It’s Christmas Eve, and I’m thinking of something my father always liked to say: “If ‘if’s’ and ‘but’s’ were candies and nuts, we’d all have a merry Christmas. How could he not pay attention to the way possibilities often disappoint us after the farming accident that cost him both of his hands—the accident he could…

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Dusk comes early this time of year out in the country. Across the barren fields, pole lights come on in farm yards. Down a stretch of gravel road, headlights crest a hill and sweep across the horizon. Down lanes, lights fill the windows at houses, and sometimes I’m tempted to drive toward them, to knock…

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We’re at the end of another semester here at Ohio State University. I’ve gathered revisions from the students in my fiction workshops, and I’m starting to read through them. I’m celebrating the victories and pointing out the battles yet to be won. One student writes to say she’s getting comfortable with the messiness of the…

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I’m thinking today particularly about those of us who write short stories. I know from my own experience, as well as from that of my students, that we often begin a story with a good deal of enthusiasm only to find it faltering in the middle. We spend so much time talking and thinking about…

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