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 Perfect by 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, … 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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