Essays

What My Mother Wanted Us to Pack

The New York Times, November 8, 2015
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Was This Student Dangerous?

The New York Times, June 18, 2014
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The Gristmill of Praise

The Chronicle of Higher Education, January 30, 2014
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Modern Love

New York Times, July 6, 2008
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Turning ‘Real Life’ into Fiction: How to Do Justice to Grandma

-A View from the Loft, May 1991

Here’s a sad story: You sign up for a writing class because something is burning a hole in your heart – some dear and closely guarded experience that has been haunting you for years. You need to transfer it to the page, to unburden yourself, to translate that lovely and bitter memory into prose. So you write the story of your grandmother’s demise, the tale of the cruel next-door neighbor who seduced your dad, the disillusioning account of your first love. And you turn it in. The following week you get it back from your teacher and fellow students with tactful comments: “Try to think of something more original at the end.” “Could you cut the father?” “This part is corny. It doesn’t seem real.”
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In Defense of the MFA

Imagine the worst: having finished your MFA, you continue to revise your manuscript, slipping pieces of it like slivers of your heart into the mail for publication, and in the meantime you land a job as a technical writer. Your cube-mate reveals himself to be a poet, posting snippets of Akhmatova by the coffee urn….
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Fibbers, Nappers, Hens:

Grammar and Grading in the Creative Writing Workshop

I find time at the very beginning of the semester to hand out a chart to clarify any confusion between lie and lay. The students look surprised when they see it. This is a Creative Writing class, not an “English” class….
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