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Marc Estrin and Donna Bister, founders of Vermont's Fomite Press, "a literary press whose authors and artists explore the human condition -- political, cultural, personal and historical -- in poetry and prose."

This week's Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Donna Bister. Write about your first pair of shoes. Or, if you can't remember them, write about your favorite shoes. 

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).


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Houston author Chris Cander, whose new novel is Whisper Hollow, published by The Other Press.


This week I’m offering you two  Write The Book Prompts, thanks to the generous suggestions of my guest, Chris Cander. She just participated in a literary showdown recently, at Brazos, her favorite local bookstore in Houston. The event was in honor of independent bookstore day. Four participating Houston-based novelists were given a prompt and had thirty minutes to create a story each. Chris is a fan of working under pressure, which she says helps a writer bypass self-censorship. The bookstore employees picked out a romance novel that had “Texas” in the title. They read the first page aloud, which was full of raw passion and prairie angst, as Chris puts it. The main character was fleeing a difficult and traumatic situation. So the challenge was to write a story that would expand upon that summarized trauma in detail. Chris says it was a great prompt with a rich, ripe setup. It was fun and funny, because there were no expectations. She says you could do anything with this. Pick a genre. If you write literary fiction, pick something pulpy; if you write mysteries, maybe pick a historical novel. Then spend 30 minutes turning a piece of it into something different. It can help to unblock you and it’s a lot of fun, particularly in a group.


Chris also has found this second prompt useful. Because confession had a large role to play in her book, Whisper Hollow, Chris offered herself the challenge of letting a character she was having trouble with write a confessional letter to see what that character would say, what information might emerge to help her push through.


Good luck with these prompts, and please listen next week for another.  

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Vermont author Gary Lee Miller, whose collection of stories, Museum of the Americas, was published by Fomite Press in July 2014.


This week’s  Write The Book Prompts were suggested by my guest, Gary Lee Miller. The first three are prompts that he has used in his work with the group Writers For Recovery. Gary refers to these as Positioned Prompts--prompts that give writers a specific, unique starting place to help them get going.
  • Here's exactly what happened. 
  • She was just a block from her house when she found the blue envelope on the sidewalk.
  • In the beginning, all I wanted was a normal life.

Gary also shared a prompt called the Neverending Sentence, which he and his friend use in writing workshops they teach for kids. It reminds me a bit of the game of telephone. You begin by writing a simple sentence on a page, pass the sheet to another person, and ask that person to change one word or phrase. It goes from there. Gary's example is below. As you can see, it might get a little weird. But that's part of the fun. And it definitely gets more interesting!

  • On a Tuesday morning, Gary Miller walked to town to buy eggs.
  • On a Tuesday morning, Charmagne Miller walked to town to buy eggs.
  • On a raggedy Tuesday morning, Charmagne Miller walked to town to buy eggs.
  • On a raggedy Tuesday morning, Charmagne Miller walked to Carter’s Corner to buy eggs.
  • On a raggedy Tuesday morning, Charmagne Adelphi walked to Carter’s Corner to buy eggs.
  • On a raggedy Tuesday morning, Charmagne Adelphi walked to Carter’s Corner to steal eggs.
  • On a raggedy Tuesday morning, Charmagne Adelphi walked to Carter’s Corner to steal somebody’s car.
  • On a raggedy Tuesday morning, Charmagne Adelphi walked to Carter’s Corner to steal Henry Beefer’s car.
  • On a raggedy Tuesday morning, Charmagne Adelphi walked to Carter’s Corner to steal Henry Beefer’s golden retriever.
  • On a raggedy Tuesday morning, Charmagne Adelphi walked to Carter’s Corner to steal Henry Beefer’s deaf golden retriever.
  • On a raggedy Tuesday morning, Charmagne Adelphi stumbled to Carter’s Corner to steal Henry Beefer’s deaf golden retriever.
  • On a raggedy Tuesday morning, Charmagne Adelphi stumbled, half exhausted and violently ill, to Carter’s Corner to steal Henry Beefer’s deaf golden retriever.
  • On a raggedy Tuesday morning, Governor Peter S. Shumlin stumbled, half exhausted and violently ill, to Carter’s Corner to steal Henry Beefer’s deaf golden retriever.
  • On the Tuesday before the hurricane, Governor Peter S. Shumlin stumbled, half exhausted and violently ill, to Carter’s Corner to steal Henry Beefer’s deaf golden retriever.
  • On the Tuesday before the hurricane, Governor Peter S. Shumlin stumbled, half exhausted and violently ill, to Carter’s Corner to vaccinate Henry Beefer’s deaf golden retriever.
  • On the Tuesday before the hurricane, Governor Shumlin stumbled, half exhausted and violently ill, to Carter’s Corner to feed Henry Beefer’s deaf golden retriever.
  • On the Tuesday before the hurricane, Governor Peter S. Shumlin stumbled, half exhausted and violently ill, to Carter’s Corner to shoot Henry Beefer’s deaf golden retriever.
  • On the Tuesday before Hurricane Irene wiped out half of Vermont, Governor Peter S. Shumlin stumbled, half exhausted and violently ill, to Carter’s Corner to shoot Henry Beefer’s deaf golden retriever.
  • On the Tuesday before Hurricane Irene wiped out half of Vermont, Governor Peter S. Shumlin’s half brother Luke Tweedly stumbled, half exhausted and violently ill, to Carter’s Corner to shoot Henry Beefer’s deaf golden retriever.
  • On the Tuesday before Hurricane Irene wiped out half of Vermont, Governor Peter S. Shumlin’s half brother Luke Tweedly stumbled, half exhausted and violently ill, to Carter’s Corner to shoot Henry Beefer’s deaf golden retriever in the ass.
  • On the Tuesday before Hurricane Irene wiped out half of Vermont, Governor Peter S. Shumlin’s half brother Luke Tweedly stumbled, half exhausted and violently ill, to Carter’s Corner to shoot Henry Beefer’s ex wife Melodica in the ass.
  • On the Tuesday before Hurricane Irene wiped out half of Vermont, Governor Peter S. Shumlin’s half brother Luke Tweedly stumbled, half conscious and furious as a rabid hamster, to Carter’s Corner to shoot Henry Beefer’s ex wife Melodica in the ass.
  • On the Tuesday before Hurricane Irene wiped out half of Vermont, Governor Peter S. Shumlin’s half brother Luke Tweedly stumbled, half conscious and furious as a rabid hamster, to Carter’s Corner to shoot Henry Beefer’s ex wife Melodica, who had betrayed him more than once, in the ass.
  • On the Tuesday before Hurricane Irene wiped out half of Vermont, Governor Peter S. Shumlin’s half brother Luke Tweedly stumbled, half conscious and completely furious, to the Little Bub Daycare Center to shoot Henry Beefer’s ex wife Melodica, who had betrayed him more than once, in the ass.
  • On the Tuesday before Hurricane Irene wiped out half of Vermont, Governor Peter S. Shumlin’s half brother Luke Tweedly stumbled, half conscious and completely furious, to the Little Bub Daycare Center to shoot Henry Beefer’s ex wife Melodica, who had betrayed him more than once, in the ass with Cupid’s arrow of love.

Good luck with these exercises, and 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. 

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Literary Agent Emily Forland, of the Brandt Hochman Agency in New York. 

This week’s  Write The Book Prompt is to imagine what life might be like for an agent or an editor -- perhaps one with whom you’ve had interactions -- and write a scene from that person’s perspective. Write with empathy as you imagine that person’s job and circumstance.
Good luck with this exercise and please listen next week for another.  
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An interview from the archives with Vermont author of fiction and poetry, William Lychack, whose books are The Wasp Eater and The Architect of Flowers.

This week's prompt is to write about New Year's Eve. It can be a true story, fiction, good, bad, epic, disastrous. Poem, story, essay - you decide! 
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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NH novelist Toby Ball, whose third novel is Invisible Streets, published by Overlook Press. 

This week I'm offering two Write the Book Prompts on the website. The first is to write about a move. (The Radiator moved last week - did you know?) 
The second is to write a poem or story using ten words that I've pulled at random from the pages of Toby Ball's Invisible Streets. They are: neighborhood, knock, tourist, gaze, exhausted, slump, artificial, masterstroke, grip,crack. 
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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Vermont Author Jennifer McMahon, whose new novel is The Winter People, published by Doubleday. I also spoke with Jennifer in 2011. That interview is available here.

Today's Write The Book Prompt was inspired by my conversation with Jennifer McMahon. You may recall that during the interview, I asked about the way she used a short list of spare details and events to draw the reader into the narrative. In that opening, which is actually a journal entry, her narrator, Sara Harrison Shea, quickly lists several people: Papa, Auntie, Jacob, and Constance. She mentions a place called the Devil’s Hand, where Papa had forbidden his children to play. Most chillingly, she mentions the first time she saw a sleeper--a person she knows to be dead, who is up and walking around. For your writing prompt this week, play with openings that draw in a reader. Look at the action of a story or novel that you’ve been working on, and think about how you might list intriguing characters and events without giving too much away and without overwhelming a reader.
This might not be the right way to begin. But playing around with these ideas might open up some new avenue of storytelling for you. 

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, long since graduated).
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Vermont writer Jessica Hendry Nelson, author of the memoir If Only You People Could Follow Directions, and co-founder of the Renegade Writers' Collective.


This week’s  Write The Book Prompt was recommended by my guest, Jessica Hendry Nelson. “Write a letter of apology of which you don’t mean a word.”

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 from the archives with with Willow Bascom, author and illustrator of the book, Paisley Pig: A Multicultural ABC, published by Publishing Works.

This week’s Write The Book prompt is to write a poem, memory, scene or story about a library and its librarian.

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

Music credits:  1) “Dreaming 1″ - John Fink; 2) “Filter” - Dorset Greens (which was a Vermont band in 2008, featuring several South Burlington High School students, now grads.)

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2010 Interview with literary agent Janet Reid, of FinePrint Literary Management.

Today's Write The Book Prompt is to write about an unusual addiction.

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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