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For ten years I've given my writing students at St. John's University this exercise: I ask each student to stand up and say, truthfully, their name, where they live, and something that they like to do. When they've all done that, I ask them to stand again and this time make up a name, a place where they live, and something they like to do.  Continue reading...
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In my recent reading I've gone on a major Mark Twain kick, and with every page I read, my admiration for Twain's writing grows. William Dean Howells, a contemporary and friend, called Twain "the Lincoln of our literature," and the title rings true, both for the plainspoken American vernacular that the two mastered, and for the boldness with which they faced our democracy's ugliest stain, the enslaving of African-Americans by European-Americans.  Continue reading...
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I've said it before and I'll say it again: the single most enjoyable way to improve your writing is to read good books. Take a moment waiting for the bus one day and think, "What's a classic that I know by name but have never read?" If one strikes your fancy, get it, open it to page one, and start reading.  Continue reading...
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The world utterly forgot the Roman poet-philosopher Titus Lucretius Carus and his masterwork, De Rerum Natura (On the Nature of Things). Then in January 1417 an adventuresome papal secretary found a 500-year-old copy on a dusty shelf in a German monastery, and De Rerum began a second illustrious life that continues, still blossoming, to this day.  Continue reading...
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What makes a good column? Like any piece of writing, a column needs a beginning, middle, and end — here starts the middle of this one. Beginning with a joke, as I did above, an intriguing question, or an outlandish statement may hook readers, but once you've got 'em hooked, you need to give 'em ideas worth listening to, or they'll quickly yawn and turn the page.  Continue reading...
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When beginning a story, a writer must decide, not only who will be in the story, what they'll do, and where and when they'll do it, but the point of view from which the story's people, places, and actions will be seen and described. Many options are available, and each one will make a big difference to how readers experience the story.  Continue reading...
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If, as a writer, you write long enough, well enough, and popularly enough, your manuscripts, drafts, notes, and letters may someday be gathered, sorted, catalogued, boxed, and stored deep in the bowels of a library archive, ready to be pored over, decades or centuries later, by scholars and biographers eager to learn how and why you wrote as you did.  Continue reading...
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1 2 3 4 5 Displaying 1-7 of 61 Articles