Author, editor, educator, and translator Wendy Call

This week’s Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Wendy Call, who says it was inspired by the portion of our interview about translation. It’s an exercise in homophonic translation -- that is to say, translation based on sound – actual, assumed, or imagined – of poetry written in other languages.

First: Find a stanza of poetry written in a language you do not know.

Second: Look at the words carefully and imagine how they sound when spoken aloud. Link those sounds to English words. Try sounding out each line verbally, until English words occur to you. Focus on SOUND, not known or imagined meaning. Feel free to take liberties and be nonsensical.

Here's an example, of a stanza of poetry written by Irma Pineda in Isthmus Zapotec, a language spoken in Oaxaca, Mexico.

The Original reads:

Nuu dxi rizaaca

ranaxhi tobi ca yáaga ca'

Wendy’s English version reads:

New dixie rise AKA

Ran an exit to bike yoga,  ‘kay?

Third: Take your "found" English stanza and revise it into a new poem.

Good luck with this exercise and please listen next week for another.
Music credits: 1) “Dreaming 1″ - John Fink; 2) “Filter” - Dorset Greens (a Vermont band featuring several former South Burlington High School students, now alums). 

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J. Robert Lennon, whose second story collection, See You in Paradise, is just out from Graywolf Press.

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously offered by my guest J. Robert Lennon, who is a teacher as well as being a writer, and who is working on a collection of writing prompts and exercises. He created this exercise after reading the book A Void, translated from the original French La Disparition (literally, "The Disappearance"), a 300-page novel, written in 1969 by Georges Perec, entirely without using the letter e (except for the author's name). The 1994 translation by Gilbert Adair likewise does not contain the letter e. As J. Robert Lennon pointed out to me, “there goes the past tense and every pronoun.” His exercise is this: write a one-page story about a funeral without using the letter “e.” You can’t use cemetery or grave or funeral or death or tears or dead or die. He finds that students will come up against a word they can’t use, then another and another, and the sentence becomes so terrible, they have to back up and do an end runner on the problem. Which is a great thing to do in any case. He says it often ends up being the best prose they’ve written all semester because they have to work so hard to write every single sentence.  
Good luck with this exercise and please listen next week for another.
Music credits: 1) “Dreaming 1″ - John Fink; 2) "Virginia" - Starry Mountain Sweetheart Band (of which my guest, J. Robert Lennon, is a band member!) 
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Interview from the archives with Nancy Marie BrownVermont author of the bookSong of the Vikings, The Abacus and the Cross, The Far Traveler, Mendel in the Kitchen, and A Good Horse Has No Color.

Today's Write the Book Prompt, in honor of Thanksgiving, is to consider an early cooking experience (either one of your own, or a friend's or relative's) and write about that. My own might be the first time I cooked for the woman who would eventually be my mother-in-law. We were on a vacation in a remote but lovely place with terrible grocery store options, and when I opened the box of pasta (once I was all ready to boil it), it was full of bugs. But that's just me.
Good luck with this exercise and please listen next week for another.
Music credits: 1) “Dreaming 1″ - John Fink; 2) “Filter” - Dorset Greens (a Vermont band featuring several former South Burlington High School students, now alums). 


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Best-selling author Meg Wolitzer, whose new novel is Belzhar, published by Dutton.

This week’s  Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Meg Wolitzer, who says that dialogue can be troubling for writers. She says, “The more I read great dialogue, the more I realize that writers who let people talk and don’t just intrude are doing a great service in the book. Write dialogue with very little exposition, in which the reader has to figure out who the people are, talking to each other. There are so many clues in how we talk to each other. You don’t have to say, “Yes, Mother.” We can see that friends wouldn’t talk to each other the way a mother might." So there you have it. Write character conversations without intruding this week, and try to let the reader figure out who the people are, talking to each other in a scene of dialogue.”

Good luck with this exercise and please listen next week for another.  

Music credits: 1) “Dreaming 1″ - John Fink; 2) “Filter” - Dorset Greens (a Vermont band featuring several former South Burlington High School students, now alums). 

Listen Now:


Robert Boswell, award-winning author of seven novels, including Tumbledown, just released in paperback from Graywolf Press

This morning, I reported to our local courthouse for jury duty. While there, I wasn’t able to do much in between the active moments of jury questioning and selection. What I ended up doing was watching people and making mental notes about their appearance, habits, and speech. So the Write The Book Prompt this week is to try to immerse yourself in a place with strangers, and watch them. See if your characters might learn something from these people: something about how to dress, how to speak, how to walk, how to use their hands. I imagine you’ll come up with new ways of presenting at least one of the characters you thought you already knew. 
Good luck with this exercise and please listen next week for another.
Music credits: 1) “Dreaming 1″ - John Fink; 2) “Filter” - Dorset Greens (a Vermont band featuring several former South Burlington High School students, now alums). 
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Children's and YA author Jacqueline Woodson, whose new novel, Brown Girl Dreaming (Nancy Paulsen Books) is short-listed for this year's National Book Award. 

This week’s  Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Jacqueline Woodson. Choose an age between five and fifteen and write down everything you remember from that year of your life. Who were your friends? Where did you live? What clothes did you wear? What music was playing? What did you love; what did you hate? Write without lifting your pen until you can’t remember anything else, and then start making stuff up. 
Good luck with this exercise and please listen next week for another.
Music credits: 1) “Dreaming 1″ - John Fink; 2) “Filter” - Dorset Greens (a Vermont band featuring several former South Burlington High School students, now alums). 
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A new conversation with author and Queen City Ghostwalk Guide Thea Lewis, whose new book is Haunted Inns and Ghostly Getaways of Vermont, published by The History Press

This week's Write the Book Prompt is adapted from a suggestion in Thea Lewis's new book, Haunted Inns and Ghostly Getaways of Vermont, with Thea's kind permission. If you find yourself awake at 3 o’clock some morning, get up, settle yourself somewhere comfortable, and listen for sounds in your house that you can not explain. Listen until you’re good and spooked, and then write about the experience.

Good luck with this prompt and please listen next week for another!

Music credits: 1) “Dreaming 1″ - John Fink; 2) “Filter” - Dorset Greens (a Vermont band featuring several former South Burlington High School students, now alums). 

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Vikram Chandra, author most recently of Geek Sublime: The Beauty of Code, the Code of Beautypublished by Graywolf Press.

Today's Write the Book Prompt is to write about someone's first experience using a computer. 

Good luck with this prompt and please listen next week for another!

Music credits: 1) “Dreaming 1″ - John Fink; 2) “Filter” - Dorset Greens (a Vermont band featuring several former South Burlington High School students, now alums). 

Listen Now:


New interviews with best-selling novelist Tana French, whose new Dublin Murder Squad mystery is The Secret Place, published by Viking; Vermont poet and veteran Jon Turner, who has worked extensively with the Warrior Writers Project and Combat Paper, and is now a member of the Farmer Veteran Coalition; and our own book mentor, Claire Benedict, co-owner of Bear Pond Books in Montpelier.

During this show, Claire recommended:

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber

The Secret Place by Tana French

Museums of America by Gary Miller

A House In the Sky by Amanda Lindhout and Sara Corbett

This week's Write the Book  Prompt might involve going into your attic or basement. Find a box in your home whose contents you’re not entirely sure of. Write about what might be inside. Include memories of events that the possible contents trigger. Then open the box, and write about what you do, in fact, find there. 

Good luck with this prompt and please listen next week for another!

Music credits: 1) “Dreaming 1″ - John Fink; 2) “Filter” - Dorset Greens (a Vermont band featuring several former South Burlington High School students, now alums). 

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2011 Interview with Vermont comic book artist and writer, and rock musician James Kochalka, who was Vermont's first cartoonist laureate.

Today's Write the Book Prompt is to read cartoons, online or in the newspaper or in books, for pleasure and to open your mind to the way comic book authors handle plot and character. If this is not your normal fare, try to let go and enjoy! Then, keeping in mind what you've learned about the cartoonist's approach, write!

Good luck with this prompt and please listen next week for another!

Music credits: 1) “Dreaming 1″ - John Fink; 2) “Filter” - Dorset Greens (a Vermont band featuring several former South Burlington High School students, now alums). 

Listen Now:



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