Archive for the 'History' Category

Best-selling nonfiction author, David Laskin, whose new book is The Family, published by Viking. David Laskin's USA Today article that he mentioned during our conversation, about the Pew Study on American Jews and religion, can be found here.

This week I have two Write The Book Prompts to offer, having to do with point of view in nonfiction. Both of these were generously suggested by my guest, David Laskin. First, describe a family crisis (death of a relative, decision to move or emigrate, wedding) from the points of view of two or three different family members. And second, write about an historic event from an intimate and specific point of view. This might be along the lines of "Where were you when JFK was assassinated?" or "What were your exact circumstances when the terrorist attacks took place on 9/11/01?" Weave together or juxtapose the personal and historic -- for example, details from daily life with memories of newscasts, tv images, and such.

Good luck with these exercises 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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1) Vermont author Susan Katz Saitoh, whose book Encounter With Japan: An Adventure In Love chronicles her mother's trip to Japan, over 50 years ago, to meet her pen pal.

2) The second WTB Book Chat with Claire Benedict, of Bear Pond Books in Montpelier. Claire talks about The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt; Karen Joy Fowler's We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves; A Tale For The Time Being, by Ruth Ozeki; My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante ; A.S.A Harrison's The Silent Wife; and Richard Russo's Elsewhere.

Today's Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my first guest, Susan Katz Saitoh: Write a story that is true but sounds like it's not true, or a story that is not true but sounds like it is true. A Japanese mime and storyteller from Massachusetts gave that as an exercise during the only storytelling workshop Susan ever attended.

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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2009 interview with Vermont Author Doug Wilhelm, whose latest novel, The Prince of Denial, came out this month. 

Today’s Write The Book Prompt is to write a story or poem in which someone runs out of gas.

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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Robert and Martha Manning, Vermont authors of Walking Distance: Extraordinary Hikes for Ordinary People, published by Oregon State University Press.

Today's Write The Book Prompt, of course, involves walking. On a piece of paper, write down a problem you've been having in your written work. You might write something very general, like setting. Or you might write something more detailed, like, Why is Melody so afraid of dogs? You might write a few lines from a poem, and then add "structure," or "line breaks," if the poem's structure has been giving you a hard time. Fold up the piece of paper and put it in your pocket. Then go for a walk. While walking, look around, enjoy the day, enjoy the beauty of the environment. Do not re-read the words while you're out. Don't focus on the problem, but let it sit in your pocket, a quiet presence that needs resolution. Then go back to your desk, right away when you get home, and start to write.

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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Interview with R. A. Harold, author of Heron Island, a Vermont mystery. Recorded in front of an audience at the South Burlington Community Library last week.

Looking for ways to enjoy National Poetry Month? Check out these Vermont resources:

As we continue to enjoy National Poetry Month, this week's Write The Book Prompt is a poetry exercise. Consider these three ways to approach writing a poem:

  • First, try flipping through a newspaper and see if any ideas come to you. Don't focus hard on FINDING a subject, just skim the paper and let your mind wander.
  • Second, possibly write about a childhood experience that has stayed with you.
  • And third, you could try either writing about a negative experience that you shared with a good friend, or a positive moment shared with an enemy or someone with whom you normally don't get along.

No matter what you choose to write about, be sure to include specific imagery and detail, and keep the five senses in mind. When you decide what to write about, write your first notes or first draft rapidly, without censoring yourself. Don't worry about structure, rhyme or grammar. Just get words on paper and see where the process takes you.

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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Local writer and public radio commentator Bill Mares, author most recently of 3:14 and Out and Brewing Change. Bill's wife, Chris Hadsel, whom he mentioned a few times during our interview, is the founder and director of Curtains Without Borders, a conservation project dedicated to documenting and preserving historic painted scenery. This week's Write The Book Prompt is to write a commentary. Choose a subject that interests you, decide what it is you want to say about that subject, and write 500 words about it. Edit the piece for concision, and read it aloud to see if it would translate well to radio. If you like it, submit it to a local station. Or submit it to Write The Book! 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 Casanova, award-winning children's author of novels and picture books, including Frozen, published by University of Minnesota Press. You can watch a trailer about the book here.

This week's Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Mary Casanova. Write about an image that has haunted you.

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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New York Times bestselling author of Girl With a Pearl Earring Tracy Chevalier, whose new book, The Last Runaway, was released on January 8th from Dutton. This week's Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Tracy Chevalier. She said that it's incredibly helpful to look closely at things and write about what you see. For example, consider quilts. Tracy explains that one thing people don't realize about quilting; it's not just the pattern of the cloth. Actual quilting is the stitching of the layers together. Those are in patterns that sometimes people don't even see. Feathers, hearts, flowers, diamonds, all sorts of things. You have to look carefully to see them. There are a lot of quilt sites out there. (Such as Keepsake Quilting, Quilting Board and Quilting 101). And there's Pinterest! Go and choose a quilt, try to see some hidden meaning in the actual quilting, and write about that. Good luck with this exercise and please listen next week for another.

During our interview, Tracy talked about the Bench By The Road Project, started by Toni Morrison. You can read more about that here.

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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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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Local Writer and Tai Chi Teacher Bob Boyd, author of Snake Style Tai Chi Chuan: The Hidden System of the Yang Family.

This week's Write The Book Prompt is some basic, helpful advice suggested by my guest, Bob Boyd: Sit down and just start putting words on paper. The process evolves. If you don't get started, Bob says, you'll never get finished. He adds that being prone sometimes helps him come up with ideas. Though if you write in your job, as he did at Burch & Co., lying down at the office can create difficulties. Bob acknowledges that everyone's different. Lying down might help some people. For others, a walk might be the relaxing activity that gets the ideas flowing. Figure out what works for you. Then, as soon as you have an idea, even if it's in the middle of the night, put something on paper. You can always get back to it later. But preserve the idea so it's waiting for you.

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, now alums).

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Interview with Middlebury College Art Professor and Photographer John Huddleston, author of Killing Ground: Photographs of the Civil War and the Changing American Landscape (2003, Johns Hopkins University Press) and Healing Ground: Walking the Farms of Vermont (2012, Center for American Places).

Today's Write The Book Prompt is actually a series of photographs included by my guest, John Huddleston, in his books Killing Ground and Healing Ground. Here you'll find photos that we specifically discuss in the interview, as well as a few others that you might likewise find inspirational. I hope these images speak to you and encourage your writing process. And, as ever, please tune in next week for another prompt.

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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1 - 3 July 1863

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

The Union Dead

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51,112 American Casualties

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

In the early afternoon of the first day, the Confederates forced the Federals to retreat from this position just north of the college.

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70,000 American Casualties

Petersburg, Virginia

Bombproof Quarters of Fort Sedgwick, a Key Position on the Eastern Union Siege Line

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15 June 1864 - 2 April 1865

Petersburg, Virginia

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27 June 1862

Gaines' Mill, Virginia

Federal dead from Gaines' Mill were photographed in 1865 after their shallow graves had been exposed.

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15, 587 Casualties

Gaines' Mill, Virginia

Center of the Battle Lines, Site of Several Unsuccessful Confederate Charges

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6 - 7 April 1862

Shiloh, Tennessee

The guns of the USS Lexington (background) shelled the Confederates throughout the evening and night of 6 April.

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23,746 Casualties

Shiloh, Tennessee

Bloody Pond. Here the wounded from both sides dragged themselves to drink and to die.

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19 May - 4 July 1863

Vicksburg, Mississippi

Bombproof Quarters on the Union Line at the Shirley House

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37,293 American Casualties

Vicksburg, Mississippi

Iraq-bound National Guardsmen at the Shirley House, July 1990

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Cows in a Stall.

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Manure Pond.

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Pods/Grass/Snow.

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Ice Columns Sculpture.

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Car Tracks on the Snow.

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Acclaimed nonfiction writer Jean Zimmerman, whose debut novel, The Orphanmaster, was published in June by Viking.

Today's Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Jean Zimmerman, who used to write only nonfiction, but has begun writing novels as well. Her work relies heavily on historical research. Jean suggests (because she loves history so much, and thinks that everyone would if they knew more about it) that writers read something historical, something about the history of some time that they're interested in - whether it's the French revolution, or colonial times ... whatever. And then sit down and write about a house from that time. Write about the exterior of the house or about the interior - one of the rooms, maybe. Don't even try to put people into it, if you don't want to. Just try to describe that house in intimate detail and see what comes out.

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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University of Vermont Professor Paul Kindstedt, author of Cheese & Culture: A History of Cheese and its Place in Western Civilization, published by Chelsea Green.

Today’s Write The Book Prompt is to write about a dining experience involving cheese. Use the words salt, linen, grated, and shadow.

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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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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Children's Writer Laurie Calkhoven, author of Michael at the Invasion of France, 1943, and other books.

Today's Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Laurie Calkhoven, who likes working on character meditations in preparation for writing. So that is your prompt for the week: meditate on your character. Begin with a simple breathing meditation, for five or ten minutes, to relax. Then picture your character walking toward you. As you imagine your character getting close enough to sit on your shoulder, ask yourself a question about the character. Laurie keeps a collection of index cards on her desk with prepared prompts for this purpose. She says the element of surprise helps keep the meditation spontaneous, so she shuffles her index cards and keeps them face down on her desk until she needs one. Then she turns one over, not letting herself see what it says before doing so. One example of what might be written on a card: your character has something in his hand; what is it? That's how she came to include a newspaper for Michael and Jacques to use in their covert activities in France. Here are a few more ideas for questions to put on your index cards: What is your character wearing? How does he walk? Does your character have any particular expression on her face? Why? What might she be reacting to? Who is your character going to meet up with and what will be the first thing he says to that person? Now you make up some of your own and try the full exercise.

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

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Vermont organic gardener and writer Ron Krupp, whose books are The Woodchuck's Guide to Gardening and Lifting The Yoke: Local Solutions to America's Farm and Food Crisis.

Today's Write The Book Prompt is to write about your eating habits or those of someone you know. You can journal about how those habits have changed for the better or worse, how education has played a role, whether organic and/or locally-grown foods are an important part of this person's diet, and why or why not.

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

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Interview from the Archives with Award-Winning Vermont Writer Howard Frank Mosher, whose new book, The Great Northern Express, comes out  March 6, 2012.

Today's Write The Book Prompt celebrates a little-known holiday. According to the Writing Instrument Manufacturers Association, which established the event in 1977, Today is National Handwriting Day, a day devoted to promoting the utilization of pens, pencils, and writing paper. January 23rd was chosen by the association because this is the birthday of John Hancock, the first person to sign the Declaration of Independence. So the prompt today is to write long hand. Write a poem, a page, or a chapter, or simply free write for a set amount of time - but do so by putting pen to paper. Let your hand experience the activity of writing, of sweeps and loops and spirals and lines.

Nathalie Goldberg, in her book, Writing Down The Bones, says that a different aspect of yourself comes out when you type. She also says that when she writes something emotional, she must write it "the first time directly with hand on paper." Handwriting, according to Goldberg, "is more connected to the movement of the heart." So this week, write something in your own handwriting.

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

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David Wojahn, Award Winning (and Pulitzer Prize Nominated) Poet, Author of the New Collection WORLD TREE, part of the Pitt Poetry Series (University of Pittsburgh Press).  Part of this collection, a series called "Ochre," can also be found (along with photographs) at the Blackbird Online Literary Journal Website.

Today's Write The Book Prompt was offered by my guest, David Wojahn. This prompt works well with poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction alike. Write a piece about a family member meeting a famous person. It can be invented or authentic. This will naturally force you to take something personal and put it in a perspective that has to do with a wider public 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 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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Ecologist and educator Amy Seidl, author of Early Spring: An Ecologist and Her Children Wake to a Warming World and Finding Higher Ground: Adaptation in the Age of Warming.

Today's Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Amy Seidl. First, read over this passage from her book, Finding Higher Ground:

"Peer into the natural world, one close at hand. Perhaps it is a city park whose paths are lined with oak or maple trees planted in the nineteenth century. Or maybe you are fortunate enough to walk in a remnant prairie with freshwater kettle ponds and migratory ducks, or an old-growth forest with trees whose gigantic trunks and canopies house thousands of species. Maybe you are walking in your own backyard, traversing an enclosed space that you've filled with daylilies, climbing roses, and garden beds filled with vegetables. All these places-the ones intended as sanctuary or refuge, the ones cultivated by gardeners, the wild places with no cultivators or patrons-all are experiencing the agitation of change."

Having read that passage, follow Amy's advice. Gaze out at the natural world-whichever one you find inspiring or, as Amy says, close at hand-and consider what you see and the adaptive realities that exist there. Now write about what you noticed, and your reactions to these observations. Were you surprised, awed, worried, impressed? Describe the changing world as you witness it, and the adaptation represented in what you've seen, and then describe how it moves you.

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

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Wendy Call, writer, editor, translator and teacher. Author of No Word for Welcome: The Mexican Village Faces the Global Economy.

This week's Write the Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Wendy Call. It's a two-step writing exercise. First, think about a place that you really love. Describe this delicious place (using as few adjectives and adverbs as possible) to someone who's never been anywhere like it. Include how it looks, how it sounds, how it smells, as well as the quality of the air and light. Next, imagine that this place has, somehow, been destroyed. Now, rewrite your description, with that terrible knowledge.

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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Originally from Vermont, Award-Winning Author and Journalist Christian Parenti, whose latest book is Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence.

This week's Write the Book Prompt was inspired by my interview with Christian Parenti. Write a nonfiction article or essay - or even just a paragraph - on a subject about which you're passionate. This subject might be climate change, women's rights, the work of a nonprofit whose mission you admire, your local school budget, an examination of various diets and their effects on health... whatever matters to you. Try to include in the piece adequate historical perspective to help readers understand the background,  an explanation of any confluence of events that might have relevance to your subject, and - as Christian Parenti said - always be sure to keep in mind the larger issues or core ideas behind the details of your story. Don't forget to read and do your research, if you hope to put this out into the world.

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

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Deborah Fennell, President of the League of Vermont Writers.

This week's Write the Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Deborah Fennell. The prompt COMBINES HER LOVES OF POETRY, PROSE, PHYSICAL EDUCATION AND WRITING. Go for a walk or a hike. As you're walking, say some words to yourself - whatever comes into your brain. Deb Fennell learned in a poetry workshop with Julia Shipley that we tend to walk in iambic pentameter. So this exercise tends to naturally bring out words in a memorable way. Be observant. When you get back inside, sit down and write at least 100 words, or for 10 minutes, whatever comes first. Don't worry about whether you're writing poetry or prose, just try to capture some of the words that came to you on your walk. Deb Fennell tries to always remember the first 8 words she'd been thinking about on her hike. If you can remember those, everything else begins to flow, helping you remember what you saw and thought about on your walk. Deb has done this in the city, and out in the woods on a trail. Because of the nature of our "iambic pentametric" strides, it's a productive way to access words in a creative 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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Pulitzer Prize Winning Author Geraldine Brooks, whose latest novel is Caleb's Crossing.

This week's Write the Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Geraldine Brooks. She keeps two poetry collections handy in her writing space, and opens them when she needs inspiration. The first is Palgrave's Golden Treasury, the second, the Norton Anthology of Poetry. Open to a random page, read a poem, and then write.

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

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Vermont writer Laban Carrick Hill, author of over thirty books, including the historical picture book, Dave the Potter, and co-director of the Writers Project of Ghana, a nonprofit based in the Ghana and the US.

This week's Write the Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Laban Carrick Hill. He describes it as an exercise about transgression. Try to write a children's picture book from the POV of a young boy whose brother was tortured and murdered during Rendition at Guantanamo. Laban explains that this might be the least likely book that would ever be written, which is what makes a good prompt. Vermont writer Laban Carrick Hill, author of over thirty books, including the historical picture book, DAVE THE POTTER, and co-director of the Writers Project of Ghana, a nonprofit based in the Ghana and the US.

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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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Novelist Jack Scully, Author of Eyewitness: Part I 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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Charles Barasch, Poet and Crossword Puzzle Creator.

This week's Write The Book Prompt is inspired by the interview you heard today with Charlie Barasch. If you enjoy crosswords, find a newspaper or website that offers puzzles that you particularly like, and solve that day's puzzle. If you don't enjoy crosswords, use an already-solved puzzle from previous days. In either case, take all the words from a solved crossword, and try to work them into a story, poem, chapter or essay.

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

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Nancy Marie Brown, author of the new nonfiction book The Abacus and The Cross, which Kirkus Reviews has called "an engrossing account of the Dark Ages and one of its Popes, both far less dark than popular histories teach" and "a lively, eye-opening portrait of a sophisticated Europe whose intellectual leaders showed genuine interest in learning."

This week's Write The Book Prompt is inspired by the interview you heard today with Nancy Marie Brown, whose book, The Abacus and The Cross, challenges common notions about life and understanding in the Dark Ages. In your work this week, try to include one thing that challenges a myth or popular conception. It can be historic, cultural, medical ...

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 Rick Jackson, winner of the Order of Freedom Medal for literary and humanitarian work in the Balkans.

Today's Write The Book Prompt is inspired by the interview you just heard with Rick Jackson, much of whose work centers on translation. I also must credit the site Numéro Cinq, from which I borrowed this exercise (from a similar one that Doug Glover posted last year). When I post this interview on the podcast site, I'll include in the description a paragraph written in Slovenian. Or, actually, written by Google Translate from a paragraph I wrote in English. Do not try to understand the words, and do not take them over to Google to see what they mean. Just study the foreign text-I presume most of you won't speak Slovenian-and let the words affect you as they will. Either translate them, not trying for actual meaning, but for the sense of something you felt as you looked at the words. Or take what you feel in studying them, and use your reaction as a jumping off point to new work.

To ni res pesem. To je točka pišem, da se odstavek v slovenščini, ponuditi pisno vajo govorijo angleško. Upam, da nihče ne bo prevedla to besedilo, ampak bo poskušala najti navdih v besedah, kljub svoji kar nima smisla, da večina Američanov. Morda bo nekaj besed pogled prepoznati ali vsaj kozarec ohlapno ideje domačnosti. Trava in ribnik in gorskih lahko podobne besede. Lepota. Ali pa bo morda besedo drevo, se zdi, kot naša beseda drevo. Ne vem. Ne govorim slovensko.

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

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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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New Hampshire Novelist Toby Ball, author of The Vaults, published by St. Martin's Press.

This week's Write the Book Prompt is inspired by my guest's novel, The Vaults. In our conversation, Toby Ball mentioned his decision to create an unidentifiable city in which to base his story. This week, study the setting of your book and decide to what extent it is identifiable, and if the geography of your work conveys all that you'd like it to convey. Perhaps, like Toby, you'd rather the place in your present piece NOT be specifically identifiable, with roads and highways that you'd find in your Garmin. Or maybe place is vital to your work, and you need to study the way you've presented it on the page, see if it adequately represents the real thing.

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

Excerpt of The Vaults read with permission from St. Martin's Press, a division of MacMillan.

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 Vermont Mathematician, Professor and Author Joseph Mazur.

This week's Write the Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Joseph Mazur. I'm including it in his words, as sent to me in an email:

You know that nonfiction writing requires the writer to bring readers to places they haven't ever been and to tell them things they have not known. In one single sentence, that is the task of the nonfiction writer. But to keep readers reading, a book must be alive with human experience. That's the job of anecdotal entrances and anecdotal relief.

Anecdotes are there to first amuse, and therefore hook the reader, and then to give clues to what the book is about.

If you are writing nonfiction, try weaving in as much anecdotal material as possible. Take a look at some of Stephen Jay Gould's books for fine examples. Gould was the king of anecdotal entrances.

There are a few principles to favor when using a leading anecdote-Bring in something that the reader can identify with, a character, a place, an object, or a brief amusement. Watch out for making it too specific-specificity has an uncanny way of creeping into the lead to defeat the hook.

I introduce each of my own books with lead anecdotes-

I came to understand mathematics by way of a Russian novel. (The first sentence in a book about truth and logic in mathematics.)

My father was the first person to tell me about paradoxes of time. (The first sentence in a book about time and motion.)

When I was a child, my uncles would gather every Saturday at my grandparents' house to sit at a long dining room table telling jokes while accounting their week' s gambling wins and losses. (The first sentence in a book about the history and psychology of gambling.)

My own high school days were the near misfortune of my teenage years. (The first sentence in a book about learning math in an inner-city high school.)

What about anecdotal relief? In most cases, relief suggests a reprieve from something burdensome. And burdensome reading is never a welcome task. However, unless it is memoir or biography, nonfiction often involves the burden of strings of complicated information that tends to swell into what sometimes seems to be disconnected from thoughts of the real world. Even the best nonfiction writers need to think about anecdotal relief just as the most indefatigable readers need respite.

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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Interview with Jay Parini, Biographer, Poet, Novelist and Essayist. Author of The Passages of H.M.

I'll leave this week's Write The Book Prompt in Jay Parini's exact words, just as you'll hear it when you listen to the interview:

If you're writing a poem, for example, it's important to have one deep image at the center of your poem. So, think of an image and really try to reinforce that image with concrete details. It works for prose as well, to begin with an image. See something. I always tell my students, in writing prose, if you're stuck, go through the senses: sight, smell, sound, taste, touch-the five senses. And try to make a gesture in the direction of each one of those senses.

Just describe a landscape. So I'm looking out the window. I say the autumn light slants across the field. I can smell the dry leaves with their mustiness. I can hear the leaves rattling. There's a cool breeze playing across my skin, which I can feel. I taste the slight acidity in the air.

And - boom - you've got a fall scene. So write for the senses and create images. Remember that an image is not just a picture but as Ezra Pound said, it's a kind of psychological and emotional complex, moving in time.

~ Jay Parini

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

Excerpt of The Passages of H.M. read with permission from Doubleday, a division of Random House, Inc.

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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Mark Pendergrast, Local Nonfiction Author of Inside the Outbreaks: The Elite Medical Detectives of the Epidemic Intelligence Service.

This week's Write The Book Prompt has to do with detail. Gustave Flaubert was so concerned with getting every detail right that he often spent days struggling to arrive at exactly the right word. In her book, Mystery and Manners, Flannery O'Connor wrote, "Fiction operates through the senses, and I think one reason that people find it so difficult to write stories is that they forget how much time and patience is required to convince through the senses. No reader who doesn't actually experience, who isn't made to feel, the story is going to believe anything the fiction writer merely tells him. The first and most obvious characteristic of fiction is that it deals with reality through what can be seen, heard, smelt, tasted, and touched."          This week, stop struggling to come up with details in your work, and just look around. Go to any corner of your house or garage or barn or place of work, and take in the details that are there. Touch that square of decorative carpet, and put into words what it feels like. Smell that candle, and write down what-if any-scent it has, and what you associate with that smell. Remember when you got that camera for your birthday, and how you were disappointed, because you'd wanted another brand? Look at that photograph of your cousin. What is he wearing? Why does he dress that way? Is his collar poking out from his jacket on one side? Is his shirt wrinkled and un-tucked? Or is he meticulous, beyond physical criticism? And if so, what does that say about him? How does that characterization fit with your experiences of being around him? This week's prompt is about re-educating yourself in the art of noticing details, so that you might more easily access them as you work.

A COPY OF THIS PROMPT WILL BE INCLUDED in the description to this week's Podcast. Good luck with this exercise and please listen next week for another.

Excerpt from Mark Pendergrast's Inside The Outbreaks 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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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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Vermont author Jon Clinch, author of the new novel, Kings Of The Earth.

This week’s Write The Book Prompt is inspired by the interview you heard today with Jon Clinch. As we discussed, his novel, Kings Of The Earth, proceeds in a somewhat  non-linear fashion with various characters describing events as they experience them. So consider your own work, think about how you might structure it differently. If the work is chronological, could you present it backwards? Or in a circular pattern? Could you present it by seasons, or all in a single day? Play around with ideas to see if an alternate structure appeals to you.

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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Howard Norman, award-winning novelist of The Northern Lights, The Bird Artist, The Museum Guard, The Haunting of L, and Devotion. His latest is What Is Left The Daughter.

This week's Write The Book Prompt is inspired by Howard Norman's work. At one point during our talk, he mentioned that the bifurcation of place in his novels creates multiple emotional counterpoints that appeal to him. As his characters move between two or more places, he as the author needs to reestablish their lives, or shift everything, and this can be interesting. He also said, "One doesn't sit around thinking about these things, except in ways that might be instructive." And so, to the extent that it might be instructive or interesting, your prompt this week is to consider introducing a second setting into your work. If you already have a storyline that takes place between two settings, study the work you've done and consider the ways in which you've created multiple counterpoints for your characters and their story. If your narrative takes place in a single setting, consider what might change for the work if you were to introduce a second place. It might not make sense, but think about it. See if this could create an interesting shift in your story, novel or prose poem.

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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