What I learned while teaching inmates to write

What I learned while teaching inmates to write

First published in the Sept. 4, 2016 (Eugene, Ore.) Register-Guard Lifestyle section. SALEM — An hour before I’m to present a three-hour writers workshop at the maximum security facility of the Oregon State Penitentiary, I’m having breakfast at a restaurant when my phone buzzes. Brett Gilchrist, the senior pastor at University Fellowship Church in Eugene, has CC’d me with an email message he has sent to Rabbi Avrohom Perlstein, a...

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Entertaining angels

Entertaining angels

I’ve been marketing books of mine now for more than 20 years but only recently realized a big mistake I was making: Thinking it was only about books and sales. Instead of, say, salt and light. Or experiences. Or giving instead of getting. Example: I used to fret when I’d show up for an event and only a handful of people would be there. It made me feel like a failure. Like I was wasting my time and, given my poor-me attitude, the time of...

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Living a Yahtzee life

Living a Yahtzee life

They say if you want to make money in the writing business you find a niche and go to that place again and again. In other words, if the crowd loved your trumpet solo don’t come back on stage with a guitar or xylophone. Play that trumpet, baby! Again and again and again. I get that. And I don’t begrudge any writer who subscribes to that theory. To each his or her own. But here’s to those who’ve gone the other way, who’ve followed their...

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Mother of Rain outstanding

Mother of Rain outstanding

Mother of Rain, about hardscrabble life in the hills of Tennessee in the 1930s and ’40s, is the most intriguing read I’ve experienced in years. Full disclosure: I consider author Karen Zacharias a “writer friend” among whose attributes is an absolute bulldog tenacity to tell a story she believes needs telling — and tell it well. I’ve written about her in The Register-Guard; the Hermiston reporter-turned-author also wrote the...

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The spirit of Seneca Falls

The spirit of Seneca Falls

SENECA FALLS, N.Y. — Here’s what it’s like to spend a weekend at the Wonderful Life Festival in Seneca Falls, N.Y. You’re waiting for a table at Parker’s Grille and Taphouse when a stranger leans over to you and says: “What I don’t get is how Mary manages to have bought a house in the hour between George and she getting married and when he shows up for dinner that night. And , sure Uncle Billy wasn’t...

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Why I don’t believe in writer’s block

Why I don’t believe in writer’s block

It’s one of the most oft-asked questions I get as a writer and teacher: “What can I do about writer’s block?” “Write,” I say. (I was going say, “Simple. Write.” Alas, I realize it isn’t simple. It isn’t easy.) I tell people I don’t believe in writer’s block. Do the words sometimes come harder than at other times — or hardly at all? Sure. Do you sometimes need to change things up to feel the mojo again? Sure. Do you...

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