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Interview from the archives with with Willow Bascom, author and illustrator of the book, Paisley Pig: A Multicultural ABC, published by Publishing Works.

This week’s Write The Book prompt is to write a poem, memory, scene or story about a library and its librarian.

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

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

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Author Carolyn Conger, PhD, whose new book is Through The Dark Forest: Transforming Your Life in the Face of Death, published by Plume.

This week’s Write The Book Prompt is one of many exercises that appear in my guest, Carolyn Conger’s book: Through The Dark Forest. She has generously agreed to let me include it here. This exercise is called Expansion, Contraction, or Balance? The questions in the exercise are designed to speak most directly to people who might be facing death more imminently, but you can adjust them to your own situation. Ultimately, of course, we can all benefit from considering what the end of our lives will look like, and living a full life for as long as we can.

This exercise is meant to initiate a meaningful inquiry into being present. Take out your journal and write about how you are experiencing the rhythms of your life. Address these questions and add whatever comes to mind about keeping your life big. Accept what you discover without judgment.
  • Is there anywhere in my life I’m hiding, giving up, or disappearing into my illness?
  • When do I feel most alive, most fully myself?
  • Are there areas of my life where I want to be more present?
  • Are there times in my life--perhaps during medical procedures--when it’s appropriate not to be aware and present?
  • Do I feel a balance in the amount of time I’m in expansive states, neutral states, and contractive states?
  • What do I feel about the idea of being present for my own death?

There are no correct answers to these questions. You are exploring your rhythms of awareness in your life now, and noticing how, when and where you are present. You have the right to make these choices, and it’s healthier to make conscious choices about what you are doing, rather than falling into automatic behavior. 
      ~ Excerpt From Through the Dark Forest: Transforming Your Life
            in the Face of Death, by Carolyn Conger, published by Plume.

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

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

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Poet and prose writer Barbara Henning, whose latest book is A Swift Passage, published by Quale Press.

This week’s Write The Book Prompt was generously offered by my guest, Barbara Henning. She told me that she has used this at the start of a new class, to help her students ground themselves. The prompt is called “FROM HAIKU TO PROSE” - Go for a walk (or remember a walk) and write down everything you see. Then write three haiku using words from your notes. Try to make each haiku a sentence. Haiku celebrate the ever-transforming universe by describing two actions in a single moment in time, an epiphany as the writer becomes aware of reality by observing something simple, striking and absolutely ordinary. Don't worry about syllable count; instead for each haiku, write one short line, one longer line and another short line. The world turns, the seasons change, everything is moving. See if you can get a sense of the season into your haiku and shy away from metaphors, abstract ideas, generalizations and statements about the writer's feelings; stick with things in movement. Haiku do not lecture on ideas about truth, goodness and beauty. They ARE truth and beauty. Here are two haiku, the first by Basho and the second by Richard Wright.

The peasant’s child,
husking rice, stops
and gazes at the moon.

A thin mangy dog
Curls up to sleep in the dust
Of a moonlit road.

Now tell the story of your walk and embed these haiku as sentences into your prose. If you consider your life a journey, every event that takes place is part of that journey, every action a part of another action. Even these momentary observations are small actions. Instead of breaking for the lined poem, let them flow right into the prose as sentences. In this way, you will have a poetic rhythm in your flash fiction or prose poem. You can use this same technique as a regular journal exercise or as a way to begin a story or a poem.

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

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

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Award-winning Vermont poet Daniel Lusk, whose latest book is Kin, published by Wind Ridge Books of Vermont.

This week I have two Write The Book Prompts, both offered by my guest, Daniel Lusk. The first is prompted by what’s been happening all around us: 

After the ice storm, what do you wish might happen when the sun comes out?

And another, especially apt for the New Year: 

Make a list of questions to which you do not know the answer. Maybe the list is your poem. Maybe one of the questions will warrant further unraveling or provocative guesses in response.

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

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

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Irish-born Vermont writer of poetry and prose, Angela Patten. Her new book is High Tea at a Low Table, published by Wind Ridge Books of Vermont.

This week’s Write The Book Prompt was generously shared by my guest, Angela Patten. Write a non-fiction essay or short story that begins, "The moment seemed to go on forever..."

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

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

Listen Now:


Award-winning author Ann Patchett, named one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World by Time Magazine in 2012, whose latest book is This Is The Story of A Happy Marriage, published by Harper. Ann Patchett is co-owner of Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee.

This week’s Write The Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Ann Patchett. Write something about one of your parents or grandparents, or an older person that you’ve known all your life, who is important to you. This person can be dead or alive. Write a scene that encapsulates his or her personality. Not an obituary, although it might be a sort of spiritual encapsulation of who this person is or was. But convey that without giving the facts of the person’s life.

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

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

Listen Now:


Vermont author Alec Hastings, whose first novel is Otter St. Onge and the Bootleggers: A Tale of Adventure, published by The Public Press.

This week I have two Write The Book Prompts, generously suggested by my guest, Alec Hastings. In his classes, Alec offers his students prompts for their twice-a-week journal entries. He says, “I supplement the prompt with an anecdote that helps them see how even one word can be spun into many. For instance, before Thanksgiving, I gave table as a prompt. After letting my students give me blank stares for a moment or two, I launched into a description of my grandmother's kitchen, the cast iron cook stove with the hot water reservoir; the wood box; the bench with the lid that lifted and allowed boot storage beneath; the basketball-sized cookie jar shaped and painted like a ripe, red apple; the fresh baked bread and cookies that awaited us every day when my brothers and I returned home from school; the oaken, claw-foot table upon which meals were eaten and around which we gathered for conversation, dessert, and many a colorful tale; and not least of all, my grandmother, the heart of the kitchen and the source of the good smells, the good cheer, and the grandmotherly love that enfolded us all.” On the day that I spoke with Alec, he’d offered his students the prompt: Scary experience. So there you go, consider the word table, or consider scary experience, or both! And write.

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


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


Listen Now:


Bestselling British author Diane Setterfield, whose latest book is Bellman & Black, published by Atria/Emily Bestler Books. Her first novel, The Thirteenth Tale, sold over 3 million copies in 38 countries.

Today’s Write The Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Diane Setterfield. When Diane is writing and is confused about which way to go or is stuck: she puts out of her mind that she’s writing a novel and imagines, what if I was just on the phone with my mother and telling her about this? How would I tell her? She just writes it down as if she’s telling it to her mom. This doesn’t necessarily result in something finished, but it almost always gets her through that difficulty of not knowing and from that, provides a jumping off point for what she does need to do. This works particularly well, she says, when she knows the content that needs to go in, but is struggling to figure out HOW to present it. Writing can be like staging a play, according to Diane. You might know what the props are and where the actors are standing, but what is the lighting? What do you, the writer, want highlighted in the scene? For example, what do you want foregrounded, and what is just visible in the darkness?

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

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

Listen Now:


Best-selling nonfiction author, David Laskin, whose new book is The Family, published by Viking. David Laskin's USA Today article that he mentioned during our conversation, about the Pew Study on American Jews and religion, can be found here.

This week I have two Write The Book Prompts to offer, having to do with point of view in nonfiction. Both of these were generously suggested by my guest, David Laskin. First, describe a family crisis (death of a relative, decision to move or emigrate, wedding) from the points of view of two or three different family members. And second, write about an historic event from an intimate and specific point of view. This might be along the lines of "Where were you when JFK was assassinated?" or "What were your exact circumstances when the terrorist attacks took place on 9/11/01?" Weave together or juxtapose the personal and historic -- for example, details from daily life with memories of newscasts, tv images, and such.

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

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

Listen Now:


Interview from the archives with Tim Brookes, author of eleven books, including Thirty Percent Chance of Enlightenment.


Today’s Write The Book Prompt is inspired by the Endangered Alphabets Project, founded by my guest, Tim Brookes. Think back to some aspect of your own life that was once important to you, or to an entire community, but disappeared or ended for some reason. This could be a tradition, a celebration, a place, a sports team, a family recipe, a song. It doesn’t have to be as important an issue as an entire language that’s going extinct, though if you have such an inspiration, go with it. Write about that aspect of your life that was vital to you, then write about how you lost it, and what that has meant for you, and if it exists anymore in any form for anyone else.
Good luck with this exercise and please listen next week for another. 


Music credits:  1) “Dreaming 1″ - John Fink; 2) “Filter” - Dorset Greens (which was a Vermont band in 2008, featuring several South Burlington High School students, now grads.)
Listen Now:


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