Archive for the 'Creative Nonfiction' Category

Interview with author of fiction and nonfiction, Lawrence Sutin. His latest book is When To Go Into The Water: A Novel.

Prompt: This week's Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Lawrence Sutin. Describe your opposite. On paper, as an exercise, describe your personal opposite: whatever that means to you. Whether it means gender, age, psychology, physicality. Write in vivid detail a human being who, in your sense of things, is absolutely opposite to 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 South Burlington High School students)

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Interview with poet and author of fiction and nonfiction, David Huddle. This interview from the archives was the first show aired on Write The Book, back in March 2008.

Prompt: This week's Write The Book Prompt was inspired by my guest, David Huddle. In his essay, Issues Of Character, which appears in his book, The Writing Habit (published by The University Press of New England) he suggests six ways to bring a character to life in a story. They are: Information, Physical Appearance, Thoughts and Feelings, Actions, Sensory Experience, and Speech. He fills an entire essay with helpful explanations of what he means and examples of fine characterizations, but at the very least, the list itself may be of help to a writer who is stuck, trying to build a character. So, as you write this week, focus on your weakest character, and see if you might improve on his or her presentation on the page by studying the information, physical appearance, thoughts and feelings, actions, sensory experience, and speech that you, as the writer, have provided to the reader about this character.

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 Deborah S. Schapiro, editor of the Vermont publication Edible Green Mountains.

Prompt: Deborah Schapiro actually recommended two Write The Book Prompts for listeners.

1) Your first prompt this week has to do with recipes. Look at recipes and notice how they're written. You can look in cookbooks, magazines, your own index card file. Notice actual differences in recipes' structure and try to understand what the cooks who wrote them were focused on: ease of use, quick communication, tips for success? Did your grandmother guess at average quantities, or did she keep to very specific measurements? Does a certain famous chef suggest where you might find little-known ingredients? Does your favorite cookbook offer variations or keep to a set script? Some recipes are copied down as simple paragraphs, with ingredients embedded in the text. In others, ingredients are offered up front. Some are written in two columns, with ingredients on the left and instructions on the right. Edible Green Mountains delineates each step with a new paragraph indent, in hopes of keeping things simple.

After you study a few recipes, write a scene or a poem that attempts to emulate something about a recipe you've found. Then write it again, using another style of recipe for inspiration. What differs in your final products? Which do you prefer and why?

2) The second prompt suggested by Deborah also has two parts. First, consider a food memory. When Deborah was small, she would occasionally come home from school to find her mother in the kitchen making a Hungarian biscotti-like cookie. She recalls the warming scent of cinnamon, the crunch of cinnamon and sugar on top of the finished cookies. The glass of milk. All of these sensory memories evoke strong emotions for her as she thinks back.

Once you've identified a food memory of your own, consider a food-related poem or scene that moved you in a work of literature. Blueberries, by Robert Frost. Proust's famous madeleines. Just about every chapter in Like Water For Chocolate. Why did the scene or poem affect you as it did? If you were to try and write a food scene or poem of your own, what might you have learned from this work of literature that would help you? Now try to write about your food memory.

Good luck with these exercises 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 Scott Russell Sanders, author of twenty books of fiction and nonfiction. His latest is  A Conservationist Manifesto, published by Indiana University Press.

Prompt: Today's Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Scott Russell Sanders, who is a writing teacher as well as a writer. Think about the classic elements as the Greeks imagined them: air, earth, fire and water. Say the words over and over in your mind. Settle on one of them. And then begin to think about what associations you have in your own life with that element. Water can be ice, moving water, a pond, something you drink, snow, mist, clouds. You could think about a place where you encountered water in some foundational way: where you learned to swim or a snowstorm you got caught in in your car once, or sledding down a hill as a child. Write a list - not a narrative - of these associations or memories: sledding, ice fishing, snowball fights. Pick one or two of these items from your list and then begin to write, begin to unpack it, see where it goes.

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 Scott Russell Sanders, author of twenty books of fiction and nonfiction. His latest is  A Conservationist Manifesto, published by Indiana University Press.

Prompt: Today's Write The Book Prompt was inspired by the work of my guest, Scott Russell Sanders. The excerpt he read from his new book, A Conservationist Manifesto, is really intended for two audiences. Here's some of what he said as he introduced the pages he read during our interview:

What I try to do ... is tell [the children of the future] what I have loved, what I have valued about the earth during my time alive ... and also what my hopes for them are... At the same time, ... I'm speaking of course to the contemporary reader ... and inviting the present reader to think about the effects of our lives on the prospects for future children.

As you write in the coming week, consider your audience. Who will read your words and how would you like your work to impact those people? Do you want the reactions of your audience to affect the way you write, or would you rather just put words on paper, tell your story, convey your ideas? If you're writing an essay, as Scott Russell Sanders did in writing "For The Children," you may well want to think about your audience ahead of time. If you're writing a poem, reacting to the world around you in a personal way, you may be less inclined to worry about how your reader will react. In either case, this bears consideration. Who will read your work, how will they react, and is that important to the process of creation itself?

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

Readings by Scott Russell Sanders, from A Conservationist Manifesto (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2009). Copyright © 2009 by Scott Russell Sanders. Recorded 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 Thea Lewis, Vermont author of Haunted Burlington: Spirits of Vermont's Queen City, and founder of the Queen City Ghost Walk.

Prompt: This week's Write The Book Prompt was inspired by the interview you heard today with Thea Lewis. Write from the perspective of a ghost. How would it be if everyone who could see you were afraid of you? Would you haunt a place or a person? Would you be helpful or frightening? Who do you suppose you were you in life, and what happened to bring you to this point?

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

Readings by Thea Lewis, from Haunted Burlington: Spirits of Vermont's Queen City (Charleston: Haunted America, The History Press, 2009). Copyright © 2009 by Thea Lewis. Recorded with permission from The History Press.

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 Christopher Noël , Vermont author of fiction and nonfiction, Sasquatch Investigator and owner of the Tall Rock Retreat in East Calais.

Prompt: This week's Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Christopher Noël . During the show, 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...

Readings by Christopher Noël , from Impossible Visits. Copyright © 2009 by Christopher Noël. Recorded 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 Tanya Lee Stone, Vermont author of picture books, novels and nonfiction books for children, young readers and teens. Her latest is Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared To Dream.

Prompt: This week's Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Tanya Lee Stone. Write about an embarrassing moment, without revealing the actual event that caused the embarrassment.

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 Philip Graham, fiction and cnf writer and co-founder of the journal Ninth Letter. Prompt: This week's Write The Book Prompt is inspired by a passage from Philip Graham's new book, The Moon, Come to Earth, published by The University of Chicago Press. The following is the book's first paragraph, from the essay titled "I Don't Know Why I Love Lisbon."

The grilled sardines lying on my plate are much larger than the stunted little things packed in tins which go by the same name in the U.S., and their eye sockets stare up at the ceiling, where hanging light fixtures are shaped like gourds. The aroma of sardines led me here, the scent sharp at first as it hit the nose (perhaps too sharp), until the smoky complexities took over, akin-at least for me-to a bouquet of wine. I take another sip from my glass of vinho verde and peer up at the small square of the TV perched on a high shelf beside the restaurant's open door. The screen displays a smaller green rectangle of a soccer pitch, with the even smaller figures of the players racing back and forth.

Consider the middle passage, about the aroma of sardines, their sharp scent and smoky complexity, and how the passage is enriched by the details of scent. In your work, have you remembered to include smells? This week, look at heightening the power of description by way of scent. From perfume to overcooked eggs, pine needles to paint thinner. Be sure to let the smells into your writing, to present a richer, fuller presentation of the world you're trying to convey. Good luck with this exercise and please listen next week for another... Music credits: 1) “Dreaming 1″ - John Fink; 2) “Do Lado De Cá Do Mar” - Mario Laginha

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Interview with Vermont Writer Doug Wilhelm

Prompt: Today's Write The Book Prompt was inspired by the interview you heard with Doug Wilhelm. The crux of this prompt is find out what you don't know. And the advice is really twofold. First of all, decide if you need to do more research in order to move forward with your writing. What don't you know that a book or a person or the experience of immersing yourself in a situation might teach you? Do that research before continuing with your work. The second part of this advice is to ask yourself relevant questions that aren't being answered in your work, and then free write. These questions may be closer to the heart of your project than simple research. For example, if your main character is an arsonist, you might need to do research on how to set fires. But you'll also need to ask yourself, Why is my character setting these fires? What is motivating him? If you don't already know the answer, then put the question to yourself and spend some time free 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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Interview with Writer and upstreet Editor and Publisher Vivian Dorsel

Prompt: Today's Write The Book Prompt was inspired by the interview you heard today with Vivian Dorsel. During our conversation, she mentioned an exercise that she likes (by Natalie Goldberg). A similar activity might be to try writing the words "I used to," on a page, then follow that with a ten-minute free write about something you USED to do. Then write "I'm going to," and write for another ten minutes about something you're going to 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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Interview with award-winning poet Natasha Saje

Prompt: Today’s Write The Book Prompt was inspired by the interview you heard today with Natasha Saje, who occasionally turns to the dictionary for inspiration. Open a dictionary to a random page. Run your finger down a column of text, paying attention to the first five or ten words you see. Choose one of those words and find a way to include it in a poem you’re working on, or a paragraph of prose. As Natasha says, you can force the word into your work “like hammering open a door.” Maybe in a later revision, you’ll block it up again. But in the meantime, this randomly chosen word will have allowed you to get some “air” into your 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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Interview with author of fiction and creative nonfiction Phyllis Barber.

Prompt: Today’s Write The Book Prompt is suggested by my guest, Phyllis Barber. She recommends, “Read Flannery O’Connor, who does things with character that I don’t think I’ve seen many other writers do. Her characterizations are fabulous. So… Look at Flannery!” And that is your prompt today: look at Flannery. Her stories can be found in the books Everything That Rises Must Converge and A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other Stories, among other collections. She also wrote two novels: Wise Blood and The Violent Bear It Away. And, of course, every writer can benefit from reading her essays on writing and the writing life, collected in the book, Mystery and Manners.

Here’s a snippet from her story, A Good Man Is Hard To Find. Even if you’ve never read this story and even if you don’t know the context of the scene, I think you’ll come to know the characters very quickly, from these few paragraphs:

They drove off again into the hot afternoon. The grandmother took cat naps and woke up every few minutes with her own snoring. Outside of Toombsboro she woke up and recalled an old plantation that she had visited in this neighborhood once when she was a young lady. She said the house had six white columns across the front and that there was an avenue of oaks leading up to it and two little wooden trellis arbors on either side in front where you sat down with your suitor after a stroll in the garden. She recalled exactly which road to turn off to get to it. She knew that Bailey would not be willing to lose any time looking at an old house, but the more she talked about it, the more she wanted to see it once again and find out if the little twin arbors were still standing. "There was a secret:-panel in this house," she said craftily, not telling the truth but wishing that she were, "and the story went that all the family silver was hidden in it when Sherman came through but it was never found . . ."

"Hey!" John Wesley said. "Let's go see it! We'll find it! We'll poke all the woodwork and find it! Who lives there? Where do you turn off at? Hey Pop, can't we turn off there?"

"We never have seen a house with a secret panel!" June Star shrieked. "Let's go to the house with the secret panel! Hey Pop, can't we go see the house with the secret panel!"

"It's not far from here, I know," the grandmother said. "It wouldn't take over twenty minutes."

Bailey was looking straight ahead. His jaw was as rigid as a horseshoe. "No," he said.

The children began to yell and scream that they wanted to see the house with the secret panel. John Wesley kicked the back of the front seat and June Star hung over her mother's shoulder and whined desperately into her ear that they never had any fun even on their vacation, that they could never do what THEY wanted to do. The baby began to scream and John Wesley kicked the back of the seat so hard that his father could feel the blows in his kidney.

"All right!" he shouted and drew the car to a stop at the side of the road. "Will you all shut up? Will you all just shut up for one second? If you don't shut up, we won't go anywhere."

"It would be very educational for them," the grandmother murmured.

That, again, is an excerpt from Flannery O’Connor’s A Good Man Is Hard To Find. Phyllis Barber suggests reading O’Connor’s work in looking for inspiration on character development. Good luck with this activity 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 best-selling author Anita Diamant.

Prompt: Today’s Write The Book Prompt was inspired by my guest, Anita Diamant, whose fiction is often based on “found stories” and historical events. Navigate to the Library of Congress’ “Today In History Site”  ( http://lcweb2.loc.gov/ammem/today/ ) Read about this day in history, keeping your mind open about how you could create a fictional character who might have participated in or witnessed the event of the day. Then write a scene featuring that character. Here’s an example:

On Sunday March 7, 1965, about six hundred people began a fifty-four mile march from Selma, Alabama to the state capitol in Montgomery. They were demonstrating for African American voting rights and to commemorate the death of Jimmie Lee Jackson, shot three weeks earlier by a state trooper while trying to protect his mother at a civil rights demonstration. On the outskirts of Selma, after they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge, the marchers, in plain sight of photographers and journalists, were brutally assaulted by heavily armed state troopers and deputies.

Given this historical moment, would you choose to write a scene from the perspective of a bystander, a marcher, from Jackson’s mother, from the state trooper who shot Jimmie Lee Jackson? Perhaps from the viewpoint of a photographer? Use this moment in history as a starting point. Honor the sacrifices of  the past by re-imagining it in your fiction. 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 author Robert Vivian and Burlington business owner Norbert Ender. Hosted by Shelagh C. Shapiro, Write The Book airs on WOMM-LP 105.9 FM “The Radiator,” in Burlington, Vermont, every Monday afternoon from 2-3 p.m. - a new time.

Prompt: Today’s Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my first guest, Robert Vivian. In his work with students, he occasionally distributes postcards from small towns, and asks each student to write a note on that card to a fictional recipient. Look at the postcard and imagine you’re traveling across the country and you’ve landed in this small town. Use the postcard as a trigger and write to someone. It could be someone who’s wronged you in the past or it could be a beloved person. You might be writing this postcard due to a situation that you’re fleeing. “Dear Randy. Hello from the middle of nowhere. I’m in a diner. Icicles are hanging down from the roof.  I’m driving to Santa Fe. I have 20 dollars in my pocket. I can’t stop thinking about the last time we spoke…” Etc. Invent a situation and write. Let the postcard be a trigger, and lose yourself in the creative act. Good luck with this exercise and please listen next week for another.

Music credits: 1) “Dreaming 1″ - John Fink

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Interview with Kate Harper and Leon Marasco about their nonfiction book, If Only I Could Tell You: Where Past Loves and Current Intimacy Meet. Hosted by Shelagh C. Shapiro, Write The Book airs on WOMM-LP 105.9 FM “The Radiator,” in Burlington, Vermont, every Saturday morning at 9:00 a.m.

Prompt: Today’s Write The Book Prompt is inspired by fear: an emotion that can make people reluctant to discuss past loves. Write a poem, story, or chapter in which a character—real or imagined, completely new or already familiar to you—has to confront his or her greatest fear. This can be, like the dread of discussing past loves, a fear of sentiment. Or it can be a fear of physical harm, of disease, of bugs! Whatever it might be, treat it as very real to your character, so that the reader will take it seriously and empathize. 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 Xu Xi, writer of short stories, novels, essays, and a new "quirky" memoir. Hosted by Shelagh C. Shapiro, Write The Book airs on WOMM-LP 105.9 FM “The Radiator,” in Burlington, Vermont, every Saturday morning at 9:00 a.m.

Prompt: Today’s Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Xu Xi.  She recommends borrowing an idea from jazz improvisation. Look at what Xu Xi calls, “the facts of the fiction,” and pick something to work with. Improvise on it the way a musician might riff on a theme in music. See if the changes you come up with take the work in another direction. In the case of the novel Xu Xi read from in this interview, what if Gail’s child and his grandmother aren’t killed on page one, but later in the book? What if that phone conversation she remembers having with her son is a scene in the novel rather than a recollection? Or the other way around. What if a scene in your book COULD be a recollection. Might that make more sense? Move things around, riff on the facts in your fiction, and see what changes or comes unstuck. 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 former Iowa Short Fiction award winner Abby Frucht, writer of short stories, novels, essays and reviews. Hosted by Shelagh C. Shapiro, Write The Book airs on WOMM-LP 105.9 FM “The Radiator,” in Burlington, Vermont, every Saturday morning at 9:00 a.m.

Prompt: Today’s Write The Book Prompt was inspired by my guest, Abby Frucht. In discussing her work, Abby explained that, to her, specific detail achieves two purposes. First, “it allows the reader to have an immediate physical investment in the story.” And second, it can have larger significance, serving a figurative function in the narrative and acting as a signpost for the reader. In the case of her story, “The Dead Car,” the detailed description of the spoon that was lost may later be brought back to remind the reader that this spoon speaks to loss, generally. Not just the loss of a certain object, but other kinds of loss, as well. In your own work, study the descriptions that already exist and see if you can use specific detail to your advantage, not simply to embellish, but to help readers experience the work more fully. Try to find objects that already exist in the work, then heighten their function through detail. Avoid wedging in symbols; try to allow significant details to arise organically. 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 Rosellen Brown, award-winning writer of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, author of such books as Before and After, Half a Heart and Civil Wars. Hosted by Shelagh C. Shapiro, Write The Book airs on WOMM-LP 105.9 FM “The Radiator,” in Burlington, Vermont, every Saturday morning at 9:00 a.m.

Prompt: Today’s Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Rosellen Brown. This exercise is also taught by Nicholas Del Banco in his courses at the University of Michigan. Take two classic books and have the characters from one show up in the other. Write a scene in which a character from Mrs. Dalloway appears in The Sun Also Rises. What might happen? Would Pip, from Great Expectations, be a good friend for Tom Sawyer? Would Mr. Darcy be attracted to or repulsed by Daisy Buchanan? This may seem a little silly, but writing playfully and having fun is better than staring at the blank page. Like all exercises, this one might help you to open your mind and discover new things about voice.

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 agent Sorche Fairbank, owner of Fairbank Literary Representation in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Hosted by Shelagh C. Shapiro, Write The Book airs on WOMM-LP 105.9 FM “The Radiator,” in Burlington, Vermont, every Saturday morning at 9:00 a.m.

Prompt: Today’s Write The Book Prompt is an exercise for novelists who think their work might just be ready to send out to agents. Sorche Fairbank quoted the publishing adage that most novels really begin somewhere between pages 12 and 24. She suggested that writers who are trying to decide if their work is starting in the right place should open their manuscript randomly within that page range and read sentences. Ask yourself, “What if I started with this sentence? How would that influence the book?” Look for those exciting sentences that might indicate a better starting place. While you’re at it, look as well for dead zones, spots you wouldn’t want an agent to judge your work on. Try to figure out what’s wrong with those places and how you might fix them. Good luck with this exercise - and in your quest for publication! - 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 Linda Bland, co-author of Don't Stop at Green LIghts and owner of Cahoots Writing Services. Hosted by Shelagh C. Shapiro, Write The Book airs on WOMM-LP 105.9 FM “The Radiator,” in Burlington, Vermont, every Saturday morning at 9:00 a.m.

Prompt: 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.

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. Hosted by Shelagh C. Shapiro, Write The Book airs on WOMM-LP 105.9 FM “The Radiator,” in Burlington, Vermont, every Saturday morning at 9:00 a.m.

Prompt: Today’s Write The Book Prompt is inspired by this holiday season. Love it or hate it, the season is upon us. Probably you have a great many catalogs piling up in your living room or on the back of a toilet somewhere, waiting to be chucked in January. Why not use these to some advantage? Pour yourself a cup of tea or coffee, sit back in your coziest couch, and window shop for your characters. Pick out clothing, furniture, sunglasses. Pick out boots, necklaces, belts. Would your narrator wear new jeans, or faded? Would his fleece have buttons or a zip? Would she be in heels or flats? Boots or strappy sandals? Use your catalogs to fill out a scene whose details have been lacking. Sometimes the poses in magazines look wrong somehow. The snow is synthetic, the beach is off-kilter. Why? What’s missing? How might you write these settings more convincingly? You might look for the things your characters can’t afford. What would substitute? Instead of that pricey lamp, how would she light her desk? A candle in a jelly jar? A flashlight? Look at your catalogs not with the eye of a buyer, but with the imagination of a writer. Make lists of ideas as you go, and then write without catalog in hand for twenty minutes. See what develops.

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 author of poetry and prose Sydney Lea. Hosted by Shelagh C. Shapiro, Write The Book airs on WOMM-LP 105.9 FM “The Radiator,” in Burlington, Vermont, every Saturday morning at 9:00 a.m. - a new time for the new hour-long format.

Prompt: Today’s Write The Book Prompt concerns setting. How can a writer describe setting in such a way that it informs readers about a character’s or narrator’s state of mind? Consider the following two excerpts from works by Sydney Lea:

From his essay, “Alone With Friends: A Journal Toward Springtime”

… Landy and I sat for a spell on the tailgate, staring at the clean dark that walked at a human pace up the mountains, feeling a flake or two of snow on our wrists and faces, noting a heron who came languidly flapping out of a back pond, roost-bound early.

From his poem, “The Author in March”

Remnant, rank corn snow

.   perspires like dirty dough.

What few drab birds there are

.   don’t fly up very far,

So hard do the clouds bear down.

.   Not much to this splotch of a town—

Flue smoke, smalltalk, clutter.

.   Last autumn’s leaves clog gutters

Here’s this week’s prompt. Imagine a place in a poem or story you’re writing or are thinking about writing. Using minimal description, make a list of several things—five or six details—that exist in that setting. Now rewrite the list, describing those same details as seen from the perspective of a character who is upset, frustrated or depressed. Then write the list one last time, describing these same things from the point of view of a character who is happy, optimistic or excited. Don’t change the actual details of place, but the lens through which they are viewed. 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 author, essayist and NPR contributor, Tim Brookes. Hosted by Shelagh C. Shapiro, Write The Book airs on WOMM-LP 105.9 FM “The Radiator,” in Burlington, Vermont, every Saturday morning at 9:00 a.m. - a new time for the new hour-long format.

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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Interview with Philip Graham, fiction and cnf writer and co-founder of the journal Ninth Letter. Recent work includes his "Dispatches From Lisbon," published on the McSweeney's website. 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.

Music credits: 1) “Dreaming 1″ - John Fink; 2) “Do Lado De Cá Do Mar" - Mario Laginha

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