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Vermont author Jericho Parms, whose essay collection, Lost Wax, was published last fall by University of Georgia Press

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously offered by my guest, Jericho Parms. This prompt speaks to the process she sometimes used while writing the essays in Lost Wax. She calls it FINDING PROSE (OR POETRY) IN PAINTING:

  • Look at a painting (or sculpture, or image) and free write, in list or sentence form, everything you see. Be as specific and detailed as you can. No observation is too acute or obtuse. Think about color, texture, composition, form. Use your senses. Seek words to match the tone, the textures, the style.
  • Continuing your meditation, allow your thoughts and imagination to roam freely and beyond the canvas. Note any external images or memories that come to mind as you observe the artwork. Seek associations. What are you reminded of? When have you felt this before? What or who (when or where) do you find yourself thinking of/grappling with/curious about?

So that’s Jericho’s prompt for you this week. I’d add one other idea, which is to try your hand at a contour drawing of the painting you study, in much the same way that Jericho drew some of the works that inspired her in writing Lost Wax. The exercise would be to draw some representation of the piece in a single go, without ever raising your pencil. On the cover of Jericho's book, you can see the kind of outcome that such an exercise might inspire.

 lost_wax.jpeg

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 Creativity Coach, Artist and Teacher Courtney Reckord

This week we have two Write the Book Prompts, suggested by my guest, Courtney Reckord. The first is a question that Courtney might ask one of her coaching clients to consider: What is one thing you’d like to accomplish by this time next year? Next is a writing prompt. Write about the most important place in your town. Is it a town building? It is a place that sells or serves food? Is it a meeting place? Describe its significance.

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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Christine Hadsel, Director of Curtains Without Borders, a project that preserves painted historic scenery in Northern New England. Her new book is Suspended Worlds: Historic Theater Scenery in Northern New England.


This week's Write the Book Prompt is a visual exercise. Take a look at these photographs from the Curtains Without Borders Project, and let them inspire you to write.


Waterbury Center, VT



  

Vergennes, VT



 

North Hyde Park, VT


 

Townshend, VT


Good luck with your writing this week, and tune in next Monday for another prompt! 


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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YA graphic novelist Marika McCoola, whose book Baba Yaga's Assistant (Candlewick) won a New England Book Award last year, and Marie Lu, best-selling author of the Legend Trilogy and the Young Elites Series, including her latest, The Rose Society (Putnam Books for Young Readers). My interview with Marika McCoola took place in front of an audience at the Chronicle Book Fair in Glens Falls, NY. 


This week’s Write The Book Prompt is a character development exercise suggested by Marie Lu. List a character’s greatest strengths as well as what that person most values. Then write about one single behavior or action that this character would never ever undertake. Finally, list that character’s greatest weaknesses. After you have your lists, write a scenario where the character must do that one thing he or she would never ever do. What circumstance would force this character to cross that line and how does he or she respond to the circumstance, in a larger way?

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).



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Interview with Daniel Lusk, whose new collection is The Vermeer Suite (Wind Ridge Books of Vermont). The interview was recorded in front of an audience at the South Burlington Community Library in South Burlington, Vermont. Listeners who want to look at the paintings along with the broadcast can look here: 


A Maid Asleep ("Wednesday's Child")       The Astronomer ("The Astronomer")

amaidasleep.jpg astronomer.jpg

Woman Reading a Letter at the Open 
Window ("Yellow")                                 The Little Street ("Memoir")

WomanReadingaLetter.jpg littlestreet.jpg

The Milkmaid ("Holland")                Girl With the Red Hat ("White Fire")

milkmaid.jpg RedHat.jpg

Girl With a Pearl Earring ("Girl")

Pearl.jpg

This week's Write the Book Prompt is to use one of these paintings as inspiration in your own work. Study one of these paintings, then write a poem, a story, a scene. 
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).
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Award-winning author Christine Sneedwhose novel Paris, He Saidcame out this spring from Bloomsbury USA.

Christine Sneed generously offered two Write the Book Prompts when I spoke to her. Gary Miller read one of them on the show last week. You can find it here. The second is a dialogue-writing exercise that Christine uses to encourage her undergrads to write with restraint. Write a short scene that happens almost entirely in dialogue.  Keep it to 2 or 3 characters.  In the scene, one of the characters should reveal a secret or some fact that worries or upsets the other person(s) in the scene.  Don’t overdo the reaction. Think about gestures the characters might also make or the physical/sensory details that would enable your readers to see the scene even more vividly.

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).

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Award-winning New Hampshire writer and Dartmouth professor Ernest Hebert, on the writing life and completing his series, The Darby Chronicles, published by UPNE.


This week’s  Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Ernest Hebert. He tells his students to take a page and draw a line down the middle. On one side, write one thing that you like about yourself (loyal to friends). On the right side, write something you don’t like about yourself (petty streak). Keep going. Fill the page. You don’t have to show anyone else. Just keep it for yourself. According to Ernie, in that language you will find all the characters you will ever need for a career in writing.

Good luck with this exercise, 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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Vermont author Martha Oliver-Smith, whose memoir about her grandmother, Martha's Mandala, came out in November 2014 from Spuyten Duyvil.

This week’s  Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Martha Oliver-Smith, whose grandmother made many lists. Make a list – a practical one, such as a grocery list or a to-do list, or an unusual far-flung list, such as what you would like to do in your next life, or things you learned about some abstract concept (love or fear) - or someone. In Patty Oliver-Smith’s case, it was her grandmother and the many things she learned from her - in no particular order.

Things My Grandmother Gave To Me and Taught Me:

She read to me and taught me how to read.

That one should always try to be kind.

She taught me how to darn socks, a skill I have never needed, thank god, but I am glad to recognize what a darning egg is.

That one should always be respectful and gentle with animals because they know and feel things that we cannot.

To watch out for fairies sleeping under the flowers in the garden.

There are numinous places everywhere. 

She sang to me, songs and lullabies that I sang to my own children.

How to play solitaire, and I am addicted to it--as she was.

That the concerns and work of men carried more weight in the world than those of women. Though she never said this to me, it came from one of the voices in her mind, and I learned it; now I continue to un-learn it. 

She taught me how to make a good vinaigrette dressing, even though she hated to cook and only made salads and dried-up hamburgers or baked eggs on the cook's days off.

She tried to teach me to paint with watercolors, but I had no patience or talent for it.

She listened.

She taught me to study and listen to people. 

That people are both funny and sad--sometimes at the same time.

That organized religion is not all it pretends to be, and faith and belief are two different things.

She explained what a paradox is and showed me how to live it, in it, with it.

She never told me I couldn't do something because I was a girl.

She gave me her gold bracelet with the name "martha" sculpted into it. I wear it for both of us when I have to present myself to the world as a serious grown-up.

She gave me her mandala.

The list itself can become a poem as you revise its linear form for line breaks, patterns, images, sounds etc. If you are working in prose, one or every item on the list can escape from the linear column with individual items to become a meditation expanded and elaborated with images, stories or scenes. The list can become a lyric or braided essay, depending on how far and deep you want to take the memory, imagination and language. The list will add up, whether short or long to something important that’s on your mind or in your heart. i.e. Why do you want/need those things on the grocery list or in your next life? What necessity, what memories of moments or scenes led to those items on the list?

Good luck with this exercise, 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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Veteran Boston Globe Reporter Stephen Kurkjian, author of Master Thieves, the story of the the largest art theft in history, published by PublicAffairs.

This week's Write the Book Prompt is to bring suspense to your (creative) nonfiction by writing certain pivotal moments in scene, rather than summarizing the historical facts. If you are able, include dialogue, eye contact, movement and sensory detail. This was an aspect of Master Thieves that I found engaging: that Stephen Kurkjian was able to inform readers about the events of the Gardner heist by bringing us into the moments that counted.
Good luck with this exercise, 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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