The Value of Excellence

“All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.” —Martin Luther King, Jr. Tell me about something you do or have done with excellence. Describe it in detail, and with pride.

Welcoming the Editor

“I have made this letter longer than usual, because I lack the time to make it short.” —Blaise Pascal Take a first draft of something you have written, that you like, and cut it by a quarter. Then cut it by another quarter. Do four revisions, each time cutting it further. (It’s okay to add …

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Five-Minute Sprints

“I give assignments to my writing classes because it’s hard to make something up out of a clear blue sky. . . . It doesn’t have to be anything. It can contain a character who shows up out of breath. It can contain a lake and a bunch of swans. There can be conversation or …

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When I stop my momentum . . .

When I Stop My Momentum

“In the center of our speed, in the core of our forward movement, we are often confused and lonely. That is why we have turned so full-heartedly to the memoir form. We have an intuition it will save us. Writing is the act of reaching across the abyss of isolation to share and reflect. It’s …

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The Gifts of Age

“I was at a wedding Saturday with a lot of women in their 20s and 30s in sexy dresses, their youthful skin aglow. And even though I was 20 or 30 years older, a little worse for wear, a little tired and overwhelmed by the loud music, I was smiling. I smiled with a secret …

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Living Happily Ever After

“It is only possible to live happily ever after on a day-to-day basis.” —Margaret Bonnano Reflect on this quote and its meaning in your life.

Make a list of all the unexpected things that have happened in your life.

Harvesting the Unexpected

“We hope for a linear method of writing. Do A, B, C, and voilá—your memoir is before you, sprung like a cake from a pan. But look at your life: A often doesn’t lead to B or C. And that’s what makes it compelling—how things worked out in the wrong places or were a disaster …

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Traveling Without Plans

“A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.” – Lao Tzu Tell me about something that happened when you traveled and it wasn’t planned.

The Importance of Obstacles

“Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which (s)he has overcome.” —Booker T. Washington Make a list of the obstacles you have overcome in life. Choose one to write about in detail. Tell us about the obstacle and what you had …

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