ON WRITING, RACE, AND RANDOM REFLECTIONS

What Keeps You From Writing?

September 4, 2017

Tags: Writing, Procrastination

Did you plan to start on that new writing project yesterday, but then discover that your oven needed cleaning—urgently? You simply couldn’t stand the flaky grime one more day. Or the phone rang just as you sat down to begin and two hours later you realized you allowed yourself to get caught (more…)

Details

June 15, 2017

Tags: Writing, Editing

The details you use to ground your writing are like the spices you sprinkle on your food. They give it life and make it uniquely your own. When I cook petrale sole it’s too bland unless I splash ginger powder, garlic, and red pepper into the pan. Sometime I sauté a green onion, (more…)

Middles

June 15, 2017

Tags: Writing, Editing

I’ve read books that start so well I think contentedly, Ah, this one I’m going to like; but fifty or seventy-five pages in the prose goes flat, the plot grows confusing or boring, and I close the book in disappointment.

Yet as a writer I understand: it’s easy to bog down (more…)

CIRCULAR NARRATIVE

April 5, 2017

Tags: writing, storytelling, circles in narrative, ancient art form

I love circles, especially in writing, where the author cycles back at the end of an essay or book to a reference from the opening. Joseph Campell’s book The Hero With a Thousand Faces defined this pattern in drama, myth, and religious ritual: a protagonist, forced from home, leaves the ordinary world to (more…)

The Joy of Writing

February 22, 2017

Tags: Joy of Writing, Writing Process, Courage, Beginning Writing

“You must have so much discipline!” non-writers exclaim when they discover my profession. “Do you write every day?” They gaze in wonder.

“A writing day is a good day,” I say. “The hardest part is not writing. When there’s too much else I have to do, so my mind won’t settle down. (more…)

Pruning Your Prose

January 9, 2017

Tags: Revision, Rewriting, Women Writing

Every year we have the stunning Japanese maple in our back yard trimmed by a gifted gardener. Each time, I’m astonished to see the graceful structure of the tree’s inner limbs, their beauty revealed after excess branches have been cut away.

One of the great joys of writing, for me, lies in (more…)

The Role of the Writer in Perilous Times

December 22, 2016

Tags: Empathy, Resistance, Political Writing, Women Authors

I’ve been sitting at my computer wondering if it’s selfish to be staring at the screen, searching for the perfect word, when our democracy is under threat? What is my role in times like these; what can writers do?

Searching for writers’ impacts in previous eras I think first of the long, (more…)

Satisfying Endings

June 23, 2016

Tags: Writing Tips, Narrative Structure, Endings

Recently I was outraged after I finished the last pages of a novel I’d loved. “What?” I railed. “How could the author abandon one of the two main characters, let her disappear so completely I’ve no idea of her fate. Give me a hint. One sentence, please!” We do get a scene (more…)

The Courage to Write

May 25, 2016

Tags: Writing tips, fear of writing, courage to write, women writing, writer's block

“It is always a thrilling risk to say exactly what you mean, to express exactly what you see,” wrote the marvelous author Patricia Hampl. Each sentence we write boldly asserts, This is my viewpoint and I believe it worthy of utterance.

That takes courage, especially for women constantly defined as “other,” with its implication (more…)

The First Sentence

May 18, 2016

Tags: Writing, Structure, Theme

“The opening sentence should be like an arrow shot from a bow: it will shoot through the entire text.” The late biographer Henry Mayer, a generous man, once gave me this advice. I’d approached him after a reading for his biography of abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, and when I asked him a question he offered to meet me for coffee.
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Selected Works

Fiction
"A powerful story brilliantly capturing the complications of the mother-daughter relationship from both sides." --Marissa Moss, author of the bestselling Amelia's Notebook series
Selected as Teen Read of the Year by "Coming Together in Skokie," 2015. ***************************************** "In a fast-paced novel-within-a-novel, Nina's great-great-grandmother runs from slavery to freedom, her courage an inspiration to Nina. This multi-layered novel--part contemporary, part historical--is impossible to put down." --Elizabeth Partridge, award winning author of Dogtag Summer
BIOGRAPHY
Showcases the many facets of a woman--Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton--who remains an iconic torch-bearer for the Civil Rights and Women's Movements.
CONTEMPORARY AFFAIRS
Diversity Classic Reissued, July, 2016 * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * "This refreshing book captures what most miss--insightful lessons from personal encounters with diversity. Lester is a talented storyteller who shares her learning in an unpretentious way." Ann M. Morrison, author of The New Leaders. ******************************************* "Lester's generous voice sheds keen insight, humor and practical advice on the polarizing dilemmas of living with diversity." Urvashi Vaid
SELF-HELP/WOMEN'S ISSUES
Offers proven, effective strategies for every woman, whether secretary or CEO. Provides encouragement and goal-setting guidelines. "Lucid...poignant."-- MS.