Featured online class: Is the Hero's Journey All There Is? with Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovichstarts September 14.

Techniques for Using Humor in Your Writing

Posted on Mon, Jul 6 2015 9:00 am by Nicole Kronzer

In the late 90s, I was on my high school improv team.

I was terrible. A good actor, convincing as a character, but not funny when put on the spot. The principal’s secretary used to read the announcements over the loudspeaker every day, and students could submit an all-call for their club or sport and somehow I got elected (volunteered?) to write one for our upcoming show. I remember my fellow troupe-mates’ submissions as being witty, chuckle-worthy endeavors that made even the driest class smile, but I had no idea what I was doing. “Come see the improv show this Friday at 7:30,” I remember writing, “The improvisors will be the audience, and the audience will be improv-ing.” Except the secretary read it out loud as “improving.” No one laughed. As well they shouldn’t have—it was confusing, yes. Intriguing, perhaps. But not funny.

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Why Bilingual Literature Matters

Posted on Fri, Jul 3 2015 9:00 am by Victoria Blanco

My kindergarten teacher used to give me and Juliana, my best friend, time out for speaking Spanish. We weren’t allowed to speak Spanish, the language of our parents, in class or even during recess. One evening, there was a meeting for all the parents, most of them Mexicans who had made the short journey across the border from Ciudad Juárez to El Paso, Texas. The purpose of the meeting was to call on parents to “support teachers” by emphasizing English at home. They warned parents that children who do not learn fluent, native-sounding English will struggle to succeed in the world.

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Fostering a Connection By Reading Aloud

Posted on Thu, Jul 2 2015 9:00 am by Clair Dunlap

I have a very vivid memory of sitting with my older brother, both of us in our pajamas, on my parents’ huge bed while my mom read us one of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books. Her copies were yellowed, sometimes the covers weren’t even still attached, and I don’t know if I could recount many of the details of the stories since—unlike my mom—I’ve only heard them all once through. This memory stays with me not because those books are my favorite, but because we did this every night growing up.

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Posted on Wed, Jul 1 2015 9:00 am by Molly Beth Griffin

I heard yet another speech recently claiming that if you are a writer you must write every day. A lot of people have told me this, over the years. It makes me crabby. I know that what they mean is that if you are a writer you must WRITE. You must put in your time and do your work. Having an idea for a book does not make you a writer. Wishing you had time to write does not make you a writer. The only thing that makes you a writer is WRITING.

And I agree with that, wholeheartedly.

But I do not write every day.

I have never written every day.

And so I have to believe that there are other ways of putting in your time and doing your work. There are other ways of being a writer.

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Loosely Literal: The Skimm, U.S. History Edition

Posted on Mon, Jun 29 2015 9:00 am by Sally Franson

[The Skimm’s] purpose? To recap and explain the top news stories of the day to like-minded busy women, all in a conversational, easy-to-digest tone. —Elle

Oh, hay, like-minded busy women. We know you’re busy—high-powered jobs, cement apartments, grooming regimens—but we here at The Skimm wanted to give you something extra to celebrate over July 4th.

And we don’t just mean frozen grapes!

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An Interview with Heather Herrman

Posted on Fri, Jun 26 2015 9:00 am by Clair Dunlap

A writer needs a deft hand at character development and atmosphere. If you can’t get the reader to feel safe, they’re never going to be afraid, no matter how many chainsaws you throw at them. 

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Twitter IS for Writers

Posted on Thu, Jun 25 2015 9:00 am by Linda White

I have heard from many writers who are frustrated with or confused by Twitter. Just the idea of it, never mind what you are actually supposed to do once you are on it. They either don’t understand the concept or they feel it’s too technical.

This is reasonable, but Twitter is really just like any other social media platform, in terms of learning it—you just need to dive in, spend some time there, figure out the strengths and weaknesses, and you will see how best to interact.

My personal feeling is that Twitter is a wonderful haven for writers. I am following and being followed by hundreds of people, and I am fairly certain that many of them are writers in some respect.

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When Someone Asks if You’re a Teacher, Just Say Yes

Posted on Wed, Jun 24 2015 9:00 am by Reinhardt Suarez

Teaching writing is a messy thing. I’ve often commented to people curious that I halfway don’t believe that it’s possible to teach writing. Sure, you can go over the mechanics of a sentence, how paragraphs cohere into chapters and then books. You can parse syntax until your students are blue in the face. But the verve, the fire behind the words—that’s all them, never you. You as a writing instructor can inspire and demonstrate.

But you cannot write for your students. They have to make that last part of the journey alone.

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Literary Roundup: Sci-Fi Haul, Finding Genre, Books on Books, and Alexs Pate

Posted on Tue, Jun 23 2015 9:07 am by Chris Jones

Today's roundup marvels at the University of Iowa haul, pins down genre, lines up the best books about books, and looks forward to Alexs Pate.

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To the Glorious Pilferers of the Bases

Posted on Mon, Jun 22 2015 9:00 am by Josh Ostergaard

People say it’s the most literary of sports, but for many years I couldn’t bear to open a baseball book for fear of encountering a cliché. They come to mind too easily: fathers and sons, childhood innocence and/or its loss, the smell of freshly cut grass—I recognize that these things are meaningful, but when I find them in a baseball book I think: blah, blah, blah. Finding new ways to approach a given subject is at the core of good writing, whether the topic is baseball, Henry Kissinger, or the history of animal husbandry.

My disappointment with baseball literature was short-sighted and uninformed. In recent years I’ve dug more deeply into the trove of books about the sport, and through suggestions from friends and a lot of luck, I’ve found many great titles that deserve to be read. Some are already classics of the genre, while others are obscure and deserve more attention.

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