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The Past is Always in the Present, A New Year’s Greeting

About the size of my palm, the orange glass turtle with stout yellow feet has been with me since 1972. We started out in Matawan, New Jersey, where my 7th-grade class presented him to me as a goodbye gift–I was moving to the West Coast with my husband, a transferring medical student. The turtle was … Continue reading

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In a Season of Lists, Write a Litany to Help Yourself Keep Writing

It is holiday time and amidst the tornado-like whirl of shopping, decorating, traveling, baking, cooking, and gathering with family, friends, colleagues and community, of offering help in shelters and churches, it may seem hard to write. And even harder still to write to discover what is at the bottom of our hearts and minds. The … Continue reading

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Writing Our Personal Stories for Others: Susan Smith’s “My Heart Attack Saved My Life”

I haven’t posted in the Writing It Real category of “Writing Makes a Difference” in a while now as I’ve concentrated on writing exercises to keep you inspired. This week, though, I am returning to that category to share Susan Smith’s account of having a heart attack. She wrote this piece because little is discussed … Continue reading

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I Can’t Get Enough of Flash Memoir!

Writing Flash Memoir is great exercise for writers. I’ve been experiencing this in my own writing and editing and in the classes I have been teaching online and in-person. Getting to the point and writing tight while still relying on details to move the reader into the story and move the story forward to its poignant, … Continue reading

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Enabling Voice by Molly Tinsley

We praise writing for its voice, but run into problems when we try to describe exactly what it is we’re responding to. Just as we each have an identifiable voice when we speak, there is something we call a writer’s voice that distinguishes his or her work. Faulkner’s fiction sounds different from Hemingway’s. A Mary … Continue reading

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Taking Inspiration from Allen Ginsberg’s Poems to Have My Say

Tuesday, as I waited for election returns, I thought of Allen Ginsberg’s poem “Howl,” written in 1955, so full of despair at what he had seen around him. I wondered what I would howl when I found out whether or not Democrats had gained a majority in the House of Representatives and, therefore, become able … Continue reading

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A Gander at Propaganda

“The Institute for Propaganda Analysis: Protecting Democracy in Pre-World War II America,” an article authored by Zachary Reisch and kept in the Bryn Mawr Institutional Library, offers clarification about the exploration of propaganda in our country. “What is democracy?” Reisch asks and he goes on: This is the question that liberals in late 1930s America … Continue reading

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A Wonderful Genre: Models and Lessons to Help You Write Flash

For the past month, I have been teaching an online class in writing in the flash subgenre. Last Saturday, I taught an all-day in-person seminar on the genre. So, this week, I am sharing some of my lesson ideas and links to model flash pieces, which I hope will encourage you to try your hand … Continue reading

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Hiring the Journal Keeper (and/or the Writer Within)

  …the heart…and the learned skills of the conscious mind… make appointments with each other, and keep them, and something begins to happen. Mary OliverA Poetry Handbook Whether you are someone who sets out to write poems, essays, stories or articles or keeps journals, the thinking and analogy I make in this excerpt from my … Continue reading

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From The Writer’s Portable Mentor: What About Self-Publishing?

Essayist, nonfiction author and poet Priscilla Long has given me permission to share an excerpt from her recently released new edition of her already classic book for writers, The Writer’s Portable Mentor. All of Priscilla’s advice is clear and sound. I am grateful for the opportunity to share some of her thinking with Writing It … Continue reading

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Double Issue: Writing Exercises to Inspire You to Write

Here is a collection of writing ideas to keep you going for days as our schedules start to fill with fall commitments and shorter daylight. Let the Seasons’ Personas Inspire You to Write It’s the change of seasons now. Some of us feel crisp, chilly air as September wanes. Others of us may find other … Continue reading

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The Change in the Trees, How Strong the Wind is Blowing

As I update an earlier book of mine, A Year in the Life: Journaling for Self-Discovery, I will be sharing some of my favorite writing exercises with you over the next few weeks. Here’s the first of several lessons I am enjoying revisiting: A Lesson From Morrie and Rilke Many of us have read Tuesdays … Continue reading

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The Light Had Been Shining

When I was in third grade, my teacher asked me to write a Chanukah play to be presented along with a Christmas play for the kids in my class. I am not sure how she identified me as a writer. Perhaps we wrote stories for class and she liked mine. How did I even know … Continue reading

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Moving an Essay Toward Completion — Pam Robinson’s “Table of Plenty”

Pam Robinson’s entry into the fall 2011 Writing It Real contest is an essay about her memories of her mother’s cooking and life on a farm. As I spend time harvesting onions, potatoes, tomatoes, cucumbers, various beans, Asian pears and soon apples and second crop radishes from my own garden, I resonate with the harvest … Continue reading

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On Labor Day: What Writers Might Celebrate About Their Vocation

The first Labor Day was celebrated by some on September 5, 1882, when Knights of Labor leader Peter J. McGuire requested that the first Monday in September be a day of rest for American workers. A parade in New York City’s Union Square honored the working people of America. Thousands took the day off to … Continue reading

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Prose Poetry in a Smoky Time

I was sitting at my dining table this morning with a cup of coffee looking out over the still smoky and haze-ridden sky we had experienced on the Olympic Peninsula for a week because of fires in Eastern Washington and in British Columbia. Sometimes we couldn’t see the islands so close to our shores here … Continue reading

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To Love the World and Let the World Love You: August Advice for Writing Poetry

August is the Gregorian calendar month named after the Roman Augustus Caesar, the man responsible for spreading the Roman Empire over the earth. He wrote about his great accomplishments, writings some think of as the typical age-old boastings of a politician. However, others wrote after his death that upon innumerable occasions he donated money to … Continue reading

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Nahid Rachlin on Her Writing With Generous Excerpts from Her Memoir

This past weekend, I was in conversation with fiction writer and memoirist Nahid Rachlin about her books and writing career. for my radio show on KPTZ ?In Conversation: Discussions on Writing and the Writing Life.? It had been over a decade since she and I had last held an interview, printed in The Writer?s Chronicle … Continue reading

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Stay in the Physical World: How Using Sensory Detail Builds the Inner Story

Creative writing requires that we create experience through our words. We can’t just say a day was amazing, or it was depressing, or that a character felt ecstatic about something without our readers becoming disengaged. If we do that we have created distance between ourselves as writers and our material and, eventually, between the story … Continue reading

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Patricia Hampl, My To-do List and Fiddler on the Roof

I am so enjoying reading Patricia Hampl’s The Art of the Wasted Day. Early in the book, page 18, she records one of her many to-do lists. She says first that she admires Montaigne, know as the father of the personal essay, for his ability to be rather than strive. He didn’t think of himself … Continue reading

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It’s Not that You Make Things Up — You Notice Things, Patricia Hampl in “Timelessness”

It’s summer, oh, those lazy days. When was the last time you had one of those lazy days? If you are lucky, there were one or more of them and not too long ago. But with the political turmoil in our country, the social networking scene, most of us working and/or volunteering, family needs, home … Continue reading

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To Follow Your Words, Not Your Keys, Home

Years ago, a poet friend of mine, Jim Mitsui, ended a poem with an image of people “following their keys home.” That image has lingered with me as a lesson about what the writing life saves us from, which is the dullness of always expecting the expected, and what it requires of us, which is … Continue reading

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Style Is the Wardrobe, Hairdo and Makeup a Storyteller’s Voice Wears

[This article originally appeared online for the Eleven Stories online writing program.– Ed.] My mother called me after the royal wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle to talk about the bride’s gown. The daughter of a ladies coats and suit designer, my mother grew up immersed in New York city’s fashion district. She called Markle’s … Continue reading

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Endings Part One

Here is a video I prepared for a program online called Eleven Stories. I hope you enjoy my talk (with documents in there so you can follow along as I read and lecture).  I will post Endings Part II next week. I’d love to hear from you about how this information helps and/or what questions … Continue reading

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An Approach to Writing Flash Nonfiction

Flash prose, sometimes called flash literature, is creative writing between 500 and 1500 words. This term includes further subgenres prose poetry, short essays and vignettes. Like the longer essay, or something now called short memoir, the flash personal essay evokes experience and arrives at discovery through the writer’s telling. Because it is short, it maintains a firm focus … Continue reading

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Sheila Bender Offers Tools for Writers on Breaking Their Silence

Earlier this month, I spoke with Linda Joy Myers of the International Association of Memoir Writers as a guest on her podcast series Breaking the Silence (the player link for you is below). I spoke about tools for getting to your subject when you feel unable to address your material. That happens when you are … Continue reading

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Enliven Your Fiction or Memoir by Weaving Complications into Your Story

Here is an article, originally posted in 2003 that deserves our writing attention again. In The Writer’s Idea Workshop, author Jack Heffron sets himself the task of letting his readers know what to do after a first draft is on the page.  In his manuscript, he writes: As we move deeper into the project we’re developing, … Continue reading

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Author Experiences with Book Titles

Have you had a difficult time finding a title for your work? Needed help from others or resented help from others when you thought your title was just right? Here are 12 stories by 12 writers about how titling worked for them. I think you’ll enjoy the read and realize that there are two kinds … Continue reading

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More on How to Write the How-to Essay (and Why)

I’ve been teaching the how-to essay again and reading models. I love how the how-to format offers the personal essayist a structure that inspires poignancy, honesty, and humor. Here is an excerpt from my book Writing and Sharing Personal Essays. And for after you’ve read about this style essay and the sample essay in the … Continue reading

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Endings: From Seeds Planted in the Openings

We have to leave a story, of any length, both satisfied and wishing the story stays with us—having fallen in love with the protagonists or having been at least drawn close to their situations, we want to carry the characters inside of ourselves, as if they are friends we know we won’t see again, people … Continue reading

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“Talk Much?” by Morgan Baker 3rd Place Winner

When our 2018 winter contest judge Kelli Agodon awarded 3rd Place to Morgan Baker’s personal essay “Talk Much?” she commented: As someone who loves finding words inside of words and who has struggled with dyslexia, I thought “Talk Much?” was an intriguing look at what the world (or the words) look like through dyslexia. The … Continue reading

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“Driving Home” by Barbara Simmons, 2nd Place Tie Winner, Winter 2018 Contest

Our fall/winter 2018 contest judge Kelli Agodon felt that two poems tied for 2nd place. We posted one last week, ?Grave Site Visit? by Nancy Levinson, and this week we are posting the second second-place winning poem, Barbara Simmons “Driving Home.” Kelli wrote this about her choice of Barbara?s poem: “Driving Home” is a lovely … Continue reading

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“Grave Site Visit” by Nancy Smiler Levinson, 2018 Winter Contest Winner

One of two writings tied for second place in our fall/winter 2018 writing contest is “Gravesite Visit,” a poem by Writing It Real member Nancy Levinson. Our guest judge Kelli Agondon described her choice this way: “Gravesite Visit” is a beautiful meditation on the healing powers of poetry and how poems (and writing) can help … Continue reading

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“Disturbing the Calm” by Judith Kvinsland, 1st Place

Our contest judge, Kelli Agodon, wrote this of her first choice piece in the fall/winter 2018 writing contest: Judith Barker Kvinsland’s essay, “Disturbing the Calm,” explores how sometimes, despite the ease of our lives, we need to take a risk. It is a thoughtful exploration of family, responsibility, and location, where the author learns something … Continue reading

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Recipes for Living Our Lives

We all have favorite recipes we’ve used for food preparation and sets of instructions we have followed to succeed in putting something together. What recipes or instruction sets might we write up concerning what we have learned in negotiating other aspects of our lives: instructions for facing disaster, surviving loss, or failure? What would we … Continue reading

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Omniscient Narrator–Have fun with the all-seeing!

I’ve made a short video for a program called 11 Stories that has “aired” for the people in that program. I am sharing it with Writing It Real members this week. In the video, I give a lesson on the third-person omniscient point of view in writing.  I think those of you writing flash nonfiction or fiction … Continue reading

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To Follow the Right God Home

I wrote this essay a year after my widowed mom moved from the home she had shared with my dad after his retirement. It was a new time in our lives, my mom widowed, my husband and I stepping up to help her during a time of health problems caused by ignoring her needs while … Continue reading

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A Writer’s Digest Prize-Winning Essay

Who among us wouldn?t envy the stamp of approval Vicki Horton?s personal essay ?Fishing with My Father? received from Writer?s Digest magazine in 2016? In answer to some of my questions about this writing and her writing life, Vicki responded: As you know writing is done mostly in isolation. I am my worst critic and … 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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Crafting Stories for Children (and Adults)

This week’s article by Nancy Lamb is a repost from 2008. It includes information on easy readers as well as on shaping other stories for children (or for any reader, really).  Nancy Lamb, author of The Writer’s Guide to Crafting Stories for Children, has edited many books by those hoping to enter the young adult … Continue reading

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Writing for Young Children: What’s an Easy Reader?

Author Beth Bacon is teaching her popular online workshop “Writing for Young Readers ? Words of Honesty, Hope, and Wonder” for Writing It Real members March 15 – April 12, 2018. When I called Beth recently and asked her how things were going, she was very enthusiastic about a new batch of easy readers she … 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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You: Writing in the Second Person

There are many strong essays and stories written in the second-person point of view. One I’ve come across recently, “Bread” by Margaret Atwood, is especially instructive for its use of scenes to build an argument.  With just the right details of place, situations, and people in those places, the you (who is her character and … 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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For Writers, “Finders Keepers” Can Mean “Finders Re-arrangers”

[This article appeared in slightly different form in 2014 — ed.] As writers, our ears are tuned for measuring the quality of the words we hear around us. Sometimes, our ears catch speech we think is pure poetry or could be if read that way. We find that with a little rearranging these words express more humor, more … 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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Anna Quinn’s Novel The Night Child Holds Lessons for Writers

In The Night Child, Nora Brown, descends into the kind of fragmentation that results when traumatic events have been repressed, her world becomes anxious and dark. In Anna Quinn’s skillful hands, both the world inside of Nora (who is no longer able to repress terrifying memories) and the world of loving people in her adult … 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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To Explain How a Poem Grows

This winter’s holiday school break, my grandson, now 15 and a half years old and equipped with his driver’s permit, took a two-week intensive driver’s education class. I certainly felt the passage of time as I remembered using an image of my son Seth receiving his driver’s license as I wrote a poem for him … Continue reading

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A Writing Exercise to Help You Arrive at Deep Material

Many say that the hardest part of writing is moving from daily activities to being able to create work that transcends the daily. There are ways, though, to launch new writing that unexpectedly gets you to your deepest material while allowing you to make the shift easily. What follows is an exercise that is meant … Continue reading

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