Archive for the 'Mysteries' Category

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International bestselling mystery and crime writer Jeffrey Deaver, whose new novel is The Goodbye Man (Putnam).

Jeffrey Deaver mentioned during our interview that, when the time comes to finish his research and begin putting words on the page, he likes to write in the dark. This week, as a Write the Book Prompt, try writing in the dark. See if the words come more easily to you this way, as they do for him. 

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

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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An interview with Alma Katsu, whose latest is The Deep (Putnam).

For this episode's Write the Book Prompt, I'd like to reiterate Alma Katsu's advice about research. Narrow your focus before delving in too deeply. Keep it manageable, for you and your readers.

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

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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Just in time for Saint Patrick's Day! A conversation with the very Irish (American) Kathryn Guare, author of Deceptive Cadence, the first of the Conor McBride series of international suspense novels. 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to think about where you’d most like to be quarantined, and write about what would meet your expectations as you spent time in that place, and what might defy them.

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

Music: Aaron Shapiro

 

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

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

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

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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The TW Wood Gallery was the venue for a recent panel discussion with three former Write the Book guests about their work writing horror, mystery, and suspense. Miciah Bay Gault, Jennifer McMahon, and Susan Z. Ritz shared their thoughts about the craft of scary stories, and I had the honor of moderating their discussion. 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to consider a fear, an incident, and a mode of resolution. I’m going to offer ten of each of these for you to match up and work with as you like. (You'll see that incidents might also be resolutions in a few cases...)  See what comes - maybe something scary! Good luck with your work in the coming week and please tune in next week for another prompt or suggestion. 

FEAR

INCIDENT

RESOLUTION

Animals or insects

Aggression

Chemical Resolution

Darkness

Conversation

Conversation/Emotional Confrontation

Fire

Entrapment 

Hiding

Ghosts

Legal Action

Noise

Illness

Prolonged Strife or Conflict

Running Away

Madness

Solitude

Scientific Innovation

A Category of People: Men or Women or Children

Surprise

Silence

Responsibility

Temptation

Surrender

Thieves

Threat

Trickery

Weather

Trickery

Violence

 

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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Vermont Author Archer Mayor just published his 30th Joe Gunther novel, Bomber's Moon (Minotaur).

Blood Moon, Super Moon, Blue Moon, Harvest Moon, Bomber’s Moon. This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to come up with a new type of moon, and write about a night on which it rises. 

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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Debut author Sara Collins, whose new novel is The Confessions of Frannie Langton (Harper).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Sara Collins. 

An older woman is angry  that a pair of teenagers keeps collecting rocks and shells from the beach on which she lives. Write a scene in which she confronts them for the first time. She never tells them why it distresses her so much nor do the teenagers tell her why it's so important to them to collect the shells, though the reader comes to understand. Write the scene first from the perspective of the old woman and then one of the teenagers.  

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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New York Times bestselling author Robin Oliveira, whose new novel is Winter Sisters (Viking).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to consider how it must have been to live before weather could be predicted: imagine how it would be to not know if your day would hold sunshine, wind, ice, rain. Write about unexpected weather.

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

Music by Aaron Shapiro

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Award-winning and best-selling author James Lee Burke, whose most beloved character, Dave Robicheaux, returns in Robicheaux (Simon & Schuster), a gritty, atmospheric mystery set in the towns and backwoods of Louisiana.  

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is inspired by the work of James Lee Burke. Consider a human condition that is sometimes treated with contempt, and write about it with compassion. James Lee Burke does this with his depiction of alcoholics. Consider the roots of a condition such as addiction, gambling, prostitution, or petty crime, and write about it with compassion for those who suffer or are harmed by it, and respect for someone who is working to be liberated from it.

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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Critically acclaimed Glaswegian crime writer Denise Mina, whose latest novel is The Long Drop (Little Brown). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Denise Mina. She says, if you don’t know what to write, start with the most explosive thing you can think of, and then follow all the shards.

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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Gary Lee Miller interviews author Steven Axelrod about his newest Henry Kinnis mystery, Nantucket Grand (Poisoned Pen Press).


This week's Write the Book Prompt was generously offered by Steven Axelrod, who says, "The best one I know is also the simplest and most useful." 1) Write 1,000 words or so - story or memoir - something that you care about that also has an emotional connection. 2) Cut it down to 750 words. 3) Then cut the 750 words down to 500. See what's left. If the essence remains, then you have succeeded, and at half the length. Steven reminds us of the E.B. White line, "Sorry this was so long. I didn't have time to make it shorter." 

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

Music credits: "I Could Write a Book," by Possum.

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Author Keith Lee Morris, whose new novel is Travelers Rest (Little Brown).


This week’s Write the Book Prompt was inspired by the work of my guest Keith Lee Morris. During our interview, he mentioned that he has, for years, been writing stories based on dreams. “I take a piece of an actual dream, spin it out in the direction of a narrative, and see where it goes,” he said during our conversation. He went on to explain that dream logic doesn’t operate on any principal that we would think of as being real, and yet while we’re in the dream, we still believe it. Keeping this idea in mind, and trying to work within the parameters of what he calls dream logic, try to write a story or a scene or a poem this week, taking an actual dream as your starting point.

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

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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Archive Interview with Vermont Novelist Jennifer McMahon. In this, our first of two interviews, we discussed her book, Don't Breathe A Word. My other interview with Jennifer can be found here


Write a story, poem or scene in which spring cleaning features prominently. 

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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A new conversation with author and Queen City Ghostwalk Guide Thea Lewis, whose new book is Haunted Inns and Ghostly Getaways of Vermont, published by The History Press

This week's Write the Book Prompt is adapted from a suggestion in Thea Lewis's new book, Haunted Inns and Ghostly Getaways of Vermont, with Thea's kind permission. If you find yourself awake at 3 o’clock some morning, get up, settle yourself somewhere comfortable, and listen for sounds in your house that you can not explain. Listen until you’re good and spooked, and then write about the 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, now alums). 

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NH novelist Toby Ball, whose third novel is Invisible Streets, published by Overlook Press. 

This week I'm offering two Write the Book Prompts on the website. The first is to write about a move. (The Radiator moved last week - did you know?) 
The second is to write a poem or story using ten words that I've pulled at random from the pages of Toby Ball's Invisible Streets. They are: neighborhood, knock, tourist, gaze, exhausted, slump, artificial, masterstroke, grip,crack. 
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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Interview from the archives with Kate Atkinson, whose latest novel is Life After Life. We spoke in 2011 about her most recent Jackson Brody novel, Started Early, Took My Dog.

This week’s Write The Book Prompt is inspired by Kate Atkinson’s latest book, Life After Life, published in 2013. Life After Life follows Ursula Todd as she lives through the turbulent events of the last century again and again. In crafting Ursula’s narrative, Kate Atkinson played quite a lot with time: the passage of time and the way events might change if lives could be repeated with changed insight or enhanced sense of premonition. This week, try to play around a little bit with time. Don’t necessarily have a character come back to life over and over, but perhaps present a single moment in time from various angles and perspectives. Or do something different with time - something unexpected and perhaps not quite chronological.

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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Interview from the archives with New Hampshire writer Toby Ball, about his first novel, The Vaults, published by St. Martin's Press. He has since published another novel, Scorch City, also published by St. Martin's.

Toby Ball's novels take place in the same unnamed dystopian city, though during different time periods. This week's Write the Book Prompt is to try your hand at writing a story, poem, or scene that has to do with a dystopian community. You can read more about what a dystopian society might encompass on Wikipedia.

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

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

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

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Vermont author James Tabor, Author of Blind Descent, discusses cave exploration, writing, and  Curtis' "Eighth Wonder of the World" Barbecue in Putney, Vermont.

This week’s Write The Book prompt is to write about an adventure you've had as an adult.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Australian novelist Poppy Gee, author of Bay of Fires, published by Reagan Arthur, an imprint of Little Brown.

Today I have two Write The Book Prompts to offer, both suggested by my guest, Poppy Gee. The first is to use the sense of smell in your work. If you write fiction, introduce a smell that can make your character think about or notice something specific. Poppy's second suggestion for a fiction writer who is stuck is to write four statements about your character in scene: the first three should be statements of action, and the fourth should be an emotional statement. So for example:

Helen walked the long way to work. She turned her ankle in the second block. Her ankle was really throbbing by the time she arrived. She wondered if she might have sprained it and worried it would be impossible to walk back home later.

Poppy says that, despite their simplicity, writing very basic statements like this will often ground her in scene and help her get started.

Good luck with these exercises 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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Award-winning Scottish crime novelist Denise Mina, whose latest book is Gods and Beasts, published by Reagan Arthur Books.

This week's Write The Book Prompts were suggested by my guest, Denise Mina. The first is to do a timed speed-writing (automatic writing) session. Set a clock for three minutes, keep your pen on the page for that time and write down anything that comes into your head. Not a story, Denise says, just the stuff in your head. Stop after the 3 minutes and go away, and then come back and do another three minutes. She says this is a great way to get yourself started if you're stuck. Another good tip that she offers: as you're falling asleep, try to think of the next sentence. You'll wake up with a sense of urgency, desperate to get to your desk.

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 writer Lloyd Devereux Richards, author of Stone Maidens, published by Thomas & Mercer (Amazon's mystery imprint).

Once or twice during the interview, Lloyd mentioned a book he'd found particularly helpful in revising Stone Maidens. I'll mention it here, so you have the full title; it's Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook, by author and literary agent, Donald Maass.

This week's Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Lloyd Devereux Richards. Rewrite a scene you've already worked on, but do so from a different character's perspective.

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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Writer, nurse and humanitarian aid worker Roberta Gately, author of Lipstick in Afghanistan and The Bracelet.

This week's Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Roberta Gately. She says that when you observe people closely, writing ideas do come. She suggests that writers always have a notebook handy, so you can jot down your ideas wherever you are, no matter what you're doing. Next, go to a place where you're likely to find a lot of people: a supermarket, a library, or a shopping mall, for example. And watch people. See what you see, and write down your new ideas.

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

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

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Mary Casanova, award-winning children's author of novels and picture books, including Frozen, published by University of Minnesota Press. You can watch a trailer about the book here.

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

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

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

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Bestselling author Robin Cook, M.D. - perhaps best known for his breakout novel Coma - whose latest medical thriller is Nano, published by Putnam.

This week's Write The Book Prompt is to write about something that is small, literally, but is large in another sense.

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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Rebroadcast of an interview with author Jim DeFilippi, whose latest book is Limerick Malfeasance, a collection of over two-hundred original limericks.

Lately, I'm interested in revision exercises. So this week's Write The Book Prompt is to flip to the middle of a project you're working on and read one page: any single page. Take notes. Try to divorce yourself from the rest of the content of the project, if it's a long one, and just focus on what you see happening on that one page. Look for mistakes, but perhaps more importantly, look for larger issues. Is your voice evident on the page? Is your narrator's voice in evidence? Are any characters who show up there behaving in a consistent manner with your ideas about how they should behave? Is the project's overarching purpose or vision in evidence on the page? Take notes, think about what you see right there in front of you, and see what ideas that might give you about what is or is not working with the piece as a whole. Maybe it will help. 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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Vermont Writer and Writing Coach, Tamar Cole (tamarcole21@gmail.com).

This week's Write The Book Prompt is inspired by a prompt that Tamar Cole has used in her writing workshops. She offers a word and then has participants write six lines about that word, or influenced by that word. So let's do that. In honor of Hurricane Sandy, the word for this week's prompt is STORM. Think about the word storm, and write six lines. Or more!

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

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

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

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

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Two interviews this week:

1) Award-winning Irish author Tana French, whose latest Dublin Murder Squad novel is Broken Harbor, published by Viking/Penguin.

2) Local writer Carrie Mackillop, recent winner of NPR's 3-Minute Fiction Contest and owner of the Old Brick Store in Charlotte, VT.

Today's Write The Book prompt was suggested by my guest, Carrie Mackillop. Write a story of 600 words in which a parent confesses something to a child. Carrie also offered an opening line, "Tess was drowning in inefficiency." You could use that in conjunction with her first prompt, or on its own as a first line, just as NPR's first line inspired Carrie to write Rainy Wedding.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Vermont author Castle Freeman, Jr., whose latest book is Round Mountain: New and Collected Stories, published by Concord ePress and coming out soon in print from Concord Free Press.

Today's Write The Book Prompt is a visual exercise. I'm posting three photos here; choose one that inspires you, and write. I hope you have fun with it. Good luck, and please listen next week for another prompt.

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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 Vermont Author of Memoir, Fiction and Nonfiction, Christopher Noel, whose most recent books include Impossible Visits: The Inside Story of Interactions with Sasquatch at Habituation Sites, and A Frail House: Stories.

Today's Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Chris Noel in 2009, when I first interviewed him. It's a great prompt, and fitting for Halloween, so I'm repeating it now.

During the interview, Chris mentioned that writers should meditate on the monsters that move us, those mysterious creatures that fascinated and perhaps repelled us when we were small. Contemplate the monster that lived under your bed, inside your closet, or outside your window, and then free write. This is a great way to enlighten or SHOW yourself what interests and motivates you. It may well also show you something you'd forgotten or hadn't even realized about yourself.

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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Bestselling Canadian Mystery Writer Louise Penny, whose latest novel is A Trick of the Light. This interview from the archives first aired in 2010.

Today's Write The Book Prompt is to write a poem or story about an invented fad. Create a fictional trend, imagine that it has become wildly popular, and write about 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 former South Burlington High School students).

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New York Times Bestselling Author Mary McGarry Morris, whose latest book is Light from a Distant Star.

Today's Write The Book Prompt was inspired by the work of my guest, Mary McGarry Morris, whose latest book, Light from a Distant Star, involves eavesdropping to some extent. Whether she's listening through the walls or peering from a tree house into her neighbor's yard, Nellie Peck is guilty of eavesdropping. She discovers secrets in this way, and sometimes she sees and hears things she later wishes she hadn't seen and heard. Your writing prompt this week is to eavesdrop. Take a seat next to two strangers in a cafe or restaurant, or sit quietly with a pair of old friends, or ... wherever ... and see what people are saying to each other. Unlike similar eavesdropping exercises that we've had on this show, your task this week is not to study dialogue, but to learn how people gossip and tell each other secrets. How do their voices change? How do they protect themselves from seeming small or unkind? Do they use any form of verbal foreshadowing to add tension to the ways they share secrets? Take notes--mentally or on paper--and see if you can use what you learn in your work.

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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Vermont Novelist Jennifer McMahon, author of the new book, Don't Breathe A Word.

This week's Write the Book Prompt was suggested by my guest Jennifer McMahon, in whose books, secrets play an important role. Jennifer says that when she's stuck working on character, she'll often do an exercise in which she asks a character: "What have you never told anyone?" The answers she comes up with sometimes surprise her. If you're work doesn't involve character, then pose the question to yourself. What have you never told anyone?

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 Crime and Mystery Author Megan Abbott, whose latest novel is The End of Everything.

This week's Write the Book Prompt was suggested by my guest Megan Abbot. Select a long paragraph from a favorite book-Megan mentioned doing this with a section from the Great Gatsby-break it down and look at the sentence structure. Then rewrite the paragraph, keeping only each word's part of speech. Create a paragraph that works within a project of yours, trying to adhere (at least at first) to the original flow. You can change it in revision to work within your piece. But doing this first will bring out a new cadence or rhythm.

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

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

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Novelist Jack Scully, Author of Eyewitness: Part I of a 2-Part Interview With New Vermont Writers.

This week's Write The Book Prompt is inspired by National Libraries Week. The state slogan for this year's celebration is: "Vermont Libraries can take you anywhere." This week, find inspiration at a local library. Go sit in the reading room, people watch, chat with the librarian. Browse the shelves. Browse any fliers, posters or announcements in the lobby. Find out what online services your local library provides, and then browse those sites. Keep your mind open and your pen ready. Then write.

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

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Novelist Kate Atkinson, Winner of the Whitbread Award and Creator of Bestselling Mysteries Featuring Detective Jackson Brodie. Her latest is Started Early, Took My Dog.

This week's Write The Book Prompt is inspired by the interview you heard today with bestselling novelist Kate Atkinson. This one's simple. Find a line in a poem you like, and let it grow to become something you can write about. Not necessarily what the poet was writing about. In our interview,  Kate Atkinson said that she began this book knowing only that she wanted to use Emily Dickinson's line, "Started Early - Took My Dog," for the title. She said during our talk that if you know your title in this way, "you don't have a blank page, you have something written down. ... it gives you a focus for your thoughts." Whether you use a favorite line of poetry as a title for another work, or merely as inspiration is up to you. Give it a try, and see if the blank page looks less daunting in this 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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New Hampshire Novelist Toby Ball, author of The Vaults, published by St. Martin's Press.

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

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

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

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

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Sorche Fairbank, Literary Agent and Founder of Fairbank Literary in Hudson, NY.

This week's Write The Book Prompt is directed toward aspiring novelists. Your job this week is to write a synopsis of your book. Many literary agents will ask to see a synopsis with an initial query, or as a follow-up to a query that caught their attention. Here are a few things to consider as you approach the task.

* A synopsis is not a chapter outline. It's not necessarily even a chronological retelling of the book. Rather, a synopsis presents the book's plot and introduces the main characters in an appealing way that will interest an agent in reading the whole novel. It's a chance to show off your creativity, as well as your ability to condense and organize material.

* You may find that the agents you are querying have their own guidelines for appropriate synopsis length. But if they don't specify otherwise, try to make your book synopsis two-to-three double-spaced pages.

* Use the jacket covers of books you're familiar with as guidelines for how to approach writing a good synopsis. Jacket copy is written to sell books, and that's what you're trying to do as well. Here's an example. This is the jacket copy of a paperback reprinting of George Orwell's 1984: "The world of 1984 is one in which eternal warfare is the price of bleak prosperity, in which the Party keeps itself in power by complete control over man's actions and his thoughts. As the lovers Winston Smith and Julia learn when they try to evade the Thought Police, and then join the underground opposition, the Party can smash the last impulse of love, the last flicker of individuality."

* UNLIKE book jackets, your synopsis should fully describe the plot of your novel, including what happens at the end. To skip over the ending in hopes that the agent will want the full experience of reading your masterpiece is to take yourself out of the running. This is a sales pitch, and the agent will want to know how your book ends if she requests a synopsis as part of the query process.

    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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    Thea Lewis, Vermont author of Haunted Burlington: Spirits of Vermont’s Queen City, and founder of the Queen City Ghost Walk.

    Prompt: This week’s Write The Book Prompt was inspired by the interview you heard today with Thea Lewis. Write from the perspective of a ghost. How would it be if everyone who could see you were afraid of you? Would you haunt a place or a person? Would you be helpful or frightening? Who do you suppose you were you in life, and what happened to bring you to this point?

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

    Readings by Thea Lewis, from Haunted Burlington: Spirits of Vermont’s Queen City (Charleston: Haunted America, The History Press, 2009). Copyright © 2009 by Thea Lewis. Recorded with permission from The History Press.

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

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    Vermont author Jon Clinch, author of the new novel, Kings Of The Earth.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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    Anne Trooper-Holbrooke, Coleen Kearon, Benjamin Malcolm, and Susan Ritz: four writers working to develop their craft.

    This week’s Write The Book prompt was inspired by a comment made by one of my guests. Coleen Kearon mentioned her efforts to introduce more plot, more active scenes into her prose, and to pay attention to the amount of introspection she includes. She described this effort as a move toward plot and away from too much exposition. You may have the same problem. Or perhaps, yours is the opposite problem. If you're a poet, this might not seem like a useful exercise, but the bottom line is balance. Read over your work with an eye to what you use too much of, and how you might rectify that by introducing balance. First, identify the qualities you want to balance. Action and introspection, for example. Or dialogue and exposition. Character interaction and scene setting. Take markers and highlight the parts of your work that fit one versus the other quality that you're trying to balance. Don't judge yourself as you go, but just objectively highlight the differences. And then study your work with this new colorful enhancement and work to right the disproportion.

    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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    James Tabor, Author of Blind Descent, discusses cave exploration, writing, and  Curtis' "Eighth Wonder of the World" Barbecue in Putney, Vermont.

    This week’s Write The Book prompt was inspired by the work of my guest, James M. Tabor. Next time you're considering getting up from your desk and walking away from your writing-against your better judgment-imagine yourself in a cave, two miles below the surface of the earth. Close your eyes, and consider what it might be like to have only the lights that you brought along, only the equipment that you carry on your back. Imagine yourself suspended over water, carefully making your way along the wall of a cave that has a 200-foot vertical drop. This is the sensation that can result in "The Rapture," the kind of panic attack that quickly becomes dangerous for cave explorers. Control your breathing, control your urges to flee. You can't just walk away. You have to finish what you started. Now open your eyes, feel grateful that you're no deeper than the last paragraph that stumped you, and keep writing.

    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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    Nancy Means Wright, author of Midnight Fires: A Mystery with Mary Wollstonecraft, joins Shelagh Shapiro on Write The Book.

    This week's Write The Book prompt was inspired by my guest, Nancy Means Wright, whose work in the theater has helped her as a fiction writer. She said in our interview, "When I write, I try to see the scene in front of me as if it's on a stage, as if my characters are up there." She tries to see how her characters react to each other, how they handle their props, how they look, and what they do. She tries to experience all the shadings of their voices and expressions. "On the stage," Nancy says, "You're always trying to find the focus and purpose of a scene." Try to do the same in your work. If you're writing a scene, try to understand its focus, its purpose. If you are writing about a character who is going through an emotional experience, try the system of accessing that emotion by recalling some experience of your own. This system of acting, developed by Constantin Stanislavski, may helps you empathize with your character's situation as you try to write about it. As Nancy said in our interview, "The act of trying to become your character is something that a writer can do."

    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 novelist Alice Lichtenstein, author of Lost, published by Scribner.

    Write The Book Prompt: One of Alice Lichtenstein's initial inspirations for her new novel, Lost, emerged from a writing exercise. You heard in our interview that she was moved to write about Corey's experience after a friend suggested they write in response to the words: "Day of Fire." This week, consider a "Day Of" exercise. Not Day of Fire, necessarily, though if that brings something to the forefront for you, go with it. But consider the theme of medicine and health and come up with a "Day Of" idea. You might use "Day of Flu," "Day of Doctors," "Day of Needles," "Day of Blood." The specific label is up to you. Use medicine and health as the overarching inspiration, and come up with a "Day Of" idea that might inspire you to write.

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

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

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    Interview with Wouter Nunnink, self-published author of the YA series Ba El Shebub's Gift Awakens

    Write The Book Prompt: In his book, A Mad Man's Poison, Walt Nunnink has created a world that mixes reality and fantasy. One of the aspects of this world is a magical book that only the two main characters can see. In your work this week, play around with this idea of something that can be seen or otherwise perceived by one character or set of characters, but not by others. You could work, as Walt does, with a magical world in which a certain item is selectively visible, or audible. Maybe one of your characters always catches the scent of lilacs on the air when night is coming on.

    Even if you don't write in the fantasy genre, consider this exercise as a way to learn about how your characters' perceptive capacities differ. Maybe your main character senses tension between two co-workers, while his boss is completely oblivious. Or perhaps a wife can tell that her husband is attracted to another woman, but the woman doesn't notice in the least.

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

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

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    Interview with Vermont author Howard Frank Mosher.

    Prompt: This week’s Write The Book Prompt was inspired by the interview you heard today. Howard Frank Mosher mentioned during our talk that he had twice, in the course of writing his new book, Walking To Gatlinburg, asked his wife Phyllis to cast and read Nordic runes as a helpful form of inspiration. He did this partly because Phyllis was studying runes at the time, and partly because runes were the inspiration for the Kingdom Mountain pictographs that play a role in his new book. This week's Write The Book Prompt, then, is to cast runes. For help in understanding how to do this, try these websites (or Google "Nordic Runes," and see if you find other references):

    http://www.ehow.com/how_5830139_make-own-rune-set.html

    http://www.runemaker.com/casting.shtml

    Set yourself a question or problem that you'd like to resolve in your work, and let the runes offer suggestions. These could inspire a course of action for your character, for yourself, for the plot, or for the structure of the project. Keep your mind open and see what presents itself.

    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 author Kathryn Davis.

    Prompt: This week’s Write The Book Prompt was inspired by the interview you heard today with novelist Kathryn Davis. To avoid getting stuck and maintain her interest in an ongoing project, Kathryn said she does two main things. First, she does not read over what she’s written at the end of a given writing session; she waits and reads that work when she next sits down to write. Second, as she finishes each writing session, she winds down by allowing herself to free write for a page or so. This encourages thoughts and ideas that might have been deterred by her more focused or controlled thought process as she was working. She mentioned that useful ideas often come out of this end-of-day free writing. The next time you write, try these two strategies. First, do not allow yourself to read over your work when you finish writing at the end of a given day. Wait until your next writing session. And second, spend five or ten minutes free writing after a regular, disciplined writing session, and see what fresh, useful and relevant ideas might result.

    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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