#38Write: The September Writing Workshop Is Open For Registration

#38Write—my [new-ish] global writing initiative—is a monthly series of online writing adventure workshops for place-passionate, culturally curious writers around the world. Each writing adventure focuses on one particular aspect of craft or the writing life (for example, writing kick-butt descriptions), and during each 38-hour adventure, writers connect with me and #38Write writers around the world via a Twitter hashtag and a group Pinterest board. In the August workshop, we had 16 writers in 8 countries!

Looking for a unique writing workshop that nurtures your interest in place, culture, maps, journeys, odysseys, travel, etc.?

Perfect timing…because the September edition of the 38Write writing adventure series—38Write | Square Peg, Round Hole?—is now open for registration. It will take place on September 29–30. (Click over to the CLASSES page for lots more information about this specific workshop and to sign up.)


38Write is a writing adventure workshop designed specifically for place-passionate, culturally curious writers that will get you out of your house—no matter where you live—and into your environs.

In June, I launched the first 38Write online writing adventure with 38Write | Description.

In July, I continued with 38Write | Structure, which went forth with 16 writers in 9 countries. One of the assignments for that workshop was to define culture without using a dictionary, thesaurus, or other reference tool. It sparked some pretty spectacular definitions (read them here) and a lively conversation on Twitter.

And in August, 16 writers in 8 countries participated in 38Write | Peregrination. Though the writers are still nursing their blisters, they wrote some pretty amazing pieces about walks that connected them culturally to places. (Read those here.)


  • Each writing adventure is 38 hours long. It’s a manageable amount of time that fits into anyone’s busy schedule. (Good gracious, no, you will not be writing or adventuring for 38 hours straight. I’m ambitious for you, but not crazy. You will need approximately 2-4 hours to work during the 38-hour period…give or take an hour.)
  • Each writing adventure will focus on one particular aspect of craft or the writing life. You will not be writing an entire essay or short story (but you might accidentally do so). Some adventures will focus on a skill, like writing kick-butt descriptions; others might get you to look at what inspires you or how you move from idea to writing.
  • During each 38-hour period, you’ll be able to connect with me and #38Write writers around the world via a Twitter hashtag. (How cool is that?!)
  • You will get feedback from me. (For more info about me, click here.)
  • Terrific for folks writing fiction, essays, or memoir.
  • Beginners and experienced writers are welcome and encouraged to join. There are some of each (and everything in between) in every workshop.
  • It’s affordable. A single 38Write writing adventure costs only $38 (U.S.).


While living, writing, and teaching writing in the U.S. and Shanghai, I learned (and/or relearned) a number of things:

    1. Each of us has a heck of a lot to learn from folks in other countries (and not usually the things we think we need to learn).
    2. Story is an international conversation that can help us better understand one another.
    3. By helping writers from all over the world to improve their craft, I can play a wee role in facilitating this global conversation.
    4. Writing is recursive. You must practice. (And if I do say so myself, I’m pretty darn good at getting writers to practice.)


38Write adventures are designed for all place-passionate writers, including expats and repats, globetrotters, armchair travelers, nomads, cultural spelunkers, deeply rooted souls, mapmakers and mapbreakers, wanderers and wayfarers, voyagers, and all writers interested in exploring and writing about their environs.

So, yup, if you’re asking, 38Write is probably for you.

To learn more and sign up for 38Write | Square Peg, Round Hole?, visit CLASSES.

Writerhead Wednesday: Featuring Hank Phillippi Ryan

Welcome to Writerhead Wednesday, a weekly feature in which a brilliant, charming, remarkable author talks about her/his writerhead…a precious opportunity for looky-loos around the world to sneak into the creative noggins of talented writers and (ever so gently) muck about.

Confession: I have a huge writerly/life-erly crush on today’s featured author. She is none other than Hank Phillippi Ryan, author of the just-released-yesterday-to-huge-acclaim The Other Woman (a thriller, which is the first in a new series). Not only is Hank a gripping, hold-you-to-your-seat writer AND a rather famous investigative reporter in Boston who helps a lot of people, but she’s also a warm, genuine, funny, so-much-like-you-and-me, no bullshit person who gets it done. Hell, she’s even sexy.

I was lucky enough to meet Hank earlier this year when we were both speaking at the 2012 Pennwriters Conference in Lancaster, PA. She was the brilliant keynote speaker who touched everybody’s heart, and I was sharing the gospel of writerhead.

As I suspected, Hank’s got one hell of a writerhead, so please put your hands together and raise your voices. Let’s hear it for Hank!

“Hank! Hank! Hank! Hank!”

1. Describe your state of writerhead (the where, the when, the how, the what, the internal, the external).

I have a full-time job as a television reporter—9 til 6, every day. Being a journalist has writerhead of its own—a deadline-crazed instant-gratification banging out the best you can, as fast as you can, of what’s absolutely factual—knowing it’ll evaporate into the airwaves the moment it’s broadcast.

When I flip the switch to writing my book each night—not reporting, but making stuff up!—I don’t have the luxury of much time to get into the groove. I write—or I don’t. And I have to write, because the publisher is expecting a book! A good book! So I have to get to writerhead—but I know that state of being is not attainable simply by “wanting” to.

So—I let go. Each day as I sit at the desk in my study, in front of my computer, I tell myself it’s all fine, it doesn’t matter. I’m not writing a book, I’m writing a page. A paragraph. One line. I give myself permission to “not-do” it.

What do I hope will happen in this part of the book? I ask myself. What’s my goal with the scene? I try to envision it, how people would look, and what they want, and how they would feel and react to each other. And I try…a few words.

Even telling you about it now, the background noises in my house are fading, and the light seems to be focused on me and nowhere else, and I can feel the tunnel of the story pulling me into it.

And soon—I know, I rely on it!—my fingers will be flying across the keyboard so fast I have no idea what I’m even writing. (Thank goodness for spellcheck—although sometimes even spellcheck is baffled.) Oh, I think—I didn’t know that was going to happen next! She said—what?

Sometimes tears come to my eyes. And then I know.

2. What happens if someone/something interrupts writerhead? (a spouse, a lover, a barking dog, an electrical outage, a baby’s cry, a phone call, a leg cramp, a dried-up pen, a computer crash, etc.)

Smiling. Even through the mists of writerhead, I can hear the footsteps in the hall. My husband, since we live alone and he’s the only possibility. I’ll ignore it, I say. Maybe he’ll go away. Maybe he doesn’t really need me this very second.

Sometimes he’ll come in, and stand behind my chair. Look over my shoulder at the screen. “How’re you doing?” he’ll ask. And I know he’s lonely, or wants to connect, and truly does want to know how I am. And I feel—guilty that my reaction (which I tamp down) is to say: Go a-WAY.

But I finish the line I’m writing, sometimes make a little reminder note (“gun” or “phone call” or “Jane doesn’t know about baby”) and try to totally focus on him. It the least I can do, right? And then I can get back to work.

Quickly—over the fourth of July, my wonderful 9-year-old grandson was in town. I was at a particularly difficult part of my (now-finished) new book and could NOT decide what to do. Writerhead was a memory.

Eli came in and said—“I’m so interested in what you’re doing Grammy. What are you working on?”

How could I resist that?

But I had a dilemma. How do you tell a nine year-old you’re trying to decide if a character should live or die?

“I’m deciding whether a character should live or die,” I said.

Eli thought about that. “Is it a good person?”

“Yes,” I said, “she is.”

“Then she should live,” he said. “Maybe have a narrow escape.”

I smiled. “Yes, that’s what I was thinking, too. But sometimes a narrow escape is a cheap shot.”

Eli thought about that. “True,” he said. “So she should have to give something up to escape.”

And of course that was exactly right, and I told him so. Thank goodness for the interruption!

3. Using a simile or metaphor, compare your writerhead to something.

Oh, it’s time. Pure, timeless, endless time. I feel like a star, glittering in space, constant and confident and eternal and even alone.

BIO: Hank Phillippi Ryan is the on-the-air investigative reporter for Boston’s NBC affiliate. Her work has resulted in new laws, people sent to prison, homes removed from foreclosure, and millions of dollars in restitution. Along with her 28 EMMYs, Hank’s won dozens of other journalism honors. She’s been a radio reporter, a political campaign staffer, a legislative aide in the United States Senate and an editorial assistant at Rolling Stone Magazine working with Hunter S. Thompson.

She’s won the Anthony. Agatha and Macavity for her crime fiction, and is president-electo of national Sisters in Crime.

Her newest thriller, The Other Woman (an Indie Next GreatRead) is now out in hardcover from Forge. A starred review in Library Journal says “Readers who crave mystery and political intrigue will be mesmerized…,” and a starred review from Booklist calls it “The perfect thriller for an election season..”

CONNECT: To get more Hank, visit her website or check out her blog at Jungle Red Writers. Give her a thumbs-up on Facebook. Or say give her a high-five on Twitter (@hank_phillippi).

Mojo Monday: Shaun Usher Talks About “Letters of Note”

It’s Mojo Monday, and as always, I’ve got a little something-something to lift your creative spirits, buoy you up, help you get your mojo on, and nudge (or better yet, catapult) you into writerhead.

Y’all know Shaun Usher (no, no, not USHER…Shaun Usher). He’s the guy who shares all the spectacular letters/telegrams/etc. via “Letters of Note.” Well, here he is talking about the treasures he’s found, his process, his journey & loads more. Enjoy!

(Also, the book Letters of Note will be out in November. You can pre-order now! And here!)


Shaun Usher: ‘Letters of Note’ from The Lost Lectures on Vimeo.