A New Year’s Greeting

Dear Writers, It’s New Year’s time, time to reflect and encourage ourselves to set goals we long to achieve. For me, it’s also the time of year that marks the anniversary of the snowboarding accident that took my son’s life. At the end of December 2000, friends and family gathered in Seattle and in Port … Continue reading

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I Know How the Wild Goose Feels

Our Summer/Fall WIR guest contest judge Susan Bono awarded first place to Sher Laughlin’s essay. Susan enjoyed the essay’s “many layers of emotion and craft.” She wrote that the essay “employed great use of scene, dialog, imagery/symbolism and moved effortlessly between the tension of the unfolding incident and the narrator’s ever-expanding drama, realizations about beginnings … Continue reading

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Interview with Essayist Joni Cole

Joni Cole, author of Another Bad-Dog Book: Tales of Life, Love, and Neurotic Human Behavior, offers valuable information for writers in her recent interview for Writing It Real members. If you haven’t yet, you will want to read an excerpt from her book. Sheila How did you go about writing and collecting these essays? Joni … Continue reading

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Writing Better Holiday Letters

The holidays are a time of turning to traditions that symbolize our love and connection to our families, friends, communities, earth, and the divine.  With the pragmatism characteristic of Americans, many of us have made holiday card sending into a vehicle for mailing yearly catch-up letters.  These letters allow us to perform the task of … Continue reading

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The Adventures of Super Joni! (And Her Amazing Dog E-Pie-Pie)

When Writing It Real contributor Joni Cole sent me a review copy of her new collection of essays Another Bad-Dog Book: Tales of Life, Love, and Neurotic Human Behavior, I was excited to get started reading. The book proved both funny, sometimes sidesplitting so, and poignant, especially when she writes about her elderly father. This week … Continue reading

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Writing For Thanksgiving–Rituals and Memories

Each year in the US, the period of time from the last days of summer through the end of December seems more and more like an overgrown garden. It is hard to perceive the holidays separately from one another. There are no pathways between them, no mulch to keep them apart. How can we sort … Continue reading

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Excerpts from Connie Leas’ Nonfiction Books

This week, Connie Leas offers us excerpts from her two recent nonfiction books. In last week’s article, you read about how the author decided to write on topics that interested her; now you get to read her approach to offering others the information she finds and digests. Excerpt 1 – from The Art of Thank … Continue reading

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Turning Interests into Books

I enjoy exchanging information with those I meet, especially about books and writing. A summer day at the beach with my youngest grandson Rafe led to discovering an interesting writer and later to learning her writing and publishing story. My five-year-old grandson Rafe wanted to connect with two little girls he’d met at camp who … Continue reading

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Writing with Feeling, Grounded By Place

Our connections to the important places of our lives are deeply personal, based on unique experiences and relationships. At the same time, the feelings that bind us to those places can be shared and understood by most everyone because they are tied to universal human experiences and longings — to the comfort of home, the … Continue reading

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An Interview with Personal Essayist Sandra Hurtes

Learning what keeps other writers on task with particular pieces that are difficult to finish affirms for me that as a writer, I must obey the call of the initial inspiration, even if obeying that call means sitting down again and again through draft after draft to find what I was meant to discover. It … Continue reading

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Why I Write: Essayist Sandra Hurtes’ Thoughts

Inspired by the “Why I Write” column in Poets and Writer’s magazine, essayist Sandra Hurtes examined her answer to that question, which is in the title of the following essay that appeared on October 9, 2011 in the Philadelphia Inquirer. Those of us who write, especially those of us who came late to allowing writing … Continue reading

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Editing Your Story: Tight Editing Helps Writers Find the Gold

Finished writing has to sound natural, but it isn’t “just like talking.” When we talk, our listeners are aware that what we are saying is our story. As authors, we send our words out into the world without our gestures and tones of voice. When people read our words, they have to feel that what … Continue reading

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16 Reflections on Writing a Buddhist (or Any) Poem

I In the high reaches of the Bear River Mountains of Northern Utah the leaves of the big tooth maples are turning red, and the sky arches a rich blue over the campus of Utah State University. I think of my own college student days, the world opening before me with continents of thought and … Continue reading

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A Jumpstart for Writing Your Memoir: Lessons from Dr. Audrey Young’s Book

In a local bookstore, I came across What Patients Taught Me: A Medical Student’s Journey, a memoir by Audrey Young, MD, about how her medical school training in a special University of Washington program facilitated her growth as a person-centered physician. I read the book’s preface standing there by the staff picks. During her rotations … Continue reading

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Raspberry Picking

I’ve been teaching several classes this month that concentrate on moving writing forward by using details–specific images that come in through the senses–and by receiving first reader response to drafts. That made me think of posting Chapter Eight from Writing In a New Convertible with the Top Down, a book I co-authored years ago with … Continue reading

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Self-Editing Tips

Several years ago, I wrote Perfect Phrases for College Application Essays, a book for high school students. No two application essays should be alike, so the “perfect phrases” refers to phrases useful for researching oneself for subjects to write about and phrases useful for making transitions. I learned quite a lot in deconstructing the essay … Continue reading

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Mining Words and Word Histories for Writing Personal Essays

It wasn’t all that long ago that I finally developed the habit of not relying on context alone to understand a word new to me, but instead began looking it up and thinking about the dictionary definition. This way, I have added many words to my vocabulary from textbooks and articles: “synecdoche,” “vatic,” “orphic,” “hagiography,” … Continue reading

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Inspiration from “Back in Eugene: Three Vignettes”

At this past April’s Writing It Real in Port Townsend Writer’s Conference, participant Janet Love read the following vignettes to the group. She had the idea of developing a piece about exploring her life since moving she from northern California to Eugene, Oregon by being sure to mention one of her three children in each … Continue reading

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How a Community Newspaper Works

Many of us who write from personal experience have ideas for columns and features appropriate, we think, for our local newspapers, but we may never have talked with a newspaper editor to find out what things look like from their side of the desk. I became acquainted with Kasia Pierzga, the Whidbey Examiner’s owner, publisher … Continue reading

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On Writing Grief

At times of loss, those of us who write have a strong tool to use in working through our emotions. Whether our loss is a pregnancy, a child, a spouse, a parent, a marriage, our health, a job, an opportunity or a location, writing can help us find a sense of our new selves, selves … Continue reading

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