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Archive for the 'Writing Craft' Category

Anna Quindlen American author, journalist, and opinion columnist whose New York Times column, Public and Private, won the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in 1992. Her new novel is Miller's Valley (Random House).


This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Anna Quindlen, who finds a certain approach to her work invaluable. At the end of any given writing day, she never stops her work at the end of a chapter, or a paragraph or a sentence. She stops in the middle. She finds getting started in the morning really challenging, because of course, as she says, “writing is so terrifying and difficult.” But if she looks at the screen and there is a half-written sentence, she can almost always manage to finish the rest of that sentence, which will frequently lead her into the next one. If she had to start a new chapter from scratch first thing, she says, she could be paralyzed for days. Stopping in mid-sentence has been a boon as far as getting started in the morning, which is her most vulnerable moment.

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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In the second of two interviews on May 9th, John Preston, author of The Dig (Other Press, May 2016). 

This week's show aired on May 9th. On this day in 1429 - Joan of Arc defeated the besieging English at Orleans. On this day in 1502 - Christopher Columbus left Spain for his final trip to the Western Hemisphere. And on May 9, 1994 - Nelson Mandela was chosen to be South Africa's first black president. This week’s  Write The Book Prompt is to write about one of these historical events while trying to do what John Preston mentioned at the end of our interview: try to make it real -- give it an immediacy -- despite being distanced by history. “The way that people are wired emotionally doesn’t change,” said Preston in our interview. Breathe your characters to life as much as you can to allow the reader to metaphorically extend an arm and touch a character who has been gone for, in some cases, a very long time.

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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In the first of two interviews on May 9th, Dinitia Smith, author of The Honeymoon (Other Press, May 2016). 

This week's Write the Book Prompt follows Interview 399, Part 2! 

Good luck with it, 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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Gary Lee Miller interviews Author Elizabeth Marshall Thomas about her new memoir, Dreaming of Lions - My Life in the Wild Places (Chelsea Green). 


This week's Write the Book Prompt is to take a cue from Elizabeth Marshall Thomas. Spend some time observing an animal in your back yard, in the wilderness, or even in your living room. Write a paragraph or two about that animal's secret life. 

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


Music credits: "I Could Write a Book," by the Boston-based band, Possum.



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Vermont Author Neil Shepard, whose new poetry collection is Vermont Exit Ramps II, with photographs by Anthony Reczek (Green Writers Press / Sundog).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to consider whether your own work feels at all strong armed or overly intentional. Can you maybe bring in some element that will lessen that or make it more subtle? In his poems, Neil brought in anagrams, fortunes from fortune cookies, signage that he saw on his travels. What can you introduce to take out the overly contrived or explained elements of your work? Neil suggested you could write a counter statement to every statement. Play around with this idea and see if you end up wanting to keep some of the counter statements that balance out what might otherwise feel overly preconceived. 

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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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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Stewart O'Nan has a new one coming out later this month: City of Secrets: A Novel. In this interview from 2012, I spoke with him about his book The Odds: A Love Story

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to make a list of ten signs of spring in your area, and then use that list as a starting point for your writing.

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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Author Keith Lee Morris, whose new novel is Travelers Rest (Little Brown).


This week’s Write the Book Prompt was inspired by the work of my guest Keith Lee Morris. During our interview, he mentioned that he has, for years, been writing stories based on dreams. “I take a piece of an actual dream, spin it out in the direction of a narrative, and see where it goes,” he said during our conversation. He went on to explain that dream logic doesn’t operate on any principal that we would think of as being real, and yet while we’re in the dream, we still believe it. Keeping this idea in mind, and trying to work within the parameters of what he calls dream logic, try to write a story or a scene or a poem this week, taking an actual dream as your starting point.

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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Interview from 2012 with Margot Livesey, whose novel The Flight of Gemma Hardy had just come out from Harper. It went on to win the New England Independent Booksellers Association 2012 book award in Fiction.

The Flight of Gemma Hardy was Margot Livesey's homage to Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre. This week's Write the Book Prompt is to consider a favorite book - either a classic, or simply a book that you personally love - and play around with how you might go about paying homage if you were to write a new work. What themes would you maintain and how would you change the book? Would you set it in another time, another place? Would you create a main character who shares the circumstances of the original protagonist? Or would you create a portrayal that only you could recognize as related in any way to the original work? What draws you to this work in the first place? What characteristics do you so admire that it came to mind? Are those qualities that you already try to include in your writing? How might you consciously work toward that? 

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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Novelist Sharon Guskin, whose debut novel, The Forgetting Time (Flatiron Books), has been named book of the week by People Magazine, and listed by the BBC as one of ten books to read this month.


This week’s Write the Book Prompt was kindly suggested by my guest, Sharon Guskin. It’s a four-part prompt that has to do with discovering your enthusiasm:
  • First, as quickly as you can and without thinking about it ahead of time, list five areas that you feel are the neglected dark corners of your world--the areas that aren’t discussed enough or need more air.
  • Then, circle the one that seems the most alive to you, right now.
  • Imagine a voice within that world.
  • Finally, again without thinking, write from that voice for twenty minutes.

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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