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Celebrating Lyric Poetry

Stan Sanvel Rubin’s third collection of poems, Hidden Sequel, the winner of the 2006 Barrow Street Poetry Prize, contains this opening epigraph: No, my heart is not sleeping, It is awake. Awake.” –Machado Right from the start, in the beat between two awakes, we are roused as if by a hypnotist who is letting us … Continue reading

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LiveJournal Blogging

My daughter Emily is a Computational Linguistics Professor. One thing this means is that she spends a lot of time on the computer. She has found a way to keep a diary about her two little boys and the life of her young family using blogging software available free on the Internet. She’s given her … Continue reading

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Sailing the High Seas of the Publishing World

Caroline Arnold graduated from Grinnell College in Iowa where she majored in art. After graduate school at the University of Iowa, she worked as an artist and art teacher for a number of years. Her writing career began in the late winter of 1976. She was living in an old farmhouse in upstate New York. … Continue reading

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Community and the Work of the Poet

At this past summer’s Writing It Real in Port Townsend writer’s conference, Susan Rich spoke to the conference group about building a writer’s community and finding a place in the world based on one’s passion for poetry. This week, I’ve interviewed her about the development of her books of poems and the ways in which … Continue reading

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On Cures Include Travel, Poems by Susan Rich

Susan Rich taught for the Writing It Real in Port Townsend’s summer writing conference last June. At the conference, she read from the poems that were soon to be published by White Pine Press in the volume entitled Cures Include Travel as well as those in her previous, The Cartographer’s Tongue. She introduced attendees to … 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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Getting Around Concord

From Miss Alcott’s E-mail: Yours for Reforms of All Kinds by Kit Bakke. Reprinted by permission of David R. Godine, Publisher Copyright 2006 by Kit Bakke It was a wild, windy day, very like me in its fitful changes of sunshine and shade. — Louisa May Alcott, 1865, age thirty-three December 14, 2005 Dear Miss … Continue reading

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Miss Alcott’s Email: Yours for Reforms of All Kinds by Kit Bakke

Miss Alcott’s Email: Yours for Reforms of All Kinds is a remarkable memoir by Kit Bakke about a political activist, mother, nurse and management consultant’s midlife review interwoven with a biography of her political and literary soul mate Louisa May Alcott. From the start of the author’s introduction, I knew that reading the book would … Continue reading

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Dealing with Toxic Feedback

Last week, we shared a chapter from Joni Cole’s book, Toxic Feedback: Helping Writers Survive and Thrive, published in 2006 by University Press of New England, Hanover, New Hampshire. This week, I talk with Joni about writing the book. Sheila Joni, I have read Toxic Feedback with great interest. You have written an informative and … Continue reading

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Getting Feedback – Twenty-Two Years

Reprinted with permission of the author from Toxic Feedback: Helping Writers Survive and Thrive, University of New England, 2006 Chapter Two: Getting Feedback — Twenty-Two Years By Joni Cole One time I went with a friend of a friend to lunch, my treat, so I could pick his brain about feedback. This man was a … Continue reading

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The Pocket Poetry Parenting Guide

Last March, I attended the annual National Association of Poetry Therapists conference in Boston. Browsing the vendor tables, I discovered Jennifer Bosveld’s offering, The Pocket Poetry Parenting Guide. It presents a short but impressive collection of poetry for use in helping parents with the most important and perhaps hardest job of their lives. The collection’s … Continue reading

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Thoughts Upon the Birthday of My Son Seth, 1975-2000

My son Seth Bender, to whom Writing It Real is dedicated, would have turned 31 this October 1. He died in a snowboarding accident December 27, 2000, the year he was 25. In the months following the tragedy, the only connection I could feel strongly was to the sun. Certainly, it could have been because … Continue reading

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Making Metaphor Run Deep

Writing from our experience gives us the opportunity to know more after the writing than we knew in the experiencing alone. When we can combine our experiencing of outer events with our experiencing of inner events, using the outer as metaphor for the inner, we craft new tools for illuminating ourselves. Each of the tools … Continue reading

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Decoys

This week, we offer a third essay by Brenda Miller, in which she skillfully uses an chance meeting to draw a metaphor that allows her to more deeply reflect upon herself as a writer. Again, the weaving of the outer world with the inner world yields a rich essay and a transformative experience. The other … Continue reading

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On Thermostats

Last week, we posted Brenda Miller’s essay about how making metaphor both removes us from the moment we are in and sets us more deeply into meditation, helping us know ourselves and our inner worlds. In “On Thermostats,” she once again weaves the outer world of a writing retreat with her inner world as a … Continue reading

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The Case Against Metaphor: An Apologia

“Writing it all down,” is the phrase that ends Brenda Miller’s essay. That’s what we strive to do as writers. It is an ambitious striving, a striving that forces us to question our experiences and ourselves–can we possibly write it all down? Can we possibly get it down right? What would it feel like if … Continue reading

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Teens Have Gifts to Offer

A few months ago, I received an email request to help spread the word about Scrap Paper Press’s worldwide call for creative writing submissions from teens. I went to the project’s website, was impressed with the effort, and posted the submissions-wanted information on the Writing It Real community page. I also enthusiastically emailed my teacher … Continue reading

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Take Some Time for Playful Journaling, Part II

In a journal, writers write without knowing where their writing is going. They unload thoughts, explore obsessions, record insights and observations, and sometimes imitate other writers, noticing how their perceptions come across in the voice and sentence structures of those writers they admire. Sometimes they address their writing to others with whom they feel resonance … Continue reading

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Take Some Time for Playful Journaling

As a writer, I use my journal to both play with strategies I pick up from other writers’ work and test strategies I invent. In combination with observing the “show don’t tell rule” (use imagery and detail that appeal to the senses rather than intangibles that tell the reader how to feel — i.e. “the … Continue reading

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Digesting World News August, 2006

Every time I open Yahoo on my computer, I look at the upper right-hand corner of the screen to type in what I am searching for and avoid looking at the left-hand area with its news images of death and destruction. When I listen to radio news or watch news on television, I feel too … 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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The Limits of Skepticism

describes a time of not writing but enjoying the garden of a rented London apartment.  Her husband thinks she is avoiding her writing, but actually she is cultivating it. Sometimes writing is allowing the senses in without direction. In the garden, specific blossoms stir specific memories of her mother. Weimer sits and plants and remembers. … Continue reading

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Interview with Joan Weimer

Joan Weimer’s second memoir, Awestruck: A Skeptic’s Pilgrimage, just out this year, opens with a dramatic prologue: The plane is so near the ground I can make out individual palm trees, their fronds whipped into a frenzy by a tremendous wind. Wet red tiles on the roofs are close enough to count. Abruptly the left … Continue reading

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Getting to the Details

I am fortunate to have the opportunity to work with people in developing their essays. Writing It Real subscriber Beth Einstein entered our spring essay contest and recently took me up on my offer to work with her essay for a Revision Diary article. I thank Beth for her continuing work on her entry (the … 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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You are My Heroes

It isn’t an easy path to write from personal experience. There are no guarantees that editors will want to publish what we have to say and no guarantees that we will successfully find a way to say it, publication or not.  What is guaranteed is that committing words to the page and revising our writing … Continue reading

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The Freelance Writer’s Bible by David Trottier

A lot of books claim they can help authors who are in a hurry to get paid for their writing. This one is enthusiastically subtitled Your Guide to a Profitable Writing Career Within One Year, and it certainly does include supportive, direct information a freelancer needs to achieve such a goal. Author David Trottier has … Continue reading

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Bio for Maria Moustakas

Maria Moustakas began writing poetry and stories while in the third grade. She did not reach college until her late 30s, earning a scholarship to Vassar College, where she graduated with an English degree in 1979. While at Vassar, participated in an invitational class and had the opportunity to learn from well-known poets and writers, … Continue reading

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On Writing True: The Art and Craft of Creative Nonfiction

In their book, Writing True: The Art and Craft of Creative Nonfiction, writers and writing professors Sondra Perl and Mimi Schwartz offer a straightforward, encouraging look at how any of us can write our own moving and insightful accounts of life experiences. In addition, they include an anthology of creative nonfiction and offer tips on … Continue reading

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It’s a Short Trip to Guilderland

Most of the time, I am one of the most annoyingly politically correct people I know. I am so PC that even the word “tolerance” strikes me as a tad intolerant. But there is one minority group I can’t stand, and I make no apologies for it: I cannot abide Guilders. Don’t bother checking your … Continue reading

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The House of the Seven Gambles – Revised

When I judged Mary Ann Payne’s essay submitted for Writing It Real’s first 2006 personal essay contest as our runner up, I wrote to her with comments about her ending and ideas for strengthening it.   Here is the essay she submitted followed by those comments and Mary Anne’s revision: The House of Seven Gambles By … Continue reading

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Alan Should Have Rented a Car

This essay is reprinted here from Thoughts from a Queen-Sized Bed by Mimi Schwartz by permission of the University of Nebraska Press. Copyright 2002 by Mimi Schwartz. Available wherever books are sold or from the University of Nebraska Press, 800.526.2617 and on the web at nebraskapress.unl.edu. No further use may be made of these materials … Continue reading

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Writing About Family: Is It Worth It?

This article originally appeared in The Writer’s Chronicle, October/November 2001 I made up my mind at the beginning of my writing life not to write about my family and friends, since I want them to remain my family and friends. –Novelist Carol Shields Write what you know!” is the advice given freely to writers not … Continue reading

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Q & A with Memoirist Mimi Schwartz

This week’s article begins with an excerpt from Mimi Schwartz’s memoir, Thoughts from a Queen-Sized Bed. Entitled “Jimmy and June, ” this second essay in the collection illustrates the way Mimi Schwartz writes about ordinary life to “get it just right,” a phrase her husband used describing his reaction when he first read it at … Continue reading

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An Interview with Sondra Perl Followed by an Exercise for Memoir Writing

SheilaLast week, in Writing It Real, I shared a section of your memoir, On Austrian Soil: Teaching Those I Was Taught to Hate with readers. I think the section we posted demonstrates the way your memoir developed from a turning point in your relationship to the teachers with whom you were working. I’d like to … Continue reading

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Excerpt from On Austrian Soil: Teaching Those I Was Taught to Hate

The following is excerpted with Sondra Perl’s permission from Chapter 2, “History Becomes Real”, of her memoir, On Austrian Soil: Teaching Those I Was Taught to Hate, published in 2005 by State University of New York Press, Albany, NY. Writing It Real reviewed Sondra’s first book about writing, Felt Sense: Writing With The Body, December … Continue reading

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On Deep Light, New and Selected Poems 1987 – 2007 by Rebecca McClanahan

Already familiar with Rebecca McClanahan’s essays about her family from her book Riddle Song (as well as her other Writing It Real articles), I was delighted when I found that a new and selected volume of her poems was coming this year. I feel moved every time I read one of the volume’s 91 poems, … Continue reading

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Ted Kooser’s The Poetry Home Repair Manual

I’ve been teaching poetry writing since 1981, when I began working on my Masters in Creative Writing at the University of Washington. As a teacher, I have continually applied all that I learned through trial and error creating and revising my own work and all that I learned in the company of the many great … Continue reading

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Becoming a Haiku Poet

Last week, you read Michael Welch’s instruction on writing haiku. This week you’ll learn more about haiku and publishing from a transcript of my email interview with him. It includes the treat of some of Michael’s poems at the end as well as links to more of his writing and several sites of interest. Sheila … Continue reading

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Lasting: Poems on Aging, Edited by Meg Files

Which of us has not looked intently at the markings of age in others and then looked for those markings in ourselves? Which of us doesn’t hope for some wisdom to come along with the signs of aging? Which of us doesn’t hope it all means something? Finally, we have a volume of poems on … 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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A Personal Essay and a Contest It Inspires

This week’s article is an essay by one of our treasured correspondents with a contest announcement for Writing It Real subscribers inspired by the essay. Janice Eidus’ essay was to have appeared in an anthology that explored the theme and experience of being Jewish edited by the great comic Alan King, but when he died … Continue reading

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Four Writers on Writing, Part 2

We pick up where the email thread left off last week. Sheila starts: I wanted to respond to what Lisa said: “And I wanted to raise this idea about how writing has repercussions that go far beyond whether you are published or not,” What we spend our days writing affects us in many ways. If … Continue reading

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Four Writers on Writing, Publishing and How Their Careers Are Shaping Up

In the fall, I consulted with freelance, technical and creative writer, Michelle Goodman about publishing with regional presses. By way of thank you, she arranged for two other writers to join her in an email conversation with me about themselves, their writing, and their publishing. We all benefited from the conversation, and I share it … Continue reading

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Writing from Anticipation

Here in the Northwest, despite the unusually cold temperatures we recently experienced, daffodils, crocuses and blossoming fruit trees add yellow, purple and pink to our current landscape. And under a week of consistently sunny skies, we find ourselves anticipating spring. We wake to light and prepare dinner before dark. The winter season’s short daylight slowed … 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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SELF-Esteem and the SELF-Published Author

Hannah Goodman is the author of My Sister’s Wedding, a young adult novel that addresses the effects of alcoholism on individuals, friends and families. She self-published it in 2004 (a sample chapter appears in the WIR Gallery) and now often presents lectures on self-publishing and shares the steps involved, the pitfalls and how to avoid … Continue reading

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Fatherhats

After reading Jack’s instruction last week about narrating a day in your life to find material, you will be interested in looking into this story to find the quantity of details that come from such close observation, from the way one of the characters tugs at his beard and the other covers his ears and … Continue reading

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A Day in the Life of a Writer

Jack Heffron’s simple, masterful writing prompt will have you realizing how much content you have to write about in no time–well, in the time it takes to live a day and read the notes you put on paper. Taking notes in the way Jack suggests plus the bit of Fitzgerald he includes to show you … Continue reading

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Relying on the Lyric

On July 8, 2004, I posted an instructional exercise article, “Put Summer on the Page,” encouraging writers to use the opening of Ray Bradbury’s novel Dandelion Wine for inspiration in writing their own memories. Recently, I worked with Michelle Vanstrom on the writing she created from the exercise, which yielded a moving eulogy to her … Continue reading

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Poems, Pastries and Politics

Why connect the writing of poetry with an appreciation of good food? On first consideration, the juxtaposition of poems and pastries might seem frivolous. Isn’t poetry sustenance for something more than the physical body? Recently, I taught a workshop at a local college advertised as “O Taste and Write: Food Poems,” and perhaps a subtext … Continue reading

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Ten Signs of a Scam Book Doctor

Long time professional editor, Jerry Gross developed a widely used code of ethics for editors and book doctors. Here are his 10 points to consider when evaluating someone to work with you on your manuscript. Ten Signs Of A Scam Book Doctor by Jerry Gross Working with an expert, ethical book doctor can often make … 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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Working with a Writing Mentor

As a writing instructor, it is always interesting to me to talk with other writers who teach.  I enjoy hearing about the parts of the teaching process that excite them.  This past June, I had the opportunity to talk over breakfast with New York writer Janice Eidus.  She said: When I guide writers in their … 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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