Archive for the 'Interview' Category

American Novelist Bobbie Ann Mason, whose new novel is Dear Ann (Harper). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Bobbie Ann Mason, who exchanges prompts with her “flash-fiction co-writer buddy Meg Pokrass.” They send each other lists of interesting words with a challenge to use at least some of them in a story. 

One of their lists was: leaky, clawfoot, waddle, bonk, ribs, peace, rapier, feather pillow, steam, sherry, geraniums, skimp, booth, rabbit’s foot, diner, vitality, jet-lag, quivery, Lady Astor, punchline, kettle, bitter coffee, flub.

Bobbie wrote a flash fiction called Corn-Dog based on one of Meg’s lists, using most of these words: corn-dog, frozen, carnival, necks, Animal Planet, parcel, shorts, crisp, weed, note, thrill, stucco, cravings, wispy, unmarried, fat, laryngitis.

This week, Bobbie Ann Mason suggests that you open up a few novels from your shelf. Flip through the books and find interesting words. List a dozen or two. Then pick a word and start a story. Where does it lead you? To another word on the list? Then what? She admits that this exercise can lead into the absurd, but it’s great fun, and you might discover where you are going.

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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David Goodwillie, whose new novel is Kings County (Avid Reader Press).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by David Goodwillie. Have a character go for a walk in a city, along a country lane, or in really any place. How would that character see the world? Have the person see it in a different way than you, the author, would. David points out that all too often, we try to give characters our own traits, rather than wholly letting them be their own people. If you’re having trouble building a character, this exercise in setting and perspective can really help. 

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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Diane Cook, author of The New Wilderness (Harper), which has been long listed for the Booker Prize. 

As I mentioned early in today’s show, when I interviewed Diane Cook, her infant son could be heard in the early part of the hour. Then he went to be with his dad and his voice was no longer heard on the recording. But it got me thinking: children fill our world, but are sometimes absent from our settings. Why is that? Do they make too much noise? Would the chaos keep your scene from working smoothly? (Kind of like life?) The world is full of children, yet it sometimes seems like I see way more dogs than children in the books I read. So this week’s Write the Book Prompt is to put a baby, toddler, or child in a scene. This doesn’t necessarily mean introducing a new character. But maybe your narrator is at a coffee shop. Is there a cherubic baby in a car seat by his mom’s side at another table? Is a young child acting up? Is a teenager sitting with a friend, in ardent conversation? Keep children in mind as you build your poetic and fictional worlds.

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 and NY Times "Dark Matters" Columnist Danielle Trussoni, whose new novel is The Ancestor (William Morrow).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously offered by my guest, Danielle Trussoni, who also suggested it in a recent workshop. In a discussion of dialogue and character, Danielle suggested that her students have one of their characters, perhaps an elusive character who's hard to pin down, write an autobiographical letter of introduction to the student, to the author. Danielle says this can be a helpful way to find the voice of the character and learn more about who that person is.

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 Psychologist Bruce Chalmer whose new book is Reigniting the Spark: Why Stable Relationships Lose Intimacy, and How to Get It Back (TCK Publishing). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously offered by my guest, Dr. Bruce Chalmer. In writing about relationships, consider the scary moments as being, perhaps, the most useful to write about. Not necessarily moments when you and your partner are disagreeing, but perhaps moments when you are delighted by something and you aren’t sure if your partner is delighted, and the not- knowing is scary. Consider moments where you are looking at the possibility of intimacy. Dr. Chalmer advises, “That’s the stuff to write about.” 

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 Julia Alvarez on her new novel, Afterlife (Algonquin). 

This week I have two Write the Book Prompts to offer, both generously suggested by my guest, Julia Alvarez. First, a prompt she learned about when she was researching titles for her book. In considering the title Afterlife, she researched, as authors do, to be sure her book’s title was original and unique. As she did this work, she found out about another book titled Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives, by the neuroscientist David Eagleman. The book offers forty short, imaginative narratives on the theme of God and the afterlife. Julia says the pieces are sometimes funny, sometimes not, but they are all clever and inspiring. She suggests a writing prompt in which we write such a piece: a 2-3 page vignette that imagines what happens when we leave this life.

The second prompt Julia suggests is to write a six-word story or bio. Hemingway famously penned this one: For sale: baby shoes, never worn. Julia was once asked to contribute to a book titled NOT QUITE WHAT I WAS PLANNING: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous & Obscure, edited by Smith Magazine. As Julia points out, it can be hard to do! If you like, you can narrow it down to what your life is like in this particular year. Either way, here is a six-word prompt for you, from Julia Alvarez:  Write your story in six words. 

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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A conversation with the author Kathleen Donohoe, whose latest is Ghosts of the Missing (Mariner), a novel that follows the mysterious disappearance of a twelve-year-old girl during a town parade.

This week's Write the Book Prompt was generously offered by my guest, Kathleen Donohoe. Open a favorite poetry collection to a random page, write the first line of the poem you see there, and let that be the starting point for your writing session. Kathleen finds that, even if that first line can't stay ultimately, this can be an excellent way into new work. 

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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An interview from the archives with the author Ann Patchett about her essay collection, This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage (Harper Perennial). 

Recent impeachment coverage has me remembering that, when I was nine years old, Richard Nixon’s impeachment hearings were on the television every afternoon, pre-empting my cartoons. This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to write about a child’s perspective on some contemporary political moment.

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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Guest Host Kim MacQueen interviews local author and teacher Cinse Bonino about her new book on creativity, One Key See, One Key Do (Onion River Press).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt comes from Cinse Bonino’s new book, One Key See, One Key Do, and it’s about noticing things we usually miss. Pick something at random to notice. You could choose to intentionally pay attention to all the doorknobs and handles you encounter today, or perhaps notice all the buttons on people’s clothing. Take the time to notice something you don’t usually focus on your attention on. For instance, you could notice if the people around you, not just the ones you know, are right-handed or left-handed. Notice all the slip-on shoes. Notice all the height difference in the couples and small groups of people you encounter. Notice the things people do when other people are speaking. 

Most of all, notice what you think and do as you attempt to see more. Figure out what you do intuitively that helps you to notice more. Make a note so you can do it on purpose in the future.

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

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Author Christine Coulson, whose new novel, Metropolitan Stories (Other Press), was inspired by her time working at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

We have three Write the Book Prompts this week, all sparked by my conversation with Christine Coulson:

  • First, challenge yourself to write from the perspective of an inanimate object. Animate it. Think about how it might feel, if it could express thoughts about its current situation.
  • Next, rather than exchanging work on the page, try sharing your writing with a friend who acts as an editor for you, by reading aloud from your work and letting that person offer suggestions, after hearing it. This is how Christine Coulson and her editor at the Other Press, Judy Gurewich, worked on Metropolitan Stories.
  • Finally, imagine yourself in a famous museum or other historical building after hours. What would you do, and how would you feel?

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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New interview with Author, Poet, and former Vermont Poet Laureate Sydney Lea, whose new poetry collection is titled Here (Four Way Books). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to write a villanelle. Syd Lea and I discussed his poem, “Old Lessons,” during our conversation, and he then explained what the poem’s form consists of. But here’s a recap, thanks to the Poetry Foundation (where you can also find examples): "The villanelle is a French verse form consisting of five three-line stanzas and a final quatrain, with the first and third lines of the first stanza repeating alternately in the following stanzas. These two refrain lines form the final couplet in the quatrain."

This week, write a villanelle! See what happens as you allow yourself this very specific form to contain the ideas that come.

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

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A new interview with Carol Anshaw, author most recently of Right After the Weather (Atria). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Carol Anshaw. As we discussed during our conversation, Right After the Weather does concern violence, and it includes scenes of violence. Carol suggests tackling this in the coming week; attempt to write a violent scene. Have you ever done this before? What do you find hard about it? What comes easily? How do you approach the material? Do you have to turn away, or do you find the process a natural extension of your other writing? 

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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Bestselling Author Jane Green, whose latest is the friends we keep (Berkley).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to think back on a relationship that once meant something to you, but is no longer a part of your life. Whatever happened to that friend, cousin, teacher, neighbor? What might you have expected? Imagine a life for that person and write about it.

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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Guest Host Kim MacQueen interviews Champlain Professional Writing Alum Ian Frisch, author of Magic Is Dead: My Journey Into the World’s Most Secretive Society of Magicians (Dey Street Books).

Ian Frisch kindly offered this Write the Book Prompt for listeners: get out of your own head, out of yourself, and be on the lookout for compelling characters in your own area. A well-known character, such as the local mayor, the owner of a store, your neighbor who has lived in town for sixty years. In seeking stories for his nonfiction and journalism, Ian likes to watch for the people who can carry a narrative. Go out and listen to people's stories -- characters who embody a greater sense of purpose outside of themselves, who are reflections of things that are going on in the world. As you hear people's stories, you will understand their relevance. Talk to people, listen to their stories, and then try to translate what you've heard onto the page. 

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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Award-Winning Author J.M. Holmes, whose debut story collection is How Are You Going to Save Yourself (Little Brown).

This week I'll offer two Write the Book Prompts, both of which were generously offered by J.M. Holmes. They are based on exercises by the author Bonni Goldberg, in her book, Room to Write, which Jeff (Holmes) recommends. 

First, an exercise for writing place: choose three different songs from different musical genres and play each, taking 5-7 mins to write a scene where this music is taking place in the background. Second, for fleshing out character: write about what the person's room looks like; what does s(he) have in the closet? 

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 Poet April Ossmann, whose new collection is Event Boundaries (Four Way Books). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, April Ossmann. It’s about extended metaphor, which we discussed during the interview. April says it makes for magic in poems. Often poets use metaphor but they drop it too soon and don’t explore it deeply enough. But when you push it and continue describing using the metaphor, that’s often when you get to a moment of epiphany or discovery and you realize something. The smarter part of the brain can then teach you something. Focus on describing in specific detail and keep the event or theme in the periphery of your brain. It’s a great exercise. Pick something for a metaphor and maybe in that description, write about something that wasn’t as you expected it to be or something that happened in a way other than how you expected it to happen.

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

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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Author and cartoonist Tim Kreider, whose new collection is I Wrote This Book Because I Love You: Essays (Simon & Schuster).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Tim Kreider. When he offers prompts to his students, he tries to keep them broad so that the students can write about what they want to write about. Here is one that he has offered to spark their ideas: Write on the theme: “That’s how they get you.”

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

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

 

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American novelist and short story writer Yang Huang. Her new novel in stories is My Old Faithful, winner of the Juniper Prize for Fiction (University of Massachusetts Press).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Yang Huang. Alter the rhythm of your writing to jog your creative mind. First, work on a problematic scene by focusing closely on the language, painstakingly going over every word choice, until you make it work or realize this needs to be cut.

After a short break, return to the desk and write as fast as you can, hardly reading what you wrote. Silence the inner critic for the time being, and set your mind free. Write for an hour, until you slow down, or you want to read over the passage.

Sleep on it. Edit the passage next day and throw away any material you cannot use. Analyze the movement in your narrative. What have you discovered about the story and characters?

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

Music by Aaron Shapiro

 

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Interview from the archives with Paul Kindstedt, UVM Professor and Vermont Author of Cheese and Culture, A History of Cheese and Its Place in Western Civilization (Chelsea Green).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to find an interesting lens through which to tell a story. Today on the show, we’ve heard about the history of the world as seen through the development of cheese in various cultures. In mid-January, before joining WBTV, Write the Book featured an interview with Gregor Hens, whose new book Nicotine tells the story of his life seen through the lens of an addiction to cigarettes. What lens can you offer to tell a story in a particularly unique and engaging way?

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 Cardy Raper, whose new book is An American Harvest: How One Family Moved from Dirt-Poor Farming to a Better Life in the Early 1900s, published by Green Writers Press.

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to find an old letter, journal entry, or recording from either your own life or at the library or in an archive. Find a historical document that speaks to you in some way, and write about its significance. Either write a fictional piece, a poem, or nonfiction, letting your starting point be this documented communication.

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

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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