Write Moves: A Creative Writing Guide and Anthology
  • Publication Date: August 4, 2016
  • ISBN: 9781554812264 / 1554812267
  • 448 pages; 6½" x 9"

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Write Moves: A Creative Writing Guide and Anthology

  • Publication Date: August 4, 2016
  • ISBN: 9781554812264 / 1554812267
  • 448 pages; 6½" x 9"

Write Moves is an invitation for the student to understand and experience creative writing in the larger frame of humanities education. The practical instruction offered comes in the form of “moves” or tactics for the apprentice writer to try. But the title also speaks to a core value of this project: that creative writing exists to move us. The book focuses on concise, human-voiced instruction in poetry, the short story, and the short creative nonfiction essay.

Emphasis on short forms allows the beginning student to appreciate lessons in craft without being overwhelmed by lengthy model texts; diverse examples of these genres are offered in the anthology.

For an excerpt from Write Moves, please see our blog post: “Why Write? An Excerpt from Nancy Pagh’s Write Moves.”


“Within a semester of starting to use Write Moves I realized that not only did my students find it both accessible and inspirational, but that the book covered the subjects I wanted covered with surprising sophistication and depth. The bottom line: since I started using Write Moves, my Intro to Creative Writing students have consistently produced the best work I’ve ever gotten from these classes. This book is magic, and I regularly recommend it to my colleagues.” — John Reimringer, Normandale Community College, author of Vestments: A Novel (named a Publishers Weekly best book of 2010)

Write Moves lays out the essential matters of the writer’s craft with precision. It takes the reader on a journey across three distinct genres—poetry, short story, and essay—offering a wealth of practical advice on the way. Nancy Pagh’s writing exercises and thoughtfully chosen anthology are a gift for creative writing students.” — Raza Ali Hasan, author of Sorrows of the Warrior Class

“Inspiring and comprehensive, Write Moves takes a friendly, colloquial tone, gently guiding aspiring writers through the often intimidating process of putting pen to paper and then reworking (and reworking!) those initial words until they’re just right. Pagh succeeds in creating a fun, flexible, and energetic approach to writing. The selection of readings hits on traditional favorites as well as contemporary and innovative works; the blend is bound to spark creativity.” — Angie Abdou, Athabasca University

“A sharp, keenly perceptive guide and anthology, distinguished from its peers in imagination and scope. By imbuing each chapter with examples from her own process, Pagh eschews the stuffiness one typically associates with guides of this sort. Far from prescriptive, the effect is welcoming and formative. This anthology will prove valuable for student and teacher alike.” — Rod Moody-Corbett, University of Calgary

Write Moves is an excellent resource for those teaching and studying Creative Writing. It is comprehensive, rigorous, and highly readable. No matter what sort of imaginative work you are interested in bringing into this world, you will find much here to focus and illuminate your practice.” — Wayde Compton, Simon Fraser University


I. Practice

Why Write?
Language that is our own
Chaos and control
To write as if we matter

Practicing Perception
Showing up
Timed practice
Attention and empathy
Sitting with
Procrastination and perfectionism
Reading as practice

Running as far as we can
Defusing three sources of tension
Habits of hand, habits of mind

Writing is rewriting
The transition from author to reader
Exceeding your initial expectations
Feedback and workshop
Line editing and polishing

II. Craft

Image, Detail, and Figurative Language
Creating an experience
Using specific details
Figuring the figurative

Sound like you mean it
The mind’s ear
Cultivating a sound garden
Use the gas and use the brakes

Character and Setting
A symbiotic relationship
Somebody somewhere
Desire and change
Creating memorable characters
Many uses for setting

Scene, Exposition, Reflection
Three modes to direct
Causing scenes
Going on an exposition
Thought, distance, reflection

Voice and Perspective
An animated presence
Many points of view
The lens of perspective
Another’s voice

III. Genre

Writing Poems
The eternal virginity of words
Lines and rhymes
Measuring meter
Shapes for our singing

Writing Stories
How stories move
The story arc
Plotting time
Plotting trouble
Truth and fiction
Literary fiction and genre fiction

Writing Personal Essays
The umbrella of nonfiction
Personal truth
The “I” of the essay
Form and feeling

IV. Anthology
Alternative Tables of Contents
Contents by Genre and Form
Contents by Theme

Kelli Russell Agodon, “Geography”

    see also Ak’Abal, Humberto, “The Dance”

Sherman Alexie, “Totem Sonnets” One and Seven
Taiaiake Alfred, “What I Think of When I Think of Skin”
Dorothy Allison, from Two or Three Things I Know for Sure
Sherwood Anderson, “A Death in the Woods”

    see also Anonymous, “Old Man of Nantucket”

Reinaldo Arenas, “The Downpour”
Elizabeth Bachinsky, “For the Pageant Girls”

    see also Basho, Matsuo, untitled

Jean-Dominique Bauby, “Bathtime”
Jo Ann Beard, “The Fourth State of Matter”
Ambrose Bierce, “Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge”
Barbara Bloom, “Making Things Right”
Stephanie Bolster, “Many Have Written Poems about Blackberries”
T. Alan Broughton, “Song for Samson”
Emily Carr, “The Cow Yard”
Raymond Carver, “Chef’s House”
Arlan Cashier, “Lost Sweater”
Ann Choi, “The Shower”
Kate Chopin, “The Story of an Hour”
Sandra Cisneros, “My Wicked Wicked Ways”
Ivan E. Coyote, “This, That, and the Other Thing”
Jim Crace, untitled #17 from The Devil’s Larder
James Crews, “Lover Boys”

    see also Crozier, Lorna, “first cause: light”

Michael Crummy, “Bread”
Natalie Diaz, “My Brother at 3 A.M.”
Emily Dickinson, “I started Early &mdash: Took my Dog &mdash”
Annie Dillard, “Signals at Sea”
Brian Doyle, “Leap”

    see also Dumont, Marilyn, “Still Unsaved Soul”

T. S. Eliot, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”

    see also Flenniken, Kathleen, “What I Saw”
    see also Forché, Carolyn, “The Colonel”

David Foster Wallace, “Incarnations of Burned Children”
Gabriel García Márquez, “The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World”
Samuel Green, “Some Reasons Why I Became a Poet”
Corrine Hales, “Power”
Kathleen Halme, “A Study in O
Barbara Hamby, “Ode to My 1977 Toyota”
Patricia Hampl, “Red Sky in the Morning”
Joy Harjo, “Suspended”
Terrance Hayes, “The Same City”
Ernest Hemingway, “Hills like White Elephants”
Langston Hughes, “Harlem (2)”
Maria Hummel, “I’m This Many”
David Ignatow, “The Bagel”
Denis Johnson, “Steady Hands at Seattle General”
James Joyce, “Eveline”
Kristiana Kahakauwila, “Thirty-Nine Rules For Making a Hawaiian Funeral Into A Drinking Game”
Rachel Knudsen, “How to Enter the Ocean”

    see also Kurono, Yasuko, untitled

Stephen Kuusisto, “Horse”
Patrick Lane, “The Far Field”
Evelyn Lau, “An Insatiable Emptiness”
Josh Lefkowitz, “Saturday Salutation”
Susan Lester, “Belongings”
Paul Lisicky, “Snapshot, Harvey Cedars: 1948”
Sonja Livingston, “The Ghetto Girls’ Guide to Dating and Romance”
Patricia Lockwood, “Rape Joke”
Alistair MacLeod, “The Boat”
John Marshall, “Taken With” series #22
Paul Martínez Pompa, “Exclamation Point”
Marty McConnell, “Frida Kahlo to Marty McConnell”

    see also Mendoza, Carlos, “Young Don Juan”

Edna St. Vincent Millay, “What Lips My Lips Have Kissed. . .”
Brenda Miller, “Getting Yourself Home”
Madison Minder, “Green”
Janice Mirikitani, “Recipe”
Shani Mootoo, “Out on Main Street”
Donald Murray, “War Stories Untold”
Aimee Nezhukumatathil, “The Witching Hour”
Lewis Nordan, “Owls”
Howard Norman, from I Hate to Leave this Beautiful Place
B. J. Novak, “Julie and the Warlord”
Flannery O’Connor, “A Good Man Is Hard To Find”

    see also Oliver, Mary, “The Summer Day”

Michael Ondaatje, “The Cinnamon Peeler”
Mallory Opel, “Among the Blossoms”
Simon Ortiz, “My Father’s Song”

    see also Pagh, Nancy, “After I Die”

Nancy Pagh, “Love Song: After T.S. Eliot”
Elise Partridge, “Edwin Partridge”
Sylvia Plath, “Mirror”

    see also Purpura, Lia, “September 9”

Sina Queyras, “On the Scent, #14”
Simon Rich, “Unprotected”
Rainer Maria Rilke, “ARchaic Torso of Apollo”
David Sedaris, “The Drama Bug”

    see also Seibles, Tim, “Treatise”

Richard Selzer, “The Knife”
Richard Shelton, “The Stones”
Peggy Shumaker, “Moving Water, Tucson”
Richard Siken, “Scheherezade”
Tom Sleigh, “Aubade”
Patricia Smith, “Hip-Hop Ghazal”
Mark Spragg, “In Wyoming”
Brent Staples, “The Coroner’s Photographs”
Lawrence Sutin, “Father Holding Baby”
Amy Tan, “Confessions”
Madeleine Thien, “Simple Recipes”

    see also Turner, Brian, “Eulogy”

James Tyner, “At a Barbecue for R.C. One Week after He Is Out of Iraq”
Priscila Uppal, “Sorry, I Forgot To Clean Up After Myself”
Luisa Valenzuela, “Vision out of the Corner of One Eye”
Thomas Whitecloud, “Blue Winds Dancing”
Walt Whitman, “When I heard the Learn’d Astronomer”

    see also Wilbur, Richard, “Sleepless at Crown Point”

Theresa Williams, “Urgent Note for My Son Langston”
Jeannette Winterson, “The Three Friends”
James Wright, “A Blessing”
Bethany Yeager, “Divorce”

Permissions Acknowledgements

Nancy Pagh teaches creative writing, literature, and Canadian-American studies at Western Washington University. She is the author of the poetry collections No Sweeter Fat (Autumn House Press, 2007) and Once Removed (MoonPath Press, 2016) and of At Home Afloat: Women on the Waters of the Pacific Northwest (University of Calgary Press, 2001). Her work has appeared in Prairie Schooner, Canadian Literature, RHINO, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Rattle, Crab Creek Review, The Bellingham Review, Poetry Northwest, O magazine, and many other journals.

For a sample from Write Moves, “Why Write?” click here. (Opens as a PDF.)

— Balances a personal and poetic voice with the more direct and practical instruction required for the classroom
Practical instruction in the form of “moves” or tactics for the apprentice writer to try
Anthology offers striking and suggestive lesser-known works alongside a handful of instructive, enriching “classics”
Exercises and prompts are interspersed throughout the guide section
Emphasizes close reading and the connection between reading and writing with many in-text examples, quotations, and references to the anthology
— Very inexpensive compared to other “instruction + anthology” books of similar scope