Archive for the 'Race' Category

Guest Host Kim MacQueen interviews Sameer Pandya, whose new novel is Members Only (Mariner Books). 

Sameer Pandya’s novel Members Only concerns Raj Bhatt’s enjoyment of and desire to fit in at his posh tennis club. This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to write about a character feeling out of place. Whether this place is a school, work, a club or maybe an old group where fitting in never used to be a problem, what hurdles have to be overcome? Who or what presents the obstacles to feeling like a part of things, and how does your character cope - well, poorly? Do her goals change? Does he capitulate?

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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"Choreopoet" Monica Prince, as interviewed by guest host, Kim MacQueen. Among other works, they discuss Monica's choreopoem How to Exterminate the Black Woman. (PANK Books)

This week’s Write the Book Prompts were suggested by Kim’s guest, Monica Prince. She says the first was inspired by Fear No Lit in Lancaster, Pennsylvania:

  • Set a timer for 2 minutes. Write the word “WATER” at the top of your page. For the next two minutes, write down everything you can think of related to this word. (Don’t stop writing! If you get stuck, doodle or write the alphabet until you think of more to write.)
  • Once the timer goes off, reread your list. Circle the idea that most surprised you.
  • Set another timer for 10 minutes. Write a poem in response to/related to/about the idea you circled. Keep writing until the timer goes off.

Monica's second prompt is a poetry writing exercise, inspired by emojis:

Write a poem translating the emojis below. Feel free to go from left to right, right to left, up to down, down to up, diagonal, or at random. Make sure you include all the emojis. (I suggest crossing them off as you use them.) You must use every emoji at least once.

Tips: Instead of using traditional definitions of these emojis, think about what else they could represent. Don’t be afraid to only tangentially use some of them, while with others you might use for deeper meanings.

Description of emojis from left to right, top to bottom:

Row 1: Smiley face with sunglasses; sheep’s face; box of popcorn; swimmer

Row 2: World map; Chinese lantern; paint brush; fleur-de-lis (stylized lily)

Row 3: Green chick; baby bottle; golden key; silver crow

Row 4: Mind blown smiley face; dove; chocolate glazed donut with sprinkles; fireworks

Row 5: Theatre masks; hourglass; pills; rainbow flag

Row 6: Speaking bubble; flower bouquet; swiss cheese; racquet and ball

Row 7: Mosque; smiley face with mouth zipped shut; waxing/waning moon; crystal ball

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For an example of what this might look like, see this link to Carina Finn and Stephanie Berger's emoji poem published on Poetry Foundation. 

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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Alice Lichtenstein, whose new Pulitzer-nominated novel is The Crime of Being (Upper Hand Press). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Alice Lichtenstein. She has found it fun to assign her students a prompt she calls “ekphrastic fiction.” Ekphrastic writing is written in response to a work of art. Alice recommends googling Edward Hopper, many of whose paintings are clearly narrative in nature, and letting his work inspire your writing. Often his works exhibit a single figure posed in such a way and lit in such a way that the figure naturally lends itself to story. So this week, engage in a free-written response to a Hopper painting. Explore the narrative--who is this, in the painting, what has just happened to him or her, what’s going to happen next? See where it takes you.

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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Live, in-studio interview with Vermont author and UVM faculty member Emily Bernard, with her new book, Black Is the Body: Stories from My Grandmother's Time, My Mother's Time, and Mine (Knopf).

This week's Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Emily Bernard. Here it is, in her words:  

I tell my creative writing students that the best villains are born in ambivalence. A good rule of thumb is to let the reader love a villain first, before you condemn them. If a character is wholly loathsome, we readers might ask why you are asking us to spend so much time with them, or why you allowed them inside in the first place? For this writing prompt, choose someone who treated you unkindly from your past or your present and write about them, focusing on the one thing—a skill, quirk, personality trait, etc.-- that makes them lovable.

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

Music: Aaron Shapiro

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Author Lyndsay Faye, whose new novel is The Paragon Hotel (G.P. Putnam's Sons).

This week's Write the Book Prompt is to put a character on a train and see where she goes. 

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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Nadine Budbill, daughter and literary executor of the late David BudbillVermont poet, playwright and author. We discuss David's life and work, in particular one of his last publications, Broken Wing, a beautiful Vermont allegorical tale about a rusty blackbird with a broken wing. A story of loneliness, survival, tenacity and will, Broken Wing is also about music and race and what it is like to be a minority in a strange place. With a brief conversation as well from Dede Cummings, whose press published the novel. (GWP

This week's Write the Book Prompt is to read some of David Budbill's work and let it inspire you in your own writing. His work was frequently included on the Minnesota Public Radio show The Writers' Almanac. Those poems can be accessed here.

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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Interview from the archives with professor of English and former director of the creative writing program at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, Eric K. Goodman. We discussed his then-new novel Twelfth and Race (Bison Books).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to write a poem, a scene, or a story in which race plays some role. Write without thinking or planning. When you finish a draft, set it aside and think a little bit about what you’ve decided you’re trying to say or portray before you revise. When you finish, will you show it to anyone else?

Do you find race a hard subject to tackle? Why or why not?

Good luck with this prompt and tune in next week for another.  

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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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Vermont children's author and bookstore owner Elizabeth Bluemle, whose latest book, Tap Tap Boom Boom, came out in March from Candlewick Press.

 

This week’s  Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Elizabeth Bluemle. Write a paragraph using only words that have four or fewer letters. This is not an exercise in writing for children. Write about an experience. One that works very well, says Elizabeth, is to write about how you got a scar. Almost everyone has at least one small scar. The outcome might seem stilted at first, but it makes your brain work around itself and take pathways you’re not used to taking, to express something. Interesting things always come out of doing that. You are tricking your brain into discovery.

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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New York Times bestselling author of Girl With a Pearl Earring Tracy Chevalier, whose new book, The Last Runaway, was released on January 8th from Dutton. This week's Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Tracy Chevalier. She said that it's incredibly helpful to look closely at things and write about what you see. For example, consider quilts. Tracy explains that one thing people don't realize about quilting; it's not just the pattern of the cloth. Actual quilting is the stitching of the layers together. Those are in patterns that sometimes people don't even see. Feathers, hearts, flowers, diamonds, all sorts of things. You have to look carefully to see them. There are a lot of quilt sites out there. (Such as Keepsake Quilting, Quilting Board and Quilting 101). And there's Pinterest! Go and choose a quilt, try to see some hidden meaning in the actual quilting, and write about that. Good luck with this exercise and please listen next week for another.

During our interview, Tracy talked about the Bench By The Road Project, started by Toni Morrison. You can read more about that here.

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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Author Eric K. Goodman, English professor and director of the creative writing program at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. His latest novel is Twelfth and Race, published by University of Nebraska Press as part of their Flyover Fiction Series. Many thanks to Elizabeth G., a listener from Michigan, who requested that I interview Eric.

Today's Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Eric K. Goodman. It's one that he's been using in master classes. He calls it "The Things They Cherish," which has obvious links to a well-known short story and story collection by Tim O'Brien. We all have items we cherish, objects that have almost a talismanic presence in our lives. In Eric's case, it's a serape he's had since he was a teenager, that his parents bought for him in Mexico City. It doesn't matter what it is, so long as it has real meaning. The writing prompt is to describe the object, both physically and how you came by it. Work towards how it helps to define you.

If you are a writer of fiction, give that object to a character so that it helps to define him or her. And try giving it to a character about whom you have moral doubts. It's hard to dismiss a character if that character loves an object that you, the author, also loves.

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 that existed briefly in 2008 and 2009, featuring several South Burlington High School students - now grads)

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