience for All Your Writing The … Continue reading

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The Debris of Abstraction and Sentimentality

Feeling overwhelmed by data, random information, the flotsam and jetsam of mass culture, we relish the spectacle of a single consciousness making sense of a portion of the chaos…” — Scott Russell Sanders As readers of essays and poems, we understand what Sanders means, and we are grateful to writers who provide the spectacle of … Continue reading

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A Review of Tell It Slant

Meg Files is a novelist, short fiction writer, creative nonfiction writer, poet and writing instructor extraordinaire.  She has helped hundreds of students write and publish their writing, and she always takes their concerns seriously.  Recently, when one student’s problem with writing lingered, Meg wrote a letter in which she imagines herself offering this student standard, … Continue reading

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Letter to a Young Perfectionist

Meg Files is a novelist, short fiction writer, creative nonfiction writer, poet and writing instructor extraordinaire.  She has helped hundreds of students write and publish their writing, and she always takes their concerns seriously.  Recently, when one student’s problem with writing lingered, Meg wrote a letter in which she imagines herself offering this student standard, … Continue reading

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Put Your Ear To Work In Writing Your Essays

When essayists learn to listen closely to the music they are making on the page and examine what the changes in the music mean, they learn to make the sounds of exactly what they have experienced and of exactly what they have learned. That is when essays reach true depth and speak most clearly — … Continue reading

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Delivering Your Personal Essays to Market, Part 2

Continuing from last week’s article, which included resources for publishing markets as well as six stories from writers on how they got into print, this week we share six more stories by writers of essays, children’s books, short fiction, nonfiction books, magazine articles and radio commentary.  These writers discuss the way they made connections with … Continue reading

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Delivering Your Personal Essays to Market, Part 1

To publish your work, you must consider many markets and match your material to them:  literary small press publications, national large circulation publications, local newspapers, regional and national newspapers, radio, industry publications and online sites and publications.  It is rare for a writer to start at the “top” with national publications before publishing locally and … Continue reading

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Private Writing as Playroom

This week’s article is an excerpt from Rebecca McClanahan’s instructional book Write Your Heart Out: Exploring & Expressing What Matters To You, published by Walking Stick Press.  This season, as we watch children in an environment where everything seems transformed, we re-experience the magic of childhood.  Rebecca McClanahan’s thoughts and advice help us retrieve the … Continue reading

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Make the Stretch to Get Your Foot in the Door

The Sunday July 20, 2003 edition of the San Francisco Chronicle was proud to report that its journalists are serving the Bay Area community well.  Arts and culture critic Steven Winn was among four Chronicle writers who placed in the 15th annual American Association of Sunday and Feature Editors’ Excellence in Writing contest.  This marks … Continue reading

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The Sum of All Its Parts

Caroline Arnold, who has published over 100 nonfiction books for children, is a pro at finding information on sophisticated topics and making it fit the page limits set by her publishers.  To do this she uses captions, sidebars, glossaries, charts and maps, time lines, and lists of resources for further reading as well as authors’ … Continue reading

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Tips on Places to Publish, Interesting Journals, and other Resources

The Diarist’s Journal is published three times a year in February, June and October by Hollie Rose. The publication is a rich and lively discussion of journaling, diary keeping, and the community surrounding it. The journal is calling for submissions of reviews of diary-form novels as well as opinion pieces on keeping diaries for publication, … Continue reading

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Finding Your Writing’s Occasion

Poet Stanley Plumly, a teacher of mine, used to say that poems must weigh more at the end than at the beginning. What matters to us has emotional weight, and as with poetry, the personal essay supplies a vehicle for writers to find out what matters and to feel the weight of what matters. As … Continue reading

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Why Poetry? A Novelist Reflects

This article originally appeared in the 1999 issue of The Sampler, the newsletter of the Southern California Children’s Literature Council (formerly the Southern California Council on Literature for Children and Young People (SCCLCYP). When I was seven years old, I wrote a poem to console my father after the defeat of his favorite hockey team, … Continue reading

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Bringing Dear Mom: Remembering Our Mothers Into the World

When her mother’s Parkinson’s had progressed, Patricia Hassler quit her job and became her mother’s caretaker.  Realizing she needed a creative outlet, she answered an ad in a local paper for a columnist to write about a nearby suburb where her husband was teaching. The newspaper editor also wanted features about what was going on … Continue reading

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Personal Flights Into Cyberspace

I am delighted to offer readers of Writing It Real this personal essay by writer, editor, and publicist Bob Yehling. In his essay, we get a glimpse of a passionate writer at work, writing from life experience, appreciating the work of others who do so, and looking for places to publish his essays on line.  … Continue reading

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Resources for Poetry – A Feast for the Soul

Poetry is a kind of food, shelter, and clothing for which I am thankful.  It nourishes my being, builds a dwelling for my ecstasy and my awe, and keeps me warm when I grieve.  Books on my shelves and on the shelves of libraries and booksellers, poetry sites on the Internet, movies about poetry and … Continue reading

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