Garrison Keillor, in Leaving Home, says, “A lovely thing about Christmas is that it’s compulsory, like a thunderstorm, and we all go through it together.” There’s something here that speaks to the short story form. What is a well-told story but a thunderstorm that we—writer, character, and readers—experience together. I’ve been thinking quite a bit…

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I’m about to start revising a manuscript for a novel that I finished long ago enough that I can’t remember exactly when I did finish it. When I started the draft, as usual, I didn’t have much of an idea where I was going, but more important than that, I didn’t know what the story…

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Last week, I wrote about using sensory details to take us to material from our lives that might merit examination in a piece of memoir. This morning, I woke up thinking about sounds from my childhood. It seems to me that we all have a few sounds that take us back into the past—sounds that…

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I was coming out of a Target store yesterday, when the scent of discount store popcorn immediately took me back to my childhood in Oak Forest, IL. Saturdays, I’d go with my parents to Markham to shop. We’d get groceries at Jewel Foods and sundry items at Zayre’s. I remember the smell of the popcorn…

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