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Letter to Christi on December 27, 2010

In 1992, my colleague Christi Killien and I published Writing in a Convertible with the Top Down with Warner Books. It is a book of correspondence between the two of us about writing, the craft tools we’d learned and the way our ideas and words came from our personal experiences, especially those with our children. … Continue reading

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Interview with Bryan Cohen

An interesting email arrived one day recently — a young man from Chicago was hoping I’d take a look at 1,000 Creative Writing Prompts: Ideas for Blogs, Scripts, Stories and More, his new e-book of prompts for writers. Having written many, many prompts myself, I was eager to see what he’d put together, and I … Continue reading

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An Interview with Danica Davidson

I often hear from people eager to share their experience as writers with Writing It Real subscribers. I write back to them all with interest in how their experience can clarify aspects of the writing life as well as inspire others to add to their lives as writers. When Danica told me her story, I … Continue reading

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On The Evolution of a Columnist

[Writing It Real subscriber Tina Traster used a time of great change in her personal life to build a bridge from her work as a newspaper journalist to making money with her passion for writing personal essays. This week we hear from her on what writing in the new genre has meant. At the end … Continue reading

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A Look at Diane Lockward’s Poetry

I was introduced to Diane Lockward’s poetry as a member of a Yahoo group dedicated to poets helping one another publicize their work. I read and very much enjoyed her collection What Feeds Us. A 2006 Quentin R. Howard Poetry Prize winner, the volume is as witty as it is heartbreaking. Diane’s poems draw her … Continue reading

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Working with the Espresso Book Machine

This year, I was introduced to the Espresso Book Machine at a Northwest bookstore and learned there were three of these machines in Western, WA, all of them not too far from where I live. Not too long after that, I met an author publishing his books locally by using one of them and giving … Continue reading

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The Importance of Choosing Your Scenes and Turning Points

Because we experience life chronologically, without a clear beginning, middle or end, memoirists tend to write in an episodic way — “this happened, then that happened, and after that… ” — and are often overwhelmed by a huge array of memories and details. When deluged by details and feelings, it’s difficult to sort out what … Continue reading

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Keep Your Perspective

[We continue this week with more sage advice from a talented memoir author and psychotherapist who has guided many in writing their life stories. We think you will make good use of her idea for moving ahead even when your material seems too difficult. –Ed.]  When we write memoir, we try to capture real life … Continue reading

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Writing from the Inside Out

[Early in her newest book, The Power of Memoir: How to Write Your Healing Story, Linda Joy Myers describes well our feelings as memoir writers: This scenario is a common one with memoir writers — the struggle between the desire to write and all the issues, conflicts and worries that come up at the very … Continue reading

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Worth 1000 Words

Creative nonfiction writer and novelist, Judith Kitchen shares with us a fruitful exercise she created for those of us searching for new ways to use photographs to inspire our writing. A photograph is both a pseudo-presence and a token of absence. . . — Susan Sontag, On Photography Traditionally, photographs have been used in nonfiction … Continue reading

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I Just Do Not Understand You

[This week we offer a second exercise from Dinty W. Moore, author of The Accidental Buddhist and Crafting the Personal Essay and editor of Brevity magazine. –ed.] Too often, we write about other people because we think we know something about that person, or because we feel that we can weigh in with intelligent correctness … Continue reading

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Just Add Water

[This week we are proud to present the first of two exercises that Dinty W. Moore, author of The Accidental Buddhist and Crafting the Personal Essay and editor of Brevity magazine, uses to help his students work in creative nonfiction. –ed.] Many writers habitually compose memoir-based nonfiction as if someone had once ruled “all childhood … Continue reading

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Ekphrastic Poetry

[This week we are starting a series of postings with poetry and creative nonfiction writing exercises offered by writers who teach. No matter what genre you favor, try the exercises they describe, and you will most certainly surprise yourself with new and interesting writing. — ed] The term ekphrastic comes from the Greek ekphrasis—ek “out … 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 Jan Vallone

I am pleased to post this interview with author Jan Vallone, whose memoir excerpt  “Perspective” appeared as our article last week. It is always a pleasure to correspond with authors about their experience, process, hopes, desires, disappointments and successes and Jan’s descriptions of herself as a goal oriented new writer will resonate for many. SheilaJan, … Continue reading

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Perspective

[The following is a chapter from Jan Vallone’s memoir Pieces of Someday. The speaker is a lawyer and 44 -year-old mother of two who longs to become a writer and a teacher of writing. To make the career change, she examines her past, including the demands of her father that she not become a teacher … Continue reading

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Searching for the Writing Life

[This essay appeared in The Summerset Review in 2005. The honesty of the author as she investigates her post-MFA-in-Creative-Writing life will resonate with many of us who dream of a life in which our writing is our main focus, a life in which the time we spend working is on behalf of our writing, which … Continue reading

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Who Keeps Journals?

I recently came across notes I’d taken while working on The Writer’s Journal: 40 Writers and Their Journals. I’d long relished the journals of Emerson and Thoreau and liked reading about how the transcendentalists, including Louisa May Alcott, shared their journals with one another. But when I solicited the poet Henri Cole as a contributor … Continue reading

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To Keep Our Senses Open

It isn’t easy for us to write up to the standards we demand of ourselves when we are writing about those we love who are no longer with us. The more we wish to honor them and the life we resolve to live by incorporating their spirit into ours, the harder it seems to write. … Continue reading

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My Mother the Queen

This week we are proud to post “My Mother, the Queen,” our first place-winning essay in Writing It Real’s 2010 Spring Contest. I think you’ll find the author’s use of an extended metaphor to describe her mother both poignant and useful. The metaphor facilitates the author’s humor, expressions of love, and evocation of patience while … Continue reading

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“Release,” A Poem by Kristin Henry

After I read Kristin Henry’s poem “Release,” I was drawn to reread it many times over the days I was reading contest entries. I admired its embedded rhymes (“back away./ Her airy body; delirium-like, but true. I’ve/heard them, too) and its rhythms, the way its italicized dialog tells a rich, full story, and the way … Continue reading

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Searching for Mother in the Cochise Stronghold

I am proud to present Martha Sarkissian’s place-winning essay. When I read this essay about making a trip to where the author’s mother had grown up, I was impressed with the way she organized her essay around her short stay, skillfully using dialog with a friend who accompanied her and the man who hosted the … Continue reading

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A Need to Write

Recently, I met Beckie A. Miller online and learned that her writing career began with the need to write about loss. This week in our series on writing grief, I am sharing her first published essay, a recent humorous essay she’s written, and her commentary on the development of her writing life. Beckie describes the … Continue reading

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Tethered

Writing one’s way through grief is a process that helps us integrate our loss into our interior life. Writing about loss, we face life without the physical presence of someone we loved dearly. Having written a memoir about the loss of my son and teaching an online class called “Writing Grief” for those who want … Continue reading

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Inside the Writing of A New Theology: Turning to Poetry In A Time of Grief

A few months ago, Writing it Real subscriber Leslie Wake suggested that she interview me about the writing of my memoir, A New Theology: Turning to Poetry in a Time of Grief. We began an email correspondence that resulted in the interview we are posting this week. I was honored to be asked to talk … Continue reading

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“In The Fragments” by Sindee Ernst

When guest judge Anna Quinn selected Sindee Ernst’s essay as our Winter No-Contest Contest winner, she wrote, “A wonderful piece. Writer uses specific sensory detail beautifully to evoke feelings of leaving one’s childhood home and discovering another. Strong ending.” Sindee wrote back: Thank you so much for this great news. I enjoyed working on that … Continue reading

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“The Cheetah, The Spider and Me” by Gloria Orlando Ives

So often as writers we know we have captured something in our drafts and have brought the work as far as we can at the moment, but sometimes we miss seeing what our writing is leading us toward. That’s when we need an outside reader who can help us identify the core energy in our … Continue reading

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“He Was Surprised And So Was I” by Meg Hannah House

Meg Hannah House won third place in this winter’s Writing It Real No-Contest Contest for her personal essay “He Was Surprised And So Was I”. Our contest was designed so that entrants wrote in response to words they came across in print or heard on TV or the radio or overheard in conversations. All of … Continue reading

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Write an Ending Your Readers Will Savor

A saying goes: Readers pick your current novel if you impress them on the first page, and they’ll buy your next novel if you wow them on the last page. Though all readers enjoy an impressive beginning, the impact of a strong ending can’t be overlooked. Think back to the experience of finishing the last … Continue reading

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Getting to First-Person Writing

Over the last few years, I have been getting to know retired Seattle Times journalist Ross Anderson and his wife, Mary Rothschild, a retired Seattle Times editor. Since moving from Seattle to Port Townsend, the couple has made many contributions to our town’s local newspaper, The Port Townsend Leader, and to writers and many others … Continue reading

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Writing From Historic Journeys

Career journalist, Ross Anderson, worked for over 30 years at the Seattle Times, covering everything from the police beat and courts to commercial fishing, though most of his time was spent writing about politics, serving as chief political writer, congressional correspondent and political columnist. Among other awards, he won a 1990 Pulitzer Prize for national … Continue reading

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Writing Gritty Characters

Last week we posted an interview with Harmoni McGlothlin, writer and writing enthusiast, whose website is connecting writers and offering publishing opportunities. This week, she adds her viewpoint on writing strong characters to our fiction article archive by looking into the narrator in the film Fight Club based on a book by Chuck Palahniuk. If … Continue reading

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Interview with Harmoni McGlothlin

After being asked to be a judge for a creative nonfiction contest at Notes & Grace Notes, an online site for writers, I read the editor’s mission statement and was impressed with the venue for writers seeking peer response and an audience: Our mission is to nourish new talent, reward excellence, and help writers achieve … Continue reading

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E-Reading

As the publishing industry moves online, you may have ordered books on your computer or gone on your local library’s website to request books or an inter-library loan. But would you ever consider reading a book on a computer or subscribing to your favorite magazine’s electronic edition? Each year, a greater portion of the books … Continue reading

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Instant Literary Pleasure

All of us are in front of computers more than we ever imagined we’d be. Though we often talk about longing for time to curl up with a book, we still find ourselves instead in front of a screen. I’ve had to accept reading on the screen in my life as a writer and editor, … Continue reading

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Interview with Memoirist Melissa Hart

Melissa Hart’s memoir Gringa: A Contradictory Childhood is the story of growing up between the polarity of her parents’ worldviews and the harsh judgment of a dominant culture and surviving. As reader, I was engaged in this tale from the beginning when Hart’s mother leaves her marriage to live in a lesbian relationship and full … Continue reading

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Small Things Hold Great Meaning

Writing poetry does take a certain frame of mind–one in which the poet realizes that small things hold great emotional meaning. We have to trust that whatever comes to mind and heart can help us begin poems. The following exercise is meant to help you find topics for poems and see how well you can … Continue reading

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What is Poetry?

William Wordsworth famously defined poetry as “the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings” and Emily Dickinson explained the sensation of poetry this way, “If I read a book and it makes my body so cold no fire ever can warm me, I know that is poetry.” Today, Mark Flanagan writes for About.com that poetry is “the … Continue reading

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To Delight in the Feel and Taste of Words in My Mouth

This week during National Poetry Month, William Mawhinney offers us an account of the way sound is at the root of his poetry practice. His books, Songs in My Begging Bowl, which appeared in 2002, and Cairns Along the Road, which appeared in 2009, are both available through him for $10 each. To order, email … Continue reading

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Using Lyric Techniques in Your Writing: Part Four

Giving Attention to Sentence Construction and to Locution In this last installment of the series on paying attention to the sound your words make on the page, we will discuss the use of interesting (to the ear) sentence variety and phraseology. When you write, write. When you revise, pay attention to what you might do … Continue reading

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Using Lyric Techniques in Your Writing, Part Three

This week we’ll examine more techniques of making meaningful sound on the page to carry emotion and momentum. OnomatopoeiaThe term onomatopoeia comes from the Greek for “word-making.” It means the employment of one or more words to imitate, echo, or suggest the sound of the thing or action described. Such words include “bang”, “click”, “fizz”, … Continue reading

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Using Lyric Techniques in Your Writing, Part Two

Remember Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven“? Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary, Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore, While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping, As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door. `’Tis some visitor,’ I muttered, `tapping at … Continue reading

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Using Lyric Techniques in Your Writing, Part One

An essential element for good writing is a good ear: one must listen to the sound of one’s prose. — Barbara Tuchman Sound itself… is surely a signifier of mood, and thus of message… –Mary Oliver Paying attention to the music in our poetry and prose helps us build the emotional content and meaning of … Continue reading

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The Craft of Fiction, Part Nine

What is tone? It can seem a hard element to isolate, but we definitely know it when we read it. Compare these two descriptions of the same event: The protest erupted into violence today as police attempted to keep the entrance to the building secure. When they reached the building, the police unleashed their forces … Continue reading

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The Craft of Fiction, Part Eight

What is a subplot? It is a smaller story inside a larger story and it illuminates the life, times, personalities, themes and issues of the main characters, often by introducing peripheral characters and events. In novels (and in films) subplots are typically the place that readers make their identification with the main character. Writing in … Continue reading

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The Craft of Fiction, Part Seven

Francois Camoin writes in “The Textures of Fiction,” a contribution to Words Overflown by Stars, edited by David Jauss, that fiction is: little bits of action to keep us turning the page, to keep us moving through the landscape that is the point of the enterprise. The events and characters exist for the sake of … Continue reading

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The Craft of Fiction, Part Six

In real life, spoken language together with body language carries mountains of information and, like many if not most writers, you may find it difficult to convey the richness of this in prose. But you have already started writing dialog by doing writers Adrienne Harun and Midge Raymond’s exercises on character development in last week’s … Continue reading

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The Craft of Fiction, Part Five

As humans, we are wired for empathy and vicarious living, so we easily put ourselves into stories if we can identify with what the characters are going through in the emotional and physical situations they encounter. Whether we are reading about war heroes who perform godlike acts and save hundreds of people or the girl … Continue reading

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The Craft of Fiction, Part Four

Who is telling the story you are writing? It’s an important choice because it dictates what kind of information the narrator knows, and it reveals the window through which you must tell your story to your readers. Will your story be told in the first person? For instance: I had a little lamb, who followed … Continue reading

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The Craft of Fiction Writing, Part Three

Last week we worked on getting to know your protagonist and understanding the necessity of creating a fictional dream for readers. The week before we worked on narrative line and time frame. Now, we’ll turn to developing plot and arc of story. If you are writing a story, you may certainly keep pumping out the … Continue reading

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The Craft of Fiction, Part One

Whether you are talking about short stories by Raymond Carver, novels by Barbara Kingsolver, or sudden fiction by Bruce Holland Rogers, you are reading stories that sprang from the imagination of the authors. Although the stories may in some way reflect events, characters and settings in the lives of the writers, the story elements are … Continue reading

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