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Archive for the 'Writing Craft' Category

Write the Book's 351st episode (!) introduces Shelagh's new co-host, Gary Lee Miller, in an interview with Vermont author Sean Prentiss about his new book, Finding Abbey: The Search for Edward Abbey and His Hidden Desert Grave, published by University of New Mexico Press.


Sean Prentiss generously shared two Write the Book Prompts with Gary during their interview. The first is this: 

Find a piece of writing you love. Study it. What is the tone? What is the shape on the page? What is the title? How much dialogue is used? How are characters developed? What is the theme? Once you’ve studied the piece, then try to emulate it.  Write your own piece that mirrors or learns from the piece you love. Allow yourself to follow the original, but also to meander where you need. 

The second prompt for this week focuses on beginning and endings. If you have a draft of an essay, story or poem that you like but find yourself stuck with the beginning or ending, go ahead and add a second beginning or ending. Just tack it right on. Maybe start or end your piece with an overt idea, or start or end your piece with a scene that moves us to some new place or time. Or start with a powerful metaphoric image. This can be just the kind of writing play you need to get you where you want to go. 

Good luck with these exercises, and listen next week for another.

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


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2011 interview from the archives with Seattle-based writer and teacher Priscilla Long. We discussed her wonderful book and writing resource, The Writer's Portable Mentor.


This week's Write the Book Prompt is to consider the word mentor. Have you ever had a mentor? Have you ever been a mentor to someone else? What have those relationships provided for you and the other person? Are you still in touch? Is the coaching/education/guidance ongoing, or was the mentorship a temporary situation? If you're no longer in touch, do you miss that other person? If you were the mentor, what did you get out of offering guidance to another? Consider all of these questions, and write.
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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Vermont author Tammy Flanders Hetrick, whose new novel, Stella Rose, was published in April from She Writes Press.

This week’s  Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Tammy Flanders Hetrick. It’s essentially the idea that prompted her to write her novel, Stella Rose. Imagine knowing that you weren’t going to be there. Imagine having three months to prepare. Now write. 

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

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Two interviews this week! The first, with former Williston Observer columnist, French-trained chef and memoirist Kim Dannies, whose new book is Everyday GourmetThe second, with best-selling author Sue Monk Kidd, whose book, The Invention of Wings, has just come out in paperback from Penguin.


This week’s Write The Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Kim Dannies. Either use the following phrase for inspiration, or as a starting point: “He was slicing limes...” 

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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Houston author Chris Cander, whose new novel is Whisper Hollow, published by The Other Press.


This week I’m offering you two  Write The Book Prompts, thanks to the generous suggestions of my guest, Chris Cander. She just participated in a literary showdown recently, at Brazos, her favorite local bookstore in Houston. The event was in honor of independent bookstore day. Four participating Houston-based novelists were given a prompt and had thirty minutes to create a story each. Chris is a fan of working under pressure, which she says helps a writer bypass self-censorship. The bookstore employees picked out a romance novel that had “Texas” in the title. They read the first page aloud, which was full of raw passion and prairie angst, as Chris puts it. The main character was fleeing a difficult and traumatic situation. So the challenge was to write a story that would expand upon that summarized trauma in detail. Chris says it was a great prompt with a rich, ripe setup. It was fun and funny, because there were no expectations. She says you could do anything with this. Pick a genre. If you write literary fiction, pick something pulpy; if you write mysteries, maybe pick a historical novel. Then spend 30 minutes turning a piece of it into something different. It can help to unblock you and it’s a lot of fun, particularly in a group.


Chris also has found this second prompt useful. Because confession had a large role to play in her book, Whisper Hollow, Chris offered herself the challenge of letting a character she was having trouble with write a confessional letter to see what that character would say, what information might emerge to help her push through.


Good luck with these prompts, and please listen next week for another.  

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Award-winning New Hampshire writer and Dartmouth professor Ernest Hebert, on the writing life and completing his series, The Darby Chronicles, published by UPNE.


This week’s  Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Ernest Hebert. He tells his students to take a page and draw a line down the middle. On one side, write one thing that you like about yourself (loyal to friends). On the right side, write something you don’t like about yourself (petty streak). Keep going. Fill the page. You don’t have to show anyone else. Just keep it for yourself. According to Ernie, in that language you will find all the characters you will ever need for a career in writing.

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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Archive Interview with Vermont Novelist Jennifer McMahon. In this, our first of two interviews, we discussed her book, Don't Breathe A Word. My other interview with Jennifer can be found here


Write a story, poem or scene in which spring cleaning features prominently. 

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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Vermont author Gary Lee Miller, whose collection of stories, Museum of the Americas, was published by Fomite Press in July 2014.


This week’s  Write The Book Prompts were suggested by my guest, Gary Lee Miller. The first three are prompts that he has used in his work with the group Writers For Recovery. Gary refers to these as Positioned Prompts--prompts that give writers a specific, unique starting place to help them get going.
  • Here's exactly what happened. 
  • She was just a block from her house when she found the blue envelope on the sidewalk.
  • In the beginning, all I wanted was a normal life.

Gary also shared a prompt called the Neverending Sentence, which he and his friend use in writing workshops they teach for kids. It reminds me a bit of the game of telephone. You begin by writing a simple sentence on a page, pass the sheet to another person, and ask that person to change one word or phrase. It goes from there. Gary's example is below. As you can see, it might get a little weird. But that's part of the fun. And it definitely gets more interesting!

  • On a Tuesday morning, Gary Miller walked to town to buy eggs.
  • On a Tuesday morning, Charmagne Miller walked to town to buy eggs.
  • On a raggedy Tuesday morning, Charmagne Miller walked to town to buy eggs.
  • On a raggedy Tuesday morning, Charmagne Miller walked to Carter’s Corner to buy eggs.
  • On a raggedy Tuesday morning, Charmagne Adelphi walked to Carter’s Corner to buy eggs.
  • On a raggedy Tuesday morning, Charmagne Adelphi walked to Carter’s Corner to steal eggs.
  • On a raggedy Tuesday morning, Charmagne Adelphi walked to Carter’s Corner to steal somebody’s car.
  • On a raggedy Tuesday morning, Charmagne Adelphi walked to Carter’s Corner to steal Henry Beefer’s car.
  • On a raggedy Tuesday morning, Charmagne Adelphi walked to Carter’s Corner to steal Henry Beefer’s golden retriever.
  • On a raggedy Tuesday morning, Charmagne Adelphi walked to Carter’s Corner to steal Henry Beefer’s deaf golden retriever.
  • On a raggedy Tuesday morning, Charmagne Adelphi stumbled to Carter’s Corner to steal Henry Beefer’s deaf golden retriever.
  • On a raggedy Tuesday morning, Charmagne Adelphi stumbled, half exhausted and violently ill, to Carter’s Corner to steal Henry Beefer’s deaf golden retriever.
  • On a raggedy Tuesday morning, Governor Peter S. Shumlin stumbled, half exhausted and violently ill, to Carter’s Corner to steal Henry Beefer’s deaf golden retriever.
  • On the Tuesday before the hurricane, Governor Peter S. Shumlin stumbled, half exhausted and violently ill, to Carter’s Corner to steal Henry Beefer’s deaf golden retriever.
  • On the Tuesday before the hurricane, Governor Peter S. Shumlin stumbled, half exhausted and violently ill, to Carter’s Corner to vaccinate Henry Beefer’s deaf golden retriever.
  • On the Tuesday before the hurricane, Governor Shumlin stumbled, half exhausted and violently ill, to Carter’s Corner to feed Henry Beefer’s deaf golden retriever.
  • On the Tuesday before the hurricane, Governor Peter S. Shumlin stumbled, half exhausted and violently ill, to Carter’s Corner to shoot Henry Beefer’s deaf golden retriever.
  • On the Tuesday before Hurricane Irene wiped out half of Vermont, Governor Peter S. Shumlin stumbled, half exhausted and violently ill, to Carter’s Corner to shoot Henry Beefer’s deaf golden retriever.
  • On the Tuesday before Hurricane Irene wiped out half of Vermont, Governor Peter S. Shumlin’s half brother Luke Tweedly stumbled, half exhausted and violently ill, to Carter’s Corner to shoot Henry Beefer’s deaf golden retriever.
  • On the Tuesday before Hurricane Irene wiped out half of Vermont, Governor Peter S. Shumlin’s half brother Luke Tweedly stumbled, half exhausted and violently ill, to Carter’s Corner to shoot Henry Beefer’s deaf golden retriever in the ass.
  • On the Tuesday before Hurricane Irene wiped out half of Vermont, Governor Peter S. Shumlin’s half brother Luke Tweedly stumbled, half exhausted and violently ill, to Carter’s Corner to shoot Henry Beefer’s ex wife Melodica in the ass.
  • On the Tuesday before Hurricane Irene wiped out half of Vermont, Governor Peter S. Shumlin’s half brother Luke Tweedly stumbled, half conscious and furious as a rabid hamster, to Carter’s Corner to shoot Henry Beefer’s ex wife Melodica in the ass.
  • On the Tuesday before Hurricane Irene wiped out half of Vermont, Governor Peter S. Shumlin’s half brother Luke Tweedly stumbled, half conscious and furious as a rabid hamster, to Carter’s Corner to shoot Henry Beefer’s ex wife Melodica, who had betrayed him more than once, in the ass.
  • On the Tuesday before Hurricane Irene wiped out half of Vermont, Governor Peter S. Shumlin’s half brother Luke Tweedly stumbled, half conscious and completely furious, to the Little Bub Daycare Center to shoot Henry Beefer’s ex wife Melodica, who had betrayed him more than once, in the ass.
  • On the Tuesday before Hurricane Irene wiped out half of Vermont, Governor Peter S. Shumlin’s half brother Luke Tweedly stumbled, half conscious and completely furious, to the Little Bub Daycare Center to shoot Henry Beefer’s ex wife Melodica, who had betrayed him more than once, in the ass with Cupid’s arrow of love.

Good luck with these exercises, 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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Vermont poet Angela Patten, author of the new collection, In Praise of Usefulnesspublished by Wind Ridge Books of Vermont.

This week’s Write The Book Prompt is the one that led Angela Patten to write the poem "Tabula Rasa." Her husband, Daniel Lusk, recommended it to her; write about about something that happened to you that you can not remember. This will probably mean something that happened when you were so small, you don’t have access to those memories. But I suppose it could mean something that happened when you were medicated, or ill, or asleep. Maybe even something that happened to you before you were born.
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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Veteran Boston Globe Reporter Stephen Kurkjian, author of Master Thieves, the story of the the largest art theft in history, published by PublicAffairs.

This week's Write the Book Prompt is to bring suspense to your (creative) nonfiction by writing certain pivotal moments in scene, rather than summarizing the historical facts. If you are able, include dialogue, eye contact, movement and sensory detail. This was an aspect of Master Thieves that I found engaging: that Stephen Kurkjian was able to inform readers about the events of the Gardner heist by bringing us into the moments that counted.
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. 

Listen Now:


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