cliche Archive

The Best Essay I Read This Month: “Good For You” by Scott Korb

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There have already been many great essays of 2016, but what really stuck to me this month was Scott Korb’s “Good For You” in the Winter 2016 issue of the Virginia Quarterly Review. The essay spans a lot of life’s bigger touchpoints—cancer, spirituality, parenting, aging and the prospect of

The Stealth Cliché

Author: | Categories: Writing, Writing Advice 17 Comments
A few years ago, Rosencrans Baldwin blew my mind with his Slate essay “Somewhere a Dog Barked.” Because he was dead right: In nearly every literary novel, that phrase appears. Did I have it in my own fiction? Absolutely. Did I also have the habit of punctuating tense scenes

Gatekeepers Part Four-point-Two: in defense of “telling” and sentimental preachiness

Author: | Categories: Writing 2 Comments
Two winters ago, brand-new to the creative writing community of Madison, Wisconsin, I was at ground zero of the national debate on union rights, caught in a throng of 70,000 protestors marching around the State Capitol, screaming “Whose Streets? Our Streets!,” “This Is What Democracy Looks Like!,” and “It’s

Gatekeepers Part Four-point-One: on why the [red] pen is mightier than the sword (and other politically useful clichés)

Author: | Categories: Publishing 1 Comment
Nearly ten years ago, when I was a twenty-year-old baby-poet with a sense of self-importance even more inflated than it is today, I organized a “Poetry in Protest” reading in Amherst, Massachusetts to demonstrate against what became, a couple months later, “Operation Iraqi Freedom.” My work screening manuscripts for