Why I Write

Tuesday, Aug. 22nd 2017

I do it for the cat named Dorian Gray, his last moments filled with terror, his pupils dilated to the size of nickels as the vet administered the lethal shot.

I do it for the boy I loved in third grade, for the agonizing awkwardness of seventh, for the “Look how fat she is!” comment made in high school as I leaned over the water bubbler after gym class.

I do it because Adrienne Rich was right: two people together really is a miracle.

I do it because eyes, breath, memory. I do it to piss people off, to scratch an itch, to embrace the pain, to run away from it. I do it because I’ve read something that moves me to recreate the magic for myself, by ...
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How Book Nerds Torture One Another

Tuesday, Feb. 14th 2017

I’m an unapologetic dog-earer.

It never even occurred to me that I might need to apologize for it until a fellow writer/reader and I got to talking about it one day.

Apparently, there are two types of people in this world: those who dog-ear books and those who don’t. Also: those who fill up on gas when the tank is half empty and those who fill up only when they’re driving on fumes and a friend needs to follow them to the gas station at midnight to make sure the car doesn’t break down. (You know who you are.)

Forget DISC, Myers-Briggs, INFJ, etc. I think I just discovered a much more reasonable way to categorize personality types:

Dog ears, but fills up the gas tank when it’s half ...
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9 Writing Myths That Haunt Beginners

Saturday, Feb. 11th 2017

If you’re new to writing, you’ll encounter plenty of advice from well-meaning scribes, especially if you hang out in writer forums or with your local critique group.

But not all advice is created equal. Unfortunately, even in this enlightened age, plenty of writing myths persist—myths that can discourage new writers or lead them down the wrong path.

So let’s set the record straight and bust some of the biggest myths for good.

Myth #1: Good writers are born, not made. While some folks are born with natural  talent—e.g. an innate sense of story or way with words—plenty of other people (including this writer right here) have learned the craft over time. If you’re willing to put in the time, you can pick up mechanics, structure, ...
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What I’ve Been Reading and Watching

Wednesday, Jan. 25th 2017

I love January.

I realize that for many people it’s one of their least favorite months, but I find it so hopeful. New year. Days getting noticeably longer. Every now and then a mild day delivers the promise of spring.

It’s also a great time to get cozy and read and write and watch good TV. My own version of Hygge.

Here’s what I’ve been reading and watching as of late…

WATCHING

Manchester by the Sea. I saw this film with my mom the day after Christmas. I didn’t love it. I’m in the minority, since the film just garnered a bunch of Oscar nominations. Casey Affleck gave a solid performance. Oscar worthy? Yeah, I guess. The story itself felt predictable to me, and given all the hype, I think ...
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What I’m Reading

Saturday, Jan. 7th 2017

I’ve been feeling stressed over my reading.

I get this way sometimes. I’m a reader, but I wouldn’t use the word “voracious.” I go through periods of voraciousness, but then I have quieter periods as well.

In the writing world, especially, there’s a ton of pressure (and it’s real) to always be reading. I get it. Reading with a critical eye can help improve a writer’s craft—to a certain extent.

But writers need to write. They need to write regularly. They need to get comfortable with revising. They need to develop a ruthlessness about their own work. None of these things comes from reading.

So while reading is one item in the writer’s toolbox, it’s not the only thing. Nor is it the most important, in my opinion. I ...
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How I Spent Christmas Day

Tuesday, Jan. 3rd 2017

December 25, sunny, 40s. You know what that means: PERFECT BEACH DAY, BITCHES.

When does something become a tradition? I went to the beach on Christmas last year (remember how warm it was?) AND this year. I’m calling it: Christmas Beach Day is my official holiday tradition now.

Today, I saw a horse frolicking in the surf. A woman laughed hysterically on a seaside bench while talking on the phone. A guy walking his dog stopped as I was gazing out over the water and asked if I was looking for seals.

“If you go around that bend over there, you’ll see them,” he said.

I started walking towards the bend. He followed. Then, he scampered down some rocks and beckoned for me to come.

“OK,” I said. “I’ll follow ...
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Taphophile Mania: Mount Auburn Cemetery

Monday, Aug. 22nd 2016

Hello, my name is Robyn and I’m a taphophile.

OMG SOUNDS SO BAD AND POSSIBLY CONTAGIOUS.

Relax. Not so bad. And definitely not contagious.

A taphophile is a lover of cemeteries (from the Greek “táphos,” which means “tomb” and from the English “phile,” which means “loving” or “friendly” or “friend”). Also known as a tombstone tourist, cemetery enthusiast, and gravestone hunter.

I’ve always loved cemeteries. They’re peaceful. They’re rich in history. And spending time with the dead makes it much easier to spend time with the living. That last part might just be my own quirk of nature. But taphophiles are a real thing. There are many of us.

I love walking around cemeteries (the older, the better), looking at the names, thinking about their stories, wondering how they lived their ...
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Writing Tips: When Should You Stop Revising?

Saturday, Aug. 20th 2016

A friend of mine is working on a book of poetry. The other day, he sent me an email with this question: “I’m nearly finished with my book but I’m struggling with when to stop doing rewrites and edits and just call it complete. Any advice on when to stop editing? I feel like I could keep rewriting and I feel like I might be getting in my own way.”

Here was my response: 

HA.

I’m a firm believer that a piece of writing is never “done.” (This isn’t an original thought, either.)

I believe it was Oscar Wilde who said, “I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning, and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back again.”

If that sounds ...
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Fiction Tips: Sometimes you need to stop writing.

Saturday, Jun. 18th 2016

Writers write. Right?

Yes.

But!

The smart writers know when to shelve a work-in-progress.

Case in point: I recently finished 11/22/63 by Stephen King.

It’s a time travel story that centers on this question: what would happen if JFK had lived? I CRUSHED ON THIS BOOK SO HARD. Here’s the thing about King: he is so versatile, and he has evolved so much as a writer. So if you tried him in the past, meaning decades ago, and he wasn’t your cup o’ tea, consider trying him again. Consider this book!

I digress. Back to my point. In the afterword, King says this: “I originally tried to write this book in 1972. I dropped the project because the research it would involve seemed far too daunting for a man who was ...
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Fiction Tips: The Chronology of My Madness

Saturday, Jun. 4th 2016

I’ve been bitching to my writer friends (and anyone who’ll listen) that I can’t seem to write a goddamn story without some weird time warp timeline. WHY CAN’T I WRITE FORWARD? Meaning I start at point A and move to point B and then C and then D until I get to the end. FLASHBACKS SHOULDN’T BE MY ENEMY.

But the other day, after coming off revision #5968657475457 for book #3 and returning to book #4 (the one giving me hives because of the timeline), I took a step back and asked myself, Well, why CAN’T I write this forward? What’s stopping me but me?

HELLO LIBERATION.

Yes, it sounds so simple. It IS so simple. But my brain and heart had to meet up, apparently, and be ...
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