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YA graphic novelist Marika McCoola, whose book Baba Yaga's Assistant (Candlewick) won a New England Book Award last year, and Marie Lu, best-selling author of the Legend Trilogy and the Young Elites Series, including her latest, The Rose Society (Putnam Books for Young Readers). My interview with Marika McCoola took place in front of an audience at the Chronicle Book Fair in Glens Falls, NY. 


This week’s Write The Book Prompt is a character development exercise suggested by Marie Lu. List a character’s greatest strengths as well as what that person most values. Then write about one single behavior or action that this character would never ever undertake. Finally, list that character’s greatest weaknesses. After you have your lists, write a scenario where the character must do that one thing he or she would never ever do. What circumstance would force this character to cross that line and how does he or she respond to the circumstance, in a larger way?

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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2011 interview with Joan Leegant, author of the story collection, An Hour in Paradise and the novel that we discuss in the interview, Wherever You Go, both published by W.W. Norton & Co.


This week's Write the Book Prompt is to write a scene or poem or paragraph backwards. It can be a piece that you're stuck on, something you're trying to revise, something you've yet to attempt. Consider how you would normally go about writing it and write it "backwards." Let this mean whatever makes the most sense for you. Is your structure chronological? Change the flow of time. Would you normally introduce your characters in a certain order? Change that order. Would you setting begin indoors and move outdoors? Swap that. Write it backwards, and see if this opens up anything interesting for you. 

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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2011 Interview with Steve Almond. We discussed his then-new book, God Bless America. He subsequently published the popular and controversial book Against Football: One Fan’s Reluctant Manifesto. 

This week's Write the Book Prompt is to write about someone having to give up something they love.

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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Vermont author Brett Ann Stanciu, author of Hidden View (Green Writers Press).

Brett Ann Stanciu suggested a famous John Gardner exercise for this week's Write the Book Prompt. Here's a link to a site that lists many. (Brett's favorite is #4d). 

Here's her own version of that exercise:

Describe a building as seen by an elderly woman whose sister has recently been killed by a random and unexplained act of gun violence. Do not mention the sister, death, or the old woman doing the seeing. Then describe that exact building at the same time as seen by a young woman in love for the first time. Do not mention love, the loved one, or the young woman.

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 Ellen Hopkins, author most recently of Traffick (Margaret K. McElderry Books).


For this week's Write the Book Prompt, let's take a page from Ellen Hopkins, who writes novels in verse. You have two options: first, you could take an existing prose scene you've already written and rewrite it in verse. Or you could write a completely new scene in verse instead of prose. There's no need to use rhyme or any formal scheme, but if sonnets are your thing, you can let it fly. 

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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Julie Barton, author of the new memoir Dog Medicine (Think Piece). 


This week’s Write the Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Julie Barton, and is based on “Wild Writing” work she has done with San Francisco writing coach Laurie Wagner (who leads online workshops as well as well as bay area classes). Julie says that “wild writing” is a phenomenal writing practice. Here’s the basic assignment: write by hand. Read any one of the following poems (follow the links to read them), and then write for 15 minutes, allowing your read of that poem to inspire you. Write as fast as possible, and even as poorly as possible, without thinking. By letting your subconscious lead the way, you’ll be more likely to access work you might otherwise never have gotten to.These are the poems that Julie recommends:

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 children's author Kate Messner. Since our interview, she has published many new books, including a few in her new Ranger In Time series (Scholastic), about a time-traveling golden retriever. 


This week’s Write the Book Prompt is inspired by my interview with Kate Messner, who started to write Over and Under the Snow after her class’s snowshoeing field trip. Write a poem, story, or scene that has to do with a winter sport.

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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Two interviews this week. First, Lorin Stein, Editor of The Paris Review. Their new collection is called The Unprofessionals: New American Writing from The Paris Review, published by Penguin. My second interview is with Vanessa Blakeslee, author of the novel, Juventud, published by Curbside Splendor.


This week’s  Write The Book Prompt was inspired by my conversation with Lorin Stein, during which we discussed the repeated word, “there,” in the story “The Dark and Winding Road,” by Ottessa Moshfegh, in The Unprofessionals: New American Writing from The Paris Review. Often, writers are told to steer clear of repeating words in close succession in their prose, and yet this story absolutely benefits from the author’s intentional repetition. To my mind, it’s intention that makes the difference. Words that are repeated by accident are unlikely to do much other than bump the reader out of the prose. But words that are chosen and placed carefully in succession to highlight something a writer wants to draw attention to--these can be useful and beautiful. Former WTB guest Priscilla Long writes in her book, The Writer’s Portable Mentor: “Good writers delight in repeating good words.” She later adds, “If you have trained yourself not to repeat, learning to do the opposite takes practice and it takes developing your ear.” The word “there” in Ottessa Moshfegh’s story becomes a good word--the right word--by the author’s intention. She uses it to highlight the importance of the setting, which lies at the end of a dark and winding road, but I think also to highlight the otherness--the “there”--of the narrator’s present state of mind. This week’s prompt, then, is to use word repetition in a way that will accentuate something intentionally. Practice reading the result out loud, to be sure the music is just right. 
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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Interview with Daniel Lusk, whose new collection is The Vermeer Suite (Wind Ridge Books of Vermont). The interview was recorded in front of an audience at the South Burlington Community Library in South Burlington, Vermont. Listeners who want to look at the paintings along with the broadcast can look here: 


A Maid Asleep ("Wednesday's Child")       The Astronomer ("The Astronomer")

amaidasleep.jpg astronomer.jpg

Woman Reading a Letter at the Open 
Window ("Yellow")                                 The Little Street ("Memoir")

WomanReadingaLetter.jpg littlestreet.jpg

The Milkmaid ("Holland")                Girl With the Red Hat ("White Fire")

milkmaid.jpg RedHat.jpg

Girl With a Pearl Earring ("Girl")

Pearl.jpg

This week's Write the Book Prompt is to use one of these paintings as inspiration in your own work. Study one of these paintings, then write a poem, a story, a scene. 
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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Kate Harding, author of Asking For It: The Alarming Rise of Rape Culture – and What We Can Do About It, published by Da Capo Lifelong Books.


This week’s Write the Book Prompt was inspired by this week’s interview, specifically about Kate Harding’s and my discussion of the media. Write a scene in which a politician or member of the media makes a statement or argument that is stranger than fiction. It can be ridiculous or outlandish -- surely our culture has seen an actual example that’s just as shocking. Then re-write the scene in another manner, but without changing that character’s point of view. A politician who might find a smoother way to convey his or her offensive message. A journalist who might offer two points of view and then an opinion. Study what changed between the two scenes, and keep that change -- the strong, inartful message versus the subtle or shrewd or slick message -- in mind as you work on your own characters going forward.

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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