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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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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Voluntourism

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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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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