Fix Your Scene Shapes by Lisa Ellison

Pears in front of sky
 

In your final manuscript, every scene should contain a conflict that’s essential to your narrative arc, something that simultaneously captivates the reader and catapults your story forward. Like stories, scenes also have a shape. Some work well, while others fall flat. When you spend a lot of time on something in your story, you’re saying, “Hey reader, this is super important, so pay close attention to these details.” In other words, you’re giving this part of your story some weight or importance. In an effective scene, your main character has a conflict that peaks in … Continue reading Fix Your Scene Shapes by Lisa Ellison

How the Imposter Syndrome Works to Keep You Small by Lisa Ellison

Close up photo of ant in grass
 

At thirty-seven inches and thirty-seven pounds, I was the second smallest kid in my first-grade class. The smallest was a kid we called Peanut—a boy so tiny, he’d drown in the shallow end of the pool. Everyone loved to ruffle Peanut’s hair. I loved his “old man” style, complete with plaid bell-bottoms, butterfly-colored shirts, and hair slicked down with Vitalis. Peanut was a sweet, old soul who appeared to like being small. For a long time, I did too. Growing up in a rust-belt town where bad luck seemed like all we had, a small … Continue reading How the Imposter Syndrome Works to Keep You Small by Lisa Ellison

Farm Girl Flying by Trish Annese

Bright red female angel
 

Loosed from the arms of her mother by the shame of wings, borne on blue, feathered splendor, she watches earth fall fast, past sycamore, linden and pine. A farmer saw her, waved and shook his head, said to his son: you have to be careful—girls like that, they’ll rise when you least expect them, take your self-respect along with an embroidered tablecloth or two. How can she explain it? Flight without tether? If this girl knew Brueghel she might well fear flight: The farmer threshing his wheat and his son, just a boy, pretending not … Continue reading Farm Girl Flying by Trish Annese

5 Best Pieces of Advice for Aspiring Writers by Lauren Sapala

Photo of pen writing in notebook
 

I get emails and messages from aspiring writers all the time asking me for the one thing they should know, or the one thing they should do, in order to be a successful writer. Well, there’s never just “one thing,” but I’ve taken all my very best writing advice and distilled it down into five things that will help any aspiring writer along on their way to success. Stop Trying to Control Everything This is a big one. Writers are anxious people and we like control. It makes us feel safe and like we can … Continue reading 5 Best Pieces of Advice for Aspiring Writers by Lauren Sapala

For My Sake and Battle, 2 poems by Khaled K.E.M.

Photo of man in doorway of store
 

For my sake At dawn there are no residues left from last night’s shift. I offer no sympathy to the crawling hours of a newborn day. With fog I travel across the city to buy a large coffee with half-half cream, a cinnamon raisin bagel toasted with cream cheese. I always pictured Brazilian goddesses harvesting coffee beans, cream collected from melted clouds underneath flying cows, cinnamon a rebel swami fought in southern India, raisin fostered in a local farm watered from Niagara Falls, the homemade bagel is the pride of an old town, the cream … Continue reading For My Sake and Battle, 2 poems by Khaled K.E.M.

Getting Unhooked by Hilary Holladay

Photo of cracked plate
 

  There’s a line in Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God that I’ve always loved. After revealing some painful family history, Nanny tells her sixteen-year-old granddaughter, “Put me down easy, Janie, Ah’m a cracked plate.” The image conveys damage, resilience, and fragility all rolled into one. These days, we are all cracked plates. The pandemic dropped everybody on a very hard floor, as did the 2020 U.S. presidential campaign and its unsavory coda on January 6, 2021. Our public reckoning with racism, signified for many by the murder of George Floyd, has been another … Continue reading Getting Unhooked by Hilary Holladay

Here is a Paring Knife, Here is the Metaphor and Not that I am Desperate, 2 poems by Michael Milligan

Photo of watermelon slice and knife
 

Here Is the Paring Knife, Here Is the Metaphor to cut the damaged parts away. So bruised and all. Peeling the flesh of the torturer you become of yourself. Here is the skin off your hand. The skin off your back. The delaminated rind of your life. Have you noticed how we tend to avoid poetic mention of these things by their names: Birth. Life. Love. Death. Pile up a few metaphors, that’s the standard prescription. A glimpse for a moment before the blinds are drawn. Pretending to look at the sun, at the face … Continue reading Here is a Paring Knife, Here is the Metaphor and Not that I am Desperate, 2 poems by Michael Milligan

Puzzle Envy by Vicky Oliver

Photo of hand holding pen filling in crossword
 

Each week, my husband completes the New York Times Sunday Magazine crossword puzzle in about thirty minutes, leaving no square unfilled. He writes in pen and never crosses anything out. Starting at 1 Across, and moving across the puzzle like a ravenous lawnmower razing grass, he completes all the Across sections to approximately 120 Across, only deigning to glance at the Down clues if he reaches a difficult patch. If I were an insecure person, I’d feel pretty dumb by comparison. The only clues he ever asks my help with are the names of makeup … Continue reading Puzzle Envy by Vicky Oliver

Return to Sender by Trudy Hale

Photo of dove sculpture
 

I live in a writers’ sanctuary, a nineteenth century three-story house overlooking the James and Tye Rivers. The back stairway off my kitchen leads to my office and bedrooms; a long narrow hall on the second floor separates my quarters from the writers’ section of the house. When the house is empty of visiting writers I like to wander through the rooms and reacquaint myself with the many books. Most of the books are my deceased husband’s or mine collected over the years. Over time, more books appear, publications of past resident writers and donated … Continue reading Return to Sender by Trudy Hale

Incandescence and I am an Onion, 2 poems by Priscilla Melchior

Photo of blurred hanging lights
 

Incandescence Few will understand. Light bulbs, for heaven’s sake. But I was awash the night I found spares waiting to meet my need and remembered when need was swallowed by the dark. My little stash of lumens in flimsy boxes leaned in tilted testament to the day shadow vanished from my life and I fairly danced to the lamp to replace the dead gray globe and twirl in luminescent grace. Even now, I rejoice anew not when a light dims, but when I reach out knowing another waits to shine. I am an onion but … Continue reading Incandescence and I am an Onion, 2 poems by Priscilla Melchior

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