Archive for the 'Books' Category

Our second NaNoWriMo check-in of the month is a conversation with Vermont Author Reina Pennington, military history expert and former Norwich University Professor. 

This week's second Write the Book Prompt comes from Reina Pennington, who suggests writing with the same implement that your character might have written with. Not all the time, but at least once, give a quill a try. A fountain pen. An old manual typewriter. In Reina’s case, her characters in the pilot seat had to write on rough paper with a pencil, sharpened with a knife. They folded them into triangles to send, in lieu of envelopes.  This is an original way Reina finds to connect with her characters, which I found a very cool suggestion! 

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 Poet and Publisher Samantha Kolber, of Rootstock Publishing

One of this week's Write the Book Prompts comes from Samantha Kolber, who suggests writing for seven minutes without stopping. Put your pen to the page or your fingers to the keys, and have at it for seven minutes straight. Samantha loves this exercise and finds she comes up with great material by doing this: a draft poem that can be revised later. 

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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Angela Palm moderates this Fall 2022 Green Mountain Book Festival panel on Memoir, featuring fellow Vermont Authors Jay Parini, Brett Ann Stanciu, and former Governor Madeleine May Kunin. 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to write a short memoir containing three things: the story of how you came to have your name, a recent dream you’ve had, and the way a certain color features in your life right now, the way Governor Madeleine May Kunin spoke on this panel about her Prius, and why it was important to her that it was "Barcelona Red."

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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Local author and professor Dr. Millicent Eidson, who writes a series of novels concerning the work of fictional CDC veterinarian Dr. Maya Maguire. A regular NaNoWriMo participant, Millie spoke with me live on WBTV-LP about that experience.

This Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Dr. Millicent Eidson, who reminds us that conflict and challenges are important in our work. As an example, the weather has just changed from mid-70s to mid-30s. Our clocks have just changed again. Think about these and other changes that might present difficulties for your characters and write about that.

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

 

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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Live radio interview with Roseanne Montillo, author of Deliberate Cruelty (Atria Books). 

Roseanne Montillo was kind enough to offer a Write the Book Prompt during our conversation. Keep a journal, recording both the trivial and mundane observations, but also details about your travels, your memories, your interpretation of favorite books. 

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 Thomas H. McNeely, whose new collection is Pictures of the Shark: Stories (Texas Review Press). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Thomas H. McNeely, and it is drawn from our conversation. We talked about the objects that writers bring into stories, and the power that objects can hold. This week, consider doing one of two things as you work. First, write about objects that you remember from a certain period of your life. What did they mean to you at the time? Do you still have them? If not, what happened to them–do you know, or did they just disappear?  What do they mean to you now? How might you use one of the important objects from your past in a story? Second, consider how you might use objects to help characters - as Thomas put it in our interview - reflect off of something.  Allow that focus on an object to help them to express what  they themselves probably could not express otherwise. For example, Buddy’s mother’s reaction to Richard Nixon. And Buddy’s own focus on a yellow leaf on black asphalt while he’s speaking with his father, an inconsistent and often duplicitous presence in his life. 

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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Writer, speaker and storyteller Gareth Higgins, author of how not to be afraid: Seven Ways to Live When Everything Seems Terrifying (Broadleaf Books). 

Gareth Higgins was kind enough to allow me to share one of the invitations in his book, how not to be afraid, as this week’s Write the Book Prompt. The invitation is shared in full at the end of the podcast (as is a breathing exercise from the book, which we discuss during the interview). Here's a summary of the Invitation to Name Your Fears, in Gareth's words, but excerpted:

Sit still in a chair for ten minutes–or as long as it takes. Ask yourself, "What is it exactly that I'm afraid of?" Keep asking it until something like a satisfying answer comes. Write down or sketch your thoughts.

Put another chair in front of you and visualize the thing that's frightening you. Imagine this fear as if it were a person, describe them in detail, and perhaps even give them a name. 

Step outside your usual pattern of relating to this fear. 

...

While thinking of the personified fear, allow yourself to imagine the wounds and fears that such a person might have experienced and that led them to be the scary presence they manifest for you. What might they fear losing or have already lost? What might they care about with which you could empathize? ...

Again, write down or sketch what comes to 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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An interview from the archives with veteran Boston Globe Reporter Stephen Kurkjian, author of Master Thieves, the story of the the largest art theft in history, published by PublicAffairs.

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to write 300 words about a theft that goes wrong in some way. The stolen items could involve art, jewels, people, pets, or even just penny candy. Who steals what and why? What goes wrong? Does this create a problem for the thief, or for the victim of the theft? Where does this take place? Who might have seen something? Did they tell anyone, or keep quiet? What happens to the stolen items, and how does the ordeal affect each of the involved characters?

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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The editors of Vermont Almanac discuss their work. A recording of a Green Mountain Book Festival panel discussion featuring Virginia Barlow, Dave Mance III, and Patrick White. 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to write about an insect or arachnid. We aren’t all as focused on insects as Virginia Barlow, but they are vital. This is a quote from the Florida Museum at the University of Florida: a diverse range of insect species is critical to the survival of most life on Earth, including bats, birds, freshwater fishes and even humans! Along with plants, insects are at the foundation of the food web, and most of the plants and animals we eat rely on insects for pollination or food. A couple of weeks ago I saw a praying mantis outside my front door. Last week, I photographed an amazing, scary-looking spider on my front walk. It turned out to be a shamrock spider. So, consider your favorite arthropod, 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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Guest Interviewer Kim MacQueen speaks with John Killacky, author of Because Art, and Mark Redmond, author of Called, both published by Onion River Press

Last week the Green Mountain Book Festival came to Burlington and it was a fantastic event! I'm on the board. As the festival plans for next year, we'd love to hear ideas for panels. So your Write the Book Prompt this week is to write to me (Shelagh) and share your panel ideas! Thanks so much. 

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

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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Writer, editor and photographer Kimberly Garrett Brown, whose new book is Cora's Kitchen (Inanna Publications). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to consider an unlikely friendship. Who are the individuals and why would a friendship between them be unexpected? How do they meet? Are they in the same town, on vacation, at a rest area, in a nursing home? Do they hit it off from the start, or do they find common ground gradually? Consider these questions and these characters, find a setting that perhaps enhances the specific challenges of their relationship, and write. 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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A new interview with Vermont author Doug Wilhelm about his nonfiction book, Catalysts for Change: How Nonprofits and a Foundation Are Helping Shape Vermont's Future (Rootstock). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was kindly suggested by my guest, Doug Wilhelm, who thinks about stories all the time. Find one observation: something you’ve overhead or seen, and make a story from it. This can be a piece of conversation or part of an argument, an interesting person who stood out for some reason. Take note of this small observation, and start writing. Story involves tension, so see what tension might emerge from what you began with, and then see if the tension will resolve somehow. 

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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Daniel Lusk - 8/29/22

Vermont Poet Daniel Lusk, who's new collection is Every Slow Thing (Kelsay Books). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to consider what Daniel calls his “farthings,” tiny Zen-like poems that share wit, irony, natural beauty, and wisdom. Here are a few of his, kindly shared with us:

  • Sepals - As if priests were magpies and souls were shiny objects. As if brothels were little seminaries of corporeal art. 
  • After the Storm - And Noah sent forth birds, voiceless gestures over the fathomless silence in search of something that might be said.
  • Lyric - Listen! There is saffron on the poet's bow. 

So those are a few of Daniel Lusk's "Farthings." The new collection Farthings is published by Yavanika Press. See if you can come up with some of your 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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New York Times bestselling author Fiona Barton, whose new novel is Local Gone Missing (Berkley).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to write about an altercation between someone who lives full time in a small town and a visitor, seasonal homeowner, or tourist. What sets them off and what preceded the incident for each of them? How does the full-time resident feel about outsiders before this event, and what changes?

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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An interview from the archives (with our old music!) with Vermont poet and UVM Professor Stephen Cramer. We discussed his book From the Hip: A Concise History of Hip Hop (in sonnets). Since that time, Stephen has published a number of other books. His latest collection, The Disintegration Loops, "attempts to uncover the music within the world's dissolution and fragmentation, from Italian masters painting over the work of previous artists, to the innocence of childhood giving way to scars, to the description of badly stored tapes being looped and played over and over again until they begin to flake."

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to consider the world's "dissolution and fragmentation" and write about something that changes with time, for better or for worse.

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

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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A new interview with the author Mohsin Hamid, whose latest novel is The Last White Man (Riverhead). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to write about a drastic change in a character’s life - even something unlikely or impossible - that changes their world in some way, bringing both difficulty and relief. 

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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An interview from the archives with novelist and story writer J. Robert Lennon. We discussed his story collection, See You in Paradise, published by Graywolf Press. Last year he published two more books with Graywolf, a novel called Subdivision and a story collection, Let Me Think

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to write a paragraph about a moment that takes place in a park. Maybe a dog breaks free of her leash and runs away from her owner. Write about whatever moment you choose to present. Then write the paragraph again from two different perspectives. Perhaps that of the dog, or another dog, a person who feeds birds from a bench, a person who sleeps on that bench at night, a policeman, a young child in a stroller, that child’s grandfather, who is taking her for a walk. See what happens to the moment you’re creating when you let it be seen through these varied perspectives.

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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An interview from the archives with award winning writer, educator and translator Wendy Call

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to choose one of the following sentences, and translate it into a language of your own design. 

  • Tomorrow morning, as the sun shines up and over the eastern wall of your house, you will awaken to a gift of joy. 
  • He ran through the woods and hopped the stones in a bright, cold stream, shouting that he had won.
  • Alone, without purpose or thought, she brings a hand to her face and feels the cool touch of her own comfort. 

Pick one of these sentences, or really any sentence you come up with, and translate it into a language of your own invention. Make up sounds that feel like these sounds, shape them into words, see what other sentences come out of your unusual translation. Try to create a sense of the sentence that another reader might come close to understanding, if not intellectually. Sure, it might be nonsense, but it might feel just right, too.

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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An interview with Pulitzer-Prize winning author Jennifer Egan about her new novel The Candy House (Scribner).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Jennifer Egan—an exercise she assigns her students that she says has been helpful. Imagine yourself in a physical place, such as a room that you know well from an earlier point of your life. Describe what is to your left. What’s to the right? Is there a drawer open? What's inside the drawer? Move through the space mentally, looking in every direction, looking out the window and under the rugs. The second part of the prompt is to write about who comes into the space and what they do or say. Because physical spaces lead to people,  and quickly. Jennifer says the real wonder of this is to see how much detail we retain. And it’s also a way of defying the fragmentation of memory. If we imagine ourselves in a space, how much we can recall about tiny particulars of that place? And then who comes in, and what are they moved to do there?

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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An interview with 2019 Quill Prose Prize winner, Carlos Allende,  about his novel, Coffee, Shopping, Murder, Love (Red Hen Press). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest Carlos Allende. Create a character that does something reprehensible or immoral. The person can be anyone: from a child who broke the rules to a serial killer. Make that character sympathetic by making their pain salient and undeserved, so that the reader feels compassion for him or her. 

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 Jori Lewis, whose debut nonfiction book is Slaves for Peanuts (The New Press).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Jori Lewis. If you’re working on something and it’s not moving along well, try changing the perspective. And in doing this, keep in mind  the way one focuses a camera: focus in, pull out.

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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An interview from the archives with bestselling author Meg Wolitzer, about her novel for young adults, Belzhar (Dutton Books for Young Readers). One of her latest projects is hosting Selected Shorts at New York's Symphony Space, hosted by Public Radio International.

Seedlings, soil, compost, fertilizer. It’s gardening season. This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to write about a garden. Perhaps a small mystery: a missing plant, a wrong fruit, an illegally felled tree. If a mystery doesn’t inspire you, maybe write a poem or a scene that takes place in a secret or famous garden. Or a former garden, paved over and turned into a parking lot. 

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 Jennifer McMahon, whose new novel is The Children on the Hill (Simon & Schuster). 

Jennifer's recent reads include:

The Fervor, by Alma Katsu

My Heart Is a Chainsaw, by Stephen Graham Jones

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Jennifer McMahon, who sent me this note:

At its heart, The Children on the Hill is an exploration of monsters and monstrousness. So my writing prompt is to create your own monster!

What type of monster is it? Does it have a name? What does it look like? What does it sound like? Where does your monster live? Who can see it? What does your monster eat? What special abilities does it have? Can it run fast? Is it super strong? Can it hibernate for years? What does your monster want most? What’s stopping your monster from getting it? What is your monster most afraid of?

Now, write two scenes, the first from the point of view of a person (maybe a character you’ve already been working with) coming across your monster. Where do they meet? Is your monster a danger to this character? How does your character feel about this creature?

Write the same scene from the monster’s point of view. What is the monster thinking and feeling? Is your monster afraid of the person, or is it longing for connection? Or is it just really, really hungry?

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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Melanie Finn, winner of the Vermont Book Award in Fiction 2021, and author of The Hare (Two Dollar Radio). 

Melanie's favorite recent reads include:

Empireland, by Sathnam Sanghera
On The Black Hill, by Bruce Chatwin
Orlando, by Virginia Woolf
 

This week's Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Melanie Finn, who recommends starting "outside the box" when it comes to building character. For her protagonist Rosie, the sense of smell is a strong guide; she's really aware of how things smell. When you consider your own characters, think about all their senses: color and sound, but also how a character  might feel the sensation of silk or wet grass. Melanie says that sometimes we get caught up with the obvious—what is seen or heard—and forget to convey the world through all the senses.

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 Johnson and his daughter, Ellie Johnson, who have collaborated on a new novel titled The Barrens: A Novel of Love and Death in the Canadian Arctic (Arcade). 

This week I have two Write the Book Prompts to offer, thanks to the generosity of my guests. Kurt Johnson suggests writing a paragraph the beginning and end of which you know ahead of time. Allow the middle to be more stream of consciousness. Ellie suggests writing an adventure. This could be a story, or a scene, or the beginnings of something longer. Pick an area of the world where a character is camping, and write about what goes wrong. 

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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Maya Rodale, best-selling and award-winning author of funny feminist historical fiction and romance. Her latest novel is Mad Girls of New York (Berkley).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Maya Rodale, who said it was inspired by our conversation. Take this scenario and write it forward: 

She was in a rush to get downtown–the sooner the better and definitely before it was too late. But when she turned onto Broadway, what she saw shocked her. She would not be getting downtown any time soon …

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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Michelle Huneven's latest is Search, a funny novel about a congregational search committee, told as a memoir with recipes (Penguin).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt comes from Michelle Huneven’s book, Search. It’s one that the search committee is offered when they begin working with the consultant named Helen:

IMAGINE YOUR LIFE AS A MOVIE THAT YOU’VE STEPPED OUT OF TO BE HERE TODAY. WHAT’S THE TITLE? THE SETTING? THE PLOT?  

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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An interview from the archives - complete with the old music! - with Robert Boswell, award-winning author of seven novels, including Tumbledown (Graywolf Press).

Robert Boswell published a book on craft in 2008, The Half-Known World. In this book, he details how important it is for writers to give themselves over to what he calls the "half-known world" of fiction, where surprise and meaning converge. Consider this in terms of an exercise: this week's Write the Book Prompt is to think about surprise converging with meaning.

An example of my own: a driver stops at a quick mart due to a mundane but necessary need: coffee, perhaps, or a bathroom break. Who might she meet or run into there? How does this affect her day, or the trip she's embarking on? Did she want to be seen? Has this person affected her life in the past? How will this encounter affect the story?

Consider this week how surprise might come up against meaning in your own work, offering an opportunity to change the narrative in a valuable 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 former South Burlington High School students, now alums). 

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An interview from the archives with Jacqueline Woodson, about her National Book Award winning memoir-in-verse, Brown Girl Dreaming (Nancy Paulsen Books).

Have you ever tried to write a story in verse? Not necessarily a long story. Maybe an anecdote you would share with a friend about something that happened to you on a random Monday afternoon. This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to consider a story from your life, and write about it in verse. If it will help, set yourself some rules before you begin. If you don’t like rhymes, don’t worry about rhymes. You can make your verse fit some syllabic intention, you can create a pantoum, in which the last line is often the same as the first, or an abecedarian, which spells out the alphabet, word by word or line by line. There are many ways to write verse, and the poet is in charge.

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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Mark Wish and Elizabeth Coffey, editors of a new anthology: Coolest American Stories 2022 (Coolest Stories Press). This year marked the inaugural publication of the book, which will come out each January. 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is actually a publishing prompt (because we all know how hard it is to send out work once we've written it). Polish up your coolest, most twisty-turny story, make a list of 15 publications you think might make a good match for that story, and send it to three at a time until someone acknowledges your cool with an acceptance. After which, being a good person, you will let the others know you’ve found a home for your cool story. OR submit it to Coolest American Short Stories 2023; hey, you never know!

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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A conversation from the archives with the author Vikram Chandra about his nonfiction book, Geek Sublime: The Beauty of Code, the Code of Beauty (Graywolf Press). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to include a few (let's say three) of the following items together in a story, scene, poem, or essay: 

  • a dock fender for a boat
  •  the bow of a violin
  • a leaky pen
  • a basketball hoop
  • an Apple II Computer

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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An interview from the archives with local author and Queen City Ghostwalk Guide Thea Lewis about her book Haunted Inns and Ghostly Getaways of Vermont, published by The History Press.

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to imagine a creepy scenario that has always frightened you. Maybe it has to do with going down into a basement, or up into an attic. Maybe it centers on a certain person who leaves you feeling unsettled. Are you afraid of water, of heights, of open spaces? Focus on one of your most haunting fears and consider how you might turn it around. If the idea of being up high frightens you, maybe write about a person who delights in great heights: a gymnast, or Phillipe Petit, who famously walked a tightrope strung between the twin towers in 1974. If you’re afraid of water, imagine being a long-distance swimmer. Write about this person’s attitude, and then midway into the piece, let your own phobia slip in and change what they are feeling or experiencing. What happens?

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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An interview with the author Karen Joy Fowler, whose new historical novel is Booth, which concerns the family behind one of the most infamous figures in American history: John Wilkes Booth. The book came out last week from Putnam.

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously offered by my guest, Karen Joy Fowler, who suggests picking one of the great emotions:  fury, joy, envy, terror.  Write a scene from your childhood in which you experienced that emotion, maybe, but not necessarily, for the first time.  If you are in the midst of a fictional project, write the scene for one of your characters instead.

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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An archive interview (from my Radiator broadcast days!) from the archives with New Hampshire author Toby Ball, author of three crime novels published by Overlook Press: The Vaults, about which we spoke in 2010,  Scorch City, which he wrote in 2011, and Invisible Streets the third in the series and the subject of this conversation.

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to consider the following list of sentences and phrases, pick two, and put them in a story, scene, poem, or simple paragraph. Here they are:

* If she was going to argue all night…

* Keeping in mind the Pomeranian on the kitchen floor…

* Why not (a) Manhattan? 

* His itching feet called to be released.

* Staring at the melting ice statue, he spoke very slowly. 

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


Music Credit:
John Fink

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Vermont Author and Documentarian Jim Carrier, whose book Charity: The Heroic and Heartbreaking Story of Charity Hospital in Hurricane Katrina came out as an audiobook in 2021.

This week's Write the Book Prompt was inspired by my interview with Jim Carrier, whose book Charity tells the story of one hospital in one storm, through the closer detailed narratives of individuals who were caught up in the tragedy. Consider these famous catastrophic moments in history, and either research or imagine a single human story from the incident to write about. Write a scene, a story, a poem, or just a paragraph. 

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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Paula Martinac, author of seven novels. Since we spoke in 2017 about  The Ada Decades (Bywater Books), she has published three others. Her latest is Dear Miss Cushman (Bywater Books).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to consider the next food item you see - fruit, meat, vegetable, fast food, food on the street, in a gourmet store, at a cafeteria, on your kitchen shelf - and write about someone who is thinking about, relishing, or not relishing that food. 

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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Vermont author and exceptional literary citizen Nancy Means Wright passed away on January 19 at the age of 95. This week I aired an interview with Nancy from the early days of the show. Many thanks to Seven Days for granting me permission to read their obituary for Nancy on air (with the stipulation that I read it in its entirety). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to write a short or maybe even longer fictional piece featuring an historical figure, much as Nancy Means Wright featured Mary Wollstonecraft in two mystery novels.

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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An interview from the archives with the author Rachel Urquhart about her novel The Visionist (Little Brown).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to invent a group that has diminished from a large, powerful organization or community to something smaller, with minimal influence. What does this group look like? What happened to change their situation? What characters come to mind when you consider this scenario, and how might each of them react to their change in size and scope?

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 Caitlin Hamilton Summie, whose new novel is Geographies of the Heart (Fomite). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously offered by my guest, Caitlin Hamilton Summie. Consider the following prompt:

“I didn’t want to steal it, but I did.”

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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Two shorter interviews from the archives: Jojo Moyes, about her book One Plus One (Penguin); and Heath Hardage Lee, about Winnie Davis: Daughter of the Lost Cause (Potomac Books). 

Today’s Write the Book Prompt is to consider this sentence, and either start with it, or let it inform your work: “She’d only been a crossing guard for two days.”

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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An interview from the archives with Sue William Silverman about her memoir, The Pat Boone Fan Club: My Life as a White Anglo Saxon Jew (University of Nebraska).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to write about a fantasized, imagined or real relationship with a star. From Pat Boone to David Cassidy, Britney Spears to Timothee Chalamet, heart throbs have always energized teens. You could write from a fan’s perspective, a star’s, that of an agent, a producer, a chauffeur.

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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A conversation from the archives with Vermont children’s author Elizabeth Bluemle, about her picture book, TAP TAP, BOOM BOOM (Candlewick Press).

My son and I once experienced a hurricane in Florida. Those of you who know storms might remember Charlie, in 2004. We stayed in a motel in Winter Park–a second-story room with an outside entry that looked out at the parking lot. The storm was fierce and loud. We lost electricity and the room went dark, but outside the winds were furious and sounded like the world would end. The eye arrived, and with it an eerie silence. Hotel guests all stepped out of our rooms and stood leaning on the metal railings, looking down at the parking lot, talking, eventually feeling a kind of rapport that comes with facing the unknown. When the winds picked up again, we all went back inside our darkened rooms, feeling like we knew the neighbors who surrounded us, if just a little bit. This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to write about a weather incident bringing people together, as they do in the subway in Elizabeth Bluemle’s book, Tap Tap, Boom Boom. 

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 award-winning author Joshua Ferris on his novel, To Rise Again at a Decent Hour (Little Brown and Company).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to write about a visit to the dentist. Your scene, story or poem might involve the patient’s perspective, that of the dentist, the hygienist. Maybe you write about the waiting room, a moment in the parking lot, or the dreaded chair itself.

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 Joy Cohen, whose debut novel is 37 (Guernica Editions). 

This week's Write the Book Prompt was generously offered by my guest Joy Cohen during our conversation. She suggests making two lists: the first, a list of 10 characters. They can be actual people in your life, such as your mom or dad, your best friend, the pharmacist, the mail carrier, people that you know really well or don't know at all. They could include fictional characters from movies or books. Just make a list of ten. Then make a list of ten activities such as going for a bike ride, attending a funeral, eating breakfast... anything active. Then put the papers away. A few days later, before you read the two lists, randomly pick out two numbers. Maybe three and seven. For your exercise, you'll take character number three and put that person in situation number seven, and then write about that. Joy finds the people in her classes enjoy this prompt and come up with great scenes and scenarios. 

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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Poet A.E. Hines, whose debut collection is Any Dumb Animal (Main Street Rag).

A new prompt for the week comes from A.E. Hines, and touches on something we discussed during the interview you just heard: Write a poem that explores duality, by comparing and contrasting two topics that are generally considered opposites. For example:  Where is the light in the darkness?  Or, pick one or multiple things that are considered hard, and describe them as soft. Describe a moment of gratitude in the midst of grief.  Or love that led to great loss.  Again, it doesn’t matter where you start, just pick a pair of opposing ideas, and brainstorm a list of comparisons. Then arrange them into a poem and see where this experiment 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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A new interview with Swiss Author Peter Stamm, whose latest story collection is It's Getting Dark (Other Press).

Peter Stamm generously suggested a  Write the Book Prompt for today’s show. Go to the cemetery and see what the stones tell you about the people who are buried there. You’ll learn from the stones themselves, but also from their names and dates, from details occasionally listed on the stones, from any flowers left at the graveside. You’ll be surprised by how much you might learn about those who went before us.

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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Wendy Sanford, author, editor, and a founding member of the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective. Her debut memoir is These Walls Between Us: A Memoir of Friendship Across Race and Class (SheWrites Press). 

On Wendy Sanford’s website you can go to a page titled Meet Mary Norman: Leading the way for women in New Jersey corrections work 1968-1993. On that page are a series of events that shaped Mary Norman’s life and the people she worked with. These are interesting stories that highlight her contributions. For example, when she was punished for her belief in prisoner rehabilitation, she turned what was meant to be a demeaning demotion into a training program to teach pre-release inmates how to prepare for next steps, filling out work applications, dressing for interviews, things like that. This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to go to that site and read about Mary Norman and her work. Then, if you are moved to do so, write a poem, story, or essay about whatever comes to mind. Maybe you could write about one of the prisoners who had to learn how to dress for an interview. Or you could write from the perspective of a racist guard who didn’t like Mary supervising his work, but came to like and respect the way she supported him. I hope that - like me - you will be inspired by what you learn. 

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 and Journalist Jonah Lehrer, whose new book is Mystery: A Seduction, A Strategy, A Solution (Avid Reader Press).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Jonah Lehrer: Read a detective story and look for the false clues planted in the first five pages, or in Act I, depending on the work. In a Poe story or a Conan Doyle, there are so many missed leads, and you forget about them once you know the ending. But to create the surprise, a lot of work needs to be done. There are many mechanics involved in setting up that surprising twist. And studying the stories or novels of others can help us learn about those mechanics. 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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Award-Winning Nigerian Author Uwem Akpan, whose debut novel is New York, My Village (Norton). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to write about a time that your own success or advancement was stymied by bureaucracy, as visitors to America can be stymied by the process of trying to get a visa. Was your experience further complicated by some kind of prejudice or racism? If not, how might that have changed things for you? Was your goal a matter of life and death, professional success, or merely convenience? Consider what it might be like to walk in someone else’s shoes, for better or for worse, in that same situation, and write. 

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 Michael Freed-Thall, whose debut novel is Horodno Burning (Rootstock).

Consider this Write the Book Prompt, inspired by my conversation with Michael: try using history as a frame from which to hang your characters in writing a story, poem, essay or longer piece. As you work, be sure you are accurately rendering the historical period, researching the industry, technology, customs, and events of the period. 

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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