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Write The Book

The Vermont podcast and radio show about writing. For writers and curious readers, featuring interviews with authors, poets, agents, editors, and illustrators. One of Writer’s Digest Magazine’s 101 Best Website for Writers in 2016 and 2017.

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Interview from the archives (and my old station, The Radiator!) with writer, nurse and humanitarian aid worker Roberta Gately, author of Lipstick in Afghanistan and The Bracelet.

This week's Write the Book Prompt is to turn on the television, find a drama, and write down the first sentence you hear. Use that as the first sentence in a new piece of work. Of course, if it's so unique that you'll later be accused of plagerism, go ahead and take it out after you've used it for inspiration. 

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and please listen next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music Credit: John Fink

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Vermont Author Sarah Ward, whose new novel is Aesop Lake (Green Writers Press). 

This week's Write the Book Prompt was generously offered by my guest, Sarah Ward. In her writing, Sarah tries to fully depict villains as well as the “good guys,” whose stories always do tend to be fully explored. In the Harry Potter series, for example, what do we really know about Malfoy? Why is he—a wealthy, privileged boy with two devoted parents—such a jerk? Write the backstory of a villain. What drives him to be a bully or a sadist? What makes her so dark, so villainous? What are your villains frightened of? What do they want?

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and please listen next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

 

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Suspense novelist David Bell, whose latest is Somebody's Daughter (Berkley). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt concerns part of the conversation you just heard with David Bell. We discussed writing conflict, and the fact that even the best relationships are likely to have some conflict. Some of that centers on regular, every-day problems. As David said during our interview, these might be “money problems or kid problems or work problems.” Sometimes marriage is just about getting through those kinds of daily issues together. This week, write a scene of small conflict. Something that might occur in any marriage or relationship, even a healthy one. Consider what causes the conflict, what each person’s position is, why those positions might be at odds, even if the ultimate goals are perhaps the same. Maybe two parents are concerned about a child’s lack of interest in school. Mom wants her daughter to do more extracurricular activities, while Dad feels she needs tutoring and a real focus on homework. Both agree they want her to be happier and more successful at school, both have her best interest in mind. But they argue over the best approach. What small issues might crop up to cause a disagreement in your scene? Keep the dialogue moving, and don’t forget to describe the scene as it would look to your narrator in that moment. 

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and please listen next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

 

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Michael Kardos, author of Bluff, published by The Mysterious Press.

This week’s Write the Book Prompt comes from my interview with Michael Kardos. Take a hobby, something that you do and that maybe you know a lot about, and write a scene in which a character is doing that thing--your hobby--but it is not the point of the scene. It makes for more interesting possibilities in plot and execution. Your expertise (special knowledge, tools or implements, technical information) will come through and lend authority to the entire scene.  

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and please listen next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

 

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Author Katharine Dion, whose debut novel is The Dependents, published by Little Brown.

This week’s Write the Book Prompt comes from my interview with Katharine Dion. Something that has been useful for her, and is related to the kind of stories she is interested in telling, is to look around at situations that have on first glance nothing interesting going on: a situation or setup that might at first even seem boring. Then reverse that proposition in your mind. Assume the opposite: that something fascinating is going on in the situation, or between the people you’re observing. This will give you the chance to look again at something you initially chose to dismiss. We dismiss things for all sorts of reasons, Katharine points out. Either we are fearful of what we see, or we’re made uncomfortable by it. But looking again at what we might initially dismiss can offer unexpectedly rich material.  

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and please listen next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

Watch Now:

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A special feature this week, related to the archive interview I aired on Monday with Robert and Martha Manning: I'm sharing a slideshow with audio of my recent walk with friends along part of The  Camino de Santiago (The Way of Saint James). You’ll hear music by the Spanish group El Niño del Parking. They are from Andalucia, which isn’t the same region as where the Camino ends, which is Galicia, but I needed to find music I had the right to use.

You’ll hear some moments I shared with the friends I walked with, Carol and Fiona. And you’ll hear many sounds from the natural world, and conversations heard along the trail. I’ve also included a few brief first-hand accounts from pilgrims I met along the way. Finally, toward the end, you’ll hear what sounds like bagpipes. And you’ll be right! As we approached the cathedral at the end, we encountered a bagpipe player, although the bagpipes from the region are actually called The "Gaita Gallega" and they are slightly different from the celtic instrument. At the very end, you’ll hear some music from the service in the Cathedral itself.

So, I hope you enjoy this somewhat unusual broadcast! Enjoy the camino. Or, as the pilgrims say to one another along the route, “Buen Camino.”

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Robert and Martha Manning, (former Vermont) authors of Walking Distance: Extraordinary Hikes for Ordinary People, published by Oregon State University Press.

In conjunction with this interview, I'll post a slideshow with audio of my own recent long hike: El Camino de Santiago de Compostela. Watch for that, and for this week's prompt, soon. 

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and please listen next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

 

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UK Novelist Allison Pearson, following her huge hit from 2003, I Don't Know How She Does It (Anchor), with a sequel, how hard can it be? (St. Martin's Press)

This week’s Write the Book Prompt comes from my interview with Allison Pearson, who says she likes to help readers feel the narrative pulse by adding a line at the end of each chapter that helps the reader along. “Would she get the car out of the river?” Offer the reader the reason to read on.

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and please listen next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

 

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Interview from the archives with the author Margot Livesey. We discussed her novel, The Flight of Gemma Hardy, a retelling of and homage to Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre.

This week's Write the Book Prompt is to read a favorite short story and write something as an homage in some way. Either retell the actual story (careful not to plagiarize, of course), or write a poem, another story, a character sketch, or something of your own invention that honors the original. 

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and please listen next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

 

 

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Interview with author and New York Times Journalist Karen Crouse, who recently published her first book, Norwich: One Tiny Vermont Town's Secret to Happiness and Excellence (Simon & Schuster). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Karen Crouse. It is inspired by a talk she heard, given by the author Elizabeth Gilbert. During her talk, Elizabeth Gilbert mentioned that she'd had no idea, when she set out to write her book, Eat Pray Love, that it would eventually meet with so much success. She commented that that knowledge might even have made it hard to approach in the first place. She went on to suggest that, when you sit down to write, don’t think of it as a formal exercise. Think of it as relaying a story you might tell it to your best friend. This always stayed with Karen, who has found it valuable advice. And so she has shared it with us!

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and please listen next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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