Archive for the 'Grief' Category

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Author Amy Bonnaffons, whose debut novel is The Regrets (Little Brown).

This week's Write the Book Prompt is to head over to the site Amy Bonnaffons co-founded, 7x7.la, and browse for inspiration. Offering "interdisciplinary collaboration, each 7×7 invites one visual artist and one writer to engage in a two-week creative conversation." Lots to enjoy, and surely lots of inspiration for new work there as well. 

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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Interview from the archives with Author Gary Kowalski, about his 2012 book Goodbye, Friend: Healing Wisdom for Anyone Who Has Ever Lost a Pet (New World Library).

This week's Write the Book Prompt is to write about an unexpected interaction with an animal to which (to whom?) you have no personal ties.

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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YA graphic novelist Marika McCoola, whose book Baba Yaga's Assistant (Candlewick) won a New England Book Award last year, and Marie Lu, best-selling author of the Legend Trilogy and the Young Elites Series, including her latest, The Rose Society (Putnam Books for Young Readers). My interview with Marika McCoola took place in front of an audience at the Chronicle Book Fair in Glens Falls, NY. 


This week’s Write The Book Prompt is a character development exercise suggested by Marie Lu. List a character’s greatest strengths as well as what that person most values. Then write about one single behavior or action that this character would never ever undertake. Finally, list that character’s greatest weaknesses. After you have your lists, write a scenario where the character must do that one thing he or she would never ever do. What circumstance would force this character to cross that line and how does he or she respond to the circumstance, in a larger way?

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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Vermont author Stephen P. Kiernan whose new novel is The Hummingbird, published by William Morrow.

So let’s say we wanted to put some pressure on that paragraph, above. What if we were to rewrite it, putting some pressure on the language, making it leaner, and getting that last word, “widow,” onto the previous line? I’m going to have a go.

There! I took it from 13 lines to 10, and did remove that widow, which was, ironically, the word “widow.” Now you try it with your own prose. 

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


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Archive interview with Cathy Ostlere, Canadian Author of the memoir Lost and the recent YA novel in verse, Karma.

This week’s  Write The Book Prompt is to write about a friend you’ve known for a very long time, but imagine meeting that person now, instead of all those years ago. Would you have as much in common? Would you encounter each other in a very different way? What might happen?  

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, now alums). 

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Vermont writer Jessica Hendry Nelson, author of the memoir If Only You People Could Follow Directions, and co-founder of the Renegade Writers' Collective.


This week’s  Write The Book Prompt was recommended by my guest, Jessica Hendry Nelson. “Write a letter of apology of which you don’t mean a word.”

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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Author Carolyn Conger, PhD, whose new book is Through The Dark Forest: Transforming Your Life in the Face of Death, published by Plume.

This week’s Write The Book Prompt is one of many exercises that appear in my guest, Carolyn Conger’s book: Through The Dark Forest. She has generously agreed to let me include it here. This exercise is called Expansion, Contraction, or Balance? The questions in the exercise are designed to speak most directly to people who might be facing death more imminently, but you can adjust them to your own situation. Ultimately, of course, we can all benefit from considering what the end of our lives will look like, and living a full life for as long as we can.

This exercise is meant to initiate a meaningful inquiry into being present. Take out your journal and write about how you are experiencing the rhythms of your life. Address these questions and add whatever comes to mind about keeping your life big. Accept what you discover without judgment.
  • Is there anywhere in my life I’m hiding, giving up, or disappearing into my illness?
  • When do I feel most alive, most fully myself?
  • Are there areas of my life where I want to be more present?
  • Are there times in my life--perhaps during medical procedures--when it’s appropriate not to be aware and present?
  • Do I feel a balance in the amount of time I’m in expansive states, neutral states, and contractive states?
  • What do I feel about the idea of being present for my own death?

There are no correct answers to these questions. You are exploring your rhythms of awareness in your life now, and noticing how, when and where you are present. You have the right to make these choices, and it’s healthier to make conscious choices about what you are doing, rather than falling into automatic behavior. 
      ~ Excerpt From Through the Dark Forest: Transforming Your Life
            in the Face of Death, by Carolyn Conger, published by Plume.

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

Music credits:  1) “Dreaming 1″ - John Fink; 2) “Filter” - Dorset Greens (which was a Vermont band in 2008, featuring several South Burlington High School students, now grads.)

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Award-winning Vermont author Howard Norman, whose latest book is a memoir: I Hate To Leave This Beautiful Place, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. This interview was a co-production with RETN in Burlington. The television interview can be viewed at their website, retn.org, and on YouTube.

My earlier interview with Howard Norman can be heard
 here.

Today’s Write The Book Prompt is inspired by my interview with Howard Norman, and his memoir I Hate To Leave This Beautiful Place. As we discussed during the interview, for a period in his life, Howard Norman worked in the northwest territories, collecting and translating Inuit folk tales. The prompt this week is to write an original folk tale. Here's a definition of folk tale:

  1. A tale or legend originating and traditional among a people or folk, especially one forming part of the oral tradition of the common people. 
  2. Any belief or story passed on traditionally, especially one considered to be false or based on superstition. (dictionary.com)

So with that as a start, write a folktale!

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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Vermont Poet Laureate Sydney Lea, whose tenth collection of poems, I Was Thinking of Beauty, is now available from Four Way Books. Skyhorse Publishing has just published A North Country Life: Tales of Woodsmen, Waters and Wildlife. This interview is also available to watch, thanks to production by RETN, the Regional Educational Technology Network in Burlington, VT.


Today's Write The Book Prompt is to write a poem that involves a recollection of an old friend, and a reaction to the natural world.
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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Roxana Robinson, author of five novels and three collections of short stories. Her latest novel is Sparta, published June 4th by Sarah Crichton Books.

Today's Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Roxana Robinson. The first exercise she always offers to her students is this: write one page, no more, and include two voices and a conflict: nothing but dialogue, and no description. She says what comes from this setup is always interesting. With only dialogue and conflict, the writer naturally supplies everything the reader needs to understand.

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

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

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The Reverend Gary Kowalski, author of bestselling books on animals, nature, history and spirituality. We discuss two of his latest: Goodbye Friend: Healing Wisdom For Anyone Who Has Ever Lost A Pet and Blessings of the Animals.

During the interview, Gary recited the poem, The Peace of Wild Things, by Wendell Berry. Unfortunately, due to licensing concerns, I can't air Gary's recitation. But you can find the poem here.

Today's Write The Book Prompt is inspired by advice that Gary Kowalski offers in his book, Goodbye Friend: Healing Wisdom For Anyone Who Has Ever Lost A Pet. This is a quote from the book:

I usually counsel those who are grieving to employ the power of words by writing a eulogy for the one they love. The term itself means "good words," for a eulogy attempts to sum up the qualities that made another person memorable and worthy of our care. In the case of an animal, a eulogy could take the form of a letter, a poem, or a memoir that reflects on the traits that made that creature most endearing or stamped it with a special personality.

This week's prompt, then, is to write a eulogy. It can be in remembrance of a pet, or of a person. It can even be a fictional or poetic eulogy for a character you're writing about, an historical figure, someone you never met. After you've written it, follow Gary's advice and read it aloud. Particularly if you've written a eulogy for a person or creature you're truly grieving, reading the words aloud may help you more than you'd imagine.

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

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

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Mary R. Morgan, author of Beginning With the End, A Memoir of Twin Loss and Healing.

This week's Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Mary R. Morgan. It might best help writers who are working with difficult personal material. Mary was able to begin her book, and handle all the emotions she had to work through to write about the loss of her twin, Michael, by holding a little spiritual ceremony at the beginning and at the end of each writing session. She made a small altar, and she held the work in a kind of sacred place which she could then make an ending to whenever she finished writing. This helped her to keep all of those emotions and difficult memories from overtaking her life. She says, "It was very beautiful. I found when I had to go back to that journey, I had to really reconnect with those feelings. And that was difficult, and so doing that in a spiritual context was very helpful. I asked for inspiration and protection and I voiced my gratitude for the ability ... to do this." Mary says that a lot of the inspiration for her ceremony came from the work she had already done in the natural world. She received a lot of spiritual comfort from this approach to her writing time. This week, and perhaps going forward, if you find it helpful, create a ritual that embraces your writing time. You don't need an altar, and you don't need to follow Mary's or anyone else's specific path, but try to find your own way to celebrate your work this week, marking it with a protective and inspirational ceremony.

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

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

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2009 Interview with Vermont writer and Middlebury professor, Robert Cohen, author of Amateur Barbarians.

This week, I'm helping my stepson and his wife move to their new home. So I'm spending a lot of time in their old home, emptying it of boxes, food, pots, pans, paper towels ... you get the drift. So this week's Write The Book Prompt is to write about an empty house.

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 South Burlington High School students)

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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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2009 interview from the archives with award-winning poet Natasha Sajé.

Today's Write The Book Prompt is to draft an essay for the New York Times Modern Love column. Their submission guidelines include the following advice: "The editors of Modern Love are interested in receiving deeply personal essays about contemporary relationships, marriage, dating, parenthood...any subject that might reasonably fit under the heading Modern Love. Ideally, essays should spring from some central dilemma the writer has faced in his or her life. It helps if the situation has a contemporary edge, though this is not essential. Most important is that the writing be emotionally honest and the story be freshly and compellingly told." So draft an essay for the column. Set it aside for a week. And then decide what, if anything, you might want to do with it. Revise and perfect it and send it to the NY Times. Or take the material you put into that draft and turn it into a poem or a story or a new aspect of another work in progress. Or maybe you won't want to take it further. But the act of creating that first draft is your prompt for this week.  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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Timothy D. Wilson, the Sherrell J Aston Professor of Psychology at the University of Virginia and author of Redirect: The Surprising New Science of Psychological Change, published by Little, Brown.

Today's Write The Book Prompt was offered by my guest, Timothy D. Wilson, who suggests that writers listen to people talking on their cell phones. People will say the most bizarre, intimate things in front of others often, when they're on the phone. Take something they're saying, and just imagine what the larger story is. Use that as a prompt to tell that person's story or some other story. Dr. Wilson and his daughter collect sentences they overhear in this way - obviously it's a one-sided conversation and the context is hard to discern, which makes this a fun exercise.

Another possibility for a prompt this week is to try the Pennebaker writing exercise that Timothy Wilson explains in his book. Full directions about trying the exercise can be found at James W. Pennebaker's website at The University of Texas, Austin.

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 former South Burlington High School students).

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Joan Leegant, Award-winning Author of Stories and the Novel, Wherever You Go, published by Norton.

Today I have two Write The Book Prompts to suggest, both of which were generously offered by my guest, Joan Leegant. First, write titles: maybe ten of them. Pick one, and start writing. Let the title you've come up with and chosen be the impetus that feeds what you write. Joan's second suggestion is to read someone else's book for an hour and then write ten first lines of your own. Pick one, and go from there. Reading another book first will put your mind into the language of fiction, and can help to feed the first lines you write.

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 former South Burlington High School students).

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Award-winning Crime and Mystery Author Megan Abbott, whose latest novel is The End of Everything.

This week's Write the Book Prompt was suggested by my guest Megan Abbot. Select a long paragraph from a favorite book-Megan mentioned doing this with a section from the Great Gatsby-break it down and look at the sentence structure. Then rewrite the paragraph, keeping only each word's part of speech. Create a paragraph that works within a project of yours, trying to adhere (at least at first) to the original flow. You can change it in revision to work within your piece. But doing this first will bring out a new cadence or rhythm.

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 author Margot Livesey about her latest book, The House On Fortune Street.

This week's Write the Book Prompt is to describe a place you know very well from the perspective of a narrator who has never been there and has only just arrived. The place can be a city, a village, a house, a farm, a specific room-whatever you like.

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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Bestselling Novelist Heidi Durrow, Author of The Girl Who Fell From The Sky.

This week's Write The Book Prompt was inspired by the work of my guest Heidi Durrow. In the interview, she spoke about the difference between writing short fiction, which tends to find endings and closure, and longer fiction, which needs to open up possibilities that lead into the next part of the novel. This week, write about a character who witnesses something extraordinary. First, write a 500-word story about the situation, in which you offer closure. Then write 500 words that might belong within a longer work of fiction-a chapter that asks questions and opens up the situation for further exploration.

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

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Cathy Ostlere, Canadian Author of the memoir Lost and the recent YA novel in verse, Karma.

This week's Write The Book Prompt was inspired by the work of my guest Cathy Ostlere, whose new novel, Karma, is written in verse. Look through your creative writing file on the computer or in the bottom of your desk drawer and pull out an idea you've previously shelved, thinking it wouldn't amount to anything. Now look at it anew, and consider what might happen if you were to develop a certain character whose life or situation might be relevant to this idea by working in verse. You can try rhyming verse, or simply play with rhythms. See if something new comes out of that idea simply because you're playing with words in a different way.

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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Nonfiction Author Susan Kushner Resnick, whose latest book is Goodbye Wifes and Daughters, published by University of Nebraska Press.

This week's Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest Susan Kushner Resnick, who occasionally assigns this exercise to her students. Describe a loved one's body part. For example, describe your brother's eyebrow. Or your best friend's teeth. This allows you to get very specific and paint a small, detailed picture about someone you know well.

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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Scientist and Memoir Writer Cardy Raper, Author of Love, Sex & Mushrooms: Part 2 of a 2-Part Interview With New Vermont Writers.

This week's Write The Book Prompt is inspired by National Libraries Week. The state slogan for this year's celebration is: "Vermont Libraries can take you anywhere." This week, find inspiration at a local library. Go sit in the reading room, people watch, chat with the librarian. Browse the shelves. Browse any fliers, posters or announcements in the lobby. Find out what online services your local library provides, and then browse those sites. Keep your mind open and your pen ready. Then write.

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

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Interview with Julie Metz, graphic designer and author of the memoir Perfection.

This week's Write the Book Prompt comes to us from a listener in Westford, Vermont. Mark Peloquin writes that he's had good luck with this prompt:

Describe your room as a child.  Describe why you felt safe there or perhaps, why you did not.  Describe what you would see when you looked out the window or through the key hole. Describe any things that were on the walls and why there were significant.

Good luck with this prompt, many thanks to Mark for sending it, and please listen next week for another.

Excerpt of Perfection read with permission from Hyperion Books.

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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Novelist Colum McCann, author of Let The Great World Spin, Winner of the 2009 National Book Award.

This week's Write the Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Colum McCann. When I described this part of the show and asked if he had any prompts or advice to share, he said (and I quote):  "My prompt is: Poetry Poetry Poetry Poetry Poetry Poetry Poetry ... Poetry." Then he added, "And learn from the masters. We get our voices from the voices of others. There's a sort of mitosis that goes on there. So listen to the great ones, imitate them, and develop your own voice."

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 Louella Bryant, author of While In Darkness There Is Light.

This week's Write the Book Prompt is pretty straightforward. If you tend to love the holidays, write about your worst holiday memory ever. And if you don't enjoy the holidays, write about your best.

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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Vermont Poet Pamela Harrison, author of the new collection, Out of Silence.

This week's Write the Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Pamela Harrison.  In her creative writing classes, she will sometimes ask students to read and study Archibald McLeash's Poem "Eleven," which captures a particular time in the intellectual and emotional life of an eleven year old boy. He is asked by the adults in his life to "think, think, think!" But he's not ready to think. He's still living deep inside his body. He hasn't arrived at his intellectual capacities yet and hasn't awakened to his separate self. The poem, says Pamela, beautifully captures that time in the life of a child.

Your prompt this week is to find the poem "Eleven" and read it. Look at each line as it develops. Then find or remember a place in your own life that was your hideaway, your safe place as a child, where you were most alive inside your body and where you had a sense of wholeness; then write. It's amazing, says Pamela, what this exercise inspires in her students.

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

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Jon Turner, Vermont Veteran, Poet, Paper Maker and Warrior Writers Member.

This week, instead of a Write the Book Prompt, I'm going to refer you to the Warrior Writers' blogspot. There, alongside regular blog entries, you'll find weekly writing prompts, poetry forms, and occasional shared work.

Please listen next week when the Prompt will return.

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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Ann Hood, author of fiction, essays and memoir, most recently of the novel The Red Thread, published by W.W. Norton and Co.

This week we have two Write The Book Prompts, both suggested by Ann Hood. The first is to write your autobiography in 500 words. And the second is to find a copy of Sandra Cisnero's very short story, "My Name," which was part of her book, The House On Mango Street. Read that, and then write the story of your own name. Or, if you're working on a piece of fiction, write the story of your character's name.  Ann says that these exercises have proven very useful in classes that she's taught and that they really help details of character to emerge. Due to copyright laws, I can't reproduce Sandra Cisneros' lovely vignette, My Name, on my podcast site. But if you google it, you'll probably find a copy floating out there in the world. Or, hey! Buy it! Writers supporting writers: always a good idea.

Good luck with these exercises and please listen next week for another.

Excerpt from Ann Hood's novel The Read Thread read 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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