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Archive for the 'Writing Craft' Category

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Interview from the archives with Vermont author Megan Mayhew Bergman. We discussed Birds of a Lesser Paradise, published by Simon and Schuster. Since this interview, Megan has published another story collection: Almost Famous Women.

Today's Write The Book Prompt is to write about the way light is coming through a nearby window.

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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Former Deputy Associate Director at the White House Office of Management and Budget Meg Little Reilly, author of We Are Unprepared (MIRA Books). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt concerns the word storm, which has many uses, perhaps because of the impact that storms have always had on the populations that experience them. Here are a few brief definitions and synonyms: a violent disturbance of the atmosphere with strong winds and usually rain, thunder, lightning, or snow. Windstorm, tempest, whirlwind, gale, squall. A tumultuous reaction; an uproar or controversy. As a verb, it can mean to move angrily or forcefully in a specified direction. To storm off, stomp, march, stalk, flounce, stamp. It can be a sudden attack and capture by means of force. “Someone stormed the capital yesterday.”

Write a story, poem, essay or scene in which any form of the word “storm” or one of its synonyms has significance. If you have a friend who spells her name G-A-L-E, then you can go ahead and write about her.

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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A new interview with Pulitzer-nominated author Eowyn Ivey, whose latest novel is To the Bright Edge of the World (Little Brown). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by our guest, Eowyn Ivey, who finds old photographs interesting and inspiring as she writes her novels. She says looking into the eyes and faces of people from the past offers new perspective and motivation in her work. One resource is Alaska's Digital Archive. Eowyn forwarded a couple of examples of the types of pictures one could find there:

Many photos can also be resourced in the U.S. National Archives.

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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Author Zoe Zolbrod, author of The Telling: A Memoir (Curbside Splendor). 

This week's Write the Book Prompt, generously suggested by my guest, Zoe Zolbrod, is to write about telling a secret. Perhaps the first time you told an important secret of your own.

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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A new interview with Christine Sneed, whose new story collection is The Virginity of Famous Men (Bloomsbury USA), just out this week.


This week’s Write the Book Prompt comes from our generous guest, Christine Sneed. Choose one of the following characters and write ten interview questions for him/her:


  • Someone who works on the housekeeping staff in a Las Vegas hotel.

  • Someone who owns 30 pairs of blue jeans.

  • Someone who runs a tow truck.

  • Someone who wants a famous face.


Now answer those ten questions in the voice of the character.

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 author Angela Palm, whose new book, Riverine: A Memoir from Anywhere but Here, received the 2014 Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize (Graywolf Press, Aug. 2016). Palm is the editor of a book featuring work by Vermont writers, called Please Do Not Remove (Wind Ridge Books, 2014). She has taught creative writing at Champlain College, New England Young Writers' Conference, The Writers' Barn, and The Renegade Writers' Collective. She is a recipient of a Bread Loaf Fellowship in nonfiction. 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to consider the geography of your own life, and write about it, either directly, or allow a more subtle aspect of place into a piece that concerns another subject. As you work, perhaps consider these words from the late author Judith Kitchen: “Let your conversation get away from you. Let a new story take over. Something may happen along the way, something to alert you to its relevance.” (Judith Kitchen, "The Art of Digression.")

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


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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Katharine Britton, whose first two novels, Her Sister's Shadow and Little Island were published by Berkley Books. We discuss her latest novel, Vanishing Time, which Katharine brought out this year.

This week we have three Write the Book Prompts, all generously suggested by my guest, Katharine Britton, who is a writing teacher as well as an author. 

  • First, have a conversation with one of your characters. Ask him or her questions about motivation, goals, pet peeves… It’s a good way to find a voice for a character that’s different from the author’s.
  • Get two characters talking to one another “off stage.” Not a scene that occurs in the book, simply a chance for them to air their grievances, express opinions... It’s slightly different from the author chatting with a character.
  • Finally, write a scene from the perspective of an object in a location: what did it see, hear, experience, such as - in Katharine’s book, Vanishing Time, the live oak trees on the rice plantations.

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


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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Bestselling author and screenwriter Delia Ephron, whose most recent novel is Siracusa. Her other novels include The Lion Is In and Hanging Up. She has written humor books for all ages, including How to Eat Like a Child and Do I Have to Say Hello?; and nonfiction, most recently Sister Mother Husband Dog (etc.). Her films include You’ve Got Mail, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Hanging Up (based on her novel), and Michael. Her journalism has appeared in The New York Times, O: The Oprah Magazine, Vogue, and Vanity Fair. Her hit play Love, Loss, and What I Wore (co-written with Nora Ephron) ran for more than two years off-Broadway and has been performed all over the world. She lives in New York City.

This week's Write the Book Prompt is to write about a vacation gone wrong. 


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


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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A conversation with Douglas Glover, founder, publisher and editor of the online magazine Numéro Cinq

This week’s Write the Book Prompt, generously suggested by my guest Douglas Glover, is an "aphoristic mad lib." Doug began studying aphorisms early in his writing career, once he realized what they were and how they were used by certain writers he admired. This is from the Numéro Cinq website: “Generally speaking, aphorisms are terse, pointed sayings meant to provoke thought and argument. There are several basic types, but they often set up as definitions or clever balanced antitheses or even puns.” Doug recommends approaching the aphorism as a formal experiment. Decide which type appeals to you, and then sit down and write some. Don’t write just one; write many. Don’t spend too much time. Play with them, see what happens. Don’t think about what you mean ahead of time. The exercise is meant to be an act of discovery. After you’ve written some, play with putting them into thematic passages in your work. A few examples:

  • If you have a scene where a husband and wife are fighting, insert a love aphorism. “And what is love? An erotic accident prolonged to disaster." (Douglas Glover, "Bad News of the Heart") 
  • Have a scene where you want to compare and contrast two types of people? "There are two kinds of readers; the adventurers who glory in the breathtaking audacity and risk of a well-turned aphorism and the weenies who, lacking courage themselves, find it affront in others." (Douglas Glover sent this in an email “to a recalcitrant student.”) 
  • Here’s one that I wrote for a Numéro Cinq Aphorism Contest, back in the days when Numéro Cinq had more contests. “Truth prowls in mansions of wit.” 

So to start, just play around with these types:

1) The definition aphorism: 

_____ is _____.


2) The two (or three) kinds aphorism: 

There are two kinds of ______: the _______, and the ________.


Here's an article that Douglas Glover wrote about epigrams and aphorisms, in case you’d like to read more about this.

My previous interviews with Doug can be found here and here


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


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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UCLA Professor Emeritus Ralph Frerichs, author of Deadly River: Cholera and Cover-Up in Post-Earthquake Haiti (Cornell University Press). This nonfiction medical mystery explores how the greatest cholera epidemic in recent times arose in Haiti. The book follows French epidemiologist Renaud Piarroux, who conducted the investigation, and presents a case-study of how humanitarian organizations and their followers react when difficult truths become uncomfortable. 


This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to study a map, and write about what you see there, what you learn, what places you suddenly want to travel to.


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


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