Archive for the 'Politics' Category

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American Poet, Essayist and Translator J. Chester Johnson, whose new memoir is Damaged Heritage: The Elaine Race Massacre and A Story of Reconciliation (Pegasus).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to consider your own family’s leanings when it comes to filiopietism, that veneration, often excessive, of ancestors or tradition. Does this exist in your own circle of relatives? Do people excuse behaviors because it’s just how the family has always been? Do you have beliefs based largely on what you were raised to think but have never questioned? Are there, even,  certain artifacts hidden away in your home that you keep simply because they belonged to a great grandfather or grandmother? If so, think about why you keep them, why you believe what you believe, why you cling to what you cling to, what you might shed of your family’s past if you could (or what you would not), and then write about it.

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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Author Steven Wingate, whose new novel is Of Fathers and Fire (Univ. of Nebraska Press - Flyover Fiction). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Steven Wingate. He calls it “The Endless Sentence,” and it is designed as both a loosening up exercise and a means of exploration. It requires only a timer and your favorite writing implement (analog or digital). You simply set your timer for five minutes and start writing, and everything is allowed except one single punctuation mark: the period. Steven explains that writers rely on periods instinctively to separate thoughts from each other. If our thoughts feel like they’re getting too uncontrolled or scraggly, we end one sentence and start another. But if you take that tool away from yourself, you’re forced to keep flying through your thoughts with less control than you’re used to. Steven argues that this is a good thing because it means freedom—which is essential, especially early on in a project when you’re looking for a narrator’s (or character’s) voice. When you remove the period, you slip beneath your own radar and do things that surprise yourself. This can lead you to a new understanding of characters and settings, or maybe even to self-standing flash pieces with intriguing musical or formal features (e.g., lists or recurring verbal motifs). Try this especially when you’re feeling stuck or when a writing day hasn’t gone according to plan.

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

Music: Aaron Shapiro

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Author Rick Smolan, whose new book is The Good Fight: America's Ongoing Struggle for Justice (Against All Odds), co-authored by Jennifer Erwitt.

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This week’s Write the Book Prompt is inspired by the interview you heard today. Many thanks to Rick Smolan for providing some photographs from The Good Fight for me to post on the podcast site. (See below.) Have a look at these pictures, and then write whatever you might be moved to express. You can have a closer look by right-clicking (or control-clicking) on each image to open it in a new tab. 

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

 

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

 

Photo Credit: Steve Schapiro  Signing of 19th Amendment to the US Constitution

Photo Credit: Steve Schapiro                                           1920: KY Governor Morrow signs 19th Amendment

Photo Credit: Jessica Rinaldi  Photo Credit: Nuccio Dinuzzo

Photo Credit: Jessica Rinaldi                                        Photo Credit: Nuccio Dinuzzo

Photo Credit: Doug Mills  Photo Credit: Johnathan Bachman

Photo Credit: Doug Mills                                               Photo Credit: Johnathan Bachman

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Interview from the archives with Madeleine M. Kunin, Vermont's first woman governor, about her book The New Feminist Agenda: Defining the Next Revolution for Women, Work, and Family (Chelsea Green).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to write about a prejudice you know yourself to have. Because, if we're honest, we probably all have them. I'll start. I avoid cars with a certain regional license plate, because I'm of the opinion that those drivers can not be trusted on the road. (No, I won't name the region.) Do you have a prejudice? How do you feel about it? Are you ashamed of it, proud of it? Do you work to get past it? 

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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Author Maggie Kast, whose 2015 novel, A Free Unsullied Land (Fomite Press), recently won a Wordwrite Book Award. 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is generously suggested by Maggie Kast, who uses it when she teaches workshops on "Writing Your Family Story." Identify an object that was important in your family (either your family of origin, or the family you’ve since come to be a part of), and then contemplate that object, draw it if you want to, identify sensory details connected with it (looks, smells, feels, tastes, makes sounds?) and then put that object into a scene--into a place--if you want, draw that place. And then ask yourself what happened in that place that made the object so important. Did it involve something contentious, nostalgic. Was there a fearful memory, or did the object get broken, perhaps? Write as you remember.

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

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

N.B. Maggie wrote to offer the precise William Gass quote she tried to recall when we spoke. Here's her follow-up: ... a quote from William Gass' wonderful book, On Being Blue. Subtitled "a philosophical inquiry," it deals mostly with writing about sex. The passage I was attempting to quote is: "I should like to suggest that at least on the face of it a stroke by stroke story of a copulation is exactly as absurd as a chew by chew account of the consumption of a chicken's wing." It's on page 20 of the edition brought out by New York Review of Books in 2014, with introduction by Michael Gorra. Original publication was 1976, and that's when I first encountered it. - MK

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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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Posted in WritingPoliticsActivismCreative NonfictionMeditationNonfictionEnvironment,FoodNatureHistoryMemoirFarmingEssaysHealthgardening on Mar 15th, 2012

Vermont writer Tovar Cerulli, author of The Mindful Carnivore: A Vegetarian's Hunt for Sustenance, published by Pegasus Books.

Tovar Cerulli's website bio describes him as having had an "outdoorsy" boyhood. This week's Write The Book Prompt is to write about an outdoorsy experience. 

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, with whom I spoke in March 2012 about his book Japan's Tipping Point: Crucial Choices in the Post-Fukushima World.


This week's Write the Book Prompt is to write for half an hour, allowing your starting point to be, "Despite all that training, when we first heard the alarm, none of us knew what it was."

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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Kate Harding, author of Asking For It: The Alarming Rise of Rape Culture – and What We Can Do About It, published by Da Capo Lifelong Books.


This week’s Write the Book Prompt was inspired by this week’s interview, specifically about Kate Harding’s and my discussion of the media. Write a scene in which a politician or member of the media makes a statement or argument that is stranger than fiction. It can be ridiculous or outlandish -- surely our culture has seen an actual example that’s just as shocking. Then re-write the scene in another manner, but without changing that character’s point of view. A politician who might find a smoother way to convey his or her offensive message. A journalist who might offer two points of view and then an opinion. Study what changed between the two scenes, and keep that change -- the strong, inartful message versus the subtle or shrewd or slick message -- in mind as you work on your own characters going forward.

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, playwright and activist Diane Lefer, whose new book is Confessions of a Carnivore, published by Burlington, VT publisher, Fomite Press. Visit Second Chances LA to read Diane's interviews with torture victims in her local (Los Angeles) community. 


This week’s Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Diane Lefer, who says that writers sometimes forget to consider what their characters want at different points in their fictional lives. She likes to present a character’s emotional life, and not just the facts. The prompt, then, is to write, “When I was five years old, what I wanted more than anything else in the world was…” and finish that statement. Write it again, beginning, “When I was ten years old,” and “When I was fifteen years old.” Keep going with this. Choose the intervals of time that make the most sense for your age or for that of your character. See how the desire changes, and keep that in mind as you 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 Vermont band featuring several former South Burlington High School students).


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2011 interview with Award-Winning Author and Journalist Christian Parenti, regarding his book, Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence.

This week's Write the Book Prompt is to write about the eventual occasion of a long-avoided conflict.

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 and publishing consultant Kim MacQueen, whose novel People Who Hate America came out in the fall of 2014.  

Today's Write the Book Prompt is to write about a familiar setting, but place it in a different time period. If you write about that place in the past, do some research. Try to find pictures or interviews that shed light on what the area was like. Also, use your imagination. The fact that you know the place means that you can bring something to it from experience that might add warmth to the snapshot, the wiki entry. Perhaps in a photograph, you learn that a simple boathouse existed on the shore of your favorite bay. You already know what the water sounds like there, how the breezes feel and what direction they tend to take. Describe the old boathouse using your photo, describe the place using experience and emotional connection. Of coure, if you launch your setting into the future, you can take a lot more license. But still, try to stay honest to what you feel might change and what might stay the same. 

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

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Archive interview with Vermont writer Laban Carrick Hill, author of over thirty books, including the historical picture book, Dave the Potter, and co-director of the Writers Project of Ghana, a nonprofit based in the Ghana and the US. In 2014, Laban Carrick Hill published the award winning When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of Hip Hop.

Today's Write the Book Prompt is to write about a person with some regimen that is challenged: a vegetarian who can only find a hamburger in the small town he is visiting; a Jewish mourner who is unable to find a synagogue in which to pray (or a minyan for a prayer service); a reserved mother who can't find a private place to nurse her hungry baby. 
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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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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New interviews with best-selling novelist Tana French, whose new Dublin Murder Squad mystery is The Secret Place, published by Viking; Vermont poet and veteran Jon Turner, who has worked extensively with the Warrior Writers Project and Combat Paper, and is now a member of the Farmer Veteran Coalition; and our own book mentor, Claire Benedict, co-owner of Bear Pond Books in Montpelier.

During this show, Claire recommended:

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber

The Secret Place by Tana French

Museums of America by Gary Miller

A House In the Sky by Amanda Lindhout and Sara Corbett

This week's Write the Book  Prompt might involve going into your attic or basement. Find a box in your home whose contents you’re not entirely sure of. Write about what might be inside. Include memories of events that the possible contents trigger. Then open the box, and write about what you do, in fact, find there. 

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 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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2010 interview with Unitarian minister and author Gary Kowalski. We spoke about his book Revolutionary Spirits: The Enlightened Faith of America's Founding Fathers. In 2013, I interviewed the reverend Kowalski a second time, about his book, Goodbye Friend.


Today's Write the Book Prompt is to consider the following quote, and then free write: 

“I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn." 

Anne Frank

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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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Interviews with Neuroscientist James Fallon, author of The Psychopath Inside: A Neuroscientist's Personal Journey into the Dark Side of the Brain, published by Current; and Vermont Poet Ralph Culver, whose chapbook, Both Distances, was published by Anabiosis Press.

Today I have two Write The Book Prompts for you, both of which were mentioned by my second guest, Ralph Culver, during our conversation. First, if your writing needs a jump start, go to a favorite book of poetry and spend some time reading that work. Often, Ralph finds that doing this will reanimate his desire to write. He also mentioned trying to write a short haiku-like poem, which may or may not follow all the rules of the haiku, but is likely to involve nature. So those are your prompts this week. Read a favorite poem or book of poems. And try to write a haiku. Don’t focus so specifically on the rules that you’re unable to write, but perhaps let the form inspire you.

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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Roxana Robinson, author of five novels and three collections of short stories. Her latest novel is Sparta, published June 4th by Sarah Crichton Books.

Today's Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Roxana Robinson. The first exercise she always offers to her students is this: write one page, no more, and include two voices and a conflict: nothing but dialogue, and no description. She says what comes from this setup is always interesting. With only dialogue and conflict, the writer naturally supplies everything the reader needs to understand.

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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Best-selling author of fiction, essays and memoir, Anne Lamott. We discussed Some Assembly Required: A Journal of My Son's First Son.

Following the interview with Anne Lamott, a partial rebroadcast from 2008, with the poet David Budbill.

As we continue to enjoy National Poetry Month, this week's Write The Book Prompt is another poetry exercise. It's inspired by the work of my first guest, Anne Lamott, whose book, Some Assembly Required, has to do with becoming a grandparent. So this week, write a poem about grandparents. Being a grandparent, having a grandparent, or whatever else this prompt might inspire 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 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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Writer, nurse and humanitarian aid worker Roberta Gately, author of Lipstick in Afghanistan and The Bracelet.

This week's Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Roberta Gately. She says that when you observe people closely, writing ideas do come. She suggests that writers always have a notebook handy, so you can jot down your ideas wherever you are, no matter what you're doing. Next, go to a place where you're likely to find a lot of people: a supermarket, a library, or a shopping mall, for example. And watch people. See what you see, and write down your new ideas.

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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Interview with Vermont Writer Rowan Jacobsen. We discussed his book The Living Shore: Rediscovering a Lost World. His latest book is Shadows on the Gulf: A Journey through Our Last Great Wetland. Both books were published by Bloomsbury.

Today's Write The Book Prompt is to write about an experience visiting the shore (any shore...)

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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John Homans, author of the new book, What's A Dog For? , published by Penguin, and executive editor of New York Magazine.

From Anton Chekhov's Lady With Lap Dog to Jack London's Call of the Wild, dogs, of course, feature prominently in literature. This week it's your turn to add to the canon; the Write The Book Prompt is to write about an unexpected encounter with a dog.

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

NOTE: Check out the guidelines for submitting your writing prompt outcomes for possible inclusion on the show!

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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Former Vermont Governor Madeleine M. Kunin, author of The New Feminist Agenda: Defining the Next Revolution for Women, Work, and Family, published by Chelsea Green.

Governor Kunin's book opens with a recollected moment of anger about the status of women's and families' rights. Today's Write The Book Prompt is to write about something that makes you angry. It can be political or personal, about your spouse or your sibling or the price of organic almonds. Be sure to state your reasons clearly, and not allow the emotion you feel to cloud the message you might be trying to convey.

Good luck with this prompt and tune in 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 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

just dead

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:

Shapely Things

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,

being original,

riding up a hill in 10th gear,

and taking wet socks off.

James, 8th grade

Slippery Things

Rocks the water of a creek runs over

Worms

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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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

WTBLogo.jpg

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David Wojahn, Award Winning (and Pulitzer Prize Nominated) Poet, Author of the New Collection WORLD TREE, part of the Pitt Poetry Series (University of Pittsburgh Press).  Part of this collection, a series called "Ochre," can also be found (along with photographs) at the Blackbird Online Literary Journal Website.

Today's Write The Book Prompt was offered by my guest, David Wojahn. This prompt works well with poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction alike. Write a piece about a family member meeting a famous person. It can be invented or authentic. This will naturally force you to take something personal and put it in a perspective that has to do with a wider public 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 former South Burlington High School students).

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Joan Leegant, Award-winning Author of Stories and the Novel, Wherever You Go, published by Norton.

Today I have two Write The Book Prompts to suggest, both of which were generously offered by my guest, Joan Leegant. First, write titles: maybe ten of them. Pick one, and start writing. Let the title you've come up with and chosen be the impetus that feeds what you write. Joan's second suggestion is to read someone else's book for an hour and then write ten first lines of your own. Pick one, and go from there. Reading another book first will put your mind into the language of fiction, and can help to feed the first lines you write.

Good luck with these exercises 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 from the archives with award-winning fiction writer, Diane Lefer.
No prompt this week. Take it easy! And then please listen next week for a new 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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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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Vermont poet David Budbill, author of seven books of poems, eight plays, a novel, a collection of short stories, a picture book for children, and many more works. His latest book is Happy Life, published by Copper Canyon Press.

This week's Write the Book Prompt is inspired by the work of today's guest, David Budbill. The following is one of David's new poems from Happy Life:

*

My Punishment

I get up before the sun,

make a fire in the woodstove,

boil water, make tea,

watch the dawn come.

Then I get back in bed,

under the quilt,

propped up on my pillows,

read a little, drink my tea

and stare out the window

at the snow coming down.

.

Oh, this lazybones life!

.

Others rush off to work while

I lie here in silence waiting for

a few words to come drifting

over from the Other Side.

No wonder I never make any money.

I am being punished

for having such a good time.

~ David Budbill

*

The prompt this week is to write a poem that conveys an aspect of your life that is joyful or pleasant, but also conveys the truth about an associated hardship.

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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Wendy Call, writer, editor, translator and teacher. Author of No Word for Welcome: The Mexican Village Faces the Global Economy.

This week's Write the Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Wendy Call. It's a two-step writing exercise. First, think about a place that you really love. Describe this delicious place (using as few adjectives and adverbs as possible) to someone who's never been anywhere like it. Include how it looks, how it sounds, how it smells, as well as the quality of the air and light. Next, imagine that this place has, somehow, been destroyed. Now, rewrite your description, with that terrible knowledge.

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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Originally from Vermont, Award-Winning Author and Journalist Christian Parenti, whose latest book is Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence.

This week's Write the Book Prompt was inspired by my interview with Christian Parenti. Write a nonfiction article or essay - or even just a paragraph - on a subject about which you're passionate. This subject might be climate change, women's rights, the work of a nonprofit whose mission you admire, your local school budget, an examination of various diets and their effects on health... whatever matters to you. Try to include in the piece adequate historical perspective to help readers understand the background,  an explanation of any confluence of events that might have relevance to your subject, and - as Christian Parenti said - always be sure to keep in mind the larger issues or core ideas behind the details of your story. Don't forget to read and do your research, if you hope to put this out into the world.

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

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Pulitzer Prize Winning Author Geraldine Brooks, whose latest novel is Caleb's Crossing.

This week's Write the Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Geraldine Brooks. She keeps two poetry collections handy in her writing space, and opens them when she needs inspiration. The first is Palgrave's Golden Treasury, the second, the Norton Anthology of Poetry. Open to a random page, read a poem, and then write.

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

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Interview with author of poetry and prose Sydney Lea. Hosted by Shelagh C. Shapiro, Write The Book airs on WOMM-LP 105.9 FM “The Radiator,” in Burlington, Vermont, every Saturday morning at 9:00 a.m. - a new time for the new hour-long format.

Prompt: Today’s Write The Book Prompt concerns setting. How can a writer describe setting in such a way that it informs readers about a character’s or narrator’s state of mind? Consider the following two excerpts from works by Sydney Lea:

From his essay, “Alone With Friends: A Journal Toward Springtime”

… Landy and I sat for a spell on the tailgate, staring at the clean dark that walked at a human pace up the mountains, feeling a flake or two of snow on our wrists and faces, noting a heron who came languidly flapping out of a back pond, roost-bound early.

From his poem, “The Author in March”

Remnant, rank corn snow

.   perspires like dirty dough.

What few drab birds there are

.   don’t fly up very far,

So hard do the clouds bear down.

.   Not much to this splotch of a town—

Flue smoke, smalltalk, clutter.

.   Last autumn’s leaves clog gutters

Here’s this week’s prompt. Imagine a place in a poem or story you’re writing or are thinking about writing. Using minimal description, make a list of several things—five or six details—that exist in that setting. Now rewrite the list, describing those same details as seen from the perspective of a character who is upset, frustrated or depressed. Then write the list one last time, describing these same things from the point of view of a character who is happy, optimistic or excited. Don’t change the actual details of place, but the lens through which they are viewed. 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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Charles Barasch, Poet and Crossword Puzzle Creator.

This week's Write The Book Prompt is inspired by the interview you heard today with Charlie Barasch. If you enjoy crosswords, find a newspaper or website that offers puzzles that you particularly like, and solve that day's puzzle. If you don't enjoy crosswords, use an already-solved puzzle from previous days. In either case, take all the words from a solved crossword, and try to work them into a story, poem, chapter or essay.

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

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Nancy Marie Brown, author of the new nonfiction book The Abacus and The Cross, which Kirkus Reviews has called "an engrossing account of the Dark Ages and one of its Popes, both far less dark than popular histories teach" and "a lively, eye-opening portrait of a sophisticated Europe whose intellectual leaders showed genuine interest in learning."

This week's Write The Book Prompt is inspired by the interview you heard today with Nancy Marie Brown, whose book, The Abacus and The Cross, challenges common notions about life and understanding in the Dark Ages. In your work this week, try to include one thing that challenges a myth or popular conception. It can be historic, cultural, medical ...

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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Local Short Story Writer, Public Radio Commentator and Businessman Bill Schubart. His latest collection is Fat People.

This week's Write the Book Prompt was included in the interview itself, but here it is again:

My guest, Bill Schubart, said during our talk, "I love stories. I grew up in a French Canadian family in Morrisville, VT, and everybody told stories all the time in French and English." He went on to say that we as a society are too distracted by technology, and we don't listen to each other as much as we used to. So ask your family members for their stories. Listen to their stories. Maybe even record them. You can then write about these stories, or you can just enjoy them. As Bill said, "...stories define us, in our communities [and] in our families."

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 South Burlington High School students).

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Acclaimed Author of Poetry, Fiction and Creative Nonfiction, Rosellen Brown.

This week's Write the Book Prompt is to write from the perspective of someone you find in a news story. Read to learn about what's happening in the world, in the country, in your town. Find a story that interests you, familiarize yourself with all the details, and then write from the perspective of a person in that story. For example, how might you represent the perspective of the driver who whisked Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier from the airport to the Karibe hotel in Port-au-Prince, Haiti last night. Imagine this person's role in the unfolding events, and write from his or her perspective.

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 South Burlington High School students).

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Novelist Colum McCann, author of Let The Great World Spin, Winner of the 2009 National Book Award.

This week's Write the Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Colum McCann. When I described this part of the show and asked if he had any prompts or advice to share, he said (and I quote):  "My prompt is: Poetry Poetry Poetry Poetry Poetry Poetry Poetry ... Poetry." Then he added, "And learn from the masters. We get our voices from the voices of others. There's a sort of mitosis that goes on there. So listen to the great ones, imitate them, and develop your own voice."

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 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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Mark Pendergrast, Local Nonfiction Author of Inside the Outbreaks: The Elite Medical Detectives of the Epidemic Intelligence Service.

This week's Write The Book Prompt has to do with detail. Gustave Flaubert was so concerned with getting every detail right that he often spent days struggling to arrive at exactly the right word. In her book, Mystery and Manners, Flannery O'Connor wrote, "Fiction operates through the senses, and I think one reason that people find it so difficult to write stories is that they forget how much time and patience is required to convince through the senses. No reader who doesn't actually experience, who isn't made to feel, the story is going to believe anything the fiction writer merely tells him. The first and most obvious characteristic of fiction is that it deals with reality through what can be seen, heard, smelt, tasted, and touched."          This week, stop struggling to come up with details in your work, and just look around. Go to any corner of your house or garage or barn or place of work, and take in the details that are there. Touch that square of decorative carpet, and put into words what it feels like. Smell that candle, and write down what-if any-scent it has, and what you associate with that smell. Remember when you got that camera for your birthday, and how you were disappointed, because you'd wanted another brand? Look at that photograph of your cousin. What is he wearing? Why does he dress that way? Is his collar poking out from his jacket on one side? Is his shirt wrinkled and un-tucked? Or is he meticulous, beyond physical criticism? And if so, what does that say about him? How does that characterization fit with your experiences of being around him? This week's prompt is about re-educating yourself in the art of noticing details, so that you might more easily access them as you work.

A COPY OF THIS PROMPT WILL BE INCLUDED in the description to this week's Podcast. Good luck with this exercise and please listen next week for another.

Excerpt from Mark Pendergrast's Inside The Outbreaks read with permission.

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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Interview with playwright Dana Yeaton, whose new play, My Ohio, opens at FlynnSpace with the Vermont Stage Company on 4/21.

This week's Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Dana Yeaton, who uses prompts and exercises when he teaches. He recommended a joint prompt, requiring two people. Each person will need a piece of paper and something to write with. You'll be writing two dialogues between what we'll call character A and character B. The partners are told (or together create) the first line for character "A." It might be, for example, "I wouldn't do that if I were you." Each person writes that line and then writes character B's response to that line. You then switch papers, and write character A's response to the most recent response written by your partner. Switch papers again, respond, and keep going. As the exercise unfolds, you'll create two dialogues, all from that initial line. Dana says that what's really fun in this activity is that each person has to respond.

There should be no talking. No planning, no plotting. Each time you switch pages, you'll find yourself once more in a new situation. What would be an interesting next step? What would drive this story? Watch out for impulses that take away from or sabotage the story. You don't want the first response to the line, "I wouldn't do that if I were you," to be, "What?" And if someone writes, "Here, then, you take the gun," the response shouldn't be, "That's not a gun, that's a pickle."

Within 6-7 minutes, you'll have co-written two dialogues. As Dana explains, this exercise is pretty open-ended, it's quick, and it produces two outcomes.

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 Deborah S. Schapiro, editor of the Vermont publication Edible Green Mountains.

Prompt: Deborah Schapiro actually recommended two Write The Book Prompts for listeners.

1) Your first prompt this week has to do with recipes. Look at recipes and notice how they're written. You can look in cookbooks, magazines, your own index card file. Notice actual differences in recipes' structure and try to understand what the cooks who wrote them were focused on: ease of use, quick communication, tips for success? Did your grandmother guess at average quantities, or did she keep to very specific measurements? Does a certain famous chef suggest where you might find little-known ingredients? Does your favorite cookbook offer variations or keep to a set script? Some recipes are copied down as simple paragraphs, with ingredients embedded in the text. In others, ingredients are offered up front. Some are written in two columns, with ingredients on the left and instructions on the right. Edible Green Mountains delineates each step with a new paragraph indent, in hopes of keeping things simple.

After you study a few recipes, write a scene or a poem that attempts to emulate something about a recipe you've found. Then write it again, using another style of recipe for inspiration. What differs in your final products? Which do you prefer and why?

2) The second prompt suggested by Deborah also has two parts. First, consider a food memory. When Deborah was small, she would occasionally come home from school to find her mother in the kitchen making a Hungarian biscotti-like cookie. She recalls the warming scent of cinnamon, the crunch of cinnamon and sugar on top of the finished cookies. The glass of milk. All of these sensory memories evoke strong emotions for her as she thinks back.

Once you've identified a food memory of your own, consider a food-related poem or scene that moved you in a work of literature. Blueberries, by Robert Frost. Proust's famous madeleines. Just about every chapter in Like Water For Chocolate. Why did the scene or poem affect you as it did? If you were to try and write a food scene or poem of your own, what might you have learned from this work of literature that would help you? Now try to write about your food memory.

Good luck with these exercises 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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