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C.D. Bell, author of Weregirl, the first Choose Your Own Adventure (Chooseco) project with a single, dedicated ending! 


To some extent, change is a part of every book. The main character goes through a change, or her town goes through a change, or the situation that sets up the book changes. Perhaps these aren’t all as abrupt or significant as the change that takes place when a werewolf transforms, but still… This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to write about a transformation. Or just study the piece you’re working on a decide what is changing, because that’s probably something you should understand.

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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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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A conversation with Douglas Glover, founder, publisher and editor of the online magazine Numéro Cinq

This week’s Write the Book Prompt, generously suggested by my guest Douglas Glover, is an "aphoristic mad lib." Doug began studying aphorisms early in his writing career, once he realized what they were and how they were used by certain writers he admired. This is from the Numéro Cinq website: “Generally speaking, aphorisms are terse, pointed sayings meant to provoke thought and argument. There are several basic types, but they often set up as definitions or clever balanced antitheses or even puns.” Doug recommends approaching the aphorism as a formal experiment. Decide which type appeals to you, and then sit down and write some. Don’t write just one; write many. Don’t spend too much time. Play with them, see what happens. Don’t think about what you mean ahead of time. The exercise is meant to be an act of discovery. After you’ve written some, play with putting them into thematic passages in your work. A few examples:

  • If you have a scene where a husband and wife are fighting, insert a love aphorism. “And what is love? An erotic accident prolonged to disaster." (Douglas Glover, "Bad News of the Heart") 
  • Have a scene where you want to compare and contrast two types of people? "There are two kinds of readers; the adventurers who glory in the breathtaking audacity and risk of a well-turned aphorism and the weenies who, lacking courage themselves, find it affront in others." (Douglas Glover sent this in an email “to a recalcitrant student.”) 
  • Here’s one that I wrote for a Numéro Cinq Aphorism Contest, back in the days when Numéro Cinq had more contests. “Truth prowls in mansions of wit.” 

So to start, just play around with these types:

1) The definition aphorism: 

_____ is _____.


2) The two (or three) kinds aphorism: 

There are two kinds of ______: the _______, and the ________.


Here's an article that Douglas Glover wrote about epigrams and aphorisms, in case you’d like to read more about this.

My previous interviews with Doug can be found here and here


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


Music credits1) “Dreaming 1″ - John Fink; 2) “Filter” - Dorset Greens (a Vermont band featuring several former South Burlington High School students).


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Gary Lee Miller interviews author Steven Axelrod about his newest Henry Kinnis mystery, Nantucket Grand (Poisoned Pen Press).


This week's Write the Book Prompt was generously offered by Steven Axelrod, who says, "The best one I know is also the simplest and most useful." 1) Write 1,000 words or so - story or memoir - something that you care about that also has an emotional connection. 2) Cut it down to 750 words. 3) Then cut the 750 words down to 500. See what's left. If the essence remains, then you have succeeded, and at half the length. Steven reminds us of the E.B. White line, "Sorry this was so long. I didn't have time to make it shorter." 

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

Music credits: "I Could Write a Book," by Possum.

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Two interviews this week. First, Lorin Stein, Editor of The Paris Review. Their new collection is called The Unprofessionals: New American Writing from The Paris Review, published by Penguin. My second interview is with Vanessa Blakeslee, author of the novel, Juventud, published by Curbside Splendor.


This week’s  Write The Book Prompt was inspired by my conversation with Lorin Stein, during which we discussed the repeated word, “there,” in the story “The Dark and Winding Road,” by Ottessa Moshfegh, in The Unprofessionals: New American Writing from The Paris Review. Often, writers are told to steer clear of repeating words in close succession in their prose, and yet this story absolutely benefits from the author’s intentional repetition. To my mind, it’s intention that makes the difference. Words that are repeated by accident are unlikely to do much other than bump the reader out of the prose. But words that are chosen and placed carefully in succession to highlight something a writer wants to draw attention to--these can be useful and beautiful. Former WTB guest Priscilla Long writes in her book, The Writer’s Portable Mentor: “Good writers delight in repeating good words.” She later adds, “If you have trained yourself not to repeat, learning to do the opposite takes practice and it takes developing your ear.” The word “there” in Ottessa Moshfegh’s story becomes a good word--the right word--by the author’s intention. She uses it to highlight the importance of the setting, which lies at the end of a dark and winding road, but I think also to highlight the otherness--the “there”--of the narrator’s present state of mind. This week’s prompt, then, is to use word repetition in a way that will accentuate something intentionally. Practice reading the result out loud, to be sure the music is just right. 
Good luck with this exercise and please listen next week for another.
Music credits: 1) “Dreaming 1″ - John Fink; 2) “Filter” - Dorset Greens (a Vermont band featuring several former South Burlington High School students).
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Award-winning author Christine Sneedwhose novel Paris, He Saidcame out this spring from Bloomsbury USA.

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

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

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

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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 from the archives with Seattle-based writer and teacher Priscilla Long. We discussed her wonderful book and writing resource, The Writer's Portable Mentor.


This week's Write the Book Prompt is to consider the word mentor. Have you ever had a mentor? Have you ever been a mentor to someone else? What have those relationships provided for you and the other person? Are you still in touch? Is the coaching/education/guidance ongoing, or was the mentorship a temporary situation? If you're no longer in touch, do you miss that other person? If you were the mentor, what did you get out of offering guidance to another? Consider all of these questions, and write.
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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Two interviews this week! The first, with former Williston Observer columnist, French-trained chef and memoirist Kim Dannies, whose new book is Everyday GourmetThe second, with best-selling author Sue Monk Kidd, whose book, The Invention of Wings, has just come out in paperback from Penguin.


This week’s Write The Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Kim Dannies. Either use the following phrase for inspiration, or as a starting point: “He was slicing limes...” 

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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Houston author Chris Cander, whose new novel is Whisper Hollow, published by The Other Press.


This week I’m offering you two  Write The Book Prompts, thanks to the generous suggestions of my guest, Chris Cander. She just participated in a literary showdown recently, at Brazos, her favorite local bookstore in Houston. The event was in honor of independent bookstore day. Four participating Houston-based novelists were given a prompt and had thirty minutes to create a story each. Chris is a fan of working under pressure, which she says helps a writer bypass self-censorship. The bookstore employees picked out a romance novel that had “Texas” in the title. They read the first page aloud, which was full of raw passion and prairie angst, as Chris puts it. The main character was fleeing a difficult and traumatic situation. So the challenge was to write a story that would expand upon that summarized trauma in detail. Chris says it was a great prompt with a rich, ripe setup. It was fun and funny, because there were no expectations. She says you could do anything with this. Pick a genre. If you write literary fiction, pick something pulpy; if you write mysteries, maybe pick a historical novel. Then spend 30 minutes turning a piece of it into something different. It can help to unblock you and it’s a lot of fun, particularly in a group.


Chris also has found this second prompt useful. Because confession had a large role to play in her book, Whisper Hollow, Chris offered herself the challenge of letting a character she was having trouble with write a confessional letter to see what that character would say, what information might emerge to help her push through.


Good luck with these prompts, and please listen next week for another.  

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