craft Archive

The Candles and the Soap: On Vonnegut, Death, and Repetition

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Placed after a mention of death or dying, Kurt Vonnegut’s “So it goes” refrain throughout Slaughterhouse Five utilizes repetition to explore the inevitability of death. Early on in the book, Billy Pilgrim writes a letter to a newspaper about his experiences with extra terrestrials, and explains the origin of the phrase: When

Daily Details Made Monumental

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Exterior details lend themselves to the interior landscape of a character or narrator. What one chooses to notice, how one describes an object, says more about the speaker than it does about that thing. A character who spends a whole paragraph noticing someone’s unwashed, unkempt hair tells the reader

Since Feeling is First: Elements of Craft to Express Emotion

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Emotions, feelings, desires—whatever you choose to call them—are central to writing. e.e. cummings wrote “since feeling is first / who pays any attention / to the syntax of things / will never wholly kiss you.” But how do we pay attention to syntax while retaining feeling? There are countless

Proxy Narratives: Jennifer Clement’s “Widow Basquiat”

Author: | Categories: Reading No comments
I’m always looking for a stellar book come November. National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo for the uninitiated) is about as appealing of an idea as having a month-long dental procedure and about as equally fun to be around. So, I mostly hide away. I do the opposite of what

Back to School Special: Thoughtful Imitation

Author: | Categories: Writing 1 Comment
I didn’t study creative writing as an undergraduate; it wasn’t an option. When I enrolled in the MFA program at University of Washington, what I craved more than workshop (which I’d experienced a few times in continuing education settings) was the elusive “craft” class: reading analytically not to make

YA vs MFA

Author: | Categories: Writing, Writing Advice No comments
I’m not a rule-breaker. I like order and organization (lord help you if you try to cut in front of me in the burrito line). And generally I don’t go looking for trouble. Except when it comes to writing YA. I was in my second year of my MFA

Writing in a Changing World: Craft, Readerships, and Social Media

Author: | Categories: Publishing, Writing, Writing Advice 3 Comments
What do you wish your MFA program had taught you? How is the literary world—and media in general—changing? How should we change with it? These are the questions that motivate Stephanie Vanderslice‘s work as a writer, professor, and HuffPost blogger. I heard Vanderslice speak at the International Great Writing Conference this June, where she

Punctuation I Have Known And Loved

Author: | Categories: Reading, Writing, Writing Advice 2 Comments
Fall is correcting season for me, and while I try not to turn into the grammar police while I’m reading, I usually cannot resist the chance to amend errors. One of my all time favorites was an essay that suggested that two parties in disagreement solve their problem in

Reading Aloud: It’s Not Just for Kids Anymore

Author: | Categories: Writing 4 Comments
As I wrote in my last post, I’ve been reading a lot of children’s books lately, out loud to my daughter. (She doesn’t seem to hear them when I read silently.) It’s made me more conscious of how words and sentences flow together and has helped me streamline my

Writing is Like Mixing a Drink

Author: | Categories: Uncategorized 1 Comment
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: