Writers Ask is an inexpensive, no-frills, topic-centered publication for writers who are committed to creating meaningful literary fiction. It's packed with the wisdom and perspectives of accomplished authors, many of whom teach in creative writing programs around the country.

Topics in Writers Ask Issue 69: Structure and Pacing, Description and Detail, Stepping Beyond What You Know, Writer's Block, Writers Reading. And you'll get this special Focus piece: "A Case for Revision," by Melanie Bishop.

Do we ever live a day in the here and now that isn't the result of, or the reaction to, the days of once upon a time? Such is the depth of our living. We carry with us the dimensions of our choices, our non-choices, the lives of others that rubbed up against our own.—Lee Martin

Having a secret feels like having the ability to keep some small part of yourself protected from the utter chaos of life. This is an illusion, of course…it is an illusion as well that keeping secrets under wraps protects us from pain.—Barb Johnson, interviewed by Andrew Scott

This shift began when I was in my forties working on The Suicide Index. Before that, I used to think of the phrase “paying your dues” in terms of the rewards you would get; pay your dues and then the door opens. But now I wonder if paying your dues actually means the door in your head opens. The door opens in your head, and you start being able to do a different, freer kind of writing. Maybe that's the apprenticeship. So it's less about the profession, and more about what you can access in yourself.—Joan Wickersham, interviewed by Amy Yelin

Some of my stuff was unspecific, and [Cormac] McCarthy said you have to say exactly what you mean. I think that was good advice. For example I'd had a guy breaking a windshield with a rock. McCarthy wrote a paragraph about that. He said the sound that I described was not the sound a safety glass window makes when it gets broken. He said that, if nothing else, go to a junkyard and break a window out and hear how it sounds. I'd had the windshield tinkling like a pan of glass while actually, safety glass just kind of collapses.—William Gay, interviewed by Sybil Baker

Bret Anthony Johnston's Corpus Christi: Stories taught me everything I know about the fluid transition between backstory and front story, between past and present scenes.—David James Poissant, interviewed by Andrew McFadyen-Ketchum

Writing begets writing, so the more I write, the more ideas I have. The same with reading. Saul Bellow said that all writers are readers moved to emulation—which is such a beautiful and right and inspiring and perfect thing to say and believe—so whenever I read something wonderful, I want to write. This is one of the many reasons why I love teaching. I leave workshop every week the way I hope my students leave—aching to write because of what we've just read.—Bret Anthony Johnston, interviewed by Margo Williams

A few Focus examples from earlier issues:

Allison Amend: Instructions for a Do-It-Yourself Book Tour
Gabriel Brownstein: Just the Facts, Ma'am—Expository Dialogue and Student Fiction
Jon Chopan: Desire: Character and Motivation
Catherine Ryan Hyde: Another Perspective on Rejection

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Issue #69
Issue #68
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Issue #69

Structure and Pacing, Description and Detail, Stepping Beyond What You Know, Writer's Block, Writers Reading$7.00
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Voice, Humor, Writers Who Teach, Plotting Ahead vs. Writing as You Go, The Writing Life$7.00
Issue #67

Research, Writers Reading, Editing, Writing as Responsibility$7.00
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Approaches to Writing, Taboos and Secrets, Writing as Therapy, Writing Programs and Workshops, Writing Away from Home$7.00
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Early Roots, Autobiograhical Material, Theme, Advice for New Writers$7.00
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Character, Use of Language, Point of View, Publishing$7.00
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Beginnings, Relationship to Reader, Forms, The Writing Life$7.00
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Inspiration, Research, Editing, Writer's Block$7.00
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Dialogue, Structure and Pacing, Moving on to the Next Piece, Literary Fiction, Looking Back on Early Work$7.00
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Forms, How Reading Shapes Writing, Place and Setting, Publishers and Agents$7.00
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Autobiographical Material, Journaling, Plotting vs. Writing as You Go, Point of View, Reviews and Awards$7.00
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