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Archive for the 'Short Stories' Category

Novelist Carol Anshaw, whose new book is Carry The One, published by Simon and Schuster.

Today's Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Carol Anshaw, who uses it in her classes in the MFA in Writing program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. The prompt actually started from an exercise in the book What If? by Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter, although Carol uses a slightly altered version. Take an event that happened in your life between the ages of 5 and 11. Write a list comprised of everything you can remember about that incident. Then make a second list: everything you don't remember. Write a story using that second list. The exercise is particularly useful for new writers, who, afterward, might better understand the process of creating fiction. 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 short story writer Megan Mayhew Bergman, author of Birds of a Lesser Paradise, published by Simon and Schuster.

Today's Write The Book Prompt was inspired by my conversation with Megan Mayhew Bergman. Twice during our conversation, she talked about slowing down the fiction narrative, to its benefit. She mentioned slowing things down poetically as you approach the end of a story. She also talked about slowing down the outcome of a suspenseful moment in a story. This week, think about how you might use this advice in a story or a scene of your own. Slow things down, perhaps when you're most tempted to speed things up, and see what happens.

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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Interview from the archives with short story writer and guitar builder, Creston Lea, author of the story collection Wild Punch, published by Turtle Point Press.

The last time I broadcast this interview with Creston Lea, I used his suggestion for a Write The Book Prompt, which was to eavesdrop on a conversation in a public place, and then use what you heard to write a scene with dialogue. This time, I'll recommend something slightly different, but also useful in writing dialogue. Using a digital recorder or a dictaphone, record a conversation between two people. Then transcribe the conversation exactly as it occurred. Keep all of their pauses and stutters and "ums" and repetitions. Now study a page of dialogue in a book. What might differ in the way that conversation actually sounds from the way that would best represent it on the page? What would you take out, what might you change or add? See if you can turn the conversation that you recorded into a scene that would be understandable--effortless for a reader to digest.

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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Award-winning author Stewart O'Nan, whose latest novel is The Odds: A Love Story, published by Viking.

This week's Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Stewart O'Nan. While you're writing, be sure to remember all five senses. Often beginning writers approach their work very cinematically, relying heavily on visuals, or occasionally something auditory. So while you work, be sure to think about texture, feel, taste, smell, as well as sights and sounds. Stewart O'Nan actually takes his hand - his five fingers - and slaps it to the top of his head to remind himself to think about this as he works. The flip side of that is, don't just include the senses because you can come up with interesting smells or tastes. Any detail that you include-any sensory reaction-has got to impinge on your characters' true desires. Otherwise, there's no need for it to be in the book. Selectivity is all, Stewart says.

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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Award-winning writer Margot Livesey, author of the new novel, The Flight of Gemma Hardy, published by Harper.

Today's Write The Book Prompt is to write about a character who, for some reason, assumes another identity. The character can be acting on a dare, trying to escape something or someone, or just testing him- or herself to see if s(he)can get away with it. What name will the character choose? What job will she pretend to have? Where will she say she's from? What history will he choose to give himself? How will assuming another identity affect your character's self-esteem? Will she feel excited? Guilty? Will he have to solicit help from others to make this work? Play around with a fictional life for your fictional character.

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

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Robin Hemley, author of the book Do Over! “in which a 48- year-old father of three returns to kindergarten, summer camp, the prom, and other embarrassments.” Robin will have two new books out in 2012: Reply All: Stories (Break Away Books), and A Field Guide for Immersion Writing: Memoir, Journalism, and Travel, (University of Georgia Press). You can find more information about these on Robin's website.

The sound quality of today's archive rebroadcast was not great. Not sure what happened, but a bit buzzy. So here I'm posting the old podcast as it originally ran in 2009, in hopes of providing better sound quality. The were minor differences in the intro and closing, most notably a new prompt, which I'm offering below. Thanks for your patience.

Today's Write The Book Prompt is to organize your own Do Over. Maybe it doesn't make a lot of sense for you to redo the prom, or to re-enroll in kindergarten. But perhaps you had another experience in recent weeks or months that you wish you could do over. Go back to the store where a counter person was rude and you left feeling upset. Or make plans to see a friend to whom YOU were perhaps rude, or were not your best self in some way, and you left feeling embarrassed or frustrated or uniquely human. Revisit your old school, if it's nearby, track down one of your former teachers. Maybe you gave a reading at a local open mike venue and it went poorly; try it again. See how it goes to re-approach an imperfect experience with new enthusiasm and perspective. And then write about the two events, and what you might have taken away from this exercise.

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

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Interview from the Archives with Award-Winning Vermont Writer Howard Frank Mosher, whose new book, The Great Northern Express, comes out  March 6, 2012.

Today's Write The Book Prompt celebrates a little-known holiday. According to the Writing Instrument Manufacturers Association, which established the event in 1977, Today is National Handwriting Day, a day devoted to promoting the utilization of pens, pencils, and writing paper. January 23rd was chosen by the association because this is the birthday of John Hancock, the first person to sign the Declaration of Independence. So the prompt today is to write long hand. Write a poem, a page, or a chapter, or simply free write for a set amount of time - but do so by putting pen to paper. Let your hand experience the activity of writing, of sweeps and loops and spirals and lines.

Nathalie Goldberg, in her book, Writing Down The Bones, says that a different aspect of yourself comes out when you type. She also says that when she writes something emotional, she must write it "the first time directly with hand on paper." Handwriting, according to Goldberg, "is more connected to the movement of the heart." So this week, write something in your own handwriting.

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

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Vermont author Castle Freeman, Jr., whose latest book is Round Mountain: New and Collected Stories, published by Concord ePress and coming out soon in print from Concord Free Press.

Today's Write The Book Prompt is a visual exercise. I'm posting three photos here; choose one that inspires you, and write. I hope you have fun with it. Good luck, and please listen next week for another prompt.

PhotoPrompt.jpg

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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Author Steve Almond, whose third book of stories, God Bless America, has just come out from the Lookout Books (UNC Wilmington).

Today's Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Steve Almond, who said in our interview that he feels the path to the truth runs through shame. Think of the most shameful moment you can recall and write about it. Set up the piece so that readers will be oriented, and then write about those five or ten seconds, or that minute, of shame. Chances are, that will be a great piece of writing. As Steve put it, "You have to be willing to disclose your own stuff, you have to be willing to put it on the line."

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).

Listen Now:


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