Trust and Betrayal

A week ago, we enjoyed a false spring here in the Midwest—sunny days and temps in the low sixties—but I knew it was only an illusion. I knew winter would return with a slap to the face. The snow came a couple of days ago, and the wind, and the frigid temperatures. Such is life.…

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Early Riser, Quick Starter: A Writing Prompt

I’m up early this morning—one of the curses of getting older—and it has me thinking about how familiar landscapes can be defamiliarized when viewing them at a time outside our regular habits. Things just look different. It’s as if we’re tourists in our own neighborhoods. Which leads me to this writing prompt. If you’re a…

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Can You Walk Away from Writing?

Our kitten, Stanley, has a jealous streak. If our older cat, Stella, is getting our attention, he wants it, too. If Stella occupies a space on a chair or the cat tree, he thinks that space must be his. Sometimes, Stella lets him have it, vacating her perch; at other times, she really lets him…

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What Are You Risking?

We begin today with this famous quote from Robert Frost: “No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.” We start here because I often read technically proficient pieces that don’t resonate because the writers haven’t left any parts of their hearts in them,…

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Pressure in Narratives

  I teach in an old building that’s long had its problem when it comes to heating and cooling. Last Tuesday, we had heat in parts of the building but not others. Also, something had happened to cut off electricity to the elevators, so they weren’t working. Then, overnight, some pipes burst, and we had…

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The Writer’s Vision: A Prompt

We’ve started a new semester here at Ohio State University where I’m teaching both a fiction and a creative nonfiction workshop. Last week, I found myself talking to students in both workshops about the importance of finding material that’s uniquely theirs. When I was a young writer, it took me some time before I figured…

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Using a Single Memory to See What You Can See

My Aunt Gladys, my mother’s sister, died in 1961 when I was five years old. I’d never really known her because she lived in Germany where her husband was stationed, lived there, that is, before she was diagnosed with lung cancer and the U.S. Army allowed my Uncle Duane to transfer to Washington, D. C.,…

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Stronger at the Broken Places

Here in central Ohio, the last day of 2023 is overcast and cold. When I moved here from sunny Texas in 2001, I had no idea the winter days would be so gray. I grew up close to the same latitude in southeastern Illinois, so I thought the weather in Columbus would be similar. It…

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Creating Memorable Characters

Cathy and I spent last week cleaning some things out of what used to be her parents’ house in Illinois. In the process, we came upon several old family photos. I love looking at old photographs even if I don’t know the people in them. The photos take me into a time period in the…

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Keep Doing the Good Work

I write this on a very overcast, raw day here in central Ohio. We’re coming to the end of the Autumn Semester at Ohio State, and I’m thinking of what it takes to keep going when we’re writers. After all, there are so many valid reasons to stop. I fear the students in my literary…

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