How to Write a Braided Essay: Case Study

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At a recent residency for the Regis University’s Mile High MFA program, I presented a craft seminar on the process of creating a braided essay, a beautiful form of the essay that weaves different “threads” together. I used as a case study one writer’s revision process that focused on framing and metaphor-patterning and turned a rough compilation of “this happened and then that” into a beautiful meditation on personal and universal “black holes.” River Teeth: A Journal of Narrative Nonfiction picked up this essay within a couple of weeks of the writer (okay, he’s my husband) submitting it.

After presenting my craft seminar, I had enough students and fellow faculty come up to me after the presentation saying how much they had learned about revision, framing, and metaphor in the braided essay that I asked Essay Daily if I could publish a write-up of the seminar with them. They said, yes! And here it is:

essay daily logo

Kathryn Winograd On the Intimacies of Revision.

Leonard Winograd’s essay,” The Physics of Sorrow,” appears in River Teeth Journal: A Journal of Nonfiction Narrative, Issue 21. For readers with access to Project Muse, you can read it here. Or, even better, subscribe to River Teeth here.

River Teeth Journal Cover
River Teeth issue


A Collaboration of Writers and Artists : the PINKPROGRESSION in Denver

Just over three years ago, a sea of women in protest of the rhetoric and actions that permeated the 2016 election donned their pink pussy hats. They marched arm in arm with citizens of all genders and races in a breathtaking show of solidarity against the walls of misogyny and racism.  This historical march ignited artists and writers across the country to continue the movement in exhibits that showcase “human rights, equality, gender identity, and inclusivity.” 

Well, the PINKPROGRESSION is here, now, in Denver. It honors the fourth anniversary of the Womxn’s March and the centennial anniversary of Women’s Suffrage.  A week ago, Poet Carol Guerreo-Murphy and I, through google docs of all things, put in the last line breaks and the last fusion of images in our series of collaborative poems, Two Women Poets of (Certain) Age: Letters of (  ).

We’ll join over twenty fabulous Colorado artists, poets, and writers in the Poetry + art reading and book launch at theMcNichols 3rd floor gallery, March 14th from 1-3p.m. as part of the PINKPROGRESSION:COALESCE exhibit. The reading will be followed by a writing workshop, A Letter to My Mother, presented by Eriko Tsogo from 3-4 p.m. The book will accompany all 2020 exhibits.  

I know as we wove our poems together, through a surprisingly creative technology, that Carol and I thought about our daughters and our daughters’ daughters and their sons. My friend Monica Fuglei’s little girl, topped in the  pink pussy hat that Monica knitted for her, reminds me of the world of beauty and creativity and acceptance that we can’t just want, but demand for them. I am looking forward to seeing the worlds and visions my fellow artists and writers created in their collaborations.  I hope you will join us.

The PINKPROGRESSION:COALESCE exhibit continues through April at the McNichols Civic Center. PINKPROGRESSION: COLLABORATIONS exhibit, a fusion of narratives and mixed media  opens at the Arvada Center in June through August.  These exhibits include collaborative art exhibits, artist talks, workshops, readings, and book launches. Go to Pink Progression for all the details.

Interviewing the Poet Edward Hirsch: Poet Marty McGovern Shares His Recent Conversations with Edward Hirsch, President of the Guggenheim Foundation

Edward Hirsch and Marty McGovern

Whitman? Socrates? Magis? “Garage Publishing?” Sacred mornings? Ruffians? Exactly how does one go about interviewing Edward Hirsch, the President of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation?

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One Good Book Tip

A good friend of mine, who has published books, won awards, had two essays featured in the Best American Essays series, plus thirteen other “notable essays,” and is a senior editor at a highly regarded literary journal, recently wrote me an email, asking if I would blurb his upcoming book—an absolute honor.

The subject title of his email?  “The Dreaded Blurb Request.”

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An Interview on The Journey of a new book, Chained Dog Dreams, by Carol Guerrero-Murphy

Book cover of Chained Dog Dreams and author picture

My friend, the poet Carol Guerrero-Murphy, and I go waaay back to the late 1980s when we were both completing our doctorate degrees in Literature and Creative Writing (Poetry) at the University of Denver.  

Jobs, daughters (and son), and books later, we’ve found ourselves following similar paths again: retirement, partial teaching employment, writing, and books. 

Chained Dog Dreams (Finishing Line Press) is Carol’s second poetry book. Her first book, Table Walking at Nighthawk– this early winter, I even got the privilege of climbing over the family gate with Carol and walking up a snowy lane to her ancestral cabin in Nighthawk- was a finalist for the WILLA Prize in Poetry. Laura Pritchett calls this collection of poems, “quietly moving, deeply felt look at our vulnerable world, our vulnerable souls.”

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Pre-Orders and the Journey of a Book in a Year of Yes

cover of slow arrow with description of book

Perhaps it’s the few new minutes of light since Winter Solstice or the still days between the end of Christmas and the hopes of a new year. Or just simply being stuck in bed with a lousy cold. But today seemed like the perfect one to begin the next stage of this long journey I’ve been on, the journey of the book in a year of yes.

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Convergences of Poetry and Prose: In the Light of Ocean Vuong and Michael Steinberg

Book cover for On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous

I was in the Florida Keys, reading the poet Ocean Vuong’s genre-blurring novel, On Earth We Are Briefly Gorgeous, off my Kindle when the first social media posting of Michael Steinberg’s death appeared in my Earthlink. Michael, writer and founding editor of the literary journal, The Fourth Genre: Explorations in Nonfiction, and I had just emailed each other a couple months before because, as all the beautiful tributes to Michael’s generosity attest to, he had kindly agreed to write a blurb for my upcoming book, Slow Arrow: Unearthing the Frail Children, despite his upcoming eye surgery, asking only that I send my manuscript in large script. I did not realize then how serious his eye condition was, nor to what discovery it would, so sadly, so soon, lead.  

But even before I heard about Michael’s death, Vuong’s novel, a soaring and lyrical tour de force about Little Dog and his family of refugees from Vietnam, had me thinking about the convergence of poetry and prose and what Michael had written to me a few years ago when I asked him to be part of an AWP presentation on the lyric essay.

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Still Frozen: Olaf, Oates, and Morality in Creative Nonfiction

best american essay book cover

As I girded myself at the end of Thanksgiving for this week’s news cycle of impeachment shockers and “presidential” deflections, I started thinking about the five-year-old who had been seated two seats away from me at the matinee showing of Frozen II and of the anthology edited by Joyce Carol Oates, Best American Essays of the Century, that I was in the midst of reading.  

Both left me weepy.

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Difficult Grace: Michael Chabon’s essay, “Final Frontier,” and the Balance of Truth and Fathers (and Mothers) in CNF

picture of Chabon essay from The New Yorker

Regis Mile High MFA has asked me to pull together a large lecture hall seminar for our next residency on the ethics of creative nonfiction.  I’m calling it, “ truth, TRUTH, my story, your story: The Ethics of (Creative) (Non) fiction.” As I scroll through the famous infamies of creative “non-truths” in the past decades—James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces, Greg Mortenson’s Three Cups of Tea to name the most web-notorious—I realize that my students don’t worry so much over the truthfulness of their stories as they do over their own capacities to hurt (or enrage) those close to them– good, bad, and/or ugly–who appear in the often painful memories these students find themselves compelled to write.

As  a poet, I thought nothing of truth or ethics. The poet Richard Hugo declared what we poets already knew: “You owe reality nothing and the truth about your feelings everything.” But then I wrote my first creative nonfiction book, Phantom Canyon: Essays of Reclamation, about a subject I had never broached with my family since the long decades past when my mother and father took me to testify in court against the stranger who assaulted me by the side of a graveyard. Each time afterward, they would stop off at the local ice cream parlor with me, in hopes, I think now, of returning me to the normalcy of childhood through a chocolate chip sundae, even after that last day in court when the judge read the verdict and the mother of the rapist half-collapsed at the end of the long court bench within reach of me, weeping to her son, “You said you didn’t do it,” as the police led her nineteen-year-old, convicted and sentenced, down the aisle between us. 

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Cards, Photos, and Paintings: the Happy Collisions of Prose, Poetry, and the Visual Image

picture of card

Many thanks to Joan Digby, editor-publisher of New Feral Press, who created a beautiful  card combining my poem, Memories of Horses, with a historic photo of a 15,000 to 17, 000 year-old  Paleolithic horse drawing from the Lascaux Cave in France. Joan and artist Stanley Barkan are producing a box of Artists’ cards with horse poems and illustrations.  (Thanks, Joseph Hutchison, former Colorado Poet Laureate, for forwarding Joan’s call for submissions.)

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