Category Archives: writing

Creative writing workshops and journals for physicians


(Image courtesy of Penny Mathews)

The list of physicians who’ve sidelined as creative writers is extensive. The existence of the World Union of Physician Writers is a testament to the long tradition. Among the active writing groups, Pegasus Physicians meet regularly on the Stanford University campus and a creative writers’ group invites new members at the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix. You can find the SEAK Physician and Lawyer Fiction Writers Group on LinkedIn.

A few workshops for physicians who write

Arts, Humanities, and Medicine Program at the Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics

Columbia University Medical Center’s Program in Narrative Medicine

Doctors Who…

The Examined Life Conference hosted by the University of Iowa Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine

Hippocrates Initiative for Poetry and Medicine

Literature + Medicine hosted at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas

Medicine Unboxed

Narrative Medicine

SEAK’s How to Earn Money as a Physician Writer

Seven Doctors Project (7DP)

The Storytelling Workshops collaboration between Massey College, Ars Medica, and the University of Toronto Health, Arts, and Humanities Program

Taos Writing & Wellness Retreat for Health Professionals presented by the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center Office of Continuing Education and The Permanente Journal, Kaiser Permanente

The Writing and Publishing CME course at Harvard Medical School

The Yale Internal Medicine Residency Writers’ Workshop for Yale residents

Journals that publish creative writing about the medical professions

Of course, any literary journal can publish the creative work of a physician, but the publications listed here specialize in the topics of illness, healing, and the medical professions.

AJN: American Journal of Nursing
Abaton – Des Moines University
Ars Medica
The Barefoot Review
Bellevue Literary Review – New York University Langone Medical Center
Blood and Thunder – University of Oklahoma College of Medicine
CHEST Journal
Connective Tissue – University of Texas Health Science Center of San Antonio’s School of Medicine
The Examined Life Journal – University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine
The Healing Muse – SUNY Upstate Medical University’s Center for Bioethics & Humanities
Hektoen International
Hospital Drive – University of Virginia School of Medicine
The Human Touch – Anschutz Medical Campus at the University of Colorado
The Intima: A Journal of Narrative Medicine – Columbia University
JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association
Journal of Medical Humanities
Journal of Poetry Therapy
Journal of Progressive Human Services
Leaflet – The Permanente Journal, Kaiser Permanente
Lifelines – Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College
Medical Literary Messenger
Narrateur – Hofstra North Shore—Long Island Jewish Health System School of Medicine, Hofstra University
Narratio Medicina
Oasis – Wake Forest School of Medicine
The Perch – Yale Program for Recovery and Community Health
The Pharos – Alpha Omega Alpha
Plexus – University of California, Irvine, School of Medicine
Poems in the Waiting Room
proto – Massachusetts General Hospital
Pulse: Voices from the Heart of Medicine – Department of Family and Social Medicine, Montefiore Medical Center and Albert Einstein College of Medicine
Survivor’s Review
Wild Onions – Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine and Milton S. Hershey Medical Center

Learn more

Creative Writing for Surgeons by Carol EH Scott-Conner, MD, PhD

Still can’t stop talking about it: Get Known Before the Book Deal

Day 19: I sincerely wish I could stop talking about it. I wish writers who send me queries had read Christina Katz’s Get Known Before the Book Deal and implemented the strategies she outlines in the book. I wish I didn’t need to tell so many prospective clients to back up and learn exactly what publishers and readers expect of them in 2014. I wish I were a fairy godmother with the power to transmit knowledge, skills, and business sense with the flick of a glitter-spangled wand. I’m weary of repeating myself. I’m whining today.

GET KNOWN BEFORE THE BOOK DEAL by Christina KatzHowever, there is good news! There’s an upside of my frustration, which I assure you is shared by at least a few other agents, as well as book editors and publishers, not to mention successful authors who frequently are asked how they got so lucky. The bright side is that the unbelievably small percentage of writers who apply—that is, put into practice rather than just reading—Christina Katz’s advice can achieve an enormous advantage over the larger number of writers who don’t.

Think about that. Did you just feel the power shifting?

Christina doesn’t promise instant results, and she doesn’t say it’s easy when it’s not. No one ever truly masters self-promotion in a turbulent market, and the mere attempt takes a lot of time. More hard work is exactly what average writers or wannabes will not confront. They believe they should be finished with the work part when they put the last words on the last pages of their manuscripts. They’re ready for the cake, punch, and applause precisely when the going really gets tough. C’mon. Take advantage of their mistakes.

Writers need to exploit every possible asset in order to stand out among thousands of contenders and to get their books noticed among the incredible quantity of titles now frictionlessly available to readers. Those readers easily can choose similar content in other media, often at less expense. Writers who are aware of their competition, respect readers, perfect their manuscripts, consider their art a career, and demonstrate their ability to engage their intended audience, well…

We know who they are.

Full disclosure

Christina Katz is my friend, but I recommend her book because the advice in it is so good. Chuck Sambuchino wrote a similar manual called Create Your Writer Platform, but then I must admit that Chuck’s a friend, too. There’s also Amanda Luedeke’s ebook, The Extroverted Writer: An Author’s Guide to Marketing and Building a Platform. I’ve met Amanda. I like and respect her. She’s a dynamo. Several other books cover this very topic, and some of these resources are likely to be available at the nearest library. By the way, my old neighbor Bob Robertson-Boyd developed the WorldCat interface that shows the closest library where a copy of a particular book can be borrowed.

Musical accompaniment

Believe it or not, I do have a heart. It gets crumpled a lot, to the tune of “The Laugh of Recognition.” Over the Rhine are some of my favorite musicians.

BookADay-The Borough Press

An old favourite: A Dictionary of Modern English Usage

Day 14: I wonder if the folks at the Borough Press who promoted this month of prompts about memorable books have noticed that people tend to like favorable opinions more than unfavorable ones. Favorite is today’s broad category, but old doesn’t narrow it down much for those of us who are old. From many possibilities, I chose a book that I cherish but others consider old and outdated in spite of the fact that Oxford University Press went to the trouble of publishing a facsimile edition in 2010: A Dictionary of Modern English Usage by Henry Watson Fowler. It’s a publisher’s job to know that plenty of us love our Fowlers.

A Dictionary of Modern English UsageBarton Swaim wrote a good review of the new edition of the book for The New Criterion. I can’t help but think that only a person with a name like Barton Swaim should have an opinion about Fowler, but then Swaim is a native South Carolinian who lives in Columbia, less than 100 miles from me. Until I moved to this state, no one had ever before greeted me in passing by saying, “Top o’ the mornin’ to ye.” All sorts of traditions have been preserved around here over the centuries.

Swaim’s review includes a few excerpts. A Dictionary of Modern English Usage is designed to help you to decide rather than to tell you how to write. If you were to try to scan an entry to alleviate some confusion about how to use a particular word, you’d be thwarted by something similar to this, which is about 5% of Fowler’s full discussion of “who and whom”:

…the thing to aim at is the establishment of ‘that’ as the universal defining relative, with ‘which’ and ‘who(m)’ as the non-defining for things and persons respectively. That consummation will not be brought about just yet; but we contribute our little towards it every time we write “The greatest poet ‘that’ ever lived,” or “The man ‘that’ I found confronting me,” instead of using ‘who’ and ‘whom.’ Failing the use of ‘that’ as the only defining relative, it is particularly important to see that ‘who’ defining shall not have a comma before it, and ‘who’ non-defining shall.

The section goes on to provide an example with wrong commas, which I won’t include because to my great dismay this new blog theme forces block quotes into all italics. Maddening. Oops, an unfavorable opinion. Sorry. More importantly, Fowler’s examples are instructive and often humorous, and deciphering his explanations is a big part of the fun.

BookADay-The Borough Press

Have more than one copy: A Writer’s Reference

A Writer's ReferenceDay 8: A Writer’s Reference is the abridged edition of Diana Hacker’s The Bedford Handbook. Roughly the size of an old-fashioned address book with a plastic comb binding, its best feature is the convenient, easy-to-use design. Nancy Sommers is the lead co-author of the newer editions.

My copies—one for home and one for the office—are antiques, and I’ve given and frequently recommended the compact handbook. Everyone seems to appreciate A Writer’s Reference‘s many examples, some illustrated with correction marks. Lately, there are ebook editions, as well as a website, Writer’s Help, which expands on the content in A Writer’s Reference and is touted for its search and social features.

You might question whether A Writer’s Reference is worth the steep price, now that few people fret about grammar, punctuation, or word choice. I suppose an answer can be found in Taylor Mali‘s poem “The The Impotence of Proofreading.” You’ve seen the video of his reading, but here it is again, from the Bowery Poetry Club in 2005.

The Diana Hacker TYCA Outstanding Programs in English Awards, which is sponsored by the Two-Year College English Association (TYCA) of the National Council of Teachers of English and the books’ publisher, Bedford/St. Martin’s, is accepting program nominations online until November 10, 2014.

BookADay-The Borough Press

Forgot I owned it: Train

Day 7: “Forgot I gave it away” is more the norm, but I’ll look in the bookcases for a surprise. Thank goodness there will be physical evidence of my absent memory.

Train, by Pete Dexter (hardcover)Five minutes later: Oh, right. Déjà vu. I’ve been meaning to read Train. Now, I will. Finally. And I’ll stop shelving unread books.

This is the opening paragraph of Train, Pete Dexter’s sixth novel:

At this point in the story, Packard had never fallen in love, and didn’t trust what he’d heard of the lingo (forever, my darling, with all my heart, till the end of time, more than life itself, with every fiber of my being, oh my darling Clementine, etc.). It sounded out of control to him, and messy.

Train, by Pete Dexter (paperback)Pete Dexter hasn’t written enough books. I refuse to tear through all eight, because who knows when there will be more? You know the feeling—that clutching, overkeen anticipation you experience only when the author is one of your favorites.

In 2011, Pete Dexter and Pete Hammill discussed their early careers as newspaper journalists. You can read Part I and Part II of their Q&A on the Mullholland Books blog. Both men were drawn to the work for which they’re best suited, and then years of doing the job intensified their essential qualifications for it.

Every ambitious writer is impatient to achieve these two authors’ level of expertise. A few will reach it, after decades of practice, and then understand what the effort took.

BookADay-The Borough Press

Litmags that specialize in literary travel writing

From my public literary magazine database, I’ve gathered a list of publications devoted to literary travel writing (usually not including space or time travel, for which there are many other outlets). The travel theme gives these journals an identity that appeals to someone like me, who enjoys meandering.

Did you know there’s an International Society for Travel Writing whose website includes information on conferences and publishing opportunities?

White Sands (Fré Sonneveld)

(Photograph courtesy of Fré Sonneveld)

Don’t hesitate to tell me if I’ve overlooked your favorite literary magazine that specializes in travel writing. Perhaps I should have included better-known glossies like National Geographic and Travel + Leisure. I do like to read those at the dentist’s office.

Bibliophilic Wanderlust


Bunyan Velo

Caligae Travel Files (for sale)

The Journal of African Travel-Writing (no longer published)

Literary Bohemian

Lowestoft Chronicle


Outside In Literary & Travel Magazine

Perceptive Travel

Pure Slush: A Year of Travel (during 2014)

Roads & Kingdoms

Silk Road Review

Tales To Go

The Travel Almanac

Travel Chronicles

Travel Classics

The Travel Itch

Travelers’ Tales: Editors’ Choice Flying Carpet




The Telegraph holds a weekly travel writing competition. Writers can email their entries.

Are you traveling and journaling this summer? Would you post a link to your story, if your travel writing is published this year? (This is a new blog theme. The comment link is just below the title for each post, which is a little counterintuitive, I think.)

Additional resource

The Review Review occasionally publishes lists of literary magazines that share a particular theme or orientation. Head on over there for the lowdown.

Practical business strategies for freelance writers

home office

(Photograph courtesy of Louis J. Hall)

If you want to make a living as a freelance writer, then you’ll need a realistic perspective of the writing endeavors that pay best in relation to the amounts of time they require. Having recently faced financial reality when filing your income tax return, you ought to know exactly how much money it takes to support your household for 365 days.

I’m in the midst of reading Chris Higgins’ $2.99 ebook, The Blogger Abides: A Practical Guide to Writing Well & Not Starving, but it’s not too soon to recommend it as a primer for anyone who wants to make a profession of freelance writing. Based on the author’s experience as a paid blogger, the book is filled with succinct advice that’s logical and easy to understand.

The markets for different types of writing will fluctuate, but the laws of supply and demand remain predictable. Lower barriers to entry (digital publishing and online distribution) enable and increase suppliers (writers). If the demand (from readers) for the product (written work) remains steady (it has!) and does not increase along with the supply, then prices for the product (written work) will decrease. Whimpering and wallowing in self-pity will not change this.

In his 2008 book Here Comes Everybody, Clay Shirky makes the point, “If everyone can do something, it is no longer rare enough to pay for, even if it is vital.”

Advances in free or inexpensive web editing, blogging, or content management software have all but removed the technological barriers that existed when the Web was new. Now that virtually everyone can publish their written work, publishing per se gradually is shifting from a professional to an amateur endeavor. Some say the transformation already has occurred.

Web-based content is distributed globally and is more easily retrievable than printed materials, which means the best and the most widely discussed writing on the Web can be reproduced and shared with few obstacles. If “published” no longer distinguishes the professional from the amateur writer, then perhaps “widely read” and “paid” have become the new criteria. How to find readers and get paid are the problems a freelance writer needs to solve now. It should be some consolation that being a good writer matters as much as it ever did.

Additional resources on this topic

Publishing the work of currently and formerly incarcerated writers

Writers who are prison inmates seem particularly isolated from potential mentors and writing peer groups. Very few publishers specialize in their stories. Writing workshops for inmates offer education and inspiration, but the participants are bound to have a difficult time finding additional outlets for their creative work.

These are a few of the organizations that provide publication resources to, or publish the work of, currently and formerly incarcerated writers. Maybe prison workshop instructors will share this list or consider founding a new publication.

I’ll add to this list when I notice more in this niche. Please feel free to leave a comment about any publication I’ve overlooked.

Successful writers learn to conduct their own research and manage their careers, while novice writers often miss the practical lessons and remain stymied. Joining a good writers’ group is one of the best ways to get answers and advice about how to be published.