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Archive for the 'Writing Craft' Category

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. 

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Interview from 2011 with Kristin Kimball, author of The Dirty Life, published by Scribner.


This week's Write the Book Prompt has to do with the podcast I'll be airing tomorrow, about the book Master Thieves, by Stephen Kurkjian. Master Thieves concerns the Gardner Museum heist, which happened twenty-five years ago this month. (Stephen Kurkjian's publisher has embargoed all interviews until 3/11, and so I will air the podcast on that date.) Write about a theft. From bubblegum slipped into a small pocket, to a painting removed while an alarm goes off, theft can make for interesting fiction. Who commits the crime and why? Who is the victim--an elderly woman missing her purse, or a huge corporation missing their computer files? Is the thief conflicted? What does he or she stand to gain?
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 and publishing consultant Kim MacQueen, whose novel People Who Hate America came out in the fall of 2014.  

Today's Write the Book Prompt is to write about a familiar setting, but place it in a different time period. If you write about that place in the past, do some research. Try to find pictures or interviews that shed light on what the area was like. Also, use your imagination. The fact that you know the place means that you can bring something to it from experience that might add warmth to the snapshot, the wiki entry. Perhaps in a photograph, you learn that a simple boathouse existed on the shore of your favorite bay. You already know what the water sounds like there, how the breezes feel and what direction they tend to take. Describe the old boathouse using your photo, describe the place using experience and emotional connection. Of coure, if you launch your setting into the future, you can take a lot more license. But still, try to stay honest to what you feel might change and what might stay the same. 

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

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Archive interview with Vermont writer Laban Carrick Hill, author of over thirty books, including the historical picture book, Dave the Potter, and co-director of the Writers Project of Ghana, a nonprofit based in the Ghana and the US. In 2014, Laban Carrick Hill published the award winning When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of Hip Hop.

Today's Write the Book Prompt is to write about a person with some regimen that is challenged: a vegetarian who can only find a hamburger in the small town he is visiting; a Jewish mourner who is unable to find a synagogue in which to pray (or a minyan for a prayer service); a reserved mother who can't find a private place to nurse her hungry baby. 
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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An interview from 2011 with bestselling novelist Heidi Durrow, Author of The Girl Who Fell From The Sky.

This week's Write the Book Prompt is to imagine yourself on a rooftop. Look around; where are you? What city? What country? What do you see in the distance? Nearer by? Right up close, at your feet? What is the surface of the roof? Is it hard to stand? How will you get down? Is there a door, a fire escape, another sort of ladder? What can you smell on the air? Are you exhilarated, frightened, lightheaded? Who is with you and how do you feel about that person?
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 South Burlington High School students.
Listen Now:


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