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The Irresistible Voice

A colleague of mine recently shared this story: “This afternoon I was sitting in a doctor’s office reading a random article about Utah hot springs in whatever magazine was on the table, and belly laughing. I read the lede: ‘I was floating on my back, looking at the Wellsville Mountains in the distance and dissolving problems in water the precise temperature of inner peace,’ and I thought: Chris Colin.”

We who know Chris and his writing agreed: he has a distinctive (and funny) voice.

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Books to inspire

My favorite part of the writing process comes at the beginning: I go the Library of Congress and search for everything ever written on my subject. Then I find a carrel and wait for books to be delivered to me. One of those was a delightful book called The Garden of Eloquence, published in 1577. Another was a little book self-published by Mark Twain called English As She Is Taught, which collected the hilarious impressions schoolchildren hold of grammar.

Here are other books that have become my favorites, whether because I discovered them at the Library of Congress, or because I’ve turned to them again and again when I’ve been in trouble. The list also includes books recommended by writers I trust. They are listed alphabetically, so make sure to read to the end!

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First persona

How do we write about ourselves without narcissism? I recently gave a public talk at the University of Hawai‘i, Mānoa, on that perennially perplexing question: How do we writers “find our voice”? A couple of days later I led a workshop on crafting personal stories and memoirs. I’ve devoted an entire New York Times column […]

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