In July the John Kerry campaign sent out a broadcast e-mail accusing President Bush of not having read a crucial document, the "National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq." The accusation was accurate; the President had not read the report. But the attack backfired for the simple reason that Senator Kerry had not read it either.
Some years back, I wrote a novel that an editor had been considering. She gave a very enthusiastic preliminary report to my agent until she hit page 247. "What happens on page two hundred forty-seven?" I asked my agent.
Responding to the question, can creative writing be taught, Jeffrey Skinner writes, "It is a question that has been endlessly debated in various forums. But in the end the important answers, such as they are, arise in one-on-one transaction between writing teacher and student... Something is being taught, and learned, in these 'conferences,' each one itself a paradoxical blend of institutionalized ritual and intimate informality."
Under the ocean that stretches out wordlessly
past the long edge of the last human shore,
there are deep windows the waves haven't opened,
where night is reflected through decades of glass.
Sometimes it's the personal experience of a certain moment; I hold on to that core when I'm writing the poem. It's as vivid as a smell or a taste, but it's a confluence of different sensations, basically an emotional memory.
Magazines and journals-and the manuscripts submitted to them-used to be made of paper, sent in manila envelopes with SASEs (an acronym that every author knew meant "self-addressed stamped envelope") so that editors could return rejected work. Those submissions would arrive in canvas mailbags and spill on the editor's desk like slush, neither solid as ice nor fluid as water, which often referred to the writing.
I didn't have an enormous amount of details, and many things were very general. For example, Barnum Kinsey—when he reveals to Skiffington what happened to Augustus—I knew the framework but not in great detail. I knew what he would be doing and when it would be; I knew the gist of it. I simply worked out the specifics when I got to that point in the actual writing.
As one of the judges for the Donald Murray Prize for Creative Nonfiction about Teaching, I found myself putting some submissions in a nonfiction pile, and others in a creative nonfiction pile-and then wondering why. The power of voice was one answer; good storytelling, another.