Archive for the 'Music' Category

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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Author Heidi Diehl, whose debut is Lifelines (HMH). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Heidi Diehl. Think about an event or a time that has been important in your character’s life but does not appear in the pages of your story. Write two versions of what happened. One should be 3-5 sentences, and one should be a full-fledged scene, spanning a couple of pages. If the outcome sparks something that feels important to include, than you should of course use it. But, as Heidi reminds us, even if you don’t use that particular scene in your story or novel, it can be useful as an exercise. Exploring our characters’ histories can give us a sense of who they are and help us bring them more vividly to the page.  

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 Christy Stillwell, whose recently released novel is The Wolf Tone, which won the Elixir Press Fiction Prize in 2017. 

This Week's Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Christy Stillwell. In reading Warlight, a novel by Michael Ondaatje, Christy noticed the way the author was able to use his knowledge of navigation to create haunting and vivid scenes around barges and river work near London. She set herself the task of developing some area about which she has interest and some knowledge, and learning more in order to be able to do what she felt Ondaatje had done: turn his knowledge into haunting, recurring scenes. In order to do this well, some research might be necessary. In Christy's case, the subject matter turned to haying: the growing, baling and cutting of hay. This has always fascinated her, though she doesn't do this work herself. But she enjoys watching the swathers cut the hay, and seeing the people and machines working in the fields. Christy says her interest might have been even simpler: trimming hedges or mowing the lawn. So - what subject interests you, something you know well enough that you could sit and write two-to-three pages about it, and then file those pages away to perhaps use someday when your work will benefit from a lyrical moment? 

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 special feature this week, related to the archive interview I aired on Monday with Robert and Martha Manning: click here to watch a slideshow  with audio of my recent walk with friends along part of The  Camino de Santiago (The Way of Saint James).You’ll hear music by the Spanish group El Niño del Parking. They are from Andalucia, which isn’t the same region as where the Camino ends, which is Galicia, but I needed to find music I had the right to use.

You’ll hear some moments I shared with the friends I walked with, Carol and Fiona. And you’ll hear many sounds from the natural world, and conversations heard along the trail. I’ve also included a few brief first-hand accounts from pilgrims I met along the way. Finally, toward the end, you’ll hear what sounds like bagpipes. And you’ll be right! As we approached the cathedral at the end, we encountered a bagpipe player, although the bagpipes from the region are actually called The "Gaita Gallega" and they are slightly different from the celtic instrument. At the very end, you’ll hear some music from the service in the Cathedral itself.

So, I hope you enjoy this somewhat unusual broadcast! Enjoy the camino. Or, as the pilgrims say to one another along the route, “Buen Camino.”

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Author and music critic Will Friedwald, whose new book is The Great Jazz and Pop Vocal Albums (Pantheon). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to listen to Tiny Tim singing “Living in the Sunlight,” from the album God Bless Tiny Tim, which you can find a live performance of on YouTube, and write about it. It is a trip.

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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New Music!

Hoping you'll enjoy the show's new music, written by Aaron Shapiro, as Write the Book joins WBTV in Burlington, VT. Mondays 3-5 p.m. Now streaming at 993wbtv.org - scroll down and click "Now Streaming" to load the stream in iTunes. 

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Author Elena Delbanco, a co-founder of the Bennington Writing Workshops, whose debut novel, The Silver Swan, came out this spring from The Other Press


This week’s  Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Elena Delbanco. Write about a piece of music. This may sound easy, but it is not. Describing sound is difficult in much the same way that describing color or the quality of light can be difficult. Do you use metaphor? Do you rely on adjectives? But don’t rely too heavily, or the prose might be cumbersome for your reader. Try to convey the sound of the music, as well as the impact it has on the listener. Let your first try be clunky; don’t worry about it. Listen as you write. Maybe you’ll write unexpected words, nonsensical words. That’s fine. Go with that. See what happens. And later, revise.

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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Archive interview with Vermont writer Laban Carrick Hill, author of over thirty books, including the historical picture book, Dave the Potter, and co-director of the Writers Project of Ghana, a nonprofit based in the Ghana and the US. In 2014, Laban Carrick Hill published the award winning When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of Hip Hop.

Today's Write the Book Prompt is to write about a person with some regimen that is challenged: a vegetarian who can only find a hamburger in the small town he is visiting; a Jewish mourner who is unable to find a synagogue in which to pray (or a minyan for a prayer service); a reserved mother who can't find a private place to nurse her hungry baby. 
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 poet and UVM Professor Stephen Cramer, whose new book is From the Hip: A Concise History of Hip Hop (in sonnets), published by Wind Ridge Books of Vermont. 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously offered by my guest Stephen Cramer. He likes to assign this to his students, because it presents the challenge of describing something ethereal, like music, that doesn’t have a form that you can touch or see. You have to turn to metaphor a lot, and to a description from the senses. Words like “velvety,” “sharp,” and “bright.” So this week’s prompt is to write about music and see if you can use synesthesia - one sense expressed in terms of another - to launch your piece into some new, unexpected place. Lynda Hull’s poem Hollywood Jazz has at least two instances of synesthesia, if you’d like to read one that Stephen recommends. 

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

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Singer, songwriter and poet/slam poet Mary Lambert and filmmaker and slam poet Rose McAleese, who’ll be performing at Radio Bean in Burlington on Saturday night. Here are links to their Bobby Sands performance (which I played at the start of the show) and the Macklemore and Ryan Lewis YouTube video of Same Love.

This week's Write The Book Prompt is to perform your work in some way. If you feel confident to compete in a local slam, do that. Or read a poem or story at an open mic in your area. Or read one to a friend or group of friends. Maybe you'll find that your work, spoken aloud, affects you in a different way than it does on the page. You might hear things as you practice that inspire you to make changes. In any case, sharing your work with an audience gets it out into the world in a new way.

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

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Interview from the archives with short story writer and guitar builder, Creston Lea, author of the story collection Wild Punch, published by Turtle Point Press.

The last time I broadcast this interview with Creston Lea, I used his suggestion for a Write The Book Prompt, which was to eavesdrop on a conversation in a public place, and then use what you heard to write a scene with dialogue. This time, I'll recommend something slightly different, but also useful in writing dialogue. Using a digital recorder or a dictaphone, record a conversation between two people. Then transcribe the conversation exactly as it occurred. Keep all of their pauses and stutters and "ums" and repetitions. Now study a page of dialogue in a book. What might differ in the way that conversation actually sounds from the way that would best represent it on the page? What would you take out, what might you change or add? See if you can turn the conversation that you recorded into a scene that would be understandable--effortless for a reader to digest.

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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Interview from the archives with author, essayist and NPR contributor, Tim Brookes, discussing his book Guitar: An American Life.

Prompt: This week’s Write The Book Prompt was inspired by the interview you heard today with author Tim Brookes. During our conversation, Tim said that often, when people feel stuck, they have put up a fence around the thing they should be writing. Even if this mysterious fenced subject isn’t what you’ve been trying to confront, perhaps it’s time to have a look at it. What’s on your mind? What have you been avoiding? Are you procrastinating in order to keep from tackling something real or difficult? Give this some thought and see if you can identify something that’s been wanting to be written about – something you’ve fenced off for whatever reason. Then take a journal and free write about this subject for twenty or thirty minutes. Ignore form. Ignore genre. Don’t worry about whether or not this is the subject you’ve been feeling stuck on. Write about the things that are there with you, right now, and see if this doesn’t help you move forward in some larger way. Good luck with this exercise and please listen next week for another.

Music Credits: 1) "Dreaming 1" - John Fink; 2) Tim Brookes on guitar playing "End of a Holiday," by Simon Nichol.

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

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

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

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

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Connie May Fowler, award-winning novelist, memoirist, and screenwriter.

This week's Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Connie May Fowler, whose latest novel, How Clarissa Burden Learned To Fly, involves the ghosts of women who reside in a graveyard. Connie May recommends walking through a cemetery in your own area and finding a tombstone, and then writing a story or poem inspired by that tombstone and the person whose grave it marks.

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 Matthew Aaron Goodman, author of the novel Hold Love Strong, published by Touchstone Fireside (Simon and Schuster April 2009).

This week's Write The Book prompt, a musical free write, was suggested by my guest, Matthew Aaron Goodman. Spend a little time picking a song or songs to which you think you could write. Put on the piece, and then write. Don't pick up your pen once it hits the page. Write whatever crosses your mind. Even if all you write is, "this is crazy I don't have any ideas," write that down. No scribbling or doodling. Put words on paper. Keep going for the length of the song or songs that you chose ahead of time.

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

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This week's show celebrates National Poetry Month, and the format is a little different from our norm.

Instead of an interview, this week's radio broadcast of Write The Book consisted of a montage of poetry and music. I contacted past guests who are poets and asked that each send me a poem and the name of a favorite poetic song. You can hear the poems on this week's podcast. (All poems are read with permission.) Unfortunately, I can't put the musical selections up on the podcast, due to licensing concerns, and so this recording is different from the show I aired on the Radiator yesterday. But the songs are listed below, as are the poets' names and the works they submitted for the broadcast. Click on each poet's name to follow a link where you can learn more about her or him.

So here they are: each poet, that person's poem, the chosen song, and the composer's name.

1. Natasha Saje, "Knell," Bird On The Wire, Leonard Cohen

2. David Budbill, "Sweet Early Spring," It Might as Well Be Spring, Stan Getz and Astrud Gilberto

3. Charles Harper Webb, "The Open-Air Recital Survived A Shaky Start," I Am The Walrus, The Beatles

The poem from the book Shadow Ball: New and Selected Poems, by Charles Harper Webb, © 2009, is aired/posted by permission of the University of Pittsburgh Press.

4. David Jauss, "The Hatchet," Round Midnight, Thelonious Monk

5. Jody Gladding, "Vernal Pool," Dark Was The Night-Cold Was The Ground, Blind Willie Johnson

"Vernal Pool," by Jody Gladding, excerpted from Rooms and Their Airs (Minneapolis: Milkweed Editions, 2009). Copyright © 2009 by Jody Gladding. Read with permission from Milkweed Editions.

6. Leslie Ullman, "Agape II," Muskerraren Balsa & La Balso de Combourscuro, Kepa Junkera

7. Clare Rossini, "The Subterrestial," The Mooch, Duke Ellington

8. David Huddle, "Hilltop Sonnet," Tom Ames' Prayer, Steve Earl

9. Charles Barasch, "40th High School Reunion," The Way You Do the Things You Do, The Temptations

10. Sydney Lea, "Small Jeremiad," That Old Feeling, Gerry Mulligan and Stan Getz

11. Shelagh Shapiro, Nope, I'm not a poet. (Or if I am, I don't know it! Sorry ... corny joke.) I closed out the show with my own poetic song choice, a long-time favorite: Last Chance Texaco, Rickie Lee Jones

I wish I could present the whole show here as it was heard on the radio; I had a great time putting it together. If you have any of these songs in your personal collection, pull them out and have a listen. Or you could always buy them from your favorite Indie music store! For now, though, maybe just click "Play," below, and listen to the poems. If you open your heart and close your eyes, you might just hear the music anyway.

The Write The Book Prompt for this week is simply to listen for the poetry in music. Whether it be the music you choose to put on at home, music that you yourself might make, music that you hear on Church Street as the weather improves, music in elevators. Even music you don't like very much might have one single chord change that moves you. Listen well, and write.

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Interview with Vermont author Creston Lea, whose story collection, Wild Punch, comes out this spring from Turtle Point Press.

Prompt: This week's Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Creston Lea. He says that a useful activity for writers is to eavesdrop. Go to a bar or a restaurant and listen in. According to Creston, chances are, you'll hear something worth stealing.

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

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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 author of fiction and creative nonfiction Phyllis Barber.

Prompt: Today’s Write The Book Prompt is suggested by my guest, Phyllis Barber. She recommends, “Read Flannery O’Connor, who does things with character that I don’t think I’ve seen many other writers do. Her characterizations are fabulous. So… Look at Flannery!” And that is your prompt today: look at Flannery. Her stories can be found in the books Everything That Rises Must Converge and A Good Man Is Hard to Find and Other Stories, among other collections. She also wrote two novels: Wise Blood and The Violent Bear It Away. And, of course, every writer can benefit from reading her essays on writing and the writing life, collected in the book, Mystery and Manners.

Here’s a snippet from her story, A Good Man Is Hard To Find. Even if you’ve never read this story and even if you don’t know the context of the scene, I think you’ll come to know the characters very quickly, from these few paragraphs:

They drove off again into the hot afternoon. The grandmother took cat naps and woke up every few minutes with her own snoring. Outside of Toombsboro she woke up and recalled an old plantation that she had visited in this neighborhood once when she was a young lady. She said the house had six white columns across the front and that there was an avenue of oaks leading up to it and two little wooden trellis arbors on either side in front where you sat down with your suitor after a stroll in the garden. She recalled exactly which road to turn off to get to it. She knew that Bailey would not be willing to lose any time looking at an old house, but the more she talked about it, the more she wanted to see it once again and find out if the little twin arbors were still standing. "There was a secret:-panel in this house," she said craftily, not telling the truth but wishing that she were, "and the story went that all the family silver was hidden in it when Sherman came through but it was never found . . ."

"Hey!" John Wesley said. "Let's go see it! We'll find it! We'll poke all the woodwork and find it! Who lives there? Where do you turn off at? Hey Pop, can't we turn off there?"

"We never have seen a house with a secret panel!" June Star shrieked. "Let's go to the house with the secret panel! Hey Pop, can't we go see the house with the secret panel!"

"It's not far from here, I know," the grandmother said. "It wouldn't take over twenty minutes."

Bailey was looking straight ahead. His jaw was as rigid as a horseshoe. "No," he said.

The children began to yell and scream that they wanted to see the house with the secret panel. John Wesley kicked the back of the front seat and June Star hung over her mother's shoulder and whined desperately into her ear that they never had any fun even on their vacation, that they could never do what THEY wanted to do. The baby began to scream and John Wesley kicked the back of the seat so hard that his father could feel the blows in his kidney.

"All right!" he shouted and drew the car to a stop at the side of the road. "Will you all shut up? Will you all just shut up for one second? If you don't shut up, we won't go anywhere."

"It would be very educational for them," the grandmother murmured.

That, again, is an excerpt from Flannery O’Connor’s A Good Man Is Hard To Find. Phyllis Barber suggests reading O’Connor’s work in looking for inspiration on character development. Good luck with this activity 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 author Robert Vivian and Burlington business owner Norbert Ender. Hosted by Shelagh C. Shapiro, Write The Book airs on WOMM-LP 105.9 FM “The Radiator,” in Burlington, Vermont, every Monday afternoon from 2-3 p.m. - a new time.

Prompt: Today’s Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my first guest, Robert Vivian. In his work with students, he occasionally distributes postcards from small towns, and asks each student to write a note on that card to a fictional recipient. Look at the postcard and imagine you’re traveling across the country and you’ve landed in this small town. Use the postcard as a trigger and write to someone. It could be someone who’s wronged you in the past or it could be a beloved person. You might be writing this postcard due to a situation that you’re fleeing. “Dear Randy. Hello from the middle of nowhere. I’m in a diner. Icicles are hanging down from the roof.  I’m driving to Santa Fe. I have 20 dollars in my pocket. I can’t stop thinking about the last time we spoke…” Etc. Invent a situation and write. Let the postcard be a trigger, and lose yourself in the creative act. Good luck with this exercise and please listen next week for another.

Music credits: 1) “Dreaming 1″ - John Fink

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Interview with author, essayist and NPR contributor, Tim Brookes. Hosted by Shelagh C. Shapiro, Write The Book airs on WOMM-LP 105.9 FM “The Radiator,” in Burlington, Vermont, every Saturday morning at 9:00 a.m. - a new time for the new hour-long format.

Prompt: This week’s Write The Book Prompt was inspired by the interview you heard today with author Tim Brookes. During our conversation, Tim said that often, when people feel stuck, they have put up a fence around the thing they should be writing. Even if this mysterious fenced subject isn’t what you’ve been trying to confront, perhaps it’s time to have a look at it. What’s on your mind? What have you been avoiding? Are you procrastinating in order to keep from tackling something real or difficult? Give this some thought and see if you can identify something that’s been wanting to be written about – something you’ve fenced off for whatever reason. Then take a journal and free write about this subject for twenty or thirty minutes. Ignore form. Ignore genre. Don’t worry about whether or not this is the subject you’ve been feeling stuck on. Write about the things that are there with you, right now, and see if this doesn’t help you move forward in some larger way. Good luck with this exercise and please listen next week for another.

Music Credits: 1) "Dreaming 1" - John Fink; 2) Tim Brookes on guitar playing "End of a Holiday," by Simon Nichol.

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