What is Good Writing?: A guest post by Lynn Lovegreen

The University of
Alaska Anchorage hosts a series of readings every summer. All of the writers
who participate are either Alaskans or faculty from their MFA program.
Recently, I went on two consecutive nights to hear writers read from their
work. The styles were wildly different, and nonfiction, poetry, and fiction
were all represented. But all the readings were examples of good writing. That
got me thinking, what is good writing?
After hearing Carolyn
Turgeron (http://carolynturgeon.com/),
Eva Saulitis (http://evasaulitis.com/),
Joan Kane (http://thecormoranthunterswife.com), Sherry
Simpson (http://www.sherrysimpson.net/),
Nancy Lord (http://www.nancylord.alaskawriters.com/), and
Jo-Ann Mapson (http://www.joannmapson.com/),
I had several examples at my fingertips. What did they all have in common? Each
writer used her talents to combine the specific and universal in a way that
touched readers.
Whether it was a
particular flower, the look of a scar, or the name of a TV show, these writers
used specific details to put us in a certain time and place. (As Chekov said,
“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken
glass.”) Then they gave us something to care about. These writers used those
details to show us something universal. 
Maybe we haven’t had a sister who was raped, but we’ve tried to help a
loved one through a crisis. Maybe we haven’t been to that mountain, but we want
wild places in our own lives.  Whatever
the situation, good writing allows us to follow one person to universal truths.
We find ourselves thinking about important ideas like wilderness or love. And
by the end of the story or poem or essay, we are moved or changed. That is good
I’d like to say I do
the same in my own writing, but that won’t be tested until I am published this
fall. We’ll see what readers think. In the meantime, I can aspire to that goal.
While Ellie and Billy take their journey on the Chilkoot Trail, I hope you’ll
go with them on the trip. And hopefully you’ll also think about your own coming
of age, about love and life. If you do, then that’s good writing too.
First posted at www.lynnlovegreen.com. Lynn
Lovegreen has written several interviews for 49 Writers. Her first novel, Fools Gold, will be published by Prism
Book Group in the fall.

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