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Write Like a Cow: On Taking Craft Cues from Your Subject

In her chapbook The Cows, Lydia Davis begins with the promise of drama: Each new day, when they come out from the far side of the barn, it is like the next act, or the start of an entirely new play. They amble out from the far side of the barn with their rhythmic, graceful...

Beyond Beautiful: The Significance of an Objective Critique

“Beautiful.” If I had $10 for every time I heard this word during my first MFA residency, my full tuition for the residency would be back in my bank account. Beautiful. This word, which I reserve for something unique or rare, something that makes me take pause from life, was assigned to just about every...

The Shared Space Between Reader and Writer: A Case Study

I often teach classes on the form of the “hermit crab” essay, a term Suzanne Paola and I used in our textbook Tell It Slant. Hermit crab essays adopt already existing forms as the container for the writing at hand, such as the essay in the form of a “to-do” list, or a field guide,...

Going Cold: Writing Emotion, the Earley Scale, and the Brilliance of Edwidge Danticat

In a scene that is central to Edwidge Danticat’s novel Breath, Eyes, Memory, eighteen-year-old Sophie Caco’s mother guides her gently to her bedroom and “tests” her for virginity—with a finger, just as Sophie’s grandmother tested the mother and her sister every week. It’s an invasion that shatters Sophie’s sense of boundaries and will make her...

Consider the Prompt

Writers, on your marks, get set, go— I was supposed to be doing this writing, and/but/so… * A little background: I heard a celebrated writer say that. That is, she’d written it. That is, it turned up in the middle of an essay she read for a roomful of writers. Come to find out “this...

When Free Writing Will Not Make You Free: Resistance Training for Writers

In July 2013, I ran a marathon up Mount Adams near Trout Lake, Washington. Nobody questioned my physical prowess, because the accomplishment was indisputable. But, if you actually pressed your fingers against my belly, you would have felt pudge, and you probably would have been surprised to not feel functioning abdominal muscles (you’d also be...

On Riding and Writing Boldly

It was the summer of 2013, and I was in midair. My horse, Eragon, was not very tall, but I’d been launched from his back on a hillside at speed, so I had a long way to fall. My view of the sky between Eragon’s ears flipped to the approaching ground, studded with sticks and rocks....

Can You Hear Me Now? How Reading Our Writing Aloud Informs Audiences and Ourselves

In this Craft Essay, Kate Carroll de Gutes uses special characters (up and down arrows) to indicate how to score our own writing to improve our vocal delivery.  She suggests symbols to show us—at a glance—where we want to slow down, speed up, pause, emphasize.  Because WordPress cannot handle the specialized symbols, this essay, “Can You Hear Me...

The Editor at the Breakfast Table

I groaned. I sighed. Beneath the table, I pounded my fist on my knee. The old man was at it again: editing one of my papers for class. “Now, I know this is tough,” he would say, “but this will make you a better writer.” Then, cruel as a Cossack, he would slash through a...

The Nose Knows: How Smells Can Connect Us to the Past and Lead Us to the Page

“Whatever the odor, it is a marvel how it clings to me and how apt my skin is to imbibe it…. If I bring my gloves or my handkerchief near [my mustache], the smell will stay there the whole day. It betrays the place I come from.” —Montaigne, “Of Smells” “Follow your nose. It always...

Here Be Digital Dragons: Lucid Writing Requires Mental Maps

That slight tremor on August 15, 2013—which passed without much notice in the rest of the world—was the earth shifting at The Georgia Review. On that day we began accepting electronic submissions. On August 18th an essay came in online that caught my eye. But after I read it a couple times, I found myself...

Forest in the Trees: The Challenges of Shaping a Book (not a Collection) of Essays

In The Writing Life, Annie Dillard seems to warn writers away from embarking on a collection of individual works: “…[S]ince every original work requires a unique form, it is more prudent to struggle with the outcome of only one form—that of a long work—than to struggle with the many forms of a collection.” As someone...
Craft Essays

Craft Essays

In our Craft section, Brenda Miller writes on creating a “shared space” between reader and writer, Nancy Geyer examines how Lydia Davis’ language wonderfully mimics her subject matter, Dylan Landis argues for allowing the reader to construct the emotional response in fiction and memoir, and Katlyn Stechschulte discusses useful (and not so useful) workshop critiques.

Mapping Identity: Borich’s Body Geographic

This interview was prepared by Linda Avery, Polly Moore, Jan Shoemaker, and Aimee Young (current nonfiction students in the Ashland University MFA program, Bonnie J. Rough’s Spring 2013 section) with questions exploring the memoir, Body Geographic. PM: Your voice in this book is so wise, so at peace with all the different parts of you that...

What Can Sonnets Teach Us about Essays? The Benefit of Strict Form

In A Poetry Handbook, Mary Oliver stresses the importance of understanding and practicing metered verse for modern students and writers of poetry. To lack a deep understanding of metrical forms, she says, is “to be without [a] felt sensitivity to a poem as a structure of lines and rhythmic energy and repetitive sound.” How can we...

Locating an Essay’s DNA

An essayist always writes two essays simultaneously, overlapped as transparencies, one exploring what Vivian Gornick calls the situation, the other what she terms the story. Poet Richard Hugo talks about a piece’s “triggering subject” and its generated, or real, subject. Phillip Lopate describes the “double perspective” that an essayist needs, the ability to both dramatize...

And There’s Your Mother, Calling Out to You: In Pursuit of Memory

Before I sat down to write this essay, I stepped outside and took a walk. Always a walk before I write. I hadn’t counted on the winds, or the pewter-colored clouds massing overhead and crowding out the sun. The first drops of rain were a sweet release from heat. After that, it was an all-out...

A Creative Nonfiction Class Interviews Brian Oliu

Inspired by Dinty W. Moore’s anthology The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Flash Nonfiction and my own struggle with the flash form, I chose to make my Advanced Creative Nonfiction class this semester all about the flash. Along with the anthology, we are reading T Fleischmann’s Syzygy, Beauty (Sarabande, 2012), Maggie Nelson’s Bluets (Wave...