Advice from Mary Biddinger

Remember a time when you expected one thing, but discovered another. The water chestnut that turned out to be a scallop (or the pistachio that was really a wasabi pea). The time you grabbed a mannequin’s hand in a department store, thinking it was your mother’s until it didn’t bend.

Recall the way that your senses re-calibrated, all at once, as the familiar and unfamiliar, the known and unknown, all switched places. The best pieces of writing do this to us as readers (a feeling of pleasurable disorientation combined with connection), so in your own work, play the same sort of tricks on yourself. Don’t always know where you are going, or why; just take a bite.

Mary Biddinger is the author of Prairie Fever (Steel Toe Books, 2007) and Saint Monica (forthcoming with Black Lawrence Press). She edits the Akron Series in Poetry and Barn Owl Review, and is co-editor, with John Gallaher, of the new Akron Series in Contemporary Poetics. Her poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in 32 Poems, Center: A Journal of the Literary Arts, The Collagist, Copper Nickel, diode, Gulf Coast, North American Review, Passages North, Third Coast, and many other journals. A professor of literature and creative writing at The University of Akron, she also serves as Director of the NEOMFA: Northeast Ohio Master of Fine Arts. She lives in West Akron with her kids and her cats, and blogs at The Word Cage: http://wordcage.blogspot.com/.

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