Rules of Writing

I’m teaching again. Since I last taught five years ago, they’ve taken to calling my subject “language arts” instead of English, which is likely more accurate. English in a U.S. school is not the study of the language, nor is it grammar, literature, writing or linguistics. It’s somehow more and less than any one of these.

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Saying What You Mean

So much writing doesn’t say what it came to say. So much tries to say more than it was meant to, and sags and splits and spills adjectives and adverbs and unholy descriptive phrases. Or pieces try to cheat, saying less than they need to, and they fail, too.

The fine, hard writing might begin as something dark and rank, but in this bog the bones grow.

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Into the Land of Wild things

I’m supposed to begin this deftly. Ease into it, the theory goes, because if readers know immediately that my piece is about death or birth or terminal illness, they will disregard it as yet another this-is-my-life-splayed memoir. So I hook them with something else, invite them in with a fascinating and benign anecdote that, later, once they are invested and I have sprung on them the death or birth or terminal illness, will become a clever metaphor for the entire piece.

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Welcome to the Summer 2011 edition of SHARK REEF, where you’ll visit a wedding party in the Andes; join a group of elderly women in a communal bath in Japan; or watch as a nurse midwife deftly knits Mexico to Seattle and drops more than a few stitches in the process. Consider Hiking Naked. What happens will surprise you.

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Still Evolving

SHARK REEF was launched in June of 2001 to give voice to emerging as well as established writers of the San Juan Islands of Washington State. Now, on the eve of its tenth anniversary and in collaboration with Heron Moon Press, SHARK REEF offers the same opportunity to all serious writers committed to producing original writing of high quality — regardless of where they live.

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Writing as Exploration

As writers, we are inspired by just about anything under the sun – and moon – because we know our writing will take us places. Often, we don’t know where we’re going when we start but we stay along for the ride, moved to explore new terrain or dig deeply into old places. If we do think we know where we’re going when we begin, it’s not at all unusual to be surprised at where we actually end up.

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