New at DIY MFA: Identifying Literary Themes in the Poetry We Read

How have I not written a poetry-focused article for my DIY MFA column before?? Because like novels, short stories, and other longer forms of literature, poetry is chock-full of literary themes. So that’s what my latest Theme: A Story’s Soul post – or, rather, the first of two posts – is about. We’ll go over four questions that can help us identify themes in the poetry we read, then practice them with an in-text exercise using one of my favorite Mary Oliver poems. We’ll also touch on how we can recognize themes (either on our own or with the help of the four questions) across a book of poetry by a single poet.

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New DIY MFA Post on Writing Exercises for the Theme of Family (Plus, a Quick Note About Iceland)

So far in our recap of the theme of family at DIY MFA, we’ve covered why this theme matters to readers and shared recommendations for books about family. Today, we conclude our recap with a “how-to” post – specifically, how to explore the theme of family in your writing. This post is filled to the brim with writing prompts and brainstorming activities to help you with different angles of approaching this theme, from demonstrating family relationships through dialogue and interaction to using major life events to heighten conflict. So, grab some paper and a pen – or open a new document on your computer – and let’s begin!

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New at DIY MFA: Additional Reading on the Theme of Family

In my previous DIY MFA post, we returned to the theme of family (which we first covered in this case study) and offered five reasons why this theme matters to readers. Today, we continue our deep dive with a wonderfully bookish post. Yes, it’s time for reading recommendations! I share five books that explore the theme of family and briefly explain how they do so (without giving away too many spoilers, of course!). As you read about each one, you might be surprised by not just the variety of genres and kinds of stories represented, but also the different paths each one takes to examine the same theme.

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New Post at DIY MFA on Revising (or Avoiding) Preachy Themes in Your Story

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What does it mean when someone describes a story as “preachy”? It doesn’t mean the story is religious. Rather, it means the story’s themes are presented in a forceful or one-sided manner – an approach that often turns readers off. So, in today’s edition of Theme: A Story’s Soul at DIY MFA, I share three writing mistakes that can lead to preachy themes in a story, as well as solutions for each that can bring more subtlety, balance, and realism to how those themes are portrayed. Continue reading

New Post at DIY MFA: Recognizing Themes at Each Stage of the Writing Process

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Here’s a question for any writers who are reading this: At what point in the writing process do you start paying attention to your story’s themes? Does theme even cross your mind as you’re brainstorming, drafting, or revising a story? If you answered “no” – don’t worry, your story probably still contains themes . However, it always helps to have a strong awareness of themes. So in my latest DIY MFA article, we explore ways in which you can develop that awareness at each stage of the process, and how that awareness can improve more than just the story.

Also, a fun fact for you: The conversation I mention during the article’s introduction eventually inspired me to pitch the Theme: A Story’s Soul column to DIY MFA. 😉

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New DIY MFA Article, Plus a Note About My Recent Blogging Absence

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Every story, regardless of its length, pulses with literary themes at its heart. So for this week’s edition of “Theme: A Story’s Soul” at DIY MFA, I turn the column’s focus from novels to short stories. With the help of examples from authors Alethea Black and Ted Chiang, we’ll explore how short stories effectively examine their themes despite – or maybe because of – their word count restrictions and smaller “big picture.”

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Featured on DIY MFA Radio’s “Meet the DIY MFA Team” Podcast

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So, way back in August when I was at Writer’s Digest Conference, I joined several of my DIY MFA colleagues for a team podcast recording for DIY MFA Radio. 😀 It was SO much fun, and we talked about WDC, our tips on writing and attending literary conferences, and our DIY MFA “origin stories” (a.k.a. how we became involved with the site). The podcast is finally available for everyone to listen to on DIY MFA’s Patreon page for free. (In other words, you don’t have to be a paying patron to access it.) This episode is also a great resource for writers who are looking for tips on pitching their manuscript to agents.

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New DIY MFA Article on Isolation as a Literary Theme

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In my latest Theme: A Story’s Soul post at DIY MFA, I dive into a literary theme that’s difficult for writers to explore and painful for characters (and people in real life) to experience. Isolation isn’t the same as sequestering yourself during an illness or retreating somewhere to meditate. Rather, it’s a state of aloneness in which, because of your location or emotional state, you feel cut off from others. And when a story effectively illustrates isolation as a literary theme despite its challenges, it can offer intriguing insights about setting, relationships, and the human spirit.

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New DIY MFA Article on Love as a Literary Theme

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When I noticed my next DIY MFA post was scheduled for the week of Valentine’s Day, I decided it was time for a case study on an appropriate and timeless theme: Love. If you think about it, though, love is one of the most frequently discussed and deeply profound themes in literature. Plus, the most compelling thematic explorations of love touch on romantic love as well as love of other forms (kindness, compassion) and in other types of relationships (friendship, family). This is the case with the two example novels in today’s Theme: A Story’s Soul post, and I hope you *love* the end result (or, at least find it informative). 😉

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New DIY MFA Article: A Case Study on Legacy as a Literary Theme

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Remember how I said that I’m changing my posting schedule next week? That’s because I have two posts for you this week, including my first DIY MFA article of 2018. 😉

Today it’s a case study on legacy and immortality, themes that aren’t examined frequently in literature but can be insightful and profound when that examination is done well. So what makes Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel a brilliant example? By using a museum, historic plays, and two characters who represent different ways of building a legacy that can impact the next generation.

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