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Archive for the 'Writing Craft' Category

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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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Award-winning and best-selling author Jonathan Lethem with his new essay collection, More Alive and Less Lonely: On Books and Writers (Melville House).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by our guest, Jonathan Lethem. Writers are often encouraged to go out and eavesdrop in cafes and other places where people gather, in order to write down what they overhear and learn how dialogue works. Lethem suggests that we go out to watch people, but not so close that you can actually hear their conversations. Observe them talking to one another, and through interpreting gesture, expression, and attitude, write what you think they MAY be saying to each other.

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

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Author Robin Romm, who has edited the new essay collection Double Bind: Women on Ambition (Liveright). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by our guest, Robin Romm, who teaches at Warren Wilson’s low-residency MFA in Writing Program. One thing she says she loves to do as a writer is--at the end of a day--to write lists of very specific sensory things that she ran across that day. So perhaps a shirt, a clip of dialogue, a person’s face, in no particular order. Not feelings or facts, but colors, sounds, smells, dialogue. So the texture of the couch, or the way the cat looked lying in the sun, or something the mailman said as he waited for you to sign for a package. Having these lists leads to other things in interesting ways and gets you thinking like a writer. Robin says that these snippets will help to get rid of abstract worry and thought and help to focus on scene building.  The sensory and the concrete almost always lead you into more interesting material in a way that intellect almost never does.

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 French Novelist Camille Laurens, author of who you think i am (Other Press). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt comes from Camille Laurens' book, who you think i am. At one point, the character Camille, who is a writing workshop leader, suggests an exercise called “Changing the Premise.” Here is how it’s described in the narrative:

Camille suggested we work on the theme "Changing the Premise.” The idea was to take our own experience as a starting point, a disappointing, unhappy or tragic experience …  to imagine a different version, a new development, a possible ending, to invent a narrative that would reorient the actual course of our lives.

This week, our prompt is to do this exercise. Rewrite a moment in your life that was disappointing in some way. Revise it, and see where it goes.

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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British author Jane Corry, on her debut thriller, My Husband's Wife (Pamela Dorman Books). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously offered by my guest, Jane Corry. In fact, it was something she mentioned during the interview. Characters go through change in the progression of a narrative. To help you relate to the many ways in which a life can change, make a list of the larger events that have changed your life. Perhaps you’ll include births, deaths, and other lifecycle events. Did you ever experience an accident? A fire? An inheritance? Think about these larger events. Then make a list of the somewhat smaller things that have happened in the last month or even the last week. For example, if you missed a train, what did that change about your day? Did it impact some larger truth for you? What was the result? How might some similar events, small or large, change the lives of your characters?

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 Poet and Essayist Jim McGarrah, whose new poetry collection is The Truth About Mangoes (Lamar University Press).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously offered by my guest, Jim McGarrah. Having taught writing for many years, Jim has used this prompt in his classes and says it’s a useful exercise for beginning or seasoned writers. If you get stuck, take a sheet of paper and fold it longwise. On one side, write good. On the other, write bad. On the good side, brainstorm a list of traits that you’ve inherited, which you feel glad or grateful about. On the other side, the opposite—write about the traits that you feel are negative. Make the list as long as you want, but be sure you have 4-5 points on each side. Use the list to write a poem. Address a member of your family. You can begin with the words, “I blame you for… but I’m glad for…” This gives you a way to begin writing from the list. Look at Carolyn Forché’s poem “The Morning Baking." The poem, which is written in couplets, has to do with the poet and her grandma. Jim says this poem shows the conflict she feels about the traits she’s inherited. His students have had good luck working with this exercise.

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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Neurologist and neurophysiologist, Suzanne O’Sullivan, MD, whose new book is Is It All in Your Head? True Stories of Imaginary Illness (Other Press), which concerns psychosomatic disorders. 

This week's Write the Book Prompt is to write about trying to convince someone about something important that is, for whatever reason, deemed implausible.

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 Poet Major Jackson, whose collection Roll Deep comes out in paperback February 28th (Norton).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to write a poem that attempts to imitate the work of Major Jackson. Read some of his work yourself and think about intention, rhythm, meter, rhyme. Maybe write a golden shovel, where you choose a line from a poem by Major, and use each word in the line as an end word in your own poem. Keep the borrowed words in order.

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 with the novelist Carol Anshaw. We discussed her book, Carry The One, published in 2012 by Simon and Schuster.

This week's Write the Book Prompt is to write about an accident. Good luck with your work in the coming week, and please listen next week for another prompt or suggestion.

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 Castle Freeman, Jr., whose novel The Devil in the Valley comes out this week as a paperback (Overlook Duckworth).

This week's Write the Book Prompt is to experiment with rhythm and repetition in your own work.

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

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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