Writer-to-Writer

Writer-to-Writer
Essays on Craft and The Writing Life

 

SHOWING AND TELLING: Seven Ways to Help Your Writing Breathe, A Craft Essay by Billy Dean

SHOWING AND TELLING: Seven Ways to Help Your Writing Breathe, A Craft Essay by Billy Dean
“Show-don't-tell” is fine advice—unless you apply it absolutely, as if you should always show and never tell. Here are seven ways your prose and poetry can breathe with both showing and telling ...
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FOUND IN TRANSLATION: How my Memoir of Life Overseas Turned into a Novella, a Craft Essay by Ele Pawelski

FOUND IN TRANSLATION: How my Memoir of Life Overseas Turned into a Novella, a Craft Essay by Ele Pawelski
Slipping my reality into fiction was not overly difficult for two reasons: first, the story was taking place some years after I’d left Kabul. While I could picture the Kabul, I’d lived in, I also knew it had changed as the Taliban continued to creep up and in. Second, once I attributed a personal anecdote to a character, I found I no longer owned it. Rather, I sought ways to transform it, playing with the ...
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WORKING FOR SURPRISE: On Running, Prescriptive Teaching, and the Language of First Drafts A Poetry Craft Essay by Devin Kelly

WORKING FOR SURPRISE: On Running, Prescriptive Teaching, and the Language of First Drafts A Poetry Craft Essay by Devin Kelly
There are two things I do nearly every day without fail: write and run. I like to talk and think about them together because, to me, they are twin feats of both discipline and imagination. Growing up a competitive runner, never very good compared to the other people I competed against, I learned to value the sport as a way to keep me both grounded and honest. Your body has a way of letting you ...
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POETRY AS PRACTICE How Paying Attention Helps Us Improve Our Writing in the Age of Distraction A Craft Essay by Scott Edward Anderson

POETRY AS PRACTICE How Paying Attention Helps Us Improve Our Writing in the Age of Distraction A Craft Essay by Scott Edward Anderson
POETRY AS PRACTICE How Paying Attention Helps Us Improve Our Writing in the Age of Distraction A Craft Essay by Scott Edward Anderson In this lyrical essay on the writing life, Scott Edward Anderson shows how poetry can be more than a formal approach to writing, more than an activity of technique, but a way to approach the world, which is good for both the poet and the poem.—Grant Clauser, Editor Walking in Wissahickon Park ...
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MY WALK ON THE BEACH WITH ANTON A Craft Essay on Connecting the Body to the Brain by Billy Dean

MY WALK ON THE BEACH WITH ANTON A Craft Essay on Connecting the Body to the Brain by Billy Dean
He put his book down and looked at me over the top of his glasses. "I never said that, Billy." "Said what, Anton?" "Don't tell me the moon is shining. Show me the glint of light on broken glass." "Oh, that. Yeah, someone turned what you actually said into a show-don't-tell rule. On behalf of all the writers who should know better, I apologize. If they'd read your stories, they'd notice how skillfully you balanced ...
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IS MEMOIR AUTOMATICALLY THERAPEUTIC? A Craft Essay on Writing About Mental Health by Leslie Lindsay

IS MEMOIR AUTOMATICALLY THERAPEUTIC? A Craft Essay on Writing About Mental Health by Leslie Lindsay
I recently finished a memoir manuscript about my bipolar mother and her eventual suicide. Light, easy writing, right? When I tell strangers about my manuscript, they cock their heads in sympathy as if to say, “You poor thing. ” Some even suggest I've misconstrued the events in my own life. Surely your mother wasn’t really mentally ill. You must have it all wrong. Others lean in as if they are about to hear a juicy story ...
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SHOULD YOU REALLY BE WRITING THAT? A Craft Essay on Writing Diversity in Fiction by Sarah Sawyers-Lovett 

SHOULD YOU REALLY BE WRITING THAT? A Craft Essay on Writing Diversity in Fiction by Sarah Sawyers-Lovett 
Compulsory diversity reads like a checklist: one character of color, one queer character, one character with a disability. Ta-da, instant diversity, just add water and stir. Predictably, this shallow formula reads pretty false. Black characters written by black authors are always going to be more real. Bookish people on twitter have been talking about this for a couple of years now and a phrase that I've seen pop-up a couple of times is “stay in ...
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SPYING THROUGH THE KEYHOLE: A Novelist Grows Roots in the Glamorous, Twisted World of V. C. Andrews by Emma Sloley

SPYING THROUGH THE KEYHOLE: A Novelist Grows Roots in the Glamorous, Twisted World of V. C. Andrews by Emma Sloley
For the uninitiated, if it's even possible there exist humans unaware of Flowers in the Attic, the series concerns a family called Dollanganger (in hindsight, perhaps a sly play on doppelganger?) who, for reasons I can't and don't even care to remember, end up living with the mother's parents in a big old Gothic mansion in Virginia, where the mother agrees to lock her four children away in an attic for an unspecified stretch of ...
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THROUGH GIRL-COLORED GLASSES A Craft Essay on Gender and Writing by Dina Honour

THROUGH GIRL-COLORED GLASSES A Craft Essay on Gender and Writing by Dina Honour
Was there a noticeable difference in the way I structured my writing? Did I have a particularly feminine way of tapping the keys of my ancient word processor? When my very loud printer zig-zagged along could it tell the prose churning out was written by a woman? The stacks of perforated pages, waiting to be carefully separated and submitted, did they have the indelible pinkish watermark of ‘girl’ stamped upon them? ...
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WRITING THE SUPERHERO POEM, a craft essay by Lynn Levin

WRITING THE SUPERHERO POEM, a craft essay by Lynn Levin
The superhero is a staple of pop culture, but poets can use elements of superhero identity to craft poems and explore their own mythology. Lynn Levin offers a writing prompt designed to allow poets to reach beyond the real in search of other truths ...
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FIVE STAGES OF GRIEF FOR WRITERS When Dealing with Negative Feedback, a craft essay by Floyd Cheung

FIVE STAGES OF GRIEF FOR WRITERS When Dealing with Negative Feedback, a craft essay by Floyd Cheung
Anyone who has written and submitted anything—poems, stories, essays, books—knows that immediate acceptance is extremely rare. When that happens, we celebrate and try not to let it spoil us. Much more often, we receive negative feedback in the form of outright rejection, advice, and/or an invitation to revise and resubmit (an option much more common in the academic world than in the poetry and fiction publishing scene) ...
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TURNING OUT THE LIGHTS: On Cuba, Writing, and the Ecstasy of Planetary Topography, a craft essay by Tim Weed

TURNING OUT THE LIGHTS: On Cuba, Writing, and the Ecstasy of Planetary Topography, a craft essay by Tim Weed
The blackout was a revelation. It happened at around eight PM, in Trinidad, Cuba, on one of those moonless tropical nights that fall so suddenly you barely notice the dusk. This was several years ago—before the loosening of travel regulations that occurred under President Obama—and the number of American tourists remained small. In common with many others who’ve dedicated their lives to the dream of producing enduring literature, I’ve had to make my living by ...
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DON’T BE A DRONE: Manipulating the Reader Through Pitch and Pace, A Poetry Craft Essay by Grant Clauser

DON'T BE A DRONE: Manipulating the Reader Through Pitch and Pace, A Poetry Craft Essay by Grant Clauser
Pacing in poetry can be used as a focusing technique. Both fast and slow pace equally have the ability to draw in a reader’s focus in slightly different, but complementary, ways. A sudden shift into high gear can raise our excitement or anxiety, while hitting the slow motion button compels us to look with greater scrutiny and concentration. Either way, pace is a kind of volume adjustment–by turning the volume of the poem up or ...
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TIME HEALS, EVEN YOUR DRAFTS: Three Key Realizations for Revising Your Novel, A Craft Essay by Wendy Fox

TIME HEALS, EVEN YOUR DRAFTS: Three Key Realizations for Revising Your Novel, A Craft Essay by Wendy Fox
When I finally picked my novel up again, there were sections I didn’t even recognize as having written. It was the passage of time which showed me that I had a bigger problem with how the novel was built, and it was time that helped take me through a final revision that ultimately led to the manuscript getting placed. Being away from, and then returning to, a dormant work helped me come to three important ...
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LIES I TELL MY STUDENTS, a creative nonfiction craft essay by Liz Stephens

LIES I TELL MY STUDENTS, a creative nonfiction craft essay by Liz Stephens
Pat answers are the comfort of some other disciplines. We who write and teach creative nonfiction don’t get that luxury. Ours is more like: philosophy, but with consequences. No one’s life is riding, as far as they know, on math, yet in writing classrooms and around workshop tables students may approach us like hotline workers, hands out for the right word, the final word, the bottom line, the prophecy, the truth of their life stories, ...
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CHILD’S PLAY: How Creative Play Helped Unlock My Nonfiction Writing, a craft essay by Megan Culhane Galbraith

CHILD'S PLAY: How Creative Play Helped Unlock My Nonfiction Writing, a craft essay by Megan Culhane Galbraith
Playing in my Dollhouse has been important to my writing. The scenes, photos and videos I make match the imagery of the color Polaroid photographs of the 60s. I have a deep affinity for the babies, in particular. Staging a scene mimics the feeling of writing the first draft of an essay, achieving a mythic freedom on the page where my voice is alive and unconcerned with self-editing. I remember playing this way as a ...
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ACROSS THE DIVIDE AND BACK: How Writing Poetry Is Changing My Nonfiction, a craft essay by Vivian Wagner

ACROSS THE DIVIDE AND BACK: How Writing Poetry Is Changing My Nonfiction, a craft essay by Vivian Wagner
Writing poetry has also reminded me once again to pay attention to the rhythm of language. Rhythm is central in poetry, but I often overlook it when writing nonfiction. When we read anything, there’s a hidden music to it. We hear the words, as well as the relationship between the words, the stressed and unstressed syllables, the complex intertwining of word and phrase and sentence. Listening to rhythm is understood and expected in poetry, but ...
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SOMEONE IS WRITING THE REAL WEST VIRGINIA, a craft essay by Mary Ann Bragg

SOMEONE IS WRITING THE REAL WEST VIRGINIA, a craft essay by Mary Ann Bragg
I live in Provincetown but I’m from West Virginia. I’ve been thinking of the simultaneous provocation and balm that literature, like art, can have on moments of social and economic crisis. In Provincetown, year-round residents are disappearing as more and more houses are bought as second homes, thoroughly and exquisitely renovated, and then occupied in the summer only. In my hometown, Madison, West Virginia, streets have emptied out as an economy built on coal mining ...
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WHERE TO BEGIN: An Investigation into First Lines, a Craft Essay by Michael Overa

WHERE TO BEGIN: An Investigation into First Lines, a Craft Essay by Michael Overa
As a writer I’m forever reverse engineering great stories. That tendency to reverse engineer initially sparked might interest in first lines. First lines, like titles, are often given short shrift. Good lines, like good titles, have a way of becoming wallflowers ...
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INTENT TO WITHHOLD, a Craft Essay by Alisa A. Gaston

INTENT TO WITHHOLD, a Craft Essay by Alisa A. Gaston
Soon after I moved from Denver to Loveland, Colorado—a town of close to sixty-five thousand people and an odd mixture of artists, retirees, and hicks—I agreed to hold a series of one-on-one creative writing workshops for a twelve-year-old girl. Once I set everything into place, her mother phoned and explained that she wanted me to give her daughter feedback on her writing, yet above all, she wanted me to discourage her from becoming a writer ...
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STOP BREATHING AND JUST WRITE: National Novel Writing Month, a craft essay by Claire Rudy Foster

stop-breathing-and-just-write
50,000 words in November. That's 1,667 words a day. Typing at a good clip, that's 21 minutes of work for me. But is National Novel Writing Month really about writing? For me, it’s about climbing a mountain. It has less to do with writing than with the sense of accomplishment that goads me as a writer. And I’m not alone: last year, 431,626 writers worldwide cranked out a couple of billion words ...
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BECOMING AN OUTLAW Or: How My Short Fiction Became a Memoir, a craft essay by Andrea Jarrell

BECOMING AN OUTLAW Or: How My Short Fiction Became a Memoir, a craft essay by Andrea Jarrell
I began as a fiction writer, naturally drawing from my childhood as my mother had told it to me, working hard to bring her stories to life through scene, dialogue, and sensory detail, pacing them as mysteries. The memoir that many of these fictionalized stories eventually became is better, I think, because I didn’t start out writing memoir, trying to “remember.” ...
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BEST READER, WORST ENEMY, a Craft Essay by Claire Rudy Foster

BEST READER, WORST ENEMY, a Craft Essay by Claire Rudy Foster
There are two kinds of important reader: the one who hates you, and the one who understands you. When I write, I come to the page knowing that someone will probably hate what I produce. In fact, I count on this. As I work, I read each sentence as though I am my own worst enemy. Zadie Smith says to “try to read your own work as a stranger would read it, or even better, ...
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EMOTION IS NOT PLOT: Using Detachment to Create Powerful Fiction, a craft essay by Claire Rudy Foster

EMOTION IS NOT PLOT: Using Detachment to Create Powerful Fiction, a craft essay by Claire Rudy Foster
Here’s my greatest fear: that I will never be able to name the essential emotions I perceive in myself and others. Our shifting tide and all its smells and sweat and words and secret hidden codes and eyelashes and old letters and emotional ephemera that moves across the surface of the human world like that gyre of discarded belongings and trash that is so large it could cover Texas and is comprised of plastic, the ...
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IN THE MINES, A Craft Essay on Creative Nonfiction by Linnie Greene

IN THE MINES, A Craft Essay on Creative Nonfiction by Linnie Greene
I. Towards a New Empathy A couple of years ago, Leslie Jamison and Francine Prose debated in The New York Times about whether or not it’s ethical to use your children as literary fodder. They discussed the demerits of transforming real life into words on a page in a pair of pieces titled “Is It O.K. to Mine Real Relationships for Literary Material,” and the conclusion seems to be this: that real people get stuck ...
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THE EMPATHY MACHINE, Part Two by Kelly McQuain text version

THE EMPATHY MACHINE, Part Two by Kelly McQuain text version
THE EMPATHY MACHINE, Part Two Text Version by Kelly McQuain 1. Tweet No Evil In an effort to get my head around what I consider the purpose of art-making, I attended three writing conferences during summer 2015. The first was at U.C. Berkeley and was supposed to commemorate the influential 1965 Berkeley Poetry Conference fifty years prior, inspired by a student Free Speech Movement earlier that year. But poet Vanessa Place’s inclusion on the bill ...
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SEEKING CHILDHOOD by Nathaniel Popkin

SEEKING CHILDHOOD by Nathaniel Popkin
SEEKING CHILDHOOD by Nathaniel Popkin In early 1951, when the Mexican writer Homero Aridjis was almost eleven, he came home from playing soccer with friends and, following a vague urge, took his brother’s shotgun to the yard. He shot into the air, scattered the birds aloft from the sapodilla tree, and dropped the shotgun to the ground. The gun fired and struck Aridjis in the stomach. He barely survived. The accident, writes Chloe Aridjis, his ...
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THE MAN ON THE COUCH AND THE MAN WHO SPEAKS POEMS by J.G. McClure

THE MAN ON THE COUCH AND THE MAN WHO SPEAKS POEMS by J.G. McClure
THE MAN ON THE COUCH AND THE MAN WHO SPEAKS POEMS by J.G. McClure I pay a therapist an hourly rate to listen to my feelings. I pay literary journals reading fees to read about my feelings. My therapist says she’s struck by two parallel versions of me: the Man on the Couch who seems pathologically unable to feel, and the Man Who Speaks the Poems who feels all too deeply. She wonders which ...
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WHY I WRITE Or, It’s The End of the World as We Know It and I Feel (Sorta) Fine by J.G. McClure

WHY I WRITE Or, It’s The End of the World as We Know It and I Feel (Sorta) Fine by J.G. McClure
WHY I WRITE Or, It’s The End of the World as We Know It and I Feel (Sorta) Fine by J.G. McClure I remember as a kid going to a science museum somewhere in Missouri. They had an exhibit—basically a rickety computer with MS Paint hooked up to a radio transmitter. The idea was this: you’d draw a picture, the transmitter would transmit it upward, and voila, your masterpiece would travel out among the stars, ...
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IN PRAISE OF MISTRANSLATIONS by J.G. McClure

IN PRAISE OF MISTRANSLATIONS by J.G. McClure
IN PRAISE OF MISTRANSLATIONS On Conversational Translation by J.G. McClure We all know Freud talked about the ego and the id. Except he didn’t. What he actually talked about was Das Ich und Das Er, which is to say, “The I and the It.” The words “mean” the same thing, except they don’t. When we translate Freud, we use the Latin pronouns for “I” and “It,” whereas Freud used the regular, everyday pronouns of his ...
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