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June 2, 2016
A slim biography of masterful storytelling - Wilson and Edith Wilson, Armistice Day 1922

A 125-page biography in the Penguin Lives series blends storytelling and journalism in a clear, fast-paced overview of a complicated man, Woodrow Wilson. The novelist Louis Auchincloss synthesized many thousands of pages of reading and understanding. A writer who studies and uses the lessons in this book's structure will find readers hanging on, putting off eating lunch. A few weeks ago an early reader of my next book paid me that kind of compliment: he'd stayed up too late reading my manuscript. In other words, he didn't want to stop. Now, I hope everyone has that reaction. If...

May 22, 2016
Nature and the Ghosts of Thinkers - image

I just came back from Stone Pond, where Annie and I worked with my husband, Nat, getting my inlaws' family cottage ready for Writing from Nature, my second annual workshop. I heard a new story from a neighbor. It's about the giant red mansion next to the house where we'll be. The history of that next-door house includes writers, a murder, intellectuals, a German refugee who came here to be a gardener after Hitler forced him out of his job as a judge, and the woman who offered him that job, Justine Kershaw, after whom the gravel road Kershaw Avenue is named. A later resident...

May 1, 2016
Observing without a notebook or cell phone - image

Resist the temptation to write or photograph as you walk through the fields or woods or desert or bog. When we stop and consider the right word while looking at the broken bird's egg, we lose part of our reaction. The same disconnect apparently happens during photographing. One second you're looking, touching, listening, and thinking of what that brings up. The next you're halting the reaction and thinking about the photo. Take it slowly. Be in the now for one hour. Go back after the hour and write then. You will remember what you saw. You will remember, too, your thoughts...

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