Archive for the 'Nonfiction' Category

Wendy Sanford, author, editor, and a founding member of the Boston Women’s Health Book Collective. Her debut memoir is These Walls Between Us: A Memoir of Friendship Across Race and Class (SheWrites Press). 

On Wendy Sanford’s website you can go to a page titled Meet Mary Norman: Leading the way for women in New Jersey corrections work 1968-1993. On that page are a series of events that shaped Mary Norman’s life and the people she worked with. These are interesting stories that highlight her contributions. For example, when she was punished for her belief in prisoner rehabilitation, she turned what was meant to be a demeaning demotion into a training program to teach pre-release inmates how to prepare for next steps, filling out work applications, dressing for interviews, things like that. This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to go to that site and read about Mary Norman and her work. Then, if you are moved to do so, write a poem, story, or essay about whatever comes to mind. Maybe you could write about one of the prisoners who had to learn how to dress for an interview. Or you could write from the perspective of a racist guard who didn’t like Mary supervising his work, but came to like and respect the way she supported him. I hope that - like me - you will be inspired by what you learn. 

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

 

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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Author and Journalist Jonah Lehrer, whose new book is Mystery: A Seduction, A Strategy, A Solution (Avid Reader Press).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Jonah Lehrer: Read a detective story and look for the false clues planted in the first five pages, or in Act I, depending on the work. In a Poe story or a Conan Doyle, there are so many missed leads, and you forget about them once you know the ending. But to create the surprise, a lot of work needs to be done. There are many mechanics involved in setting up that surprising twist. And studying the stories or novels of others can help us learn about those mechanics. 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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Award-winning author Donald Antrim, whose new memoir is One Friday in April: A Story of Suicide and Survival (Norton).

In presenting his viewpoint that suicide is a disease, Donald Antrim experiments early in the book with a presentation of labels and names for mental illness. As you heard in the interview, this list begins, “Depression, hysteria, melancholia, nervousness, neurosis…” and goes on for nearly two pages. This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to use a list of words in an interesting way to make a point. Perhaps you are writing about the foliage season. Might it be interesting to present a running list of trees and bushes that offer brilliant color in the fall: maple, oak, elm, hackberry, white birch, larch, tamarack, hazelnut. What could you do to make such a list both interesting, as poetic sound, and evocative? How might you then transition back into your text to continue making your point?

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

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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Vermont Author and former WTB Co-Host Gary Miller, whose new nonfiction book for students and their teachers is There's No Way to Do It Wrong!: How to Get Young Learners to Take Risks, Tell Stories, Share Opinions, and Fall in Love with Writing

Gary generously offered us one of his many writing prompts to use for a Write the Book Prompt today. And that prompt is to begin with the sentence, “They told me, but of course I didn’t listen.” See where it takes you. Write for seven minutes. And there is no way to do it wrong!

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 from the archives with the author Jessica Hendry Nelson, who has a new book out - co-authored with fellow former Write the Book Guest Sean Prentiss: Advanced Creative Nonfiction: A Writer's Guide and Anthology, just out from Bloomsbury. During this interview, we talked about her memoir, If Only You People Could Follow Directions (Counterpoint).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is inspired by the title of my guest’s memoir, If Only You People Could Follow Directions. Write a list of simple directions concerning how to do something - how to change a tire, how to make pasta, how to tape a room before painting it - and then expand on that list, making it into an essay that has deeper meaning.

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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Local author, yoga practitioner, and teacher Kyle Ferguson, whose new book (with co-author Anthony Grudin) is Beyond Hot Yoga: On Patterns, Practice and Movement (North Atlantic Books). 

Kyle's reading during our interview is excepted from Beyond Hot Yoga: On Patterns, Practice, and Movement by Kyle Ferguson and Anthony Grudin, published by North Atlantic Books, copyright © 2021 by Kyle Ferguson and Anthony Grudin. Used by permission of publisher.

One concept discussed in the book is that of “flipping” an established practice—turning it on its head, you might say—to explore the power of opposition. Can we do this as a writing exercise? What is a pattern for which you regularly reach? Do you always write in the morning and find it’s not flowing lately? Maybe write after lunch instead, or last thing at night; maybe write in a notebook rather than on the laptop. Craft-wise, do you start every scene mid-dialogue? Do you use the same tired gestures for your main character? How might you flip these patterns to explore the power of opposition? Perhaps you could begin a scene at the end of an important action, and find a way other than dialogue to present what has happened. Perhaps Matilda avoids her reflection for once. Perhaps she reaches for her younger sister’s hand and not that cigarette. Or would she never do that? Why not? If it’s not consistent with her character, what other than a cigarette will satisfy (or at least live comfortably on the page alongside) her tension and unhappiness? Will she nervously play with a necklace? Will she stalk from room to room, always as if she has a mission, though never actually having a mission? Perhaps this in itself can underscore that lack of purpose you’re going for, and her feelings of inadequacy.

I have no idea, in fact, what you're working on and what the patterns of your writing practice look like. But for this week's Write the Book Prompt, consider ways to flip that practice, re-pattern your habits, and freshen both the words on the page, and the stories they tell.

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

 

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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Author and award-winning poet Natasha Sajé, whose new book is Terroir: Love, Out of Place (Trinity University Press). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously offered by my guest, Natasha Sajé, who discussed the concept during our conversation, referring to “The Flash Forward” and “The Flash Back.” As long as your readers know the present moment of a scene, and that scene is clear to them, you can move around in time to inform the moment, making it richer and deeper. In Natasha’s book, she presents a dinner party in such a way that it becomes an elegy to friends she will later lose to AIDs. And so a dinner party scene gives way to a flash forward of what is coming - the AIDS epidemic, insight into its roots and politics, lives lost, a community devastated. That scene in turn brings us back to the happy dinner party, so that we finish by reading the “present” moment of the party scene. A mouse runs through the room, Natasha and another guest scream, and the scene ends almost comically, but still a strong sense of emotion and disquiet. This week, play around with flashing forward or back to enrich a moment in your work and see what emerges.

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

 

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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Vermont poet and author Erika Nichols-Frazer, who has edited a new collection on themes of mental health, A Tether to This World: Stories and Poems About Recovery (Main Street Rag). We are joined later in the hour by the poet A. E. Hines, a contributor to the collection. 

This week we have two Write the Book Prompts, thanks to the generosity of my guests. The first was offered by Erika Nichols-Frazer, who credits it to the poet Chelsie Diane. Write a letter to yourself that starts with the phrase “I forgive you.” 

And Earl, who publishes as A.E. Hines, shares an exercise on practicing self exposure. Pick a moment from your past or a personal circumstance that stands out in your mind as embarrassing: one that makes you at least slightly uneasy when sharing it. Now write a short poem about that experience using either second or third person — as if you’re telling the story about someone else. It doesn’t have to be a big thing; it could be something you did, a mistake you made, or something that happened to you due to no fault of your own. The only requirement is that writing about it puts a twinge of angst in your belly.  When you’re done, change the POV back to first person, and see what happens. Did you learn anything new about that situation?

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 David Laskin, in a conversation from 2013 about his book. The Family: A Journey Into the Heart of the Twentieth Century (Penguin).  In March 2021, he published a novel, What Sammy Knew (Penguin).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to write about someone who follows through on a bad idea, even though they know it will be a bad idea. 

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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Matthew Salesses, author of Craft in the Real World: Rethinking Fiction Writing and Workshopping (Catapult).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Matthew Salesses. This comes from his book, Craft in the Real World: Rethinking Fiction Writing and Workshopping (Catapult), and is the tenth in his series of revision exercises. “Add a major source of outside complication to your story. That is, add something big that comes in and forces itself on the plot, something like a toxic spill or an earthquake or a war or a rabid dog or a serial killer or a rapture. Don’t make this a small insertion, but something that truly changes the story. You might think about what large outside force would connect thematically to the character arc. In other words, how can story arc and character arc inform each other and help each other to resonate? A toxic spill (and subsequent cover-up) might help a story in which a character is hiding a secret that would reveal him to be a dangerous person.”

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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Columbia University Campbell Family Professor of Anthropology Claudio Lomnitz whose new memoir is Neustra América: My Family in the Vertigo of Translation (Other Press). 

My guest’s title, Nuestra America translates in English as Our America. In the case of Professor Lomnitz’s book, the title refers to his own family’s experience of America. But if you were to say them aloud, what might the words “Our America” mean to you? This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to write about that. Consider America, the continent or the country, as you interpret it, and whatever sense of ownership and community the word “Our” might bring to your own mind. In times of post-election fallout, particularly this year, it might be a good exercise for all of us. What is Our America, and who are “We?” Who is a member of Our America, from your viewpoint; what does that collective share in common, and what do you think about or hope for that group?

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

 

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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Author and educator Martin Puchner, whose new book is The Language of Thieves: My Family's Obsession with a Secret Code the Nazis Tried to Eliminate (Norton).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Martin Puchner. Take one piece of research, a photograph, a document, an object and contemplate not only what it says, but how it got into your hands. How many people handled it before you? What kinds of institutions, and the people working for them, preserved them? How did these objects come into being and how did they survive? Hopefully, in asking these questions, you’ll discover the biographies of these objects. They will become full interlocutor and not just props.

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

I also spoke with Martin Puchner in 2018. You can listen to that conversation here. 

Music: Aaron Shapiro

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Author Lewis Buzbee, interviewed in 2013 at the request of a listener. (Thanks, Shannon!) We discuss his middle-grade novel Bridge of Time (Squarefish) and his nonfiction book, The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop, (Graywolf Press).

Lewis Buzbee’s book The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop celebrates the unique experience of exploring a bookstore—getting lost seeking your  perfect next read. And yet, due to the pandemic, many of us are unable to shop in bookstores at this time. This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to write about your favorite bookstore or library, recalling what you most love or miss about the experience of being there, and what you will do when you can again browse its shelves.

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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Dr. Debra Horwitz, veterinarian and co-editor of Decoding Your Cat: The Ultimate Experts Explain Common Cat Behaviors and Reveal How to Prevent or Change Unwanted Ones(HMH).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is a piece of advice that my guest, Dr. Debra Horwitz, generously suggested. People do their best thinking at different times. Dr. Horwitz says she sometimes comes up with her best ideas when she’s driving, or has just woken up in the night or in the morning, or is otherwise unavailable. So she recommends having sticky notes in the car, on the bedside table, and all those places where you might get a great idea and want to jot a note despite not having a computer at hand. If you like dictating notes instead, be sure you have a dictation app on your phone, or a recorder that you can carry and have at hand.

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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Fiona McCrae, Director and Publisher of the Minneapolis-based literary publisher, Graywolf Press

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously offered by my guest, Fiona McCrae. Consider the Black Lives Matter movement and the murder of George Floyd, and write. Maybe write from the perspective of someone with different or more extreme opinions than your own. Or write from two distinct perspectives. Or perhaps write from the point of view of someone who has one opinion, but is somehow personally affected by the movement in a way that amplifies, changes, or even negates that opinion. In responding to this current moment in history, consider your goal to be one of inspiring meaningful dialogue. 

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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UVM Professor Emeritus Robert Manning and Artist Martha Manning, authors of several books on long distance walking, including the subject of our 2013 conversation, Walking Distance: Extraordinary Hikes for Ordinary People (OSU Press).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to write about a famous walk. This could mean Steven Newman’s famous solo walk around the world, or it could mean your own child’s first steps. 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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American Poet, Essayist and Translator J. Chester Johnson, whose new memoir is Damaged Heritage: The Elaine Race Massacre and A Story of Reconciliation (Pegasus).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to consider your own family’s leanings when it comes to filiopietism, that veneration, often excessive, of ancestors or tradition. Does this exist in your own circle of relatives? Do people excuse behaviors because it’s just how the family has always been? Do you have beliefs based largely on what you were raised to think but have never questioned? Are there, even,  certain artifacts hidden away in your home that you keep simply because they belonged to a great grandfather or grandmother? If so, think about why you keep them, why you believe what you believe, why you cling to what you cling to, what you might shed of your family’s past if you could (or what you would not), and then 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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Vermont Psychologist Bruce Chalmer whose new book is Reigniting the Spark: Why Stable Relationships Lose Intimacy, and How to Get It Back (TCK Publishing). 

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

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

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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A conversation with Vermont author Ginny Sassaman, whose new book is Preaching Happiness: Creating a Just and Joyful World (Rootstock).

For a Write the Book Prompt, write about what has made you happy in the past week.

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

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

This is one of several shorter interviews Shelagh is conducting with Vermont authors whose new books have had their tours upended by Corona.  

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Local entrepreneur Janice Shade's new book is Moving Mountains: The Power of Main Street Americans to Change Our Economy (Onion River Press). 

Write the Book Prompt: Can you imagine "economic justice for all?" What would that look like? How would it different from our present system? Can you think of a few small, symbolic images that might represent achieving that vision? Does it bring to mind a person or group from your past? If so, maybe write about them today. Let the expression, taken from Janice Shade's book description, inspire you. Think hard about economic justice for all, and write. 

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

 

This is one of several shorter interviews Shelagh is conducting with Vermont authors whose new books have had their tours upended by Corona. Stay tuned: there will be more! And if you'd like to order Janice's book through her local bookstore, that would be Phoenix Books.  

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Canadian Journalist Jessica McDiarmid, author of Highway of Tears: A True Story of Racism, Indifference, and the Pursuit of Justice for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (Atria).

This week's Write the Book Prompt is to write a poem, a story, an essay, or a reflection about a person who has disappeared. 

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

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

 

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A new interview with the author Douglas Glover about his  collection of essays on literary form, The Erotics of Restraint (Biblioasis). 

When Douglas Glover and I spoke, he mentioned that, as he was developing his craft, he would make lists of conflicted situations in a notebook. Then, when he wanted to begin a new project, he'd read through his notebook to find a promising conflicted situation with which to start. He doesn't know what the plot will be as he begins, but he does still always know the conflict. This week, make a list of conflicts from which you might draw an interesting situation to use in your writing.

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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Author Jane Alison, whose latest is Meander, Spiral, Explode: Design and Pattern in Narrative (Catapult). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Jane Alison, who led a workshop recently that was studying Grace Paley’s story “Distance.” A phrase in the story includes the words, “the picture in the muck under their skulls…” Jane loved this line. She says we all have such pictures “in the muck under our skulls” - those moments that have formed or deformed us, that haunt us. Maybe places we want to return to, or moments that will not leave us. So this week, think if there’s some moment or image from your recent or long-ago past, a deeply imbedded thing that can still glimmer before your eyes, or make you feel homesick, or has a mysterious potency to it. A moment that could become an important part of a story about your life, or perhaps part of a story that you would invent about someone like you. Write about it, and let its magnetism lead you as you work. See what comes out of the muck.

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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Interview from the archives with Author Gary Kowalski, about his 2012 book Goodbye, Friend: Healing Wisdom for Anyone Who Has Ever Lost a Pet (New World Library).

This week's Write the Book Prompt is to write about an unexpected interaction with an animal to which (to whom?) you have no personal ties.

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 writer and psychotherapist Lori Gottlieb, author of Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, HER Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed (Mariner Books). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to try writing something in the second person. You can take a piece you’re actively working on, employing another POV narration, and simply use this as the opportunity for an exercise. Or attempt a new story, essay, or poem in the second person. Electric Literature has a pretty good piece about writing from this unusual point of view, and I’m going to include a link to that in this week’s prompt, should you like to read it before giving this a go. One caveat: I disagree with the author they quote as disliking Jay McInerney’s Bright Lights, Big City,  a novel famously written in the second person. I found that short novel to be a real gem, and very much enjoyed the narrative point of view that McInerney employed. SO - give this a try. You may dislike the results. You may rush back to your cozy first- or third-person close with renewed relish. If so, that’s all for the best! But maybe the second person will crack open something you couldn’t see as you worked before. I hope so. Here’s the article link:

https://electricliterature.com/how-to-write-a-second-person-story/ 

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

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

 

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Vermont author Megan Price, who will soon publish another in her wildly popular Vermont Wild series (Pine Marten Press).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to write a story, poem, or essay that concerns wildlife or nature, and maybe has a funny aspect to it.

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 from the archives with Vermont Author Eric Zencey, who passed away on July 1st after a battle with cancer. Eric's books included Virgin Forest: Meditations on History, Ecology, and Culture (University of Georgia Press); Greening Vermont: The Search for a Sustainable State, coauthored with Elizabeth Courtney (Vermont Natural Resources Council/Thistle Hill); and The Other Road to Serfdom and the Path to Sustainable Democracy (University Press of New England). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to consider the following quote from Eric Zencey’s book, The Other Road to Serfdom and the Path to Sustainable Democracy, and then write about whatever might occur to you, having read it:

 

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

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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Guest host Kim MacQueen interviews Karol Jackowski,

author of Sister Karol's Book of Spells, Blessings & Folk Magic (Weiser Books). 

This week's Write the Book Prompt is to try your hand at writing a spell. Some of the spells in Sister Karol's book include Spell To Become a Peacemaker, Get Well Spell, Good Luck Spell, Anxiety Gone Spell, Thanksgiving Spells and Blessings. If you were to write a spell, what would it be for? Think about how you would go about it. Think about what would be important as a message for that theme. Make it something interesting, but also fun, and see what you come up with. 

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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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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Journalist and author David Shields, whose new book is The Trouble With Men: Reflections on Sex, Love, Marriage, Porn, and Power (Mad Creek Books).

David Shields generously offered the following Write the Book Prompt this week: write a postcard that simultaneously evokes place and reveals something about the postcard writer that he or she is not aware of.

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

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

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

Music: Aaron Shapiro

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Interview from the archives with Canadian Author Douglas Glover. We discussed his book of craft essays, Attack of the Copula Spiders (Biblioasis).

Early in his essay collection, Doug Glover asserts this about point of view in fiction:

Point of view is the mental modus operandi of the person who is telling or experiencing the story--most often this is the protagonist. This mental modus operandi is located in a fairly simple construct involving desire, significant history and language overlay. The writer generally tries to announce the desire, goal or need of the primary character as quickly as possible. the key here is to make this desire concrete and simple. 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to look at the point of view in what you are working on and ask yourself: is this character’s desire clear? Is it concrete and simple? Do I introduce it quickly enough? How might I improve on the early presentation of my point of view character?

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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Cheryl Suchors, author of 48 Peaks - Hiking and Healing in the White Mountains (SheWrites).

This week's Write the Book Prompt is actually three prompts, generously suggested by my guest, Cheryl Suchors. Begin with one of these statements or questions, and then write:

  • “I’d never consider hiking, or wearing these ridiculous hot, heavy boots, except that ...”
  • “You’re on a mountain that you’ve never hiked before. You’re by yourself. You’re suddenly remembering stories of women who’ve been attacked while alone in the woods, or maybe you’re making these up, you’re actually not quite sure if they’re true. You hear something or someone thrashing through the forest. It sounds like they’re coming your way. What do you do next?”
  • “Your grief is so profound that you haven’t left the house in two weeks. You know you have to do something about yourself. You decide to...”    

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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Interview from the archives with Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking (Broadway Books). 

Is one of your characters an introvert? Do you know? This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to go to the quietrev.com website and take the introversion quiz on behalf of a character. Perhaps it will help you understand the way this character should think, act and grow on the page.

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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Robert and Martha Manning, (former Vermont) authors of Walking Distance: Extraordinary Hikes for Ordinary People, published by Oregon State University Press.

In conjunction with this interview, I'll post a slideshow with audio of my own recent long hike: El Camino de Santiago de Compostela. Watch for that, and for this week's prompt, soon. 

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 author and New York Times Journalist Karen Crouse, who recently published her first book, Norwich: One Tiny Vermont Town's Secret to Happiness and Excellence (Simon & Schuster). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Karen Crouse. It is inspired by a talk she heard, given by the author Elizabeth Gilbert. During her talk, Elizabeth Gilbert mentioned that she'd had no idea, when she set out to write her book, Eat Pray Love, that it would eventually meet with so much success. She commented that that knowledge might even have made it hard to approach in the first place. She went on to suggest that, when you sit down to write, don’t think of it as a formal exercise. Think of it as relaying a story you might tell it to your best friend. This always stayed with Karen, who has found it valuable advice. And so she has shared it with us!

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 from the archives with Vermont author Bill Mares. We discussed his book, Brewing Change: Behind the Bean at Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, co-authored by Rick Peyser. He has since published The Full Vermonty: Vermont in the Age of Trump, co-authored by Jeff Danziger. 

This week's Write the Book Prompt is to write about the role coffee has (or does not have) in your own work and life. 

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

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Women's Leadership Expert Sally Helgesen, co-author with Marshall Goldsmith of the new book How Women Rise—Break the 12 Habits Holding You Back from Your Next Raise, Promotion, or Job (Hachette).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to consider how any of these categories might be holding you back in your work, and decide how to approach a solution. These are just a handful of the subjects covered in Sally’s book, which we discussed in our conversation: Being a Pleaser, Building Rather than Leveraging Relationships, Perfection, Minimizing (yourself or your work), Ruminating.  

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

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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Author, literary critic and philosopher Martin Puchner, whose new book is The Written World: The Power of Stories to Shape People, History, Civilization (Random House).

What is one of the earliest legends you remember coming across? Was it a biblical story, such as that of Cain and Abel? Was it the story of Ulysses (or Odysseus), perhaps in a form published for children? Or maybe it was the Thousand and One Nights? This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to consider an early legend that had an effect on you, and write with that story in mind. Perhaps write a contemporary take on the story itself. Or give consideration to the moral of the tale and write in an effort to share the same ethical lessons. You could also research the ways in which that early legend might have influenced historical events and write about that.

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 Soto Zen Priest Brad Warner, author most recently of It Came from Beyond Zen! More Practical Advice from Dogen, Japan's Greatest Zen Master (Treasury of the True Dharma Eye) (New World Library)

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This week's Write the Prompt involves a sentiment you can find discussed in Brad Warner's new book, It Came From Beyond Zen! The idea comes from 13th century Japanese Zen Master Eihei Dogen and is translated and explained by Brad in his book. I’m paraphrasing it here: Treating people right falls into four main behaviors: free giving, kind speech, being helpful, and cooperation. If you’d like to read Brad's actual translation and more analysis about these four ways to treat people, you’ll want to turn to the book. But if you can, take in the basic premise behind these suggestions, and use them in your work this week. Somehow try to infuse your writing, or maybe the actions of a character, with the ideas of free giving, kind speech, helpfulness and cooperation.

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

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

 

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Author Rick Smolan, whose new book is The Good Fight: America's Ongoing Struggle for Justice (Against All Odds), co-authored by Jennifer Erwitt.

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This week’s Write the Book Prompt is inspired by the interview you heard today. Many thanks to Rick Smolan for providing some photographs from The Good Fight for me to post on the podcast site. (See below.) Have a look at these pictures, and then write whatever you might be moved to express. You can have a closer look by right-clicking (or control-clicking) on each image to open it in a new tab. 

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

 

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

 

Photo Credit: Steve Schapiro  Signing of 19th Amendment to the US Constitution

Photo Credit: Steve Schapiro                                           1920: KY Governor Morrow signs 19th Amendment

Photo Credit: Jessica Rinaldi  Photo Credit: Nuccio Dinuzzo

Photo Credit: Jessica Rinaldi                                        Photo Credit: Nuccio Dinuzzo

Photo Credit: Doug Mills  Photo Credit: Johnathan Bachman

Photo Credit: Doug Mills                                               Photo Credit: Johnathan Bachman

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An interview from the archives - and from a previous radio station - with Mary R. Morgan, author of Beginning With the End, A Memoir of Twin Loss and Healing.

This week's Write The Book Prompt is to write about a person who is lost. Interpret the word "lost" in whatever way might help you as you work.

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

Music credit: Aaron Shapiro

 

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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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2012 Interview with John Homans, author of What's a Dog For? (Penguin

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is inspired by the lives of two men born on this date: martial artist and actor Bruce Lee, born November 27, 1940, and American rock guitarist, singer, and songwriter Jimi Hendrix, born November 27, 1942. Both men had ties to Seattle. Hendrix was born there. Lee moved there to attend college and later opened a martial arts school there. Both men struggled to achieve success in their fields, and each finally achieved it before dying young, eventually becoming a legend in his respective field. This week, consider these men and their lives and careers. Consider their fortunes, good and bad, their determination and talent. And then either write about them, or allow their stories to inform the work that you’re doing.

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

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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Vermont author Adam Federman, whose new book is Fasting and Feasting: The Life of Visionary Food Writer Patience Gray (Chelsea Green).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to look for inspiration in a cookbook. So, for example, in my kitchen I do have the cookbook by Salvadore Dali, which is titled Les Diners de Gala. In opening the book, I find many things. Recipes like Lobster with Black Pearls, Ramekins of Frog’s Legs, and Tripe of Yesteryear. Maybe you’ll open a more tame cookbook, and find an inscription from a friend, reminding you of a long-ago birthday or anniversary. Maybe you’ll be inspired by a photograph of a lamb chop with mint jelly. Or maybe a recipe for turkey with roquefort will inspire you to write about a family celebrating thanksgiving in France. Whatever you find, let it be the way into this week’s writing.

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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lvw.jpgInterview from the archives with then-president of the League of Vermont Writers, Deb Fennell.

It is now officially football season. The Bills have a win, the Patriots, a loss. But it’s early days. This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to write about a football game that begins in a friendly way and turns nasty. It can be about a Thanksgiving touch football game, or a group of old friends coming together to watch the Superbowl. It can be about high school parents, professional players, the fans, or the guy selling beer and hot dogs. Be sure to describe the weather, the smells and sounds and colors.

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

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Interview from the archives with 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 to consider the movement of an animal and use that in a comparative piece about human nature. 

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

 

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Award-winning and best-selling author Jonathan Lethem with his new essay collection, More Alive and Less Lonely: On Books and Writers (Melville House).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by our guest, Jonathan Lethem. Writers are often encouraged to go out and eavesdrop in cafes and other places where people gather, in order to write down what they overhear and learn how dialogue works. Lethem suggests that we go out to watch people, but not so close that you can actually hear their conversations. Observe them talking to one another, and through interpreting gesture, expression, and attitude, write what you think they MAY be saying to each other.

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

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Author Robin Romm, who has edited the new essay collection Double Bind: Women on Ambition (Liveright). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by our guest, Robin Romm, who teaches at Warren Wilson’s low-residency MFA in Writing Program. One thing she says she loves to do as a writer is--at the end of a day--to write lists of very specific sensory things that she ran across that day. So perhaps a shirt, a clip of dialogue, a person’s face, in no particular order. Not feelings or facts, but colors, sounds, smells, dialogue. So the texture of the couch, or the way the cat looked lying in the sun, or something the mailman said as he waited for you to sign for a package. Having these lists leads to other things in interesting ways and gets you thinking like a writer. Robin says that these snippets will help to get rid of abstract worry and thought and help to focus on scene building.  The sensory and the concrete almost always lead you into more interesting material in a way that intellect almost never does.

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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