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Books of 2016

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My favorite books published in 2016:

1.  News of the World.  Paulette Jiles's short and beautiful Western was deeply moving and it is one of those rare books of which I can honestly say that every single sentence is a gem.  Absolutely the novel of the year for me.


2.  Mothering Sunday.  Graham Swift wrote this elegant and stunning 192 page novel.  Its shortness emphasizes just how masterful it is because in just a few pages Swift creates an entire world and gives us big themes like class, the power of storytelling, and loss, all delivered in prose that is erotic, economical, and powerful.

3.  Raymie Nightingale.  Kate DiCamillo wrote one of my all-time favorite books, Because of Winn Dixie, but this one is almost as good.  A look at the definitions of friendship, family (chosen and blood), and the desire to be a good person.  I absolutely loved it.




4.  Miss Jane.  Full disclosure here:  the author, Brad Watson, was one of my mentors when I was studying for my MFA.  But that doe…

New website

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Check out my new website at www.silas-house.com




Walking to Write: An Exercise in Observation and The Abstract

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I'm sharing a writing exercise I'm giving to my writing students tomorrow.

I'll be taking the students into the woods along Brushy Fork Creek here in Berea, Kentucky. This is a quiet area (pictured here as it appears in early spring) full of old beech trees and the meandering creek that begs for people to wade in it, offering a music of running water that is instantly calming.


Once there, they will be given the following handout, which includes a prompt directing them to make a list of sensory details which they will use to write about an abstract emotion. I'm sharing this exercise because I want to encourage more people to incorporate walking into their writing lives. It is absolutely the door to all writing for me.

I hope you might print out the handout below and use it for your own writing exercise. And even if you don't, I hope you'll go into the woods, or walk amongst trees, wherever that may be.

Comments or questions are welcome in the comments sectio…

What I Know: A Prayer Essay

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This year:

Find a creek, river, lake, or ocean, and be still beside it for a time. Sit by an open fire and watch the flames. Sit on the porch and lie on the grass. Light candles. Take a deep breath. Write a letter to someone.

Discover something new everyday. Learn. Tell stories. Listen to old people. Ask them questions.

Do something nice for others when you can and don't hesitate to be kind to yourself.

Read actual, real books and newspapers.

Spend an entire day without looking at your phone. If you feel the urge to post a selfie everyday, take a picture of some other beautiful thing instead.  Remember that there is power in moderation.

Learn to cook or bake something new. Enjoy every meal. Savor your food. Drink water.

Be completely quiet. Turn your favorite song up as loud as it will go.

If someone makes you feel bad all the time, get away from them. Laugh with others. Laugh while you're alone.

Spend time with animals. They make us better people.

Don't judge. Think this…