Random Wisdom for Writers: Part Two

Here are a few more gleanings from Chuck Palahniuk's estimable "writer advice" book, Consider This. Yesterday's post featured the first group of ideas that might make you better at the trade. Today, the final set. Enjoy! "If you can identify the archetype your story depicts, you can more effectively fulfill the unconscious expectations of your reader." …

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Random Wisdom for Writers

When it comes to reading how-to books on writing, I always make sure the author is a success him- or herself before diving in. If it's an unknown, you're left to ask, "If this chump knows so much about writing the world's great novels, why isn't he doing it himself?" Chuck Palahniuk's book, Consider This, …

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Simplify to a Few Poetic Ingredients

Simplicity. It was Henry David Thoreau's word to live by, but it sure wouldn't hurt a few poets to borrow, too. Sometimes would-be poets make something simple overly complicated when all they need are a few basic ingredients. Then let these stew so the flavors can take hold. Description, our old friend, is simplicity's right-hand …

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14 Rules for Writing from Tim O’Brien

In Dad's Maybe Book, author Tim O'Brien spells out some rules for writing intended for his sons, Tad and Timmy. They are equally intended for the reader, who is serving as a vicarious child of the O'Briens reading along. Below are 14 Rules O'Brien shares, directly quoted from the book, and though he says "story" …

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“Boredom and Disruption Are Healthy…”

Why do so many avid readers not read poetry? Why is there such resistance to its inherent challenges? Rattle editor Tim Green, in his interview with the poet Kwame Dawes, opines that people who don't ordinarily read poetry are put off by its difficulty. In a lengthy response, some of which I'll quote here, Dawes …

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“The Water Turned Her Skin Sky.”

While reading the November 2019 issue of Poetry, I came across a poem that lends a bit of magical realism to its grammar. Though some readers might object to using words in unusual ways, I find it refreshing to read and one of the chief joys of poetry. The poem is "América" by Sarah María …

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Billy Collins, Animated

Billy Collins, one of the most recognized among American poets, did a wise thing years ago. He harnessed the power of video to many of his poems. This not only helped poet-writers with the art of imagery, it also gave reluctant poet-readers (often known as "students") a door into the not-so-bad-after-all genre of poetry. Given …

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Rebecca Solnit on the “Astonishing Wealth” Called “Writing”

Montaigne would be proud. This week I have been reading more essays, specifically Rebecca Solnit's in her 2013 collection, The Faraway Nearby. In an essay called "Flight," she devotes a few paragraphs to the act of writing and, as is only necessary, reading (because what's one without the other?). I thought it was interesting. Maybe …

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How Teachers Can Make Challenging Poems Fun

For reasons that border on unreasonable, elementary-aged students love poetry (usually rhyming) and middle- and high school-aged students detest it (especially when they are tested on it). Perhaps this is because of stodgy assigned works from textbooks and/or old warhorses that continually get trotted out as assigned readings. Perhaps it is because students are often …

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How Voice Escorts Us into the “Interior of the World”

It seems fitting that Tony Hoagland's farewell book to the world would tackle the concept of voice. If any poet knew of what he spoke, Hoagland was the man. Whether you read his poems or his sage essays about poems or writing poetry, you "heard" Hoagland and felt as if you were lucky to have …

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