January/February 2024

A painting of a cloud cracked open, revealing a robin’s egg blue interior. A metallic substance trickles out of the cloud and toward an idyllic pond surrounded by trees. P&W logo in white and magazine headlines in white and blue condensed font appear above the cloud.

In the Inspiration Issue we present our nineteenth annual feature on ten of the year’s best debut poets; elemental insights from five accomplished writers on the alchemy of inspiration; an interview with the executive director of Kundiman, Cathy Linh Che; an essay on why ChatGPT will never capture the genius of lived experience; an author’s perspective of the work of publicity and marketing; plus writing prompts, publishing myths, contest deadlines, and more. 

The Alchemy of Inspiration

Fire: Be the Revolution

by Lidia Yuknavitch
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The author of Thrust analyzes the origins of her passion for storytelling and challenges writers to discover what gives their stories urgency in a world that doesn’t always choose life and love over death and destruction.

Water: Stay Fluid

by Miciah Bay Gault
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Just as water takes the shape of its container, writers should allow themselves to be shaped by influence—openness, curiosity, and humility are tools that help unlock the possibilities of learning and inspiration.

Air: Speak and Breathe

by Brenda Shaughnessy
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Renowned poet and author of Tanya reflects upon the indelible impact of war on her family history and air as a medium for sharing essential narratives of the past with the future.

Earth: Ground Yourself in Purpose

by Laura Spence-Ash
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Some ideas just stick: Paying attention and being able to find patterns within what repeatedly inspires can help us find a way forward when self-doubt threatens to overwhelm.

Manifest Some Magic: Get Out of Your Own Way and Do the Darn Thing

by Camille T. Dungy
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It is easier to see the beauty in a finished project than to find pleasure in the process, but few things worth our effort are consistently easy. Push past the tedium and watch your writing grow.

News and Trends

The Practical Writer

Publishing Myths: “It’s Impossible to Sell a Story or Essay Collection”

by Kate McKean
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In our column debunking the myths of the publishing industry, a veteran agent explains why selling a story or essay collection can be difficult (but not impossible) in today’s book market.

An Author’s View of Publicity and Marketing: What to Expect From the Promotion of Your Book

by Jimin Han
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The author of The Apology demystifies book promotion for the uninitiated, offering writers advice on collaborating with the professionals who work to get the word out about their new book.

The Literary Life

The Time is Now: Writing Prompts and Exercises

by Staff
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Write a poem exploring the complexity of love, a short story that withholds the backstory of a character, or an essay considering a time in your life in which you wanted to become someone new.