June 11, 2014
Writing Process Blog Tour: Adam Renn Olenn

Many thanks to Kim Haas Savage for inviting me to the #WritingProcessBlogTour, where writers answer questions about their writing process.  Kim is a wicked wit and the author of AFTER THE WOODS and CELLOPHANE, a YA psychological thriller, forthcoming from Farrar, Straus & Giroux/Macmillan.


I’m working on CRANKCASE, the story of a detective in western Ohio who has just arrested his high-school-aged cousin for murdering his girlfriend.  Caught between a police department that thinks he’s doing too much and an extended Greek family that feels he’s not doing enough, Constantin Pappas must figure out where his loyalties lie–with his job, with his family, or with himself.


If the genre is ‘literary fiction,’ my work feels story-driven.  If the genre is ‘commercial page-turners,’ it feels introspective and craftworky.  If the genre is ‘in-between books’ of the sort written by Dawn Tripp and Dennis Lehane, then my work is right up the middle.


I love good stories, I love books that move, I love language, I love poetry, I love books that have deep thematic resonances that return and return like a canticle, singing of something below the surface.

As a reader, I love those books and the way they make me feel.  As a writer, I just want to make the same magic, because it’s wonderful.


I generally have a quick vision, a video snapshot of a scene in progress, and then naively attempt to write the whole book.  I churn out tons of pages and realize I’ve made a mess of things, then extract some structure from the mess.  It’s a bit like reconstructive archaeology, figuring out which bits in the bucket are bone and which are stone.  What’s part of the dinosaur?  What’s a distraction?  Then I build an outline and rewrite the whole thing.  Sometimes that happens multiple times.

Lastly, it can’t sing until it’s been spoken.  Everything has to be read aloud to earn the word ‘done.’

Next up, 


Kara Waite, a Boston-based writer of fiction, nonfiction, and just enough poetry to keep things interesting. Her novel, LOVE IS OUR POISON,  is complete and ready for editors’ eyes.

Matthew Ferrence is the author of one book of cultural criticism, All-American Redneck: Variations on an Icon, from James Fenimore Cooper to the Dixie Chicks (U Tennessee Press, 2014), and numerous pieces of creative nonfiction. Recent essays has appear in Creative Nonfiction, Gettysburg Review, Gulf Coast, and Cutbank. He teaches creative writing and environmental literature at Allegheny College.


June 11, 2014
Micah Whitson, The Old Try, Father's Day Essay - Jeans & Ties

Fathers: read it & weep.

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Filed under: family fatherhood 
June 4, 2014
This is how it's done.

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Filed under: writing 
May 16, 2014
On ‘bossy.’

Let’s clear up a virulent confusion about the word ‘bossy.’

Bossy is bullying, bossy is domineering, bossy is lording your power over other people, bossy is giving other people orders when you have no idea what you’re talking about.  Bossy is arrogance and bad leadership.

Bossy has nothing to do with the equipment in your pants.

Leadership is empathy, vision, and trust.  Leadership is setting an example by working harder and smarter and being willing to take on the tough stuff for the sake of your people.

Leadership also has nothing to do with the equipment in your pants.

I know great leaders of both sexes and bossy brats of both sexes.

If you go along with the idea that bossy is a slur for ‘female leader,’ you have ceded the definition of the word to the misogynists.  I refuse to do so.  If you are a bossy woman, you should be named as such–ditto for a man.

Let’s not allow the worst of our brothers and sisters define our words for us.  They should be at the edges of the dialogue, not setting its terms.

April 28, 2014
Debunking the Myth of the 10,000-Hours Rule: What It Actually Takes to Reach Genius-Level Excellence

April 25, 2014
Where the F-Word Comes From

Here’s what you really wanted to know.

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Filed under: writing 
April 24, 2014
Book News: Happiness Study Says Library Trips Are As Good As A Pay Raise

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Filed under: writing 
March 28, 2014
What a sentence!

"It was a fine cry—loud and long—but it had no bottom and it had no top, just circles and circles of sorrow."

—Toni Morrison, Sula

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Filed under: writing 
March 12, 2014
19 Daily Habits Of Artists That Can Help Unlock Your Creativity

Yup, this is a good’un, with thanks to Michelle Hoover.

March 10, 2014
Some Notes on the Amtrak Residency


There are a lot of curious things about the Amtrak writing residency, from its unlikely birth on Twitter, to its combination of romantic pursuits (writing and trains!). It sounds impractical –– typically, writing residencies offer time to make substantial progress on a…

Worth paying attention to before you send in your work.

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Filed under: writing 
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