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Write The Book

Burlington, Vermont 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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Guest host Kim MacQueen interviews Shozan Jack Haubner,

Zen monk and author. His latest book is Single White Monk (Shambalah).

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      Kim MacQueen

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by Kim’s and my guest, Shozan Jack Haubner. Sit in a quiet, comfortable way for ten to fifteen minutes. Put your attention on your soft, flowing breath. Do nothing but breathe. It's easy as long as you don't think too much. Breathing is a pleasurable sensation; peace and focus, manifest in the body and mind. If you can't loosen and open up you can't write jack squat. Words surface of their own accord from a deep and bottomless well. And don't glance at your clock! Set a timer. When the timer goes off, take your pen and your writing notebook (or, if you must, your laptop), and write what's coming up from the silence. Don't think about it, just like you didn't think about your breathing. Like breath, the words will come whether you think about them or not. Write until your hand aches without reading a word of it until you've taken a break, gotten your coffee, checked your email (if you must), and are ready to listen to yourself on the page as uncritically as a mother listens to her child learning to speak.

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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Vermont author Adam Federman, whose new book is Fasting and Feasting: The Life of Visionary Food Writer Patience Gray (Chelsea Green).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to look for inspiration in a cookbook. So, for example, in my kitchen I do have the cookbook by Salvadore Dali, which is titled Les Diners de Gala. In opening the book, I find many things. Recipes like Lobster with Black Pearls, Ramekins of Frog’s Legs, and Tripe of Yesteryear. Maybe you’ll open a more tame cookbook, and find an inscription from a friend, reminding you of a long-ago birthday or anniversary. Maybe you’ll be inspired by a photograph of a lamb chop with mint jelly. Or maybe a recipe for turkey with roquefort will inspire you to write about a family celebrating thanksgiving in France. Whatever you find, let it be the way into this week’s writing.

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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Grant Faulkner whose new book is Pep Talks for Writers: 52 Insights and Actions to Boost Your Creative Mojo (Chronicle). Grant is a very busy man this week. He is Executive Director of National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, which begins on Wednesday, because Wednesday is November 1st. If you aren’t aware, NaNoWriMo is (as described on their website, NaNoWriMo.org): "a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing. On November 1, participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 PM on November 30. Valuing enthusiasm, determination, and a deadline, NaNoWriMo is for anyone who has ever thought about writing a novel."

As promised, I’m offering multiple Write the Book Prompts this week. And the next two are from Grant Faulkner’s new book, Pep Talks for Writers: 52 Insights and Actions to Boost Your Creative Mojo. These might be of particular value if you are participating in NaNoWriMo this November.

  • First, Set a Goal. Set a Deadline. “This is the big moment. Map out your writing goals-big goals and all the milestones that lead up to them. Pin a piece of paper with your goals over your writing desk. Tattoo them on your arm if need be. Set deadlines on your online calendar-with reminders. Form a strategy of accountability and enact it.” That is from Grant’s sixth pep talk, “Goal+Deadline=Magic.”
  • His seventh is titled “Embrace Constraints,” and it’s in this pep talk that he explains writing sprints. So here is one more for you: “Explore the creative power of limitations. Set a timer for 15 or 30 minutes and push yourself to simply dive into your novel wherever you can. This strategy is similar to the Pomodoro Technique, a time management method that breaks down work into intervals separated by short breaks. Bursts of focus with frequent breaks can improve your mental agility.”

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and please listen next week for another prompt or suggestion. And if you’re planning to participate in NaNoWriMo, good luck! Go for it! And don’t forget that the organization offers lots of support at nanowrimo dot-org.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

 

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Newbury- and National Book Award-Winning Vermont author of Bridge to Terabithia, Katherine Paterson, whose new novel is My Brigadista Year (Candlewick). 

This week's Write the Book Prompt is to consider an historical event that might have reverberations in our own time, and write about it. 

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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As a bonus this week, a new conversation with Bear Pond Books Co-Owner

Claire Benedict, about recent books that she's enjoyed. They are: 

 

The Heart's Invisible Furies, by John Boyne (Hogarth Press)

Landscape with Invisible Hand, by M. T. Anderson (Candlewick Press)

Wonder Valley, by Ivy Pochoda (Ecco Press)

Little Fires Everywhere, by Celeste Ng (Penguin Press)

 

Thanks for listening! 

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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Essayist Fiona Helmsley, author of Girls Gone Old (We Heard You Like Books).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to write about something you’re ashamed of, or not proud of. You don’t have to show it to anyone. Just write. Write on paper with a pen or pencil, if you don’t trust doing it on your computer. Tell yourself you can destroy it after, if you feel the need. See what happens. Maybe being honest about your shameful moment will help you push past something. Or maybe you’ll decide it wasn’t so shameful after all, and you can shape it into something you might be proud of.

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 Swiss Author Peter Stamm, whose new novel is To the Back of Beyond (Other Press). 

This week we have two Write the Book Prompts, both generously suggested by my guest, Peter Stamm, who has used them in classes he’s taught. The first is to look at another person’s random receipt and see what it suggests that could become a story or a poem. What was purchased, and where? What was the cost? The date? The cashier’s name? Was it an expensive item? Was it on sale? Let the details collect for you and write. The other prompt is to find inspiration in a graveyard, looking at gravestones. Usually these only suggest a name, the dates of a life, but sometimes also family members, a cause of death, a war, a favorite quotation. See what these suggest to you about this person, and if a character might begin to present him or herself to you as you study the grave.

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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Pulitzer Prize-Winning Author Jennifer Egan, whose new novel is Manhattan Beach (Scribner). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Jennifer Egan, who - as you’ve just heard - discovers her story as she writes it, knowing only the time and place when she begins. This prompt is very much in keeping with that approach. She suggests, “Write without knowing what you are writing. Cover the screen of your laptop and write continuously for 15 minutes. Print and read.  Viola!”

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 Joan Wickersham, whose memoir The Suicide Index, was a finalist for the National Book Award. We discussed her story collection, The News From Spain (Vintage Contemporaries).

I love the way that Joan Wickersham was able to write seven stories that vary thematically but are all titled The News From Spain. Can you think of another context for this title? That’s this week’s Write the Book Prompt. Consider ‘The News from Spain’ as a concept, and write.  If you haven’t read her book, and so don’t know what contexts to eliminate, try that much harder to think of applications that might seem a little wacky or outside the normal frame. Or maybe go read her book!

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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Vermont Author Nancy Hayes Kilgore, whose new novel is Wild Mountain (Green Writers Press). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously offered by my guest Nancy Hayes Kilgore, who is a pastoral counselor and has been a parish pastor as well. She suggests considering, “What was your first spiritual experience? Where were you? What could you see and feel? What were your senses telling you at that time? What spiritual awakening might have come out of the moment?” Consider these questions, and use them as inspiration as you begin to 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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