Archive for May 2010

Ginnah Howard, author of Night Navigation, joins Shelagh Shapiro on Write The Book.

This week's Write The Book prompt was inspired by the work of my guest, Ginnah Howard, who mentioned a few times during our talk how important rhythm is to her in her own work and in the books she admires. In order to get a better sense of the rhythm of her prose, she often reads her work out loud. Your prompt this week, then, is to read aloud. Really listen to what you've written. You may find it differs from what you thought it would sound like. Listen for simple mistakes, for repeated words that you didn't intend to place so close together. As you read, pause in appropriate places for the punctuation you've used. Pay attention to the length of your sentences. Does their length reflect the intended mood of the fictional moment? Listen for the following elements, and decide if they are serving your work, or distracting from it: rhyme, fragments, alliteration, and repetitive sentence structure. In this last case, watch in particular for the repeated use of a subject, verb, object structure that may lull readers or distract them, making them lose their way. For example, which sounds better?

Mary had a little lamb. Mary's lamb had white fleece. Mary's lamb followed her everywhere. Mary's lamb really got on her nerves after a while. He wanted to follow her to school. She had to stop him.


Mary had a lamb. Fleecy and white, it was a sweet little animal, and very devoted. While Mary loved how the lamb followed her from room to room, she had to keep him from actually coming to school with her.

Finally, you might find it helpful to have someone else read your work aloud to you. If this is too embarrassing, you might look to see if your word processing program has a "speak text" feature. Speak text allows you to highlight sections of work and have the computer read them back. Despite the somewhat robotic voices that some computers have, you might hear something you'd missed, just by virtue of being read to.

In fact, using sound editing software, you can actually record your entire book and put it on your mp3 player, which is pretty cool.  You can email me ( if you want to know how to do this.

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

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Interview with Willow Bascom, author and illustrator of the new book, Paisley Pig: A Multicultural ABC, published by Publishing Works.

This week’s Write The Book prompt, was suggested by my guest, Willow Bascom, who noted during our talk that many writers and artists have trouble identifying themselves as such. She suggests counteracting this by offering artistic services for free, for example to a local food co-op or other non-profit. Write an ad, or make a stunning poster or sign that the non-profit wouldn't budget for normally. Volunteer your expertise. When you see the pleasure that other people take in what you do, you can value yourself and, in turn, your work. Give it away, and next time you're asked what you do, call yourself an artist. Say it with confidence.

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

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Interview with Matthew Aaron Goodman, author of the novel Hold Love Strong, published by Touchstone Fireside (Simon and Schuster April 2009).

This week's Write The Book prompt, a musical free write, was suggested by my guest, Matthew Aaron Goodman. Spend a little time picking a song or songs to which you think you could write. Put on the piece, and then write. Don't pick up your pen once it hits the page. Write whatever crosses your mind. Even if all you write is, "this is crazy I don't have any ideas," write that down. No scribbling or doodling. Put words on paper. Keep going for the length of the song or songs that you chose ahead of time.

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

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