Archive for April 2010

Interview with Gary Clark, Writing Program Director at the Vermont Studio Center.

This week's Write The Book Prompt is inspired by the Vermont Studio Center and writing retreats in general. Even if you can't get to a retreat at present, perhaps you can offer yourself a mini-retreat. Begin by looking at your writing space. Really study it. Is it a place you look forward to going to, sitting down and working in? If not, what might you be able to do to create a more comfortable, enjoyable atmosphere? Maybe you need to put in a bookshelf full of the kinds of books you might like to reach for when you need inspiration. Maybe you should consider new décor, a poster, a small colorful rug, a comfortable chair where you can sit and read over what you've written on a given day. Or maybe you need to do the opposite: simplify. Is the space too full of knick knacks, books, papers, pens? Do you need to clean it out, reduce the clutter? Figure out what you need to make yourself look forward to being in your writing space. Then, on a certain day, plan ahead. Make yourself lunch, put it in a picnic basket, and leave it outside your office door. Turn off your phones, ask your family to leave you in peace for one day. Create your own personal retreat. And then go to your space, sit down, and write.

Good luck with your feng shui and please listen next week for another exercise.

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

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Interview with playwright Dana Yeaton, whose new play, My Ohio, opens at FlynnSpace with the Vermont Stage Company on 4/21.

This week's Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Dana Yeaton, who uses prompts and exercises when he teaches. He recommended a joint prompt, requiring two people. Each person will need a piece of paper and something to write with. You'll be writing two dialogues between what we'll call character A and character B. The partners are told (or together create) the first line for character "A." It might be, for example, "I wouldn't do that if I were you." Each person writes that line and then writes character B's response to that line. You then switch papers, and write character A's response to the most recent response written by your partner. Switch papers again, respond, and keep going. As the exercise unfolds, you'll create two dialogues, all from that initial line. Dana says that what's really fun in this activity is that each person has to respond.

There should be no talking. No planning, no plotting. Each time you switch pages, you'll find yourself once more in a new situation. What would be an interesting next step? What would drive this story? Watch out for impulses that take away from or sabotage the story. You don't want the first response to the line, "I wouldn't do that if I were you," to be, "What?" And if someone writes, "Here, then, you take the gun," the response shouldn't be, "That's not a gun, that's a pickle."

Within 6-7 minutes, you'll have co-written two dialogues. As Dana explains, this exercise is pretty open-ended, it's quick, and it produces two outcomes.

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 South Burlington High School students.

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This week's show celebrates National Poetry Month, and the format is a little different from our norm.

Instead of an interview, this week's radio broadcast of Write The Book consisted of a montage of poetry and music. I contacted past guests who are poets and asked that each send me a poem and the name of a favorite poetic song. You can hear the poems on this week's podcast. (All poems are read with permission.) Unfortunately, I can't put the musical selections up on the podcast, due to licensing concerns, and so this recording is different from the show I aired on the Radiator yesterday. But the songs are listed below, as are the poets' names and the works they submitted for the broadcast. Click on each poet's name to follow a link where you can learn more about her or him.

So here they are: each poet, that person's poem, the chosen song, and the composer's name.

1. Natasha Saje, "Knell," Bird On The Wire, Leonard Cohen

2. David Budbill, "Sweet Early Spring," It Might as Well Be Spring, Stan Getz and Astrud Gilberto

3. Charles Harper Webb, "The Open-Air Recital Survived A Shaky Start," I Am The Walrus, The Beatles

The poem from the book Shadow Ball: New and Selected Poems, by Charles Harper Webb, © 2009, is aired/posted by permission of the University of Pittsburgh Press.

4. David Jauss, "The Hatchet," Round Midnight, Thelonious Monk

5. Jody Gladding, "Vernal Pool," Dark Was The Night-Cold Was The Ground, Blind Willie Johnson

"Vernal Pool," by Jody Gladding, excerpted from Rooms and Their Airs (Minneapolis: Milkweed Editions, 2009). Copyright © 2009 by Jody Gladding. Read with permission from Milkweed Editions.

6. Leslie Ullman, "Agape II," Muskerraren Balsa & La Balso de Combourscuro, Kepa Junkera

7. Clare Rossini, "The Subterrestial," The Mooch, Duke Ellington

8. David Huddle, "Hilltop Sonnet," Tom Ames' Prayer, Steve Earl

9. Charles Barasch, "40th High School Reunion," The Way You Do the Things You Do, The Temptations

10. Sydney Lea, "Small Jeremiad," That Old Feeling, Gerry Mulligan and Stan Getz

11. Shelagh Shapiro, Nope, I'm not a poet. (Or if I am, I don't know it! Sorry ... corny joke.) I closed out the show with my own poetic song choice, a long-time favorite: Last Chance Texaco, Rickie Lee Jones

I wish I could present the whole show here as it was heard on the radio; I had a great time putting it together. If you have any of these songs in your personal collection, pull them out and have a listen. Or you could always buy them from your favorite Indie music store! For now, though, maybe just click "Play," below, and listen to the poems. If you open your heart and close your eyes, you might just hear the music anyway.

The Write The Book Prompt for this week is simply to listen for the poetry in music. Whether it be the music you choose to put on at home, music that you yourself might make, music that you hear on Church Street as the weather improves, music in elevators. Even music you don't like very much might have one single chord change that moves you. Listen well, and write.

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Interview with novelist Alice Lichtenstein, author of Lost, published by Scribner.

Write The Book Prompt: One of Alice Lichtenstein's initial inspirations for her new novel, Lost, emerged from a writing exercise. You heard in our interview that she was moved to write about Corey's experience after a friend suggested they write in response to the words: "Day of Fire." This week, consider a "Day Of" exercise. Not Day of Fire, necessarily, though if that brings something to the forefront for you, go with it. But consider the theme of medicine and health and come up with a "Day Of" idea. You might use "Day of Flu," "Day of Doctors," "Day of Needles," "Day of Blood." The specific label is up to you. Use medicine and health as the overarching inspiration, and come up with a "Day Of" idea that might inspire you to write.

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 South Burlington High School students.

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Interview with Wouter Nunnink, self-published author of the YA series Ba El Shebub's Gift Awakens

Write The Book Prompt: In his book, A Mad Man's Poison, Walt Nunnink has created a world that mixes reality and fantasy. One of the aspects of this world is a magical book that only the two main characters can see. In your work this week, play around with this idea of something that can be seen or otherwise perceived by one character or set of characters, but not by others. You could work, as Walt does, with a magical world in which a certain item is selectively visible, or audible. Maybe one of your characters always catches the scent of lilacs on the air when night is coming on.

Even if you don't write in the fantasy genre, consider this exercise as a way to learn about how your characters' perceptive capacities differ. Maybe your main character senses tension between two co-workers, while his boss is completely oblivious. Or perhaps a wife can tell that her husband is attracted to another woman, but the woman doesn't notice in the least.

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 South Burlington High School students)

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