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
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
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
[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
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 members, I emailed her questions I hoped she’d answer for writers of personal experience. Here are her words on writing from personal experience:
Over what span of years did you write the essays in this collection?
Half of the essays are new, written in the last three years. Five were published in the 80s-early 90s. Four are spin offs from material in the memoir I wrote from 2007-2011 (Fatal If Swallowed).
How did you use them in your own work with other writers before publication?
While I don’t share the actual essays with writers in my groups until each is originally published, I always refer to the creative process that guides me. That includes keeping a SEED LIST of ideas. This can be anything from one word, to one paragraph, a theme, issue, newspaper clipping – anything that sparks something in me as having potential. I emphasize having trust that the idea will sprout in its time and take on a life of its own. For instance, something that’s been on my SEED LIST for decades finally became an essay recently with an ending that I could never have imagined. I had to “live” the ending before I could actually complete the story. Keeping open to recycling options is also encouraged. A previous essay could be tweaked and resubmitted. Or it could be reprinted as is somewhere. A theme or description can be extracted for a new essay. Continue reading
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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