Dogs, Bones, and The Day That’s Different

I was recently at a writers’ conference at which Lin Oliver, the “founding mother” of the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, offered some tips from successful writers. One of those tips that resonated with me was advice from Susan Patron, a former librarian and winner of the Newbery award in 2007 for The Higher Power of Lucky. Her advice to struggling writers was to...

Beginning Fiction Writer? Practice with Poetry!

            Here’s a piece of counter-intuitive advice for beginning fiction writers: practice with poetry!             Fiction writers understand the need to show, not tell. They just don’t always know how to pull it off.             Telling, of course, robs the reader of the joy of experience. A beginner might write, “I was devastated by my mother’s death.”             A more practiced...

Poet’s Wives, Rotten Lives

Having just finished Claire Messud’s The Woman Upstairs, I am reminded of what was once said about poet John Berryman: “All poet’s wives have rotten lives.” Messud’s novel confirms that the same might be said about an artist’s friends and family members as well. Messud’s Nora wishes nothing more than to be a successful artist, and when she is pulled into the life of renowned artist Serina Shahid...

Hogs, Mathematics, and Critics

One of the hardest things for a writer is to keep going. There are time pressures. Skill deficits. Frustrations in the writing process itself. No wonder that most aspiring writers struggle with one huge hurdle: finishing. Worst of all is that nagging inner critic, that inside-your-head voice that says this isn’t any good. As a corrective, try to remember that even the very best writers have...

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