Category Archives: Writing Tips

So You Think You Might Be Writing a Collage Memoir…

You’ve recently read Claire Dederer’s Love and Trouble and Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts AND the deeper-in-the-catalog Bluets. You love Abigail Thomas’ Safekeeping and Terese Marie Mailhot’s Heart Berries. You own multiple copies of Terry Tempest Williams’ Refuge. These are signs.Your manuscript is built of teeny tiny chapters. Can you even really call them chapters? Your book possesses multiple narratives. Some pages contain more white space than words. These too are signs. Continue reading

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Lessons from Success: Take a Note (or Two!)

When I see my students being all adult about workshop notes, I can’t help but try to understand why I wasted so much time pushing away what I so needed to hear. The answer I come up with: I subscribed too heavily to the idea that talent reigns supreme. I believed that these critiques meant I didn’t have enough talent to BE A WRITER. Another issue: I then lacked the skill to take a comment and revise, so I found critiques overwhelming. How on earth was I suppose to use these comments? How could I pry open this formed thing and begin to rebuild? Continue reading

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How to Write a Personal Essay (That Stands a Chance)

How to Write a Personal Essay will cover the following:

How to generate material compelling to both you and your readers

How to build up that material step-by-step into a essay

How to revise your opening paragraph so it catches an editor’s attention

How to build a story and an argument

How to land the final paragraph 

How to find markets for your essay

How to write a zinger pitch  Continue reading

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Q: Do I need connections to find an agent?

Q: Do I need connections to find an agent? A: No, you can find an agent without connections, but you do need to be prepared before you initiate the search. Here are some guidelines: 1) You need to be at … Continue reading

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What Will My Family Think?

I just finished my quarter as the Distinguished Writer-in-Residence at Seattle University. I hadn’t taught college-age students in a long time and was a bit nervous, but they were so, so engaged. So willing to dig in. So brave. And … Continue reading

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How to Write a Memoir Book Proposal (That Stands a Chance)

Learn how to write a memoir book proposal. Continue reading

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Last-day-of-School Advice for Writers

My two yearlong classes met for their final class meetings this week. We still have our class readings ahead (Many thanks to University Bookstore and Elliott Bay Book Company), but the classroom work is officially behind us. A number of … Continue reading

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4 New Year’s Resolutions for Memoirists

Want to finish  your memoir this year? Here are four resolutions to help you create an enduring memoir that transforms your individual experience into a universal one that speaks to a wide readership. 1. This year I will make myself … Continue reading

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Two Good Reasons to Read Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit

I first learned of Twyla Tharp’s book The Creative Habit from Claire Dederer, author of Poser: My Life in Twenty-Three Yoga Poses, when she quoted Tharp during a guest lecture for my memoir class. The quote? “You don’t really have … Continue reading

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How to Keep on Writing that Freaking Book!

Question: When is 9 months “a year”? Answer: When the 9 months is spent in a manuscript class. I teach a memoir manuscript class here in Seattle at Hugo House. The class runs 9 months from September to June, and … Continue reading

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