Fiction for Fathers

In honor of Father’s Day, I offer a heart-rending expression of paternal devotion. This story has come to mind often since I first read it decades ago. It was originally published in The Hudson Review (Copyright © 1959, 1987 by Bowdoin College)    The Ledge by Lawrence Sargent Hall   On Christmas morning before sunup… Continue Reading

Mother’s Day: A Story

‘Tis the month of mothers, and to commemorate Mother’s Day, I’d like to share with you my somewhat untraditional Mother’s Day story, published in Spark: A Creative Anthology (Vol. VII). I hope you enjoy it.   Mother’s Day   Today must end. Daughter though I am, I can no longer endure my mother’s presence. After… Continue Reading

How to Pitch Your Novel

Answer this question in one sentence: What’s your novel about? The answer is called an elevator pitch, a must-have pithy description short enough to deliver during a three-minute elevator ride. It’s not easy to come up with a concise sentence that delivers the gist of your novel compellingly, but crafting book descriptions of twenty-five or… Continue Reading

How Short Can a Story Be?

Flash fiction as a genre has risen in prominence and prestige since Norton published the first flash fiction anthology over a decade ago. Norton’s most recent anthology includes such notables Ron Carlson, Robert Coover, Amy Hempel, A. M. Homes, Grace Paley, and Paul Theroux. The genre has been variously classified as encompassing stories of fewer… Continue Reading

Talking About Love and Raymond Carver

In this month spotlighting lovers, I turn to Raymond Carver for his struggle to define love, a life-giving but elusive gift. In Carver’s short story, “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love,” the scene is set in a country house with two couples, including the narrator, conversing around a kitchen table, getting drunk… Continue Reading

On Revision

If you’re caught up in resolution-making this January (and who isn’t?), here’s a suggestion: resolve to cultivate an alternative attitude toward revision. Instead of feeling anxious about it, look forward it. If you’re like many writers, you dread revising your work. Anxiety plagues you: Where do you start? Will you end up wiping out the… Continue Reading

How to Build Suspense

Suspense is the essential ingredient in all successful novels; it’s what makes the reader unable to put down your book. But what, exactly, is suspense? And how can you exploit it to captivate readers? The essence of suspense is anticipation, says Brian Klems, a Writer’s Digest blogger (May 9, 2013). The writer creates a sense… Continue Reading

How to Open a Work of Fiction—Part Two

Last month we covered different ways to open a novel or short story, focusing on first chapters and preliminary paragraphs. Now let’s move on to the beginning of the beginning, your story’s first sentence, your first opportunity to hook readers. Writer’s Digest guest blogger, Jacob M. Appel (January 9, 2014), offers seven different approaches to crafting… Continue Reading