We’re making the turn to autumn, and with it many parents are sending their children off to college. For them, it’s a thrilling time, not unlike the feeling we writers get when we start a new project. The beginning is also just a bit nerve-wracking, and at times downright scary. It comes with equal measures…

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I’ve just returned from the Vermont College of Fine Arts Postgraduate Writers’ Conference, where I taught a workshop in the art of the novel. So much of writing a novel involves the shape we find for our material. I’m sharing this post from two years ago in hopes of helping those of us who are…

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When we construct a narrative, whether we’re writing fiction or nonfiction, we’re well-served by giving some consideration to the question of what readers need to know about what happened before the story begins. In other words, characters, whether inventions or real people, carry certain histories into what I like to call the dramatic present, by…

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All my life, people have confused my name with that of Lee Marvin, the actor known for playing hardboiled characters and also for live-in girlfriend Michelle Triola’s palimony suit in 1971. It happens time and time again. Sometimes people actually introduce me as the actor. Sometimes people try to turn the name confusion into a…

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