The Muses Among Us
Eloquent Listening and Other Pleasures of the Writer’s Craft

Kim Stafford

A seasoned writing teacher shows us how to "listen deep, begin clear, brave all, and offer our best beyond ourselves"


"Much about Kim’s book is more alive and sadly aware of what it means to be a writer than any other recent how-to-write book I’ve seen in decades. Clearly Kim holds the flag for the gutsy mix of compassionate, political engagement and love of vivid scene that American authors had better take on if they don’t want to be easy livers in our vicious culture."
—Carol Bly, author of The Passionate, Accurate Story

"I’ve been awaiting this book for years, and now I rejoice to hold it in my hands. Kim Stafford has distilled into these pages the wisdom of his long practice not only as a writer and teacher, but also as a son and husband and father, and as a citizen of the great community of Earth. Part minstrel, part wizard, he shows us that writing begins in listening, to outer as well as inner voices, and listening begins in wonder. If you want to stir up your art and soul, sit down with this inspiring book."
—Scott Russell Sanders, author of Hunting for Hope and The Force of Spirit

"Son of poet William Stafford, Oregon writer Kim Stafford offers a brief, gem-packed primer on the writer’s craft, drawing largely from his experiences as writer, teacher, and ‘professional eavesdropper.’ . . . A rich resource for any writer, but particularly for those who value writing as a path to personal fulfillment."

"This slim volume is a lyrically written treatise on Stafford's writing principles, which deal with all stages of development, starting with the first stimulus (or 'muse') and ending with the finished piece. . . . The book could be described as a series of impressions, beautifully composed and abstract enough to force the writing student to sense intuitively what the author wants to convey."
Library Journal

"The air in The Muses Among Us is rich with the scents of earth and what grows upon it. . . . Stafford has composed a handbook that will lead writers or would-be writers away from the esoteric details and back to the source: ‘a sense of abundance—rich knowledge and boundless curiosity.’ The Muses Among Us is a quick read with a lasting lesson."
Seattle Times

"The book is a joy to read, offering both practical and abstract advice."
Chattanooga Times

"A delightful invitation to listen to the unlikely. And although it can be read as a "how-to" for the writing instructor or writing student, it is more in that it inspires through Stafford's personal anecdotes and thoughtful and philosophical reflections."
North Dakota Quarterly

"The Muses Among Us doles out philosophy from the writerly trenches. As an author and a teacher, Stafford has been there—this compassionate book may well guide others through the thickets of self-doubt to a place where writing is a pleasurable opportunity."
—Barbara McMichael, Tacoma News Tribune

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The Muses Among Us is an inviting, encouraging book for writers at any stage of their development. In a series of first-person letters, essays, manifestos, and notes to the reader, Kim Stafford shows what might happen at the creative boundary he calls "what we almost know." On the boundary's far side is our story, our poem, our song. On this side are the resonant hunches, griefs, secrets, and confusions from which our writing will emerge. Guiding us from such glimmerings through to a finished piece are a wealth of experiments, assignments, and tricks of the trade that Stafford has perfected over thirty years of classes, workshops, and other gatherings of writers.

Informing The Muses Among Us are Stafford's own convictions about writing—principles to which he returns again and again. We must, Stafford says, honor the fragments, utterances, and half-discovered truths voiced around us, for their speakers are the prophets to whom writers are scribes. Such filaments of wisdom, either by themselves or alloyed with others, give rise to our poems, stories, and essays. In addition, as Stafford writes, "all pleasure in writing begins with a sense of abundance—rich knowledge and boundless curiosity." By recommending ways for students to seek beyond the self for material, Stafford demystifies the process of writing and claims for it a Whitmanesque quality of participation and community.

Page count: 152 pp.
Trim size: 5.5 x 8.5


List price: $22.95

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Kim Stafford is the founding director of the Northwest Writing Institute at Lewis & Clark College, and author of a dozen books of poetry and prose. His most recent books are The Muses Among Us (Georgia), and Early Morning: Remembering My Father, William Stafford. His book Having Everything Right: Essays of Place won a citation for excellence from the Western States Book Awards. He lives in Portland, Oregon, with his wife and children.