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I have been a working writer (and teacher) for over 20 years, and in that time, I’ve come to believe that a writing life is uniquely structured to transform the soul. It will not give you the glib and easy surface of #blessed on Instagram but, if you clear space for it, writing (and its Siamese […]

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The life your writing leads

I first encountered the above James Baldwin quote as the epigraph of Dorothy Allison’s searing debut novel Bastard out of Carolina. Allison’s novel will certainly stay with you (the line “What’s a South Carolina virgin? ‘At’s a ten-year-old can run fast,” has etched itself into my bones), but it was the Baldwin that became my […]


Week Four: How novels are lived

Week four is the hardest part of this challenge. Excitement and buzz have worn off and the ending still feels miles away and possibly even pointless. And yet here it is: Everything now reduced to did I hit my goals or not. That’s why I like to tailor NaNoWriMo with my students so that it’s […]

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Week One: Questions and a Poem

Even if you are using this month to revise a finished draft, you can’t go wrong by starting with point of view.  As you sit down to write over the next few days, ask yourself: Day One:  Who is telling this story?   Day Two:  Why are they telling it?   Day Three:  When are they telling it?    The best example […]

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When lonely, find what is solitary

As COVID drags into its tenth month on the West Coast, we all feel like experts on the ways that solitude and loneliness shape us.  They’ve been my travelling companions for many a year and I think we should celebrate them.  But with the added caveat that both states are different for everyone and I’m only offering […]


Is Time a Friend or Foe?

After classes end, people often contact me saying they are having trouble finding time to write.  Do I have any suggestions how they can do better?   As a rule, I am against the how-to approach to writing because what makes the work sacred is how personal it is.  Experience may bring a few tricks of the trade, […]

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My Cathedral: Notes from a Bookish Life

I started teaching for the same reasons that someone joins a convent or becomes a priest; to share a transcendent faith.  Not the kind you may be picturing however, for this church is built on how writing transforms the soul.   In the classroom, I open the doors to my cathedral, and we all learn more about why we […]

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Notes on Why

As I write children’s books, yet read widely outside the genre, and, by passionate choice don’t have children, Why do you do this comes up a lot.   How I respond depends on who is asking (and how).   My students always merit answers about voice, point of view and the young protagonist as the ultimate outsider in a world […]