Shaping a Piece of Writing: More Revision Tips

This week of Christmas, I’m thinking of the trees we used to cut in our woods on the farm, cedar trees that we’d carry to the house and put in a stand at the window in our front room. Those trees were unruly, left to grow the way nature would have it, so unlike the…

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How Do You Do?: A Story Exercise

Of course, you’ve probably heard the joke about the man who was so old he refused to buy green bananas because he wasn’t sure he’d be around to see them ripen. Indeed there comes a time when we learn to shorten our vision into the future. Long-term dreams that sustained us when we were younger,…

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Ten Quotes for Writers on Labor Day

On Labor Day, I like to give thanks for the fact that I’m able to spend a good portion of my time moving words about on the page. When I left college between my junior and senior year, I worked for a year and a half in the press room at a tire repairs manufacturing…

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Keep Going: Three Tips for Maintaining Momentum

Last week, I went pretty much off the grid in my native southeastern Illinois. One of my joys was running or walking at Red Hills State Park, just outside the small town where I grew up. Aptly named, the park has a beautiful lake surrounded by rolling hills. Accustomed to running and walking the flatlands…

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Unusual Jobs: What’s Your Character’s Line?

Lately, I’ve been watching episodes of the old television game show, “What’s My Line?” before turning in for the night. You’d have to be of a certain age to remember this show. It aired on CBS from 1950-1967. Hosted by John Charles Daly, the show featured celebrity panelists who, through a series of questions, tried…

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On the New Year

Something about the current state of things in our country invites me to share this post from a few years ago, updated a tad to account for the passing of time. When I was a boy, it was my family’s New Year’s Eve tradition to gather for an oyster soup supper, followed by a rousing…

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To Cherish the World: A Christmas Wish

I was back in my native southeastern Illinois last week, and I happened to have a little dust-up with a stranger at the local fitness center. Let’s say we should have agreed to disagree and left it at that, but we didn’t. She, a very nice elderly lady, broached a subject she shouldn’t have brought…

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Staying with Our Characters in Their Present Moments

We’re in the midst of autumn here in central Ohio. It won’t be long before I’ll be pulling up the tomato plants and putting the patio furniture in the basement or the garage. I’ll leave the large table and cover it for winter. In the cold months to come, I’ll stand at a back window…

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A Day in the Life of a Writer Who Also Teaches

For those of us who write novels, at least from my perspective, it’s important to live in the world of the novel with some degree of consistency while the writing is underway. Leaving the writing for stretches of time makes it hard to sustain the momentum that writing long form narratives requires. When you teach,…

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What Would You Do?

A week or so ago, in those idle few minutes before I was to leave my office to teach a workshop. I picked up my copy of Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried and reacquainted myself with “On the Rainy River.” Is it a short story, an essay, or something else? The question is irrelevant…

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