I’m working on a new essay that is. . .well. . .almost working, but not quite. Each time I read the draft, I get to the end, and I don’t feel that resonance that I should feel. This is a sign that I haven’t gone deeply enough into my material. I haven’t found all the…

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Autumn Semester classes begin this week here at Ohio State University. Even after thirty-four years of teaching, this time of the year always lifts me up when I think of the time we’ll spend, my students and I, sitting around a table talking the talk about writing and literature. At the start of each school…

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I’ve just returned from teaching a novel workshop at the Vermont College of Fine Arts Postgraduate Writers’ Conference, and I want to share a writing exercise that I hope will help you know your characters better while also allowing your own vulnerability to take you to a deeper level of engagement with the material. The…

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Something happened last week that I can’t tell you about without potentially embarrassing another writer. That’s something I try to never do. We’re all laboring in the vineyard of words. I respect anyone who faces the blank page. Suffice it to say that the thing that happened became a test of my belief that we…

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Hot, dry days. Cicadas chirring. The corn stands tall with its tassels and silks. The soybean plants bush out, nearly knee-high or better. Pickers snap cantaloupes and watermelons from the vines. Peaches, peaches, peaches. Here in southeastern Illinois, these are the dog days, the moment of pause before we make the turn toward autumn. Life…

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