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This morning, I did a thousand sit-ups.
Okay. A hundred sit-ups.
This morning, I did ten very good sit-ups.
Because I’m not getting any younger, I realized this morning, and my window for washboard abs is rapidly closing.

They say writing, like anything else, is a muscle that must be exercised. I’m assuming they say this. I didn’t Google the phrase. What I did Google, however—when I should’ve been outlining my novel (oh yeah, I’m outlining my novel)—was “muscle,” or...

Martha blog

In the early 1990s, when I was enrolled in the MFA program at the University of Washington, I sometimes found myself sitting in traffic, chilling out to NPR, when the announcer would butt in to warn us all about...

FLIP (Festa Literária Internacional de Paraty), a literary festival founded by Liz Calder of Bloomsbury Publishing, recently celebrated its 12th year in Paraty, Brazil, a picturesque colonial town on the coast about halfway between Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. The festival pays homage to a different Brazilian writer every year and this year they honored Brazilian writer Millôr Fernandes.


Poetry was my first genre.  The pleasures of metaphor, compression of expression, and the controlled line appealed to me in ways that prose did not, and when I first began writing—and then publishing—I never thought I would write anything but poetry.  Of course, critical essays and book reviews were part of my work, but those always felt as though they came from a different quadrant of my brain.  Poetry was my genre.


This week I spent some time at Randolph College, a private liberal arts institution in the hills of Lynchburg, Virginia. As a visiting writer, I gave a reading and waxed poetic with environmental studies and creative writing students. And I participated in an environmental writing class (a course I sure wish my college offered way back when) comprised of a mix of majors and taught by Laura-Gray Street.


A strong breeze blew under a sunny sky as I drove up to the gate at Fort Snelling in Minneapolis. Climbing down through the top hatch of an M46 Patton tank, I began a profound journey.  Wind gusts swirled around the tank body, but were they also ghostly voices of the crew? I turned quickly in the small space behind the assistant driver and banged my head on the breech block, a moment of searing pain. I panicked. Did I hear...


This semester I am teaching a course called Poets of Color at Mills College in Oakland, California. ‘Tis that time of the semester again when I start compiling writing prompts based upon the work we have read and discussed for my...

It’s like when someone on TV interviews a one hundred-year-old woman. They always ask her the same thing: What’s your secret? We’re all worried about the future; we want to know what she’s done to live so long. And she never says, “Oh, I don’t know. Don’t ask me. Luck, probably. Luck or lucky genetics or something.” Instead, she describes, as though it has magical properties, her daily regimen. And this regimen usually involves something bizarre like eating two pounds of shredded wheat...

When I was twenty-four and very poor and still far from sure of myself as a writer, I fell for a woman almost twice my age. D. was a Californian, a professor’s ex-wife who found herself living alone on a farm outside the small town where I was in grad school.


It would be the most boring version of the Kama Sutra, abridged for beginners. Overseas evangelists would blush as they walk past it in the aisles...


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