Category Archives: Blog

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

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

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

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

 Being Seen by Kathleen McKitty Harris

People looking at art in museum
 

On the one-year anniversary of the Covid lockdown, my husband and I decided to visit the recently-reopened Museum of Modern Art (while double-masked and socially-distanced) in midtown Manhattan, and have dinner afterwards in a private outdoor hut in the West Village. When I had my temperature check before entering the MOMA yesterday, the attendant made eye contact with me and said—you have beautiful eyes and I love your glasses. We looked at each other for a few more seconds, and I said thank you and his eyes crinkled above his mask. We really saw each other for … Continue reading  Being Seen by Kathleen McKitty Harris

Bring Out the Champagne! by Susan Shafarzek

Photo of wine glass on colorful tablecloth
 

Yes, champagne, please. It’s a red letter day here at the essay/memoir neighborhood of Streetlight: time to announce (appropriate fanfare) the outcome of our sixth essay/memoir contest. It’s a time of hopefulness, vaccinations and all, even if we are—for the second year in a row—announcing the winners of our contest in the midst of an ongoing pandemic. I feel grateful for all the help I’ve had, especially to Paula Boyland who co-judged and to Emily Littlewood, who kept us ‘blind’ in our reading by keeping track of the entries for us. But, most of all, … Continue reading Bring Out the Champagne! by Susan Shafarzek

His Words Were Smiles by Erika Raskin

Photo of a child's writing
 

“Please forgive me. My illness won today. Please look after each other, the animals, and the global poor for me.” Some people are born with a different level of grace and goodness than the rest of us. My nephew, Tommy, was one of them. The middle child of my brother Jamie and his wife Sarah, Thomas Bloom Raskin was extraordinary from the jump. Even as a small child he could glide into any set of arms, any conversation, any group. He was born kind. And intuitive. And piercingly sensitive to the needs of others. At … Continue reading His Words Were Smiles by Erika Raskin

Philosophical Poetry by Fred Wilbur

Photo of cracked asphalt
 

  In a recent batch of ‘reviews’ from an online magazine, I was struck by the variety of descriptive words used to evaluate the thirty-five or so poems. They ranged from “funny,” “strong,” and “moving” to “masterful,” “cinematic,” and “sardonic.” These superlatives were illustrated by a phrase or line which purportedly was the essence of the work; the impressive image, at least. Clearly, there was little effort to delve into the subject, the art or mechanics of the pieces. I wonder, would readers just pick out the “exhilarating,” the “charming,” the “delightful” in hopes of … Continue reading Philosophical Poetry by Fred Wilbur

An Audiobook Review: Landslide by Susan Conley, Narrated by Rebecca Lowman by J Brooke

Photo of Landslide book cover
 

There are audiobooks enhanced by the author’s voice reading their own words (Becoming by Michele Obama), and those where an otherwise terrific book in print is hindered by the author’s out-loud read (Kamala Harris’s The Truths We Hold). And then there is the third category, a wonderful book in print made into a terrific listen by a professional actor relating to and embodying the characters (what Jim Dale did for the Harry Potter series). Landslide, Susan Conley’s newest novel, about a contemporary family living (and seemingly sliding) in rural Maine, is the third category of … Continue reading An Audiobook Review: Landslide by Susan Conley, Narrated by Rebecca Lowman by J Brooke