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Write The Book

The Vermont podcast and radio show about writing. For writers and curious readers, featuring interviews with authors, poets, agents, editors, and illustrators. One of Writer’s Digest Magazine’s 101 Best Website for Writers in 2016 and 2017.

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An interview from the archives with award-winning children's author Mary Casanova. We discussed her 2013 novel Frozen (Univ. of Minnesota Press).

This week's Write the Book Prompt, inspired by April in Vermont, is to write about a place where it is cold when it should be warm, or warm when it should be cold. 

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

Music by Aaron Shapiro

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Vermont author Jill M. Allen, who will be reissuing her self-published story and ballad collection: The Green Mountains Deep: Fiction About Disabled Vermonters by a Disabled Vermonter, with Onion River Press (from Phoenix Books)  in the near future. 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to think about your own abilities and obstacles, and write about how they affect you as you make your way in the world. 

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

Music by Aaron Shapiro

 

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American novelist and short story writer Yang Huang. Her new novel in stories is My Old Faithful, winner of the Juniper Prize for Fiction (University of Massachusetts Press).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Yang Huang. Alter the rhythm of your writing to jog your creative mind. First, work on a problematic scene by focusing closely on the language, painstakingly going over every word choice, until you make it work or realize this needs to be cut.

After a short break, return to the desk and write as fast as you can, hardly reading what you wrote. Silence the inner critic for the time being, and set your mind free. Write for an hour, until you slow down, or you want to read over the passage.

Sleep on it. Edit the passage next day and throw away any material you cannot use. Analyze the movement in your narrative. What have you discovered about the story and characters?

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

Music by Aaron Shapiro

 

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Prize-Winning Author Michael Andreasen, whose new story collection is The Sea Beast Takes a Lover (Dutton). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Michael Andreasen. Try to find an oblique angle - an odd vector of approach. Sometimes this is as simple as not starting in the place where you have the impulse to start. So if your charaters are in a room, perhaps begin in the other corner of that room. Describe the air coming in the vents, or something happening outside the window. Or maybe a sink in a nearby bathroom is making a noise. Move the focus someplace else. We have such an urge to get to the ONE thing we want to talk about, and talking about only that thing can become boring. A dripping faucet, or an unattended child spotted through a window, about to wander into the street, can ramp up the tension.

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

Music by Aaron Shapiro

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New York Times bestselling author Robin Oliveira, whose new novel is Winter Sisters (Viking).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to consider how it must have been to live before weather could be predicted: imagine how it would be to not know if your day would hold sunshine, wind, ice, rain. Write about unexpected weather.

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

Music by Aaron Shapiro

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Author, literary critic and philosopher Martin Puchner, whose new book is The Written World: The Power of Stories to Shape People, History, Civilization (Random House).

What is one of the earliest legends you remember coming across? Was it a biblical story, such as that of Cain and Abel? Was it the story of Ulysses (or Odysseus), perhaps in a form published for children? Or maybe it was the Thousand and One Nights? This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to consider an early legend that had an effect on you, and write with that story in mind. Perhaps write a contemporary take on the story itself. Or give consideration to the moral of the tale and write in an effort to share the same ethical lessons. You could also research the ways in which that early legend might have influenced historical events and write about that.

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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Upon his passing in 2017, Howard Frank Mosher was recognized as one of America's most acclaimed writers. He finished his final book, Points North,  just weeks before his death. On today's show, in celebration of Howard Frank Mosher, and with the permission of his publisher, St. Martin's Press, I'll read one of the stories from this last collection, "Where is Don Quijote?"

This week’s Write the Book Prompt, drawing from the last sentence of Howard Frank Mosher’s story, “Where is Don Quixote?”  is to write about "the one thing left in this world that you are certain of."

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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#1 New York Times Bestselling Author Kristin Hannah, whose new novel is The Great Alone (Macmillan)

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously offered by my guest, Kristin Hannah. She says her favorite trick for herself is to simply write the description of place until her characters have something to say. For example, she’ll sit and start to describe Alaska. Perhaps it will take two pages of description before she realizes what it is she has to say in that scene, and then she’s off and running.

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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Award-winning and best-selling author James Lee Burke, whose most beloved character, Dave Robicheaux, returns in Robicheaux (Simon & Schuster), a gritty, atmospheric mystery set in the towns and backwoods of Louisiana.  

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is inspired by the work of James Lee Burke. Consider a human condition that is sometimes treated with contempt, and write about it with compassion. James Lee Burke does this with his depiction of alcoholics. Consider the roots of a condition such as addiction, gambling, prostitution, or petty crime, and write about it with compassion for those who suffer or are harmed by it, and respect for someone who is working to be liberated from it.

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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Kim MacQueen interviews Soto Zen Priest Brad Warner, author most recently of It Came from Beyond Zen! More Practical Advice from Dogen, Japan's Greatest Zen Master (Treasury of the True Dharma Eye) (New World Library)

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This week's Write the Prompt involves a sentiment you can find discussed in Brad Warner's new book, It Came From Beyond Zen! The idea comes from 13th century Japanese Zen Master Eihei Dogen and is translated and explained by Brad in his book. I’m paraphrasing it here: Treating people right falls into four main behaviors: free giving, kind speech, being helpful, and cooperation. If you’d like to read Brad's actual translation and more analysis about these four ways to treat people, you’ll want to turn to the book. But if you can, take in the basic premise behind these suggestions, and use them in your work this week. Somehow try to infuse your writing, or maybe the actions of a character, with the ideas of free giving, kind speech, helpfulness and cooperation.

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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