Getting words down & revising them

June 27, 2011 | 10 Comments

I can’t remember how I came across a wonderful vimeo video on  Writer Unboxed  by Yuvi Zalkow on his breakthrough in revising his born-dead novel. Zalkow describes himself on vimeo in his “failed writer series” as a “writer, storyteller, novelist, shame-ridden schmo, maker of online presentations about my failures (and occasional successes) as a writer.” I can relate, having just had a great essay (trust me!) fail to win two contests and get rejected even as a submission. That’s what …

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Agent Betsy Lerner on editing, structure

May 8, 2011 | 9 Comments

The Forest for the Trees: An Editor’s Advice to Writers by Betsy Lerner. Riverhead, 304 pages I suggest you stalk your demons. The more popular culture and the media fail to present the real pathos of our human struggle, the more opportunity there is for writers. If you have been unable to make your work count or stick, you must grab them by the neck and face them down. And whatever you do, don’t censor yourself. There’s always time and …

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Review: Memoirs by James Michener

March 11, 2011 | No Comments

Sharing this small immense world A guest post by Olga Khotiashova Pilgrimage: A Memoir of Poland and Rome; The World Is My Home: A Memoir Reading The World is My Home by James Michener was a rare case when I read a memoir not being acquainted with the other works of a writer. Well, not exactly. I had already read his Pilgrimage: A Memoir of Poland and Rome and was hooked. As I had known a lot about Poland, it …

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Obit for a copy desk

December 24, 2010 | 9 Comments

The Winston-Salem Journal was one of several fine newspapers in North Carolina. A friend who used to work there sent me a link to Tommy Tomlinson’s blog post that includes a video about the management of that newspaper deciding to kill its in-house copy desk. The video is moving and sad, the story unbelievable. For now, apparently, the pared-down copy desk has a sort of reprieve. Outsourcing still looms. Two things once restrained media companies’ legendary greed: the competition, which …

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A novel on memory, story & alibi

October 13, 2010 | 4 Comments

A colleague here at Otterbein University, Noam Shpancer, a psychologist, has just hit the big time at age fifty-one with his first novel, The Good Psychologist. Early reviews are positive to raves: Kirkus gave it a starred notice, Alan Cheuse reviewed it on NPR, and the Boston Globe called it “extraordinary” and “a rare gift.” Bought by Henry Holt at an auction conducted by Noam’s agent, the story is about a therapist who’s treating a stripper with stage fright. And it’s about the …

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Lessons from writing my memoir . . .

August 22, 2010 | 17 Comments

Five years ago I began writing a memoir about my experiences farming in Appalachian Ohio. My official start was September 1, as I recall, but I was gearing up at this time of year, in late August, when the common Midwestern wildflowers are blooming. Right now, you can see flowering together in fertile meadows and damp unkempt roadsides: purple ironweed, saffron goldenrod, yellow daisies, and, above it all, the airy mauve bursts of Joe Pye weed. Shade trees look dusty …

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Craft, self & rolling resistance

June 14, 2010 | 6 Comments

“Writing is not a bundle of skills. Although it is true that an ordinary intellectual activity like writing must lead to skills, and skills inevitably mark the performance, the activity does not come from the skills, nor does it consist of using them.”—Clear and Simple as the Truth: Writing Classic Prose by Mark Turner and Francis-Noel Thomas For such an intense period in the past four years of crafting a memoir have I written, rewritten, pondered, read books, cut, restructured, taken …

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