Write Moves

Write MovesClick on cover to purchase, or buy from Broadview

Write Moves is an invitation 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.


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

Table of Contents

Welcome reader . . . welcome student . . . welcome teacher

I. Practice

Why Write?
Language that is our own . . . chaos and control . . . to write as if we

Practicing Perception
Showing up . . . timed practice . . . prompts . . . attention and empathy
. . . sitting with . . . procrastination and perfectionism . . . reading as

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 workshops . . .
line editing and polishing

II. Craft

Image, Detail, and Figurative Language
Creating an experience . . . using specific details . . . figuring the

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

Alternate Tables of Contents
Contents by Genre and Form
Contents by Theme


Agodon, Kelli Russell, “Geography”
Ak’’Abal, Humberto, “The Dance”
Alexie, Sherman, “Totem Sonnets” One and Seven
Alfred, Taiaiake, “What I Think of When I Think of Skin”
Allison, Dorothy, from Two or Three Things I Know for Sure
Anderson, Sherwood, “A Death in the Woods”
Anonymous, “Old Man of Nantucket”
Arenas, Reinaldo, “The Downpour”
Bachinsky, Elizabeth, “For the Pageant Girls”
Bashō, Matsuo, untitled
Bauby, Jean-Dominique, “Bathtime”
Beard, Jo Ann, “The Fourth State of Matter”
Bierce, Ambrose, “Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge”
Bloom, Barbara, “Making Things Right”
Bolster, Stephanie, “Many Have Written Poems about Blackberries”
Broughton, T. Alan, “Song for Samson”
Carr, Emily, “The Cow Yard”
Carver, Raymond, “Chef’s House”
Cashier, Arlan, “Lost Sweater”
Choi, Ann, “The Shower”
Chopin, Kate, “The Story of an Hour”
Cisneros, Sandra, “My Wicked Wicked Ways”
Coyote, Ivan E., “This, That, and the Other Thing”
Crace, Jim, untitled #17 from The Devil’s Larder
Crews, James, “Lover Boys”
Crozier, Lorna “First Cause: Light”
Crummy, Michael, “Bread”
Diaz, Natalie, “My Brother at 3 A.M.”
Dillard, Annie, “Signals at Sea”
Doyle, Brian, “Leap”
Dumont, Marilyn, “Still Unsaved Soul”
Eliot, T. S., “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”
Flenniken, Kathleen, “What I Saw”
Forché, Carolyn, “The Colonel”
Foster Wallace, David, “Incarnations of Burned Children”
Green, Samuel, “Some Reasons Why I Became a Poet”
Green, Samuel, “Stroke”
Hales, Corrine “Power”
Halme, Kathleen, “A Study in O”
Hamby, Barbara, “Ode to My 1977 Toyota”
Hampl, Patricia, “Red Sky in the Morning”
Harjo, Joy, “Suspended”
Hayes, Terrance, “The Same City”
Hemingway, Ernest, “Hills like White Elephants”
Hughes, Langston, “Harlem”
Hummel, Maria, “I’m This Many”
Ignatow, David, “The Bagel”
Johnson, Denis, “Steady Hands at Seattle General”
Joyce, James, “Eveline”
Kahakauwila, Kristiana, “Thirty-Nine Rules For Making a Hawaiian Funeral Into A Drinking Game”
Knudsen, Rachel, “How to Enter the Ocean”
Kurono, Yasuko, untitled
Kuusisto, Stephen, “Horse”
Lane, Patrick, “The Far Field”
Lau, Evelyn, “An Insatiable Hunger”
Lefkowitz, Josh, “Saturday Salutation”
Lester, Susan, “Belongings”
Lisicky, Paul, “Snapshot, Harvey Cedars: 1948”
Livingston, Sonja, “The Ghetto Girls’ Guide to Dating and Romance”
Lockwood, Patricia, “Rape Joke”
MacLeod, Alistair, “The Boat”
Márquez, Gabriel García, “The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World”
Marshall, John, “Taken With” series #22
McConnell, Marty, “Frida Kahlo to Marty McConnell”
Mendoza, Carlos, “Young Don Juan”
Millay, Edna St. Vincent, “What Lips My Lips Have Kissed. . .”
Miller, Brenda, “Getting Yourself Home”
Minder, Madison, “Green”
Mirikitani, Janice, “Recipe”
Mootoo, Shani, “Out on Main Street”
Murray, Donald, “War Stories Untold”
Nezhukumatathil, Aimee, “The Witching Hour”
Nordan, Lewis, “Owls”
Norman, Howard, from I Hate to Leave this Beautiful Place
Novak, B. J., “Julie and the Warlord”
O’Connor, Flannery, “A Good Man Is Hard To Find”
Oliver, Mary, “The Summer Day”
Ondaatje, Michael, “The Cinnamon Peeler”
Opel, Mallory, “Among the Blossoms”
Ortiz, Simon, “My Father’s Song”
Pagh, Nancy, “After I Die”
Pagh, Nancy, “Love Song”
Partridge, Elise, “A Gentle Man”
Plath, Sylvia, “Mirror”
Pompa, Paul Martinez, “Exclamation Point”
Purpura, Lia, “September”
Queyras, Sina, “Tummy Flat”
Rich, Simon, “Unprotected”
Rider, Bhanu Kapil, “Three Voices”
Rilke, Rainer Maria, “Archaic Torso of Apollo”
Sedaris, David, “The Drama Bug”
Seibles, Tim, “Treatise”
Selzer, Richard, “The Knife”
Shelton, Richard, “The Stones”
Shumaker, Peggy, “Moving Water, Tucson”
Siken, Richard, “Scheherazade”
Sleigh, Tom, “Aubade”
Smith, Patricia, “Hip-Hop Ghazal”
Spragg Mark, “In Wyoming”
Staples, Brent, “The Coroner’s Photographs”
Sutin, Lawrence, “Father Holding Baby”
Tan, Amy, “Confessions”
Thien, Madeleine “Simple Recipes”
Turner, Brian, “Eulogy”
Tyner, James, “At a Barbecue for R.C.”
Uppal, Priscila, “Sorry, I Forgot To Clean Up After Myself”
Valenzuela, Luisa, “Vision out of the Corner of One Eye”
Whitecloud, Thomas, “Blue Winds Dancing”
Whitman, Walt, “The Learned Astronomer”
Wilbur, Richard “Sleepless at Crown Point”
Williams, Theresa, “Urgent Note for My Son Langston”
Winterson, Jeanette, “The Three Friends”
Wright, James, “A Blessing”
Yeager, Bethany, “Divorce”