Archive for the 'Nature' Category

Diane Cook, author of The New Wilderness (Harper), which has been long listed for the Booker Prize. 

As I mentioned early in today’s show, when I interviewed Diane Cook, her infant son could be heard in the early part of the hour. Then he went to be with his dad and his voice was no longer heard on the recording. But it got me thinking: children fill our world, but are sometimes absent from our settings. Why is that? Do they make too much noise? Would the chaos keep your scene from working smoothly? (Kind of like life?) The world is full of children, yet it sometimes seems like I see way more dogs than children in the books I read. So this week’s Write the Book Prompt is to put a baby, toddler, or child in a scene. This doesn’t necessarily mean introducing a new character. But maybe your narrator is at a coffee shop. Is there a cherubic baby in a car seat by his mom’s side at another table? Is a young child acting up? Is a teenager sitting with a friend, in ardent conversation? Keep children in mind as you build your poetic and fictional worlds.

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and tune in next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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Sixth Generation Vermonter Bill Torrey, whose new memoir is Cutting Remarks: 40 Years in the Forest (Onion River Press). 

Prompt: Write about a recent walk in the woods. What was the weather like? What did you see and hear? How did your boots sound walking over the ground? Were there any animals about? Did the trees make sounds above you? Was there water running nearby? If you haven't been lately, perhaps go into the woods now. And then write. 

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and tune in next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

This is one of several shorter interviews Shelagh is conducting with Vermont authors whose new books have had their tours upended by Corona.  Stay tuned: there will be more! 

 

 

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Vermont Poet Scudder Parker, whose new collection of poems is Safe as Lightning (Rootstock Press).

Write the Book Prompt: Consider Scudder Parker’s advice about not being intimidated to write poetry. He says to turn to the singer songwriters you love and read their lyrics. Realize you’ve been experiencing poetry all your life, in the words of hymns, arias, folk songs, and pop music. All of that is poetry set to music. Poetry tries to create music. Don’t be intimidated by trying to write poetry. You’ve been feeling the mystery of it and the rhythm of it all your life. 

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and tune in next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

This is one of several shorter interviews Shelagh is conducting with Vermont authors whose new books have had their tours upended by Corona. Stay tuned: there will be more! 

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Vermont Poet Judith Chalmer, whose new collection of poems is Minnow (Kelsay Press). 

This week's Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Judith Chalmer. Start observing using your hand. This can be a very rich approach to writing, Judith says, because what comes to hand can be physical and what comes to hand can be metaphysical. The hand itself is a landscape that can be a wonderful subject. But apart from that, the exercise offers a way of starting close in and moving out, with observation as the starting point. Good luck with your work in the coming week, and tune in next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

 

Like many authors with recent book publications in the age of the Corona Virus, Judith Chalmer found herself in the predicament of having a book, but no launch or physical book tour. In order to help these authors find their audience, Write the Book is offering a series of mini-interviews with Vermont authors whose launches have been cancelled. Check back for more of these short-but-deep conversations on craft. And if you want to investigate her book through Judith's local bookseller, that would be Bear Pond Books in Montpelier. 

 

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New interview with Author, Poet, and former Vermont Poet Laureate Sydney Lea, whose new poetry collection is titled Here (Four Way Books). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to write a villanelle. Syd Lea and I discussed his poem, “Old Lessons,” during our conversation, and he then explained what the poem’s form consists of. But here’s a recap, thanks to the Poetry Foundation (where you can also find examples): "The villanelle is a French verse form consisting of five three-line stanzas and a final quatrain, with the first and third lines of the first stanza repeating alternately in the following stanzas. These two refrain lines form the final couplet in the quatrain."

This week, write a villanelle! See what happens as you allow yourself this very specific form to contain the ideas that come.

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and tune in next week for another prompt or suggestion.

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Vermont author Megan Price, who will soon publish another in her wildly popular Vermont Wild series (Pine Marten Press).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to write a story, poem, or essay that concerns wildlife or nature, and maybe has a funny aspect to it.

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and please tune in next week for another prompt or suggestion!

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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A special feature this week, related to the archive interview I aired on Monday with Robert and Martha Manning: click here to watch a slideshow  with audio of my recent walk with friends along part of The  Camino de Santiago (The Way of Saint James).You’ll hear music by the Spanish group El Niño del Parking. They are from Andalucia, which isn’t the same region as where the Camino ends, which is Galicia, but I needed to find music I had the right to use.

You’ll hear some moments I shared with the friends I walked with, Carol and Fiona. And you’ll hear many sounds from the natural world, and conversations heard along the trail. I’ve also included a few brief first-hand accounts from pilgrims I met along the way. Finally, toward the end, you’ll hear what sounds like bagpipes. And you’ll be right! As we approached the cathedral at the end, we encountered a bagpipe player, although the bagpipes from the region are actually called The "Gaita Gallega" and they are slightly different from the celtic instrument. At the very end, you’ll hear some music from the service in the Cathedral itself.

So, I hope you enjoy this somewhat unusual broadcast! Enjoy the camino. Or, as the pilgrims say to one another along the route, “Buen Camino.”

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Interview from the archives with Ecologist and educator Amy Seidl, author of Early Spring: An Ecologist and Her Children Wake to a Warming World and Finding Higher Ground: Adaptation in the Age of Warming.


This week's Write the Book Prompt concerns caring for the earth. Write about one step you have taken toward this guardianship. Then write about a next step you hope to take.

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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Author, editor, educator, and translator Wendy Call

This week’s Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Wendy Call, who says it was inspired by the portion of our interview about translation. It’s an exercise in homophonic translation -- that is to say, translation based on sound – actual, assumed, or imagined – of poetry written in other languages.

First: Find a stanza of poetry written in a language you do not know.

Second: Look at the words carefully and imagine how they sound when spoken aloud. Link those sounds to English words. Try sounding out each line verbally, until English words occur to you. Focus on SOUND, not known or imagined meaning. Feel free to take liberties and be nonsensical.

Here's an example, of a stanza of poetry written by Irma Pineda in Isthmus Zapotec, a language spoken in Oaxaca, Mexico.

The Original reads:

Nuu dxi rizaaca

ranaxhi tobi ca yáaga ca'

Wendy’s English version reads:

New dixie rise AKA

Ran an exit to bike yoga,  ‘kay?

Third: Take your "found" English stanza and revise it into a new poem.

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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Vermont author Eric Zencey, in a conversation about his novel, Panama (Farrar Straus Giroux), and his nonfiction books, The Other Road to Serfdom and the Path to Sustainable Democracy (UPNE), and Greening Vermont - The Search for a Sustainable State (Vermont Natural Resources Council/Thistle Hill Publications), co-authored by Elizabeth Courtney.


This week’s  Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Eric Zencey. It concerns noise and noise pollution. Based on a theater exercise that he’s been interested in turning into a writing prompt, this week’s exercise is to lie down, shut your eyes, maybe dim the lights, and then listen to and remember every sound you hear for a set amount of time. Maybe five minutes. Maybe ten. You decide. After that time is up, take notes about what you recall, and use the noises you were able to identify in your work.

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 James Tabor, Author of Blind Descent, discusses cave exploration, writing, and  Curtis' "Eighth Wonder of the World" Barbecue in Putney, Vermont.

This week’s Write The Book prompt is to write about an adventure you've had as an adult.

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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Poet and prose writer Barbara Henning, whose latest book is A Swift Passage, published by Quale Press.

This week’s Write The Book Prompt was generously offered by my guest, Barbara Henning. She told me that she has used this at the start of a new class, to help her students ground themselves. The prompt is called “FROM HAIKU TO PROSE” - Go for a walk (or remember a walk) and write down everything you see. Then write three haiku using words from your notes. Try to make each haiku a sentence. Haiku celebrate the ever-transforming universe by describing two actions in a single moment in time, an epiphany as the writer becomes aware of reality by observing something simple, striking and absolutely ordinary. Don't worry about syllable count; instead for each haiku, write one short line, one longer line and another short line. The world turns, the seasons change, everything is moving. See if you can get a sense of the season into your haiku and shy away from metaphors, abstract ideas, generalizations and statements about the writer's feelings; stick with things in movement. Haiku do not lecture on ideas about truth, goodness and beauty. They ARE truth and beauty. Here are two haiku, the first by Basho and the second by Richard Wright.

The peasant’s child,
husking rice, stops
and gazes at the moon.

A thin mangy dog
Curls up to sleep in the dust
Of a moonlit road.

Now tell the story of your walk and embed these haiku as sentences into your prose. If you consider your life a journey, every event that takes place is part of that journey, every action a part of another action. Even these momentary observations are small actions. Instead of breaking for the lined poem, let them flow right into the prose as sentences. In this way, you will have a poetic rhythm in your flash fiction or prose poem. You can use this same technique as a regular journal exercise or as a way to begin a story or a poem.

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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Award-winning Vermont poet Daniel Lusk, whose latest book is Kin, published by Wind Ridge Books of Vermont.

This week I have two Write The Book Prompts, both offered by my guest, Daniel Lusk. The first is prompted by what’s been happening all around us: 

After the ice storm, what do you wish might happen when the sun comes out?

And another, especially apt for the New Year: 

Make a list of questions to which you do not know the answer. Maybe the list is your poem. Maybe one of the questions will warrant further unraveling or provocative guesses in response.

Good luck with these exercises, 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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A 2010 interview with Jacob Paul, author of Sarah/Sara, published by IG Publishing.

This week's Write The Book Prompt is to write a set of instructions for one character to relay to another in dialogue. For example, how to build a fire, how to cook a chicken, how to set a spider free without hurting it.

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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Vermont Poet Laureate Sydney Lea, whose tenth collection of poems, I Was Thinking of Beauty, is now available from Four Way Books. Skyhorse Publishing has just published A North Country Life: Tales of Woodsmen, Waters and Wildlife. This interview is also available to watch, thanks to production by RETN, the Regional Educational Technology Network in Burlington, VT.


Today's Write The Book Prompt is to write a poem that involves a recollection of an old friend, and a reaction to the natural world.
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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Robert and Martha Manning, Vermont authors of Walking Distance: Extraordinary Hikes for Ordinary People, published by Oregon State University Press.

Today's Write The Book Prompt, of course, involves walking. On a piece of paper, write down a problem you've been having in your written work. You might write something very general, like setting. Or you might write something more detailed, like, Why is Melody so afraid of dogs? You might write a few lines from a poem, and then add "structure," or "line breaks," if the poem's structure has been giving you a hard time. Fold up the piece of paper and put it in your pocket. Then go for a walk. While walking, look around, enjoy the day, enjoy the beauty of the environment. Do not re-read the words while you're out. Don't focus on the problem, but let it sit in your pocket, a quiet presence that needs resolution. Then go back to your desk, right away when you get home, and start to write.

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

Music credits: 1) "Dreaming 1″ - John Fink; 2) "Filter" - Dorset Greens (a former Vermont band featuring several South Burlington High School graduates).

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Barbara Buckman Strasko, first Poet Laureate of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and 2009 River of Words Teacher of the Year. Her new book is Graffiti in Braille, published by Word Press.

Today's Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Barbara Buckman Strasko, who says this is an amalgam of various exercises she's found helpful in the past. The prompt helps to access otherwise subconscious thoughts, feelings, and ideas, which is so valuable when when we're writing poetry. Take notes about or answer the following questions. Barbara says it's best to consider each question individually, without looking ahead at the next one. You can then use your notes to write a poem. Or if you're lucky, the poem will form itself!

  • What have you lost ?
  • What have you found?
  • What do you remember?
  • What did you forget?
  • Where do you think what you lost is?
  • If you had what you lost, what would your words taste like?
  • If you had what you lost, what would your name not sound like?

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

Music credits: 1) "Dreaming 1″ - John Fink; 2) "Filter" - Dorset Greens (a former Vermont band featuring several South Burlington High School graduates).

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An interview from the archives with  Scott Russell Sanders, author of twenty books of fiction and nonfiction, including A Conservationist Manifesto and Earth Works, his latest, published in 2012 by Indiana University Press. This show originally ran in two parts, but here is available as a single podcast lasting almost an hour and a half.

Today's Write The Book Prompt is inspired by a writing conference I went to at the end of last week and over the weekend: AWP 2013, which took place in Boston. AWP stands for Associated Writing Programs. In the time I've been going to the meeting, every couple years for the past ten years or so, attendance has exploded. This year they had some 11,000 writers show up. That's a lot of writers, and they need a LOT of space. So there's crowd control to think about, and which panels and workshops and readings are of most interest to you, social concerns, like What-again-is-the-name-of-that-guy-who's-walking-over-here-and-where-do-I-know-him-from? There will be dietary concerns, like do you have time to stand in that long line for a cup of coffee and a cookie, and if you do, will you not be able to get a seat in the How-I-got-my-book- reviewed-by-Oprah panel? There's the issue of having to sit for long periods of time on maybe not the most comfortable seats. But then there are the great things: seeing old friends, learning new things, returning home energized to write! So this week's prompt is to write a poem, a story, an essay or a personal narrative about some experience you've either had or can imagine having at a conference. It can be any kind of conference or meeting or reunion - whatever inspires you to write.

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

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Vermont author and veterinarian Steven B. Metz, D.M.V., whose new memoir is Exotic Tails: A Veterinarian’s Journey, published by Wind Ridge Publishing in Shelburne, Vermont.

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Steven B. Metz, with representations of his two favorite hobbies: the motorcycle, and Bach.

This week's Write The Book Prompt is to write about a person who inherits a cat, a ferret, a tiger, an elephant or a hedgehog. You can't call it the Life of Pi, though, as that's been done. (Twice, in fact, if you count the fact that Yann Martel freely admits that the inspiration for his Booker-prize-winning novel came from a story by Brazilian author, Moacyr Scliar, whose "Max and the Cats" features a teenage Jewish boy adrift in a boat with a panther after a shipwreck.)

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

We ran out of time for the Bookworm's Calendar this week, so here it is:

  • The Northshire Bookstore in Manchester Center presents Alex Kershaw, Friday, December 7th, at 7, with his book, The Liberator.
  • And then on Saturday, December 8, at 7, James Gustave Speth will be at the Northshire with his book, America the Possible: Manifesto for a New Economy.
  • Archer Mayor will read from his latest Joe Gunther mystery, Paradise City, on Dec 8 at 11 at Bridgeside Books in Waterbury. Later that same day, at 3, he'll be at the Yankee Bookshop in Woodstock. And on Monday, Dec. 10 at 8, he'll be at the Latchis Theater in Brattleboro, where he'll be at the 2012 Vermont Arts Awards Gala, receiving a Governor's Award for Excellence in the Arts.
  • The Dorothy Alling Memorial Library in Williston presents another pair of "Shape and Share Life Stories," Monday, December 10 & 17 from 12:30-2:30. Prompts trigger real life experience stories which are crafted into engaging narratives and shared with the group. Led by Recille Hamrell.

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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Writer and Gardening Expert Charlie Nardozzi, author of Northeast Fruit and Vegetable Gardening, published by Cool Springs Press.

Today's Write The Book Prompt was inspired by my conversation with Charlie Nardozzi. You're digging in your garden and you find something. What do you find? What's its history? What's it worth? What will happen to your life as a result of finding this item? Write a poem, a scene, a story, or a paragraph about it. 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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Vermont writer Tovar Cerulli, author of The Mindful Carnivore: A Vegetarian's Hunt for Sustenance, published by Pegasus Books.

This week's Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Tovar Cerulli. Recall an experience with an animal, wild or domestic, from your childhood or teen years. Write the scene as you recall it, describing what occurred. Read your own description and consider: Are there additional layers of thought or feeling that are relevant? Do you want to work any of these into the scene? (Optional second round: Recall a more recent experience with an animal and write and consider that scene. What similarities or differences between the two scenes do you notice?)

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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Vermont author Mark Pendergrast, whose latest book is Japan's Tipping Point: Crucial Choices in the Post-Fukushima World.

Inspired by our guest Mark Pendergrast's interest in Japan, this week's Write The Book Prompt is to fold an origami crane. If you get stuck in your writing, or are simply wanting an activity that keeps you thinking, but not struggling, folding an origami animal might help. You'll still be engaged in a creative act, but you'll be following a set list of instructions, which might free the author in you to continue working away from the computer keyboard. Below are a few links to origami paper folding (all from the same site, which seemed easy to follow and not full of annoying ads). You can also print the Write The Book logo I've included below that for colorful folding paper. Or use a sheet from your recycle bin: maybe a rejected poem or scene can have a second life as a crane, a frog, or a flower.

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

Crane

Flower

Frog

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Award Winning Writer of Children's Books Kate Messner, whose latest is Over and Under the Snow. If you're interested to read about libraries in need following Tropical Storm Irene, check out this part of Kate's blog.

Today's Write The Book Prompt is to write a story, a scene, a poem, or a paragraph that has something to do with the kind of reader you were as a child.

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

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Ecologist and educator Amy Seidl, author of Early Spring: An Ecologist and Her Children Wake to a Warming World and Finding Higher Ground: Adaptation in the Age of Warming.

Today's Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Amy Seidl. First, read over this passage from her book, Finding Higher Ground:

"Peer into the natural world, one close at hand. Perhaps it is a city park whose paths are lined with oak or maple trees planted in the nineteenth century. Or maybe you are fortunate enough to walk in a remnant prairie with freshwater kettle ponds and migratory ducks, or an old-growth forest with trees whose gigantic trunks and canopies house thousands of species. Maybe you are walking in your own backyard, traversing an enclosed space that you've filled with daylilies, climbing roses, and garden beds filled with vegetables. All these places-the ones intended as sanctuary or refuge, the ones cultivated by gardeners, the wild places with no cultivators or patrons-all are experiencing the agitation of change."

Having read that passage, follow Amy's advice. Gaze out at the natural world-whichever one you find inspiring or, as Amy says, close at hand-and consider what you see and the adaptive realities that exist there. Now write about what you noticed, and your reactions to these observations. Were you surprised, awed, worried, impressed? Describe the changing world as you witness it, and the adaptation represented in what you've seen, and then describe how it moves you.

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

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Kristin Kimball, NY Farmer and Author of The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food, and Love.

This week's Write the Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Kristin Kimball. Write about your grandmother by describing her home. If you don't have a living memory of your grandmother, pick somebody else from your childhood who was very important to you, and describe that person by describing their home.

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

Many thanks to the South Burlington Community Library for hosting this interview in front of an audience of their patrons!

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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Vermont Poet Jody Gladding, author of Rooms and Their Airs, published by Milkweed Editions.

This week's Write The Book Prompt is inspired by Jody Gladding's poetry and her focus on the natural world. Go for a walk in an outdoor place of your choosing. It can be in your back yard, in the woods, on Church Street, in the parking lot at your local mall. Wherever you'd like. Bring along a notebook and record sounds, smells, sights. Be sure to record some detail of nature that you find in whichever environment you choose. And also record at least one detail that reflects man's influence on the surroundings you've chosen. Set your notes aside, but continue to consider what you saw and perhaps experienced on your walk. A day or two later, write a poem about your walk and try to include the details you noted.

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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Scientist and Memoir Writer Cardy Raper, Author of Love, Sex & Mushrooms: Part 2 of a 2-Part Interview With New Vermont Writers.

This week's Write The Book Prompt is inspired by National Libraries Week. The state slogan for this year's celebration is: "Vermont Libraries can take you anywhere." This week, find inspiration at a local library. Go sit in the reading room, people watch, chat with the librarian. Browse the shelves. Browse any fliers, posters or announcements in the lobby. Find out what online services your local library provides, and then browse those sites. Keep your mind open and your pen ready. Then write.

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

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Donald and Lillian Stokes, authors of The Stokes Field Guide to The Birds of North America.

This week's Write The Book Prompt is inspired by the interview you heard today with Donald and Lillian Stokes. Settle yourself in a comfortable spot where you can spot birds. Either go outside, if it's a lovely day, or sit in a window where you can see birds coming and going. Choose a bird and write as full a description of it as you possibly can. Here's an example from the Stokes' Guide. The Rock Sandpiper is a medium-sized, fairly rotund, short-legged sandpiper with a strongly tapered fine pointed bill that droops slightly at tip. After you record as much detail about the bird's shape, coloring and movements as you can, take that description and use it to fill out details about a character in your work. Mr. Piper was a rotund man of medium height whose short legs made him walk with an amusing little hop. He had a strong nose that drooped at the tip, as if pointing out that he had no chin at all.

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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Jon Turner, Vermont Veteran, Poet, Paper Maker and Warrior Writers Member.

This week, instead of a Write the Book Prompt, I'm going to refer you to the Warrior Writers' blogspot. There, alongside regular blog entries, you'll find weekly writing prompts, poetry forms, and occasional shared work.

Please listen next week when the Prompt will return.

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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Upper Valley poet Carol Westberg, author of the new collection, Slipstream.

This week's Write The Book Prompt is inspired by the writing exercise you heard Carol Westberg describe on the show today. In her case, the exercise resulted in her poem, "Postcard from San Vitale." I'm going to read a list of eight words and suggest that you try to work them into a poem that's written in the form of a message to someone close to you, be it a lover, a relative, a friend, a neighbor. Here are the words: unscrupulous, hook, rhythm, pecan, thrum, peccadillo, downy, messenger.

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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Jacob Paul, author of the new novel, Sarah/Sara, published by IG Publishing.

This week's Write The Book prompt was inspired by the work of my guest, Jacob Paul. Write a scene or a poem in which a small conflict is resolved through action, even adventure. So, for example, a character who is a little hungry but has no money tries to steal a candy bar from a convenience store. A character who was once pick-pocketed witnesses a purse snatching and plays some role in interrupting the crime. A character who longs for warm weather goes skiing. This doesn't need to be an enormous inner conflict or Job-like act of valor. But use action to impact conflict in some small 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 South Burlington High School students.

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James Tabor, Author of Blind Descent, discusses cave exploration, writing, and  Curtis' "Eighth Wonder of the World" Barbecue in Putney, Vermont.

This week’s Write The Book prompt was inspired by the work of my guest, James M. Tabor. Next time you're considering getting up from your desk and walking away from your writing-against your better judgment-imagine yourself in a cave, two miles below the surface of the earth. Close your eyes, and consider what it might be like to have only the lights that you brought along, only the equipment that you carry on your back. Imagine yourself suspended over water, carefully making your way along the wall of a cave that has a 200-foot vertical drop. This is the sensation that can result in "The Rapture," the kind of panic attack that quickly becomes dangerous for cave explorers. Control your breathing, control your urges to flee. You can't just walk away. You have to finish what you started. Now open your eyes, feel grateful that you're no deeper than the last paragraph that stumped you, and keep writing.

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 local author Tim Brookes about his new book, Thirty Percent Chance of Enlightenment.

Prompt: This week, instead of a Write The Book Prompt, I offer what I'm calling an "anti-prompt." When I asked my guest, Tim Brookes, if he had a prompt to suggest, he answered with a very firm "no." Tim does not use prompts, and as a teacher, he does not assign them. When I asked him if I might offer his opinion this week, instead of a prompt, he wrote me the following email. Perhaps you'll find it useful.

I guess I'm anti-prompt for the same three reasons why I'm against that rhetoric/debate exercise where the teacher says, "Which side are you on when it comes to this issue? Okay, in that case, argue the opposite side."

One, I want my writers to discover what they have to say by paying attention to their own inner landscape, their own issues, passions, dark corners.

Two, that's not the way it works in real life.

Three, it takes a writer absolutely at the top of his/her game to be able to pull that off well.

One: it takes a great deal of time and practice for a young writer even to be aware of what s/he has to say, let alone to have the confidence and the means to say it powerfully. To me that's a crucial, crucial goal. Writing to a prompt produces reactive writing--writing to please someone else, writing to respond to someone else--which actually takes the writer's focus away from what is most important to him/her. For the prompt to strike home and hit a subject of genuine urgency and importance to the writer is like throwing a dart across the street and trying to hit the bulls eye of a dartboard on the other side of the traffic. Giving prompts is a way to get writing from the student, but not a way of helping the student become a writer. It's a recipe for bullshit.

Two:  In all the twenty years I was writing for NPR--the form that's closest to the kind of short personal essay/poem product that writing prompts are usually intended to provoke-I was only ever asked to respond to a specific subject twice. My best feature-story editor used to say to me, "What do you want to spend three months learning about?" It's true that a good many journalists are given assignments they have to go and cover, but they themselves would rarely claim that daily grind produced their best writing. The fact is, we writers write best about the things that matter to us. Sometimes we can bring that passion to a subject that was assigned to us, but more often that's not the case. If you want student writers to write like professional writers, have them talk to poets/novelists/essayists and ask them, "How do you reach your best writing?" and see what they say. And here's the real problem: none of those writers will say, "I sit down in a regularly scheduled English class at 10:10 every Tuesday and Friday and whatever's going on inside me or around me I always find something to say." Bollocks.

Three: It is possible to write well from a prompt--and in a sense editorial writers do it all the time--but there's a reason why a newspaper's editorials are written by the most seasoned, experienced, widely-read writers on the staff. You need to have an astonishingly wide range of reference in order to have a chance of understanding the subject, let alone saying anything worthwhile; you need a deep sense of form and structure to be able to create a finished piece of given proportions in a limited time; and you need to be capable of interesting turns of phrase under pressure. Student writers try desperately to ape that kind of skill, but they also know that 85% of what they write is bullshit. I know: I've asked them. So I'd far rather have them attempt something that genuinely means something to them. Even the act of trying to access that genuine subject is worth more than facility at writing a poem on Spring at the drop of a hat.

So what do I use instead of prompts?

I usually just say, "Think back to an incident or a conversation (conversation is better, as it's much more specific) that you've had, or you've witnessed, from the past twelve months, one that you recall with some kind of strong emotion. Now write about that in as much detail as you can remember."

So that's Tim's take on prompts. I offer his words as encouragement to anyone who doesn't tend to find them helpful or generative. For those of you who do like them, the prompt will be back next week. I may rename it, though... hmm.

Good luck with your writing this week!

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Interview with Vermont author Howard Frank Mosher.

Prompt: This week’s Write The Book Prompt was inspired by the interview you heard today. Howard Frank Mosher mentioned during our talk that he had twice, in the course of writing his new book, Walking To Gatlinburg, asked his wife Phyllis to cast and read Nordic runes as a helpful form of inspiration. He did this partly because Phyllis was studying runes at the time, and partly because runes were the inspiration for the Kingdom Mountain pictographs that play a role in his new book. This week's Write The Book Prompt, then, is to cast runes. For help in understanding how to do this, try these websites (or Google "Nordic Runes," and see if you find other references):

http://www.ehow.com/how_5830139_make-own-rune-set.html

http://www.runemaker.com/casting.shtml

Set yourself a question or problem that you'd like to resolve in your work, and let the runes offer suggestions. These could inspire a course of action for your character, for yourself, for the plot, or for the structure of the project. Keep your mind open and see what presents itself.

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 Gary Kowalski,  senior minister to the First Unitarian Universalist Society in Burlington and the author of several bestselling books, including Revolutionary Spirits: The Enlightened Faith of America's Founding Fathers.

Today's Write The Book Prompt is inspired by President's Day. As you look for writing ideas this week, consider one of the following quotes. Listen to these famous words by some of America's founding fathers, and then free write.

He that goes a borrowing goes a sorrowing. ~ Benjamin Franklin

If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace. ~ Thomas Paine

Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe. ~ Thomas Jefferson

Guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism. ~ George Washington

Philosophy is common sense with big words. ~ James Madison

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 poet Leslie Ullman.

Prompt:This week's Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Leslie Ullman, during our interview. She mentioned this exercise-the poetic inversion-twice during our talk. Take a poem that strikes you in some way-it can be a poem of yours or one by another writer-read it through a couple of times, and then jot down casually, phrase by phrase, opposites to something in the poem. Use the work as a starting point only, writing opposites that occur to you as you read each line. Then put the exercise aside. Look at it later, and see what's coming at you. Do this without any expectations, but just to see what comes of trying to create an inversion of the original poem.

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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