Piper Writers Blog

Be honest: did you even know Piper had a blog?  Well, shame on you.  Now that you know, there is no excuse not to quickly exhaust our back-catalogue of entries. And then, once you are caught up, check back every other Monday for new additions to the blog!

Oh, you’re still dubious? You want to know why you should read the blog?

The Piper Writers Blog is a platform for some of the esteemed friends of the Piper Center to write about something that inspires them as a writer, or about a technique that has helped them work past a particularly irksome impasse, or to share a fruitful writing prompt they swear by, or to share something else entirely—it is a place where writers invite you behind the curtains of their craft.

If you are a writer, this blog is literally for you. If you are not a writer, this blog is less literally for you but still absolutely valuable to you.

Some of the writers who contributed to the Piper Writers Blog: Michael A. Stackpole, Kevin J. Anderson, Jeredith Merrin, Alan di Perna, Tom Leveen, James Blasingame, Michael Schiffer, and many others, and many more to come.

Peruse the opening paragraphs of some of past blogs, and click on them if you would like to read more!


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Focus on Completion

There is no such thing as writer’s block. You’ve heard this, right? Well, I agree. You may be stuck, but never truly blocked. We writers are coming up with ideas all the time. We’re proud of, and often daunted by, our notebooks and files jammed with flashes of inspiration. But everyone has an idea. It’s up to you to decide on the proper cohesion in order to actually write your killer story…..

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What to Write

Someday, you’re going to be dead.

I hope this doesn’t come as a shock to you. If it does, you are either extremely young or extremely naive. Neither situation bodes well for great writing. Try to overcome them. Become old, like me. Acknowledge that someday you will be dead.

Given that certainty, consider this: What do you want to leave behind?

Sure, we all want to leave a lifetime of great memories, a pretty corpse, and — ideally — a string of satisfied sexual partners, but really think about it: What do you want to leave behind?

If your answer is anything but “Truly great writing,” please close this browser window. I hear there are adorable cats on YouTube…

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Writing from the Gaps:
When Your Words are Gone

You’ve run out of inspiration. You’ve run out of anywhere to run. It seems impossible. You set out days, weeks, months ago on a journey that was intended to bring you into new country, into new stories. At first, the miles and the words raced through you.

Now, as you wake to a dawn you have never before seen or smelled or heard, you realize you might as well be safe at home. You sit at the window of the tiny hotel room or at the edge of your campsite or even at your own desk and you remember something about gaps; something about the places where not just the familiar or the amazing, but everything is missing…

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Revising the Novel: Fantasy vs. Reality

I’m about to let you in on a little fantasy of mine. I think quite a few writers will share this fantasy with me, including, maybe, you.

It starts with me getting an idea for a new novel, as usual. I research, I outline, I do all the “right” things. Then I go ahead and write a draft of the novel, reach the end, read it over, and realize that it says everything I wanted to say. It explores everything I’d hoped to explore. It’s ready. All I have to do is go through and fix a few typos, add or subtract a few commas, and then I can pass it on to my agent and editor and out it goes into the world. My fantasy is to have a book done and baked in a single draft, like a miracle.

Wouldn’t that be astonishing?

I can say, however, with full confidence that this will never happen. My fantasy is never the reality, nor should it be.

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Writing Reviews is Good for Your Writing

I’m writing a novel. Hold your applause, please: After six months and 35,000 words or so I’m not sure if this first draft is a novel so much as a large lump of clay that, with a lot of time and effort might, if I’m lucky, eventually acquire a novel-like shape. “The novel is a prose narrative of some length that has something wrong with it,” Randall Jarrell famously said. I’ll be grateful for the day when this project of mine has only the single thing wrong with it that Jarrell’s quip implies…

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When is a Poem Done?

Many poets have read that William Stafford finished one poem each day for most of his adult life: more than 22,000 total.   The good news for procrastinators is, he didn’t; but as his son Kim Stafford notes, he followed the same daily practice, always entering the date, as an “open sesame,” an invitation to write; then a brief prose piece that might be a memory, a dream recounted, or simply a few thoughts, which served as a way forward; then an aphorism or single line, a reconfigured cliché, or private joke, or twist on a familiar piece of wisdom, that might be a beginning, an end, a line, or the title of a poem; and finally, each day, some consecutive lines, which might or might not become a poem…

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The Unencumbered Traveler

From the very beginning, a great deal of my writing has been stimulated and informed by my travels.  As someone who grew up highly organized in pretty much everything he did, I thought I could use the same approach when seeking writing inspiration from traveling.  What I discovered was that you can indeed do so, but that the inspiration becomes constipated by all the preparation.

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A Dozen Things That Debut Authors Have Taught Me

In the middle of this summer, I sat down to tally the books that have been represented by EMLA, Erin Murphy Literary Agency, a boutique agency focused on books for children and teens, in the fifteen years since I opened its doors. There were 272 of them published by that date.

And 57 of them—over 20 percent!—were debuts.

While I’m often in a teaching role with my debut clients, it’s natural I learn a lot from them, as well. Here are twelve of the most important things they have taught me…

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Inside Out

Insomnia taught me how to create believable characters for fiction. Even at age seven, I never readily fell asleep after my enforced bed time. Without adult definitions of “good” vs. “bad,” it never occurred to me that not sleeping was a problem. Which is how my earliest fictional characters were born.

I grew up in British colonial Hong Kong in an English-speaking, mixed-race Asian family and never felt completely at home among the majority Cantonese-Chinese population. What I longed for was to grow up and leave. Insomnia became Exit. Nocturnal wanderings of the mind led to a town in a mythic America, peopled with friends from around the world who spoke English instead of Cantonese, with whom I silently conversed. When I began to write fiction, these characters erupted. Although the setting was not necessarily America – my earliest stories around age ten occurred in space or under the ocean – the characters emerged from this mythic town because I knew how they behaved, what they wanted, how they befriended the protagonist (usually some identifiable version of me). By the time fiction became my life’s work, I was an adult living in the real America, mostly in New York City. My stories and novels featured many Asian women in international life (also with identifiable strains of me).

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Scheherazade’s Call

Once upon a time is the gate to the entire world.

The Velveteen Rabbit was one of those magic stories that saved my life. I remember the line drawings of the Bunny all alone on the hill, splashes of muted pastel colors behind him. The Bunny was so loved by the Boy that his fur was rubbed away and he was no longer new and pretty, but it didn’t matter because the Boy loved him. But then the Boy got sick and he was taken away and the Bunny was left alone.

This was the part of the story that began to take root inside of me. My dad contracted polio in the 1940s when he was the same age as the Boy, and even though the diseases were different, the story helped awaken empathy in me for the experiences of another. How scared my dad must have been to have suddenly found himself so sick! What treasured toys of his were taken away? I empathized with both the Boy and the Bunny, and I wanted more than anything for the Bunny to become real—to become loved alive—and if that could happen, maybe—even though my father’s right leg was shorter than his left leg, and even though his gaze often rested on distant things I couldn’t see—I could love my dad back alive too.

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Recent Blog Posts

Focus on Completion

July 21,2015 There is no such thing as writer’s block. You’ve heard this, right? Well, I agree. You may be stuck, but never truly blocked. We writers are coming up with ideas all the time. We’re... Continue Reading

What to Write

April 21,2015 Someday, you’re going to be dead. I hope this doesn’t come as a shock to you. If it does, you are either extremely young or extremely naive. Neither situation bodes well for great writing.... Continue Reading
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