Chautauqua Festival June 17–20

May 12, 2010 | No Comments

I visited the retreat in Chautauqua last winter for the first time, and it’s a magical place—an early twentieth-century intellectual spa and retreat where ladies and gentlemen discussed great ideas over tea in old Victorian houses and in stone amphitheaters modeled after Greek temples. The annual writer’s retreat there next month is worth considering, both for the atmosphere and for the workshopping. Each registrant works with one established writer in poetry, fiction, or nonfiction. In nonfiction this year: Jacob Levenson …

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Edit, or else

May 23, 2009 | 2 Comments

from “Copyediting. Vital. Do It or Have It Done,” in Brevity’s Craft Essays, by Diana Hume George, author of The Lonely Other: A Woman Watching America and other books. “In my capacity as a screener, I automatically reject any book or essay that does not honor the conventions. It doesn’t matter how good the content is. Editors won’t waste their time fixing matters that should have been attended to long before the writer sent it out as a professionally finished product. …

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Readers’ minds

April 15, 2009 | No Comments

On thing teaching writing does for you is that you see the same issues over and over in students’ work. “Rule of Thumb: Anyone worth mentioning needs a short physical description,” I hear myself saying, “even though the person readers picture in their minds will look nothing like your Aunt Sally.” Or, “It’s strange how rewarded readers are by understanding something because of information you’ve given them previously.” Or you see again in a workshop, along with a rapt circle …

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Does writing pay?

March 14, 2009 | 6 Comments

In his recent column in The Week, Francis Wilkinson asks whether professional writing has become an activity for the rich, since almost no one makes meaningful money at it. He notes: “In 1896, Richard Harding Davis went to Cuba to report on what his publisher, William Randolph Hearst, fervently hoped would be a war. Hearst offered the 32-year-old writer $3,000 for a month of work; Davis expected to collect another $600 freelancing for Harper’s Magazine. Davis was a well-known and …

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Noted: Marilynne Robinson

October 26, 2008 | 3 Comments

Interviewed for The Paris Review, Fall 2008, by Sarah Fay. “I don’t try to teach technique, because frankly most technical problems go away when a writer realizes where the life of the story lies. I don’t see any reason for fine-tuning something that’s essentially not going anywhere anyway. What they have to do first is interact in a serious way with what they’re putting on a page. When people are fully engaged with what they’re writing, a striking change occurs, …

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Review: ‘The Truth of the Matter’

August 5, 2008 | 3 Comments

The Truth of the Matter: Art and Craft in Creative Nonfiction by Dinty W. Moore. Pearson/ Longman. 302 pp. $42.48 The Truth of the Matter, which I’ve used twice now in a 300-level undergraduate introduction to narrative nonfiction, is a complete textbook that can stand alone or be paired with supplemental anthologies such as The Art of Fact, Short Takes, Intimate Journalism, or The Best American Essays of the Century, depending on the instructor’s focus. The first third of The …

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Look first to theme

July 18, 2008 | 2 Comments

“I have no idea what this means, but I love it,” Chuck said about Julie’s phrase “the everlasting sting” of illegal drugs she’d taken at 14. There were murmurs of approval in the room. “Yes,” I said, “it works.” “But why does it work?” asked Julie herself, now all of 19, her misspent youth behind her. We’d been in class almost two hours, workshopping for almost an hour, and I was tired. I couldn’t answer her fair question. She’d broken …

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