Archive for the 'Judaism' Category

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Evan Fallenberg, author of The Parting Gift, which came out last week in paperback (Other Press). 

In a review of The Parting Gift, the Jerusalem Post called the book “Intoxicating…Fallenberg is a fearless writer; particularly on the vulnerability and rawness of desire. His crisp taut sentences compel us to keep reading.” This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to write about vulnerability, either in your own life or in that of a character. Perhaps this has to do with exposure, the telling of secret. Perhaps it’s about actual physical danger. What is at stake? As you work, keep in mind the appreciation of Evan’s crisp taut sentences. Play around with concision in your own writing as you work to convey vulnerability. 

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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An interview with Sharon Cameron, author most recently of The Light in Hidden Places (Scholastic Books).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Sharon Cameron, who finds the availability of online oral histories fascinating and invaluable as she works. She suggested, as an exercise, finding oral histories--immigrant stories, personal experiences from wars, and interviews--on youtube or in university collections, among other places. Listen and, if you’re lucky, watch these oral histories and create a story out of what you learn. Overlay your own creativity atop these stories. She warns that this is simply a good exercise, and it’s important to choose the right stories to tell, if you plan to take them public. Use this exercise to stretch your writing muscle. 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 York Times bestselling author Pam Jenoff, whose latest novel is The Orphan's Tale (MIRA).

For today's Write the Book Prompt, Pam Jenoff kindly suggested that writers check out Nathalie Goldberg's "First Thoughts" freewriting exercise. I found a copy of the exercise online here, but investing in the original book,Writing Down the Bones, would be a good idea for any writer. It's a wonder, full of great ideas.

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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2011 interview with Joan Leegant, author of the story collection, An Hour in Paradise and the novel that we discuss in the interview, Wherever You Go, both published by W.W. Norton & Co.


This week's Write the Book Prompt is to write a scene or poem or paragraph backwards. It can be a piece that you're stuck on, something you're trying to revise, something you've yet to attempt. Consider how you would normally go about writing it and write it "backwards." Let this mean whatever makes the most sense for you. Is your structure chronological? Change the flow of time. Would you normally introduce your characters in a certain order? Change that order. Would you setting begin indoors and move outdoors? Swap that. Write it backwards, and see if this opens up anything interesting for 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 former South Burlington High School students).

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Interview from the archives with Evan Fallenberg, writer, translator and director of fiction for the Shaindy Rudoff Graduate Program in Creative Writing at Bar-Ilan University near Tel Aviv. Author of the novels Light Fell and When We Danced on Water


This week's Write the Book prompt is to observe people in a public place - a restaurant, an airport, a library, a coffee shop - and make a list of people's gestures that you can later use in your work. Authentic, original gestures will enliven your work, so that your characters don't spend every scene fiddling with that same pair of reading glasses. 

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 author Jacob Paul, whose new novel, A Song of Ilan, was published this spring by Jaded Ibis Press. 

Patrick Nolan, Vice President, Editor-in-Chief and Associate Publisher of Penguin Books, which is celebrating its 80th anniversary.

This week’s  Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my first guest, Jacob Paul, who in 2014 collaborated with friends Sarah Martin and Adam Moser to create a project titled Home for an Hour. Moser invited seven couples to each spend an hour by themselves in his apartment in Greensboro, North Carolina. The couples were encouraged to do whatever they wanted, with no one watching. Meanwhile, outside on the snowy lawn, Jacob Paul sat with his laptop, composing a fictional narrative about each of them. In one of his resulting stories, a participant meditates on the meaning of the word common; another story presents an imagined conversation between two people as  they sit in the apartment, drinking a box of wine. None of the stories was revised before being collected into the Home for an Hour book. So the prompt for this week, generously offered by Jacob Paul, is to have a friend or friends go do something that you can’t watch and, in real time, while they’re doing it, write a fictional documentary account of what they might be doing.

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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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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A 2010 interview with Jacob Paul, author of Sarah/Sara, published by IG Publishing.

This week's Write The Book Prompt is to write a set of instructions for one character to relay to another in dialogue. For example, how to build a fire, how to cook a chicken, how to set a spider free without hurting it.

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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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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Evan Fallenberg, writer, translator and director of fiction for the Shaindy Rudoff Graduate Program in Creative Writing at Bar-Ilan University near Tel Aviv. Author of the novels Light Fell and When We Danced on Water.

Today's Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Evan Fallenberg, who says this is a good exercise for writing minor characters. When we create character, we traditionally access four methods of (direct) presentation: action, appearance, speech and thought. Take a character you know very well: yourself. Come up with one idea each, or four ideas total, that might best describe you, considering those four methods of presentation. Each one idea has to be the most perfect representation of you as a minor character, helping a reader understand the essence of who you are. How can I describe my appearance with one single idea? What action is a truly representative action of how I might behave? With speech, consider those verbal tics that we all have, and pick a perfect example. For thought, write down that thing you would think but would never dare to say. Then take the exercise a step further. Take these four ideas, and craft them into a single paragraph, introducing a character who may only be in your story for a single paragraph.

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

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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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Acclaimed Author of Poetry, Fiction and Creative Nonfiction, Rosellen Brown.

This week's Write the Book Prompt is to write from the perspective of someone you find in a news story. Read to learn about what's happening in the world, in the country, in your town. Find a story that interests you, familiarize yourself with all the details, and then write from the perspective of a person in that story. For example, how might you represent the perspective of the driver who whisked Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier from the airport to the Karibe hotel in Port-au-Prince, Haiti last night. Imagine this person's role in the unfolding events, and write from his or her perspective.

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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Jacob Paul, author of the new novel, Sarah/Sara, published by IG Publishing.

This week's Write The Book prompt was inspired by the work of my guest, Jacob Paul. Write a scene or a poem in which a small conflict is resolved through action, even adventure. So, for example, a character who is a little hungry but has no money tries to steal a candy bar from a convenience store. A character who was once pick-pocketed witnesses a purse snatching and plays some role in interrupting the crime. A character who longs for warm weather goes skiing. This doesn't need to be an enormous inner conflict or Job-like act of valor. But use action to impact conflict in some small 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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Interview with Tanya Lee Stone, Vermont author of picture books, novels and nonfiction books for children, young readers and teens. Her latest is Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared To Dream.

Prompt: This week's Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Tanya Lee Stone. Write about an embarrassing moment, without revealing the actual event that caused the embarrassment.

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 Philip Graham, fiction and cnf writer and co-founder of the journal Ninth Letter. Prompt: This week's Write The Book Prompt is inspired by a passage from Philip Graham's new book, The Moon, Come to Earth, published by The University of Chicago Press. The following is the book's first paragraph, from the essay titled "I Don't Know Why I Love Lisbon."

The grilled sardines lying on my plate are much larger than the stunted little things packed in tins which go by the same name in the U.S., and their eye sockets stare up at the ceiling, where hanging light fixtures are shaped like gourds. The aroma of sardines led me here, the scent sharp at first as it hit the nose (perhaps too sharp), until the smoky complexities took over, akin-at least for me-to a bouquet of wine. I take another sip from my glass of vinho verde and peer up at the small square of the TV perched on a high shelf beside the restaurant's open door. The screen displays a smaller green rectangle of a soccer pitch, with the even smaller figures of the players racing back and forth.

Consider the middle passage, about the aroma of sardines, their sharp scent and smoky complexity, and how the passage is enriched by the details of scent. In your work, have you remembered to include smells? This week, look at heightening the power of description by way of scent. From perfume to overcooked eggs, pine needles to paint thinner. Be sure to let the smells into your writing, to present a richer, fuller presentation of the world you're trying to convey. Good luck with this exercise and please listen next week for another... Music credits: 1) “Dreaming 1″ - John Fink; 2) “Do Lado De Cá Do Mar” - Mario Laginha

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Interview with Novelist and Middlebury College Professor Robert Cohen

Prompt: This week's Write The Book Prompt is inspired by the interview you heard today with Robert Cohen. First, let me remind you of a sentence of prose from his latest book, Amateur Barbarians: "The room, the very world, seemed a vast expectant place, like a house in the aftermath of a party." During our conversation, Robert said, "Metaphor is a kind of muscle; the more you exercise it, the more it starts to flex on its own."  He also suggested that, in writing metaphor, it's important to find "the right cast of mind for a particular character." For example, in his novel, Amateur Barbarians, Teddy, the more conventional, middle-class character, is more likely to see the metaphor about the house than Oren, who has never settled down. As Robert explained it in our interview, Oren is "a renter, not an owner," so he'd be less likely to recognize or conceive of the metaphor about the house.

As you write this week, play with metaphor. And consider Robert Cohen's advice. Work to find metaphors that are apt not only for the material, but for the character whose perspective is being presented.

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 best-selling author Anita Diamant.

Prompt: Today’s Write The Book Prompt was inspired by my guest, Anita Diamant, whose fiction is often based on “found stories” and historical events. Navigate to the Library of Congress’ “Today In History Site”  ( http://lcweb2.loc.gov/ammem/today/ ) Read about this day in history, keeping your mind open about how you could create a fictional character who might have participated in or witnessed the event of the day. Then write a scene featuring that character. Here’s an example:

On Sunday March 7, 1965, about six hundred people began a fifty-four mile march from Selma, Alabama to the state capitol in Montgomery. They were demonstrating for African American voting rights and to commemorate the death of Jimmie Lee Jackson, shot three weeks earlier by a state trooper while trying to protect his mother at a civil rights demonstration. On the outskirts of Selma, after they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge, the marchers, in plain sight of photographers and journalists, were brutally assaulted by heavily armed state troopers and deputies.

Given this historical moment, would you choose to write a scene from the perspective of a bystander, a marcher, from Jackson’s mother, from the state trooper who shot Jimmie Lee Jackson? Perhaps from the viewpoint of a photographer? Use this moment in history as a starting point. Honor the sacrifices of  the past by re-imagining it in your fiction. 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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