Award-winning Vermont author Julia Alvarez, whose latest book is A WEDDING IN HAITI: THE STORY OF A FRIENDSHIP, published by Shannon Ravenel Books, an imprint of Algonquin.
The televised production of this interview can be found at RETN.org
Today I can offer two Write The Book Prompts, both of which were generously suggested by my guest, Julia Alvarez.The first is to write a list poem or prose passage. Julia loves making lists, and reading them. She wrote in an email, "sometimes, when I am grocery shopping, I'll find a discarded list on a shelf or on the floor, and I always pick it up and read it. Many are just a straight list of items to buy, but every once in a while, the list will include little notes or things to do. I'll start to imagine a story for the shopper who dropped the list!"
She offered a number of examples of good list poems and prose passages, including Triad, by 19th century poet Adelaide Crapsey:
These be three silent things:
the falling snow. . .the hour
before dawn. . .the mouth of one
Julia asks writers to remember that the items on the list need to be vivid and concrete, as sharp as little haikus, because as we read a list, we have to quickly picture each item before the next one comes on board. No brand names. None of those airbrushed abstract adjectives ("beautiful," "interesting") that are vague and generic" and don't nail down an image with a bright flash of recognition. She writes, "I love the surprises and juxtapositions that happen when you try to group, say, shapely things on a list." She sent a number of eighth graders' wonderful poems, from a workshop that she taught. Here they are:
Waves on an ocean. . . long,
high rollercoasters, mouths
forming words. . . writing. . .
someone walking or running
with a limp. . .
clouds in the open sky. . . a mind
forming an idea.
Tammy, 8th grade
These things hardly have time:
lightning in a storm,
very nervous people,
the rush of embarrassment,
the years in a life and
a never-stopping clock.
These things hardly have time.
Scott, 8th grade
These things are extra hard:
writing a poem,
riding up a hill in 10th gear,
and taking wet socks off.
James, 8th grade
Rocks the water of a creek runs over
and the slime of a swamp.
Catch a fish--that, too.
The words of a blabber mouth.
Sue, 8th grade
Another writing prompt came via a book her stepdaughter Berit gave to Julia one Christmas: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous & Obscure, edited by Smith Magazine, which has a whole site devoted to posts of six-word memoirs.
So the second prompt would be: write your six-word memoir! Julia cautions that it can be really difficult to get an essence of who you are so briefly.
Good luck with these prompts, and please listen next week for another!
The commemorative event that Julia and I discussed during the interview, marking the 75th anniversary of the 1937 Haitian Massacre, takes place in October. More information about that event will be available at border of lights.org
More information about Piti's band, Rise Up, Brothers, will be available soon at cafealtagracia.com
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