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Endings Part II–Twists, Surprises, and Morals

Here’s the second part of the series I created for Kahini’s Eleven Stories program. I hope you enjoy the short stories as you follow along on the included documents as I read. And, of course, I hope you enjoy my discussions of these kinds of endings: twists, surprises and morals, oh my!

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The Flash Sequence: A Form for Saying the Unsayable

The flash sequence uses poetic leaps of association for examining the impact of difficult-to-articulate circumstances. Sometimes it is accomplished in journal entries, other times with meditations about place, or people or objects. Sometimes it is composed of collections of scenes. Whatever the container of the sequence, the form is undoubtedly a psychological exploration, often of … Continue reading

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It’s Writing It Real 2018 Contest Entry Time!

Whether you are writing poetry, fiction or nonfiction, our first contest of 2018 is for you. The theme is: “A New Season.” And that can mean season of the year, turning over a new leaf, of one’s time in life, of one’s health and fitness, or of one’s way of thinking, It can mean taking on … Continue reading

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Writing to Remember and Be Joyful Even After Loss

The winter holidays are thought of as a time of joy, a time to chase away the northern hemisphere’s winter dark with lights, candles, sweets, gifts, gatherings and community festivities. To be sure, all of this is important, but for many, the holidays also yield deep longing for those who have died or are suffering … Continue reading

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A Talk for All Writers

Listening to successful children?s book writer Patrick Jennings during an interview with him for ?In Conversation: Discussions on Writing and the Writing Life,? I realized again how much authors of books for young readers have to teach all of us who write. Listen to my recent interview with Patrick, in which he reads from his … Continue reading

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Writers’ Strategies, Questions, And a Writing Exercise

A few years ago, I had the pleasure of interviewing memoirist and novelist Pam Houston. At the time of the interview, her book, Contents May Have Shifted, was Port Townsend?s Community Read. I did the taping on behalf of our local library. In this podcast, Pam talks about her writing and, in particular, the writing … Continue reading

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Write Your Own Manifesto

For several years now, I have been interviewing writers, editors, writing program directors and publishers for ?In Conversation: Discussions on Writing and the Writing Life,? my regular program on KPTZ FM radio. At Writing It Real, we archive the programs, after they have aired, to maintain permanent links to all of the interviews. Over the … Continue reading

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A Must Read for Personal Essayists: “Learning to Drive” by Katha Pollitt

This is a revised and updated article based on one from 2002 when I first read “Learning to Drive: A Year of Unexpected Lessons” by Katha Pollitt, published in The New Yorker magazine. I hope you’ll read the essay and go on to read my discussion of it, which includes an excerpt of review of the film (now … Continue reading

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Cider Mills and Burning Leaves: Writing Fall

For us in northern states, fall brings shorter daylight, leaves to rake and cider mills to visit where we sip fresh apple cider and eat sweet doughnuts. We fill a nip in the air. In warm climates, fall begins the season of visitors with full hotels, gift shops and restaurants. Around the country Thanksgiving dinners … Continue reading

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Self-Portrait, Self-Portrait on the Wall, A Writing Exercise

Years ago one of my writing students wrote this line in class, “Ms. Failure paints her self-portrait, then hangs it on a wall in your world without asking permission.” He was speaking, he told us, of a time when he was “not facing the realities of the world.” His imagined self-portrait both set him straight … Continue reading

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Writing of the Body: Metaphor Making is Food for the Soul

In his book Care of the Soul, Thomas Moore writes about a client he saw in counseling who was having problems with food and dreamt that her esophagus was made of plastic and wasn’t reaching her stomach. Moore says: The esophagus is an excellent image of one of the soul’s chief functions: to transfer material … Continue reading

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Existential Threat, an Article by Dahr Jamail

Writers write. Writers write to seek and tell truths, whether that is in poems, essays, memoir, fiction or articles. As writers, we must raise our voices in dark times, even when we think few are listening. I recently interviewed journalist Dahr Jamail for my KPTZ FM radio program (the podcast will be entered into the … Continue reading

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What is Epistolary Writing? Why Write in Epistolary Form?

The word epistolary comes from the Greek epistol?, which means “letter.” Writers use the letter form in writing personal essays, poems, creative nonfiction and fiction because the form provides a ready-made container to hold an exploration of events and experiences. Writing in the letter form quickly builds intimacy with readers because a letter is addressed to someone … Continue reading

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 On Finding Deep Power

What have writers shared about unleashing one?s best and most insightful creative work? G. Lynn Nelson, a professor of English at Arizona State University believes we must undo some of what we have been taught about language and use language in our journals as it was once used-to evoke mystery. In Writing and Being: Taking … Continue reading

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One More Waltz, An Essay by Nancy Lamb

There are times in a person’s life when everything is tinted gray and the future looks too dark to step into. Then in one single shift of the universe, something happens—we turn left, instead of right; we answer the phone, smile at a stranger, or meet an old lover. Something moves. And the light reappears. … Continue reading

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“Sanctuary,” an Essay by Nancy Lamb

All of us benefit from the memory of a place held dear. Such a memory keeps us breathing; such a memory calms our nerves; such a memory refreshes when life’s difficult times enervate us. Read Nancy Lamb’s well-drawn description of Cow Creek Canyon, a place she experienced as a child, and then try your hand … Continue reading

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Game Stories: A Prompt that Works

Two weeks ago, I posted an article with writing ideas for getting started on new material and asked those who wanted to do so to send me accounts of the games they have played and enjoyed, especially in childhood. My thanks to Nancy Levinson, author of Moments of Dawn: A Poetic Memoir of Love & … Continue reading

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Stage and Screen Prompts to Help Your Writing Craft

Whether you have wanted to write a play or a screenplay or are involved in writing memoir, thinking like a playwright will help you tell a story well by writing in scenes, creating evolving characters (yourself and others in your memoir) and using plot that employs conflict and life obstacles. Here are screen writing/play writing … Continue reading

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Hide & Seek: Using Childhood Games for Writing Prompts and Metaphors

In All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, Robert Fulghum writes about hiding in a pile of leaves in his front yard and not being found by the game’s seeker. He likens this hiding-too-well as a kid to a doctor who was dying of cancer but never told anybody because he didn’t … Continue reading

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Writing as a Walker in the City (Or Anywhere)

Writers write. That’s the definition. And sometimes, we-who-write feel cranky and rebellious toward our job. That can lead to not writing and then to becoming upset with ourselves for not writing, for not being writers. For the prompts I share this week, I’ve taken inspiration from Walt Whitman’s “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry”  and from the poet … Continue reading

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A Way Into Discovering More Than You Knew You Had to Say

William Zinsser edited a book in 1988 called Spiritual Quests: The Art and Craft of Religious Writing. In his introduction to the book, Zinsser states “the act of writing is ultimately a sacrament for both writer and reader.” The act of writing sustains the writer in his or her quest. In writing, spiritual energy seems … Continue reading

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Reading Tarn Wilson’s The Slow Farm as a Writer Reads

For this video lesson, I have selected three passages from a memoir I love and admire, Tarn Wilson’s The Slow Farm.  I discuss them as a lesson on using details and sensory information to evoke the point-of-view of a memoir’s protagonist–the writer’s. Here Tarn is using her point-of-view as young a child. We learn at … Continue reading

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Writing Poetry for a Clearer, More Centered Self

Writing poetry, no matter what genre you usually work in, is truly an experience of re-creating a self. In writing poems from experience and from meditative and reflective moments, we are the makers of something that helps us come to know ourselves and have increased intimacy with ourselves. From this intimacy comes the creation of … Continue reading

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Continuing: A Short Study of Writing Memoir As an Accumulation of Short Pieces

It may seem hard to imagine how to write a life in short pieces rather than with a more traditional narrative arc, but it works. Here are excerpts from memoirs-made-of-pieces that I like very much: Excerpts from Abigail Thomas’ What Comes Next and How to Like It. Excerpt from Kim Stafford’s 100 Tricks Any Boy Can Do: … Continue reading

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A Three-Part Study Guide to Writing Short Memoir

Part One To get a feel for short memoir, you might enjoy reading from Writers’ Digest magazine’s column called “5-Minute Memoir.”  Here are links to a few of the columns: Writing from the Mat Hidden in Plain Sight The Beauty of Bones Here is a column I wrote for the October 2012 issue: Writing Grief … Continue reading

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Admiring and Learning from Flash Writing by Jim Heynen

I have been an eager reader of flash stories by Jim Heynen for years. I’ve read The Man Who Kept Cigars Under His Cap, One-Room School House: Stories About the Boys, The Boy’s House: New and Selected Stories as well as his newest collection Ordinary Sins: Stories. You can visit this web page to view … Continue reading

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Reading as a Writer Reads — Taking a Lesson from the Writing in Just Fall, a Novel

I am an avid fan of Jane Friedman’s blog on writing and publishing. She is informative and up-to-date, presenting her expertise with scope and clarity. This week, I read her interview with screenwriter turned novelist, Nina R. Sadowsky.  I was impressed with the author’s words on how a background in screenwriting informed her novel writing. … Continue reading

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Find the Motto Writer Within: Outcomes from the Writing Exercise

A couple of weeks ago, I posted an exercise I call ?Find the Motto Writer Within.? Here are three writers’ outcomes from that exercise:The first is by Barbara Furniss, one of the writers I gathered to try out the exercises for?A Year in the Life: Journaling for Self-Discovery. The second is by Dorothy Ross, a … Continue reading

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A Useful Review for Employing the Five Senses in Writing Scenes

In writing, we only feel included as readers when our senses are involved. As we read with our senses involved, we learn more about ourselves and others by encountering the way the others record surroundings through their senses. As writers, we have a fuller picture when we allow our characters and ourselves as speakers to … Continue reading

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Finding the Motto Writer Within

We are motto (and affirmation) happy in our culture. We circulate phrases from manufacturers and social service organizations from “Just do it” to “Just say no,” from “You deserve a break today” to “I brake for animals.” After I studied creative writing in graduate school and was publishing poetry, I was just starting to use … Continue reading

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“Grave Matters”: Mary Ann Payne’s Writing Exercise Result

I am pleased to share long-time Writing It Real member Mary Ann Payne?s writing in response to the writing exercise I shared last week. Grave Mattersby Mary Ann Payne It?s time to bury the piano. Chop it up in tiny pieces and put it in a deep hole in the backyard next to the cement … Continue reading

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Burying the Dutch Oven: A Writing Exercise for Discovery

A writing colleague of mine once shared in an essay that when she angrily broke up with a beloved college boyfriend under duress because her father didn’t like him, she took the Dutch oven they used for cooking and buried it in the backyard before she left. The topic of the essay was finding him … Continue reading

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Contest Winner Linda Robertson’s Poems

In our final week of posting contest entries from the fall/winter WIR writing contest, we have seven poems by Linda M. Robertson. Our contest judge Sharon Bryan wrote this about selecting these poems as winners: These poems speak in a voice that makes me want to listen to everything it says. They are so well-crafted that … Continue reading

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“Long Meg Speaks” by Emma Hunter, a Winning Essay in the Fall/Winter WIR Contest

Our fall/winter writing contest guest judge Sharon Bryan chose Emma Hunter’s essay, “Long Meg Speaks,” as one of three winners. This week, we have the judge’s words about the essay as well as the author’s words about writing it, and, of course, the essay. Emma wrote this in answer to my request for words about … Continue reading

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Writing It Real Fall/Winter Contest Winner Dorothy Ross’ “A Night at the Plaza”

[I will be posting the work of our recent three winners this week and then for the next two weeks. I hope you enjoy their comments about the writing of their work, our contest judge Sharon Byran’s comments, and, of course, the writing. – Ed.] Here is Dorothy Ross on why she is writing the … Continue reading

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What’s the Writer’s Job? Getting Going and Keeping on Going

When I teach in person, people sometimes show up having purchased a copy of the recently updated edition of my first instructional book on writing: Writing in a Convertible with the Top Down, which I co-authored with Christi Killien Glover. Their interest prompts me to include exercises from that book during our class time together. This week, I’d like to … Continue reading

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Poetry and Essays by Carol Smallwood: Observer, Librarian, Philosopher

Librarian, poet and author Carol Smallwood came to my attention over the years when she emailed calls for essays to consider for anthologies she was editing. I was very pleased to learn about these anthologies and very pleased when she accepted my essays for inclusion in Poetry: Tips on Writing, Teaching and Publishing by Successful … Continue reading

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Sheila Reads Her Poems for National Poetry Month

For National Poetry Month, tonight I am reading from my own poetry at the link below. For me poetry is an everyday experience and so there aren’t any huge production values or perfect lighting in this video. Just me sharing my poems and talking to you about what I hope poetry accomplishes for humanity. You can … Continue reading

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Finding Starts in Personal Essay Writing: Part 3

Mining the Three Freewrites: Whether you have done these freewrites ( see Part 1 and Part 2) ?in the course of one writing session or over several days, find out what the freewrites have to tell you about an essay you might write by combing through them and jotting down images and phrases that interest … Continue reading

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Finding Starts in Personal Essay Writing: Part 2

[The following article appeared first in “The Heart and Craft and of Life Writing.”] Last week’s article included a freewrite to get you going toward writing on a topic that surprises you or allows you to get into a piece of writing in a way that is new to you. If you haven’t done freewrite … 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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Finding Starts in Personal Essay Writing: Part 1

[The following article appeared first in “The Heart and Craft and of Life Writing.”] It  might not be obvious that those of us who write personal essays can benefit greatly from not knowing what we have to write about.  That is surprising to people who think of the essay as researched knowledge with a professorial, … Continue reading

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The Way I See It

“The Way I See It” is the “Prologue” from Writing Personal Essays: Sharing and Shaping Your Life Experience, Published in print and digitally by Sheila Bender’s Writing It Real, March, 2017 [Note: I wrote a slightly different version of this essay for the 1995 edition of my book. Everything I realized then remains important to … Continue reading

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Acknowledging the Value of Your Writing, Part 4

Creating Self-Understanding Despite Fears of Revealing Your Own Shortcomings and True Experience Before we see what writers have said on the issue of fear about revealing oneself through writing, try this exercise: Select four or so pieces of your writing. Look for nouns that you used more than you knew you did. Circle these words … 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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Acknowledging the Value of Your Writing Part 3 of 4

Healing Through the Dark Emotions From journal writing to writing finished plays, memoir, poems and fiction, writers evoke and examine encounters with the dark emotions incited by misfortune, abuse, divorce, severe lack of confidence, fear of difficult and horrifying situations in our world, as well as the loss of a loved one or of a … Continue reading

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