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Archive for March 30th 2009

Interview with fiction and CNF author Laurie Alberts.

Prompt: Today’s Write The Book Prompt is offered by my guest, Laurie Alberts. Laurie suggests writing about two characters, one an adult, the other a child. They can be based on real people or they can emerge completely from your imagination. Have them travel together to visit the adult character’s childhood home. Write two scenes about what they might see in two different seasons: once on a mid-winter day at dusk, once in mid-summer, during a sunny day. Write from the point of view of the adult or the child, or one each, or write from an omniscient point of view. Let the exercise bring out the some of the emotions that a visit back home can evoke. 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 South Burlington High School students)

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Interview with author of fiction and creative nonfiction Phyllis Barber.

Prompt: Today’s Write The Book Prompt is suggested by my guest, Phyllis Barber. She recommends, “Read Flannery O’Connor, who does things with character that I don’t think I’ve seen many other writers do. Her characterizations are fabulous. So… Look at Flannery!” And that is your prompt today: look at Flannery. Her stories can be found in the books Everything That Rises Must Converge and A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other Stories, among other collections. She also wrote two novels: Wise Blood and The Violent Bear It Away. And, of course, every writer can benefit from reading her essays on writing and the writing life, collected in the book, Mystery and Manners.

Here’s a snippet from her story, A Good Man Is Hard To Find. Even if you’ve never read this story and even if you don’t know the context of the scene, I think you’ll come to know the characters very quickly, from these few paragraphs:

They drove off again into the hot afternoon. The grandmother took cat naps and woke up every few minutes with her own snoring. Outside of Toombsboro she woke up and recalled an old plantation that she had visited in this neighborhood once when she was a young lady. She said the house had six white columns across the front and that there was an avenue of oaks leading up to it and two little wooden trellis arbors on either side in front where you sat down with your suitor after a stroll in the garden. She recalled exactly which road to turn off to get to it. She knew that Bailey would not be willing to lose any time looking at an old house, but the more she talked about it, the more she wanted to see it once again and find out if the little twin arbors were still standing. "There was a secret:-panel in this house," she said craftily, not telling the truth but wishing that she were, "and the story went that all the family silver was hidden in it when Sherman came through but it was never found . . ."

"Hey!" John Wesley said. "Let's go see it! We'll find it! We'll poke all the woodwork and find it! Who lives there? Where do you turn off at? Hey Pop, can't we turn off there?"

"We never have seen a house with a secret panel!" June Star shrieked. "Let's go to the house with the secret panel! Hey Pop, can't we go see the house with the secret panel!"

"It's not far from here, I know," the grandmother said. "It wouldn't take over twenty minutes."

Bailey was looking straight ahead. His jaw was as rigid as a horseshoe. "No," he said.

The children began to yell and scream that they wanted to see the house with the secret panel. John Wesley kicked the back of the front seat and June Star hung over her mother's shoulder and whined desperately into her ear that they never had any fun even on their vacation, that they could never do what THEY wanted to do. The baby began to scream and John Wesley kicked the back of the seat so hard that his father could feel the blows in his kidney.

"All right!" he shouted and drew the car to a stop at the side of the road. "Will you all shut up? Will you all just shut up for one second? If you don't shut up, we won't go anywhere."

"It would be very educational for them," the grandmother murmured.

That, again, is an excerpt from Flannery O’Connor’s A Good Man Is Hard To Find. Phyllis Barber suggests reading O’Connor’s work in looking for inspiration on character development. Good luck with this activity and please listen next week for another.

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

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Interview with fiction author Tammy Greenwood.

Prompt: Today’s Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Tammy Greenwood. When she is stuck in her work, Tammy frequently turns to prompts from the book A Writer's Book of Days: A Spirited Companion and Lively Muse for the Writing Life, by Judy Reeves. Specifically, Tammy once broke through writer’s block with the help of a prompt to write a scene in which a character takes a bath. So that’s your prompt today: have your character take a bath. And thank you to the author Judy Reeves for the book that suggests that prompt. Good luck with this exercise and please listen next week for another.

Readings by Tammy Greenwood, from Two Rivers (New York: Kensington Publishing Corp). Copyright © 2009 by T. Greenwood. Recorded with permission from Kensington Books.

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

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Interview with best-selling author Anita Diamant.

Prompt: Today’s Write The Book Prompt was inspired by my guest, Anita Diamant, whose fiction is often based on “found stories” and historical events. Navigate to the Library of Congress’ “Today In History Site”  ( http://lcweb2.loc.gov/ammem/today/ ) Read about this day in history, keeping your mind open about how you could create a fictional character who might have participated in or witnessed the event of the day. Then write a scene featuring that character. Here’s an example:

On Sunday March 7, 1965, about six hundred people began a fifty-four mile march from Selma, Alabama to the state capitol in Montgomery. They were demonstrating for African American voting rights and to commemorate the death of Jimmie Lee Jackson, shot three weeks earlier by a state trooper while trying to protect his mother at a civil rights demonstration. On the outskirts of Selma, after they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge, the marchers, in plain sight of photographers and journalists, were brutally assaulted by heavily armed state troopers and deputies.

Given this historical moment, would you choose to write a scene from the perspective of a bystander, a marcher, from Jackson’s mother, from the state trooper who shot Jimmie Lee Jackson? Perhaps from the viewpoint of a photographer? Use this moment in history as a starting point. Honor the sacrifices of  the past by re-imagining it in your fiction. 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 South Burlington High School students)

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Interview with author Robert Vivian and Burlington business owner Norbert Ender. Hosted by Shelagh C. Shapiro, Write The Book airs on WOMM-LP 105.9 FM “The Radiator,” in Burlington, Vermont, every Monday afternoon from 2-3 p.m. - a new time.

Prompt: Today’s Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my first guest, Robert Vivian. In his work with students, he occasionally distributes postcards from small towns, and asks each student to write a note on that card to a fictional recipient. Look at the postcard and imagine you’re traveling across the country and you’ve landed in this small town. Use the postcard as a trigger and write to someone. It could be someone who’s wronged you in the past or it could be a beloved person. You might be writing this postcard due to a situation that you’re fleeing. “Dear Randy. Hello from the middle of nowhere. I’m in a diner. Icicles are hanging down from the roof.  I’m driving to Santa Fe. I have 20 dollars in my pocket. I can’t stop thinking about the last time we spoke…” Etc. Invent a situation and write. Let the postcard be a trigger, and lose yourself in the creative act. Good luck with this exercise and please listen next week for another.

Music credits: 1) “Dreaming 1″ - John Fink

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