Writing Advice Archive

Notes on the State of Virginia: Journey to the Center of an American Document, Queries IV and V

This is the third installment of a year-long journey through Thomas Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia. You can read previous installments here and here. ** Query IV: A notice of its mountains Query V: Its cascades and caverns I walked into Queries IV and V thinking Jefferson

Erotic Parodies of Women

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A writer and I were on the sunny plaza outside the Nobel Museum in central Stockholm and she was telling me about an erotic parody project she’d collaborated on. The project was called Fifty Shelves of Grey and involved a dozen or so British authors doing erotic rewrites of

Seeing Red: What Writers Should Know About Color

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Writers should understand how to use color because seeing “red”and reading the word “red” can evoke the same heightened emotion. Our perception, behavior and mood can be influenced by color. Reaction to color is part of our evolutionary biology. The color blue, for example, is associated with the nighttime and

On Being A Writer With A Super Common Name or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Google

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My name is Daniel Peña, I’m a writer, and there are other Daniel Peñas messin’ up my Google results. It’s annoying and I’m against it. To ground us, let me tell you who they are: One Daniel Peña is an incredible twelve year old boy who showed me up

NOTES ON THE STATE OF VIRGINIA: Journey to the Center of an American Document, Queries II and III

  This is the second installment of a year-long journey through Thomas Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia. Here’s the first installment. ** Query II: A notice of its rivers, rivulets, and how far they are navigable Query III: A notice of the best Seaports of the State,

The Autobiography of the Imagination: Toward a Definition

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The autobiography of the imagination writes itself, one could say. It writes every time we write, every time we dream or daydream. It is its own captain’s log, the transaction and receipt. It reveals the self to make the self into a stranger, twisting the I to wring out

The Art of Dialogue for the Reticent

I write down bits of conversation I overhear in the train, in the park, at the checkout line, and borrow the more memorable ones for my own fiction writing. I am interested in the lines that sound strange or nonsensical, because they show a sense of character and intimacy

Origin Stories: Amy Gustine’s YOU SHOULD PITY US INSTEAD

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Amy Gustine’s debut collection, You Should Pity Us Instead, is an unsentimental exploration of people in distress. I recently asked Gustine where she drew her inspiration. She told me that stories come alive for her when she opposes two equal forces, which explains why each one feels like such

Body Language: What Writers Can Learn from Artists

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Body language is the nonverbal expression of emotion and thought—a form of communicating arguably more effective than the system made up of words. Words are adequate for the less complex task of conveying information, but body language and tone do the heavy lifting. By some estimates only 7 percent

On and Of the Page: The Life–Art Collapse

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A few years ago at a conference, I read a section from my long poem “Sublimation” in which the speaker describes a miscarriage that, in its vicious pain and effusions, wakes her up in the middle of the night. After the reading, as I was mingling my way toward