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Sarah Nelson

Doorways to the Wild and Wondrous

Today, writing about nature and outdoor play just feels as natural and right to me as breathing. All my happy memories of chasing frogs, climbing trees, and splashing in summer lakes easily inform the stories I write.
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Margo Sorenson

Playing Your Troubles Away

Fan­ta­sy and feel­ing lie deep­er than words… 
and both demand a more pro­found, more bio­log­i­cal expression, 
the prim­i­tive expres­sion of music.” 
(Mau­rice Sendak in “The Shape of Music”) Tied up in knots — nots — er — words? Are sen­tences slith­er­ing past you and para­graphs para­chut­ing from your brain? If so, maybe it’s time to step away from the writ­ing task, or any chore that has you flum­moxed, and give your­self a break, isn’t it?… more
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David LaRochelle

Modern-Day Treasure Hunting

Why was I crawl­ing through a frozen sew­er pipe on my hands and knees in the mid­dle of winter? I was geo­caching, my lat­est obsession. If you haven’t heard of geo­caching, it’s a world­wide trea­sure hunt using GPS to locate hid­den con­tain­ers called geo­caches. There are lit­er­al­ly mil­lions of geo­caches hid­den around the globe. When I first start­ed play­ing, I was delight­ed to dis­cov­er that there were sev­er­al with­in walk­ing dis­tance of my townhome.… more
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Stephanie Calmenson

Books Are Our Emissaries

As authors, we send our books out into the world and, if we’re lucky, they con­nect us to good peo­ple whose paths we would­n’t oth­er­wise cross. For 28 years, Din­ner at the Pan­da Palace has been my excel­lent emissary.  Din­ner at the Pan­da Palace start­ed as a sim­ple count­ing and sort­ing book with lots of ani­mals and a par­ty atmos­phere to make the learn­ing fun. … more
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Padma Venkatraman

Bridging the Gap Between My Writing and Reading Selves:
an Author’s Experience of Recording an Audiobook

The woman who read Climb­ing the Stairs aloud did a great job,” my friend said. She was telling me, with delight, how her chil­dren and their friends — two girls and two boys — lis­tened with rapt atten­tion to the audio book ver­sion of my debut nov­el, refus­ing to get out of the car when the trip end­ed but the sto­ry had­n’t yet.… more
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Virginia Euwer Wolff: The Guys’ Clubhouse

I didn’t even ask why I was turn­ing into Hold­en Caulfield. I was fif­teen, a brochure girl for post­war inno­cence. And I was a farm kid, three thou­sand miles away from Holden’s Man­hat­tan; I took vio­lin lessons, rode my bike through orchards, mem­o­rized social stud­ies facts, picked straw­ber­ries to make mon­ey, earned Camp Fire Girl hon­or beads. I also sought the right bras, the right pim­ple med­i­cine, the boys most like­ly to alarm my family.… more
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Planting Giant Pumpkin Seeds

As I write this, Min­neso­ta is in line to get hit with anoth­er Major Win­ter Storm. I know many of you in the north­ern lat­i­tudes can sym­pa­thize as we’ve all been hit, but it’s mid-April, and even by Min­neso­ta stan­dards, this is demor­al­iz­ing. Proms are being can­celled this week­end, the gro­cery stores are crazy, everyone’s watch­ing the radar while they make soup, and I … I have avert­ed my eyes from the win­dow so as to bet­ter ignore the wet slop com­ing down and bet­ter focus on my gar­den planning!… more
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David LaRochelle

The Kindness of Teachers

I loved first grade. Fifty-one years lat­er, I still have vivid mem­o­ries of my teacher, Miss Fol­lett. She played the piano every day. She read to us from her giant book of poet­ry. She showed us pho­tos of her trips to exot­ic places, like Alas­ka and Hawaii. At Hal­loween we screamed in ter­ror and delight when she hob­bled into our class­room dressed as a witch.… more
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Amanda Panda

Art and Words, Words and Art

Thir­ty years ago, I bought a poster of “Jun­gle Tales” by J.J. Shan­non (1895) at the Met in New York City. I took it to my favorite framer, but when it was ready, I was hor­ri­fied to see they’d cut off Met­ro­pol­i­tan Muse­um of Art, The Children’s Book­shop at the bot­tom, fram­ing just the image.  No one thought the words were impor­tant.… more
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Mary Casanova

Tiny House, Cozy Cabin

A few months ago, my hus­band and I sold our home of 30 years and decid­ed to live full-time in our cozy cab­in in the woods. We left behind greater square footage, a quaint and some­times bustling vil­lage on the water­front, and a home with lots of fam­i­ly memories. But it was time for a change. Time for more simplicity.… more
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Marion Dane Bauer

On Growing Older … Old

Why is “old­er” an accept­able word and “old” almost forbidden? To answer my own ques­tion, I sup­pose it’s because we’re all grow­ing old­er, even the four-year-old next door. But old … ah, old smacks of incom­pe­tence, of irrel­e­vance. Even worse, old smacks of that tru­ly obscene-to-our-soci­ety word … death. I am approach­ing my birth­day month. It won’t be a “big” divid­able-by-five birth­day, but still one that feels sig­nif­i­cant for the num­ber it stands close to.… more
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Knowing My Own Mind

There are times when I don’t know my own mind. Worse, there are times when I think I know my mind per­fect­ly well and then find an entire­ly dif­fer­ent mind on a lat­er vis­it to my opinions. Which feels almost as though I have no mind at all. Some time ago one of my favorite writ­ers came out with a new nov­el. I had been wait­ing for her next book for years, so, of course, I signed up to have it pop into my elec­tron­ic read­er at the first oppor­tu­ni­ty.… more
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Mary Casanova

Babies and Puppies

What, real­ly, can be more life-affirm­ing than a beau­ti­ful baby or cud­dly pup­pies? On June 26th, both arrived in our lives. One baby — our first grand­child, Olivia — born to our son and Kore­an daugh­ter-in-law. We received the news via Face­Time from Seoul, South Korea. Though they had Broad­way relat­ed jobs in NYC, they opt­ed to move to Korea for awhile where they would have more time to work at becom­ing a family.… more
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Behind the Poem, “What She Asked”

Lis­ten to Vir­gini­a’s poem, “What She Asked,” on Poet­ry Mosa­ic, the April 7th entry, and then read her descrip­tion of the real-life event behind the poem. In a rur­al Ore­gon high school where I taught Eng­lish more than 20 years ago, we had big teach­ing areas sep­a­rat­ed by screen-wall things, but they came nowhere near reach­ing the high ceil­ing, because a few years ear­li­er the design of the school had been to have a giant Resource Cen­ter and Library, and teach­ers and groups of stu­dents would ide­al­ly meet in sec­tions of the mas­sive room, and that would be school.… more
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In Draft

He was always chas­ing the next draft of himself.”  Amer­i­can crit­ic Dwight Gar­ner, in the New York Times Book Review on Feb­ru­ary 16 of this year, was describ­ing the child­hood of Hen­ry James. An expand­able list comes to mind, some of our mem­o­rable fig­ures mov­ing toward the next draft of them­selves: Anne Shirley, Hold­en Caulfield, Jo March, Jody Bax­ter, Arnold Spir­it, Jr.,… more
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My Work-Study Internship

The first col­lege I attend­ed was Anti­och Col­lege in Yel­low Springs, Ohio. It had a work-study cur­ricu­lum in which half your year was spent work­ing off-cam­pus on some job relat­ing to your pro­fes­sion­al aspi­ra­tions. At that time, being inter­est­ed in the the­atre, I was offered and took a job at a Cleve­land tele­vi­sion sta­tion. A few days before the job began it was can­celed.… more
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Mary Casanova

Below the Surface

Our park ranger, Earl, which is pronounced in three syllables in south-central Kentucky, asks one last time to reconsider this journey if anyone suffers from a bad heart, high blood pressure, or claustrophobia. He waits at the steel door at the base of a sinkhole.
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Author Candice Ransom

Borrowed Magic”

Thir­teen years.  The project I began in 2003 has had that many birth­days.  It occu­pies two large crates in my office.  It has dom­i­nat­ed my life, involv­ing trav­el, research, read­ing.  It has spawned four ver­sions, each drag­ging mul­ti­ple drafts.  Rejec­tions span ten years. Nobody, it seems, wants this book.  “Kids won’t be inter­est­ed.”  The sub­ject, Mar­garet Wise Brown, would find this fun­ny. … more
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The Birthday Surprise

I had pretty much given up on finding an appropriate gift for my dad’s 82nd birthday; the last thing he needed was more stuff. So I headed off to the family lake cabin for the 4th of July holiday (also his birthday weekend) with the thought that I’d figure out a clever celebratory idea at the last minute. Maybe some kind of game that everyone would enjoy?
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Saying “Yes!”

Though I’m reluctant to admit it, some of the most rewarding moments of my career have come when I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone and attempted things I didn’t think I could do: write for teenagers, illustrate a book with tricky paper engineering, tackle nonfiction.
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Old

“That’s your Great-Grandfather Who Lost His Arm in the Battle of the Wilderness.” That was his name. In a big gold gilt-framed photo: a distinguished-looking, white-haired, mustached gentleman high above the upright piano in my grandmother’s music room.
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Heather Vogel Frederick

Laughing All the Way

I fin­ished read­ing The Road to Lit­tle Drib­bling over a week ago, and I’m still laughing. I’m a suck­er for a fun­ny sto­ry, and Bill Bryson has pro­vid­ed me with a steady stream of them since I first dis­cov­ered him in Gran­ta mag­a­zine back in the ’80s. I couldn’t get enough of his wise­crack­ing tales about grow­ing up in Des Moines, espe­cial­ly the epic fam­i­ly road trips he endured.… more
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Melissa Stewart

Look at how we’re teaching nonfiction!

As anoth­er school year winds to a close, I’m feel­ing encour­aged about the state of non­fic­tion read­ing and writ­ing in ele­men­tary class­rooms across the country. In 2010, when the Com­mon Core State Stan­dards were intro­duced, edu­ca­tors began ask­ing me for ideas and strate­gies for imple­ment­ing the Read­ing Infor­ma­tion­al Text stan­dards. And they were hun­gry for tips and tools that they could use to teach infor­ma­tion­al writing.… more
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Wolf Sighting

It is not often that I get a call such as I just did. The call came Lar­ry McCoy, who holds a doc­tor­ate in the­ol­o­gy, and teach­es phi­los­o­phy at the Steam­boat, Col­orado Com­mu­ni­ty Col­lege. He also builds log hous­es and has a dog named “Helen.” That’s the way folks are here in Routt Coun­ty.  He is one of our near neigh­bors, liv­ing about a mile and a half away.… more
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Liza Ketchum

La Escuela Primaria: A Visit to Cuba

This past Feb­ru­ary, my hus­band and I trav­eled to Cuba on an eleven-day tour. Near the end of the trip, we drove from the cen­tral city of Cam­agüey to vis­it a ranch. After a two-hour dri­ve, our bus bounced down a long dirt road and passed under a wood­en sign that resem­bled a gate in an old west­ern, telling us we had reached “The King Ranch.”… more
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Author Candice Ransom

Making a Deep Map

I like to think of land­scape not as a fixed place but as a path that is unwind­ing before my eyes, under my feet. ~ Gre­tel Ehrlich Book projects get set aside, even those with fast beat­ing hearts that you can’t bear to be away from for a sec­ond. Sick­ness, hol­i­days, oth­er stuff push­es it away. The book’s heart­beat slows and goes qui­et.… more
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Unexpected Visitors

As writ­ers, we learn to expect the unex­pect­ed and be ready to cap­ture expe­ri­ences in words. One such moment stands out from this past win­ter for me. My hus­band and I were sleep­ing in our cab­in loft, on 60 acres where we keep our hors­es. I woke at 3 am to crunch­ing snow below our win­dow. I sat upright, won­der­ing what sort of late night intrud­er it could be.… more
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Molting Advice

Level 1 books teem with action. Illustrations match the narrative. If the reader has trouble decoding the text, the art provides necessary cues.
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Lisa Bullard

Lisa Bullard: My Not-So-Overnight Success

Ear­ly on, when peo­ple would ask my kid self what I want­ed to be when I grew up, I’d answer “Shoe Sales­per­son.” But then I dis­cov­ered that feet some­times smell, and I moved on to a dif­fer­ent dream: Book Writer. I could invent a great sto­ry and tell you that I craft­ed a long-term plan to real­ize my dream. But instead, this is a tale of false starts and mis­di­rect­ed wan­der­ings.… more
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Lynne Jonell

Lynne Jonell: Accessing Childhood Emotion

They say that, if you’re a doc­tor, it’s not some­thing you want to admit to at an event where you’re going to have to make small talk with a lot of strangers. Because invari­ably peo­ple will want your opin­ion on their rash, or the fun­ny flut­ter in their chest, or the odd bump on their knee. I wouldn’t know, not being a doc­tor, but I under­stand feel­ing cau­tious about admit­ting what I do for a liv­ing.… more
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At the Dying of the Year

by Vir­ginia Euw­er Wolff Now win­ter downs the dying of the year, And night is all a set­tle­ment of snow…  —Richard Wilbur, “Year’s End”   We all have our cir­cles of par­tic­u­lar­ly mourned lost ones. As our hemi­sphere dark­ens down in this ele­giac sea­son of the win­ter equinox, and death has been so relent­less­ly in the air dur­ing 2015, I wave my own lit­tle flags of grat­i­tude to some of my men­tors and acci­den­tal teachers.… more
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Mary Casanova: Cultivating Quiet

by Mary Casanova Eudo­ra Wel­ty wrote in One-Writer’s Begin­nings: “Long before I wrote sto­ries, I lis­tened for stories.” The more I write, the more I find that writ­ing is about lis­ten­ing to sto­ries that need to be told. Lis­ten­ing at a deeply intu­itive lev­el, how­ev­er, demands shut­ting out a fre­net­ic world in favor of a qui­eter life — one that sup­ports and nur­tures cre­ativ­i­ty — and writing.… more
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The Power of Fiction to Help Kids Grow

by Eliz­a­beth Fixmer The years I spent in pri­vate prac­tice as a psy­chother­a­pist spe­cial­iz­ing in work with chil­dren pro­pelled me to become a children’s writer. My use of books as a ther­a­py adjunct evolved over time, as did my respect and even­tu­al awe for the pow­er of fic­tion as a change agent. My young clients intro­duced me to mid­dle-grade and young-adult nov­els.… more
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Marion Dane Bauer: Animals in Stories, Animals in the World

by Mar­i­on Dane Bauer Who doesn’t love a pup­py? Well, admit­ted­ly there are some folks who don’t, espe­cial­ly con­sid­er­ing how dif­fi­cult both ends of such crea­tures are to keep under con­trol. So let’s rephrase the ques­tion: Who doesn’t love a pup­py in a children’s sto­ry? Or even a frog or a toad, for that matter? Some­thing hap­pens to a sto­ry when it is pop­u­lat­ed by ani­mals, some­thing easy to feel but dif­fi­cult to define.… more
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Jen Bryant: The Writing Apprenticeship

by Jen Bryant Sev­er­al months ago, I was asked to be on a pan­el for a new-writ­ers work­shop. Dur­ing the ques­tion and answer peri­od, one woman com­ment­ed: “I keep hear­ing that writ­ing is a craft that requires time and prac­tice to mas­ter. I get that … but as some­one who’s eager to be an appren­tice but has nei­ther the time nor mon­ey to enroll in an MFA pro­gram, how — exact­ly — do I go about find­ing some­one who’s qual­i­fied, will­ing, and avail­able to men­tor me?”… more
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Liza Ketchum: Serendipity

Serendip­i­ty is one of my favorite words. I love its dance­like sound and the way it trips off the tongue. Accord­ing to my dic­tio­nary, serendip­i­ty means “the fac­ul­ty of mak­ing for­tu­nate dis­cov­er­ies by accident.” I find the ety­mol­o­gy of words fas­ci­nat­ing. Even as a child, I liked to study the maps that show the rela­tion­ship and ori­gins of Indo-Euro­pean lan­guages.… more
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Avi: Bags of Cement

For rea­sons both bor­ing and com­plex, I cur­rent­ly find myself under oblig­a­tion to deliv­er four nov­els before the next twelve months are out. Two are writ­ten, but under­go­ing revi­sions. A third has start­ed. The fourth has noth­ing on paper; only in my mind. Is it an acci­dent that my shoul­ders have been aching, as if I had been car­ry­ing bags of cement up a ladder? … more
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Melissa Stewart: A Different View

Recent­ly, I spent sev­er­al weeks strug­gling with a work in progress. Day after day, the words just wouldn’t flow. Over the years, I’ve learned that there’s no way to force a stub­born man­u­script. I just have to focus on some­thing else until my mind some­how sorts things out. Some­times I begin work on a dif­fer­ent book, but in this case, I decid­ed to tack­le a long-neglect­ed task — orga­niz­ing my dig­i­tal photos.… more
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Debra Frasier: A Series of Mistakes

Fif­teen years ago my ten year old daugh­ter came home with a story. Mom, “ she said, “today I fig­ured out that “mis­cel­la­neous” is NOT a person.” I burst out laugh­ing. “So who did you think it was?” I asked. I thought she was that woman on the green spaghet­ti box…” I saved her gift-of-a-mis­take in my lit­tle jour­nal and end­ed up unwrap­ping it in a lone­ly hotel room in south­ern Wis­con­sin after a par­tic­u­lar­ly mis­er­able book sign­ing of three peo­ple.… more
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Candice Ransom: Being Ten

Every sum­mer I wish I was ten again, the per­fect age for the per­fect sea­son. At that age I was at the height of my child­hood pow­ers. And as a read­er, books couldn’t be thrust into my hands fast enough. Every morn­ing I’d eat a bowl of Rice Krispies, with my book at the table (my moth­er wouldn’t let me do this at sup­per, though I often kept my library book open on the seat of the next chair).… more
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Lisa Bullard: My Superpower

When I do school vis­its, the stu­dents treat me like a super­hero. The time with them is exhil­a­rat­ing, and it would take a much more hard­ened heart than mine to resist the curios­i­ty and imag­i­na­tion these young peo­ple exhib­it. But my class­room days also leave me bone-deep exhaust­ed. One after­noon, mid­way through a week­long res­i­den­cy, I lay down in my front yard when I arrived back home, too tired to tack­le the Mount Ever­est that had replaced my front steps.… more
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Lynne Jonell: Justice in Another World

by Lynne Jonell I just met a woman who lived through hor­ri­fy­ing emo­tion­al abuse as a child. I had been told about her his­to­ry some years before; but when I met the woman, we didn’t men­tion it. We talked instead about books, a sub­ject of com­mon inter­est, and teach­ing, her passion. I made an effort to for­get what I knew about her past; it was awful enough for her to have lived through it with­out my think­ing about it while we talked, like a bystander at a crime scene who keeps cast­ing sur­rep­ti­tious glances at the pool­ing blood beneath a blan­ket-cov­ered mound.… more
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Virginia Euwer Wolff: Considering Flaubert

by Vir­ginia Euw­er Wolff For years I’ve tak­en prim­i­tive com­fort in Gus­tave Flaubert’s mid-nine­teenth cen­tu­ry remark in a let­ter to a friend: “Last week I spent five days writ­ing one page.” And Gar­ri­son Keil­lor’s Writer’s Almanac remind­ed us (Dec. 12, 2014) that Flaubert often put in a com­ma one day and took it out the next. Yes, sure, fine, yeah, we all do that, and we can tell the key­board, or the cat, who­ev­er keeps us com­pa­ny, that in these inser­tions and dele­tions we’re hon­or­ing Flaubert and the noble tra­di­tion.… more
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Mary Casanova: Three Questions

A year of school vis­its has just con­clud­ed, but I can’t unpack quite yet. I’ll soon head out on a book tour to sup­port the release of my lat­est titles. The ques­tions I get when I meet read­ers depend on the book — whether it’s a new release I’m pro­mot­ing or an old­er book a class has read and discussed. Because I will be on tour sup­port­ing the release of my Grace books for Amer­i­can Girl, I can safe­ly pre­dict the three most com­mon­ly asked questions: How did you get start­ed writ­ing for Amer­i­can Girl?more
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Elizabeth Verdick: A Look at “Autism Fiction”

by Eliz­a­beth Verdick I spent the month of April read­ing children’s fic­tion fea­tur­ing char­ac­ters with Autism Spec­trum Dis­or­der (ASD). April was Autism Aware­ness Month, but that wasn’t my only moti­va­tion. I love children’s lit­er­a­ture, I have writ­ten non­fic­tion about ASD, and I’m rais­ing a son who’s on the autism spec­trum. I won­dered, Which mid­dle-grade sto­ries could I hand him, say­ing, “I think you’ll real­ly like this”?… more
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Marion Dane Bauer: The Power of Novels

by Mar­i­on Dane Bauer [I]f you are inter­est­ed in the neu­ro­log­i­cal impact of read­ing, the jour­nal Brain Con­nec­tiv­i­ty pub­lished a paper “Short- and Long-Term Effects of a Nov­el on Con­nec­tiv­i­ty in the Brain.” Basi­cal­ly, read­ing nov­els increas­es con­nec­tiv­i­ty, stim­u­lates the front tem­po­ral cor­tex and increas­es activ­i­ty in areas of the brain asso­ci­at­ed with empa­thy and mus­cle mem­o­ry. [Read the whole arti­cle.] … more
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Jen Bryant: It’s Not Pretty!

by Jen Bryant I’ve always had an ambiva­lent rela­tion­ship with the word “inspi­ra­tion.” On the one hand, I acknowl­edge the illu­sive, inex­plic­a­ble aspect of the writ­ing process that I can’t con­trol, when the lines, para­graphs, pages seem to flow from some­where out­side of myself, knit­ting togeth­er almost seam­less­ly. On the oth­er hand (and this is the much, much heav­ier hand) I believe that good writ­ing — like all good art — comes from con­scious effort, com­mit­ment, and lots of tri­al and error.… more
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