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Favorite First Sentence: WAYS TO DISAPPEAR

February 21, 2018

“In a crumbling park in the crumbling back end of Copacabana, a woman stopped under an almond tree with a suitcase and a cigar.” Ways to Disappear, Idra Novey’s debut novel, is about a South American writer who has disappeared,…

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Switching Tenses

February 19, 2018

Most writers, it seems, prefer one tense over another. Many of us use the past tense as our default, as it allows for foreshadowing, and, conversely, it allows reflection from the present “telling” moment.  We’re telling a story of which…

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Map Research

February 12, 2018

I will confess: I like maps. I like understanding where I’ve been, where I am, and where I’m going. And I love Google and/or Apple Maps. The satellite view, the street view, directions, walking distance, the whole thing. I can…

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Collective Voice: WE THE ANIMALS

January 31, 2018

We the Animals, by Justin Torres, is a wonderful example of the use of the collective voice in fiction. There are, of course, many other classic works that use this voice, including the novels The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides…

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Story and Plot: Finding Meaning

January 18, 2018

In studying the craft of fiction, story and plot seem like simple enough concepts: story is the chronological sequence of events while plot is those same events, reordered by the author. In an attempt to consider how to construct meaning…

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Linked Story Collections: SWALLOWED BY THE COLD

January 10, 2018

Linked story collections often seem like that halfway point between a collection of unconnected stories and a novel. Done well, a linked collection can add up to something more than its parts, a reading experience that expands beyond the limits…

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NAMING THE WORLD, Bret Anthony Johnston

December 14, 2017

Naming the World, Bret Anthony Johnston, editor Penguin Random House, 2007 Naming the World is a craft class in a book. Edited by the writer Bret Anthony Johnston, the book is broken into typical craft chapters: Plot and Narration, Dialogue…

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10 Writing Tips for the Holidays

December 13, 2017

Or, How Good Writing is Just Like Good Conversation By Natalie Serber Much to my delight, The New York Times Magazine recently published a feature on “The Art of the Dinner Party.” Along with recipes (try this one for my…

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Mixtapes

December 11, 2017

I have heard more than one writer say that they have created mixtapes while they were working on a story or novel and listening to that music, and that music alone, while they were writing was hugely helpful. If you’re…

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Interview: Mary Kuryla

December 6, 2017

Holly Willis: You are both a filmmaker and a fiction writer: how do those two very different vocations influence each other and in turn impact your work? Mary Kuryla: I started as an English major in college — though I…

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