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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