7 tips on writing from a collection of essays from the Oxford American

Here are seven high-level tips on writing from the Spring 2018 issue of the Oxford American, a quarterly literary magazine a friend gifted me a subscription to for a year. It was the august publication’s 100th issue.

With a subscription you can read the pieces in depth, which I recommend. Clearly there is vastly more but as a teaser below I share one lasting takeaway from each, which I consumed months after the issue landed in my mailbox.

I find great value in reading and rereading advice on writing. (Find other recaps here)

The prompt for these seven Southern authors was to write an essay on what they learned about writing from a mentor of theirs.

  • “While we want to be paid for our writing. We don’t want to write for money.” Pearl Cleage taught Tayari Jones
  • “Art is an escape from the world that makes it, when you return to it, more magical bearable or understandable.” Donald Harrington taught Kevin Brockmeier
  • “I’m not telling the story — the person telling the story is telling it.” Gayl Jones taught Crystal Wilkinson on character development.
  • Use jump cuts, so you don’t let scenes change too neatly and orderly, is one of the classic 39 Steps from Rick Barthelme, as shared by Pia Ehrhardt.
  • To write something that matters, you have to first believe you can say something worth mattering: Reynolds Pierce taught Bronwen Dickey
  • Jamey Hatley learned about needing to see