Preparing for the At-Home Writing Retreat

This will be my first staycation without a bouquet of flowers on my desk. But it will also be my first writing retreat in years. In fact, the next seven days will be the very first official writing residency of my Accessible MFA. So to say I’m excited, even with the complications of COVID-19, wouldContinue reading “Preparing for the At-Home Writing Retreat”

Why I Think Alharthi Will Win a Nobel

Jokha Alharthi won the International Man Booker Prize, along with her translator Marilyn Booth, in 2019. The novel that skyrocketed Alharthi to such international acclaim is only her second: Celestial Bodies. It’s also the first by an Omani woman to be translated into English. Only 80 pages in, I am in awe. Many ambitious writersContinue reading “Why I Think Alharthi Will Win a Nobel”

Writing with Chronic Illness

This week I came right up against a wall. Writing can be tough for anybody. Writing a book is even harder. But attempting to write a book with chronic illness? Even Flannery O’Connor said screw it when she was diagnosed with lupus and had to move back home, trading her fabulous life among Manhattan’s literatiContinue reading “Writing with Chronic Illness”

The Hazards–and Rewards–of Literature for the Feminist

Nothing like old love to remind you of who you have been, and who you have become. So I just picked up my favorite novel for yet another re-reading. At 17, when Mr. Hansen assigned All the King’s Men for my Honors English class, it was love at first sight. The first-person narrator, Jack Burden, ranks among AmericanContinue reading “The Hazards–and Rewards–of Literature for the Feminist”

What I Learned from Writing a Killer

Two weeks ago, Robert J. Ray—easily the best teacher I’ve had in any subject—told me to start writing my killer’s backstory in first person. No way, was my knee-jerk response. Hell no. Last week, Jack Remick told me the same thing. Goddamn it, boys. These two men, lifelong writers and teachers now in their seventies,Continue reading “What I Learned from Writing a Killer”

Responsible Fiction: Toe to Toe with Difference

Writers have to get outside their own skin. But sometimes I get overeager to inhabit differences. And I write about characters I have no chance of understanding. So I just finished revisions on a short story about an Ethiopian immigrant who runs into his past. At the grocery store, he comes across a woman who witnessed anContinue reading “Responsible Fiction: Toe to Toe with Difference”

Climbing Mountains

“Oh my god.” I came home and banged my head onto my desk. “What am I doing with my life?” And thus began another episode of writerly angst. I’m not a big believer in writer’s block. But avoidance and angst? I gotcha covered. My attic room (not kidding) is a mess. Stacks of filed writing and notesContinue reading “Climbing Mountains”

How You Get There

The crazy thing about the creative process–well, one of the plethora of crazy things–is that it isn’t linear. In fact, it’s an awful lot like shooting down a mountain creek in your kayak and hoping things turn out okay. I was talking over my novel with a fellow writer today, and she was interested inContinue reading “How You Get There”