Be Generous

2016 is going great so far. Amazing great. For example, this month a friend gifted me with a two-day writing workshop with the author of the truly excellent short story collection Refund, National Book Award Finalist Karen E. Bender. I am an enthusiastic fan of Ms. Bender’s work and vision, and I was going to have the chance to work with her in a small group format. In the two-day workshop, we listened to Karen Bender’s wisdom about the craft of writing fiction. All of the participants read one another’s work and came prepared with notes on each story. Everyone got a turn for…

5 Ways I Find Time to Write

1. I found a day job that respects my boundaries. I am a full-time English teacher. Any teacher knows that this is a job that can take over a life. The best thing I ever did for my writing is find a school community that allows me to enjoy the ever elusive work/life balance. 2. Stop doing hobbies. Here is a list of hobbies I had before I finally focused on writing for good: beading, jewelry making, knitting, gluing sticks onto glass jars to make votives, making books (not writing them), gluing pictures onto notebooks and giving them to my friends, baking,…

6 Smart How-To-Write Books

I don’t give writing advice very often, but I know good writing advice when I hear it. The following six titles are a sample of some of the best. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King When I was in college in the eighties, a classmate announced that some day Stephen King would be considered a genius. Everybody scoffed but I knew she was right.  The author of Salem’s Lot, The Stand, and The Shining has forgotten more than most of us will ever know about weaving great stories. In On Writing, the master  is generous with advice,…

The Best Writing Advice Ever

Here is my writing advice: Whatever you do, don’t ask me for writing advice. Asking me for writing advice is like asking a thrasher in a mosh pit for ballet lessons. Ask Janet Fitch, writing professor and author of White Oleander and Paint it Black: 10 Writing Tips That Can Help Almost Anyone Listen to Neil Gaiman, author of American Gods, The Sandman series, Ocean at the End of the Lane, and so many more wonderful stories: Advice to Authors Be inspired by Joyce Carol Oates: Writing Advice from Joyce Carol Oates Get off your butt according to Cheryl Strayed: Dear Sugar…

To Not Flinch

Sacramento is in a quiet golden literary age, in my opinion. We enjoy an embarrassment of riches of independent booksellers, a poetry community, regular spoken word, poetry series and open mic events, and a bunch of critically acclaimed, courageous, badass writers doing great work. I say it’s a quiet golden age because Sacramento is not famous yet for being a hotbed of literary courage. Yet whenever I attend Sacramento Stories on Stage on the last Friday of the month, or a book launch at Time Tested Books, I leave inspired and amazed that I share at least a day job zip code with these…

Friday Free Topic

My writing students write in their journals almost every day. Daily journal writing is the crux of skill-based writing instruction in my book. Natalie Goldberg said it best in her book Writing Down the Bones. If you want to write and don’t know where to start, Godlberg’s work might help. I outlined my own practice of using journals in the classroom  in the article “Building the Habit of Writing” for Educational Leadership magazine. If I were a physical education instructor, I would not expect students to run a marathon on the first day. A responsible teacher would give students time to exercise and…

Notebooks

On the way to the gym this morning, I heard this story on NPR  in which Eric Weiner reported that Moleskine’s business is booming, and research shows that  all the cool kids write in notebooks now. I was fascinated but also horrified by this story. Listening to an interview with a guy who revealed that he wrote in notebooks like it was a new idea made me feel  sort of the way I did when the lady who wrote Freedom Writers came to town and everyone at the school where I worked got very excited about her revolutionary teaching technique of having her students write in journals.  My…