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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, Kate Carroll de Gutes, Charles J. Shields, and Jeremy B. Jones discuss the importance of reading aloud and “scoring” your prose, the necessity of being thick-skinned and accepting editing advice, and how smells connect us to the past.

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...

What’s the Point? Five Writers Offer Lifelines for Post-MFA Despair

A weird thing happened the other day. A writer-friend contacted me to say that she felt lost and low and miserable about writing. What’s the point? she wrote. Why the hell am I doing this? In and of itself, the note wasn’t so strange. But consider this: I’ve gotten two other notes like it in the last month,...

The Ankle Bone’s Connected to the Memory Bone

I start with a confession about my body. I have a trick ankle. Say I’m walking in heels, or sensible shoes, it hardly matters which, and everything’s fine, I’m moving forward, until in less than an instant I find myself on the ground, a sharp pain shooting up my right calf. The first time this...

The Admissions Essay vs. the Permission Essay

Most of the students who enroll in the Introduction to Creative Nonfiction course at the university where I teach have little to no knowledge of the genre and even less of the personal essay. So, the first assignment I give is to write an autobiographical essay with the following requirements: 1. You may begin at...

On Form and Experimentation in Memoir: Schrand and Wilkins

Drawing on their most recent memoirs, Works Cited and The Mountain and the Fathers, authors Brandon Schrand and Joe Wilkins recently interviewed one another through a series of emails to explore the possibilities and limitations of form and experimentation in memoir.  JW: In a sample of his journals published in a recent issue of New Letters, B. H. Fairchild...
On Writing as an Act of Living: An Interview with Terry Tempest Williams

On Writing as an Act of Living: An Interview with Terry Tempest Williams

Terry Tempest Williams is the author of fourteen books. A naturalist and fierce advocate for freedom of speech, her works include the environmental literature classic Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place, Finding Beauty in a Broken World, and most recently, When Women Were Birds: Fifty-four Variations on Voice. Williams is the recipient of the...

The Ant in the Water Droplet: Locating the Mystery within Memory

The memories we have of our lives are not a continuous narrative. Instead, they are more akin to the several arcs of a skipping stone—three, four, five, six splashes and onward. Flash nonfiction is in many ways an ideal form to capture the world of those splashes of memory, fueled by the energy of the...

Tipping the Whippers

A few years ago a story attributed to John Gardner found its way into the pages of the Writer’s Chronicle. It seems that a writer in New York City received a letter awarding him a free vacation in the Caribbean. All he had to do was show up at the pier to catch the ship...