Archive for the 'War' Category

American Novelist Bobbie Ann Mason, whose new novel is Dear Ann (Harper). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Bobbie Ann Mason, who exchanges prompts with her “flash-fiction co-writer buddy Meg Pokrass.” They send each other lists of interesting words with a challenge to use at least some of them in a story. 

One of their lists was: leaky, clawfoot, waddle, bonk, ribs, peace, rapier, feather pillow, steam, sherry, geraniums, skimp, booth, rabbit’s foot, diner, vitality, jet-lag, quivery, Lady Astor, punchline, kettle, bitter coffee, flub.

Bobbie wrote a flash fiction called Corn-Dog based on one of Meg’s lists, using most of these words: corn-dog, frozen, carnival, necks, Animal Planet, parcel, shorts, crisp, weed, note, thrill, stucco, cravings, wispy, unmarried, fat, laryngitis.

This week, Bobbie Ann Mason suggests that you open up a few novels from your shelf. Flip through the books and find interesting words. List a dozen or two. Then pick a word and start a story. Where does it lead you? To another word on the list? Then what? She admits that this exercise can lead into the absurd, but it’s great fun, and you might discover where you are going.

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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A conversation with the author Joseph Kertes about his novel, The Afterlife of Stars (Little Brown). 

This week's Write the Book Prompt is to write about a mis-delivered Valentine. 

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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#1 New York Times Bestselling Author Kristin Hannah, whose new novel is The Great Alone (Macmillan)

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously offered by my guest, Kristin Hannah. She says her favorite trick for herself is to simply write the description of place until her characters have something to say. For example, she’ll sit and start to describe Alaska. Perhaps it will take two pages of description before she realizes what it is she has to say in that scene, and then she’s off and running.

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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Pulitzer Prize-Winning Author Jennifer Egan, whose new novel is Manhattan Beach (Scribner). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Jennifer Egan, who - as you’ve just heard - discovers her story as she writes it, knowing only the time and place when she begins. This prompt is very much in keeping with that approach. She suggests, “Write without knowing what you are writing. Cover the screen of your laptop and write continuously for 15 minutes. Print and read.  Viola!”

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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Graphic Novelist Brian David Johnson, author of MWD: Hell Is Coming Home (Candlewick). 

Brian David Johnson suggested a great Write the Book Prompt from his work in business journalism. Go to a Walmart or a hardware store, pick up any obscure part or item, look at where it is from, and then research that town; try to come up with a story that has to do with that place. 

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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Vermont Author Stephen P. Kiernan, whose new novel is The Baker's Secret (William Morrow). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by our guest, Stephen P. Kiernan. The book he’s now writing involves the difficult task of describing art. Stephen recommends reading W.H. Auden’s "Musee des Beaux Arts," one of the best examples he can recommend of writing inspired by a painting. In this case, the painting is “The Fall of Icarus,” by Pieter Brueghel. Here's a link to the poem and the painting. Have a look, then find a work of art that’s unfamiliar to you, and write about it. Stephen says, having now done both for different projects, he finds writing about music easier than writing about art, because like narrative, music occurs through time. Both have movement, crescendo, culmination, completion… A painting is a moment apprehended that does not have narrative.

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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New York Times bestselling author Pam Jenoff, whose latest novel is The Orphan's Tale (MIRA).

For today's Write the Book Prompt, Pam Jenoff kindly suggested that writers check out Nathalie Goldberg's "First Thoughts" freewriting exercise. I found a copy of the exercise online here, but investing in the original book,Writing Down the Bones, would be a good idea for any writer. It's a wonder, full of great ideas.

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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Award-winning author Joseph Kertes, whose new novel is The Afterlife of Stars (Little Brown). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by our guest, Joseph Kertes, who has used it in his classes. He was once asked by a ten-year-old in his daughter’s class - where he led the after-school writing club - “How do you know if you’re a comic writer or a tragic writer?” He answered, "Well, I guess if you start writing and it’s funny, you’re a comic writer." Then he brought them this prompt, which resulted in both very sad and very funny writing outcomes.

My best friend in elementary school was born without a head. At recess, she ran like the wind.

So that’s our prompt for this week. Write in response to that sentence, and see if what you come up with is comic or tragic.

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

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NY Times Bestselling author of historical fiction for young adults, Ruta Sepetys, whose new novel is Salt to the Sea, published by Philomel.

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Ruta Sepetys. Think back to yourself as a child and a time you were in the backseat of your parents' or grandparents' car. Take fifteen minutes to write about it. 

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

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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Vermont author Stephen P. Kiernan whose new novel is The Hummingbird, published by William Morrow.

So let’s say we wanted to put some pressure on that paragraph, above. What if we were to rewrite it, putting some pressure on the language, making it leaner, and getting that last word, “widow,” onto the previous line? I’m going to have a go.

There! I took it from 13 lines to 10, and did remove that widow, which was, ironically, the word “widow.” Now you try it with your own prose. 

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


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Daniel James Brown, whose award-winning and New York Times Bestselling Book, The Boys in the Boat, has been adapted for young readers.


This week’s Write The Book Prompt involves considering history as you seek ideas for your work. Browse an antique store for artifacts of a period that interests you. As you look around, keep your mind open to the characters who might have once held this book, had dinner at this table, stitched this tablecloth. Choose two or three objects from a certain period in time, and incorporate them into a story, poem, or essay. Try not to know ahead of time what aspect of 1923 or 1968 you plan to focus on. Instead, let the objects that you find surprise you with the stories they tell and the characters they suggest.

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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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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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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Two Interviews: Jojo Moyes, author of One Plus One, published by Pamela Dorman Books, a Viking imprint; and Heath Hardage Lee, author of Winnie Davis: Daughter of the Lost Cause, published by Potomac Books, An Imprint of the University of Nebraska Press.

Today’s Write the Book Prompt was suggested by my second guest on the show. Heath Hardage Lee suggests that, when seeking new material, you look in your own back yard. Remember that she discovered Winnie Davis by happening to notice her portrait while her mothers’ friends were playing bridge. Likewise, be sure to look closely at your own city or community for material that is exciting or unusual. Often we miss what’s right in front of our nose.

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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Interview from the archives with the author Colum McCann. We discussed his National Book Award winning novel, Let the Great World Spin. His novel TransAtlantic, published in 2013 by Random House, has just come out in paperback.

This week's Write The Book Prompt is to write about someone's first flight. 
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 Alec Hastings, whose first novel is Otter St. Onge and the Bootleggers: A Tale of Adventure, published by The Public Press.

This week I have two Write The Book Prompts, generously suggested by my guest, Alec Hastings. In his classes, Alec offers his students prompts for their twice-a-week journal entries. He says, “I supplement the prompt with an anecdote that helps them see how even one word can be spun into many. For instance, before Thanksgiving, I gave table as a prompt. After letting my students give me blank stares for a moment or two, I launched into a description of my grandmother's kitchen, the cast iron cook stove with the hot water reservoir; the wood box; the bench with the lid that lifted and allowed boot storage beneath; the basketball-sized cookie jar shaped and painted like a ripe, red apple; the fresh baked bread and cookies that awaited us every day when my brothers and I returned home from school; the oaken, claw-foot table upon which meals were eaten and around which we gathered for conversation, dessert, and many a colorful tale; and not least of all, my grandmother, the heart of the kitchen and the source of the good smells, the good cheer, and the grandmotherly love that enfolded us all.” On the day that I spoke with Alec, he’d offered his students the prompt: Scary experience. So there you go, consider the word table, or consider scary experience, or both! And write.

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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Best-selling nonfiction author, David Laskin, whose new book is The Family, published by Viking. David Laskin's USA Today article that he mentioned during our conversation, about the Pew Study on American Jews and religion, can be found here.

This week I have two Write The Book Prompts to offer, having to do with point of view in nonfiction. Both of these were generously suggested by my guest, David Laskin. First, describe a family crisis (death of a relative, decision to move or emigrate, wedding) from the points of view of two or three different family members. And second, write about an historic event from an intimate and specific point of view. This might be along the lines of "Where were you when JFK was assassinated?" or "What were your exact circumstances when the terrorist attacks took place on 9/11/01?" Weave together or juxtapose the personal and historic -- for example, details from daily life with memories of newscasts, tv images, and such.

Good luck with these exercises 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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Interview with Middlebury College Art Professor and Photographer John Huddleston, author of Killing Ground: Photographs of the Civil War and the Changing American Landscape (2003, Johns Hopkins University Press) and Healing Ground: Walking the Farms of Vermont (2012, Center for American Places).

Today's Write The Book Prompt is actually a series of photographs included by my guest, John Huddleston, in his books Killing Ground and Healing Ground. Here you'll find photos that we specifically discuss in the interview, as well as a few others that you might likewise find inspirational. I hope these images speak to you and encourage your writing process. And, as ever, please tune in next week for another prompt.

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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1 - 3 July 1863

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

The Union Dead

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51,112 American Casualties

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

In the early afternoon of the first day, the Confederates forced the Federals to retreat from this position just north of the college.

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70,000 American Casualties

Petersburg, Virginia

Bombproof Quarters of Fort Sedgwick, a Key Position on the Eastern Union Siege Line

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15 June 1864 - 2 April 1865

Petersburg, Virginia

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27 June 1862

Gaines' Mill, Virginia

Federal dead from Gaines' Mill were photographed in 1865 after their shallow graves had been exposed.

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15, 587 Casualties

Gaines' Mill, Virginia

Center of the Battle Lines, Site of Several Unsuccessful Confederate Charges

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6 - 7 April 1862

Shiloh, Tennessee

The guns of the USS Lexington (background) shelled the Confederates throughout the evening and night of 6 April.

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23,746 Casualties

Shiloh, Tennessee

Bloody Pond. Here the wounded from both sides dragged themselves to drink and to die.

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19 May - 4 July 1863

Vicksburg, Mississippi

Bombproof Quarters on the Union Line at the Shirley House

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37,293 American Casualties

Vicksburg, Mississippi

Iraq-bound National Guardsmen at the Shirley House, July 1990

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Cows in a Stall.

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Manure Pond.

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Pods/Grass/Snow.

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Ice Columns Sculpture.

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Car Tracks on the Snow.

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Children's Writer Laurie Calkhoven, author of Michael at the Invasion of France, 1943, and other books.

Today's Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Laurie Calkhoven, who likes working on character meditations in preparation for writing. So that is your prompt for the week: meditate on your character. Begin with a simple breathing meditation, for five or ten minutes, to relax. Then picture your character walking toward you. As you imagine your character getting close enough to sit on your shoulder, ask yourself a question about the character. Laurie keeps a collection of index cards on her desk with prepared prompts for this purpose. She says the element of surprise helps keep the meditation spontaneous, so she shuffles her index cards and keeps them face down on her desk until she needs one. Then she turns one over, not letting herself see what it says before doing so. One example of what might be written on a card: your character has something in his hand; what is it? That's how she came to include a newspaper for Michael and Jacques to use in their covert activities in France. Here are a few more ideas for questions to put on your index cards: What is your character wearing? How does he walk? Does your character have any particular expression on her face? Why? What might she be reacting to? Who is your character going to meet up with and what will be the first thing he says to that person? Now you make up some of your own and try the full exercise.

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 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:

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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

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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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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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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.

This week's Write the Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Laban Carrick Hill. He describes it as an exercise about transgression. Try to write a children's picture book from the POV of a young boy whose brother was tortured and murdered during Rendition at Guantanamo. Laban explains that this might be the least likely book that would ever be written, which is what makes a good prompt. 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.

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Interview with Louella Bryant, author of While In Darkness There Is Light.

This week's Write the Book Prompt is pretty straightforward. If you tend to love the holidays, write about your worst holiday memory ever. And if you don't enjoy the holidays, write about your best.

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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