advice Archive

Why Poetry Can’t Find its Public

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Hey Poets. I was in LA last month for music work, and I think I found something you dropped: The public.  So—Maybe you weren’t sure when you lost it, but you seem pretty certain music stole it. Or film perhaps? Or YouTube cats? Meanwhile, poetry’s stayed alive. It’s been breeding

Episodia 1.6: The Five Pillars of Place

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As a writer, reader, and a creative writing teacher, I am—for now and forever—a staunch proponent of the place-based narrative. When we think of stories, we tend to focus on those bound to particular characters or events. And yet, some of the most compelling plot lines found in literature

Writing is Like Mixing a Drink

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Mixing a drink is seductive in a way writing will never be. The ice sweating in the glass. The chucka, chucka of the metal shaker growing cold in your hands. The invisible melding going on inside that shaker, alcohols blending to become something all together new. The nifty garnishes:

Episodia 1.5: Mad Men’s Tell-Tale Heart

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For six seasons now, television viewers have been transfixed by advertising phenom Don Draper’s troubled smolder as he winds his way through Manhattan’s boardrooms, bedrooms, and bars. Each episode is loaded with literary jewels for writers to fawn over: the elegant use of space (that office elevator really knows

Roundup: Spring Cleaning

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In our Roundups segment, we’re looking back at all the great posts since the blog started in 2009. We explore posts from our archives as well as other top literary magazines, centered on a certain theme to help you jump-start your week. This week we have posts on writing in the start

Relationship Rescue! Courting Your Long-Lost Writing

Author: | Categories: Writing, Writing Advice 10 Comments
First, a confession: I’m lousy at prioritizing fiction writing. I let everything else in my life take precedence. I even let other writing take precedence—articles, book reviews, syllabi, comments on student work, status updates, replies to all. And yet, good things have happened to the fiction I’ve written. I

Episodia 1.2: Dissecting the Downton Craze

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When PBS first aired “Downton Abbey” two years ago, viewers across the nation had no idea that our lives were incomplete—but judging from the show’s reception we were all missing this episodic saga of one British aristocrat’s struggle to maintain his traditions while the outside world (and some of

How to Leave School (Without Leaving Your Writing Behind)

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At the risk of sounding like a John Mayer song, I’ve never believed in the real world. Or rather, I’ve never believed in the non-real world, some supposed realm that acts as a cozy womb for practitioners of glorified hobbies, like extreme sports and graduate school. This idea seems

Writing is Like Walking

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Writing is a mysterious task. Unlike changing a tire or tying your shoelaces, there is no prescribed list of steps that must be undertaken to succeed. Which is why I often find myself comparing the act of writing to different daily activities. Writing is like cooking, cleaning, sleeping, vacuuming,

From the Slush Pile…

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It seems clear that what you all want to know is, “How do I get published in Ploughshares?” So, lets start at the beginning. Literally. If you want to get out of the slush pile, one of the worst things you can do is write a lackluster first paragraph. Don’t