Author Archive

Seven Strange But True Tales about Timothy Schaffert’s The Swan Gondola

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Timothy Schaffert’s latest novel, The Swan Gondola, is a rollicking adventure set during the Omaha World’s Fair of 1898, and starring a romantic and rapscallion cast of vaudevillians, actresses, snake oil salesman, and all around ne’er-do-wells. Inspired in part by The Wizard of Oz, Schaffert’s tale is jam-packed with so much

Six New Tricks Your Dog Can Teach You About Writing

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Fans of the Ploughshares “Writers and Their Pets” series have probably noticed the majority of those blogs are about writers and their dogs. In my view this is because dogs are the best writing companions. For one thing, they never ask, “What’re you working on? or “Aren’t you done

Books Good for Giving

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Like most voracious readers, I have to be frugal with my purchases—so while most of the books I buy as gifts are new, most of the books I buy for myself are used. I enjoy the idea that these books have lived several lives, moving from one place and

The Life and Poetry of Ted Kooser

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“I farm a little plot of things to say, with not much frontage on the busy road.” —Ted Kooser journal entry, December 7, 1972 quoted in The Life and Poetry of Ted Kooser by Mary K. Stillwell A lot’s happened for Ted Kooser since he wrote those lines more

Snack Time with Sherrie Flick

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When writer Sherrie Flick coordinated events at the immensely popular Gist Street Reading Series in Pittsburgh, one thing was certain, beyond the high caliber of the visiting writers and the fact the space would be packed: there would be fabulous food. Crusty bread, gooey cheese, in-season vegetables, jugs of

Inside the MacDowell Colony

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The MacDowell Colony is one of America’s oldest and most prestigious artists’ retreats, tucked away in the woods of Peterborough, New Hampshire. While its remote campus offers the solitude and freedom that has inspired a vast variety of artists for more than a hundred years, once a year, every

An Interview with Mary Pipher, Author of The Green Boat: Reviving Ourselves in Our Capsized Culture

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The cure for knowing too much is not knowing less, but rather understanding what to do with the information we have. —Mary Pipher, The Green Boat It’s rare I finish a book wanting to shout from the rooftops how great it is, and even more rare that I read

Found Poetry 101: The Restaurant Menu

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RAVIOLI AI QUATTRO FORMAGGI Tuscan Kitchen: Salem, New Hampshire Delicate pasta pillows stuffed— with hand dipped ricotta burrata, fontina and parmigiano cheeses. Light brown butter pan sauce, shaved black truffles. ($15) In the amount of time it took my waiter to return with my glass of sparking Prosecco andthe

The Comfort of the Cover Song

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We all do “do, re, mi,” but you have got to find the other notes yourself. —Louis Armstrong A teacher hands out tools—pencils or paintbrushes or musical instruments—and immediately begins instructing students in the art of imitation. Children copy letters and paint by numbers and squeak out Beethoven’s Ninth  on

Eulogy for the Phoenix

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If you don’t live within spitting distance of Boston, maybe you missed the sad news that the Boston Phoenix abruptly quit publication last month. This alternative newsweekly began in the heyday of the sixties, and quickly became the go-to source for more than just the other side of the story,