One Hundred Days of Writing

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I first heard of the 100-day project on September 1, when violinist Hilary Hahn posted that she had practiced the violin for 100 days straight.

Apparently, there are all sorts of 100-day projects and challenges for everything from developing your creative side to reaching personal goals. The true purpose of many of these challenges seems to be building good habits (such as “Floss every day for 100 straight days.”).

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Jennie

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Jennie Baldrin Burgh

September 14, 1987-May 26, 2009

She was special.

 

Resources for Writers, Part 1

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Whenever I talk with someone who’s venturing into the weird and wonderful world of writing, I inevitably get this question: “Do you know of any books that would be good for me?” As a matter of fact, I do. The bookcase in my front hall houses dozens of such volumes. Some are essays about writing and creativity; some are about the writing life (such as Annie Dillard’s The Writing Life); some focus on craft; some are resources on specific topics I’ve written about or intend to (Deborah Blum’s The Poisoner’s Handbook is a gem for those writing about murder); some contain writing prompts or odd facts designed to stir up the muse (The Book of Useless Information, by Noel Botham and The Useless Information Society). Continue reading

A Few Thoughts About Labor Day

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In the U.S., today is Labor Day, the day we honor the American worker. It’s also the last day of my six-day vacation (three weekdays and a three-day weekend), and much of it will be spent organizing and preparing for the next several weeks in which I have at least four major deadlines. Since my vacation’s finale falls on a day celebrating those who work, and since I plan to spend much of it preparing for work, I’ve found myself thinking what work means.

Much has been written on the subject of work, such as Studs Terkel’s famous book, Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do. Most of us will have paid employment at some point in our lives; many others will perform unpaid labor, whether for our families or as volunteers. Some will have the privilege of choosing our jobs; others will end up in a position out of need or lethargy. Continue reading

Perspective

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To say this morning did not start well is an understatement. Two days after the promised response time on a submission, I received an email informing me the story had been rejected.

But this wasn’t just any rejection. First, it was a group email, with everyone’s addresses showing. (Don’t even get me started about that. Words like tacky and insensitive come to mind.) Second, this rejection came from the same people who published my award-winning story last year. It seemed like a guaranteed acceptance. Instead, this was the literary equivalent of a high school senior not getting into her safety school. Continue reading

Writing to Cope

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Back then, when it was all happening, I didn’t know about Barbara Abercrombie’s book, Writing Out the Storm. But somehow, that’s what I did. It was the summer of 2007, the storm was cancer, and I wrote through it.

Rewind to May, 2006. A dear friend—we’ll call her Sarah—called me at 10:00 on a Saturday morning and upended my world with the news that had already upended hers: she had ovarian cancer. Stage 3. Metastatic. She’d found out the day before. She knew ten o’clock was early for me, but she didn’t want me hearing it from anyone else.

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Critical Condition

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Maybe it’s my imagination, but it seems as though the acknowledgements section of practically every book I pick up includes a shout-out to the writer’s critique group. My primary reaction is nearly always envy: how did the writer find a group of people who were willing and able to provide useful criticism of her manuscript?

My experience with critique groups is mixed. In college, I was required to take Writers Workshop. The experience was so harrowing that I stopped writing for twenty-five years. Continue reading