Maya Smith’s Description of How She is Writing Reclaiming Venus: The Many Lives of Alvenia Bridges

Maya Angela Smith is an associate professor of Francophone studies at the University of Washington, Seattle with a PhD in Romance Languages and Linguistics from UC Berkeley. Her scholarship broadly focuses on the intersection of race, language, and mobility among marginalized groups in the African diaspora, particularly in the postcolonial francophone world, seen most notably in her academic monograph Senegal … Continue reading

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How and Why We Write

The Writing It Real March 2020 article is a compilation of writings by Writing It Real members on a topic dear to our hearts–how and why we write. EBook Formats We have 3 different formats. Which ones you choose depends on how you intend to read the anthology. Print on Paper If you want to … Continue reading

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Tender is the Harvest, A Winning Essay by Laurie McConnachie

Our contest judge Holly Hughes  wrote these words in choosing Laurie McConnachie’s essay as one of our three winners: This is a deeply moving account of a daughter who lost her mother to a brain tumor when she was in her late 20s—and how she learns to move through grief and open her heart to … Continue reading

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Beginning Again with Tree Spirits by Katlaina Rayne

I am pleased to share another essay by a Writing It Real member. “Beginning Again with Tree Spirits” illustrates the diverse topics our members write about. Reading Katlaina’s essay will definitely change your relationship to the trees and forests in your towns and counties as well as inspire courage to write about topics you fear … Continue reading

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Tornado Watch by Carol Smallwood

Writing It Real contributor Carol Smallwood is a poet with several volumes to her name, a retired career librarian who has produced books of value to those who direct and run libraries and educational programs, and she is the editor of writing books for new and experienced writers and teachers of writing. In 2018 she … 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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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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“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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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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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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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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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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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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Writing Our Own Stories Helps Others Write Theirs: Essay by and Interview with Joan Leof

Joan Leof’s collection of essays Matryoshka: Uncovering Your Many Selves Through Writing Personal Essays and Questions for Reflection is intended to share her personal experience essays in a way that encourages others to write from their experiences. After reading her collection and asking Joan’s permission to reprint one of her essays for Writing It Real … Continue reading

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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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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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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If You Want to Write…

This week, Judy Reeves, author of the new book, Wild Women, Wild Voices, shares her thoughts on writing practice. Here article serves as a good review for all of us who are busy concentrating on revising and publishing and may have begun to overlook the idea of what a writing practice is and offers. She … Continue reading

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How We Write the Heroine’s Story: Interview with Author Jody Gentian Bower

Jody Gentian Bower’s new book, Jane Eyre’s Sisters: How Women Live and Write the Heroine’s Story, is sure to change some minds about the path of women’s literature. I am pleased to post the following interview with Jody. I know readers will find both her thinking and her commitment to the process of creating her … Continue reading

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Second Place Winning Essay — Winter 2014 Contest

We are pleased to post the second place winning essay in this past winter’s Writing It Real essay contest. Our guidelines said the number 12 was to be somewhere in the essay in honor of Writing It Real’s 12th Anniversary. Our guest judge, Midge Raymond, co-founder of Oregon’s Ashland Creek Press, chose Maureen Mistry’s “The … Continue reading

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On Making Audio Memoirs

Not long ago, Writing It Real member Dorothy Ross wrote to me about her newest project — recording the narratives she’s written about her life for her family to have in the form of audio files. I listened to a few of them and was so pleased to hear her physical voice. I immediately wanted … Continue reading

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Excerpt from Susan Bono’s Collection What Have We Here

The following essay by Susan Bono is the title essay from her new collection What Have We Here: Essays about Keeping House and Finding Home. We reprint it this week with her permission. To learn more about Susan’s writing and the place of the personal essay in her writing life, please see last week’s interview. What Have We … Continue reading

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What Have We Here: A Conversation with Susan Bono About Her New Collection of Essays

For writer and small press publisher (Tiny Lights) Susan Bono, the last thirty years have mostly been about trying to stay ahead of a husband, growing kids, aging parents, and an eccentric old house, in spite of detours, deadlines, unexpected changes, and inevitable losses. But through it all, she’s been taking notes. In her collection of … Continue reading

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The Honor of Writing a Foreword to an Anthology

The following is the 2013 foreword I was honored to write for the anthology Times They Were A’Changing: Women Remember the 60s and 70s, edited by Linda Joy Myers, Amber Lea Starfire and Kate Farrell. Paying tribute to the vibrant decades during which I was a college student and next a mom to two young children was certainly a … Continue reading

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An Ode to the Author of Blue Willow

I was reading a magazine article recently in which authors wrote about pivotal books they’ve read. What book would I name, I wondered. Immediately, I saw myself at my fourth grade desk in the 1950’s at Franklin Elementary School in Union Township, New Jersey. I am unwrapping a book I ordered from the Scholastic Book … Continue reading

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Interview with Memoirist Tarn Wilson, Part I: Reconstructing the Past

I am a person who saves things, from the obviously important letter my father wrote me right before he passed away to the “might need it someday” notes from middle school. I have shoeboxes of unorganized photographs, rocks and shells from past trips sit on my bookshelves, and, rolled in a back closet corner, sit … Continue reading

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Interview with Bonnie Rough on Her Book Carrier: Untangling the Danger in My DNA

Bonnie Rough’s memoir, Carrier, which won the 2011 Minnesota Book Award, includes extensive research via family stories, interviews, pictures, legal records, letters, and more, but it is her compassionate portrayal of her grandfather, Earl, who passed away soon after her birth, that keeps readers turning pages. He lived with hypohidrotic ectodermal dysplasia (HED), a genetic … Continue reading

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Interview with Memoirist Sue William Silverman

I am pleased to publish this interview with award winning memoirist Sue William Silverman about the writing of her newest memoir and her advice to those of us who write from personal experience. The Pat Boone Fan Club: My Life as a White Anglo-Saxon Jew, follows two earlier memoirs, Because I Remember Terror, Father, I … Continue reading

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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

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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

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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

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Judith Kitchen on Reading as a Writer Reads Part 1

For our community read this past March 2013, the librarians in Port Townsend, where I live, chose Pam Houston’s novel Contents May Have Shifted, a story, they felt to be about love and freedom in middle age, something dear to the hearts of many in this community. At the top of the month the library … Continue reading

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Writing the Situations Life Throws Your Way – An Interview with Thelma Zirkelbach

Former romance writer Thelma Zirkelback has two books out now (and a blog) on the subject of widowhood, one an anthology she co-edited of writings by women who have coped with their new life situation (On Our Own: Widowhood for Smarties) and the other a memoir about her interfaith marriage and and the loss of … Continue reading

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Excerpt from Meg Files Novel The Third Law of Motion

This excerpt is from Chapter 15 of The Third Law of Motion by Meg Files, published by Anaphora Literary Press, 2011, reprinted here by permission of the author. Lonnie had already started work as an inventory clerk in a new discount store just outside town, and we’d used the Christmas money from Dad for rent and … Continue reading

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Writing Does Make a Difference: A Conversation with Barbara Field On Expanding Women’s Voices Through Writing

I was fortunate to meet Barbara Field when we both presented several years ago at the Whidbey Island Writers’ Conference in Washington State. When I heard from Barbara about recent developments in her writing life, I was eager to share what she’s  been up to in joining new projects. The work she tells us about … Continue reading

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