• Creative Writing,  first draft,  novel writing,  writing fiction

    At the Beginning – Again

    Walking through fog. With the headlamp on. Low. Paraphrasing a quote from E.L. Doctorow. This is what it’s like to write a novel. I keep telling myself that as I move forward, ever so slowly. These first infantile steps, as if I’ve never taken them before. “It’s like driving a car at night: you never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” from E. L. Doctorow, The Art of Fiction No. 94, interviewed by George Plimpton in The Paris Review. But I have. Three times. I have conceived and birthed three whole, healthy novels. (Well, two healthy ones anyway. My first was ill-formed…

  • Creative Writing,  power of words,  teaching creativity,  teaching writing

    The Authentic Illusion

    Everything is illusion, the Buddhists tell us – our lives and loves, our fears and troubles, the very earth and air and we ourselves. None of this is real. This concept is intended to help us let go of our attachment to longing, hunger, desire. But to fiction writers, it is almost a validation of our work. If everything is illusion, then the fictional world has as much significance as any. Think of the word “fiction” – something feigned, invented, a made up tale. And yet, in fiction we often discover and express the most profound human truths. Fiction functions to create its own reality and, through it, to reflect…

  • Creative Writing,  Finding your voice,  practical advice,  teaching creativity,  teaching writing,  tips and tricks,  writing technique

    Writing in 3D

    We’ve all heard it before. “Your character’s flat. You need to make him three-dimensional.” Sure, great. But what exactly does that mean? We all know we live in a three dimensional world. We learn it in grade school: a line, a plane, a cube… But how do you make a character three dimensional? Do you make him really fat? Do you give him a limp so he wobbles when he walks, thereby taking up more space? Believe it or not, I’ve tried both, and no, that’s not what it means. Three-dimensional means you have to dig deeper. Take that character with the limp, for example. It’s fine to describe him…

  • Blogging,  connecting,  Creative Writing,  Finding time to write,  practical advice,  Writers Groups,  writers organizations,  Writers Resources,  writing advice,  Writing Events

    Great Speakers, Great Events, Great Opportunities

    Check out these great happenings at The Writers Circle and in our broader, connected creative circles. First, we’re officially launching our monthly Writers Circle Speaker Series with a talk that goes beyond writing to all aspects of creative thinking. Join me and TWC Associate Director Michelle Cameron on October 2, 2-4PM for “Tapping into Creativity” at Luna Stage, 555 Valley Road, West Orange. We’ll be talking about how to bring creative thinking to the classroom, the workplace, and yes, into your own creative work, with hands-on exercises that will challenge your imagination. Tickets are $25/session if pre-registered, $35 at the door, and only $20/session for TWC students and parents (former…

  • children writing,  Creative Writing,  Finding your voice,  practical advice,  teaching children,  teaching creativity,  writing technique

    Thoughts on a Creative Education

    What does it mean to be creative? Some people might imagine a “bohemian”, someone with no boundaries, who floats on a whim to seek the muse. Someone who dons wild clothing and wilder hair, who is as likely to fall in love as to commit suicide or murder. To be creative, you don’t have to be erratic, uncontrolled, addicted or unpredictable. In fact, these qualities are far more likely to kill your creativity as to nurture it. The word “creativity” shares the same root as the word “create”. In other words, you have to actually make something to be creative. Making things requires discipline, technique, excellent organization and problem solving…

  • Creative Writing,  teaching children,  teaching creativity

    Muses to the Muse

    Here in New Jersey the summer is upon us. We’re slogging through water-thick air, trying to stay alert in the humidity and heat. Typing at my keyboard is best done in air conditioning or outside in the slight breeze where the shivering cicadas songs wash over and around me like waves. I do have a suggestion to make the hot summer months more inviting to the muse. In summer, I take my work to a museum. There’s nothing cooler than sitting in a gallery with an open notebook and pen, allowing the paintings, sculpture and hushed, inquiring atmosphere to seep into your consciousness and fill your mind with words. In…

  • Creative Writing,  editing,  historical fiction,  power of words,  practical advice,  revision,  writing technique

    Huh…? vs. Hmmm…

    We writers love the mystery of a story’s unfolding. Half the time, honestly, we’re not quite sure where it’s going ourselves. Isn’t that part of the fun – the exploration and discovery? And isn’t that the same amazing journey we want to share with our readers? In our attempts to invite readers into the adventure, we strive for thoroughness, complexity, grace and subtlety. But our efforts, however earnest, can sometimes leave our readers overwhelmed or confused. The Data Dump Beginning writers often feel compelled to get everything down all at once. I call it a data dump, and it’s a natural tendency. We get so filled with our vision. It’s…

  • Creative Writing,  discipline,  Finding your voice,  practical advice,  teaching creativity,  tips and tricks,  writing technique

    Writing the Body Electric

    So often I begin a writing class with a simple, free-writing prompt, usually just a word or phrase – “skipping in the rain”, “amusement parks”, “the kitchen sink.” I enjoy watching the quizzical glances of my writers at these random ideas. But slowly each of them connects to some inner flash of thought or memory. In just a moment or two, all their pens have touched down and the air becomes infused with soft shushing. The room almost sizzles with an electric flow of thoughts connecting our deep, interior minds to the exterior space that allows creative energy to manifest into something real. It’s a miracle really, as magnificent as…

  • children writing,  Creative Writing,  teaching children,  teaching creativity,  writers support,  writing technique

    Don’t Think. Write.

    I am sitting at my desk right now preparing to venture to my 10-year-old son’s classroom where I will spend about an hour discussing my brief time studying with Madeleine L’Engle, the famed author of the children’s classic, A Wrinkle in Time. The kids have been reading it at school, and I hear from his teacher that it’s been most challenging. Perhaps that is why it was one of the formative novels of my own childhood. I’ve always liked a challenge, and writing is one of the greatest, to be sure. As I’m perusing Madeleine’s many wisdoms, recorded in a compilation called Madeleine L’Engle Herself: Reflections on a Writing Life,…

  • Creative Writing,  Great Writers,  literary genres,  power of words,  writers support,  Writing Events

    Grace in Few Words

    The Writers Circle has been graced with the voices of several poets this session, some who declared themselves as such and others who have, unintentionally or out of sheer desperation, stumbled into this most challenging realm of brevity, nuance and meaning. It’s a miraculous thing to be able to distill words to their most compact and powerful. I’ve toyed with poetry for years and have rarely succeeded. I seem to prefer to wallow in the luxury of prose, all those words with which to play, expound, expand, express. See, I use far too many! But poetry’s spareness packs a wallop. In a few magnificently chosen phrases, the entire sweep of…