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Friday, December 28, 2012

December 25, 2012

Dear friends and writers, for whom I am so thankful:

Merry Christmas! I hope you are decorating gingerbread houses or opening gifts or sleeping late instead of reading this newsletter first thing in the morning. (I’m not up writing it – I found an email program that I could set up to send it today…) Next Tuesday I’ll introduce the shared weekly writing project for the new year. A hint: it’s focused on the idea of inspiration.

Happy year to you and thanks for reading,



What if the reluctant body refuses to get into the chair, or if in the chair, refuses to write? This happens to everyone at some point. What I do first is read. Often I opt for books about the writing process, but most recently it has been an odd pair of books: one by Collette, the French writer whose sentences are as beautiful as anyone’s I’ve ever read (possibly excepting F. Scott Fitzgerald); and then a manual on how to organize a home. For some reason these two get me excited again. Maybe it’s because they touch the two parts of writing: the simple beauty and lushness of each word, and then the masterminding organization that is required to pull a work together into a coherent, internal order. But if the books don’t work, I step away and go do something else. The body who wants to write will always find its way back to the desk, when it feels ready.

Try this: Be kind to yourself if you don’t feel like writing. When you are ready, you will write.


One of the primary reasons we write is to connect with others. It is not accidental that most books are dedicated to a “you” (the May 22 Tuesday Writer spoke to this). Using print-on-demand technology, or a pen on a piece of origami paper, put something you have written into tangible form and give it to somebody else. 

Print-on-demand websites: OR a thousand other ones.


This idea was a gift to me from Kelly Lynae Robinson, Boise songwriter, who in turn learned it from Michael J. Bugeja’s book, The Art and Craft of Poetry: make a three-columned list of the highlights, lowlights, and turning points in your life. Each one is a prompt, tailored to you and you alone. Give yourself one of these prompts every Tuesday, or any time you have a spare 8 minutes and feel like writing.   

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

December 18, 2012

Hi writers,

Oh what a beautiful essay I read last week about the art of stillness in a writer’s life! It was by Silas House and it reminded me how even in the thick of a busy season (i.e. the winter holidays) a writer can always create his or her own quiet sense of peace.

Have writerly & peaceful days,



As we are nearing the year’s end, consider taking a moment to look back on your writing goals for the year (remember those? It was the first Tuesday Writer post of this year). If you don’t have them, sketch out a quick draft of what you think they should’ve been. Take a moment to see how you’ve done. (Please do not let this make you feel guilty – remember last week’s post!) But let it be information: have you written more? Have you sent anything out? Joined a workshop? Felt more creative in other areas of life? Anything else? Nothing else?

Try this: Reflect on this year’s goals, applying the three rules of constructive criticism to them: what is, what works, what needs improvement? Start thinking about writing goals you might set for 2013.


Limn Literary & Arts Journal was created to give exposure to emerging artists and also to bridge the gap between art and assistance. Founded on the belief that the creative process helps people resolve conflicts and grow more empathetic, Limn funds grants for persons with disabilities who are pursuing art therapy or art education.


“The best $5 I’ve spent on myself…” (5min)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

December 11, 2012

Hi writers,

Thank you so much for emailing with feedback for the 2013 incarnation of this writing newsletter/workshop/project! Please keep ideas coming. Also, the Monday morning drop-in workshops are happening for three more weeks, 8-9am, in my backyard studio.

Have festive weeks!


What can we, as writers, do with guilt? I think it plagues us all to some degree. Samuel Johnson – who wrote the Dictionary of the English Language in nine years, in addition to dozens of other lasting works – often complained about his own laziness, expressing guilt that he slept too late. Several writers have expressed to me a slight bit of guilt over The Tuesday Writer, saying “I need to catch up!” That is not the point. You do not need to catch up. Even if you write to one prompt all year, that is better than nothing.

As I see it, there are two useful things to do with guilt. The first: harness it and use it to get you into the chair and writing. The second: imagine it as a cockroach that you squish.

Try this: Either sit in the chair or start squishing!


Open to residents, non-residents, and visitors of the Gem State, with a deadline of January 31, an entry fee of $10, and prize of $100. Contests are fun places to send fiction because somebody has to win, and the judges’ tastes are always a wild card.


“What, if anything, could get her to relax?” (8min)

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

December 4, 2012

Hello writers!

A question: what would you like The Tuesday Writer to be for 2013? I like projects to evolve, and in order for this workshop-in-email-form to keep being useful, I want to enlist your ideas. Would you like to send in writing questions to have answered? Or have more focus on a particular element of the writing process? A place for your own writing to be shared?

I have a few ideas for new directions, but most of all I’d love to hear yours: What would help you MOST in crafting a meaningful writing life?


If you are writing nonfiction, this may not apply – but even when writing the truth, we at times must change names. Take a lesson from one of the masters at this, Charles Dickens or J.K. Rowling. The names they create are caricatures of the character’s values (think Gradgrind, Snape). Coming up with names that distinguish each character is a great art form and can also be great fun.

Try this: Go to the Latin! Look up a trait or value in Latin and see what wordplay you can make with the sounds and letters. Also try dictionaries in any language. 


A monthly audio literary magazine, Bound Off evaluates short pieces of writing (between 250-2500 words long) in written form, then records the accepted stories being read aloud.

Submission guidelines here:


“I wasn’t sure what kind of beast I was dealing with, but…” (9min)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

November 27, 2012

Hi writers:

I’m out of town this week, on a quiet tour-de-California with my family. Part of my job this week, in addition to enjoying my people and relaxing, is to find a new title for a project that is nearing completion. I love the titling process. I always begin a project with a “working title,” which usually gives way to the “actual title” once it becomes clearer what lies at the project’s heart.

Have a wonderful week, and more in December –



Notice I say finding, not choosing – this is deliberate, for I believe that the title of a work of art is often INSIDE the work already, a heartbreakingly beautiful phrase or a symbolic word that simply needs to be lifted out and set at the top of the document.

Try this: Reread a finished piece with a pen and mark phrases that pop. On a separate page, play with these phrases, tinkering and trying out different ones as a possible title. Also useful can be to ask friends to read for the “pop-phrases.”


One Story believes that stories are best read alone, and so every three weeks they publish a pocket-sized issue containing a single short story by a single author. It is an elegant, simple concept, and their stories never disappoint. They are looking for stories between 3000-8000 words. (In addition to being a terrific venue for sending new work, a One Story subscription is a great holiday gift for a reader.)


What do you have the keys to? (6min)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

November 20, 2012

Dear writers:

Happy Thanksgiving this week! I am thankful for so many things, including living in a community that values creative work of every sort.

First order of business: December writing workshops are up on my website today. Come one, come all, and let’s write together in person!

And also, great news that I’m really proud to share: I signed to publish my first book with a Colorado press called Monkey Puzzle – it is a short collection of 23 poems, a chapbook, called The Fairy Tales Mammals Tell. It is due out before Christmas. I’ll send out more information as I have it about where to find the book.

Finally, for the medically-curious among you, here is a blog I co-wrote with a St. Louis neurologist about alien hand syndrome and a story we co-authored on it.

Have a wonderful holiday. May you eat well, be well, love well.


This is the idea that a satisfying story ends at the opposite point of where it began. Aristotle called this the “reversal of fortune,” describing how a tragic hero’s fortune shifts from good to bad. But this idea is useful in comedy too. I think of it as a whale tail, a perfect 180º when you find one “value” that ends a work of art (independence, care, fullness) and then place the characters at the beginning of the story in the value’s opposite camp (dependence, neglect, hunger). Sometimes in a story nothing changes – that is significant, too.

Try this: File this idea into your creative unconscious by being conscious of it as a reader: peek at the first and last page of a book, or the first and last line of a poem, and see what those two parts say to each other, how the second answers the first.


I have found Duotrope to be such a valuable resource for finding literary venues that it would be a shame not to share it. It is free (for now) and provides a fairly complete search engine for “homes” for written work.


It ended just like it began. (12min)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

November 13, 2012

Dear writers,

Before I share a story, I want to ask if there are any takers for a December writing workshop? I have two ideas brimming: one is for a drop-in morning write (4 prompts + coffee between 8-9am); the second is for a workshop on “Finishing” (focus on pieces that need an extra boost to be complete). I want to offer room to Tuesday Writers before sending out to everyone.

And onward …

My almost two-year-old daughter told me a story for the first time this week. She pointed to the front of her stroller and said, “I sit here,” then pointed to the seat: “Calvin sit here.” Then she walked me to a specific spot in the sidewalk: “Fall off right here, bump head.” 

I knew what she was talking about – a month ago she was riding on the front of her stroller with her friend Calvin behind her, fell off, and scraped her nose. By telling me now, because the stroller reminded her, my daughter was placing her memories in narrative form and sharing it with somebody who wasn’t there. It was a lovely moment for me both as a writer and as a mother – reminding me that we are all born into narrative, and that my job is to listen as her story unfolds.


This is simple advice that is so easy to forget to take. When stuck in a piece of writing of any sort, simply asking “What happened next?” can take you out of the rut.

Try this: Try using this as a way to begin a writing day; it forms a natural thread to whatever narrative tapestry has come before.


I don’t usually traffic in his/hers sets, but these two looked intriguing. Calyx, a Corvallis-based journal of art and literature by women, welcomes work through Dec 31 (but charges a small reading fee to stay afloat). Bull, a journal devoted to men’s fiction, says BULL to the idea that men don’t read. They accept fiction, essays, interviews and – this is exciting – column submissions!

Submission guidelines here:


What happened right here? (7min)