Richard Russo’s Advice for Beginning Writers

James Salter once said, "As a writer, you aren't anybody until you become somebody." I can just hear you now: Tell me something I don't know, fool, but Richard Russo includes the quote before his first essay in the collection, The Destiny Thief, for a reason: becoming somebody in writing is about as far-flung difficult …

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Dillard and Chee: Writing Teacher and Student

I just finished Alexander Chee's essay collection How To Write an Autobiographical Novel. The thing about essays written in the first person is the effect. As is true with first-person POV novels, you begin to feel as though you know the author. Of course you do not, but the conceit is there, and at times …

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Rules for Writers: A Baker’s Dozen

Here are some suggested daily habits for writers. It's OK if they are broken because that's what resolutions in habits' clothing are meant to suffer! Still, let us amuse ourselves as if rules are hard and fast: If you have little or no discipline around technology, keep a writing notebook. Buy the best damned notebook …

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Brodsky and the Business of Writing

Sorry jumbo shrimp, but there is no bigger oxymoron than "the business of writing." Even Thomas Jefferson would find this truth self-evident. I was reminded of it while reading Shauna Osborn's poem "panic stricken uncertainties & the business of writing" in the June issue of Poetry. The poem kicks off with a Joseph Brodsky quote, …

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The Importance of Imagery in “Sit and Write” Poems

There are ekphrastic poems, yes, where you write about another painter's vision on canvas, but what about your own vision when you're just hanging out in a favorite spot? That's the premise of what I call a "Sit and Write" poem---one that puts your description skills to the test. For example, I give you Charles …

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“The General, Big-Bearded Arrogance of Certainty.” And Then There’s Poetry.

As a subscriber to Poetry, I admit to enjoying the essays in the back section as much as or, some months, more than the poetry up front. I'm still safe at the plate, however, as the essays are about poetry. The May issue features Poetry's well-advised fourth installment of exchanges with England's estimable Poetry Review. …

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Damned* Adjectives (Again)

It's easy--too easy--to damn adjectives all to hell and preach the Word: Thou shalt scorn both adjectives and their brothers-in-crime, adverbs, when writing and revising poems. But the truth of the matter is less black and white and more perplexingly gray. So assign your poet writers-to-be (or, more wisely, yourself) the task of writing poems …

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The Possibilities in an “Endlessly Muddled Middle”

They say man is a storytelling animal, which therefor means he is a story-listening animal. Children love story time, of course, but adults do as well. Teachers know that high school seniors will be as rapt to a great story read aloud as kindergarteners will. As for movies and the theater and television? One big, …

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“All Writers Are Amateurs…”

Readers love to read books about books, of course. And writers? They love to read about writers. Given the chance to interview an established author, developing and wannabe writers would most likely ask about routine and habit, as if it were some elixir they could purchase in aisle 7 of the local pharmacy, drink, and--voilà!--be …

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