Blog postings

I write about themes of interest to me: personal development, education, addictions, technology, parenting, and creativity. If you like what you see, feel feel to leave a comment or get in touch to continue the conversation.

Words and Wells

My recommendation for beginning writing is as follows: do not start with sentences, with the easy and fluid liaisons of phrases, with the heft of lines upon lines stacking up. Instead, start with words, or perhaps with a single word. Find the words first. Then make of them a haiku ...

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Literary Traditions and the Modern Writer

Moby Dick was published in 1851. Arguably the first modern novel, Moby Dick is a work of astonishing psychological depth and diversity. It is perhaps the foundational work of the literature of North America. And yet, most of the creative writing students I have worked with in the past few ...

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First on Four Legs

The oldest artifacts of human endeavor – cave paintings at Lascaux and Altamira, tools in the Blombos caves, Venus figurines so fantastically old we hardly recognize ourselves – are works of art. Creativity is the imprint of humanity, from the outline of a hand painted with ochre on a cave wall, to ...

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Steps to Better Writing

The oldest and greatest poems, epics, and songs – the original roots and branches of all literature – are articulated visions. They are dreams, glimpses of other worlds (real or imagined), archetypes of clear seeing. This clarity of vision defines good literature, and is therefore the ultimate aim of practicing ...

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The Art and Craft of the Personal Essay

A personal essay is a non-fiction creative writing essay in which the author utilizes the perspective of personal experience to articulate larger themes (in traditional literary criticism, such themes were once termed “universal”). A personal essay focuses on the perceptions and feelings of the author and uses these to reflect ...

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The World Tree

South of the riverbend, twenty minutes along a trail fringed with pink flowers of hardhack and gangly stalks of sweet gale, a black spruce that I call the World Tree stands against a spring sky. Here, within earshot of the encroaching highways of suburban Vancouver, a broad bole streaked with ...

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Tips on Tightening

For most of its history literature has taken the form of epic poetry. This history is long: five thousand years, perhaps much longer. And within the genre of epic poetry -- from the Egyptian Pyramid Texts to Homer to the Kalevala -- every word counts. The rhythm counts. Resonance and fluidity count ...

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Myths of the Primordial Waters

Myths of the Primordial Waters:
Ancient Mariners, Human Migration, and the Sea
(Originally published in Pacific Yachting, 2007)

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Choosing Wood for Marine Applications

In an age of plastics and composites, wood has not surrendered its claim on the mariner. The color and texture of grain, the particular warmth of wood in the sun, the way a teak gunwale is shaped precisely to meet the grasping hand: these qualities of wood embody the romance ...

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Strategies for Creative Teaching

Teaching (in its various forms) is one of the most influential roles in society. After parenting, it is perhaps the most crucial, for all ages. And yet, teaching — whether to children or adults — is a profession in which few practitioners have any substantial training. Some instructors have certificates or degrees ...

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Blinking Cursor, Blank Page

Late in Heart of Darkness, after Marlow has meandered deep into the jungle but before he meets Kurtz, who utters his now-famous judgement upon human nature, The horror! The horror! -- before this, the most famous scene in twentieth century literature, Marlow finds himself making necessary repairs to the ship. He ...

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Casco: The Ship of Robert Louis Stevenson

They were led, one at a time, from the smoky dark of the hold and up the narrow companionway. Each man was flanked by a crew-member who spoke in clipped and rushing tones. The ship was quiet, the sails slack.The men in the hold waited, unsure of what was ...

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On John Terpstra's The Boys

Storytelling is the territory of the trickster, the mythological emissary of joyful, irreverent spontaneity. The task of the trickster involves joining together things that seem distinct, or separating things falsely conjoined. The trickster articulates and redraws meaningful connections; in so doing he becomes master of all the arts. In his ...

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Updating Odysseus: Essential Tools for Today's Mariner

In the greatest sea epic of Western literature, the mariner Odysseus is held captive for seven years on an island by the enchantress Calypso. Eventually, in a debate among the gods, it is decided (grudgingly, for Odysseus has offended Poseidon) that the hero should be freed to return home. Zeus ...

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A Guide to Ethical Wood Use

We tend to think of the tension between pristine nature and human ambition as a contemporary struggle, but the urge to own and exploit forests is a fundamental human impulse. At every point in history, wherever humans have possessed sufficient technology or population to deplete natural abundance, we have done ...

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