Dreaming of running away to write a novel, memoir or a few short stories? Me, too, just about every day! I’ve escaped a couple of times and here’s my take on how to plan a great writing retreat: Don’t go empty-handed. I used to think that if only I could retreat from all the responsibilities […]


I often daydream of retreating to a rustic cabin, far from the madding crowd. I also love the poetry of Robert Service, “Bard of the Yukon.” So, during a recent trip to Dawson City, how could I not visit his one-time home? Born in England in 1874, Service immigrated to Canada at the age of […]


Good House is Good Recovery Fiction

May 23, 2013

And speaking of drunkenness (see my last post, Looking for Some Great Recovery Lit?), I just finished , by Ann Leary. Protagonist Hildy Good lives on prime property just outside a coastal town north of Boston. She is the descendant of Sarah Good, one of the first women hanged for witchcraft in nearby Salem. Hildy […]

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Looking for Some Great Recovery Lit?

April 1, 2013
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Thirty pages into a memoir of recovery from alcoholism, I suddenly stopped and flipped the book over to study the photo of the author: Had I read this book before? Then I realized that no, it just seemed that way because I’ve read several such memoirs and they all have the same basic structure. Chapter […]

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I.O.U. a Great Nonfiction Story

October 19, 2012
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Good nonfiction can make a complicated, difficult topic comprehensible. One of the most confounding matters of modern times is how the global financial system went off the rails in 2008. How is one to understand Too Big To Fail banks gambling with other people’s money and then getting taxpayer-funded bailouts? I watched several documentaries and […]

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The Power of Story

June 14, 2012

It’s obvious the ability to tell a great story will get you far in writing fiction and creative nonfiction. But literary devices—the use of scenes, specific detail and suspense and more—can turn informational nonfiction into a riveting read, too. By “informational,” I mean the sort of book you read mainly to find out about a […]

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Margin Call Shows How Writing Less is More

April 18, 2012

Any writing instructor will tell you that revising is a crucial component of the writing process, and a big part of revising anything — from an academic essay to a short story — is cutting unnecessary words. If you want your writing to excel, take the advice a step further: Cut unnecessary information. Aiming for […]

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Are Rejections Worth Saving?

April 3, 2012

I’ve been cleaning my office and today, in the file cabinet, I found a rejection letter from a literary journal dated October 17, 1992. The message is two lines, the standard thanks-but-no-thanks. After these two printed lines, though, is a handwritten note that runs all the way down to the bottom of the 8×11 page. […]

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The Best Books on My Writing Bookshelf

March 9, 2012

I own 62 books on writing. I had no idea I had this many writing guides until I counted them just before sitting down to compose this post. At least a dozen of these didn’t especially inspire me and I should really get on with it and clean house but it’s difficult for me to […]

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How do you write a great ghost story?

October 24, 2011

What kind of ghost story do you like? If you want to write a great ghost story, you need to understand the answer to this question. I know what I like: stories that fall into a sub-genre of ghost fiction often referred to as psychological ghost stories. In this kind of fiction, emphasis is on […]

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