I remember the first time I attended the Willamette Writers Conference, the blend of idolatry and loathing I felt for the other aspirants. I couldn’t talk to anyone. What if these people were better than me? What if they made it and I failed? The second time I went, I was more ambitious. I reserved […]Read more "Have I Made It?"
Dear Millennials, You are beautiful. Do not listen to people who say you are vain. They are over fifty, and they are jealous of your pores. They do not realize how good they would look if photographed with the Camera+ app. Buy a selfie stick. You create the life you live. Photograph it from the […]Read more "Open Letter to the Selfie Generation"
The party was in full swing when a man in a sport coat walked in and greeted me by name. Everything about his demeanor said, I got an invitation, but I had no idea who he was. I puzzled over him like a difficult equation. After several hours of deliberation, I figured it out. I […]Read more "I Like You, but I Can’t See You: A Writer’s Reflections on Face Blindness"
I see them around town, like migratory birds landed, briefly at the steak house: boys and girls in their prom finery. The boys look awed. Ordinarily they would be embarrassed, but the creatures seated beside them – the girls – have been so miraculously transformed. There is no appropriate response save wonder. Although that is […]Read more "Where Else, Besides Death, Do We Go for Such Loss?: Reflections on Prom"
Please enjoy a sneak preview of my work in progress, Something Good. Prologue Marydale Rae sat on a hard, plastic chair in a sun-swept room that managed to look almost cheerful. She had never been in this part of the Eastern Oregon State Penitentiary, with its high, tall windows, the bars painted the same […]Read more "For Good: A Contemporary Romance (sneak preview)"
As I prepare to teach my first, full-length college-level fiction writing class, I think back on the writing advice that resonated with me over the years. I remember Mary Oliver’s advice: “Writing is like a date. Nothing happens if you don’t show up.” I remember the Willamette Writers Conference session where I grasped the subtleties […]Read more "Maximum Capacity for the Writer"
You begin with something innocuous. Any boy band will do. The message is simple: you are pretty, and I love you. These songs draw the ire of my father, a physicist and classical musician. “Baby, baby, do ya wanna wanna,” he mimics in a nasal twang. “Is that all they’re saying?” “Yes, Dad.” I sigh. […]Read more "How to Fall in Love in Six Songs"
Winter Term Men reach a certain age and rest: forty-five for a decade, seventy-two until death. Only in academia does this happen to women as well. Something about the books, and all that youth to push against. We reach a tousled middle-agedness early, and then grow slowly into ourselves until, at sixty, we are gorgeous, our […]Read more "Winter Term"
As a writing professor, I receive a lot of free grammar handbooks. Most of these, enumerate the rules of comma usage to a degree that even I find daunting. Most list at least eight rules. Several list over ten. One contains twenty-four rules for proper comma usage. Today, I will set the record straight for the […]Read more "Three Comma Rules to Rule Them All"
I will never say, “I can’t write unless I have my special pen.” I will learn to write with earplugs in, cramped in the backseat of my car on my lunch break. I will not put off writing until I tidy my office, get the kids into college, or retire. I will learn how to […]Read more "15 New Years Resolutions for Writers"