Beth Spencer’s Third Place Winning Poem “The Shipwreck Coast”

In choosing Beth Spencer’s poem, “The Shipwreck Coast,” as the fall/winter Writing It Real contest third place winner, guest judge Molly Tinsley wrote: “Yes, poetry is memoir–at least in the case of this intriguing narrative poem. I loved the resolutely unpoetic, sardonic voice.  Again, the emotional control over deeply painful material impressed me. We have all … Continue reading

Michael Shurgot’s 2nd Place Winning Essay “The First Time I Should Have Died”

Our guest judge Molly Tinsley’s notes about choosing Michael Shurgot’s essay for our second-place winner are these: “Great propulsion. The building of tension, the sense of time running out, the hints of questions left unanswered — all are the strategies of an accomplished story-teller. The detachment of the retrospective voice hooked me in further, the … Continue reading

First Place Winning Essay – “Why I Write” by Mary Kurtz

Our fall/winter writing contest judge, Molly Tinsley, chose “Why I Write,” a personal essay by Mary Kurtz, as our first-place winner. Molly said in her notes about this essay: “Emotional control of the narrative makes Mary’s experience all the more riveting and poignant. I was swept up by the vivid flow of habitual action interrupted … Continue reading

On Writing From Life

Our writing contest guest judge, Molly Tinsley, is now reading and making her selections of three contest winners in the recent Writing It Real contest. While we are waiting for the results, we are reprinting her article about writing memoir. It appeared orignally in the November 2013 issue of Author magazine.  Molly’s words on writing from … Continue reading

What I Was Thinking

This article first ran January 24, 2008, after a visit from my grandsons. Their visit over this past Martin Luther King three-day weekend had me thinking again about the way watching children’s reactions to our adult judgments and commands can help us become kinder to our writing and our writing selves, so we can better … Continue reading

People Who Write — Sandra Hurtes’ Story of Blog to Book

Sandra Hurtes created a blog, felt she had a book there, and engaged in the process of selecting and shaping the entries and adding to the material to create a book-length account of herself as writer.  The result is the very recently published The Ambivalent Memoirist: Obesessions, Digressions, Epiphanies, which has already garnered praise and … Continue reading

On Meeting the Lost Boys of Sudan, Personal Writing at the Intersection of History

Writing It Real member Betty Shafer met five of the Lost Boys of the Sudan during a time that she was mourning personal losses and considering a major life change. Entwining their story of tragedy and survival during an historic upheaval with reflections on events in her own life, Betty arrives at clarity, strength, and … Continue reading

New Year’s Thoughts and Advice From My Correspondence With My iPad Mini

December 31, 2013 Dear Mini, Today marks our six-month anniversary of being together!  Six months! And you, my love, remain ever fresh and surprising, ever so original! We haven’t parted for even a day since that July afternoon when I gave in to the gleam in your eye and brought you home. I want to … Continue reading

A New Year’s Vow: Believe What You Have to Say Is Worth Writing

Whether we live on farms or in city apartments, grow up in logging camps or in suburban homes, move all over the world or remain in just one town, take on unusual jobs or work at home, we too often get to thinking that whatever we would write would not be important or interesting enough … Continue reading

Create the Mother Lode: Exercises for Short Writing That Leads to More Writing

[This excerpt appear in slightly different form in the anthology Women Writing On Family: Tips on Writing, Teaching and Publishing, edited by Carol Smallwood and Suzann Holland.] Even when life seems too busy to “really” write, you can work on gathering and storing images, details, and reflections about family life, personal experiences and memories. The brief … Continue reading

Our Writing Minds Depend on This

Writing depends on our willingness to observe closely and our ability to allow ourselves to engage emotionally with what we are observing. So often, though, we don’t remember to take time to look around rather than look only at our screens because of the mad crush of email, texts, instant messages, facebook posts, tweets, and … Continue reading

That Crazy Little Thing, a Novel that Tackles What’s Big for a Writer and Her Characters

That Crazy Little Thing a debut novel by Kate Bracy has garnered wonderful reviews from readers and critics because of the author’s writing, the way she has developed her characters and how they explore issues of love — between friends, parents and their children, and adults looking for partners who understand them. Following Kate’s answers … Continue reading

A Coming-of-Age Vignette, Sage Advice, and the Writing Exercise They Inspired

When you read the following excerpts from Rhonda Wiley-Jones’ memoir, At Home in the World: Travel Stories of Growing Up and Growing Away, you’ll likely remember incidents from your own youth when you learned important things about yourself, perceptions that allowed you to see yourself in new ways. I’ve included a writing exercise to use … Continue reading

Writer Tells All – A Narrative About Self-publishing

Are you thinking of self-publishing and wondering what the process is like? It never hurts to hear from one who has successfully navigated the process. With humor and self-awareness, Rhonda Wiley-Jones takes us on her journey as writer turned self-publisher. Reading her narrative is like sitting in the chair next to her. When she’s done … Continue reading

From Idea to Publication: Rhonda Wiley-Jones on Her Memoir Project

When Writing It Real member Rhonda Wiley-Jones published her travel/coming-of-age memoir, parts of which she had worked on through Writing It Real contests and editorial help, I was eager to hear what she’d learned in her process of moving from the initial essays to a book-length manuscript. What follows are her interesting and thoughtful replies … Continue reading

Foreword to Times They Were A-Changing

It was an honor to be asked to write the foreword to the newly released anthology Times They Were A-Changing, edited by Linda Joy Myers, Amber Lea Starfire, and Kate Farrell, whose selection of forty-eight powerful stories and poems by women about life changing experiences in the ’60s and ’70s vividly re-creates those two decades … Continue reading

Writing a Eulogy Starting with a Remembered Trait

When asked to write a eulogy for a family member you cared for, you may find that your memories and those of others who knew the person you are writing about might span a lifetime but with gaps. Thinking of a physical trait you strongly associate with the person who has died and opening the … Continue reading

Using Anaphora — A Model for a Speech

When my daughter Emily Bender was writing a Valedictorian speech to be delivered at her UC Berkeley graduation, she was nervous about having something worth saying. With all of the demands of her life as a graduating senior, she had mulled the speech over but not found a way of tying things together. The she … Continue reading

On Writing for Weddings

In writing a wedding speech, we reflect upon our lives, our hopes and dreams and the hard work of relationship.

On Writing the Eulogy

As writers, we are frequently the ones asked to write eulogies for friends and family members. Even if we are not asked, we may feel moved to write eulogies to honor those we loved and then to share our writing with a literary audience. Reading author David Reich’s eulogy for his father and considering the … Continue reading