Archive for the 'Essays' Category

Interview with Vermont Writer Rowan Jacobsen. We discussed his book The Living Shore: Rediscovering a Lost World. His latest book is Shadows on the Gulf: A Journey through Our Last Great Wetland. Both books were published by Bloomsbury.

Today's Write The Book Prompt is to write about an experience visiting the shore (any shore...)

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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John Homans, author of the new book, What's A Dog For? , published by Penguin, and executive editor of New York Magazine.

From Anton Chekhov's Lady With Lap Dog to Jack London's Call of the Wild, dogs, of course, feature prominently in literature. This week it's your turn to add to the canon; the Write The Book Prompt is to write about an unexpected encounter with a dog.

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

NOTE: Check out the guidelines for submitting your writing prompt outcomes for possible inclusion on the show!

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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Interview from the archives with Vermont Psychologist Arnold Kozak, author of Wild Chickens and Petty Tyrants: 108 Metaphors for Mindfulness (2009, Wisdom Publications) and The Everything Buddhism Book (2011, Adams Media).

Prompt: Today's Write The Book Prompt was inspired by the interview you heard today with Arnold Kozak. The thirtieth metaphor for mindfulness in his book, Wild Chickens and Petty Tyrants, begins this way: "In many Buddhist works, the mind and the self are often compared to a small pool of water. Thoughts can be seen as a breeze or wind blowing on the surface. These disturbances obscure what can be seen below the surface-the bottom of the pool, the ground of being-without changing it in any way. This ground is there, always there, no matter what is happening on the surface." Today's prompt turns that metaphor to writing. Consider the piece you're now working on. Maybe it's a novel, a memoir, a collection of stories or poetry. Perhaps it's a smaller entity: an essay or story or poem.  The work itself has an underlying essence, apart from the various images, snippets of dialogue, and actual scenes that exist within. As you write, try to keep a sense of this underlying essence within your work, your vision for it as a whole. Imagine that to be the bottom of the pool. Then, as you work, as you lose yourself in the wonderful creative act, feel free to create ripples along the top of the pool, to experiment and change and play with various elements within the work, all the while keeping clear in your own mind the bottom of the pool. Maintain some sort of focus, so that your work continues to embody that underlying vision, your writing's "ground of being" that is the bottom of the pool.

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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Award-winning Canadian author Douglas Glover, on his latest book: a collection of essays on writing, Attack of the Copula Spiders, published by Biblioasis.

Today's Write The Book Prompt is to write what Douglas Glover playfully calls "a but-construction." In his new book, ATTACK OF THE COPULA SPIDERS, he writes: "Imagine any simple declarative sentence, and add the word but to the end." The example Douglas offers is: "The barn was red, but..." Now keep writing. See what complexity you might be able to introduce to this sentence, or another of your own devising, simply by adding the word "but." As he explains in the book, "I wrote the word 'but' and then had to write something else; the blank space demands completeness. I had no idea what I might put in there before I wrote the words. The result is pure invention, discovery, and rather fun."

Good luck with this prompt and tune in next week for another.

Music credits: 1) "Dreaming 1″ - John Fink; 2) "Filter" - Dorset Greens (a Vermont band featuring several former South Burlington High School students).

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Award-winning writer Glen Finland, author of Next Stop: A Memoir of Family, published by AmyEinhornBooks/Putnam. The book is a Summer 2012 Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Pick.

Today's Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Glen Finland. Describe the precise moment at a time in your life when you realized you had to let go of someone or something. And what gave you the courage to do it?

Good luck with this prompt and tune in next week for another.

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Award-winning Vermont author Julia Alvarez, whose latest book is A WEDDING IN HAITI: THE STORY OF A FRIENDSHIP, published by Shannon Ravenel Books, an imprint of Algonquin.

The televised production of this interview can be found at RETN.org

Today I can offer two Write The Book Prompts, both of which were generously suggested by my guest, Julia Alvarez.The first is to write a list poem or prose passage. Julia loves making lists, and reading them. She wrote in an email, "sometimes, when I am grocery shopping, I'll find a discarded list on a shelf or on the floor, and I always pick it up and read it. Many are just a straight list of items to buy, but every once in a while, the list will include little notes or things to do. I'll start to imagine a story for the shopper who dropped the list!"

She offered a number of examples of good list poems and prose passages, including Triad, by 19th century poet Adelaide Crapsey:

These be three silent things:

the falling snow. . .the hour

before dawn. . .the mouth of one

just dead

Julia asks writers to remember that the items on the list need to be vivid and concrete, as sharp as little haikus, because as we read a list, we have to quickly picture each item before the next one comes on board. No brand names. None of those airbrushed abstract adjectives ("beautiful," "interesting") that are vague and generic" and don't nail down an image with a bright flash of recognition. She writes, "I love the surprises and juxtapositions that happen when you try to group, say, shapely things on a list." She sent a number of eighth graders' wonderful poems, from a workshop that she taught. Here they are:

Shapely Things

Waves on an ocean. . . long,

high rollercoasters, mouths

forming words. . . writing. . .

someone walking or running

with a limp. . .

clouds in the open sky. . . a mind

forming an idea.

Tammy, 8th grade

These things hardly have time:

lightning in a storm,

very nervous people,

the rush of embarrassment,

the years in a life and

a never-stopping clock.

These things hardly have time.

Scott, 8th grade

These things are extra hard:

writing a poem,

being original,

riding up a hill in 10th gear,

and taking wet socks off.

James, 8th grade

Slippery Things

Rocks the water of a creek runs over

Worms

and the slime of a swamp.

Catch a fish--that, too.

The words of a blabber mouth.

Sue, 8th grade

Another writing prompt came via a book her stepdaughter Berit gave to Julia one Christmas: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous & Obscure, edited by Smith Magazine, which has a whole site devoted to posts of six-word memoirs.

So the second prompt would be: write your six-word memoir! Julia cautions that it can be really difficult to get an essence of who you are so briefly.

Good luck with these prompts, and please listen next week for another!

The commemorative event that Julia and I discussed during the interview, marking the 75th anniversary of the 1937 Haitian Massacre, takes place in October. More information about that event will be available at border of lights.org

More information about Piti's band, Rise Up, Brothers, will be available soon at cafealtagracia.com

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Novelist Carol Anshaw, whose new book is Carry The One, published by Simon and Schuster.

Today's Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Carol Anshaw, who uses it in her classes in the MFA in Writing program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. The prompt actually started from an exercise in the book What If? by Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter, although Carol uses a slightly altered version. Take an event that happened in your life between the ages of 5 and 11. Write a list comprised of everything you can remember about that incident. Then make a second list: everything you don't remember. Write a story using that second list. The exercise is particularly useful for new writers, who, afterward, might better understand the process of creating fiction. Good luck with this prompt, and please listen next week for another!

Music credits: 1) "Dreaming 1″ - John Fink; 2) "Filter" - Dorset Greens (a Vermont band featuring several former South Burlington High School students).

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Vermont writer Martin Magoun, author of the poetry collection Shattered and a memoir in essays, Russian Roulette: Depression, Suicide, Medication (DRUGS), published by Wharf Rat Books.

This week's Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest Martin Magoun. "Describe the girl with the far away eyes."

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

Music credits: 1) "Dreaming 1″ - John Fink; 2) "Filter" - Dorset Greens (a Vermont band featuring several former South Burlington High School students).

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Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking.

Today's Write The Book Prompt was inspired by my conversation with Susan Cain. The tenth chapter of her book, QUIET, is called "The Communication Gap: How to Talk to Members of the Opposite Type." The chapter begins with this paragraph: "If introverts and extroverts are the north and south of temperament-opposite ends of a single spectrum- then how can they possibly get along? Yet the two types are often drawn to each other-in friendship, business, and especially romance. These pairs can enjoy great excitement and mutual admiration, a sense that each completes the other. One tends to listen, the other to talk; one is sensitive to beauty, but also to slings and arrows, while the other barrels cheerfully through his days; one pays the bills and the other arranges the children's play dates. But it can also cause problems when members of these unions pull in opposite directions." Consider this paragraph, then write a scene or a poem that includes dialogue between an introvert and an extrovert. And many thanks to Susan for permission to reprint that paragraph.

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

Music credits: 1) "Dreaming 1″ - John Fink; 2) "Filter" - Dorset Greens (a Vermont band featuring several former South Burlington High School students).

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Vermont writer Tovar Cerulli, author of The Mindful Carnivore: A Vegetarian's Hunt for Sustenance, published by Pegasus Books.

This week's Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Tovar Cerulli. Recall an experience with an animal, wild or domestic, from your childhood or teen years. Write the scene as you recall it, describing what occurred. Read your own description and consider: Are there additional layers of thought or feeling that are relevant? Do you want to work any of these into the scene? (Optional second round: Recall a more recent experience with an animal and write and consider that scene. What similarities or differences between the two scenes do you notice?)

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

Music credits: 1) “Dreaming 1″ - John Fink; 2) “Filter” - Dorset Greens (a Vermont band featuring several former South Burlington High School students).

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

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

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

Crane

Flower

Frog

WTBLogo.jpg

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Robin Hemley, author of the book Do Over! “in which a 48- year-old father of three returns to kindergarten, summer camp, the prom, and other embarrassments.” Robin will have two new books out in 2012: Reply All: Stories (Break Away Books), and A Field Guide for Immersion Writing: Memoir, Journalism, and Travel, (University of Georgia Press). You can find more information about these on Robin's website.

The sound quality of today's archive rebroadcast was not great. Not sure what happened, but a bit buzzy. So here I'm posting the old podcast as it originally ran in 2009, in hopes of providing better sound quality. The were minor differences in the intro and closing, most notably a new prompt, which I'm offering below. Thanks for your patience.

Today's Write The Book Prompt is to organize your own Do Over. Maybe it doesn't make a lot of sense for you to redo the prom, or to re-enroll in kindergarten. But perhaps you had another experience in recent weeks or months that you wish you could do over. Go back to the store where a counter person was rude and you left feeling upset. Or make plans to see a friend to whom YOU were perhaps rude, or were not your best self in some way, and you left feeling embarrassed or frustrated or uniquely human. Revisit your old school, if it's nearby, track down one of your former teachers. Maybe you gave a reading at a local open mike venue and it went poorly; try it again. See how it goes to re-approach an imperfect experience with new enthusiasm and perspective. And then write about the two events, and what you might have taken away from this exercise.

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

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

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

PhotoPrompt.jpg

Music credits: 1) “Dreaming 1″ - John Fink; 2) “Filter” - Dorset Greens (a Vermont band featuring several former South Burlington High School students).

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Author Steve Almond, whose third book of stories, God Bless America, has just come out from the Lookout Books (UNC Wilmington).

Today's Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Steve Almond, who said in our interview that he feels the path to the truth runs through shame. Think of the most shameful moment you can recall and write about it. Set up the piece so that readers will be oriented, and then write about those five or ten seconds, or that minute, of shame. Chances are, that will be a great piece of writing. As Steve put it, "You have to be willing to disclose your own stuff, you have to be willing to put it on the line."

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

Music credits: 1) “Dreaming 1″ - John Fink; 2) “Filter” - Dorset Greens (a Vermont band featuring several former South Burlington High School students).

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