I’m going to be presenting a session at the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop on Friday, a session called “Writing Stories That Matter.” In preparation for that event, I had to think about exactly what I mean by stories that matter. William Faulkner, in his 1950 Nobel Prize acceptance speech, said, “. . .the young man…

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I turned sixty-five on Friday, and it was a good day. I’d be lying if I said I never thought about the dwindling number of years left without a certain degree of apprehension, but for the most part I do my best to keep my focus on the here-and-now which still contains plenty that delights…

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Our friends, G. and S., came to visit last night. At one time, this would have been such a simple statement to make; on the surface it might have even seemed banal. These days, though, the ordinary fact of a visit carries with it a significance only available if one knows the context. Sometime in…

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Characters are interesting when they’re made up of contradictions. It’s those contradictions and the writers who recognize them that create the most memorable characters in works of fiction and nonfiction. If we give our characters’ free will—if we don’t fully know them too soon—they can take us to some interesting places that can either illuminate…

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Yesterday evening, Cathy and I drove down to the lake in Fryer Park, which is located off Orders Road about a mile from our home. It was a pleasant evening—humid, but overcast and with enough of a breeze to make things comfortable. We sat awhile on a bench overlooking the lake and then decided to…

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My mother and father weren’t huggers, nor were many of the other adults where I grew up. Reticent Midwesterners all, they rarely offered more than a firm handshake. As I went through my adult years, my world expanded to include people for whom hugging was natural, and increasingly I found myself in social and professional…

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Since 2004, Akashic Books, an independent publisher in Brooklyn, has published a series of noir stories set in specific locales around the world. Although I’ve never thought of myself as a noir writer, I’ve been invited to contribute to two of the books in this series—Memphis, Noir, and the recently released, Columbus, Noir. In fact,…

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Elizabeth Strout’s new novel, Olive, Again, begins like this: In the early afternoon on a Saturday in June, Jack Kennison put on his sunglasses, got into his sports car with the top down, strapped the seatbelt over his shoulder and across his large stomach, and drove to Portland—almost an hour away—to buy a gallon of…

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This morning at breakfast, a large group—too large to sit at a single table—came into the restaurant. Half of them sat at one table, and the other half took an adjacent table, which was behind where Cathy and I were sitting. I really didn’t take much notice of them until I heard a man’s voice…

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On this Easter Sunday, I’m thinking of the small country church I attended when I was a small boy. The Berryville Church of Christ sat on a gravel road just south of the crossroads where my grandmother lived cattycorner from the general store. There wasn’t much to Berryville: that store, two churches, a defunct school,…

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