My Words Fly Up


A student and I exchanged book recommendations recently, in which I didn’t like the ending in either book, and my student, Brian, didn’t like the ending in one of them. The book we agreed on was The Vanishing Act of Esme Lennox by Maggie O’Farrell. The one we didn’t agree on was Divisadero by Michael

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Shamelessly Promoting My Mother’s Book

My mother has written three books–two novels, one nonfiction–and numerous newspaper columns and magazine articles. And now she has published a new book, a marvelous travel memoir of the three winters she and her partner spent chasing the sun. She and Sandy traveled, in successive winters, to New Zealand, South Africa and Spain, and Argentina

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Constructing a Novel–The Outline

Several months ago I heard John Irving speak at the Music Hall in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. A few months later I heard Margaret Atwood at the same venue as she read from her latest book and was interviewed. Both authors were engaging and dropped various jewels of insight that readers and writers could grab. Yet

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Less Can Be More

I overwrite at times. I don’t mean long phrase-upon-phrase, clause-upon-clause, description-upon-description sentences as, say, Virginia Woolf does. If I were capable of writing sentences like this from Mrs. Dalloway— The British middle classes sitting sideways on the tops of omnibuses with parcels and umbrellas, yes, even furs on a day like this, were, she thought,

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Hollywood Does It Again

I wrote a post a few months ago about how a children’s movie used an important plotting technique—that is, when a protagonist solves one problem, she or he should be confronted by a worse problem. Now advice from a documentary filmmaker, whose mother is a student of mine. Ginny was frustrated with the plotting of

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One More about Practicing

Billy Joel was giving a master’s class at Vanderbilt University a few months ago. When a student asked Mr. Joel if he could accompany him on the piano, Mr. Joel said, “Okay.” (He discusses the experience briefly in this interview.) As you listen to the performance, you cannot doubt that the young man spends an

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Be Social


In which I blog about the days I write and the days I don’t write; about teaching about writing; about reading (which is never enough); and occasionally about music, because sometimes a three-minute song can tell as good a story as a novel.

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