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Critically acclaimed and bestselling author Julianna Baggott, whose new novel is Harriet Wolf's Seventh Book of Wonders (Little Brown).

This week’s  Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Julianna Baggott, who encourages her students to use “visualization” to move forward in narrative. She suggests that her students close their eyes for each. They can take notes in between each. Here are a few examples she offered, from which you can work. Either now, if you’re all set up to do so, or later, listen to these with your eyes closed, and try to visualize what’s happening, but missing, from each prompt:

  • A Man walks out of a house* He’s dressed very strangely* He walks to a car* Opens the trunk, looks inside* reaches in*
  • A woman is running, scared – where* She runs out of breath, falls to her knees. She hears a * looks up and sees*
  • A man is sitting on a park bench. By his clothes, we assume he works as a _________ . A woman sits next to him and says something that makes no sense to us but means a lot to him, “ -------------“
  • A woman is standing in a flooded basement – things float and are soaked around her* -- she finds a footlocker, wades over to it – reaches inside to find * 
  • A boy in pajamas is outside* -- alone. He hears * but ignores it and keeps heading toward a *
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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Daniel James Brown, whose award-winning and New York Times Bestselling Book, The Boys in the Boat, has been adapted for young readers.


This week’s Write The Book Prompt involves considering history as you seek ideas for your work. Browse an antique store for artifacts of a period that interests you. As you look around, keep your mind open to the characters who might have once held this book, had dinner at this table, stitched this tablecloth. Choose two or three objects from a certain period in time, and incorporate them into a story, poem, or essay. Try not to know ahead of time what aspect of 1923 or 1968 you plan to focus on. Instead, let the objects that you find surprise you with the stories they tell and the characters they suggest.

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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Author Susan McCarty, whose collection, Anatomies (Aforementioned Productions), debuted at #6 on the Small Press Distribution fiction bestseller list. 

This week’s  Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Susan McCarty, whose inspiration for the story "Anatomies" came from the autobiography, Berlin Childhood around 1900 by Walter Benjamin. In it, Benjamin maps his life onto the places and spaces of his youth in Berlin. For instance, he writes about the hallway where the family telephone--which he describes as "an outcast," and "my twin brother"--was hung. He writes about the Tiergarten, a park in Berlin where he first experienced romantic love. Susan suggests that, as a prompt this week, you think about your own places and spaces and map some memories onto them, however small or insignificant-seeming the place, space, memory, or emotion. Limit yourself to 600 words for each memory/place. The point here is to make an active setting for your story, and to notice the way in which setting and plot intertwine to make each other. Susan also shared a link to Dorothy Allison’s wonderful essay, “Place,” in which, she talks about how place is not a backdrop for action, but an integral part of it. For further inspiration, Susan recommends checking out the great website Mapping Salt Lake City, curated by the poet and essayist Paisley Rekdal. 

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

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Interview from the archives with Evan Fallenberg, writer, translator and director of fiction for the Shaindy Rudoff Graduate Program in Creative Writing at Bar-Ilan University near Tel Aviv. Author of the novels Light Fell and When We Danced on Water


This week's Write the Book prompt is to observe people in a public place - a restaurant, an airport, a library, a coffee shop - and make a list of people's gestures that you can later use in your work. Authentic, original gestures will enliven your work, so that your characters don't spend every scene fiddling with that same pair of reading glasses. 

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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Author and Goddard College Professor Laurie Foos, whose novel The Blue Girl came out in July from Coffee House Press


This week's Write the Book Prompt was generously offered to Gary Lee Miller by his guest, Laurie Foos. It’s based on Gabriel Garcia Marquez's story, "A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings." Several pages into the story, there are several lines that are suggestive of whole stories (beyond that of the man with enormous wings). Write a story based on one of the following: a woman (or man) who since childhood has been counting his/her heartbeats and has run out of numbers; a man /women who can't sleep because the noise of the stars disturbs him/her; a sleepwalker who gets up at night to undo the things he/she has done while awake.

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

Music credits: "I Could Write a Book," by the Boston-based band, Possum.

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Writer and musician Tommy Wallach, whose debut YA novel, We All Looked Up, came out in March from Simon & Schuster.

This week’s  Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Tommy Wallach, who says that, although a lot of prompts focus on description and sentence-level writing, he feels that the hardest part about writing is actually story. Tommy suggests sitting down and, in half an hour, writing out three-act structure plot with no description or dialogue. 

The three-act structure has to do with creating the beginning, middle, and end of your story. Aristotle wrote of exposition, rising action, and resolution. In cinematic terms, the three acts are setup, confrontation and resolution. Here’s a website that discusses three-act structure, in case you’d like to read up on it. It’s something I found on the Indiana University website, and it has a shark.

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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Interview from the archives with Ecologist and educator Amy Seidl, author of Early Spring: An Ecologist and Her Children Wake to a Warming World and Finding Higher Ground: Adaptation in the Age of Warming.


This week's Write the Book Prompt concerns caring for the earth. Write about one step you have taken toward this guardianship. Then write about a next step you hope to take.

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).

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Award-winning author Jacob Paul, whose new novel, A Song of Ilan, was published this spring by Jaded Ibis Press. 

Patrick Nolan, Vice President, Editor-in-Chief and Associate Publisher of Penguin Books, which is celebrating its 80th anniversary.

This week’s  Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my first guest, Jacob Paul, who in 2014 collaborated with friends Sarah Martin and Adam Moser to create a project titled Home for an Hour. Moser invited seven couples to each spend an hour by themselves in his apartment in Greensboro, North Carolina. The couples were encouraged to do whatever they wanted, with no one watching. Meanwhile, outside on the snowy lawn, Jacob Paul sat with his laptop, composing a fictional narrative about each of them. In one of his resulting stories, a participant meditates on the meaning of the word common; another story presents an imagined conversation between two people as  they sit in the apartment, drinking a box of wine. None of the stories was revised before being collected into the Home for an Hour book. So the prompt for this week, generously offered by Jacob Paul, is to have a friend or friends go do something that you can’t watch and, in real time, while they’re doing it, write a fictional documentary account of what they might be doing.

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).


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Gary Lee Miller interviews Yvonne Daley, Director of the Green Mountain Writers' Conference and author of five nonfiction books, including The Bend In The Road: Lenny Burke's Farm, published by Northshire.

This week's Write the Book Prompt was generously offered by Yvonne Daley. These are lines from people’s Instagram profiles. Use one or more as inspiration for a fictional piece with the line being the online dating or Instagram profile of your character. Alternatively, if you are writing nonfiction, what would someone in your piece write for their one-line description of him or herself. If you’re a poet, play with one or more of these self-descriptions in an ironic or wry manner as a way of commenting on contemporary communication.

  • A man of mystery and power, whose power is exceeded only by his mystery
  • Buoyant, waggish, efficacious, indefatigable, demiurgic, convivial marketing companion, self-made thousandaire
  • Currently starring in my own reality show titled, A Modern Cinderella; One Girl’s Search for Love and Shoes
  • Currently working towards an MBA with an emphasis in fantasy football
  • Don’t think for a second that I actually care what you have to say
  • Fabulous ends in “us.” Coincidence? I think not
  • Generally, the path of least resistance appeals. Also, I am excellent at parallel parking.
  • I always feel sad for seedless watermelons, because what if they wanted babies?
  • I am an actor and a writer and I co-created my breakfast and my son, Malachai.
  • I am coming back to face the reality that a normal day is not beer on the beach or calamari in the belly.
  • I can quote (Insert movie) better than you and all your friends.
  • Can’t remember who I stole my bio from or why
  • I have not lost my mind – it’s backed up on HD somewhere.
  • I have this new theory that human adolescence doesn’t end until your early thirties.
  • I hope one day I love something the way women in commercials love yogurt
  • I looked at my Instagram photos and realized I look beautiful.
  • I once sneezed a beanie weenie through my nose. I also made a horse faint in Costa Rica.
  • I only rap caucasionally
  • I prefer my puns intended
  • I put the hot in psychotic
  • I recently gave up Warcraft so my productivity, and drinking, have increased dramatically.

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

Music credits: "I Could Write a Book," by the Boston-based band, Possum.

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Award-winning author Christine Sneedwhose novel Paris, He Saidcame out this spring from Bloomsbury USA.

Christine Sneed generously offered two Write the Book Prompts when I spoke to her. Gary Miller read one of them on the show last week. You can find it here. The second is a dialogue-writing exercise that Christine uses to encourage her undergrads to write with restraint. Write a short scene that happens almost entirely in dialogue.  Keep it to 2 or 3 characters.  In the scene, one of the characters should reveal a secret or some fact that worries or upsets the other person(s) in the scene.  Don’t overdo the reaction. Think about gestures the characters might also make or the physical/sensory details that would enable your readers to see the scene even more vividly.

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).

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