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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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Author Linda Gartz, whose new book is Redlined: A Memoir of Race, Change, and Fractured Community in 1960s Chicago (She Writes Press). 

A number of resources Linda mentioned during our interview can be found here, on her website. 

This week I have two Write the Book Prompts to offer, both generously suggested by my guest, Linda Gartz. One is for memoir, the other for fiction. Here’s Linda’s memoir prompt: Write about an experience that has stayed in your memory, one that has meaning beyond an anecdote. Pick one: When did you feel humble, proud, ashamed, embarrassed, loved, or rejected. What made you feel that way, and what impact did that experience have on your future life, especially the way you dealt with future similar incidents or how it shaped your thinking about and behavior in life?

Here’s a prompt for Fiction writers: Imagine a character who has one of these traits… the character is: weak, kind, loving, arrogant, clueless to the impact his/her behavior has on others, or sneaky.

Write a scene in which the person demonstrates his/her character by showing actions or words, but not by labeling the behavior. (i.e. don’t say, ‘Jonathan was weak.” Create a scene that shows his weakness.)

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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Cheryl Suchors, author of 48 Peaks - Hiking and Healing in the White Mountains (SheWrites).

This week's Write the Book Prompt is actually three prompts, generously suggested by my guest, Cheryl Suchors. Begin with one of these statements or questions, and then write:

  • “I’d never consider hiking, or wearing these ridiculous hot, heavy boots, except that ...”
  • “You’re on a mountain that you’ve never hiked before. You’re by yourself. You’re suddenly remembering stories of women who’ve been attacked while alone in the woods, or maybe you’re making these up, you’re actually not quite sure if they’re true. You hear something or someone thrashing through the forest. It sounds like they’re coming your way. What do you do next?”
  • “Your grief is so profound that you haven’t left the house in two weeks. You know you have to do something about yourself. You decide to...”    

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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Cai Emmons, author of Weather Woman (Red Hen Press). As I mentioned on the show, the book trailer is great. Find it on YouTube

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is based on a fiction exercise created by Cai Emmons for the 2006 book Now Write! Fiction Writing Exercises from Today's Best Writers and Teachers, by Sherry Ellis. I’ve edited the prompt for our show, but Cai’s own language can be found in that book. It’s called “Braiding Time.”

Cai opens the exercise with thoughts on how our pleasure in reading fiction is similar to the pleasure of snooping. We get a peek into the lives, physical spaces, and thoughts of other people. And in fiction, it’s okay - we’re allowed to be there, snooping! In fiction, we get to go even deeper than we can in actual life. We see into characters’ emotions and reactions; we have the right to understand both what is happening to them, and how they feel about it. Much of the process of knowing a character is learning how she thinks; this exercise helps us develop that understanding through how she experiences time, which, Cai explains, is an intricate braid of three strands: present, past, future.

Here’s the prompt:  Choose a character to write about, one you want to better understand. You are going to write four paragraphs about this character. First, write a paragraph in which your character is involved in some ongoing action: cooking a meal, searching for something that’s been lost, getting ready for an evening out--something like that. The prompt works best if the character is faced with some conflict or problem to deal with.

Staying with the ongoing activity, write a second paragraph in which this character considers something that is going to happen in the future. In the third paragraph, write about a past event that your character is moved to recall due to some trigger from the ongoing action he or she is engaged in. Finally, in the final paragraph, use elements of forward- and backward-looking to help your character continue with or finish the action. Try to make the transitions between times feel smooth and uninterrupted.

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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Award-Winning Author J.M. Holmes, whose debut story collection is How Are You Going to Save Yourself (Little Brown).

This week I'll offer two Write the Book Prompts, both of which were generously offered by J.M. Holmes. They are based on exercises by the author Bonni Goldberg, in her book, Room to Write, which Jeff (Holmes) recommends. 

First, an exercise for writing place: choose three different songs from different musical genres and play each, taking 5-7 mins to write a scene where this music is taking place in the background. Second, for fleshing out character: write about what the person's room looks like; what does s(he) have in the closet? 

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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Guest Host Kim MacQueen speaks with Nik Sharma, the writer, photographer, and recipe developer behind the critically acclaimed blog, A Brown TableHis cookbook Season: Big Flavors, Beautiful Food, is just out. (Chronicle Books)

A quote from Nik Sharma that works well as another Write the Book Prompt this week: "I always write from my heart. I either want to share a personal story, or a story about an ingredient or a food so that people connect with it. ... I think it's okay to be vulnerable when you write."

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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Bestselling Author Kristan Higgins, whose new novel is Good Luck With That (Berkley). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Kristin Higgans. You wake up in a strange room in a strange bed and there’s a stranger in the room. He knows you extremely well, and seems to assume you know him also. Write about what happens next.

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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American Novelist and Poet Rosellen Brown, whose latest is The Lake on Fire (Sarabande). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Rosellen Brown: "Use questions and answers." She has found this an intriguing way to write. She offers the Mark Strand poem “Elegy For My Father” as an example. In the poem, Strand poses a question to his father, is given an inadequate or dishonest answer, and so asks the question again, to receive a more honest answer. He does this several times with many different questions. Rosellen herself used a questionnaire to format a story in her collection Street Games, offering both standard questions like name, address, but also crazy questions, like “Have you ever wished to die at the height of the sex act?” She has found it very fruitful with students.

[Also, during our conversation, Rosellen mentioned the site S for Sentence. Seems like another great resource to check out!]

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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American novelist, essayist and poet Barbara Kingsolver, whose new book is Unsheltered (Harper).

Barbara Kingsolver is one of the reasons that I write. I loved Animal Dreams, her 1990 novel published by Harper Collins. After I finished that book, the voices of Kingsolver's characters would not leave me alone (in a good way). I recalled how much I love to write, and began to write a book of my own. Since that time, writing has offered solace, inspiration, satisfaction, and a sense of achievement. Reading her beautiful prose always inspires me to go to my desk. So today - sure, call it a Prompt -  I encourage you to seek out the work you love, read it again, let it wash over and inspire you. 

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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Evan Fallenberg, author, translator and faculty co-director of the Vermont College of Fine Arts International MFA in Creative Writing & Literary Translation. His new novel is The Parting Gift (The Other Press)

One of the reviews of The Parting Gift suggests that it compels us “to confront the parts of ourselves we’d rather not look at.” This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to do just that. Write something that will compel a reader to confront something that he or she would rather not.

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 former Vermont Governor Madeleine May Kunin about her memoir, Coming of Age: My Journey to the Eighties (Green Writers Press).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to write about a transition from one era to another in your own life, as Madeleine May Kunin has written about her journey to the eighties. Are you a new teenager? A new parent? Have you recently gone through menopause? Have you retired? We are all forever going through transitions, but how often do we write about these changes in our lives, minds, bodies? 

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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