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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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From the Editors of Ashland, Oregon’s Ashland Creek Press

I belong to a book promotion group with fiction writer Midge Raymond, author of the short story collection Forgetting English. When she shared the link to a promotional video she and her husband, novelist John Yunker (The Tourist Trail), created, I clicked right over to their YouTube video called “Love in the Time of Amazon.” … Continue reading

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Music of the Spheres

This week we are proud to post our second place winner in the recent WIR writing contest. Music of the Spheres By Charles Blondino He sits into the leather chair large enough for three of him. “I just learned to play this,” he says and lifts his guitar. We both watch the fingers of the … Continue reading

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Lucy’s Choice

Here is our third place winner in the recent WIR essay and poetry contest. We posted our first place winner last week and we’ll be posting the second place winner — a poem — next week. When you read Hildegard’s essay about an elderly friend, think about the ways in which the essay grounds us … Continue reading

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Mother’s Curse

[DAP userId=”10″]This is a Special Edition for Kate Bracy’s readers. We hope you enjoy it. Please consider trying Writing It Real for two weeks for only $.99.[/DAP] I admire the way Kate M. Bracy threads her essay with the words of the “mother’s curse,” using them four times  (at the beginning, a couple of times … Continue reading

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Your Best Friend, Not Mine

Personal essays can be effective arguments that lobby to persuade others to rethink behavior or at least understand a different point of view. As you read this week’s account of Kurt VanderSluis’ incident with a dog, note the way his narration of the incident as well as his narration of his inner response to it … Continue reading

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Smoking

Two years ago, Jack Heffron read this personal essay at our Writing It Real conference in Port Townsend. An exercise Jack offered this past conference involved writing a confession about something you haven’t confessed before. His assignment made me remember the entertaining and true-to-human nature essay he’d read to us the year before. Now Jack has given Writing … Continue reading

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Writing About A Road Not Taken

Most of us regret having taken actions regarding life decisions because of fear or confusion or not wanting to disappoint others. How our lives would be different now if we had seized the opportunities life presented is something we can’t know. And we may be perfectly happy in our current lives even as we retell … Continue reading

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Building My Writing Life

In classes and at writers’ workshops, people often want to know how they can make their lives writing lives. Many ask how they can begin to earn income from writing. The answers to both questions vary, depending on what kind of writing they want to create, whether they want to write for print publications or … Continue reading

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What Good Talking!

The first time I taught a seminar in keeping a writer’s journal, I was stuck with the fact that everyone around the table said they enrolled partly to develop discipline as a writer. They came to class believing that learning the discipline of keeping a journal could be a foundation for being a “real writer.”  … Continue reading

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Shall I Fly Away?

We are pleased to post our third-place winning essay in the Writing It Real Winter 2011 contest. Inez Holger’s original entry into the contest sparked a few questions from me about where I wanted to know just a little bit more. Reading through those questions, Inez polished her essay, which contest guest judge Janice Eidus … Continue reading

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The Road to Dove Creek

Poet and fiction writer Paula Marie Coomer has written an essay about her road to becoming a writer and to publishing her work. Through her story, you will relate to the persistent internal voice (echoed by those who know your essence) that urges you on and makes you take your writing goals seriously—or that finally … Continue reading

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Thinking of Publishing? Know Your Distribution Channels

Terry Persun, author of numerous technical articles, poetry books and novels, has published a guidebook that will help any of us who are working with small presses, self-publishing or working to support our book even though it is with a big publisher. Here is an excerpt from Guidebook for Working with Small Independent Publishers. For … Continue reading

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Interview with David Reich

When I was writing the fiction-writing chapter of Creative Writing Demystified, I called upon David Reich to review the chapters, helping me feel secure that I was sharing pertinent and useful information with the book’s readers. He took on the task of helping me examine tone in writing novels by generously offering first drafts and … Continue reading

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Cheating Death

Contest judge Janice Eidus chose “Cheating Death” as a winner in our winter Writing It Real writing contest, saying, “I admire how in succinct fashion the writer authentically captures the painful process of grieving, including the step of moving on.” I am pleased to present the first draft Mary Ann submitted to our no-contest contest … Continue reading

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Five Stars: An Adventure in Amatory Dining

Our guest judge, Janice Eidus, wrote of Alice’s essay: “I admire how the writer uses food as a romantic metaphor in such an original way. Also, the ending is truly an ‘inevitable surprise.’” This week, we share Alice Lowe’s finished essay, followed by an excerpt from the original draft she entered, with my responses. Alice … Continue reading

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Seattle7 Writers: What’s That All About?

The Seattle7 group of writers has garnered national attention for their work contributing to literary and literacy communities. The attention has resulted not only in strengthening alliances among the writers working together but also in valuable promotion for their books and writing careers. Seattle7 member Kit Bakke, who has contributed several articles to Writing It … Continue reading

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Write as Tukwilla’s Youth of Arrival Write

“…poetry, like bread, is for everyone.” — Salvadoran poet Roque Dalton Many people say they don’t enjoy poetry or they don’t find it accessible. But they didn’t have Merna Ann Hecht for a teacher. She teaches her students how they can find the small stories that tell the larger story through poetry. As a poet, … Continue reading

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Celebrating National Poetry Month, Part 2

The Work of Marc J. Sheehan, Jefferson Carter, Lana Hechtman Ayers and Marilyn Stablein As I wrote last week: I think of poetry as my “home page.” It is where I land when I want to deepen my appreciation, my observation, my understanding and my memory of the worlds I inhabit. Reading and writing poetry, … Continue reading

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Celebrating National Poetry Month, Part 1

The Work of Susan Rich, Janée Baugher, Peggy Shumaker and Ellaraine Lockie I think of poetry as my “home page.” It is where I land when I want to deepen my appreciation, my observation, my understanding and my memory of the worlds I inhabit. Reading and writing poetry, I click over to the world within … Continue reading

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Though I Haven’t Been to Baghdad

This first day of National Poetry Month, we share a letter from Milwaukee poet Margaret Rozga, whose son was deployed to Afghanistan and wounded there. The poems in her forthcoming poetry collection, Though I Haven’t Been to Baghdad, concern her emotional response to her son’s active duty, the impact of the many stories she heard … Continue reading

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Lifesaving with Oral Histories

After reading Nancy Rekow’s oral history works, I wrote to her with questions, hoping for an article that allowed Writing It Real subscribers access to the thought process and background that fed her desire to write oral history. In response, Nancy wrote the following article and sent me this note: “Thanks, Sheila, for sending me … Continue reading

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Far As I Can Remember

Last week we posted Nancy Rekow’s foreword to the oral history she wrote from interviews with Minnie Rose Lovgreen, her neighbor of many years. This week we post an excerpt so you can experience Minnie’s voice and the skill with which Nancy selected transcriptions from the many interviews. There is more information about the book … Continue reading

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Recording Oral History

Writing oral histories is a project of the heart. An author is struck with a strong desire to write the life of another in that other’s words because they find something colorful, endearing and valuable about that person’s experiences. This kind of writing, which contains as little interference as possible from the author’s updated mind, … Continue reading

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A Free-Range Writer

Twenty eleven is the Year of the Chicken around here. The chicken coop is finally finished. Just the fencing is left, and then we can bring some hens home. These will be free-range chickens, with both a fenced-in pasture and a 30’x30′ predator-proof pavilion. There will be no tiny cages for these gals. The girlfriends, … Continue reading

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Letter Writing Exercise Keeps Relationship with Deceased Grandparents Alive

In 2007, we posted an interview with Allison Gilbert about her first book Always Too Soon: Voices of Support For Those Who Have Lost Both Parents, which is a collection of intimate interviews about the journey traveled by those whose parents have both died. This week, we are pleased to present an excerpt from her … Continue reading

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Things Fall Apart

Last month, I met journalist Lawrence W. Cheek, who is on the faculty of the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts low-residency MFA program on Whidbey Island. He is at work on a boat he has named Nil Desperandum (never despair) as well as a new book about boatbuilding as character building. He has generously shared … Continue reading

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Body Language: A Traditional Turkish Bath Experience

This week we are posting the third of our three winners in the fall 2010 Writing It Real contest. Rhonda Wiley-Jones has been a traveler since her teen years and, it seems from her essay, has learned to make good use in her writing of cultural surprises she’s encountered. This article contains the essay she … Continue reading

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Earning Our Turns: Celebrating Romance Nordic Style

This week, we are very pleased to post the first place winning essay in Writing It Real’s Fall, 2010 contest. Our guest judge this time around was Ellie Mathews, who wrote about her choice this way, “In her essay, ‘Earning Our Turns,’ Alessandra Bianchi takes the reader with her on a ski trip via minute … Continue reading

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The Pen and The Bell: Making Room to Write in a Crowded World

Brenda Miller and Holly J. Hughes, two skillful writers and past contributors to Writing It Real (be sure to click on their names to read their distinguished bios), have written a manuscript aimed at helping writers encourage and pay attention to their writing in the midst of commitments that squelch the meditative state required to … Continue reading

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