Archive for the 'Memoir' Category

Episode from the archives with author and librarian Josh Hanagarne [The World's Strongest Librarian, Avery], as well as a short book chat with Bear Pond Books co-owner Claire Benedict. 

This week's Write the Book Prompt is to write about a tool or machine that is being used in a way other than was originally intended. 

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 2013 with the author Anne Lamott, who that year co-authored (with her son, Sam) Some Assembly Required: A Journal of My Son's First Son (Riverhead).

This week's Write the Book Prompt is to consider: How would you spend your birthday if, as Anne was during our conversation, you were on a book tour? 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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Sandra A. Miller, author of Trove: A Woman's Search for Truth and Buried Treasure (Brown Paper Press). 

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

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

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

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

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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

 

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Award-winning author of books for young readers, Laurie Halse Anderson. Her latest is a memoir in verse, Shout (Viking). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Laurie Halse Anderson. If you were to write about a secret you’d never shared, what would you write?

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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Mitchell S. Jackson, Award-Winning Author of Survival Math: Notes on an All-American Family (Scribner). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Mitchell S. Jackson. Write your own answer to the question, what is the toughest thing you have survived? Write it in the second person; Mitchell says this might make you think about the experience in a different way.

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

 

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Interview from the archives with Vermont Author and Poet Julia Alvarez about her book, A Wedding in Haiti (Algonquin Books). This show was originally broadcast on RETN and WOMM-LP "The Radiator" in 2012.

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to write about a wedding through the eyes of the photographer, the caterer, or the officiant. 

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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Interview with former Vermont Governor Madeleine May Kunin about her memoir, Coming of Age: My Journey to the Eighties (Green Writers Press).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to write about a transition from one era to another in your own life, as Madeleine May Kunin has written about her journey to the eighties. Are you a new teenager? A new parent? Have you recently gone through menopause? Have you retired? We are all forever going through transitions, but how often do we write about these changes in our lives, minds, bodies? 

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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Kim MacQueen interviews Writer and Food Expert Hannah Howard, whose memoir, Feast: True Love in and Out of the Kitchen, was published earlier this year by Little A.

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to write about someone who tries to pass off a dish as something he or she actually cooked, when that is not the case.

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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Guest host Kim MacQueen interviews Shozan Jack Haubner,

Zen monk and author. His latest book is Single White Monk (Shambalah).

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      Kim MacQueen

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by Kim’s and my guest, Shozan Jack Haubner. Sit in a quiet, comfortable way for ten to fifteen minutes. Put your attention on your soft, flowing breath. Do nothing but breathe. It's easy as long as you don't think too much. Breathing is a pleasurable sensation; peace and focus, manifest in the body and mind. If you can't loosen and open up you can't write jack squat. Words surface of their own accord from a deep and bottomless well. And don't glance at your clock! Set a timer. When the timer goes off, take your pen and your writing notebook (or, if you must, your laptop), and write what's coming up from the silence. Don't think about it, just like you didn't think about your breathing. Like breath, the words will come whether you think about them or not. Write until your hand aches without reading a word of it until you've taken a break, gotten your coffee, checked your email (if you must), and are ready to listen to yourself on the page as uncritically as a mother listens to her child learning to speak.

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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Ann Hood - Interview #473 (9/18/17)

Bestselling Author Ann Hood, whose new memoir is Morningstar: Growing Up with Books (W. W. Norton & Company). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously offered by my guest, Ann Hood. It is based on an exercise with which she has had good luck, from the craft book, What If? by Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter. The exercise is called write a story using a small unit of time. And that’s just what you do. Write a story and ensure that it takes place within the time it takes to bake a cake, or walk to school, or drive to the airport. Contain the story within a specific period of time in order to challenge yourself to fully craft a narrative arc without using years in your characters’ lives to develop that arc: a beginning, a middle, an end. An opportunity for your character to experience some change.

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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Interview with Gregor Hens, author of Nicotine, out this month from The Other Press

This week's Write the Book Prompt is to write about denying yourself something you love.

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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Vermont writer Martin Magoun, author of the poetry collection Shattered and a memoir in essays, Russian Roulette: Depression, Suicide, Medication (DRUGS), published by Wharf Rat Books.

 

This week's Write the Book Prompt is to peek into a car that is not your own, and create a story based on what you see. What's in the back seat? Is it neat, messy, full of cans, full of books? Are there crumbs on the seat? Is there a car seat? Who owns this car, and what's their story?

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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Author Zoe Zolbrod, author of The Telling: A Memoir (Curbside Splendor). 

This week's Write the Book Prompt, generously suggested by my guest, Zoe Zolbrod, is to write about telling a secret. Perhaps the first time you told an important secret of your own.

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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Posted in WritingPoliticsActivismCreative NonfictionMeditationNonfictionEnvironment,FoodNatureHistoryMemoirFarmingEssaysHealthgardening on Mar 15th, 2012

Vermont writer Tovar Cerulli, author of The Mindful Carnivore: A Vegetarian's Hunt for Sustenance, published by Pegasus Books.

Tovar Cerulli's website bio describes him as having had an "outdoorsy" boyhood. This week's Write The Book Prompt is to write about an outdoorsy experience. 

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 Angela Palm, whose new book, Riverine: A Memoir from Anywhere but Here, received the 2014 Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize (Graywolf Press, Aug. 2016). Palm is the editor of a book featuring work by Vermont writers, called Please Do Not Remove (Wind Ridge Books, 2014). She has taught creative writing at Champlain College, New England Young Writers' Conference, The Writers' Barn, and The Renegade Writers' Collective. She is a recipient of a Bread Loaf Fellowship in nonfiction. 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to consider the geography of your own life, and write about it, either directly, or allow a more subtle aspect of place into a piece that concerns another subject. As you work, perhaps consider these words from the late author Judith Kitchen: “Let your conversation get away from you. Let a new story take over. Something may happen along the way, something to alert you to its relevance.” (Judith Kitchen, "The Art of Digression.")

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


Music credits1) “Dreaming 1″ - John Fink; 2) “Filter” - Dorset Greens (a Vermont band featuring several former South Burlington High School students).

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Gary Lee Miller interviews Author Elizabeth Marshall Thomas about her new memoir, Dreaming of Lions - My Life in the Wild Places (Chelsea Green). 


This week's Write the Book Prompt is to take a cue from Elizabeth Marshall Thomas. Spend some time observing an animal in your back yard, in the wilderness, or even in your living room. Write a paragraph or two about that animal's secret life. 

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


Music credits: "I Could Write a Book," by the Boston-based band, Possum.



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Julie Barton, author of the new memoir Dog Medicine (Think Piece). 


This week’s Write the Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Julie Barton, and is based on “Wild Writing” work she has done with San Francisco writing coach Laurie Wagner (who leads online workshops as well as well as bay area classes). Julie says that “wild writing” is a phenomenal writing practice. Here’s the basic assignment: write by hand. Read any one of the following poems (follow the links to read them), and then write for 15 minutes, allowing your read of that poem to inspire you. Write as fast as possible, and even as poorly as possible, without thinking. By letting your subconscious lead the way, you’ll be more likely to access work you might otherwise never have gotten to.These are the poems that Julie recommends:

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

In fact, this week's live broadcast was with Vermont author Tammy Flanders Hetrick. But due to a strange set of circumstances, her podcast has been up for a couple weeks already. You can find it here

Public shaming has been in the news a lot lately. Even before the internet, shame and disgrace could be widespread and malignant. Just read The Scarlet Letter. This week's Write the Book Prompt is to write about a person who has been disgraced. Consider the reason for the disgrace. Has this person done something truly despicable? Or did he or she simply get caught looking foolish? Is the shaming mean-spirited, or does it come from a supposedly kind place. That "tough love" philosophy, for example. Does it get out of hand? How? Why? Why do crowds like a good public shaming? Are there larger lessons that can be conveyed subtly by writing about a person in this situation? 

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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Two interviews this week! The first, with former Williston Observer columnist, French-trained chef and memoirist Kim Dannies, whose new book is Everyday GourmetThe second, with best-selling author Sue Monk Kidd, whose book, The Invention of Wings, has just come out in paperback from Penguin.


This week’s Write The Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Kim Dannies. Either use the following phrase for inspiration, or as a starting point: “He was slicing limes...” 

Good luck with this exercise, and 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 Martha Oliver-Smith, whose memoir about her grandmother, Martha's Mandala, came out in November 2014 from Spuyten Duyvil.

This week’s  Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Martha Oliver-Smith, whose grandmother made many lists. Make a list – a practical one, such as a grocery list or a to-do list, or an unusual far-flung list, such as what you would like to do in your next life, or things you learned about some abstract concept (love or fear) - or someone. In Patty Oliver-Smith’s case, it was her grandmother and the many things she learned from her - in no particular order.

Things My Grandmother Gave To Me and Taught Me:

She read to me and taught me how to read.

That one should always try to be kind.

She taught me how to darn socks, a skill I have never needed, thank god, but I am glad to recognize what a darning egg is.

That one should always be respectful and gentle with animals because they know and feel things that we cannot.

To watch out for fairies sleeping under the flowers in the garden.

There are numinous places everywhere. 

She sang to me, songs and lullabies that I sang to my own children.

How to play solitaire, and I am addicted to it--as she was.

That the concerns and work of men carried more weight in the world than those of women. Though she never said this to me, it came from one of the voices in her mind, and I learned it; now I continue to un-learn it. 

She taught me how to make a good vinaigrette dressing, even though she hated to cook and only made salads and dried-up hamburgers or baked eggs on the cook's days off.

She tried to teach me to paint with watercolors, but I had no patience or talent for it.

She listened.

She taught me to study and listen to people. 

That people are both funny and sad--sometimes at the same time.

That organized religion is not all it pretends to be, and faith and belief are two different things.

She explained what a paradox is and showed me how to live it, in it, with it.

She never told me I couldn't do something because I was a girl.

She gave me her gold bracelet with the name "martha" sculpted into it. I wear it for both of us when I have to present myself to the world as a serious grown-up.

She gave me her mandala.

The list itself can become a poem as you revise its linear form for line breaks, patterns, images, sounds etc. If you are working in prose, one or every item on the list can escape from the linear column with individual items to become a meditation expanded and elaborated with images, stories or scenes. The list can become a lyric or braided essay, depending on how far and deep you want to take the memory, imagination and language. The list will add up, whether short or long to something important that’s on your mind or in your heart. i.e. Why do you want/need those things on the grocery list or in your next life? What necessity, what memories of moments or scenes led to those items on the list?

Good luck with this exercise, and 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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Cancer survivor, yoga teacher and author Tari Prinster, whose new book is Yoga for Cancer:  A Guide to Managing Side Effects, Boosting Immunity, and Improving Recovery for Cancer Survivors

For this week’s Write The Book Prompt, I’m going to name several yoga poses (some that I found in Tari's book) and suggest that you write using these pose names as prompts. You can write about yoga, or you can be looser with your associations, and go wherever these pose names take you:

  • Cactus clap
  • Crane
  • Dirty t-shirt
  • Downward facing dog
  • Frog
  • Gather and hold
  • Hero pose
  • Half Lord of the Fishes
  • Locust
  • Mountain
  • Neck stretch
  • Pigeon
  • Seated cat and cow
  • Slumber party
  • Step back see saw
  • Twist extension
  • Warrior 3

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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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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Children's and YA author Jacqueline Woodson, whose new novel, Brown Girl Dreaming (Nancy Paulsen Books) is short-listed for this year's National Book Award. 

This week’s  Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Jacqueline Woodson. Choose an age between five and fifteen and write down everything you remember from that year of your life. Who were your friends? Where did you live? What clothes did you wear? What music was playing? What did you love; what did you hate? Write without lifting your pen until you can’t remember anything else, and then start making stuff up. 
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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Interview from 2011 with book jacket designer and author Julie Metz, about her memoir, Perfection.

Today's Write The Book Prompt is to write about a bounced check. 

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, now alums). 

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Interviews with Vermont author Chris Bohjalian, whose new book is Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands; and Sue William Silverman, whose new memoir is The Pat Boone Fan Club: My Life as a White Anglo Saxon Jew.

 
Today’s Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my second guest on today’s show, Sue William Silverman. (In our last interview, Sue and I discussed her book on craft: Fearless Confessions: A Writer's Guide to Memoir, which has a lot of excellent exercises.) Sue says one interesting exercise can be to  get a photograph of yourself from another period in your life, such as when you were a kid, and write one paragraph that describes what you see in the photograph. Then write another paragraph about what was happening outside the frame of the photograph. For example, Sue looks at a lot of photographs of herself as a kid, in which she is smiling and looks really happy. Nobody would know she was "dying inside" at that time in her life. So she might write the first paragraph about the pretty young girl who is beaming from ear to ear. But then she might write a second paragraph about what's not taking place in the picture, which for Sue might be to write about growing up in this incestuous family—that maybe her father even took the photograph, so maybe he is forcing her to smile, to convey the idea that theirs was a happy family. Sue says this can be an interesting exercise in comparing and contrasting what else might be going on. You have a picture, great; but is it telling the truth? Or is there another truth that's happening outside the frame? 

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, now alums). 

 

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Write the Book's 300th (!) episode features an interview with Philip Graham, author of two story collections, The Art of the Knock and Interior Design; a novel, How to Read an Unwritten Language; and The Moon, Come to Earth, an expanded version of his series of McSweeney's dispatches from Lisbon. He is also the co-author (with his wife, anthropologist Alma Gottlieb) of two memoirs of Africa, Parallel Worlds (winner of the Victor Turner Prize), and Braided Worlds. Dzanc Books will reprint The Art of the Knock, Interior Design, and How to Read an Unwritten Language as ebooks this summer.

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is inspired by the interview you heard today with the author Philip Graham. We spoke about the appearance of objects in written work. As Philip mentioned, his 1979 short story, “Light Bulbs,” chronicled how a couple coping with the “empty nest” grew to form relationships with the light bulbs in their home, almost as a substitute for their absent children. This week, as you work, consider the objects that show up in your work. In particular, pay attention to those objects that already exist there. Try to understand what they might be doing for your story, and how your appreciation of their existence might deepen what you’re writing.

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, 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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Poet and prose writer Barbara Henning, whose latest book is A Swift Passage, published by Quale Press.

This week’s Write The Book Prompt was generously offered by my guest, Barbara Henning. She told me that she has used this at the start of a new class, to help her students ground themselves. The prompt is called “FROM HAIKU TO PROSE” - Go for a walk (or remember a walk) and write down everything you see. Then write three haiku using words from your notes. Try to make each haiku a sentence. Haiku celebrate the ever-transforming universe by describing two actions in a single moment in time, an epiphany as the writer becomes aware of reality by observing something simple, striking and absolutely ordinary. Don't worry about syllable count; instead for each haiku, write one short line, one longer line and another short line. The world turns, the seasons change, everything is moving. See if you can get a sense of the season into your haiku and shy away from metaphors, abstract ideas, generalizations and statements about the writer's feelings; stick with things in movement. Haiku do not lecture on ideas about truth, goodness and beauty. They ARE truth and beauty. Here are two haiku, the first by Basho and the second by Richard Wright.

The peasant’s child,
husking rice, stops
and gazes at the moon.

A thin mangy dog
Curls up to sleep in the dust
Of a moonlit road.

Now tell the story of your walk and embed these haiku as sentences into your prose. If you consider your life a journey, every event that takes place is part of that journey, every action a part of another action. Even these momentary observations are small actions. Instead of breaking for the lined poem, let them flow right into the prose as sentences. In this way, you will have a poetic rhythm in your flash fiction or prose poem. You can use this same technique as a regular journal exercise or as a way to begin a story or a poem.

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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Irish-born Vermont writer of poetry and prose, Angela Patten. Her new book is High Tea at a Low Table, published by Wind Ridge Books of Vermont.

This week’s Write The Book Prompt was generously shared by my guest, Angela Patten. Write a non-fiction essay or short story that begins, "The moment seemed to go on forever..."

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 author Ann Patchett, named one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World by Time Magazine in 2012, whose latest book is This Is The Story of A Happy Marriage, published by Harper. Ann Patchett is co-owner of Parnassus Books in Nashville, Tennessee.

This week’s Write The Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Ann Patchett. Write something about one of your parents or grandparents, or an older person that you’ve known all your life, who is important to you. This person can be dead or alive. Write a scene that encapsulates his or her personality. Not an obituary, although it might be a sort of spiritual encapsulation of who this person is or was. But convey that without giving the facts of the person’s life.

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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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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Stephen Elliott, author and founding editor of the online literary magazine, The Rumpus. We discuss, among other things, his books Happy Baby and The Adderall Diaries: A Memoir of Moods, Masochism, and Murder.

Today’s Write The Book Prompt is to write about a miscommunication that causes offense: an unanswered phone call, a backhanded compliment, an accidental Facebook “unfriending,” etc. Be sure that the error was unintended, and that it results in tension between two or more people.

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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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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Interviews highlighting three local groups that are making the Burlington area writing community much richer: The Burlington Writers' Workshop (Peter Biello), The Renegade Writers' Collective (Angela Palm and Jessica Hendry Nelson), and The Writers' Barn (Lin Stone and Daniel Lusk).

Today I have two Write The Book Prompts. The first is to write about two interactions between lifelong friends: the first time they meet, and the last time they meet. Limit each scene to a page, but try to intimate a whole friendship into those two pages, letting us know who these people are, how they eventually influence each other, how important they become in each other's lives.

Today's second prompt was suggested by my guest, the poet Daniel Lusk. It's a prompt he used recently in the poetry group at the Writers Barn: Write a poem with a red dress in it.
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 South Burlington High School students.

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Poet Jenny Mary Brown, Editor-in-Chief of New South, Georgia State University’s journal of art and literature.

Today's Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Jenny Mary Brown. It's a prompt that was, in turn, suggested to her by her friend, the poet Christine Swint.

Choose a poem by one of the great old poets and type it into your computer. After you've typed it, go line by line and respond with your own original line. Delete the old poem's lines as you go. This is a useful process to learn someone's rhythms. Christine did it once with one of Roethke's greenhouse poems, one where he is on top of the greenhouse. Her poem ended up being about looking down at something from a great height.

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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Author Lewis Buzbee, interviewed at the request of a listener. (Thanks, Shannon!) We discuss his middle-grade novel Bridge of Time, published by Feiwel and Friends, and his nonfiction book for all readers, The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop, published by Graywolf.

Today's Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Lewis Buzbee. He calls this "the memory thief," and it's a timed writing exercise. The memory thief is on his way to your house. You have just ten minutes before he gets there. You get to keep any of your memories that you manage to write down before he arrives. Anything you don't get on paper is lost to you. Write madly, without censoring yourself or taking time to edit. Lewis says that wonderful, weird images will come out of this prompt, and people almost always start in childhood.

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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An interview with author and librarian Josh Hanagarne, who has Tourette's Syndrome, and whose memoir The World's Strongest Librarian was published in May by Gotham.

Also, the first of a new series of WTB Book Chats with the owner of Bear Pond Books in Montpelier, Claire Benedict. (The Woman Upstairs, by Claire Messud; And The Mountains Echoed, by Khaled Hosseini; Flora, by Gail Godwin; The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards, by Kristopher Jansma; and The Orphan Master's Son (Pulitzer Prize for Fiction) by Adam Johnson.)

Today’s Write The Book Prompt is inspired by the work of today’s first guest, Josh Hanagarne. The inside jacket of his book, The World's Strongest Librarian, refers to Josh as an unlikely hero. This week, write about an unlikely hero.

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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Author and teacher Lawrence Sutin, who publishes books in multiple genres including biography, memoir, history and the novel. At the time we spoke, in December 2009, his latest was When To Go into the Water, published by Sarabande Books.

Today’s Write The Book Prompt is inspired by something I found on Lawrence Sutin’s website - a project he calls Erasure Books. He works with “old, sturdy” texts, and erases or crosses out most of the original text in an attempt to find something unexpected and alive. He also erases image, and creates collage out of images in new texts. You can find a more detailed explanation, with examples, on his website.

This week, your prompt is to take a discarded piece of your own work, something you didn’t like or use for whatever reason, and practice erasure to salvage something pleasing or worthwhile or new. Here’s an example, using the opening paragraph of a story I never did anything with:

  1. Billy liked to watch the rainbow puddles form on the cracked slopes of the garage floor. So many cars dripped oil through here, and puddles formed, swirling with color when the temperature rose above freezing. It was almost spring, so he didn't need the heat on inside the booth anymore. In the winter, he sometimes slipped off his boots and rubbed his woolen feet over the small heater's scalding surface. But now it was warmer out, almost spring. The metal box remained on the floor, and once summer came, he'd flip a switch and turn it into a fan. It was off today, though.
  2. Billy liked rainbow puddles on cracked swirling color. Freezing inside the booth. In the winter, boots rubbed the scalding surface. Once summer, turn today.

So I’m pretty sure I need to keep going - playing with these erasures - but that’s an interesting start to something different. Maybe a poem, or maybe a new way to present Billy’s world, by erasing some extraneous words to turn the paragraph on its side and see it differently.

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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For the last Monday in Autism Awareness Month, an interview from the archives with Glen Finland, author of the Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Pick Next Stop: A Memoir of Family, which concerns the parenting of an autistic son as he approaches adulthood.

Today's Write The Book Prompt is inspired by statistics that I found on the website autism-society.org. That group has been recording a Fact of the Day each day this month. One such fact involved the incidence of ASDs (or autism spectrum disorders) through the decades, according to the Centers for Disease Control:

  • Before 1990: 1 in 2,000 children were found to have some form of autism.
  • Mid 1990s: 1 in 500
  • Mid 2000s: 1 in 150
  • 2009: 1 in 110, or about 1% of children, have an ASD
  • 2012: 1 in 88

This week, consider these numbers, and write about autism. Write about someone you know whose life has been affected, or write about your own theory about how these numbers have changed. Write about your own experience with an ASD. Or whatever else might come 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 former Vermont band featuring several South Burlington High School graduates).

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Best-selling author of fiction, essays and memoir, Anne Lamott. We discussed Some Assembly Required: A Journal of My Son's First Son.

Following the interview with Anne Lamott, a partial rebroadcast from 2008, with the poet David Budbill.

As we continue to enjoy National Poetry Month, this week's Write The Book Prompt is another poetry exercise. It's inspired by the work of my first guest, Anne Lamott, whose book, Some Assembly Required, has to do with becoming a grandparent. So this week, write a poem about grandparents. Being a grandparent, having a grandparent, or whatever else this prompt might inspire 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 former Vermont band featuring several South Burlington High School graduates).

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This week's show has two parts. First, an interview with Mohsin Hamid, author of How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia, published by Riverhead. And then a smorgasbord of interviews with journal editors with whom I spoke at the AWP Conference in Boston. I asked what they were looking for in submissions, or what news they had to share with writers. These are the journals whose booths I visited. You can visit their websites by clicking on any one: Hunger Mountain, Redivider, Agni, Hotel Amerika, Columbia Poetry Review, Story South, Cave Wall, Ninth Letter, The Mom EggAdanna Literary Journal, Sonora ReviewSolstice: A Magazine of Diverse Voices, Mid-American Review, Rathalla Review, Philadelphia Stories, Ploughshares, The Sun, Green Mountains Review, Memorious, New England Review, Florida Review, Barnstorm Literary Journal, The Cincinnati ReviewThe Baltimore Review, The Saint Ann's Review, iO, Triquarterly, The Missouri Review, and Upstreet.

Today's Write The Book Prompt is to write a story, poem, or essay in the second person.

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

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An interview from the archives with  Scott Russell Sanders, author of twenty books of fiction and nonfiction, including A Conservationist Manifesto and Earth Works, his latest, published in 2012 by Indiana University Press. This show originally ran in two parts, but here is available as a single podcast lasting almost an hour and a half.

Today's Write The Book Prompt is inspired by a writing conference I went to at the end of last week and over the weekend: AWP 2013, which took place in Boston. AWP stands for Associated Writing Programs. In the time I've been going to the meeting, every couple years for the past ten years or so, attendance has exploded. This year they had some 11,000 writers show up. That's a lot of writers, and they need a LOT of space. So there's crowd control to think about, and which panels and workshops and readings are of most interest to you, social concerns, like What-again-is-the-name-of-that-guy-who's-walking-over-here-and-where-do-I-know-him-from? There will be dietary concerns, like do you have time to stand in that long line for a cup of coffee and a cookie, and if you do, will you not be able to get a seat in the How-I-got-my-book- reviewed-by-Oprah panel? There's the issue of having to sit for long periods of time on maybe not the most comfortable seats. But then there are the great things: seeing old friends, learning new things, returning home energized to write! So this week's prompt is to write a poem, a story, an essay or a personal narrative about some experience you've either had or can imagine having at a conference. It can be any kind of conference or meeting or reunion - whatever inspires you to write.

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

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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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Vermont author and veterinarian Steven B. Metz, D.M.V., whose new memoir is Exotic Tails: A Veterinarian’s Journey, published by Wind Ridge Publishing in Shelburne, Vermont.

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Steven B. Metz, with representations of his two favorite hobbies: the motorcycle, and Bach.

This week's Write The Book Prompt is to write about a person who inherits a cat, a ferret, a tiger, an elephant or a hedgehog. You can't call it the Life of Pi, though, as that's been done. (Twice, in fact, if you count the fact that Yann Martel freely admits that the inspiration for his Booker-prize-winning novel came from a story by Brazilian author, Moacyr Scliar, whose "Max and the Cats" features a teenage Jewish boy adrift in a boat with a panther after a shipwreck.)

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

We ran out of time for the Bookworm's Calendar this week, so here it is:

  • The Northshire Bookstore in Manchester Center presents Alex Kershaw, Friday, December 7th, at 7, with his book, The Liberator.
  • And then on Saturday, December 8, at 7, James Gustave Speth will be at the Northshire with his book, America the Possible: Manifesto for a New Economy.
  • Archer Mayor will read from his latest Joe Gunther mystery, Paradise City, on Dec 8 at 11 at Bridgeside Books in Waterbury. Later that same day, at 3, he'll be at the Yankee Bookshop in Woodstock. And on Monday, Dec. 10 at 8, he'll be at the Latchis Theater in Brattleboro, where he'll be at the 2012 Vermont Arts Awards Gala, receiving a Governor's Award for Excellence in the Arts.
  • The Dorothy Alling Memorial Library in Williston presents another pair of "Shape and Share Life Stories," Monday, December 10 & 17 from 12:30-2:30. Prompts trigger real life experience stories which are crafted into engaging narratives and shared with the group. Led by Recille Hamrell.

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 National Book Award Finalist and Author of Fiction and Memoir, Joan Wickersham. Her latest book is The News From Spain, published by Knopf.

This week's Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Joan Wickersham. When she teaches, she often encourages her students to read Tim O'Brien's extraordinary story, The Things They Carried, from the collection by the same name. After reading the story, which is, in fact, a long list in itself, make your own list. In fact, make a list of lists. What are some ideas for structuring a story in the form of a list? Here are a few ideas I've come up with: a grocery list, a packing list, a to-do list, a category on Craig's List! Come up with a few of your own. Then pick one of those ideas and see if you can write a story using that list form as a structural device, or just for inspiration.

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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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 from the archives with Phyllis Barber, award-winning author of seven books of fiction and creative nonfiction. We spoke in 2009 about her then-upcoming memoir, Raw Edges, published in 2010 by University of Nevada Press.

This rerun aired a couple days before the now-infamous first debate between President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. In 1960, JFK came out on top going up against Nixon, possibly just because Kennedy looked so much better on television. In 1980, Ronald Reagan won points with his tagline "There you go again," which successfully batted down Jimmy Carter's arguments without even having to come up with substantive responses. In 1988, Lloyd Bentson had perhaps the most famous zinger in this exchange with fellow vice presidential candidate Dan Quayle. Then-senator Quayle said "I have far more experience than many others that sought the office of vice president of this country. I have as much experience in the Congress as Jack Kennedy did when he sought the presidency. I will be prepared to deal with the people in the Bush administration, if that unfortunate event would ever occur." And Lloyd Bentson retorted, "Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy, I knew Jack Kennedy, Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy." That may be the best-remembered moment of the Dukakis/Bentson ticket, despite the fact that George Bush and Dan Quayle won the election.

Today's Write The Book Prompt is to imagine and write two exchanges between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. First, write something you'd love to see happen. Probably you have some idea about which person you'd like to see in the White House come January. Write your dream debate moment. And then, write a dream moment for the candidate you do not support. Make each of these scenes realistic, given the candidates' positions. Invent questions that will bring out the candidates' strengths, wit, and resonance with American voters. Who knows? Maybe you'll even change your own mind...

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 that existed briefly in 2008 and 2009, featuring several South Burlington High School students - now grads)

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Xu Xi, award-winning author of nine books of fiction & essays, and editor of three anthologies of Hong Kong literature in English. Her latest book is Habit of a Foreign Sky (Haven Books, 2010). We spoke in 2008 about her memoir, Evanescent Isles: From My City-Village (Hong Kong University Press, 2008).

The show didn't air live this week, as Monday was Labor Day, the federal holiday that celebrates the economic and social contributions of workers. So this week's Write The Book Prompt is to write about the worker. Write a poem about your mother's or father's work in a factory. Or invent a story about someone whose work somehow comes into conflict with his or her home life. Write an essay that touches on your own feelings about the role of unions in America today. Or a personal piece about your own work history. Bottom line: think about workers, and see what you're motivated to write.

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

Music credits: 1) “Dreaming 1″ - John Fink; 2) “Filter” - Dorset Greens (a Vermont band that existed briefly in 2008 and 2009, featuring several South Burlington High School students - now grads)

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Award-winning writer Glen Finland, author of Next Stop: A Memoir of Family, published by AmyEinhornBooks/Putnam. The book is a Summer 2012 Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Pick.

Today's Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Glen Finland. Describe the precise moment at a time in your life when you realized you had to let go of someone or something. And what gave you the courage to do it?

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

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