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Archive for the 'Books' Category

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Christina Dalcher, whose debut novel is VOX (Berkley). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Christina Dalcher. She says it works to "denormalize" our expectations. Start with something universally known with an expected outcome, and do something unexpected. The best example of this, according to Christina, is Shirley Jackson’s famous story, “The Lottery.” When we hear the word lottery, we think of something won, something positive. But Jackson’s story of course turns this on its head. Christina suggests we all read “The Lottery,” or read it again, and then try the exercise of writing something that denormalizes or defies reader expectations.

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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Kim MacQueen interviews Writer and Food Expert Hannah Howard, whose memoir, Feast: True Love in and Out of the Kitchen, was published earlier this year by Little A.

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to write about someone who tries to pass off a dish as something he or she actually cooked, when that is not the case.

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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Interview with author and New York Times Journalist Karen Crouse, who recently published her first book, Norwich: One Tiny Vermont Town's Secret to Happiness and Excellence (Simon & Schuster). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Karen Crouse. It is inspired by a talk she heard, given by the author Elizabeth Gilbert. During her talk, Elizabeth Gilbert mentioned that she'd had no idea, when she set out to write her book, Eat Pray Love, that it would eventually meet with so much success. She commented that that knowledge might even have made it hard to approach in the first place. She went on to suggest that, when you sit down to write, don’t think of it as a formal exercise. Think of it as relaying a story you might tell it to your best friend. This always stayed with Karen, who has found it valuable advice. And so she has shared it with us!

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 Poet April Ossmann, whose new collection is Event Boundaries (Four Way Books). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, April Ossmann. It’s about extended metaphor, which we discussed during the interview. April says it makes for magic in poems. Often poets use metaphor but they drop it too soon and don’t explore it deeply enough. But when you push it and continue describing using the metaphor, that’s often when you get to a moment of epiphany or discovery and you realize something. The smarter part of the brain can then teach you something. Focus on describing in specific detail and keep the event or theme in the periphery of your brain. It’s a great exercise. Pick something for a metaphor and maybe in that description, write about something that wasn’t as you expected it to be or something that happened in a way other than how you expected it to happen.

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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Author and cartoonist Tim Kreider, whose new collection is I Wrote This Book Because I Love You: Essays (Simon & Schuster).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Tim Kreider. When he offers prompts to his students, he tries to keep them broad so that the students can write about what they want to write about. Here is one that he has offered to spark their ideas: Write on the theme: “That’s how they get you.”

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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Kim MacQueen's interview with author Lisa Romeo, whose debut essay collection is  Starting with Goodbye: A Daughter’s Memoir of Love after Loss (University of Nevada Press).

For a Write the Book Prompt, consider Lisa Romeo's advice to not let in the inner critic! Just write. 

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

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

 

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Women's Leadership Expert Sally Helgesen, co-author with Marshall Goldsmith of the new book How Women Rise—Break the 12 Habits Holding You Back from Your Next Raise, Promotion, or Job (Hachette).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to consider how any of these categories might be holding you back in your work, and decide how to approach a solution. These are just a handful of the subjects covered in Sally’s book, which we discussed in our conversation: Being a Pleaser, Building Rather than Leveraging Relationships, Perfection, Minimizing (yourself or your work), Ruminating.  

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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American novelist and short story writer Yang Huang. Her new novel in stories is My Old Faithful, winner of the Juniper Prize for Fiction (University of Massachusetts Press).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Yang Huang. Alter the rhythm of your writing to jog your creative mind. First, work on a problematic scene by focusing closely on the language, painstakingly going over every word choice, until you make it work or realize this needs to be cut.

After a short break, return to the desk and write as fast as you can, hardly reading what you wrote. Silence the inner critic for the time being, and set your mind free. Write for an hour, until you slow down, or you want to read over the passage.

Sleep on it. Edit the passage next day and throw away any material you cannot use. Analyze the movement in your narrative. What have you discovered about the story and characters?

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

Music by Aaron Shapiro

 

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Prize-Winning Author Michael Andreasen, whose new story collection is The Sea Beast Takes a Lover (Dutton). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Michael Andreasen. Try to find an oblique angle - an odd vector of approach. Sometimes this is as simple as not starting in the place where you have the impulse to start. So if your charaters are in a room, perhaps begin in the other corner of that room. Describe the air coming in the vents, or something happening outside the window. Or maybe a sink in a nearby bathroom is making a noise. Move the focus someplace else. We have such an urge to get to the ONE thing we want to talk about, and talking about only that thing can become boring. A dripping faucet, or an unattended child spotted through a window, about to wander into the street, can ramp up the tension.

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

Music by Aaron Shapiro

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Guest host Kim MacQueen interviews Shozan Jack Haubner,

Zen monk and author. His latest book is Single White Monk (Shambalah).

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      Kim MacQueen

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by Kim’s and my guest, Shozan Jack Haubner. Sit in a quiet, comfortable way for ten to fifteen minutes. Put your attention on your soft, flowing breath. Do nothing but breathe. It's easy as long as you don't think too much. Breathing is a pleasurable sensation; peace and focus, manifest in the body and mind. If you can't loosen and open up you can't write jack squat. Words surface of their own accord from a deep and bottomless well. And don't glance at your clock! Set a timer. When the timer goes off, take your pen and your writing notebook (or, if you must, your laptop), and write what's coming up from the silence. Don't think about it, just like you didn't think about your breathing. Like breath, the words will come whether you think about them or not. Write until your hand aches without reading a word of it until you've taken a break, gotten your coffee, checked your email (if you must), and are ready to listen to yourself on the page as uncritically as a mother listens to her child learning to speak.

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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