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Write The Book: Conversations on Craft

A podcast 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. Vermont-grown.

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Alice Lichtenstein, whose new Pulitzer-nominated novel is The Crime of Being (Upper Hand Press). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Alice Lichtenstein. She has found it fun to assign her students a prompt she calls “ekphrastic fiction.” Ekphrastic writing is written in response to a work of art. Alice recommends googling Edward Hopper, many of whose paintings are clearly narrative in nature, and letting his work inspire your writing. Often his works exhibit a single figure posed in such a way and lit in such a way that the figure naturally lends itself to story. So this week, engage in a free-written response to a Hopper painting. Explore the narrative--who is this, in the painting, what has just happened to him or her, what’s going to happen next? See where it takes you.

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

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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Guest Host Kim MacQueen interviews local author and teacher Cinse Bonino about her new book on creativity, One Key See, One Key Do (Onion River Press).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt comes from Cinse Bonino’s new book, One Key See, One Key Do, and it’s about noticing things we usually miss. Pick something at random to notice. You could choose to intentionally pay attention to all the doorknobs and handles you encounter today, or perhaps notice all the buttons on people’s clothing. Take the time to notice something you don’t usually focus on your attention on. For instance, you could notice if the people around you, not just the ones you know, are right-handed or left-handed. Notice all the slip-on shoes. Notice all the height difference in the couples and small groups of people you encounter. Notice the things people do when other people are speaking. 

Most of all, notice what you think and do as you attempt to see more. Figure out what you do intuitively that helps you to notice more. Make a note so you can do it on purpose in the future.

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

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Author Christine Coulson, whose new novel, Metropolitan Stories (Other Press), was inspired by her time working at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

We have three Write the Book Prompts this week, all sparked by my conversation with Christine Coulson:

  • First, challenge yourself to write from the perspective of an inanimate object. Animate it. Think about how it might feel, if it could express thoughts about its current situation.
  • Next, rather than exchanging work on the page, try sharing your writing with a friend who acts as an editor for you, by reading aloud from your work and letting that person offer suggestions, after hearing it. This is how Christine Coulson and her editor at the Other Press, Judy Gurewich, worked on Metropolitan Stories.
  • Finally, imagine yourself in a famous museum or other historical building after hours. What would you do, and how would you feel?

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

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

 

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Author Jane Alison, whose latest is Meander, Spiral, Explode: Design and Pattern in Narrative (Catapult). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Jane Alison, who led a workshop recently that was studying Grace Paley’s story “Distance.” A phrase in the story includes the words, “the picture in the muck under their skulls…” Jane loved this line. She says we all have such pictures “in the muck under our skulls” - those moments that have formed or deformed us, that haunt us. Maybe places we want to return to, or moments that will not leave us. So this week, think if there’s some moment or image from your recent or long-ago past, a deeply imbedded thing that can still glimmer before your eyes, or make you feel homesick, or has a mysterious potency to it. A moment that could become an important part of a story about your life, or perhaps part of a story that you would invent about someone like you. Write about it, and let its magnetism lead you as you work. See what comes out of the muck as you work.

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

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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Interview from the archives with Author Gary Kowalski, about his 2012 book Goodbye, Friend: Healing Wisdom for Anyone Who Has Ever Lost a Pet (New World Library).

This week's Write the Book Prompt is to write about an unexpected interaction with an animal to which (to whom?) you have no personal ties.

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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New interview with Author, Poet, and former Vermont Poet Laureate Sydney Lea, whose new poetry collection is titled Here (Four Way Books). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to write a villanelle. Syd Lea and I discussed his poem, “Old Lessons,” during our conversation, and he then explained what the poem’s form consists of. But here’s a recap, thanks to the Poetry Foundation (where you can also find examples): "The villanelle is a French verse form consisting of five three-line stanzas and a final quatrain, with the first and third lines of the first stanza repeating alternately in the following stanzas. These two refrain lines form the final couplet in the quatrain."

This week, write a villanelle! See what happens as you allow yourself this very specific form to contain the ideas that come.

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

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A new interview with Carol Anshaw, author most recently of Right After the Weather (Atria). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Carol Anshaw. As we discussed during our conversation, Right After the Weather does concern violence, and it includes scenes of violence. Carol suggests tackling this in the coming week; attempt to write a violent scene. Have you ever done this before? What do you find hard about it? What comes easily? How do you approach the material? Do you have to turn away, or do you find the process a natural extension of your other writing? 

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

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

 

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Vermont Author Archer Mayor just published his 30th Joe Gunther novel, Bomber's Moon (Minotaur).

Blood Moon, Super Moon, Blue Moon, Harvest Moon, Bomber’s Moon. This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to come up with a new type of moon, and write about a night on which it rises. 

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

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

 

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Sandra A. Miller, author of Trove: A Woman's Search for Truth and Buried Treasure (Brown Paper Press). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Sandra A. Miller. Read the poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, “What If You Slept?” And then use the lines as your prompt for this week:

What if you slept
And what if
In your sleep
You dreamed
And what if
In your dream
You went to heaven
And there plucked a strange and beautiful flower
And what if
When you awoke
You had that flower in your hand
Ah, what then?

In other words: what if we pulled our dreams into the world and made them a reality? What would you want to bring into the world--your physical reality--from your dreams? When Sandra shared this with a group of writers recently, the results were rich, and the experience of the participants, emotional.

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

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

*“What if you slept...” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Public Domain.

 

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Interview from 2013 with Australian Author Poppy Gee. We discussed her novel, Bay of Fires (Reagan Arthur; Back Bay Books subsequently published the paperback.)

This week's Write the Book Prompt is to consider Poppy Gee’s character, Sarah, whose reckless behavior has cost her so much. Write about someone’s reckless behavior. Depending on who your character is, reckless might look very mild or outrageous. How does it affect the person’s experience and life? What might come next as a result?

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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