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

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

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

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

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

Toward Beginning A Year of Writing Poetry (Or Improving Your Prose Through Poetry)

For January: Dreams and Repetitions In this month of the inauguration of a new president of our country, it seems particularly appropriate and important to study the orators of our great nation who called out for freedoms we enjoy. Reading the words of Dr. King, Thomas Jefferson and Barack Obama, we can experience the power … Continue reading

Wash and Shine the Fruit of Your Labor

I believe that we write in three stages–we act as playful inventors on the page, move on to the task of shaping our experience, and finally edit what we have written. Although these stages sometimes overlap a bit, on the whole, they are best thought of as separate. Just as we must never short circuit … Continue reading

20 Dialog Building Prompts

Dialog moves a narrative along in fiction, personal essay, memoir and poetry, too. Playing with ways to experiment with dialog will help you build your dexterity with this aspect of the writing craft. And playing with the prompts might have you creating some new writing you’ll want to expand. Write a conversation between three people–one who … Continue reading

20 Character Building Exercises

When we write fiction, we need to get inside our characters’ beings. When we write memoir, we need to learn more about our own character as well as the character of people who have influenced our experience. But sometimes we need a pathway to find fresh material. Here are 20 exercises for getting to know our characters and … Continue reading

Play with 20 Scene Building Prompts

Last week, I wrote about doing a scene-writing exercise short story writer and teacher, Ron Carlson, invented. This week, I am posting 20 ideas I’ve put together for practice writing scenes that will help you develop dexterity in presenting your story, fiction or nonfiction, with the kinds of phrasing and details that absorb readers. Try … Continue reading

The Physicality of Writing Scenes and Characters

As writers, we are aware of the dictum “Show, don’t tell,” but sometimes what we think of as showing turns out to be only another way of telling and avoiding showing. On this subject, I often quote fiction writer Ron Carlson’s words in his book, Ron Carlson Writes a Story: Outer story, the physical world, is … Continue reading

Writing Dispatch from Denmark: Northern Jutland Pantoum

I am in Denmark for the month of August visiting my daughter and her family. She and her husband are here working, and the international school my grandsons attended is out for the summer. My job is being nanny, but it’s more like company, for the boys. An enthusiastic traveler, Emily makes sure weekends are full. On my first … Continue reading

We All Have Opinions: The Argument and Persuasion Essay

…reason works better when emotions are present… –Rollo May, The Courage to Create There are times in your life when you desire to persuade others to take action or change their thinking.  Letters to the editor and op-ed sections of newspapers and magazines contain writings from personal experience motivated in this way. Using personal experience in persuasive … Continue reading

The Interview: A Way to Write More Complex Characters in Your Memoir

Often when I try to write about my mother the same details surface. In my childhood memories she is always busy either working or participating on different committees; when she is home she is tired and does not like to cook. Now that I am an adult, my mother and I talk on the telephone … Continue reading

Using Anaphora — A Model for a Speech

When my daughter Emily Bender was writing a Valedictorian speech to be delivered at her UC Berkeley graduation, she was nervous about having something worth saying. With all of the demands of her life as a graduating senior, she had mulled the speech over but not found a way of tying things together. The she … Continue reading

On Writing the Eulogy

As writers, we are frequently the ones asked to write eulogies for friends and family members. Even if we are not asked, we may feel moved to write eulogies to honor those we loved and then to share our writing with a literary audience. Reading author David Reich’s eulogy for his father and considering the … Continue reading

In May I Rush to Use Sensory Details

As adults, we are so used to summarizing and editorializing. We have learned that abstractions are considered “smart” in writing and having opinions makes us sound even smarter. That’s what our teachers wanted from us on papers and on essay tests. But creative writing, whether that is in poetry, fiction, personal essay or in longer … Continue reading

Change It Up: Trying New Forms Encourages the Writing Mind

“Grandma, do you know what limericks are? I wrote one today. Do you want to hear it?” my 11-year-old grandson Toby asked after telling me about a guest poet’s visit to his fifth grade classroom. Of course, I wanted to hear it. Toby recited: In the Sounds of the Night In the sounds of the … Continue reading

Five Tips for Inspiring Quality Writing from Life Experience

Tip #1 — Find An Occasion Poet Stanley Plumly says that poems must weigh more at the end than they do at the beginning. As with poetry, the personal essay and memoir supply a vehicle for writers to find out what matters and to feel the weight of what matters. As writers, we take ourselves, and … Continue reading

Taking Chances

After years of writing, editing, publishing authors and teaching, Jack Heffron knows why we get stuck and how to work around that and back into our material. He’ll be teaching with Meg Files and Sheila Bender at our Writing It Real in Nashville April 25-28 conference. Join us for a chance to work with Jack as … Continue reading