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Keep Going: The Writing Life and Perseverance

  It’s a really windy day here in central Ohio, and consequently there’s a lot of noise—the sound of the wind, the jangle of wind chimes, the creaking of siding on my house. When I was running into that wind in the last of my five miles, it was hard to keep going. The gusts pushed back against my efforts toward forward progress, at times even threatening to knock me off track. What a different feeling than the one I had when I first set out, enjoying a tail wind and the fresh snap in my legs, but that last [...]

By |2020-03-30T07:24:25-04:00March 30th, 2020|Blog|0 Comments

Writing in This Time of Pandemic

One summer evening, not too long ago, our up-the-street neighbor was playing catch with his son while Cathy and I were out in our yard. At one point, a throw got away from them, and the ball came skittering down the street toward me. I chased it down and got ready to throw it back to the father. I’ve thrown a baseball probably thousands of times in my life, but I hadn’t thrown one in quite a while. Still, I thought, no problem. So I threw the ball and it ended up well-short of the father, and I was left [...]

By |2020-03-23T09:18:56-04:00March 23rd, 2020|Blog|7 Comments

What We Know, What We Don’t: Persona in Memoir

There’s a point in Sue William Silverman’s new memoir, How to Survive Death and Other Inconveniences, where she’s writing about getting a phone call from her doctor, telling her she has an E. coli infection in her bladder. He prescribes the antibiotic, Macrobid. For Sue, who readily admits her hypochondria, the idea of taking the Macrobid leads her immediately to this equation: “Infections = antibiotics. Antibiotics = death.” I’m writing this post in the midst of a global pandemic. COVID-19 is spreading world-wide and is altering our customary ways of life. It’s easy to see, then, how the context in [...]

By |2020-03-23T14:44:19-04:00March 16th, 2020|Blog|0 Comments

Storytelling in Creative Nonfiction

I’ve always valued narrative as a way of thinking on the page. Whether writing fiction or nonfiction, I’ve always embraced story as a useful strategy for discovering what I think and feel and for learning what I’ve come to the page to say, as well as a means for practicing the art of empathy. It can be easy, though, in these days of doubtful facts, deliberate deceit, and dubious truth, to worry about the value of storytelling. Our politicians threaten narrative; our fractured world can do the same. In creative nonfiction, a genre that relies on factual truth, we may [...]

By |2020-03-23T14:45:05-04:00March 9th, 2020|Blog|2 Comments

Revision: Special Tips from a Special Girl

Revision: Special Lessons from a Special Girl   Here are some stories about a four-year-old girl we’ll call Parker. Parker’s mother recently took her with her to a wake and told her she should be sure to ask whatever questions she might have. Taking note of the fact that the legs of the departed were covered by the lower half of the casket, Parker asked, “What kind of shoes do you think she’s wearing?” Parker’s mother, of course, had to say, “I don’t know. We can’t see her feet.” Sometimes the evidence of things unseen are present only in the [...]

By |2020-03-23T14:45:44-04:00March 2nd, 2020|Blog|2 Comments

More Writing Advice from Stella the Cat

I remember many years ago reading this passage from Muriel Spark’s A Far Cry from Kensington: If you want to concentrate deeply on some problem, and especially some piece of writing or paper-work, you should acquire a cat. Alone with the cat in the room where you work ... the cat will invariably get up on your desk and settle placidly under the desk lamp ... The cat will settle down and be serene, with a serenity that passes all understanding. And the tranquility of the cat will gradually come to affect you, sitting there at your desk, so that [...]

By |2020-03-23T14:46:44-04:00February 24th, 2020|Blog|4 Comments

Stories Can Save Us

It can be easy in these days of doubtful facts, deliberate deceit, and dubious truth, to worry about the value of storytelling. Our politicians threaten narrative; our fractured world can do the same. Even when it comes to the writing of creative nonfiction—that genre that deals in facts—we may be tempted to question the value of a story well-told. The lyric impulse has invited forms that rely on fragmentation, association, contemplation, juxtaposition, wordplay. Practitioners explode narrative. Many find story to be suspect, oft times even tyrannical, because it forces a logic and a causality that our contemporary world often lacks. [...]

By |2020-03-23T14:47:22-04:00February 17th, 2020|Blog|4 Comments

The Artifacts of a Life

I have a small iron hammer, threaded at its end, that belonged to my father. Someone, although I don’t know who, made this hammer and threaded it to screw into the end of one of the hard plastic holsters where my father’s hooks usually fit. This way, my father, who’d lost both of his hands in a farming accident, could, if he chose, have a hammer to use when working on our farm.  I have little memory of him actually using this hammer, but the hammer itself endures, and I often wonder what someone, finding it, will think, once I’m [...]

By |2020-02-10T07:11:20-05:00February 10th, 2020|Blog|0 Comments

This Is Who We’ve Always Been: Writing Memoir

I’m teaching a creative nonfiction workshop this semester for people who, for the most part, have never worked in the genre. I remember my own first steps into memoir. I had my first tenure-track teaching position, and I had to teach a graduate level cnf workshop. At that point, I’d published my first book of short stories, and I thought that was my genre. But if I were going to teach graduate students how to write creative nonfiction, I figured I’d better try writing some of my own. I wrote an essay called “From Our House.” It was the first [...]

By |2020-02-03T08:00:42-05:00February 3rd, 2020|Blog|0 Comments

Struggle and Empathy

We’ve reached the final week of January, which always feels significant to me. A native Midwesterner, I’ve always thought of winter as an endurance test, and each signpost along the way—the end of January, Valentine’s Day, the NCAA basketball tournament, etc.—a mark that brings us closer to spring. Here in the Midwest, we earn our springs. We go through the cold and snow and ice, and because we endure, we deserve the warm days that finally are ours. I admit our winter this year has been fairly mild, but still, even the gray and damp attacks the spirit and we [...]

By |2020-01-27T07:24:15-05:00January 27th, 2020|Blog|0 Comments