craft of writing

To write well, first tune out the clatter — if you can

by David Alm April 30, 2013
woman-reading

What’s the difference between good writing and everything else? At the risk of sounding pedantic, I’ll offer this: specificity. You have to know what you’re writing and why. This doesn’t mean you have to know the exact form your writing will take before you lay down the first sentence, but at the very least, you […]






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Write Here

by Tasha Cotter January 28, 2012

When I moved back to Kentucky I gave up the city life, moving six hours away from Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood and my local Starbucks to a land of green pastures, black barns, and large homes nestled against picturesque rolling hills. Gone is my tiny apartment that was not unlike Sandra Cisneros’s own small cramped place […]






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Await Your Reply 4: image

by Cynthia Newberry Martin August 18, 2011

From Dan Chaon’s Await Your Reply, how an image can make words come alive: Without the image: Her thoughts were not clearly articulated in her mind, but she could feel them moving swiftly, gathering. “What are you thinking about?” George Orson said, and when he spoke, her thoughts scattered, broke up into fragments of memories. […]






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Await Your Reply 3: repetition with new detail

by Cynthia Newberry Martin August 17, 2011

In Await Your Reply, published in 2009, Dan Chaon uses repetition in a very cool way. Instead of bogging down the original scene, he pushes the action forward first, then a bit later, moves in for a close-up or two, adding additional details. For example, on page 246, Miles wakes up in bed with a […]






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Await Your Reply 1: three threads

by Cynthia Newberry Martin August 15, 2011

From the first page of Dan Chaon’s novel: On the seat beside him, in between him and his father, Ryan’s severed h and is resting on a bed of ice in an eight-quart Styrofoam cooler. Enough said? Dan Chaon’s second novel and fourth book, Await Your Reply, which was published in 2009, intertwines 3 seemingly unrelated […]






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The chronology of water

by Cynthia Newberry Martin June 11, 2011

The Chronology of Water< /em> by Lidia Yuknavitch. Wow. Some book. One reviewer admits to considering throwing it across the room. It’s a memoir, and the writing is uneven. But that fits the life it mirrors. Like the story out of which it grew, it’s About fathers and swimming and fucking and dead babies and drowning. […]






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This won’t take but a minute, honey

by Cynthia Newberry Martin May 25, 2011

If you haven’t visited the Harvard Book Store, take a minute and pop over there. Watch the shutters open and the store come to life. See what books fill their front windows. Click for a close-up; double click to look inside a book. With your mouse, you can zoom in or out. Amble to the […]






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The squad: goon 3

by Cynthia Newberry Martin March 24, 2011

Each chapter of Jennifer Egan‘s A Visit From the Goon Squad can  stand alone as a story, but united, these chapters took my breath away. I got chills as I discovered yet another connection between them: Characters who age and reappear. Younger selves revealed. Shadows filled in. Events alluded to that come to pass. The language […]






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Pure Egan

by Cynthia Newberry Martin March 20, 2011

In her selected shorts interview, Jennifer Egan talked about how, years ago, she abandoned a story because she couldn’t find any way to rein in the material. Well, in A Visit From the Goon Squad, Egan is the master of compression. In Chapter 1, she creates a shortcut based on a time period idiosyncratic to […]






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