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Archive for the 'Writing Craft' Category

Vermont poet and UVM Professor Stephen Cramer, whose new book is From the Hip: A Concise History of Hip Hop (in sonnets), published by Wind Ridge Books of Vermont. 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously offered by my guest Stephen Cramer. He likes to assign this to his students, because it presents the challenge of describing something ethereal, like music, that doesn’t have a form that you can touch or see. You have to turn to metaphor a lot, and to a description from the senses. Words like “velvety,” “sharp,” and “bright.” So this week’s prompt is to write about music and see if you can use synesthesia - one sense expressed in terms of another - to launch your piece into some new, unexpected place. Lynda Hull’s poem Hollywood Jazz has at least two instances of synesthesia, if you’d like to read one that Stephen recommends. 

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

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J. Robert Lennon, whose second story collection, See You in Paradise, is just out from Graywolf Press.

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously offered by my guest J. Robert Lennon, who is a teacher as well as being a writer, and who is working on a collection of writing prompts and exercises. He created this exercise after reading the book A Void, translated from the original French La Disparition (literally, "The Disappearance"), a 300-page novel, written in 1969 by Georges Perec, entirely without using the letter e (except for the author's name). The 1994 translation by Gilbert Adair likewise does not contain the letter e. As J. Robert Lennon pointed out to me, “there goes the past tense and every pronoun.” His exercise is this: write a one-page story about a funeral without using the letter “e.” You can’t use cemetery or grave or funeral or death or tears or dead or die. He finds that students will come up against a word they can’t use, then another and another, and the sentence becomes so terrible, they have to back up and do an end runner on the problem. Which is a great thing to do in any case. He says it often ends up being the best prose they’ve written all semester because they have to work so hard to write every single sentence.  
Good luck with this exercise and please listen next week for another.
Music credits: 1) “Dreaming 1″ - John Fink; 2) "Virginia" - Starry Mountain Sweetheart Band (of which my guest, J. Robert Lennon, is a band member!) 
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Interview from the archives with Nancy Marie BrownVermont author of the bookSong of the Vikings, The Abacus and the Cross, The Far Traveler, Mendel in the Kitchen, and A Good Horse Has No Color.

Today's Write the Book Prompt, in honor of Thanksgiving, is to consider an early cooking experience (either one of your own, or a friend's or relative's) and write about that. My own might be the first time I cooked for the woman who would eventually be my mother-in-law. We were on a vacation in a remote but lovely place with terrible grocery store options, and when I opened the box of pasta (once I was all ready to boil it), it was full of bugs. But that's just me.
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, now alums). 


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Best-selling author Meg Wolitzer, whose new novel is Belzhar, published by Dutton.

This week’s  Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Meg Wolitzer, who says that dialogue can be troubling for writers. She says, “The more I read great dialogue, the more I realize that writers who let people talk and don’t just intrude are doing a great service in the book. Write dialogue with very little exposition, in which the reader has to figure out who the people are, talking to each other. There are so many clues in how we talk to each other. You don’t have to say, “Yes, Mother.” We can see that friends wouldn’t talk to each other the way a mother might." So there you have it. Write character conversations without intruding this week, and try to let the reader figure out who the people are, talking to each other in a scene of dialogue.”

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, now alums). 

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Robert Boswell, award-winning author of seven novels, including Tumbledown, just released in paperback from Graywolf Press

This morning, I reported to our local courthouse for jury duty. While there, I wasn’t able to do much in between the active moments of jury questioning and selection. What I ended up doing was watching people and making mental notes about their appearance, habits, and speech. So the Write The Book Prompt this week is to try to immerse yourself in a place with strangers, and watch them. See if your characters might learn something from these people: something about how to dress, how to speak, how to walk, how to use their hands. I imagine you’ll come up with new ways of presenting at least one of the characters you thought you already knew. 
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, now alums). 
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Children's and YA author Jacqueline Woodson, whose new novel, Brown Girl Dreaming (Nancy Paulsen Books) is short-listed for this year's National Book Award. 

This week’s  Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Jacqueline Woodson. Choose an age between five and fifteen and write down everything you remember from that year of your life. Who were your friends? Where did you live? What clothes did you wear? What music was playing? What did you love; what did you hate? Write without lifting your pen until you can’t remember anything else, and then start making stuff up. 
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, now alums). 
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Vikram Chandra, author most recently of Geek Sublime: The Beauty of Code, the Code of Beautypublished by Graywolf Press.

Today's Write the Book Prompt is to write about someone's first experience using a computer. 

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, now alums). 

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New interviews with best-selling novelist Tana French, whose new Dublin Murder Squad mystery is The Secret Place, published by Viking; Vermont poet and veteran Jon Turner, who has worked extensively with the Warrior Writers Project and Combat Paper, and is now a member of the Farmer Veteran Coalition; and our own book mentor, Claire Benedict, co-owner of Bear Pond Books in Montpelier.

During this show, Claire recommended:

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber

The Secret Place by Tana French

Museums of America by Gary Miller

A House In the Sky by Amanda Lindhout and Sara Corbett

This week's Write the Book  Prompt might involve going into your attic or basement. Find a box in your home whose contents you’re not entirely sure of. Write about what might be inside. Include memories of events that the possible contents trigger. Then open the box, and write about what you do, in fact, find there. 

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, now alums). 

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Interview from the archives with Vermont author Howard Norman, whose new novel is Next Life Might Be Kinder. This is our first of two interviews, during which we talked about an earlier novel, What Is Left The Daughter? 

This week's Write the Book Prompt is about ghosts and hauntings, a theme that exists in some of Howard Norman's work. Don't think horror, don't think "ghost story," but consider what haunts you. Or what haunts a character. Or even what haunts a story, a setting, a situation. Then write about it, but try to keep it subtle. Write about a haunting in a way that makes a reader do a double take, as if  she just saw something flit by out of the corner of her eye. Did I just see 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, now alums). 


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Shelagh interviews Tim Brookes about his latest, First Time Author, and Tim interviews Shelagh about her debut novel, Shape of the Sky. RETN captures the interview for television and radio. Much fun had by all. 

Today’s Write The Book Prompt is to write about a person who meets a goal. Someone who achieves something she has always wanted to achieve. It can be a sales goal, a personal best, a long-avoided task. Is she pleased? Does it look like it was supposed to? Is he happy afterwards, or does it immediately fail to meet his expectations? What does he do next? What does she?  

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, now alums).

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