Archive for the ‘ON WRITING’ Category

“Art is confession; art is the secret told,” wrote Thornton Wilder.  “But art is not only the desire to tell one’s secret; it is the desire to tell it and hide it at the same time.”


(One Pleasure A Day : Co-posted with Année Kim) For pleasure and thought, Année sent me Joan Didion‘s At The Dam, a brief essay written in 1970.  Année emailed it to me in the middle of the night, both of us sleepless and ready to enjoy perfect sentences and notions of our impermanence and vulnerability. […]


I met Christina Ball first day of freshman year at Bowdoin College.  She was my roommate and she arrived in our room with an entourage: a sister, a brother, a mother and father, a grandmother.  They crowded in, inspected, turned over pillows, looked out windows, absorbed us — my father and me.  We’d arrived first, […]


Dreaming in Umbria Creative Writing Workshop with Martha McPhee JUNE 9-16, 2012 Italianist, Christina Ball, is hosting a writing workshop at the luxury spa and wellness center, Roccafiori, in Todi, Italy in June 2012.  She’s invited me to lead the workshops and I would love you all to come. Find out more …


There are three necessary elements in a story—exposition, development, and drama. Exposition we may illustrate as “John Fortescue was a solicitor in the little town of X”; development as “One day Mrs. Fortescue told him she was about to leave him for another man”; and drama as “You will do nothing of the kind,” he […]


From The San Francisco Chronicle — Review by Martha McPhee The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim By Jonathan Coe (Alfred A. Knopf; 314 pages; $26.95) At the beginning of Jonathan Coe’s beguiling new novel, “The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim,” Max, in Australia visiting his estranged father, observes a Chinese woman and her young daughter […]


The Center For Fiction launches its online magazine, The Literarian. My contribution: Five Favorite Novels About Women Behaving Badly Gone With the Wind As young girl watching the Million Dollar Movie with my sisters, I met Scarlett O’Hara and fell in love. Her dark curls and green eyes, her swishing hoop dress–determined and strong and brave, […]