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Archive for the 'Books' Category

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Award-Winning Author T. Coraghessan Boyle, whose latest novel is Outside Looking In (Ecco). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, TC Boyle. Sometimes he finds his stories through newspaper clips. But because news stories are journalism, he says, we don’t know the why or how of them, just the what. With students, he’ll suggest finding a one-paragraph story in the newspaper and trying to inhabit it to find out why and how. He jokes, Man Bites Off Own Nose, Swallows It, Winds Up in the Hospital. What’s that about? Write about it. He also suggests, as ever, reading the work of great writers. This helps us see ways into ideas that we may have had on our own. 

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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Debut author Sara Collins, whose new novel is The Confessions of Frannie Langton (Harper).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Sara Collins. 

An older woman is angry  that a pair of teenagers keeps collecting rocks and shells from the beach on which she lives. Write a scene in which she confronts them for the first time. She never tells them why it distresses her so much nor do the teenagers tell her why it's so important to them to collect the shells, though the reader comes to understand. Write the scene first from the perspective of the old woman and then one of the teenagers.  

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

Music: Aaron Shapiro

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Author Heidi Diehl, whose debut is Lifelines (HMH). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Heidi Diehl. Think about an event or a time that has been important in your character’s life but does not appear in the pages of your story. Write two versions of what happened. One should be 3-5 sentences, and one should be a full-fledged scene, spanning a couple of pages. If the outcome sparks something that feels important to include, than you should of course use it. But, as Heidi reminds us, even if you don’t use that particular scene in your story or novel, it can be useful as an exercise. Exploring our characters’ histories can give us a sense of who they are and help us bring them more vividly to the page.  

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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Bestselling Author Jane Green, whose latest is the friends we keep (Berkley).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to think back on a relationship that once meant something to you, but is no longer a part of your life. Whatever happened to that friend, cousin, teacher, neighbor? What might you have expected? Imagine a life for that person and write about it.

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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Kurt Kirchmeier, author of the novel The Absence of Sparrows (Little Brown for Young Readers).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Kurt Kirchmeier. Write a scene or a short story from the perspective of someone whose life is profoundly changed by an intimate encounter with nature. And to make it more personal, write it in first person.

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

Music: Aaron Shapiro

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New York Times–bestselling author Meg Wolitzer, whose novel The Female Persuasion (Riverhead Books) is now in paperback. 

For a new Write the Book Prompt, write a scene in which two characters meet for the first time. The main character has long idolized the other from a distance. In the scene, have that other person let down your main character in some way. 

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

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

 

* Audio excerpted courtesy Penguin Random House Audio from THE FEMALE PERSUASION by Meg Wolitzer, narrated by Rebecca Lowman.

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Author Rachel Howard, whose debut novel is The Risk of Us (HMH). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously offered by my guest Rachel Howard, and I can’t wait to try it. She says that it’s a somewhat arbitrary structure she came up with when she was teaching undergraduate creative writing at Warren Wilson College:

Write a lyric essay about one of the three great forces of life: sex, death, or love.  The essay should never name whether it is about sex, death, or love, or use the word. The essay will consist of the following sections:

* A pure description of a significant place from your past.  This could be a room, a street corner, the back of a car. Use as many concrete sensory  details as possible.  Ten sentences maximum.

* A character sketch of someone from your life.  Six sentences max.

* One short description of a song.  You may quote lyrics, but not use the words "sex," "death," or "love."  Three sentences max.

* One scene with dialogue.  Any length.

* One semi-obscure scientific fact that does not seem obviously connected to the rest of the essay (but which, metaphorically, is).  Four sentences max.

Rachel concedes that it’s an unusual exercise, but give it a try, and you may well be surprised at the experience. And after the exercise generates the rough draft, you can move sections around, and start breaking the rules to fit the emerging organic form.

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

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

N.B. A quote about trauma that I read during my interview with Rachel came from the book Beyond Consequences, Logic, and Control: A Love-Based Approach to Helping Attachment-Challenged Children With Severe Behaviors by Heather T. Forbes and B. Bryan Post.

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Catherine Cusset, author of Life of David Hockney (Other Press). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Catherine Cusset. When we remember something that we've shared with another person - a story or incident - very often, two very different stories might emerge from the two perspectives. Memory is not reliable, and so different people will remember events differently. With this in mind, write the same event or story from the perspectives of two people who experience it. These can be two lovers, two siblings, a parent and child, two friends; whatever you choose. Consider how each experiences a moment in time - and the sensory details each notices (what they see, hear, smell, etc) - then write two versions of the same story.

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

 

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Mitchell S. Jackson, Award-Winning Author of Survival Math: Notes on an All-American Family (Scribner). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Mitchell S. Jackson. Write your own answer to the question, what is the toughest thing you have survived? Write it in the second person; Mitchell says this might make you think about the experience in a different way.

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

 

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Veteran Literary Agent and Entrepreneur Jeff Herman, author of Jeff Herman's Guide to Book Publishers, Editors and Literary Agents (New World Library). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was inspired by my conversation with Jeff Herman. Write a query letter. Jeff says the query letter is really a sales pitch. Keep that in mind as you work. Tell the agent you’re addressing about why you are reaching out, especially if you’re a fan of work they’ve sold. Let them know why you respect them, and that you hope your work will appeal to them. The letter should be short (1 ½ pages or fewer) readable, direct, and personalized. Jeff writes on his website, “Say what you have, why it’s hot, why you’re a good prospect, and what’s available for review upon request.” His website offers a lot of other advice for writing the query letter, which has a certain format you should read about before getting started. Even if your creative work isn't ready to submit, writing the query letter can take some time to get just right, and it's worth practicing ahead of time. 

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

Music: Aaron Shapiro

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