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Archive for the 'Writing Craft' Category

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Mitchell S. Jackson, Award-Winning Author of Survival Math: Notes on an All-American Family (Scribner). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Mitchell S. Jackson. Write your own answer to the question, what is the toughest thing you have survived? Write it in the second person; Mitchell says this might make you think about the experience in a different way.

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

 

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Author Christy Stillwell, whose recently released novel is The Wolf Tone, which won the Elixir Press Fiction Prize in 2017. 

This Week's Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Christy Stillwell. In reading Warlight, a novel by Michael Ondaatje, Christy noticed the way the author was able to use his knowledge of navigation to create haunting and vivid scenes around barges and river work near London. She set herself the task of developing some area about which she has interest and some knowledge, and learning more in order to be able to do what she felt Ondaatje had done: turn his knowledge into haunting, recurring scenes. In order to do this well, some research might be necessary. In Christy's case, the subject matter turned to haying: the growing, baling and cutting of hay. This has always fascinated her, though she doesn't do this work herself. But she enjoys watching the swathers cut the hay, and seeing the people and machines working in the fields. Christy says her interest might have been even simpler: trimming hedges or mowing the lawn. So - what subject interests you, something you know well enough that you could sit and write two-to-three pages about it, and then file those pages away to perhaps use someday when your work will benefit from a lyrical moment? 

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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Interview from the archives with Canadian Author Douglas Glover. We discussed his book of craft essays, Attack of the Copula Spiders (Biblioasis).

Early in his essay collection, Doug Glover asserts this about point of view in fiction:

Point of view is the mental modus operandi of the person who is telling or experiencing the story--most often this is the protagonist. This mental modus operandi is located in a fairly simple construct involving desire, significant history and language overlay. The writer generally tries to announce the desire, goal or need of the primary character as quickly as possible. the key here is to make this desire concrete and simple. 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to look at the point of view in what you are working on and ask yourself: is this character’s desire clear? Is it concrete and simple? Do I introduce it quickly enough? How might I improve on the early presentation of my point of view character?

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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American Novelist and Poet Rosellen Brown, whose latest is The Lake on Fire (Sarabande). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Rosellen Brown: "Use questions and answers." She has found this an intriguing way to write. She offers the Mark Strand poem “Elegy For My Father” as an example. In the poem, Strand poses a question to his father, is given an inadequate or dishonest answer, and so asks the question again, to receive a more honest answer. He does this several times with many different questions. Rosellen herself used a questionnaire to format a story in her collection Street Games, offering both standard questions like name, address, but also crazy questions, like “Have you ever wished to die at the height of the sex act?” She has found it very fruitful with students.

[Also, during our conversation, Rosellen mentioned the site S for Sentence. Seems like another great resource to check out!]

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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American novelist, essayist and poet Barbara Kingsolver, whose new book is Unsheltered (Harper).

Barbara Kingsolver is one of the reasons that I write. I loved Animal Dreams, her 1990 novel published by Harper Collins. After I finished that book, the voices of Kingsolver's characters would not leave me alone (in a good way). I recalled how much I love to write, and began to write a book of my own. Since that time, writing has offered solace, inspiration, satisfaction, and a sense of achievement. Reading her beautiful prose always inspires me to go to my desk. So today - sure, call it a Prompt -  I encourage you to seek out the work you love, read it again, let it wash over and inspire you. 

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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Evan Fallenberg, author, translator and faculty co-director of the Vermont College of Fine Arts International MFA in Creative Writing & Literary Translation. His new novel is The Parting Gift (The Other Press)

One of the reviews of The Parting Gift suggests that it compels us “to confront the parts of ourselves we’d rather not look at.” This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to do just that. Write something that will compel a reader to confront something that he or she would rather not.

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 with former Vermont Governor Madeleine May Kunin about her memoir, Coming of Age: My Journey to the Eighties (Green Writers Press).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to write about a transition from one era to another in your own life, as Madeleine May Kunin has written about her journey to the eighties. Are you a new teenager? A new parent? Have you recently gone through menopause? Have you retired? We are all forever going through transitions, but how often do we write about these changes in our lives, minds, bodies? 

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 (and my old station, The Radiator!) with writer, nurse and humanitarian aid worker Roberta Gately, author of Lipstick in Afghanistan and The Bracelet.

This week's Write the Book Prompt is to turn on the television, find a drama, and write down the first sentence you hear. Use that as the first sentence in a new piece of work. Of course, if it's so unique that you'll later be accused of plagerism, go ahead and take it out after you've used it for inspiration. 

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

Music Credit: John Fink

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Vermont Poet Ralph Culver, recorded live in the studios at WBTV-LP. We discuss Ralph's new chapbook, So Be It.

Happy National Poetry Month! 

This week we have three Write the Book Prompts. Ralph suggested two during our conversation.

1) The first extends his point about how "ridiculously broad" or "OCD specific" prompts can be. You can tell someone "write twenty lines of blank verse," or you can be specific: Write twenty lines of blank verse representing one side of a phone conversation between two spouses who are arguing about money. (It's possible Ralph offered this prompt with tongue in cheek, but I liked it, so I'm including it here.)

2) Write a poem about something or someone you lost.

3) My own suggestion is inspired by Ralph's poem "Fill Up," in which the narrator notices his own distorted reflection in the metal of a dented car ashtray. The distortion is literal, but it bends the poem as well, affecting the way in which we think about what we've read. In your work this week, include a literal reflection in your poetry or prose. See how a reflection in water, a window, a mirror... might affect someone's view of him- or herself, or of someone else or their surroundings. 

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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American novelist and short story writer Yang Huang. Her new novel in stories is My Old Faithful, winner of the Juniper Prize for Fiction (University of Massachusetts Press).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Yang Huang. Alter the rhythm of your writing to jog your creative mind. First, work on a problematic scene by focusing closely on the language, painstakingly going over every word choice, until you make it work or realize this needs to be cut.

After a short break, return to the desk and write as fast as you can, hardly reading what you wrote. Silence the inner critic for the time being, and set your mind free. Write for an hour, until you slow down, or you want to read over the passage.

Sleep on it. Edit the passage next day and throw away any material you cannot use. Analyze the movement in your narrative. What have you discovered about the story and characters?

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

Music by Aaron Shapiro

 

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