Look Away, Stay True

Recently a fellow writer, Chelsea Biondolillo, posted on Facebook: “I’m wearying of the push to turn ourselves into clickbait so our writing can go viral and we can get paid.” A number of other writers chimed in along these same lines. I found myself responding: “Look away, stay true.” I mutter these words with some …

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Essay

  Edge by Marcia Aldrich In every man’s heart there is a secret nerve that answers to the vibration of beauty. —Christopher Morley Start with a dead deer at the side of Hamilton Road. A major artery between Okemos and Dobie roads, it is my route to work, to the supermarket, to the post office …

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The Veil of Privacy in an Age of Anxiety

[What follows is my contribution to “Other People’s Privacy: Secondary Characters in Nonfiction,” a panel presentation to the annual meeting of the Associated Writing Programs in Minneapolis earlier this month. I joined Emily Fox Gordon, Debra Monroe (moderator), John T. Price, and Robin Hemley on the panel.] I confess to some anxiety over the task …

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The Free Memoir: A License to Thrill

 Principles, Clarice. Simplicity. Read Marcus Aurelius. Of each particular thing ask, “What is it in itself? What is its essence?” —The Silence of the Lambs Vivian Gornick says that memoir is “a genre still in need of an informed readership.” I agree. A first step to better reading would be recognition of the different types …

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The Things We Carry

Rich, Bob Dylan, Cheryl Strayed, Dream of a Common Language, Ezra Pound, Michigan State University, power, teaching, voice, Wild |Leave a comment Class assignment: Take an inventory of your bag, pick three telling items, and let them tell. 1. Pencil In the back pocket, a green Michigan State University pencil, sharpened at a steep angle, …

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Waiting

On Wednesday I asked the students in my class to describe what they’d been doing earlier in the day, before our afternoon session began. While they scribbled I wrote alongside them, producing a dull summary of actions and toil—until I came to waiting … There is always waiting. It begins in the still-dark morning when …

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Bad Writing

This last spring I tried an experiment: in the last weeks of the semester I asked my introductory students in creative nonfiction to consciously write badly. To carry out this effort, we returned to an in-class exercise from the beginning of the semester, one I had created to target observation and description. The windows of …

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