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Acknowledging the Value of Your Writing: Exercises for Week One and Two of Four

I have been teaching a class called “Writing is a Friend with Extraordinary Benefits” for a couple of years now through Women on Writing. I have been extremely engaged in what my students write and thrilled by the evidence that by writing from certain models the writers have reaffirmed their belief in the value of writing. After … Continue reading

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Writing About Painful Topics

My friend, the essayist Brenda Miller, wrote the introduction to my memoir A New Theology: Turning to Poetry in a Time of Grief. “I understood then,” she wrote, “that grief can be a channel in which you swim alone, where you can also find your brethren as they flicker along beside you, their bodies gliding … Continue reading

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Help Writing Scenes That Engage the Reader (and the Writer)

In 2005, I posted an article with excerpts from Riding in Cars with Boys by Beverly Donofrio’s and A Soldier’s Daughter Never Cries by Kaylie Jones along with exercises based on their writing. I am reposting the following short excerpts along with the ideas I had aimed at helping you launch new writing of your … Continue reading

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A Writer’s Role Models: Canadian Author Miriam Towes and Her 15-Year-Old Character Elfrieda

This week, I have made a video for Writing It Real’s Weekly Article. In it, I share a passage from Canadian author Miriam Toews’ novel All My Puny Sorrows in which a talented 15-year-old piano player exercises her genius against the unwelcome authoritarianism of the Mennonite elders, who “willy nilly” as the girl’s mother says, … Continue reading

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Toward Beginning A Year of Writing Poetry (Or Improving Your Prose Through Poetry)

For January: Dreams and Repetitions In this month of the inauguration of a new president of our country, it seems particularly appropriate and important to study the orators of our great nation who called out for freedoms we enjoy. Reading the words of Dr. King, Thomas Jefferson and Barack Obama, we can experience the power … Continue reading

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Understanding Your Writing and Your Need to Write

How does one muster the courage to keep writing even when no one has asked for her to write? How does a writer handle restlessness and disappointment? The author Ralph Keyes writes in The Courage to Write: How Writers Transcend Fear that when he started out as a writer, he had no idea that courage … Continue reading

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My Sure Fire Methods of Self-Sabotage (and What I’ve Done to Turn Them Around)

We’ll soon be thinking about the New Year’s Resolutions we want to make for 2017. For those who write, at least one of those resolutions will likely be about finding more time to write. I know that’s what I’d like to find in 2017. It’s not enough, though, to resolve to find that time. I … Continue reading

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What It Takes – An Exercise to Keep You Writing

This time of year, we are often flooded with memories of our childhoods, especially of winter holiday times. Some of the memories may be of difficulties and some may be of times filled with excitement and joy. Happy or sad, peaceful or filled with anxiety, these memories can lead to vivid writing. In drafting writing … Continue reading

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Why I Want to Write

[Editor’s note: Sometimes I teach a class for Women on Writing that I call “Writing is a Friend with Extraordinary Benefits.” The following essay by Katherine Clarke is reprinted with permission of the author, is an example of what happens in this class — one writer’s words offering extraordinary benefits for each of us who write.] Like many people … Continue reading

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‘Tis the Season for Lists

[Note: I originally posted the following article in December, 2007. It’s holiday preparation time again and lists keep us sane. They can also keep us writing! Try the exercise I am suggesting based on writing lists poems. Try it more than once during this season of shopping lists, invitation lists and gift lists.] You might … Continue reading

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A Passion for Writing Might Save Us in These Times

What are we writers to do in a nation where so many young and old seem to have gone mad, publically shouting and bullying, using crude names for those of the female sex and for people of non-Christian religions and for people of color — here in a country where over decades we?ve: Passed legislation … Continue reading

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Deepen Your Writing: 20 Prompts Using Point of View

Many of us writing memoir are used to writing from the first person (I) point of view. Others of us write fiction in the first person, often as an autobiographically-based main character. Some of us write in third person (he or she) when we want to tell an autobiographical story but feel too close to … Continue reading

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Gathered by Author Priscilla Long: Tools for a Life in Art

Through books, articles and often in-person seminars, Seattle author and poet, Priscilla Long, shares her experience with those of us who write. Her recent book, Minding the Muse: A Handbook for Painters, Composers, Writers and Other Creators, is, at just over a hundred pages, packed with her reflections on how creators use their time, their … Continue reading

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A Short Study in Prose Poetry – Questions and Answers

What is a prose poem? “It is a piece of writing in prose having obvious poetic qualities, including intensity, compactness, prominent rhythms, and imagery.” — Chrome Browser Link. Why write it? “Baudelaire used prose poems to rebel against the straitjacket of classical French versification. He dreamed of creating ‘a poetic prose, musical without rhyme or … Continue reading

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We Write to Feel and to Make Others Feel What is Genuine

When someone asks (or you ask yourself) why you write, I bet that many of the motivations you think to cite are on this list: • to understand your experience, • because you have a story in your heart, • because you can’t keep yourself from writing, • because you hope at least one other person on the … Continue reading

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20 Prompts for Article Writing

Want to write an article for a local publication, an online site or a niche publication in a field of interest to you? Here are some prompts to get you going: Write a tourist type tour of your town for those who live there. Write an idiosyncratic tour of your town for tourists who don’t … Continue reading

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What the Teacher Was Thinking

Whatever our role in life, however well we perform in it, there is always the not knowing if we are doing it right, if what we are trying to accomplish will be accomplished. Sometimes that situation offers us a prompt we can use for writing. As a writing teacher, I spend many of the minutes … Continue reading

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23 Prompts for Revising

Author Joyce Carol Oates says, “The pleasure is the rewriting.” Author John Irving says, “More than a half, maybe as much as two-thirds of my life as a writer is rewriting. I wouldn’t say I have a talent that’s special. It strikes me that I have an unusual kind of stamina.” I enjoy revising and … Continue reading

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20 Memoir and Personal Essay Writing Prompts

Exploring your life on the page is daunting whether you are writing short memoir (the personal essay) or a book-length manuscript. Where does one start? How does one choose the highlights for the story’s exploration? How does one find surprises? Here are 20 ideas to find a point of entry and to organize your memoir … Continue reading

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Making Books from Lists Part II: Adam Diament’s Kosher Patents

Adam L. Diament, the author of Kosher Patents: 101 Ingenious Inventions to Help Jews be Jewish, is a practicing patent attorney in Beverly Hills, California. He earned a B.A. in Religious Studies with an Emphasis in Judaism from the University of California, Berkeley in 1997 and a law degree from the University of San Diego … Continue reading

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Rants and Raves — A Great Writing Strategy from Karen Lorene

“If I’d only known what was in this book forty years ago, how much more money would I have made and how fewer problems would I have encountered?” Karen wonders. Isn’t that true for all of us in our lives—if we knew what we know now we could have done better at what mattered to … Continue reading

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Writing the Dear Mom Letter with Deborah Berger

 Deborah Berger asked women to write letters about what they never told their mothers.  Ultimately, she edited a selection of the contributions, along with profiles of their authors, into Dear Mom, Women’s Letters of Love, Loss and Longing. In her introduction to the work, she writes, “We are always linked to our mothers: both to … Continue reading

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When Digital Isn’t Real: Fact Finding Offline for Serious Writers

When Marlene Samuels found a publisher for her deceased mother’s World War II memoir, The Seamstress: A Memoir of Survival, her editor at Penguin-Berkeley had two conditions. She would have to ensure the accuracy of all the book’s facts (the names of every town and city in Eastern Europe during the early 1900’s up to … Continue reading

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Excerpt from Richard-Gabriel Rummonds Fantasies & Hard Knocks, My Life as a Printer

This book is a big one?in every way. In its 813 beautifully designed pages and over 450 gorgeous photos and images, a story unfolds not only of fine handpress printing but the man who printed works by many great 20th Century writers as well as prepared food for them and others in his own kitchens … Continue reading

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A Revision Success Story: Developing “The Longest Walk” by Arla Shephard Bull

Writing It Real member Arla Shephard Bull worked back and forth with me on developing an essay that was important to her to write. She had decided to use the third person as a way of distancing herself enough to approach the topic of a painful family trip. Despite a question she had about that … Continue reading

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Another Fall/Winter Winner: Afrose Ahmed’s “the world did end…we just didn’t notice”

Our fall/winter contest judge Stan Rubin was struck with the lyric qualities in Afrose Ahmed’s entry, “the world did end…we just didn’t notice.” He wrote in his comments: “A gorgeous piece of lyrical writing. The odd but wonderfully sustained angle of vision—post-apocalyptic, witty, and liminal all at once—establishes its own rhythm and deepens to revelation. … Continue reading

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Contest Winner — The Meditation Room

Stan Rubin, our guest contest judge, shares these remarks about his choice of Amanda Noble’s essay, “The Meditation Room”: A nuanced portrayal of the shifting stages of private grief––and its gradual acceptance. This process is depicted with precision, intelligence, and sophisticated self-awareness. The writing keeps a sharp focus. A lot of emotional terrain is deftly … Continue reading

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Fall/Winter Writing Contest: Emma Hunter’s “God’s Breath and Bolognese”

Contest judge Stan Rubin, a master teacher, poet and friend of writing, wrote that Emma Hunter’s essay: Gracefully lives up to its rather daunting title, with wit and philosophical sweep. Concisely renders a dual vision — adult and child, the mundane and the cosmic — with natural dialogue and internal reflection, in a realistic scene. The relationships are delicately and … Continue reading

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Finding Form

Tarn Wilson delivered this paper for a panel on “Hydra-Headed Memoirs & Well-Connected Essays” at the 2015 Nonfiction Now conference. I am delighted to have her permission to post her words for Writing It Real readers. Tarn’s lovely memoir is The Slow Farm. She uses her experience writing it to inform other writers about her … Continue reading

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Excerpt from Route 66, a Nonfiction/Fiction Book Project by Jack Heffron

In this excerpt from Jack Heffron’s book project?that combines fiction and nonfiction, you’ll notice the strength of Jack’s?scenes and dialog, exactly the craft skills?he?will be teaching this year at the June 9-12 Writing It Real conference. In the book, Jack told me, the protagonist, Jack Finney, is a retired advertising executive who recently has been … Continue reading

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Excerpt From The Third Law of Motion, a Novel by Meg Files

The opening of Meg Files’ fine novel The Third Law of Motion?introduces the?book’s first-person narrative as we enter protagonist Dulcie White’s life as a college-bound high school student. In alternating chapters throughout the book, the young woman’s sometimes boyfriend, a confused and needy?young man, also narrates, but in the third person. Meg does an expert … Continue reading

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Clear the Debris of Abstraction and Sentimentality

As the Presidential candidates for nomination continue to gather followers with predictable phrases, and pundits attempt to predict who the will be the frontrunners, I am reminded of the importance of writing toward felt insight. We need to leave abstracting and sentimentality behind if we are to find insight and make deep connections with ourselves and others through our writing. … Continue reading

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In Conversation with Three Very Different Writers

Every few months, I sit with sound engineer Charlie Fleishman at the studio of Port Townsend, WA’s all volunteer FM station KPTZ.org and record conversations with four writers. Each of these Sundays includes telephone conversations with writers from anywhere in the country and in studio conversations local writers. ?Each program plays two to three times … Continue reading

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