Pros & cons of present tense in memoir

Have you tried to write a memoir in present tense? It’s a ...

Color of our words

In this piece, Rick Bragg uses the dialog of the South to ...

Pity the Man Who Doesn’t Travel by Philip Kelly

The featured story this month comes from Pushcart Prize author Philip Kelly ...

Writing Tips & Sample Stories

Your memoir vs. your memory

Soon after we begin writing our personal stories in earnest, we all bump into the issue of not remembering or having access to certain necessary details. For the most conscientious writers, this can become a quagmire of delay and conflict.  At minimum, it spurs frustration and doubt.  If that isn’t enough, there’s also the issue of […]

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Hitchhiker’s guide to flash stories online

Class members have asked for a list of places where they can read flash memoirs online.  Here’s a baker’s dozen of my favorites, and I would love to add yours: And perhaps the best for last, at The Sun site […]

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I Quit Smoking (Again) Today by Johnny Moore

Look what I found at Squalorly lit magazine this week. This well-crafted story by Johnny Moore is also a good study in the comingling of present and past tense, and repetition.  Be sure to read the whole story to see what I mean.  Here are a couple excerpts: My parents used to smoke with life […]

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Go small to go big later

With most projects, I find that breaking them down into small specific pieces makes for greater success, and writing is no exception. To tell your big life story, you have to tell many smaller stories – and going small requires an emphasis on good storytelling which will make you a better writer. So what are […]

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Writing Wonder: Wandering List

With this one very easy exercise, you can grab hold of memories you didn’t know you had and generate many flash stories.  It’s also fun to do this exercise in a group well-known to you – they will add flavor to your entries, and vice versa, and remind you of things you had forgotten about. […]

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Make Love Not War by Sarah White

This month’s featured story is an intoxicating tale of cultural encounter, romance, and missed opportunity by Sarah White, president of the Association of Personal Historians.  It will likely remind you of your own ‘un coup de telephone’ which I hope you’ll write about post haste. This story was just released in the Seasons of our […]

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13 writerly quotes to start the new year

These are just a few of my favorite quotes about writing, which I hope provide some inspiration for you too.  For a tasty endless supply, browse #writequote on Twitter. Their stories are not so different from my stories and their healing aids my healing. ~Len Leatherwood My writer self is braver than the rest of […]

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Top 5 posts of 2013

It’s always interesting to review the blog stats at the end of the year to see what has risen to the top: 1.  This post, at the heart of it all, was the most widely read for the second year in a row.      What makes a flash story? 2.  This post garnered the most […]

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Tiny memoirs

I’m a big fan of the literary journal Creative Nonfiction and especially their Tiny Truths feature, which are micro-memoir tweets. There’s plenty of debate about whether these meet story criteria – what do you think? If you love these too, I hope you’ll participate: On Twitter, follow @cnfonline and tweet your 130-character stories to #cnftweet.

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Sin by Max Garland

It hovered in the glowing tips of my unmarried uncles’ cigarettes. And in the red, rounded tops of lipstick tubes. It smelled, not sweet like lilies of the valley or hyacinths, but more like the insides of purple irises or, stranger, like azaleas or hawthorn blossoms—not bad, but definitely not all that good. It sounded […]

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How to craft the twist

Aside from word count, the most distinctive trait of a flash story is the twist. You know, that sudden change in meaning or surprising detail that makes you smile or gasp or read out loud to the nearest bystander. The twist is arguably the toughest part of the story to craft. One way to create […]

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Delve into your story

Make Your Memoir an Engaging Story guest post by Lynette Benton As we sit around two rectangular conference tables we’ve pushed together, I eye my memoir-writing students and say, “When you write about your life, make sure it’s a story, not a report. Even your nearest and dearest will recoil from the prospect of reading […]

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