#5onFri: Five Non-Fiction Rules Fiction Authors Often Break

I spent most of my working lifetime teaching students at London University, and, after immigrating to Southern California, at USC, UCLA and California State University, Long Beach. During that time, under pressure to publish, I wrote seven nonfiction books. Some were works of literary criticism, others included a biography, a genre study of autobiography, and even… Read more »

Celebrating the Solstice

This column was due on December 24th. Anyone surprised that my thoughts turned to the season and to celebrations of the winter solstice? If you and your story live within the Judeo-Christian tradition, you’ll no doubt have a good handle on Christmas and Hanukkah. But, for Christmas in particular, how did some of the traditions… Read more »

Making Comics with Lynda Barry

A highlight of my sabbatical last year was attending a Lynda Barry Writing the Unthinkable Workshop. Taking a class with this amazing cartoonist has been on my bucket list for years. Every few months I’d ponder how I could pack off to Wisconsin for a summer or semester to take one of the cartooning classes… Read more »

personality test

Using Personality Tests to Enhance Character Development

On a six-hour car ride with friends to one of the nine weddings my husband and I attended last year, we got into a conversation about personality types and the tests people take to determine them. From figuring out where you get your energy from to what motivates you to how you express and receive… Read more »

Ramp Up Your Dialogue With Help from Isaac Newton

Writers of all genres must learn how to craft realistic stories that enthrall a reader from page one to The End. Romance writers have the added responsibility to take two people who may not have met on page one from an initial hello to a happily ever after (HEA) ending. Plus, this magical culmination must… Read more »

santa claus

Writing Lessons from Santa Claus

Just in time for the holidays! Here are some writing lessons from Santa Claus and insights about how the Big Guy in the red suit tackles obstacles and maintains his creative momentum, even during the chaos of the holiday season. Mr. Claus is a wise man. In fact, when it comes to important things like… Read more »


Ask the Editor: How Do I Use Italics?

We finally have a question for the editor! It only took a few months for someone to write to me, but here it is, and I’d like to take a moment to celebrate. And apparently, when it rains it really does pour because I actually received TWO questions about the same topic: italics. So—celebration now… Read more »

Deep Dive into Short Forms: Essays

I’m a word nerd. Of course, that’s no surprise considering I’m writing this column at DIY MFA, the home of word nerdom. I started early, like most word nerds, collecting big words, unusual words. Words such as antidisestablishmentarianism, serendipity, and logophile. I love knowing the right and precise word for a specific thing. Like knowing… Read more »

The Final Battle — Signpost Scene #13

This is it. THE signpost scene. The scene that James Scott Bell says is, “the whole point of a novel” in his writing craft book, Super Structure. Signpost Scene #13: The Final Battle. In the Final Battle, readers (and writers) get to experience the reason they clung to a story in the first place. In this… Read more »