Storyboard Class

Storyboard Class

Teaching Writing

There are Two Kinds of Novelists 

  • Outline people (aka “Plotters”)
  • No Outline People (aka “Pantsers,” because they write by the seat of their pants).

I am an Outline Person. I was born that way.

On Saturday, December 10 from 1-4 PM, I’ll be teaching a class called “Storyboard Your Novel” for the Writers’ Center of Indiana.

Here’s the description: Continue reading

SOP: Do’s and Don’ts

SOP: Do’s and Don’ts

CW Programs The Biggest Things

Here are some specific and potentially provocative things about that interesting little document called a Statement of Purpose. If you agree or disagree with me, great! Put it in the comments. I’d love to get some more do’s and don’ts archived here. 

Don’t talk about how, as a child, you loved to read and write. Everyone says that. For perhaps the first time in your life, you’ll be with your kind of people! I know that it’s important to YOU that your journey started when you were a kid, but it is not as important to me as what happened to you from that point on.

Do talk about who you read now, who influenced you. Everyone’s journey starts in a very similar way (at the library, at a desk making up weird stories, etc.), but then those journeys take lots of interesting forks. Don’t focus on how your story started, on your Act I. Focus on Act II. Because what you’re trying for is an Act III. Continue reading



CW Programs General Teaching Writing

I often make these remarks to MFA program applicants: You’ll never write a good Statement of Purpose (SOP) until you realize that everything I say today is wrong. It may be right for me, but it is wrong for you. Every moment, I am, without wanting or trying to, telling you to write the SOP I would write. But I hope you learn to write an SOP like you. In a sense, I hope I don’t teach you how to write an SOP but how to teach yourself how to write an SOP. At all times keep your crap detector on. If I say something that helps, good. If what I say is of no help, let it go. Don’t start arguments. They are futile and take us away from our purpose, which is to get you into graduate school. As Yeats noted, your important arguments are with yourself. If you don’t agree with me, don’t listen. Think about something else.

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Talk to the Volleyball or “Know Your Audience” (Real or Imagined)

General Teaching Writing

Blogging has taught me that some of my best writing–my clearest, most readable narrative voice–emerges when I imagine that I’m writing (or talking) to a specific group of people.

You may have noticed that I often interview myself here at “The Big Thing.”

Really? I never noticed that, Cathy.

Well, I do. I learned this trick writing Comeback Season; whenever I got stuck, I’d bring out my handy-dandy sideline reporter Suzy Hightop. She asked me pointed questions, and I was forced to answer them. Eventually, Suzy became not just a device, but a real person to me. She became my Wilson, the volleyball/friend in Castaway with Tom Hanks. 

Since I started blogging, I’ve learned that when a post is swirling around and going nowhere, I should make up fake interview questions posed by the ideal reader of that particular post.

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