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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.… 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.… 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.… 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.… 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.… 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.… 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.… 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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door knocker

Partners in the Dance: From Fiction to Nonfiction and Back Again

by Liza Ketchum This week, while I pre­pared for a talk at AWP (Asso­ci­a­tion of Writ­ing Pro­grams) on writ­ing non-fic­tion biogra­phies for kids, I thought about how I enjoy research­ing both non­fic­tion and fic­tion titles. Yet a gulf often sep­a­rates the two gen­res. In my local library, you turn right at the top of the stairs for the non­fic­tion stacks and left to peruse the nov­els.… more
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