Interview with Margaret D. McGee

Shortly after reading Margaret D. McGee’s gentle, focused book Sacred Attention: A Spiritual Practice for Finding God in the Moment, I emailed her with some questions about her writing and about publishing in the spiritual genre. She graciously wrote back, and here is the content of the emailed conversation that developed: Sheila I enjoyed the … Continue reading

Finding the Sacred Through Careful Attention

When author Margaret D. McGee moved with her husband David into a house in the woods on the Olympic Peninsula, she started keeping a nature journal. As she formed the practice of writing short entries a few times a week, she realized that paying attention to nature outside her house was beginning to change her … Continue reading

A Writing Lesson from the Journaling Ideas of Author David Mas Masumoto

This time of year we cope with a lot of activity. Social engagements and gift shopping, worrying about how to spread a gift buying budget around and the need to travel distances or entertain out-of-town family sweep away our writing time. Sometimes, our very sense of ourselves as writers disappears. Ironically, this very same time … Continue reading

Fallow Time

[From What I Thought I Knew, Wyatt-MacKenzie Publishing, Inc., 2008] Faint light is leaking through the bedroom mini-blinds, but there’s no good reason to get out of bed. It’s late winter in Southern Indiana. The sodden ground is blotched with dirty patches of snow, and wilted lawns droop, defeated under ashen clouds that have hung … Continue reading

Interview with the Author of What I Thought I Knew

What I Thought I Knew is a gorgeous collection of life-, love- and spirit-affirming personal essays. In the preface to her book, Barbara Stahura says it this way: Sometimes, I wake up early in my grown-up bed, windows open around it, and hear the distant whistle of trains. It is then I remember that little … Continue reading

The Enneagram and Me: Writing Is My Spiritual Practice

In 1988, while I was living in Berkeley with my husband Kurt, who was on a computer network assignment, I came across a book: The Enneagram: An Ancient system for Understanding Yourself and Others in Your Life,by Helen Palmer. I couldn’t put the book down as I read descriptions of nine personality types and found … Continue reading


In July, Nina Soifer sent three poems into the Writing It Real No-Contest Contest. I was very taken with “Buttons,” a poem that evokes specific childhood time the young poet spent with her grandmother: Buttons Sometimes when I look at my hands, the way the blue veins bulge and the knuckles protrude a little, I … Continue reading

An Escalating Din

[This week we present the second place winner in our first No-Contest Contest. The work Nicole Janeen Jones sent in moved me very much. Most of the essay was fluid and kept me engaged in the weightiness of Nicole’s subject and the urgency of her occasion. There were some places in the essay, however, that … Continue reading

A New Way to Publish

This article appeared on May 26 2008 among the article archive on the valuable 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

Making Historic Time Real

Recently, I heard from author Linda Collison in response to a Writing It Real e-mailing. Linda and I had met years ago during a visit my husband and I made to the Big Island in Hawaii. She and her husband were friends of the couple who owned the bed and breakfast we stayed at. Linda … Continue reading

Why Do You Write? How Do You Write? – Part 2

After Rodney Merrill received my answers to his questions about writing and my motivation to write, he sent me an interesting letter about his writing process and his knowledge of what those who study writers say. And he asked me more questions. I tried my best to answer the new questions. It isn’t often that … Continue reading

Why Do You Write? How Do You Write?

Last fall, doctoral candidate Rodney Merrill sent me a questionnaire about my approach to writing. He was surveying many writers while researching for his dissertation in the area of social constructionist views on writing. I was very taken with his inquiry and ideas and answered the questions. Soon, I interviewed Rodney so Writing It Real … Continue reading

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

Thoughts on How to Structure an Essay Collection

When Judith Kitchen, who is Assistant Program Director of Pacific Lutheran University’s Rainier Writing Workshop, suggested I might want to read a paper by graduating MFA student Hilary Schaper on organizing a collection of personal essays, I was delighted. I enjoyed reading the account of how Hilary studied the structure of such a collection. Believing … Continue reading

Three Waters for Success

According to a Japanese Shinto tale, Enchin, a priest from Nara, was told in a vision to look for the clear water origin of the Yodo River. After a long search, he stumbled upon a place deep in a forest where mist, like a belt of white clouds, hung over a waterfall at the foot … Continue reading

Love Letters from a Fat Man by Naomi Benaron

Author Stuart Dybeck was the final judge for the 2006 G.S. Sharat Chandra Prize for Short Fiction. I imagine his delight when he read Naomi Benaron’s original and moving collection Love Letters from a Fat Man. How could he not have chosen the volume as the winning manuscript? From its title story, which comes first … Continue reading

Good Neighbors Bad Times by Mimi Schwartz

When writer Mimi Schwartz hears a story during a trip to Israel that corroborates the one her late father used to tell, she is compelled to conduct an ambitious research project about her father’s birthplace, a village where, he said, Christians and Jews lived cooperatively for hundred of years, a village where Christians remained supportive … Continue reading

Today is Under Construction

Built of timber over the years from 1601 to 1626 as a residence of the Tokugawa Shoguns, the Nijo Castle in Kyoto is preserved as a UNESCO World Heritage site. I walk in the July heat toward the building’s large winged roof with my daughter Emily, one of her graduate students Laurie, and my eldest … Continue reading

Collect Tidbits, Meditations and Musings

In this exercise, we are going to build an essay, piece of fiction or a poem with inspiration from fiction writers Ron Carlson and Lisa Shea and poet Bill Matthews. You’ll start, without knowing where this might lead, by imitating the style, grammar and strategies these writers used in the journal excerpts they contributed to … Continue reading

Sudden Writing

One way to tackle subjects you may not feel up to handling is to learn from the strategies of writers who tell stories and/or evoke issues through the use of dialog alone. Their stories are often very short, striking the heart swiftly. The work does not require a lot of set up or description. Instead, … Continue reading