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Vermont Author Kerrin McCadden, whose new chapbook is Keep This to Yourself (Button Poetry). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Kerrin McCadden. 

  • Choose 12 words you like the sound of (mostly 1-2 syllable words). Include a place name, a weather element, a geological feature, some verbs, and a garment in your list.
  • Set a timer for 7 minutes. 
  • Begin writing. Do not stop. Do not cross out anything you write. Use at least 10 out of 12 of the words on the list. You may modify word forms to fit the sentences as they emerge. If you had the word “belt” you could use “belted,” for instance.

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 Abby Frucht, whose new collection of prose poems is Maids (Matter Press)

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was inspired by my conversation with Abby Frucht. In her own book, Maids, Abby followed one poem in which, as a child, she snuggles with her mom at the end, with a poem titled “Spoons,” which does not relate directly to the concept of snuggling or "spooning." And yet, because of the relevant placement of the works in the collection, they somehow do. Abby talked about an exercise that she gives her students, encouraging them to look at the beginnings and endings of different pieces they’ve written, and see how they might choose to order a collection. This week, if you are the author of poems, stories, or essays, have a look at your pieces and consider how they might best fit together into a collection. Watch beginnings and endings for ideas, words, expressions, or intentions that somehow speak to each other. Think about how they might work in transition, from one to the other.

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 Emily Arnason Casey, whose debut essay collection is Made Holy

(Crux: The Georgia Series in Literary Nonfiction). 

This week's Write the Book Prompt was generously offered by my guest, Emily Arnason Casey, during our live conversation. It's one she's used in a recent class: write about a place you can't return to. See if you can find an object in that landscape of memory that gives you some direction or shapes your understanding of that place.

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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Sandra A. Miller, author of Trove: A Woman's Search for Truth and Buried Treasure (Brown Paper Press). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Sandra A. Miller. Read the poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, “What If You Slept?” And then use the lines as your prompt for this week:

What if you slept
And what if
In your sleep
You dreamed
And what if
In your dream
You went to heaven
And there plucked a strange and beautiful flower
And what if
When you awoke
You had that flower in your hand
Ah, what then?

In other words: what if we pulled our dreams into the world and made them a reality? What would you want to bring into the world--your physical reality--from your dreams? When Sandra shared this with a group of writers recently, the results were rich, and the experience of the participants, emotional.

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

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

*“What if you slept...” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Public Domain.

 

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Author Heidi Diehl, whose debut is Lifelines (HMH). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Heidi Diehl. Think about an event or a time that has been important in your character’s life but does not appear in the pages of your story. Write two versions of what happened. One should be 3-5 sentences, and one should be a full-fledged scene, spanning a couple of pages. If the outcome sparks something that feels important to include, than you should of course use it. But, as Heidi reminds us, even if you don’t use that particular scene in your story or novel, it can be useful as an exercise. Exploring our characters’ histories can give us a sense of who they are and help us bring them more vividly to the page.  

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 Rachel Howard, whose debut novel is The Risk of Us (HMH). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously offered by my guest Rachel Howard, and I can’t wait to try it. She says that it’s a somewhat arbitrary structure she came up with when she was teaching undergraduate creative writing at Warren Wilson College:

Write a lyric essay about one of the three great forces of life: sex, death, or love.  The essay should never name whether it is about sex, death, or love, or use the word. The essay will consist of the following sections:

* A pure description of a significant place from your past.  This could be a room, a street corner, the back of a car. Use as many concrete sensory  details as possible.  Ten sentences maximum.

* A character sketch of someone from your life.  Six sentences max.

* One short description of a song.  You may quote lyrics, but not use the words "sex," "death," or "love."  Three sentences max.

* One scene with dialogue.  Any length.

* One semi-obscure scientific fact that does not seem obviously connected to the rest of the essay (but which, metaphorically, is).  Four sentences max.

Rachel concedes that it’s an unusual exercise, but give it a try, and you may well be surprised at the experience. And after the exercise generates the rough draft, you can move sections around, and start breaking the rules to fit the emerging organic form.

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

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

N.B. A quote about trauma that I read during my interview with Rachel came from the book Beyond Consequences, Logic, and Control: A Love-Based Approach to Helping Attachment-Challenged Children With Severe Behaviors by Heather T. Forbes and B. Bryan Post.

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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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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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