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"Whenever I’m feeling stuck or stale in my writing, I find that the proverbial walk in the woods offers everything from relief to inspiration. When my subject is too raw, I’m soothed by the solitude of the forest—solitude meaning alone without the page staring me in the face. When I feel like my writing is lacking texture or isn’t visual enough, I get outside and try to run through all my senses—what scents are in the air? What sounds? Getting my legs moving, feeling the prickerbushes rip at my arms, the sharp glare of the sun or snap of wind in my face all offer a physicality that jolts me out of the rote rhythm of writing, that computer cocoon. My husband, Mark Milroy, is an artist and I also like to look at his landscapes for this same awakening effect. I call him a nonfiction painter and I know firsthand most of the views where he paints his landscapes. Yet I am always astounded by what he sees. His work has changed the way I see—the layering of hills, the purple of a field, the strange rectangular angle of an oncoming ocean wave. His skies are never simply blue, his grass never simply green. It took me a while to realize the same is true in real life—a fundamental realization for a nonfiction writer!"
—Kelly McMasters is the author of Welcome to Shirley: A Memoir from an Atomic Town (PublicAffairs, 2008)