Newest Brief Essays

"Women's Hour, YMCA" featured in Kenyon Review Online

"I Second That Emotion" (craft essay) featured in New Ohio Review


Other Brief Essays

"Advanced Directive to My Future Roommate…"

"Things Gone the Way of Time," recently reprinted in Brief Encounters: A Collection of Contemporary Nonfiction (Norton)


Study with Rebecca this summer

Kenyon Review Writers Workshop, June 18-25


Kenyon Review PODCAST with Rebecca

(on memoir, genre-crossing, writing practice, and more)


Word Painting Revised Edition: The Fine Art of Writing Descriptively

New edition includes over 100 writing exercises for all genres.

Word Painting

The Tribal Knot

Rebecca'a newest nonfiction book, The Tribal Knot: A Memoir of Family, Community, and a Century of Change is now available from Indiana University Press and Amazon.

Tribal Knot
Word Painting: A Guide to Writing More Descriptively
• Now in its 5th printing, and first KINDLE edition
• Nearly 35,000 copies sold

Word Painting: A Guide to Writing More Descriptively
This guide combines direct instruction with writing exercises designed to increase your powers of observation and help you "paint" fresh, evocative descriptions. It includes passages from classic and contemporary masters such as Gustave Flaubert and Toni Morrison, as well as the advice of writers and poets from Aristotle to William Stafford.
Read excerpts.

Published by Writer's Digest Books
9781599638683 (paperback)

Amazon Readers' Comments

One of the best
Reviewer: Suzanne E Anderson
"This is one of the best books on improving your writing skills. Ms. McClanahan's writing style is inviting and reassuring. Both beginners and experienced writers will benefit from her instruction on how adding descriptive elements will enrich the reading experience for our target audience and make us better writers."

Keeping the pencil sharp
Reviewer: Karon Luddy from Charlotte, NC
"This book has been a godsend to me. It's been enormously helpful in doing the final edit of my novel. Reading it made me feel like I had my own personal editor. The conversational tone of the book is inviting, nurturing, and encouraging. Any discussion of point of view usually makes me groan, but the way Rebecca McClanahan writes about it is exceptionally sane, enthralling even. The author is a master teacher, writer, and reader. Rebecca McClanahan is generous in sharing the secrets of her fine craft. This book would be fabulous for intermediate to advanced writers to read at least once a year to help keep the pencil sharp. The writing exercises are provocative and creative. This book showed me many things I would never have learned on my own. It made me want to be a better writer."

For a More Picturesque Use of Language
Reviewer: Gloria Stern from LA
"Just as all boats rise with the tide, Ms. McClanahan's book, Word Painting, has the power to elevate the writing process for all those who would apply her insight and skillful direction. I intend to have it at my elbow as I write. It is a valuable resource - not only for me, but I will be happy to pass its precepts on to my students."

If I could give this book 10 stars, I would.
Reviewer: Dr. Ervin Nieves, Iowa City
"It's that great. I place Word Painting on the top ten list of any writer's workbench: professional, journeyman, or amateur. I will re-read McClanahan's book many times, and will enjoy every delicious word of her prose again and again. What a magnificent book on writing! Please write more of them Ms. McClanahan. You are simply a superb teacher I can't stop admiring!"