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An intermittent blog

Today I am my own guest!

Getting stuck in an elevator with the person you're about to divorce. What's not to like?
Here are my answers to the questions authors of stories in A Contract of Words responded to. Monday there will be a new guest on my page, certifiably not me!

My short, “Dancing in the Dark,” was just published in the anthology “A Contract of Words,” which includes 28 authors from all over the world.  Read More 
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Blog Tour Guest: William Thatch

Today’s guest on my page is William Thatch whose short story, “For Science!,” was just published in the anthology “A Contract of Words,” which includes 28 authors from all over the world. Here is what he had to say about life, writing, and his story:

1. Besides writing, what is one thing you couldn't live  Read More 
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Blog Tour Guest: Rayona Lovely Wilson

Today author Rayona Lovely Wilson is guest on my page. Rayona's short, “The Sammy Clause,” was just published in the anthology “A Contract of Words,” which includes 28 authors from all over the world. Here is what she had to say about life, writing, and her story:

1. Besides writing, what is one thing you couldn't  Read More 
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Blog Tour Guest: M. R. Ward

Today my guest is M.R. Ward whose short, “The Road Back,” was just published in the anthology “A Contract of Words,” which includes 28 authors from all over the world. Here is what he had to say about life, writing, and his story:

1. Besides writing, what is one thing you couldn't live without?
Coffee.  Read More 
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Blog Tour Guest: K. M. Reynolds

The blog tour for authors with stories in the anthology A Contract of Words continues. Author K.M. Reynolds ("The Twelfth Maid") is one of the 28 authors from around the world whose work is included and she is guest on my page today. Here's what she had to say about life, writing, and her  Read More 
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Blog Tour Guest: Kari Holloway

Today’s guest on my blog is author Kari Holloway, whose short, “Catching Up,” was just published in the anthology A Contract of Words. Over the next few weeks, I'll be introducing many of the authors here on my blog. My story "Dancing in the Dark" is also part of the anthology. Here is what Kari had to say  Read More 
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What Makes Us Human Is Our Questions

Robots in Rebellion in R.U.R.
In 1921, almost a hundred years ago, two Czech brothers wrote a play that introduced a new word to the world and with it, questions of what the world might be like by the turn of the 21st century. The word was “robot,” and the questions are ones that have populated speculative fiction, drama, and film ever since: will there come a time when humans and the machines they create can no longer be distinguished one from another? Will our machines someday outpace us, become smarter than we are? And will they then prefer to be the dominant form, rather than servant to a human master? Will they develop that element in Rossum’s Universal Robots, the play by the Capek brothers, evidenced by irritability? A soul? Read More 
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Oh My Stars

From now on, I'm going to append this statement to every review I write in a forum (such as Amazon or Goodreads) that requires me to select a number of stars.

***A word about stars***
I can't tell you how much I dislike stars. Like the grades I hated to give when I taught  Read More 
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Julie Weston's Moonshadows

MOONSHADOWSMOONSHADOWS by Julie Whitesel Weston

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


“Remove everything that has no relevance to the story,” said Anton Chekhov. “If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it's not going to be fired, it shouldn't be hanging there.”
Julie Weston’s MOONSHADOWS rises to Chekhov’s standards. Packed with rich details of history, geography, and character, MOONSHADOWS is a delightful and absorbing mystery. Nellie Burns is the perfect imperfect first-wave feminist heroine: determined to negotiate her own way—sometimes with nearly fatal results—as she faces the raw power of nature and the rough realities of frontier life in 1920s Idaho. Nellie is determined, too, to make sure the things she learns about tolerance and trust in a town that has plenty of ethnic tensions are passed on to others. Her stubborn insistence on testing her talents and courage leads her to err at times, but it is this same trait that sees her through solving the puzzle of what appears to be a double murder before she herself can be counted among the corpses.
And in the process, she establishes herself not only as an emerging detective, but as a gifted photographer.



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Writing What You Want to Read

Originally published on Burlington College's blog, Mar 6, 2015 9:00:00 AM


“If there's a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, then you must write it.” —Toni Morrison

With few exceptions, I’ve found that students in my classes—whether at Burlington College or the previous institutions where I’ve taught — have not felt that their K-12 writing instruction encouraged them to write what they wanted to read. More often, they’ve learned to master a five-paragraph essay structure filled with content they know will fit what their teachers, or more distantly, the people who sit in cubicles scoring their writing samples, will want and expect to see.

That’s why I believe my first task as a teacher of writing, whether it is in the context of a first-year seminar such as Your Brain: An Owner’s Manual or What Is an Artist? or a dedicated writing course such as Creative Writing, is to coax my students away from the formulaic writing that has served primarily to help them pass standardized tests. I want them to relearn, or learn for the first time if they’ve never known it before, the simple joy of communicating on paper. This is the basis for writing well, even in the academic writing that will play an increasing role in a student’s life.

One strategy for breaking out of the five-paragraph essay straight-jacket goes by the acronym RAFTS. RAFTS (Role/Audience/Format/Topic/Strong Intention) asks us to think about the various roles we assume as writers, the various audiences for whom we write, the formats available to us, the topics about which we can choose to write, and the strong purpose behind our efforts. Breaking open the “rules” about what a paper should look like means I have to, as the instructor, create a rubric that is clear and concise, but allows writers to experiment. Fortunately, this isn’t hard to do, and the results are that I look forward to reading a stack of papers because I know each one will have something truly unique to offer: a zombie comic book on brain nourishment, for example, or a short story that incorporates research on depression, a personal reflection on the creative process, or an artist’s manifesto.

This does not necessarily make writing easier. In fact, students sometimes say it is more difficult to have the freedom to make choices about what and how to communicate. Writing and reading require work. These are not skills that come “naturally,” having been programmed into our DNA by hundreds of thousands of years of evolution. We don’t learn to read or write the way we learn to walk, impelled by the developmental programs tucked into our genes. It is something humans have figured out how to do by deliberately re-purposing those ancient circuits. To read and write, we have to abstract, to move from actual experience to represented, symbolized experience.

Writing is first a process of discovery, then of organization, of constructing coherence. Unless we are writing entirely for ourselves, as we do in journaling, writing demands that we consider the intended audience for our communication. The entire process takes time, which is one reason those of us who planned our Open Spaces first-year seminars together agreed that we would include at least one writing assignment that we would expect to be revised. We don’t arrive at our best writing by pulling an all-nighter hours before the due date. We need to mull. We need, literally, to sleep on it. We need to keep posing the question to ourselves: How can we refine our writing to maximize its effectiveness? We re-vision (see again) and re-organize. Sometimes, we start over at the beginning and try an entirely new direction. We tweak, we polish, we proofread.

Through all those stages, all that effort is transformative. Ultimately, writing is a process of change. When we have completed a writing task, there is something in the world that never existed before, and it has both enlarged and become part of us. And it has also enhanced the world for those who read our words.

My goal as a teacher of writing, then, is to help my students discover their own stories, explore their own creativity, identify their own purposes, set their own priorities, find their audiences, learn the skills and metacognitive strategies that serve them in all these regards, and grow as a result.

I want them to be able to write the stories they want to read. When they do that, they create stories I want to read, too.  Read More 
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