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Helpful Advice for Writing Historical Fiction

I’m currently working on a project set in the early 1920s in Cuba. I’m not a historical novelist and it’s a bit daunting to embark on something set in another time and place. However, at a reading by noted historical novelist Dolen Perkins-Valdez, I heard some advice that’s proven helpful. Perkins-Valdez, who meticulously researches her […]

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The Right Way to Write about Sex?

I’m currently working on a critical essay about two contemporary literary novels, both of which tackle sexual subject matter, yet in ways that feel decidedly unsexy. Yes, there’s a difference between literature and pornography (which I define as sex without characterization, bodies in motion without souls or psychology in operation). And yet, as Steve Almond […]

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The Joys of Being Edited

I’ve recently received galleys and edits for two new pieces coming out next year, and I’m reminded of how much I love working with smart editors, how they challenge me to dig deeper than I might otherwise have done. Writing is such a solitary activity for most of the time, that it feels incredibly gratifying […]

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Having the courage to write badly

In Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, Lamott talks about the necessity of what she famously terms “shitty first drafts.” Novelist Michael Chabon has also said that his first drafts are as bad as the writing he did in high school. I pass on this advice in my writing classes constantly: have the courage to write […]

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