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The Craft of Fiction, Part Two

Last week we explored story ideas and ways to develop them by establishing a narrative line and a time frame. This week we are going to think about the story’s protagonist, his or her nature, dilemmas and settings. In following weeks, we’ll focus on plot, story arc, dialog, tone, and further character development. Whether you … Continue reading

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What is Creative Writing?

These last few months, I’ve been researching for a book I’m writing for McGraw-Hill’s education department. It’s called Creative Writing Demystified and is meant for use in high school and college classrooms. Creative writing is a broad term that covers a lot of ground, and when I share this title with writers I know, they … Continue reading

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Five Principles to Write By

Author Joel M. Vance offers a tightly written essay on tips for writers — ones we shouldn’t forget when we are polishing our work and ones we should remember as we are focusing and developing it. Following the essay is writing by Joel that originally appeared in Wisconsin Trails. He says, “I cut the original … Continue reading

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Journaling to Wake Up Your Dream Machine

“We are all already poets in the depths of ourselves — as our image-filled and wildly imaginative dreams show us!” David Richo in Being True to Life When I collected journal entries from contemporary writers for The Writer’s Journal: 40 Contemporary Writers and their Journals, I learned how significant dreams can be for writers. Several … Continue reading

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The Annual Christmas Dress Shopping Trip

This week, I am sharing my developmental editing responses to another Honorable Mention essay in our Summer 2009 No-Contest Contest. You’ll see Karen B. Call’s original contest entry, my written responses to her work and then her revised essay. You’ll see the benefit of reader response that encourages writers to invite more detail into their … Continue reading

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Tenderness and Meat Loaf

Continuing in our revision diary category posts, this week we are sharing an essay by Jack Shea, one of two essays that our guest judge Brenda Miller chose as honorable mention in our recent contest. My developmental editing comments inserted into Jack’s entry and Jack’s re-entered revision for our Writing It Real Fall 2009 No-Contest … Continue reading

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The Berry Patch

Reading the draft Joyce sent to us for the Fall 2009 Writing It Real No-Contest Contest and the tweaked version, you’ll see an example of the importance of polish editing. Although an essay might be “all there” on the page, rearranging some paragraphs and tweaking the ending can make a huge difference in the effect … Continue reading

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Porch Swings

In this article, we present Lisa Kee’s winning essay from our Fall 2009 No-Contest Contest. Each entrant submitted an essay, which I read and responded to. All entrants had the opportunity to revise their essays after reading my comments and re-submit. Our guest judge, Brenda Miller, author of Season of the Body and Blessing of … 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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Julie Barker’s First Place Essay Overturned

In this article, we present Julie Barker’s winning essay from our Fall 2009 No-Contest Contest. Each entrant submitted an essay, which I read and responded to. All entrants had the opportunity to revise their essays after reading my comments and re-submit. Our guest judge, Brenda Miller, author of Season of the Body and Blessing of … 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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Interview with Libertary.com

With the traditional publishing world in flux as publishing houses balance the cost of printing and advertising books against their sales numbers, more and more book loving entrepreneurs are finding ways to stay abreast of readers’ changing habits and bring the words of authors they admire to the public’s attention. To publish means, in its … Continue reading

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Insight at the Intersection of Past and Present

In Betsy Howell’s book Acoustic Shadows: Men at War and a Daughter Who Remembers Them, the author searches for an understanding of her family’s emotional legacy. After her parents’ deaths, she realizes that there is no one to tell her what she never learned about their pasts. Somehow, she must find what she needs to … 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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Finding One’s Way Through Writing

Betsy L. Howell, an only child, was 31 when both of her parents had died. She was drinking and upset with herself when she started to ask questions about her parents’ lives and read the family heirloom her father treasured — the diary of his great grandfather’s Civil War experience. Drawn in by the journals … Continue reading

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Retracing Her Great-Great-Grandfather’s Footsteps

The following is an excerpt from Acoustic Shadows: Men at War and a Daughter Who Remembers Them by Betsy Howell. At 31, after the death of both her parents, Betsy sought solace in a family heirloom–the diary of her great-great-grandfather James Darsie Heath’s journals documenting his service in the Union army during the Civil War. … Continue reading

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2000 Words or 2:00

Meg Waite Clayton’s novel, The Wednesday Sisters invites you in to the lives of five suburban young moms in the late sixties. Frankie, Linda, Brett, Ally, and Kath, want more from their lives than family and playgrounds can provide, yet they don’t even know what they are yearning for when they first bond over the … Continue reading

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First

Seven years ago this October, Kurt and I launched Writing It Real. It would have been Seth Bender’s 27th birthday, had he not died in December, 2000 in a snowboarding accident. The magazine’s first article was “A Special Birthday,” explaining our purpose in offering the magazine so people would have the “right food and the … Continue reading

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Los Tulares: The Place of the Rushes

Many of us have a connection to place and want to use research about that location’s founding, settlement, history, flora and fauna in our writing. Eileen Apperson’s essay about Los Tulares provides a good example of how love of place and fact finding can make an informative essay that preserves and shares valuable knowledge. Los … Continue reading

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Writing About Place

In graduate school, at California State University-Fresno, Eileen Apperson began what was to become a longer creative non-fiction project when she wrote one short essay about the eradication of Tulare Lake, which was once the largest fresh water lake west of the Mississippi. She found that her classmates and professor had never heard of the … Continue reading

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A Quiet Ache

This essay, which won an American Jewish Press Award, originally appeared in the April 2004 Hadassah Magazine, April 2004. It is included in a collection of essays by Sandra Hurtes, On My Way To Someplace Else, that will be out next month from Poetica Publishing Company. Pre-orders may be made at OnMyWayEssays@yahoo.com. The price is … Continue reading

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Pursuing the Dream of Publishing Personal Essays

The following conversation with essayist Sandra Hurtes helps us all realize that we have it in us to pursue the dream of publishing our essays. We need to stick with it, listen to others, and find the publications that are seeking what we are writing about. SheilaTell me about your writing career — how you … Continue reading

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The Greatest Block of All

This week’s article by British author Jo Parfitt recounts the story of her early writing success and extracts the elements of that success for others to emulate. Getting a book published does not have to depend on who you know (although publishing contacts are always helpful, of course!) and if you graduated from a writing … Continue reading

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Our Baby, Not Yours

Barbara Graham’s essay about the birth of her granddaughter, Isabelle Eva, and the changes it made in her and her family are not only the subject of this wonderful essay but also the inspiration for a whole anthology of writings by women writers on grandmothering, Eye of My Heart published this year by HarperCollins. Last … Continue reading

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Conversation on Creating and Supporting an Anthology of Essays by Many Contributors

Earlier this year, Writing It Real contributor Steven Winn wrote me that Barbara Graham, a former San Francisco Chronicle colleague of his, was publishing a collection of essays by women writers on grandmothering. He wondered if I would be interested in contacting her. Writing from the life experiences of becoming a grandparent, moving into a … Continue reading

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Exactly How to Write the Narrative Essay

[This essay was adapted by the author from her book Naked, Drunk and Writing: Writing Essays and Memoirs for Love and for Money] For all its charm and sometimes apparent aimlessness, an essay has a skeleton, an underlying structure that makes it work. Often it’s the age-old structure of a story. By “story” I don’t … Continue reading

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Making Poetry From the Prose of Our Daily Lives

I have recently completed one more semester of mentoring graduate student Kathy Lockwood in her Creative Writing program at Alaska Pacific University. Here is a third article from our series of exchanges about writing poetry. Just before Kathy sent this letter, she called me. She was frantic about getting back to writing poetry on time … Continue reading

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Writing in Style

Last week we posted an interview with memoirist Sue William Silverman. This week’s article is an excerpt from her new book, Fearless Confessions: A Writers Guide to Memoir, and  is reprinted here with the permission of the author and University of Georgia Press. Writing In Style I love red shoes. Always have, always will. I … Continue reading

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On Sue William Silverman’s Fearless Confessions: A Writer’s Guide to Memoir

Memoirist Sue William Silverman’s guide for memoir writing is hot off the press this month. Fearless Confessions is immensely useful and absorbing. Its tone is warm, patient, helpful and reassuring, and it is itself an example of its lessons — it reads like a memoir about writing memoir and is quite playful as it goes … Continue reading

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Learning from Kim Addonizio’s Ordinary Genius

As I continue to mentor Kathy Lockwood, who attends Alaska Pacific College in Anchorage, I grow and learn by considering her poems and her readings of the published poems she studies. Just as I did in April of this year (Working With Mentors Both Near and Far), I am publishing another of our exchanges for … Continue reading

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Indexing: Who Does It and How?

I’ve been to your web page and read: ABOUT INDEXES Sheila Before I met you this winter, Katherine, I had never spoken to an indexer, not even the ones some of my publishers employed to make the indexes for my books. All I knew was that libraries are more likely to purchase nonfiction books with … Continue reading

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Chapter 4 of Off Kilter by Linda Wisniewski

This essay is excerpted from <em>Off-Kilter: A Woman’s Journey to Peace with Scoliosis, Her Mother and her Polish Heritage</em> with the author’s permission. It is my pleasure to offer you this sample of the book’s excellent essays — each one evokes the writer’s growing up clearly and vividly. Less than a mile into our school … Continue reading

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An Interview with Linda C. Wisniewski

This week we present an interview with author Linda C. Wisniewski. Her book Off Kilter: A Woman’s Journey to Peace with Scoliosis, Her Mother & Her Polish Heritage accomplishes what many of us wish to accomplish when we are writing personal essays. Reviewer Marc Schuster of Small Press Reviews explains it this way: Wisniewski conjures … Continue reading

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“Walking to School” by Nancy Kane

“Walking to School” is an essay that is very close to being completely satisfying. I want to share the essay and the comments I sent Nancy in our recent No-Contest Contest to provide the experience of workshopping an essay using the three-step response method I advocate. I believe that as we become skilled at offering … Continue reading

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Excerpt from Wounding’s Grace: Confessions of an Extraordinary Heart

I am pleased to present the second place winner in our spring 2009 Writing It Real No-Contest Contest. Mary Oak has woven her childhood longings and adult experience into a rich tapestry in the service of informing many through her life review. As she writes in her bio information, after surviving a cardiac arrest in … Continue reading

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The Hershey Bar Incident

Kathy Krause’s personal essay “The Hershey Bar Incident” entertains as well as reminds readers of something very important–how many times as adults we make promises to children and then don’t come through, thus eroding the admiration the children have for us and leaving more hurt behind than we willingly acknowledge. Kathy’s well-drawn descriptions of what … Continue reading

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What the Moment Can Hold

The first time I hold my daughter’s daughter I feel so sad. I don’t remember feeling this when her sons were born. It is a strange feeling, the wrong emotion for this happy time, but I can’t help it. I’m remembering when the baby in my arms was my daughter, when it was all still … Continue reading

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Getting Started Writing Memoir

Ever since I started writing in earnest and working with other writers, I’ve been curious about why one chooses fiction for one story and non-fiction for another. Most of what I write is drawn from personal experience so for me it’s pretty simple — some stories need to be served straight up. That’s non-fiction. Others … Continue reading

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On Writing Early Readers

Caroline Arnold has been a contributor to Writing It Real, and recently, she sent me an essay about how one of her early children’s books began as gardening observations with her children. We will be posting an excerpt from that book, Wiggle and Waggle, after our current exchange and refresher on the issues involved in … Continue reading

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An Introduction that Puts Argument to Work

In this slightly abbreviated excerpt from another of author Elaine Partnow’s introductions, we see an argument at work that informs as it asks us to consider the absence of women from lists of notable playwrights.  Partnow has put her book together, she says, to “allow women playwrights throughout history to resurface, as well as to … Continue reading

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Words of Introduction Outline a Book

Elaine Partnow wrote this introduction for The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Your True Age, which she co-authored with her sister Judith Hyman, Ph.D. You will see the work a book’s introduction can do for managing readers’ expectations of how a book is ordered and how they will participate in learning. Youth is as much a … Continue reading

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Elaine Partnow, Author, Actor, Playwright

I started out in life as an actress. Around my 32nd year, I was depressed. I had been getting great reviews on my theater performances in LA, but I was not getting hired for films. I had little parts in big movies and big parts in little movies, but not the work for which I … Continue reading

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Creating Voice in Poetry and Prose

Voice is one the most essential features of successful writing; if we fail to create an authentic, credible voice in our work, that work will fail — in spite of other virtues it may have. However, voice is often referred to as something elusive and indefinable. In their book, A Poet’s Companion, Kim Addonizio and … Continue reading

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Working with Mentors, Both Near and Far

This school term, I have been mentoring Kathy Lockwood, a student enrolled at Alaska Pacific University, where she is doing independent study in writing poetry. Very recently, she sent me an email with a letter attached describing her lack of writing at the moment and her deep disappointment with herself over her slow down. I … Continue reading

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Build Your Writing Life

When I think about how I began cultivating my writer’s life, I realize had been doing so even before I knew what I was doing. But once it began a more conscious process, about a year later, I became overwhelmed. I didn’t know writers’ jargon or the prerequisites for developing into an accomplished writer. I … Continue reading

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Pep Talk and Tips on Submitting Screenplays

Chantelle Osman recently approached me about sharing information about her work as a screenwriter and producer with Writing It Real subscribers. Those of you interested in pursuing acceptance of screenplays for production will enjoy the hit of energy you’ll get from Chantelle’s energetic words. Her enthusiasm for the process and absolute trust in the ability … Continue reading

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“The Blue Hornet” by Nicki Jack

It is with pleasure that we post our third place winner in Writing It Real’s 2008 No-Contest Contest. Nicki narrates a Christmas morning in a way that goes beyond Christmas memories. She does a fine job of helping us see life through the eyes of an eight-year-old girl with two brothers. Her use of setting … Continue reading

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“White Bird Morning” by Mai Lon Gittelsohn, 2nd Place Winner Winter 2008

I enjoy “White Bird Morning” by Mai Lon Gittelsohn for many reasons. The poem situates me in the familiarity of an early Sunday morning and then takes a turn into territory that is new to me. It isn’t long before the rich detail informs me that the poem is about the circumstances of a particular … Continue reading

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“The Legend of the White Zucchini,” An Essay by Mardi Link

Mardi Link’s essay is a wonderful example of how narrating a story about a time you found something important to you allows you to weave themes of sadness and joy together into a full experience for the reader. The details in this essay, from the ones about the speaker’s sadness and lethargy following a divorce … Continue reading

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The Conversation Itself

Jack Heffron is one of the most versatile writers I know. I’ve read his short fiction, creative nonfiction, books on writing, books that he has ghost written and books that he’s edited (including my own). Recently, I read some of his interviews and it brought up some questions that I wanted to ask him. SheilaJack, … Continue reading

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“Embarkation”: A Poem by Meg Files

Embarkation by Meg Files The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.  –Marcel Proust We believe we are prepared for this trip: all-terrain shoes, tiny clotheslines, mesh-sided shirts, new underwear, Columbia shorts, everything cute enough for each other. At the Quito airport, the driver holds a sign–Sally … Continue reading

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Sometimes Writing is a Matter of Memory and Resolve

How do writers decide what to write about? In “Death on a Quiet Street“, by Jack Heffron and John Boertlein, Cincinnati Magazine, April 2008, Jack Heffron writes: Last September, I was having dinner with my friend John Boertlein when the Bricca murders came up. John, who grew up in Delhi and has known about the … Continue reading

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Confessions of a Writing Teacher

[This article first appeared in Lizard, Victoria University’s Professional Writing and editing program’s magazine. The University is in Melbourne, Australia where Meg Files did a Doris Leadbetter Teacher Exchange between Pima College and VU’s Diploma Professional Writing and Editing. –ed] Writing is a lonely business, Ernest Hemingway said in his 1954 Nobel Prize acceptance speech. … Continue reading

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A Personal Essay Waiting to Be Written

Our new President is a writer, which focuses national attention on trusting in the power of words. It helps those of us who write from personal experience re-invest in the importance of what we do as we write, hoping to contribute our part in the song of human experience. Newly sworn in, President Obama ended … Continue reading

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How to Overcome Writing Procrastination

This week I got a note from a student who said she was looking forward to taking my advice about writing more this year if she could only figure out how to stop working 60 hours a week. I had another student who took a month off work to write important application essays for graduate … Continue reading

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An Essay and a Poem

Love And Hate On Night Watch By Katrina Hays Originally published in Sea Stories Journal, Winter 2008 Offshore sailors have ridiculous and sublime ways to spend their time. One of these exercises in necessity and boredom is the night watch. I both adore and despise night watch. There is no middle ground here. Being awake … Continue reading

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Interview with Writer Katrina Hays

I met Katrina Hays this past summer at Pacific Lutheran University’s Rainier Writers’ Writing Workshop’s (RWW) graduation day discussions and ceremony. I was there to talk about how students in the graduate low-residency writing program could choose to work on Writing It Real articles to meet a required “outside experience.” Last year, Tarn Wilson from … Continue reading

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