“Fiction Isn’t Machinery, It’s Alchemy.”

Before I say a reluctant goodbye to Peter Orner's book, Am I Alone Here?, that has been such good company these past three days, I thought I'd share a few final quotes I marked in the book. Six are from Orner himself, and three are ones he fished from Frank O'Connor's book, The Lonely Voice (and …

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Reading the New York Times’ “By the Book” Feature

One Sunday ritual I enjoy is reading The Book Review in the New York Times, where I can reliably find a feature called "By the Book." In this column, famous people (mostly authors, but sometimes actors, singers, artists, etc.) answer pre-submitted questions about their reading habits, prejudices, and insights. For me, "By the Book" is …

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When the News Kills the Muse

Sometimes it feels like you're faced with an everyday dilemma of rock or hard place, devil or deep blue sea, Scylla or Charybdis. You know what I'm talking about: poetry or citizenship. A steady diet of the news, it seems, is good for becoming an informed citizen (something all countries of the world need today, …

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Inspired by Water: One If By Lake, Two If By Sea

Vacation. For students, its special meaning lies in summer, the granddaddy of all vacations. For adults, however, it's more narrow. Most full-time workers enjoy but 2 to 4 weeks of paid vacation each year. Compared to the nine-week wonder of childhood, slim provisions indeed. Conjuring vacations of your childhood is sure to bring back a …

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The Endless Reservoir of Self-Doubt

When it comes to inspiration, we think of the usual suspects: love, nature, emotions both positive and negative. What we seldom think of, but have ample reserves of, is self-doubt. Unless we are megalomaniacs who think we're the greatest, we tend to question ourselves frequently. We are our own greatest critics. Why? Because we know …

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Famous Quote, Humble Catalyst

Galway Kinnell once said, "The secret title of every good poem might be 'Tenderness.'" David Kirby must have been listening. Check out where his poem "Taking It Home to Jerome" starts and ends:   Taking It Home to Jerome by David Kirby In Baton Rouge, there was a DJ on the soul station who was …

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The Writing Equivalent of Frankenstein’s Monster

As writers, we are the sum of our reading parts. Or so the thinking goes. Like Frankenstein's monster, we are pieced together by the books we read and all those styles, old and fresh, become parts of our body politic. But it doesn't always work that way. For instance, I have been reading more of …

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