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.

Category Archives: Writers Blog

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Your Novel Year™ Student Reading at Changing Hands



YNY Coordinator Bill Konigsberg

The Piper Center was pleased and proud to see four graduating Your Novel Year™ students give spectacular readings on Friday, May 20th.  Gathered at the beautiful Phoenix Changing Hands Bookstore, beloved YNY Coordinator Bill Konigsberg introduced everyone to the brave souls giving the night’s readings.

Joe Tardiolo, Denise Ganley, Katie Donahoe, and Traci Avalos, all students of the Young Adult track of Your Novel Year™, read five minute sections of their novels written over the past year and a half in the program.  Ranging in subject matter from the paranormal to the historical to contemporary teenage life, these four readings were an incredible salute to the hard work these students have put into writing their novels.

After the reading, the students took questions from the impressed audience.  We gained insight into what it’s like to work with an esteemed mentor like author Barry Lyga, about the work-life-novel-writing balance, and about how much research is too much research.  Following the questions, proud friends, family and members of the Piper community congratulated the students over fruit, cheese and cookies.



Joe Tardiolo


Denise Ganley


Katie Donahoe


Traci Avalos
















To learn more about Your Novel Year™, please click here.





Zadie Smith Dazzles at the Piper Center

imagesNoted novelist Zadie Smith’s visit to ASU on April 12th was a great success!

A Distinguished Visiting Writer of the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing, Zadie Smith was also a part of the Institute for Humanities Research’s Distinguished Lecturer Series. 

The Piper Center featured a Q&A session earlier that day that was attended by students from a variety of departments on ASU campus.  Students were given a chance to have an intimate conversation with Smith and ask her their best questions about writing, teaching, race, and identity.

originalAt the Tempe Center for the Arts later that evening, people came from all over the valley to hear a special reading of an unpublished story by Smith.  Smith was then interviewed on stage by Sally Kitch, ASU Regents Professor and Founding Director of the Institute for Humanities Research, and by Edward Mallot, Associate Professor of English.  Taking questions from the audience, Smith talked about her novels from White Teeth to NW and gave us a teaser of her newest novel, Swing Time, due to come out soon.

A big thank you for all of you who could join us for this incredibly special event!  We hope to see you again at the rest of this year’s Piper Center events!

Zadie Smith, a tenured professor of creative writing at New York University, has been recognized for her vibrant insights into contemporary multicultural life from the start. She received numerous awards for her first novel, White Teeth (2000) including the Commonwealth Writers Prize, the Whitbread First Novel Award, and the Guardian’s First Book Award. The novel would later be adapted for a television broadcast in 2002.

Her success with White Teeth was followed with short stories and novels, such as The Autograph Man (2002) and On Beauty (2005), both of which have gone on to receive a number of awards, including the 2006 Orange Prize for Fiction for the latter. Her most recent novel, NW (2012), was named as one of the New York Times’ ’10 Best Books of 2012’. Smith’s upcoming collection of essays, Feel Free, will be published next year.


From Traveling, a Few Thoughts on Personal Space

Ironically, the first of many travel experiences that entangled me in the politics of personal space began with an unexpected space-upgrade. Thanks to a delay at Sky Harbor Airport, I got bumped from economy to business class for the long flight from LAX to Hong Kong. I was in a middle seat, but it was a bigger seat. More legroom. More overhead space. All awesome. Until I had to use the bathroom.

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When I first heard the word “voluntourism,” I envisioned a nineteen-year-old packing for somewhere tropical, deciding which bathing suit to bring. In my cynical vision, the teenager is quickly sunburnt on arrival, about which she complains, trying to learn how to use a hammer with her sticky, aloe-d hands. The house she attempts to build might have been bought for the cost of her trip, a decision which would have employed somebody local.

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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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