Technique & Mad Skills—

Don’t try to make it symbolic.

I was invited to a Canadian fiction class at McGill University once. This Cake was on the required reading list for the course (!), and the students had all read the book and prepared some questions for my visit. It was a surreal experience. When I wrote the stories, I hoped for readers. But I […]

Creative Collaboration: On Being Islands In the Stream

When I watch musicians perform, I often feel a pang of admiration and longing about the way they can be in the zone together, sharing a creative experience. They’re making music by playing individual instruments, but when they play together, they’re tapping into something that’s bigger than the separate components of drum, guitar, piano. And […]

What is the shape of a sentence?

Recently my daily prompts subscribers received the following prompt in their inbox: This one was an advanced assignment. (Hey – I want my prompts to be fun and engaging, but I want to make you work, too.) Janet emailed me a great question that day – I’m paraphrasing, but basically it said, “What do you […]

Write a list. (A writing tutorial.)

  If you receive my daily prompts, sooner or later you’ll notice that I love asking you to write lists. Sometimes they’re extremely simple, like: Write a list of words that begin with the letter G. Why do I love this simple, powerful writing exercise more than any other? It’s pure. It’s forgiving. And it […]

Be grateful for your crazy, active mind.

  This morning, as soon as I woke up, my mind started up. It went something like this:   …It’s raining! Oh, the peonies will be droopy today. …but the garden does need the water. …when I was in Indiana, the birds woke us up before dawn. …ugh, the bathroom really needs to be cleaned. […]

Read it backwards. Deep Revision: Part 5.

This is Part Five of a 5-part tutorial called Deep Revision. This series is designed to help you prepare for The Little Bird Writing Contest.   For Part One, click here. To be a good editor of your own work, you have to learn how to look at your story as though you weren’t the […]

Cut it up. Deep Revision: Part 4.

This is Part Four of a 5-part tutorial called Deep Revision. This series is designed to help you prepare for The Little Bird Writing Contest.   Read Part Five here. One of the hardest things about attempting revision is the feeling of calcification that encloses a piece of writing once it’s been typed. It’s very […]

Read for influence. Deep Revision: Part 3.

This is Part Three of a 5-part tutorial called Deep Revision. This series is designed to help you prepare for The Little Bird Writing Contest.   Read Part Four here. Don’t pirate my editions; do plunder my visions. The name of the game is Give All. You, reader, are welcome to my stories. They were […]

The Little Bird Salon

On March 1st, 2013, I spoke to Giller nominee and Little Bird Writing Contest judge Alix Ohlin about the pleasures and perils of writing life. In just over an hour, we were able to go surprisingly deep. We answered a wide variety of thoughtful (and tricky) questions from our audience, including: How do you get […]

Lose the first draft. Deep Revision: Part 2.

This is Part Two of a 5-part tutorial called Deep Revision. This series is designed to help you prepare for The Little Bird Writing Contest.   Read Part Three here. I lost a file once — no hard copy printed — of a finished, polished, multi-drafted story. It was my best version of this story, […]

Write what you want to read.

subscribe