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

Continue reading

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

Continue reading

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

Continue reading

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

Continue reading

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

Continue reading

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

Continue reading

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

Continue reading

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

Continue reading

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

Continue reading

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

This post is only available to members.
Continue reading

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

This post is only available to members.
Continue reading

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

Continue reading

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

This post is only available to members.
Continue reading

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

This post is only available to members.
Continue reading

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

This post is only available to members.
Continue reading

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

This post is only available to members.
Continue reading

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

This post is only available to members.
Continue reading

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

This post is only available to members.
Continue reading

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

This post is only available to members.
Continue reading

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

This post is only available to members.
Continue reading