A Consideration of Audience

A question came up the other day regarding the audience for a particular short story. That question may be interesting after a story is written, but when it’s in progress, I’m not sure a consideration of audience is particularly useful and may, in fact, be detrimental to the writing process. We all have our reasons…

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Memoir and Dramatizing Meaning

We all have moments from our pasts we can never forget. Memoirists tap into those moments when constructing a narrative. Dramatization allows us to find a causal chain that perhaps didn’t exist in real life. When we write memoir, we strive to document, but we also try to give some shape to experience. If we…

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The Small Things Contain the Memoir

Yesterday, I was upstairs in my office when I heard my wife crying. I immediately knew why. Cathy, you see, has begun to put the story of her family onto the page. It’s a complicated story, as some of you know—a story of secrets, a story of a mother and her daughters, a story of…

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Revising: What to Keep and What to Let Go

Cathy and I spent some time clearing our garden of plants that served us well this summer but have stopped producing. The space they were taking up can be of better use for cool weather crops. Yes, we’re making that turn to autumn, and that means some things must go, so other things can be…

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Writing What Matters

Here we are on the cusp of another school year, my 41st in the classroom. I’ve eclipsed the 38 years my mother taught, and each fall I think of her and how she taught and raised a child and helped my father and maintained a home. I can’t recall ever hearing her complain. She stayed…

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Road as Metaphor: A New Writing Exercise

I just got home from the Vermont College of Fine Arts Postgraduate Writers’ Conference, and, like the past fourteen years I’ve taught there, it was a magical week. I really can’t recommend this conference enough. It’s made up of workshops, craft talks, readings, and loads of access to faculty members. One of my pleasures is…

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Gatsby and the End of Summer

Tomorrow, I leave bright and early for Vermont which explains why I’m posting this today. For the past thirteen years, I’ve taught at the Vermont College of Fine Arts Postgraduate Writers’ Conference. I often teach a workshop in the novel, and when I do, I ask my participants to read The Great Gatsby. That novel…

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A Message Box: Objects and Memoirs

Because my father was a farmer, we barely knew what it was to take a vacation. There were crops to tend and livestock to feed, and God forbid our cattle got out of their pasture, as they sometimes did, and we weren’t there to corral them. All through my childhood, I only remember us going…

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Family Secrets

It’s 1961, and my wife Cathy, nearly four years old at the time, is sitting with her great-aunt Tom on a stone bench alongside a brick building on Fulton Avenue in Evansville, Indiana. They’re sitting in the shade watching a rabbit hop about and nibble at grass blades. Her grandfather and grandmother have told her…

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Let’s Be Bold: Tips for Creating Unique Writing

Cathy and I had our house painted last week. We chose a color called Dress Blues for the front, a color that’s almost navy but not quite. When the first coat went on, we were mortified. It was electric blue, neon blue, Pepsi can blue. It hurt the eyes. Boy, did it ever. The painter…

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