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Archive for the 'Short Stories' Category

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Vermont author Gary Lee Miller, whose collection of stories, Museum of the Americas, was published by Fomite Press in July 2014.


This week’s  Write The Book Prompts were suggested by my guest, Gary Lee Miller. The first three are prompts that he has used in his work with the group Writers For Recovery. Gary refers to these as Positioned Prompts--prompts that give writers a specific, unique starting place to help them get going.
  • Here's exactly what happened. 
  • She was just a block from her house when she found the blue envelope on the sidewalk.
  • In the beginning, all I wanted was a normal life.

Gary also shared a prompt called the Neverending Sentence, which he and his friend use in writing workshops they teach for kids. It reminds me a bit of the game of telephone. You begin by writing a simple sentence on a page, pass the sheet to another person, and ask that person to change one word or phrase. It goes from there. Gary's example is below. As you can see, it might get a little weird. But that's part of the fun. And it definitely gets more interesting!

  • On a Tuesday morning, Gary Miller walked to town to buy eggs.
  • On a Tuesday morning, Charmagne Miller walked to town to buy eggs.
  • On a raggedy Tuesday morning, Charmagne Miller walked to town to buy eggs.
  • On a raggedy Tuesday morning, Charmagne Miller walked to Carter’s Corner to buy eggs.
  • On a raggedy Tuesday morning, Charmagne Adelphi walked to Carter’s Corner to buy eggs.
  • On a raggedy Tuesday morning, Charmagne Adelphi walked to Carter’s Corner to steal eggs.
  • On a raggedy Tuesday morning, Charmagne Adelphi walked to Carter’s Corner to steal somebody’s car.
  • On a raggedy Tuesday morning, Charmagne Adelphi walked to Carter’s Corner to steal Henry Beefer’s car.
  • On a raggedy Tuesday morning, Charmagne Adelphi walked to Carter’s Corner to steal Henry Beefer’s golden retriever.
  • On a raggedy Tuesday morning, Charmagne Adelphi walked to Carter’s Corner to steal Henry Beefer’s deaf golden retriever.
  • On a raggedy Tuesday morning, Charmagne Adelphi stumbled to Carter’s Corner to steal Henry Beefer’s deaf golden retriever.
  • On a raggedy Tuesday morning, Charmagne Adelphi stumbled, half exhausted and violently ill, to Carter’s Corner to steal Henry Beefer’s deaf golden retriever.
  • On a raggedy Tuesday morning, Governor Peter S. Shumlin stumbled, half exhausted and violently ill, to Carter’s Corner to steal Henry Beefer’s deaf golden retriever.
  • On the Tuesday before the hurricane, Governor Peter S. Shumlin stumbled, half exhausted and violently ill, to Carter’s Corner to steal Henry Beefer’s deaf golden retriever.
  • On the Tuesday before the hurricane, Governor Peter S. Shumlin stumbled, half exhausted and violently ill, to Carter’s Corner to vaccinate Henry Beefer’s deaf golden retriever.
  • On the Tuesday before the hurricane, Governor Shumlin stumbled, half exhausted and violently ill, to Carter’s Corner to feed Henry Beefer’s deaf golden retriever.
  • On the Tuesday before the hurricane, Governor Peter S. Shumlin stumbled, half exhausted and violently ill, to Carter’s Corner to shoot Henry Beefer’s deaf golden retriever.
  • On the Tuesday before Hurricane Irene wiped out half of Vermont, Governor Peter S. Shumlin stumbled, half exhausted and violently ill, to Carter’s Corner to shoot Henry Beefer’s deaf golden retriever.
  • On the Tuesday before Hurricane Irene wiped out half of Vermont, Governor Peter S. Shumlin’s half brother Luke Tweedly stumbled, half exhausted and violently ill, to Carter’s Corner to shoot Henry Beefer’s deaf golden retriever.
  • On the Tuesday before Hurricane Irene wiped out half of Vermont, Governor Peter S. Shumlin’s half brother Luke Tweedly stumbled, half exhausted and violently ill, to Carter’s Corner to shoot Henry Beefer’s deaf golden retriever in the ass.
  • On the Tuesday before Hurricane Irene wiped out half of Vermont, Governor Peter S. Shumlin’s half brother Luke Tweedly stumbled, half exhausted and violently ill, to Carter’s Corner to shoot Henry Beefer’s ex wife Melodica in the ass.
  • On the Tuesday before Hurricane Irene wiped out half of Vermont, Governor Peter S. Shumlin’s half brother Luke Tweedly stumbled, half conscious and furious as a rabid hamster, to Carter’s Corner to shoot Henry Beefer’s ex wife Melodica in the ass.
  • On the Tuesday before Hurricane Irene wiped out half of Vermont, Governor Peter S. Shumlin’s half brother Luke Tweedly stumbled, half conscious and furious as a rabid hamster, to Carter’s Corner to shoot Henry Beefer’s ex wife Melodica, who had betrayed him more than once, in the ass.
  • On the Tuesday before Hurricane Irene wiped out half of Vermont, Governor Peter S. Shumlin’s half brother Luke Tweedly stumbled, half conscious and completely furious, to the Little Bub Daycare Center to shoot Henry Beefer’s ex wife Melodica, who had betrayed him more than once, in the ass.
  • On the Tuesday before Hurricane Irene wiped out half of Vermont, Governor Peter S. Shumlin’s half brother Luke Tweedly stumbled, half conscious and completely furious, to the Little Bub Daycare Center to shoot Henry Beefer’s ex wife Melodica, who had betrayed him more than once, in the ass with Cupid’s arrow of love.

Good luck with these exercises, 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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An interview from the archives with Vermont author of fiction and poetry, William Lychack, whose books are The Wasp Eater and The Architect of Flowers.

This week's prompt is to write about New Year's Eve. It can be a true story, fiction, good, bad, epic, disastrous. Poem, story, essay - you decide! 
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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Two interviews this week, with Vermont author and editor Angela Palm, whose new collection is Please Do Not Remove, and Vermont poet Malisa Garlieb, whose new book of poetry is Handing Out Apples in Eden. Both of these collections were published this fall by Wind Ridge Books of Vermont.

Today I have two Write The Book Prompts to offer, thanks to the generous suggestions of my guests, Angela Palm and Malisa Garlieb. 

Malisa’s is to write a personal poem using a mathematical concept or equation as the primary metaphor, as she did in her poem, "Long Division."

Angi’s is this: select an image of a used library check-out card. Use any combination of the card's features as the source of inspiration for generating a new work of prose or poetry. Perhaps you'll be inspired by a particular patron's signature, a date stamp, or the book's subject matter or author. Perhaps you'll be struck by the card's appearance or the accumulation or use or non-use. Let the image transport you to another time or place, and draft some ideas or a follow a single idea for 10-15 minutes. In revision and shaping of the draft, study the card again and allow yourself to do a little research that might further develop your initial impulses into a story or essay. You may quickly find yourself pages deep in a story you never knew you'd want to write. Angi shared these images of library cards for your prompt this week. (Open individually in new tabs for a better look at each):

Good luck with these exercises and please listen next week for another!

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J. Robert Lennon, whose second story collection, See You in Paradise, is just out from Graywolf Press.

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously offered by my guest J. Robert Lennon, who is a teacher as well as being a writer, and who is working on a collection of writing prompts and exercises. He created this exercise after reading the book A Void, translated from the original French La Disparition (literally, "The Disappearance"), a 300-page novel, written in 1969 by Georges Perec, entirely without using the letter e (except for the author's name). The 1994 translation by Gilbert Adair likewise does not contain the letter e. As J. Robert Lennon pointed out to me, “there goes the past tense and every pronoun.” His exercise is this: write a one-page story about a funeral without using the letter “e.” You can’t use cemetery or grave or funeral or death or tears or dead or die. He finds that students will come up against a word they can’t use, then another and another, and the sentence becomes so terrible, they have to back up and do an end runner on the problem. Which is a great thing to do in any case. He says it often ends up being the best prose they’ve written all semester because they have to work so hard to write every single sentence.  
Good luck with this exercise and please listen next week for another.
Music credits: 1) “Dreaming 1″ - John Fink; 2) "Virginia" - Starry Mountain Sweetheart Band (of which my guest, J. Robert Lennon, is a band member!) 

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2011 Interview with Vermont short story writer, Public Radio Commentator and businessman Bill Schubart about his collection, Fat People.

This week's Write the Book Prompt is to write honestly about what you perceive to be a physical imperfection of your own, and to find compassion in your description of that trait.

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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Write the Book's 300th (!) episode features an interview with Philip Graham, author of two story collections, The Art of the Knock and Interior Design; a novel, How to Read an Unwritten Language; and The Moon, Come to Earth, an expanded version of his series of McSweeney's dispatches from Lisbon. He is also the co-author (with his wife, anthropologist Alma Gottlieb) of two memoirs of Africa, Parallel Worlds (winner of the Victor Turner Prize), and Braided Worlds. Dzanc Books will reprint The Art of the Knock, Interior Design, and How to Read an Unwritten Language as ebooks this summer.

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is inspired by the interview you heard today with the author Philip Graham. We spoke about the appearance of objects in written work. As Philip mentioned, his 1979 short story, “Light Bulbs,” chronicled how a couple coping with the “empty nest” grew to form relationships with the light bulbs in their home, almost as a substitute for their absent children. This week, as you work, consider the objects that show up in your work. In particular, pay attention to those objects that already exist there. Try to understand what they might be doing for your story, and how your appreciation of their existence might deepen what you’re writing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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David Jauss, award-winning author of Glossolalia: New and Selected Stories, published by Press 53.

Today’s Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, David Jauss. It’s an exercise he has used in his introductory writing classes, because this helps people realize they have a creative ability that they otherwise might not know that they have. He starts by offering students a situation to work from:

A man is standing at a bus stop. The bus is due in about five minutes. He’s alone. Then a woman shows up. She turns out to be his ex-wife. They haven’t seen each other in several years.

David says that if he just were to leave it at that, people would immediately start inventing their own stories, and playing things out. What he asks is that students write dialogue only. He wants five exchanges between the two characters. Each side of an exchange can be more than one sentence, but only five exchanges, and no descriptions, no setting - only dialogue. First the man says something, then the woman. Then the man, and the woman. Five times total. (David jokes that, as this is fiction, you should give the man the last word.)

Another layer to the prompt is this: do not plan out what the characters will say to one another. David’s students have to wait until he shares a word with them, for each half of each exchange. He chooses a book at random, opens to any page, points his finger to the page, and says the word he finds there. For example, he might hit the word “funnel.” So the man’s half of the first exchange must include the word funnel. When the woman responds, she will need to use the second word that David finds when he opens to another random page and tells his students the word he finds there. So you’ll find ten words, one at a time as you go, to incorporate into these five exchanges.

As you write using today’s prompt, either enlist the help of a partner, who can find random words for you to use in your five exchanges, or open a book of your own and choose as you go, finding words on your own. But don’t plan the five exchanges ahead of time.

Once you have the five exchanges, THEN ask yourself what your characters look like, and what are the details of the setting that you held back from writing initially. David says that people find really interesting ways to put these words in the dialogue, whereas if they had known the words ahead of time, they’d naturally start to plan it all out. Also, as you write the dialogue, you will likely find out about the surroundings, and the details of what your characters look like and such, without realizing you’ve done it, and without “planning it.” I’m guessing, too, that you’d have never used a word such as “funnel” in your dialogue, which means that what you come up with might well be more interesting and take you to a different place than you would have expected.

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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Interviews highlighting three local groups that are making the Burlington area writing community much richer: The Burlington Writers' Workshop (Peter Biello), The Renegade Writers' Collective (Angela Palm and Jessica Hendry Nelson), and The Writers' Barn (Lin Stone and Daniel Lusk).

Today I have two Write The Book Prompts. The first is to write about two interactions between lifelong friends: the first time they meet, and the last time they meet. Limit each scene to a page, but try to intimate a whole friendship into those two pages, letting us know who these people are, how they eventually influence each other, how important they become in each other's lives.

Today's second prompt was suggested by my guest, the poet Daniel Lusk. It's a prompt he used recently in the poetry group at the Writers Barn: Write a poem with a red dress in it.
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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2013 Interview with the writer Abby Frucht, whose collection of stories, The Bell at the End of a Rope, is new from Narrative Library.

Today's Write The Book Prompt was mentioned by my guest, Abby Frucht, during our interview. You may recall that when we spoke, she said that she will ask new students to read the opening line or lines of a story, and then to use those lines to "project the objects, events, circumstances, characters, techniques, perspectives ... structural inclinations, anything that will take place over the course of the story." So today's prompt is to do this. Read the opening lines of a story - not one of your own, of course - and make a list of these story elements for which you might see the opening lines laying the groundwork. Then put down your list of gleaned ideas, read the full story, and see how the piece of fiction emerges from those early sentences. Don't look at this as a test of your ability to predict the story, but to understand how that author uses the early sentences to lead the reader into the story. In our interview, Abby said that the first lines have both the responsibility and the privilege of that introduction -- they lay down the clues about how the rest of the story might be drawn.

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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