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

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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

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