Archive for the 'Book Selling' Category

Interview from the archives with short story writer and guitar builder, Creston Lea, author of the story collection Wild Punch, published by Turtle Point Press.

The last time I broadcast this interview with Creston Lea, I used his suggestion for a Write The Book Prompt, which was to eavesdrop on a conversation in a public place, and then use what you heard to write a scene with dialogue. This time, I'll recommend something slightly different, but also useful in writing dialogue. Using a digital recorder or a dictaphone, record a conversation between two people. Then transcribe the conversation exactly as it occurred. Keep all of their pauses and stutters and "ums" and repetitions. Now study a page of dialogue in a book. What might differ in the way that conversation actually sounds from the way that would best represent it on the page? What would you take out, what might you change or add? See if you can turn the conversation that you recorded into a scene that would be understandable--effortless for a reader to digest.

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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Vermont author Mark Pendergrast, whose latest book is Japan's Tipping Point: Crucial Choices in the Post-Fukushima World.

Inspired by our guest Mark Pendergrast's interest in Japan, this week's Write The Book Prompt is to fold an origami crane. If you get stuck in your writing, or are simply wanting an activity that keeps you thinking, but not struggling, folding an origami animal might help. You'll still be engaged in a creative act, but you'll be following a set list of instructions, which might free the author in you to continue working away from the computer keyboard. Below are a few links to origami paper folding (all from the same site, which seemed easy to follow and not full of annoying ads). You can also print the Write The Book logo I've included below that for colorful folding paper. Or use a sheet from your recycle bin: maybe a rejected poem or scene can have a second life as a crane, a frog, or a flower.

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

Crane

Flower

Frog

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Vermont organic gardener and writer Ron Krupp, whose books are The Woodchuck's Guide to Gardening and Lifting The Yoke: Local Solutions to America's Farm and Food Crisis.

Today's Write The Book Prompt is to write about your eating habits or those of someone you know. You can journal about how those habits have changed for the better or worse, how education has played a role, whether organic and/or locally-grown foods are an important part of this person's diet, and why or why not.

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

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Alaskan writer Eowyn Ivey, author of The Snow Child, published by Reagan Arthur Books. Today's Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Eowyn Ivey. Find a photograph or a post card (used book shops or second-hand shops will sometimes have old post cards). Or take a photo from your family albums, maybe a picture of one of your ancestors. Use that as a starting point to writing. Try to imagine who the people are in the picture, and what they're doing. Eowyn has used Alaska's Digital Archives as a resource. The University of Vermont also has an archive of digital images called the Landscape Change Program. Good luck with this prompt, and please listen next week for another!

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Vermont author Castle Freeman, Jr., whose latest book is Round Mountain: New and Collected Stories, published by Concord ePress and coming out soon in print from Concord Free Press.

Today's Write The Book Prompt is a visual exercise. I'm posting three photos here; choose one that inspires you, and write. I hope you have fun with it. Good luck, and please listen next week for another prompt.

PhotoPrompt.jpg

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 author, essayist and NPR contributor, Tim Brookes, discussing his book Guitar: An American Life.

Prompt: This week’s Write The Book Prompt was inspired by the interview you heard today with author Tim Brookes. During our conversation, Tim said that often, when people feel stuck, they have put up a fence around the thing they should be writing. Even if this mysterious fenced subject isn’t what you’ve been trying to confront, perhaps it’s time to have a look at it. What’s on your mind? What have you been avoiding? Are you procrastinating in order to keep from tackling something real or difficult? Give this some thought and see if you can identify something that’s been wanting to be written about – something you’ve fenced off for whatever reason. Then take a journal and free write about this subject for twenty or thirty minutes. Ignore form. Ignore genre. Don’t worry about whether or not this is the subject you’ve been feeling stuck on. Write about the things that are there with you, right now, and see if this doesn’t help you move forward in some larger way. Good luck with this exercise and please listen next week for another.

Music Credits: 1) "Dreaming 1" - John Fink; 2) Tim Brookes on guitar playing "End of a Holiday," by Simon Nichol.

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Literary Agent April Eberhardt, who works with clients in both traditional publishing venues and e- and self-publishing venues.

Today's Write The Book Prompt is to write a poem that includes at least six of the following ten words, which I've chosen by scanning through a back issue of a favorite literary journal:

Spear, Makeshift, Sporadic, Glue, Wrestle, Pull, Bargain, Tributary, Feast, Grainy

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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An Interview With Three Participants In National Novel Writing Month: Martin and Anne LaLonde, and T. Greenwood. National Novel Writing Month is "a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing," according to the movement's website. "Participants begin writing on November 1. The goal is to write a 50,000 word, (approximately 175 page) novel by 11:59:59, November 30."

In honor of NaNoWriMo's everywhere, today's Write The Book Prompt is to write 1,667 words one day this week. Or every day this week, depending on what you have planned.

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 From the Archives with Vermont Author of Memoir, Fiction and Nonfiction, Christopher Noel, whose most recent books include Impossible Visits: The Inside Story of Interactions with Sasquatch at Habituation Sites, and A Frail House: Stories.

Today's Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Chris Noel in 2009, when I first interviewed him. It's a great prompt, and fitting for Halloween, so I'm repeating it now.

During the interview, Chris mentioned that writers should meditate on the monsters that move us, those mysterious creatures that fascinated and perhaps repelled us when we were small. Contemplate the monster that lived under your bed, inside your closet, or outside your window, and then free write. This is a great way to enlighten or SHOW yourself what interests and motivates you. It may well also show you something you'd forgotten or hadn't even realized about yourself.

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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Bestselling Canadian Mystery Writer Louise Penny, whose latest novel is A Trick of the Light. This interview from the archives first aired in 2010.

Today's Write The Book Prompt is to write a poem or story about an invented fad. Create a fictional trend, imagine that it has become wildly popular, and write about it.

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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Priscilla Long,  award-winning poet, prose writer and teacher. Seattle-based author of The Writer's Portable Mentor: A Guide to Art, Craft, and the Writing Life.

For this week's Write the Book Prompt, I'll offer two exercises in writing voice from Priscilla Long's book on craft, The Writer's Portable Mentor. To practice capturing voices you know well: spend fifteen minutes writing a bitter complaint in your own most colloquial voice. A second exercise is to spend five minutes writing beyond this opening: "My father always used to say..."

Many thanks to Priscilla for allowing me to suggest these exercises to you! Good luck with them, and please listen next week for another.

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Vermont Novelist Jennifer McMahon, author of the new book, Don't Breathe A Word.

This week's Write the Book Prompt was suggested by my guest Jennifer McMahon, in whose books, secrets play an important role. Jennifer says that when she's stuck working on character, she'll often do an exercise in which she asks a character: "What have you never told anyone?" The answers she comes up with sometimes surprise her. If you're work doesn't involve character, then pose the question to yourself. What have you never told anyone?

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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Deborah Fennell, President of the League of Vermont Writers.

This week's Write the Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Deborah Fennell. The prompt COMBINES HER LOVES OF POETRY, PROSE, PHYSICAL EDUCATION AND WRITING. Go for a walk or a hike. As you're walking, say some words to yourself - whatever comes into your brain. Deb Fennell learned in a poetry workshop with Julia Shipley that we tend to walk in iambic pentameter. So this exercise tends to naturally bring out words in a memorable way. Be observant. When you get back inside, sit down and write at least 100 words, or for 10 minutes, whatever comes first. Don't worry about whether you're writing poetry or prose, just try to capture some of the words that came to you on your walk. Deb Fennell tries to always remember the first 8 words she'd been thinking about on her hike. If you can remember those, everything else begins to flow, helping you remember what you saw and thought about on your walk. Deb has done this in the city, and out in the woods on a trail. Because of the nature of our "iambic pentametric" strides, it's a productive way to access words in a creative 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 South Burlington High School students)

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Please note: my interview with Geraldine Brooks about her newest novel, Caleb's Crossing, will air next week. Thanks for your patience! I announced the interview before recalling that this Monday would be a holiday.

Interview from the archives with Vermont children's novelist Kimberly K. Jones, author of The Genie Scheme.

Today's Write The Book Prompt is to write about a genie. Man or woman, good or evil, helpful or impish; write about a genie.

Good luck with this prompt and please tune in 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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Marilyn Graman, New York psychotherapist and co-principal of Life Works, an organization "committed to supporting people in having lives that are healthy, fulfilled and satisfied." Life Works books include The Female Power Within, There is No Prince, and How To Be Cherished.

During our interview, Marilyn mentioned a recent article about her work in the web-zine New York City Woman. You can find that article by clicking here.

This week's Write The Book Prompt was inspired by the conversation you heard today with Marilyn Graman. The prompt is based on an exercise from How To Be Cherished, by Marilyn Graman and Maureen Walsh with Hillary Welles. If you write memoir or autobiographical poetry, create a "Care and Feeding Manual" about yourself. If you write fiction or biography, create one for one or more of your characters. In the book, a Care and Feeding Manual is described as "a fun and helpful way for your man to know you better." In the case of this week's prompt, creating such a manual can be a way to get better acquainted with the subject of your work, be that you yourself, or a character.

Below are several of the points that might be included in a "Care & Feeding" manual for your subject. These are all based on the work of Marilyn Graman and Maureen Walsh, from their book, How To Be Cherished (although I've edited the list to make it a bit more character-relevant, a bit less relationship-relevant). Many thanks to Marilyn Graman for permission to base this prompt on the Care & Feeding exercise in the book.

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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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Cathy Ostlere, Canadian Author of the memoir Lost and the recent YA novel in verse, Karma.

This week's Write The Book Prompt was inspired by the work of my guest Cathy Ostlere, whose new novel, Karma, is written in verse. Look through your creative writing file on the computer or in the bottom of your desk drawer and pull out an idea you've previously shelved, thinking it wouldn't amount to anything. Now look at it anew, and consider what might happen if you were to develop a certain character whose life or situation might be relevant to this idea by working in verse. You can try rhyming verse, or simply play with rhythms. See if something new comes out of that idea simply because you're playing with words in a different 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 South Burlington High School students)

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A Rerun of a December 2008 WTB interview with Linda Bland, owner of Cahoots Writing Services in Cambridge, Vermont.

Today's Write The Book Prompt is inspired in part by the interview you heard today. Linda Bland mentioned that she needs to exercise before attacking a manuscript, either her own or one that she's reading for a client. With this in mind, today's prompt is this: if you're feeling stuck or need an idea before getting started with your writing today, go for a walk. Or, if you prefer, a run or a swim. Put on snowshoes or cross country skies, if the snow is too deep for walking. Before striking out, set yourself an assignment. Tell yourself you need an idea, or you need to develop that idea you had last week. If a particular scene or snippet of dialogue is giving you trouble, suggest to yourself that during the next hour of exercise, you'd really like to work out this problem. Write down what you are hoping to accomplish, then go exercise. Don't actively focus on the problem you've set yourself, just let it be there, within your awareness, as you walk or hike or bike. When you get back, write for at least half an hour and see if you've made progress.

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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Scientist and Memoir Writer Cardy Raper, Author of Love, Sex & Mushrooms: Part 2 of a 2-Part Interview With New Vermont Writers.

This week's Write The Book Prompt is inspired by National Libraries Week. The state slogan for this year's celebration is: "Vermont Libraries can take you anywhere." This week, find inspiration at a local library. Go sit in the reading room, people watch, chat with the librarian. Browse the shelves. Browse any fliers, posters or announcements in the lobby. Find out what online services your local library provides, and then browse those sites. Keep your mind open and your pen ready. Then write.

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

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Novelist Jack Scully, Author of Eyewitness: Part I of a 2-Part Interview With New Vermont Writers.

This week's Write The Book Prompt is inspired by National Libraries Week. The state slogan for this year's celebration is: "Vermont Libraries can take you anywhere." This week, find inspiration at a local library. Go sit in the reading room, people watch, chat with the librarian. Browse the shelves. Browse any fliers, posters or announcements in the lobby. Find out what online services your local library provides, and then browse those sites. Keep your mind open and your pen ready. Then write.

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

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Interview with James Kochalka, Vermont's First Cartoonist Laureate.

This week, James Kochalka offered one Write the Book Prompt and I offered another:

James' prompt: Think back to an encounter you had with someone today and write a paragraph about it. My prompt: Draw a cartoon of yourself with a person that you know and a pet. James then suggested there might be a way to combine these prompts ... Cool.

Good luck with these 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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Interview with Julie Metz, graphic designer and author of the memoir Perfection.

This week's Write the Book Prompt comes to us from a listener in Westford, Vermont. Mark Peloquin writes that he's had good luck with this prompt:

Describe your room as a child.  Describe why you felt safe there or perhaps, why you did not.  Describe what you would see when you looked out the window or through the key hole. Describe any things that were on the walls and why there were significant.

Good luck with this prompt, many thanks to Mark for sending it, and please listen next week for another.

Excerpt of Perfection read with permission from Hyperion Books.

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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Interviews from the Archives: Literary Agent Douglas Stewart and Vermont Author and Illustrator Amy Huntington.

I never announced the prompt on today's show (oops!) but here's one to try, inspired by Amy Huntington's latest work: Grandma Drove the Snowplow. Consider a line of work that might seem unlikely for a certain character, and try to bring them together. How about a librarian with a boisterous personality and loud, grating laugh? A pharmacist with a tremor? A real estate agent who's afraid to be alone in strange places? You can try to make the combination seem absurd or poignant. Play around and see what might emerge.

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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Vermont Poet, Musician and Editor Ben Aleshire. Ben founded and edits the Vermont Literary Journal The Salon.

This week's Write the Book Prompt was inspired by the interview you heard today with Ben Aleshire. During our talk, Ben read his own "Autumn Poem" that featured, among other things, a stallion. He read another, "The Cock Fight," that featured roosters being set against one another in a cock fight. He also read "After Innocence," a poem by local writer Edie Rhoades that featured swans.

Read the following lines from those poems, maybe listen again to those parts of the interview. Then consider animals you've watched and how their beauty or grace, violence or playfulness might be represented on the page using specific detail and precise image. Now ... write!

.

.

The swans feed and come up

first the white rumps high over the water

black feet crabbed and kicking, then

duckweed draped in strings over their bills.

Symbols of grace and flight. The one pure white –

the adult male – I’ve seen him hiss and hunch his wings

stampede across the pond’s face heavy with rage.

This is what swans do.

.

~ From 'After Innocence' by Edie Rhoads

.

.

A different death. Blood, too - lots of it,

crusting in the sand with bits of feather

.

as the trainers clutch the birds to their hearts,

roosters shivering with muscles ready

.

to kill, their neck feathers

flaring out like cobra's hoods:

.

Chile y Blanco, Speckled and White –

.

~ From 'The Cockfight' by Ben Aleshire

.

.

black and shimmering

muscles popping his

nostrils flare his hot breath

streams out in violent puffs

like the barrel of a gun.

.

~ From 'Autumn Poem' by Ben Aleshire

.

.

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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Vermont Writer Kenneth M. Cadow, author of Alfie Runs Away published by Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, a division of MacMillan.

This week's Write the Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Kenneth Cadow, though he wanted to be sure I credit the true creator of the exercise, Emily Silver, who is an English Teacher at Thetford Academy. Ken and Emily co-teach from time to time. On one occasion, when the class was studying The Catcher in the Rye, Emily Silver gave the class the following exercise: write about your pet peeve, using your stream of consciousness to really go off on the subject. See where it takes you. Ken said that this exercise really got the students writing. His own pet peeve is vending machines.

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

Alfie Runs Away read with permission.

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 Louella Bryant, author of While In Darkness There Is Light.

This week's Write the Book Prompt is pretty straightforward. If you tend to love the holidays, write about your worst holiday memory ever. And if you don't enjoy the holidays, write about your best.

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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New Hampshire Novelist Toby Ball, author of The Vaults, published by St. Martin's Press.

This week's Write the Book Prompt is inspired by my guest's novel, The Vaults. In our conversation, Toby Ball mentioned his decision to create an unidentifiable city in which to base his story. This week, study the setting of your book and decide to what extent it is identifiable, and if the geography of your work conveys all that you'd like it to convey. Perhaps, like Toby, you'd rather the place in your present piece NOT be specifically identifiable, with roads and highways that you'd find in your Garmin. Or maybe place is vital to your work, and you need to study the way you've presented it on the page, see if it adequately represents the real thing.

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

Excerpt of The Vaults read with permission from St. Martin's Press, a division of MacMillan.

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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Jon Turner, Vermont Veteran, Poet, Paper Maker and Warrior Writers Member.

This week, instead of a Write the Book Prompt, I'm going to refer you to the Warrior Writers' blogspot. There, alongside regular blog entries, you'll find weekly writing prompts, poetry forms, and occasional shared work.

Please listen next week when the Prompt will return.

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 Richard Russo, Novelist, Pulitzer Prize Winner and Author of That Old Cape Magic.

This week's Write The Book Prompt is inspired by the subject matter of Richard Russo's novel, That Old Cape Magic. Write about a childhood vacation. This can be a recollected vacation from when you were a child, or an imagined vacation seen through the eyes of a fictional child. As you write, focus on details of place.

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

Excerpt of That Old Cape Magic read with permission from Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc.

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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Sorche Fairbank, Literary Agent and Founder of Fairbank Literary in Hudson, NY.

This week's Write The Book Prompt is directed toward aspiring novelists. Your job this week is to write a synopsis of your book. Many literary agents will ask to see a synopsis with an initial query, or as a follow-up to a query that caught their attention. Here are a few things to consider as you approach the task.

* A synopsis is not a chapter outline. It's not necessarily even a chronological retelling of the book. Rather, a synopsis presents the book's plot and introduces the main characters in an appealing way that will interest an agent in reading the whole novel. It's a chance to show off your creativity, as well as your ability to condense and organize material.

* You may find that the agents you are querying have their own guidelines for appropriate synopsis length. But if they don't specify otherwise, try to make your book synopsis two-to-three double-spaced pages.

* Use the jacket covers of books you're familiar with as guidelines for how to approach writing a good synopsis. Jacket copy is written to sell books, and that's what you're trying to do as well. Here's an example. This is the jacket copy of a paperback reprinting of George Orwell's 1984: "The world of 1984 is one in which eternal warfare is the price of bleak prosperity, in which the Party keeps itself in power by complete control over man's actions and his thoughts. As the lovers Winston Smith and Julia learn when they try to evade the Thought Police, and then join the underground opposition, the Party can smash the last impulse of love, the last flicker of individuality."

* UNLIKE book jackets, your synopsis should fully describe the plot of your novel, including what happens at the end. To skip over the ending in hopes that the agent will want the full experience of reading your masterpiece is to take yourself out of the running. This is a sales pitch, and the agent will want to know how your book ends if she requests a synopsis as part of the query process.

    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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    Mark Pendergrast, Local Nonfiction Author of Inside the Outbreaks: The Elite Medical Detectives of the Epidemic Intelligence Service.

    This week's Write The Book Prompt has to do with detail. Gustave Flaubert was so concerned with getting every detail right that he often spent days struggling to arrive at exactly the right word. In her book, Mystery and Manners, Flannery O'Connor wrote, "Fiction operates through the senses, and I think one reason that people find it so difficult to write stories is that they forget how much time and patience is required to convince through the senses. No reader who doesn't actually experience, who isn't made to feel, the story is going to believe anything the fiction writer merely tells him. The first and most obvious characteristic of fiction is that it deals with reality through what can be seen, heard, smelt, tasted, and touched."          This week, stop struggling to come up with details in your work, and just look around. Go to any corner of your house or garage or barn or place of work, and take in the details that are there. Touch that square of decorative carpet, and put into words what it feels like. Smell that candle, and write down what-if any-scent it has, and what you associate with that smell. Remember when you got that camera for your birthday, and how you were disappointed, because you'd wanted another brand? Look at that photograph of your cousin. What is he wearing? Why does he dress that way? Is his collar poking out from his jacket on one side? Is his shirt wrinkled and un-tucked? Or is he meticulous, beyond physical criticism? And if so, what does that say about him? How does that characterization fit with your experiences of being around him? This week's prompt is about re-educating yourself in the art of noticing details, so that you might more easily access them as you work.

    A COPY OF THIS PROMPT WILL BE INCLUDED in the description to this week's Podcast. Good luck with this exercise and please listen next week for another.

    Excerpt from Mark Pendergrast's Inside The Outbreaks read with permission.

    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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    Upper Valley poet Carol Westberg, author of the new collection, Slipstream.

    This week's Write The Book Prompt is inspired by the writing exercise you heard Carol Westberg describe on the show today. In her case, the exercise resulted in her poem, "Postcard from San Vitale." I'm going to read a list of eight words and suggest that you try to work them into a poem that's written in the form of a message to someone close to you, be it a lover, a relative, a friend, a neighbor. Here are the words: unscrupulous, hook, rhythm, pecan, thrum, peccadillo, downy, messenger.

    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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    Vermont author Jon Clinch, author of the new novel, Kings Of The Earth.

    This week’s Write The Book Prompt is inspired by the interview you heard today with Jon Clinch. As we discussed, his novel, Kings Of The Earth, proceeds in a somewhat  non-linear fashion with various characters describing events as they experience them. So consider your own work, think about how you might structure it differently. If the work is chronological, could you present it backwards? Or in a circular pattern? Could you present it by seasons, or all in a single day? Play around with ideas to see if an alternate structure appeals to 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 South Burlington High School students.

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    Burlington writer and teacher, Susan Weiss. Her blog is Publish or Perish... Which Will Come First?

    This week's Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Susan Weiss. Begin writing a narrative either from experience or imagination-just a sentence or two and then veer off onto a tangent. Continue for another couple of sentences and again go off on a tangent. Do this a few more times and then try to bring the narrative back to the beginning somehow, to make it feel like a full circle. So, are you left with dizziness or a sense of closure?

    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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    Jennifer Karin Sidford, columnist, blogger and award-winning creator of The Dreamstarter Books 1 & 2.

    This week’s Write The Book Prompt can be found in Jennifer Karin Sidford's first Dreamstarter Book. I found it appropriate because of its title: "The Radio Station."

    Jada found an old radio in the loft of a hay barn that had been deserted for many years. The hay that remained had turned to dust, leaving the floors, pitchforks, buckets and other tools covered in a heavy yellow coating. She picked up the radio and heard a rattle. She gave the radio a shake and heard the distinct sound of broken glass. "It's busted," she said aloud. "That's too bad." She tossed the radio onto a pile of old grain sacks. The radio began to hum; the dial lit up. Jada walked over to the radio and picked it up. A voice came through the radio's speaker. "Hello? Is anyone there? Can anyone hear me?" the girl's voice said. She had an accent that was very different than Jada's. Jada lowered her mouth to the radio speaker and shouted, "I can hear you! Who are you?" The girl answered...

    This one should be a lot of fun to play with. If Jada's story inspires you to write something that you like, remember that you can't publish the first part, as Jennifer already did!

    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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    Douglas Glover, author of five story collections, four novels, a book of essays, and the book we discussed: The Enamoured Knight, which is about Don Quixote and novel form.

    Instead of a Write The Book Prompt this week, I'm going to encourage people to check out Douglas Glover's blog, Numéro Cinq, which is described on the site as, "a maze of inter-connected posts, essays, stories, poems, translations, contests, videos, jokes, book lists, resource materials, and craft advice." It's been called "the equivalent to literary Facebook," and "A warm place on the cruel web."

    I hope you enjoy Numéro Cinq. Next week, I'll return to offering the prompt.

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    Jacob Paul, author of the new novel, Sarah/Sara, published by IG Publishing.

    This week's Write The Book prompt was inspired by the work of my guest, Jacob Paul. Write a scene or a poem in which a small conflict is resolved through action, even adventure. So, for example, a character who is a little hungry but has no money tries to steal a candy bar from a convenience store. A character who was once pick-pocketed witnesses a purse snatching and plays some role in interrupting the crime. A character who longs for warm weather goes skiing. This doesn't need to be an enormous inner conflict or Job-like act of valor. But use action to impact conflict in some small 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 South Burlington High School students.

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    Interview from the archives with Rita Murphy, who spoke with Shelagh in October 2008.

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    James Tabor, Author of Blind Descent, discusses cave exploration, writing, and  Curtis' "Eighth Wonder of the World" Barbecue in Putney, Vermont.

    This week’s Write The Book prompt was inspired by the work of my guest, James M. Tabor. Next time you're considering getting up from your desk and walking away from your writing-against your better judgment-imagine yourself in a cave, two miles below the surface of the earth. Close your eyes, and consider what it might be like to have only the lights that you brought along, only the equipment that you carry on your back. Imagine yourself suspended over water, carefully making your way along the wall of a cave that has a 200-foot vertical drop. This is the sensation that can result in "The Rapture," the kind of panic attack that quickly becomes dangerous for cave explorers. Control your breathing, control your urges to flee. You can't just walk away. You have to finish what you started. Now open your eyes, feel grateful that you're no deeper than the last paragraph that stumped you, and keep writing.

    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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    Nancy Means Wright, author of Midnight Fires: A Mystery with Mary Wollstonecraft, joins Shelagh Shapiro on Write The Book.

    This week's Write The Book prompt was inspired by my guest, Nancy Means Wright, whose work in the theater has helped her as a fiction writer. She said in our interview, "When I write, I try to see the scene in front of me as if it's on a stage, as if my characters are up there." She tries to see how her characters react to each other, how they handle their props, how they look, and what they do. She tries to experience all the shadings of their voices and expressions. "On the stage," Nancy says, "You're always trying to find the focus and purpose of a scene." Try to do the same in your work. If you're writing a scene, try to understand its focus, its purpose. If you are writing about a character who is going through an emotional experience, try the system of accessing that emotion by recalling some experience of your own. This system of acting, developed by Constantin Stanislavski, may helps you empathize with your character's situation as you try to write about it. As Nancy said in our interview, "The act of trying to become your character is something that a writer can do."

    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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    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.

    Or

    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 (writethebook@gmail.com) 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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    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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    Interview with local author Tim Brookes about his new book, Thirty Percent Chance of Enlightenment.

    Prompt: This week, instead of a Write The Book Prompt, I offer what I'm calling an "anti-prompt." When I asked my guest, Tim Brookes, if he had a prompt to suggest, he answered with a very firm "no." Tim does not use prompts, and as a teacher, he does not assign them. When I asked him if I might offer his opinion this week, instead of a prompt, he wrote me the following email. Perhaps you'll find it useful.

    I guess I'm anti-prompt for the same three reasons why I'm against that rhetoric/debate exercise where the teacher says, "Which side are you on when it comes to this issue? Okay, in that case, argue the opposite side."

    One, I want my writers to discover what they have to say by paying attention to their own inner landscape, their own issues, passions, dark corners.

    Two, that's not the way it works in real life.

    Three, it takes a writer absolutely at the top of his/her game to be able to pull that off well.

    One: it takes a great deal of time and practice for a young writer even to be aware of what s/he has to say, let alone to have the confidence and the means to say it powerfully. To me that's a crucial, crucial goal. Writing to a prompt produces reactive writing--writing to please someone else, writing to respond to someone else--which actually takes the writer's focus away from what is most important to him/her. For the prompt to strike home and hit a subject of genuine urgency and importance to the writer is like throwing a dart across the street and trying to hit the bulls eye of a dartboard on the other side of the traffic. Giving prompts is a way to get writing from the student, but not a way of helping the student become a writer. It's a recipe for bullshit.

    Two:  In all the twenty years I was writing for NPR--the form that's closest to the kind of short personal essay/poem product that writing prompts are usually intended to provoke-I was only ever asked to respond to a specific subject twice. My best feature-story editor used to say to me, "What do you want to spend three months learning about?" It's true that a good many journalists are given assignments they have to go and cover, but they themselves would rarely claim that daily grind produced their best writing. The fact is, we writers write best about the things that matter to us. Sometimes we can bring that passion to a subject that was assigned to us, but more often that's not the case. If you want student writers to write like professional writers, have them talk to poets/novelists/essayists and ask them, "How do you reach your best writing?" and see what they say. And here's the real problem: none of those writers will say, "I sit down in a regularly scheduled English class at 10:10 every Tuesday and Friday and whatever's going on inside me or around me I always find something to say." Bollocks.

    Three: It is possible to write well from a prompt--and in a sense editorial writers do it all the time--but there's a reason why a newspaper's editorials are written by the most seasoned, experienced, widely-read writers on the staff. You need to have an astonishingly wide range of reference in order to have a chance of understanding the subject, let alone saying anything worthwhile; you need a deep sense of form and structure to be able to create a finished piece of given proportions in a limited time; and you need to be capable of interesting turns of phrase under pressure. Student writers try desperately to ape that kind of skill, but they also know that 85% of what they write is bullshit. I know: I've asked them. So I'd far rather have them attempt something that genuinely means something to them. Even the act of trying to access that genuine subject is worth more than facility at writing a poem on Spring at the drop of a hat.

    So what do I use instead of prompts?

    I usually just say, "Think back to an incident or a conversation (conversation is better, as it's much more specific) that you've had, or you've witnessed, from the past twelve months, one that you recall with some kind of strong emotion. Now write about that in as much detail as you can remember."

    So that's Tim's take on prompts. I offer his words as encouragement to anyone who doesn't tend to find them helpful or generative. For those of you who do like them, the prompt will be back next week. I may rename it, though... hmm.

    Good luck with your writing this week!

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    Interview with Vermont author Howard Frank Mosher.

    Prompt: This week’s Write The Book Prompt was inspired by the interview you heard today. Howard Frank Mosher mentioned during our talk that he had twice, in the course of writing his new book, Walking To Gatlinburg, asked his wife Phyllis to cast and read Nordic runes as a helpful form of inspiration. He did this partly because Phyllis was studying runes at the time, and partly because runes were the inspiration for the Kingdom Mountain pictographs that play a role in his new book. This week's Write The Book Prompt, then, is to cast runes. For help in understanding how to do this, try these websites (or Google "Nordic Runes," and see if you find other references):

    http://www.ehow.com/how_5830139_make-own-rune-set.html

    http://www.runemaker.com/casting.shtml

    Set yourself a question or problem that you'd like to resolve in your work, and let the runes offer suggestions. These could inspire a course of action for your character, for yourself, for the plot, or for the structure of the project. Keep your mind open and see what presents itself.

    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 literary agent Janet Reid, of FinePrint Literary Management.

    Today's Write The Book Prompt is to write a query letter. It should be a single page long. And according to Janet Reid, it should be "as well written, and carefully thought out as you can make it." Avoid hyperbole and cliche. Avoid the expression: my book is about. If you query by snail mail, always include an SASE: that's self-addressed stamped envelope. ALWAYS include your email address and phone number on the query letter. And address the letter to a specific agent, not to a long list of names in an email. And not to Agent, as in, "Dear Agent." And be sure to check out Janet Reid's excellent chart, What You Need Before You Query as well as her second website, Query Shark.

    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 bestselling Vermont author Chris Bohjalian about his latest book, Secrets of Eden.

    Today's Write The Book Prompt was inspired by the work of my guest, Chris Bohjalian. As we discussed in the interview, Chris allowed one of his narrators, Katie Hayward, to have a point of view about something she hadn't witnessed, that is, her parents having danced lovingly at a wedding. Katie relays details about this moment by way of a home movie she's seen of the dance.

    This week, experiment with unusual ways to let your characters narrate events they may not have first-hand knowledge of. Let a father find a note that his daughter wrote to her boyfriend. Let the detective overhear a conversation in the washroom. Give that philandering husband have a frightening and possibly prophetic dream. Or, as Chris did, share an event with your narrator by way of a reasonably reliable video recording.

    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 Canadian Mystery Writer Louise Penny.

    Prompt: Today's Write The Book Prompt was inspired by the work of my guest, Louise Penny. In her latest novel, The Brutal Telling, published by Minotaur Books, a division of the St. Martin's Publishing Group, Louise Penny employs the literary device of the story within a story. In her book, this device serves to help set up who certain characters are, and what are their fears and temptations. Ultimately, the inner story carries weight that a reader might not have expected at the start of the book. Other reasons to use one or more stories within a story might be to entertain, to establish an unreliable narrator, to fill in background or history, or to establish relevant fables and legends that might influence characters. As you write this week, consider trying to involve a story within your story. If you're working on a novel, be careful not to digress so wildly from the main plot that you'll lose your reader. But, as an exercise, see if subtly weaving another story into the texture of your work might serve it in some useful way.

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

    Readings by Louise Penny, from The Brutal Telling (New York: Minotaur Books, a division of the St. Martin's Publishing Group). Copyright © 2009 by Louise Penny. Recorded with permission from Minotaur Books.

    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 Elizabeth Bluemle, children's author and bookstore co-owner. Write The Book is a radio show for writers and curious readers. Hosted by Shelagh C. Shapiro, Write The Book airs on WOMM-LP 105.9 FM “The Radiator,” in Burlington, Vermont, every Saturday morning at 9:30 a.m.

    Readings by Elizabeth Bluemle, from Dogs On The Bed (Cambridge, MA: Candlewick Press). Copyright © 2008 by Elizabeth Bluemle. Recorded with permission.

    Music credits: 1) “Dreaming 1″ - John Fink; 2) "I'll Never Forget The Day I Read a Book" - Jimmy Durante

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