Why Death Is Literature’s Wingman

If you've ever taught literature, whether in college or in secondary school, you've surely come up against a common complaint from students: "Why is everything we read so depressing?" or, "Is every book, story, and poem about death, or is it just my imagination?" Tongue in cheek, I always replied, "You'll be happy to know …

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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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Writer’s Weigh In With Resolutions

I emailed all the poets and writers (as a certain magazine calls them) I know (and really don't, but I needed a lot of responses to make up a post) and asked what their writerly resolutions were. If they're anything like mine, they're an amusing mix of wishful thinking, good intentions, and, in some cases, …

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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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Redefine, Sense, Identify, Write

As a teacher, I often made use of the brief riches to be found in two sources: poems and short documentary films. Preview, prepare writing or discussion (or both) prompts, show, and turn it over to students. For me, The New York Times' "Film Club" series was an indispensable source of watch-and-write material. Most often …

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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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Why “Are You a Writer?” Is a Bad Question

Some people consider themselves a writer but, when asked, never admit as much. They are the shy and modest ones, I hear you saying. They are the realistic ones, I hear the other saying. Some people consider themselves a writer and, when asked, explain at great length. They are the outgoing and confident ones, I …

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