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Archive for the 'Writing Workshops' Category

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Vermont Poet Michelle Demers, whose new collection is Green Mountain Zen (Blue Light Press). 

This week's Write the Book Prompt was generously offered by my guest, Michelle Demers, who has a large staple of writing books from which she pulls exercises for herself and her classes. The exercise, titled "The Word Hoard," appears in The Cambridge Introduction to Creative Writing, by David Morley. Morley writes, “You should try to do this exercise every day, not only to keep your writing mind limber, but also to create a hoard of original and unusual phrases from which you can draw when you are writing. ‘Word hoard’ is a ‘kenning’ (a Norse poetic device ...), meaning ‘a supply of words’, such as a book, or vocabulary itself.”

Go to a shelf of books of fiction or poetry. Take one book at random. Close your eyes while opening that book and place your finger somewhere in it. Your finger will have landed on a word or words. Write the word down, as well as the three words preceding it and the three words following it in the text. You now have a seven-word phrase. Write this phrase in your notebook and, once you have written it, keep writing for five minutes. There are only two rules to this game: you must not stop writing; and you must not think. Try to write as fast as you can. You are not producing a work of art. After five minutes, you should have covered quite a lot of pages. Now read what you have written. Read it forwards, then read through it, word for word, backwards. Underline one phrase that strikes you as possessing any one of the following qualities: it has energy; it surprises you; it has never been written before in your language. The phrase must make a kind of sense; it must possess its own inner sense at the very least. That is, it must not be completely opaque in meaning. It might be a whole sentence, or it might be the end of one sentence and the beginning of the next. Now, write a short story or poem in which this phrase occurs without it seeming in any way out of place. You might wish to place the phrase into the mouth of a speaker in the poem or story, for example.

A I M : When we strive to be original, we tend to get tongue-tied, for we have been long taught that originality is no longer possible.  ... this ‘free-writing’ exercise is effective for warming up for writing, but it is also effective at creating unusual phrases, ones that possess a surprising amount of personal linguistic energy. You are trying to capture ideas and sentences that you would not ordinarily come up with consciously.

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

Music: Aaron Shapiro

 

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Bestselling Author Kristan Higgins, whose new novel is Good Luck With That (Berkley). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Kristin Higgans. You wake up in a strange room in a strange bed and there’s a stranger in the room. He knows you extremely well, and seems to assume you know him also. Write about what happens next.

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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lvw.jpgInterview from the archives with then-president of the League of Vermont Writers, Deb Fennell.

It is now officially football season. The Bills have a win, the Patriots, a loss. But it’s early days. This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to write about a football game that begins in a friendly way and turns nasty. It can be about a Thanksgiving touch football game, or a group of old friends coming together to watch the Superbowl. It can be about high school parents, professional players, the fans, or the guy selling beer and hot dogs. Be sure to describe the weather, the smells and sounds and colors.

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

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Vermont author Cardy Raper, whose new book is An American Harvest: How One Family Moved from Dirt-Poor Farming to a Better Life in the Early 1900s, published by Green Writers Press.

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to find an old letter, journal entry, or recording from either your own life or at the library or in an archive. Find a historical document that speaks to you in some way, and write about its significance. Either write a fictional piece, a poem, or nonfiction, letting your starting point be this documented communication.

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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Award-winning Vermont poet Neil Shepard, whose latest book,(T)ravel/Un(t)ravel, was published by MidList Press.

This week I have four Write The Book Prompts to offer, thanks to Neil Shepard's generous suggestions. The first focuses on poetic identity.

1. Select at least six (6) items from the choices below and mix them into an Identity Poem that reveals who you are (or some disguise of you, or some totally fictional you). Add whatever other language you need to patch the disparate parts of the poem together. Here’s the list:

  • briefly describe a significant or recurring dream
  • what is your totemic animal, and why;
  • which element (earth, air, fire, water) are you, and why
  • borrow a phrase from a famous poem that fits your identity
  • use a guide book on flowers, trees, birds, or stars to discover a few natural objects that correspond to your identity
  • feed your full name into an anagram scrambler and select a few phrases that seem to describe you
  • what truths do you live by (be specific)
  • what lies do you live by (be specific)
  • if you could be anybody who has lived on this earth, who would it be
  • if you could be a fly on a wall, where would you like to land
  • if you could be a ghost, who would you like to haunt
  • what is your secret power and your secret weakness (other than kryptonite)

2. The second prompt that Neil Shepard suggested focuses on sentence rhythms: Write a prose paragraph or a poetic stanza whose sentences try to imitate the rhythm of one of the following activities:

  • a couple having sex
  • a truck driver riding a big-rig across the Great Plains
  • a machine operating in a factory
  • a religious sermon
  • a ping-pong match
  • a rollercoaster ride
  • a sky-dive
  • an interrogation scene (either at a police station or in a courtroom)

3. The third prompt is for dreamers: Write a poem based on a few of your dreams that still don’t make sense to you. Try to pluck out the most arresting images from those dreams. Then insert them in a poem about some “normal“ domestic activity such as shopping at the supermarket, swimming laps at the pool, studying for an exam, flossing your teeth, or cleaning your room. The cognitive dissonance between dream image and daily activity should create the surreality of the poem.

4. This last prompt is for writers bored with "the self": The poet Phillip Levine has said about the autobiographical impulse: “Why would we want to write about ourselves, if we can imagine and write about anybody else in history?”  For this exercise, adopt a historical figure – someone decidedly not you – who lived at least 100 years ago. Research the person, the historical period, the dramatic events central to the poem you will write, and then write the poem from this person’s perspective and voice. Remember to make the poem vivid and externalized – don’t create an abstract monologue that neglects references to the time, place, characters, and events of this historical period. (It helps to imagine a dramatic moment in time.)

So there you go, four prompts from Neil Shepard. Good luck with these exercises, and please 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.

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Interviews highlighting three local groups that are making the Burlington area writing community much richer: The Burlington Writers' Workshop (Peter Biello), The Renegade Writers' Collective (Angela Palm and Jessica Hendry Nelson), and The Writers' Barn (Lin Stone and Daniel Lusk).

Today I have two Write The Book Prompts. The first is to write about two interactions between lifelong friends: the first time they meet, and the last time they meet. Limit each scene to a page, but try to intimate a whole friendship into those two pages, letting us know who these people are, how they eventually influence each other, how important they become in each other's lives.

Today's second prompt was suggested by my guest, the poet Daniel Lusk. It's a prompt he used recently in the poetry group at the Writers Barn: Write a poem with a red dress in it.
Good luck with these exercises and please 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.

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An interview with Burlington Book Festival founder and organizer Rick Kisonak, in celebration of the 2012 festival, which will take place in a variety of downtown Burlington venues September 21-23. According to the website, "The Queen City’s 8th annual celebration of the written word will offer readings, signings, panels, workshops, demos, family activities, and special events featuring literary luminaries from around the world-and just around the corner. All events will be free of charge and open to the public." Check out this years offerings here. Rick Kisonak is a film and media critic who lives in South Burlington, Vermont. His reviews can be found in Vermont's independent weekly paper Seven Days, and on the website Rotten Tomatoes, among other places.

Today's Write The Book Prompt is to write about a writing workshop. Include a leader and several participants. Let a moment of tension turn into something unexpected, and allow at least one member of the group to surprise him- or herself by behaving uncharacteristically.

Good luck with this prompt and tune in next week for another.

Music credits: 1) “Dreaming 1″ - John Fink; 2) “Filter” - Dorset Greens (a Vermont band that existed briefly in 2008 and 2009, featuring several South Burlington High School students - now grads)

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2008 interview with Michael Collier, poet and director of the Bread Loaf Writers Conference, which runs from August 15th through the 24th in 2012.

Today's Write The Book prompt is to pull out something you worked on awhile ago, but set aside. Give it another try.

Good luck with this prompt, and tune in 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)

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Award-winning writer Glen Finland, author of Next Stop: A Memoir of Family, published by AmyEinhornBooks/Putnam. The book is a Summer 2012 Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Pick.

Today's Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Glen Finland. Describe the precise moment at a time in your life when you realized you had to let go of someone or something. And what gave you the courage to do it?

Good luck with this prompt and tune in next week for another.

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Massachusetts novelist Andrew Goldstein, author of The Bookie's Son, published by 617 Books.

Today's Write The Book Prompt is to write a setting from your childhood. It might be the bedroom you had before your family moved to another town when you were in high school, or it might be the street in front of your house, a scene from your kindergarten classroom, or from the back seat of your parents' car. Try to capture the details that will help readers understand what it was like to be in that place, and in particular, to be you -- your childhood self -- in that place. Consider colors as you write, and odors. The smells from the kitchen as mother cooked, the sound of a vacuum, the sounds of your parents talking from the other side of a closed door. What was it like to be there? Was it air conditioned? Or did the heater go all the time so that the windows had to be left open? What made you feel particularly safe, or comfortable, or frightened to be there? Try to capture it and then see how you might use it, or simply what you learned from writing it, in a larger piece of writing.

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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