A Boyds Mills Evening

The air hung like a soggy blanket above Boyds Mills today, so saturated I had to hop in a cool shower the minute I returned to my cabin from my afternoon walk. There are only two cabins filled now; the writers I’ve been working with all week have headed home, heads spinning with the new…

Phoenix Airport Blues

You never know what’s going to start that old writing hunger growling in your belly. Tonight, it’s a two-hour layover in the Phoenix airport. The pilot said it’s 100 degrees outside (at 9:00 p.m.), but in here it’s just stuffy, as if the thick rose-brown air we cut through in our descent into the valley…

Experiential Writing

I’m writing this post from the midpoint of the Morrison Bridge, hunkered down beneath a narrow metal shelter hoping the storm will pass quickly. The hills behind Portland have grayed beyond recognition. Wind drives the rain toward the Willamette’s gunmetal surface like switchblades thrown from the glowering clouds. Fresh from the summit of the Coast…

Learn to Recognize Voice

I teach a whole workshop on “Finding Your Voice.” Beginning writers usually don’t think much about voice. When they do, they’re not quite sure what it is. But somewhere along the path to publication, most writers discover that voice is something editors say they look for. That it is–in fact–a critical element of great writing….

Portland Mellow

One thing I really enjoy about working remotely as an editor is mobility, especially since moving back to my favorite city–Portland, Oregon–late last summer. At least once a week, I make an excursion to the UPS Store on Third Avenue to mail my decisions on the latest week’s submissions back to the home office. On…

Write Who You Are

Mary Nethery, a good friend and former fellow-critiquer, just sent me this link to a blurb about her new book in Publishers Weekly. I was struck by the “rightness” of the scene I saw in the accompanying photo: Mary, sitting there with her book, a cat lounging on the desk in front of her. It’s…

A Favorite Chautauqua Quote

While pulling together bios for this year’s Chautauqua attendees, I became entranced by this quote from Dora Yuet Lan Tsang of Hong Kong: My best advice came from Max, a seven-year-old. One day I asked, “Max, when you grow up, what would you like to become?” Bewildered, he frowned and answered, “Of course, I would…

Uglies, Pretties, Specials, Extras

I just finished reading Scott Westerfield’s YA sci-fi series. For a long time, I was put off by the titles and cover images, thinking that this was another of those teen chick series that would make me barf. Sorry Scott! After reading other books by Westerfield–Leviathan and Mortal Engines–I decided to give the Uglies series…

Ritual and Writing

I wrote the post below when I lived in Portland, Oregon. Re-reading it just now I realized several things: 1) I really miss living in a city with so much diversity, and 2) I have yet to put into place the daily rituals I need to show gratitude for my current writing places and spaces….