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Archive for the 'Family' Category

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Author Steven Wingate, whose new novel is Of Fathers and Fire (Univ. of Nebraska Press - Flyover Fiction). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Steven Wingate. He calls it “The Endless Sentence,” and it is designed as both a loosening up exercise and a means of exploration. It requires only a timer and your favorite writing implement (analog or digital). You simply set your timer for five minutes and start writing, and everything is allowed except one single punctuation mark: the period. Steven explains that writers rely on periods instinctively to separate thoughts from each other. If our thoughts feel like they’re getting too uncontrolled or scraggly, we end one sentence and start another. But if you take that tool away from yourself, you’re forced to keep flying through your thoughts with less control than you’re used to. Steven argues that this is a good thing because it means freedom—which is essential, especially early on in a project when you’re looking for a narrator’s (or character’s) voice. When you remove the period, you slip beneath your own radar and do things that surprise yourself. This can lead you to a new understanding of characters and settings, or maybe even to self-standing flash pieces with intriguing musical or formal features (e.g., lists or recurring verbal motifs). Try this especially when you’re feeling stuck or when a writing day hasn’t gone according to plan.

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

Music: Aaron Shapiro

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A conversation with the author Joseph Kertes about his novel, The Afterlife of Stars (Little Brown). 

This week's Write the Book Prompt is to write about a mis-delivered Valentine. 

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

Music: Aaron Shapiro

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Author Linda Gartz, whose new book is Redlined: A Memoir of Race, Change, and Fractured Community in 1960s Chicago (She Writes Press). 

A number of resources Linda mentioned during our interview can be found here, on her website. 

This week I have two Write the Book Prompts to offer, both generously suggested by my guest, Linda Gartz. One is for memoir, the other for fiction. Here’s Linda’s memoir prompt: Write about an experience that has stayed in your memory, one that has meaning beyond an anecdote. Pick one: When did you feel humble, proud, ashamed, embarrassed, loved, or rejected. What made you feel that way, and what impact did that experience have on your future life, especially the way you dealt with future similar incidents or how it shaped your thinking about and behavior in life?

Here’s a prompt for Fiction writers: Imagine a character who has one of these traits… the character is: weak, kind, loving, arrogant, clueless to the impact his/her behavior has on others, or sneaky.

Write a scene in which the person demonstrates his/her character by showing actions or words, but not by labeling the behavior. (i.e. don’t say, ‘Jonathan was weak.” Create a scene that shows his weakness.)

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 Poet Rosellen Brown, whose latest is The Lake on Fire (Sarabande). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Rosellen Brown: "Use questions and answers." She has found this an intriguing way to write. She offers the Mark Strand poem “Elegy For My Father” as an example. In the poem, Strand poses a question to his father, is given an inadequate or dishonest answer, and so asks the question again, to receive a more honest answer. He does this several times with many different questions. Rosellen herself used a questionnaire to format a story in her collection Street Games, offering both standard questions like name, address, but also crazy questions, like “Have you ever wished to die at the height of the sex act?” She has found it very fruitful with students.

[Also, during our conversation, Rosellen mentioned the site S for Sentence. Seems like another great resource to check out!]

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 Sarah Ward, whose new novel is Aesop Lake (Green Writers Press). 

This week's Write the Book Prompt was generously offered by my guest, Sarah Ward. In her writing, Sarah tries to fully depict villains as well as the “good guys,” whose stories always do tend to be fully explored. In the Harry Potter series, for example, what do we really know about Malfoy? Why is he—a wealthy, privileged boy with two devoted parents—such a jerk? Write the backstory of a villain. What drives him to be a bully or a sadist? What makes her so dark, so villainous? What are your villains frightened of? What do they want?

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 Katharine Dion, whose debut novel is The Dependents, published by Little Brown.

This week’s Write the Book Prompt comes from my interview with Katharine Dion. Something that has been useful for her, and is related to the kind of stories she is interested in telling, is to look around at situations that have on first glance nothing interesting going on: a situation or setup that might at first even seem boring. Then reverse that proposition in your mind. Assume the opposite: that something fascinating is going on in the situation, or between the people you’re observing. This will give you the chance to look again at something you initially chose to dismiss. We dismiss things for all sorts of reasons, Katharine points out. Either we are fearful of what we see, or we’re made uncomfortable by it. But looking again at what we might initially dismiss can offer unexpectedly rich material.  

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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Author Veera Hiranandani, whose new young adult novel is  The Night Diary, published by Dial Books.

This week’s Write the Book Prompt, which was suggested by my guest, Veera Hiranandani, concerns point of view. Veera says that people aren’t always aware of why they are using the point of view they’ve chosen. She likes to suggest to her students that they switch both point of view and tense, as an exercise, just to see how different their work might feel. So if you’re writing a piece in the third person past tense (“she went to the restaurant,”) try changing it to the first person present tense (“I go the the restaurant”) or first person past tense (“I went to the restaurant”), just to see how that feels to you. It can offer a new way of looking at your writing that can be really interesting, even if you don’t ultimately decide to use it.

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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An interview from the archives - and from a previous radio station - with Mary R. Morgan, author of Beginning With the End, A Memoir of Twin Loss and Healing.

This week's Write The Book Prompt is to write about a person who is lost. Interpret the word "lost" in whatever way might help you as you work.

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

Music credit: Aaron Shapiro

 

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