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Archive for the 'Dystopia' Category

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Vermont author Laura Williams McCaffrey, whose latest novel is Marked, published by Clarion.

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to expand the vocabulary of the world about which you are writing. Laura Williams McCaffrey said in our interview that the fantastical vocabulary of the dystopian world of her novel Marked tends to be functional vocabulary. “Squatties” squat -- that’s what they do, she tells us. In considering the world you are perhaps creating in a piece of fiction, or poetry, or essay, even if you’re not working on a dystopian piece, think about the functional vocabulary of that place, time, or community. Are you writing about a faraway place? Might there be a vocabulary you could research and expand on, or a vocabulary that you should invent? Is there a workplace in your piece that might have specialized functional vocabulary? Perhaps an ad agency that has a code word to refer to an important client waiting in the lobby? Or maybe in your narrator’s family, are there words or expressions specific to their experience that you could add to amplify your reader’s understanding of their life together? Maybe the mother always shouts a certain phrase when she wants  the kids to turn out their lights and go to sleep. Maybe she shouts, “BEDTIME!!” at the top of her lungs. Or does she come to the door and barely whisper it, her tone full of consequences. 

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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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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Critically acclaimed and bestselling author Julianna Baggott, whose new novel is Harriet Wolf's Seventh Book of Wonders (Little Brown).

This week’s  Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Julianna Baggott, who encourages her students to use “visualization” to move forward in narrative. She suggests that her students close their eyes for each. They can take notes in between each. Here are a few examples she offered, from which you can work. Either now, if you’re all set up to do so, or later, listen to these with your eyes closed, and try to visualize what’s happening, but missing, from each prompt:

  • A Man walks out of a house* He’s dressed very strangely* He walks to a car* Opens the trunk, looks inside* reaches in*
  • A woman is running, scared – where* She runs out of breath, falls to her knees. She hears a * looks up and sees*
  • A man is sitting on a park bench. By his clothes, we assume he works as a _________ . A woman sits next to him and says something that makes no sense to us but means a lot to him, “ -------------“
  • A woman is standing in a flooded basement – things float and are soaked around her* -- she finds a footlocker, wades over to it – reaches inside to find * 
  • A boy in pajamas is outside* -- alone. He hears * but ignores it and keeps heading toward a *
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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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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Interview from the archives with New Hampshire writer Toby Ball, about his first novel, The Vaults, published by St. Martin's Press. He has since published another novel, Scorch City, also published by St. Martin's.

Toby Ball's novels take place in the same unnamed dystopian city, though during different time periods. This week's Write the Book Prompt is to try your hand at writing a story, poem, or scene that has to do with a dystopian community. You can read more about what a dystopian society might encompass on Wikipedia.

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

Excerpt of The Vaults read with permission from St. Martin's Press, a division of MacMillan.

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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