Archive for the 'Nonfiction' Category

National Book Critics Circle Award winner and author of “the most accomplished book of essays anyone has written or published so far in the twenty-first century” (Salon), Eula Biss, whose book On Immunity: An Inoculation has come out in paperback (Graywolf Press). 

I have a new Write The Book Prompt for you, an exercise suggested by my guest, Eula Biss, who learned it long ago at an AWP panel. She doesn’t recall whose idea it was, and so can not credit the person, though she’d like to, because she uses it both as a writer and as a teacher:

Write a scene or moment from a “bright spot” in your memory. It isn’t necessary to understand why you’re writing about it; you don’t have to know why it’s important or why you remember it, but write from this bright spot: this moment that rises quickly and easily to the surface. Then read over what you’ve written--a paragraph or a page, whatever you have written. Then, without looking it over again, write it again using a different tense. Eula has noticed that different verb tenses will draw out different material. Often she will compose in the present tense, because it draws out richer detail, and then--if it makes the most sense--revise into another tense, like the past, later. 

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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Gary Lee Miller interviews author Cecelia Tichi about her new book, Jack London: A Writer's Fight for a Better America (UNC Press, Sept. 2015).


Jack London was a prolific writer, as you'll learn in this interview. Below are a few of his famous aphorisms. This week's Write the Book Prompt is to choose one that inspires you, and write for twenty minutes.
  • I would rather be ashes than dust! I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet.
  • A bone to the dog is not charity. Charity is the bone shared with the dog, when you are just as hungry as the dog.
  • Darn the wheel of the world! Why must it continually turn over? Where is the reverse gear?

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

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


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Interview from the archives with Ecologist and educator Amy Seidl, author of Early Spring: An Ecologist and Her Children Wake to a Warming World and Finding Higher Ground: Adaptation in the Age of Warming.


This week's Write the Book Prompt concerns caring for the earth. Write about one step you have taken toward this guardianship. Then write about a next step you hope to take.

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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Gary Lee Miller interviews Yvonne Daley, Director of the Green Mountain Writers' Conference and author of five nonfiction books, including The Bend In The Road: Lenny Burke's Farm, published by Northshire.

This week's Write the Book Prompt was generously offered by Yvonne Daley. These are lines from people’s Instagram profiles. Use one or more as inspiration for a fictional piece with the line being the online dating or Instagram profile of your character. Alternatively, if you are writing nonfiction, what would someone in your piece write for their one-line description of him or herself. If you’re a poet, play with one or more of these self-descriptions in an ironic or wry manner as a way of commenting on contemporary communication.

  • A man of mystery and power, whose power is exceeded only by his mystery
  • Buoyant, waggish, efficacious, indefatigable, demiurgic, convivial marketing companion, self-made thousandaire
  • Currently starring in my own reality show titled, A Modern Cinderella; One Girl’s Search for Love and Shoes
  • Currently working towards an MBA with an emphasis in fantasy football
  • Don’t think for a second that I actually care what you have to say
  • Fabulous ends in “us.” Coincidence? I think not
  • Generally, the path of least resistance appeals. Also, I am excellent at parallel parking.
  • I always feel sad for seedless watermelons, because what if they wanted babies?
  • I am an actor and a writer and I co-created my breakfast and my son, Malachai.
  • I am coming back to face the reality that a normal day is not beer on the beach or calamari in the belly.
  • I can quote (Insert movie) better than you and all your friends.
  • Can’t remember who I stole my bio from or why
  • I have not lost my mind – it’s backed up on HD somewhere.
  • I have this new theory that human adolescence doesn’t end until your early thirties.
  • I hope one day I love something the way women in commercials love yogurt
  • I looked at my Instagram photos and realized I look beautiful.
  • I once sneezed a beanie weenie through my nose. I also made a horse faint in Costa Rica.
  • I only rap caucasionally
  • I prefer my puns intended
  • I put the hot in psychotic
  • I recently gave up Warcraft so my productivity, and drinking, have increased dramatically.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Write the Book's 351st episode (!) introduces Shelagh's new co-host, Gary Lee Miller, in an interview with Vermont author Sean Prentiss about his new book, Finding Abbey: The Search for Edward Abbey and His Hidden Desert Grave, published by University of New Mexico Press.


Sean Prentiss generously shared two Write the Book Prompts with Gary during their interview. The first is this: 

Find a piece of writing you love. Study it. What is the tone? What is the shape on the page? What is the title? How much dialogue is used? How are characters developed? What is the theme? Once you’ve studied the piece, then try to emulate it.  Write your own piece that mirrors or learns from the piece you love. Allow yourself to follow the original, but also to meander where you need. 

The second prompt for this week focuses on beginning and endings. If you have a draft of an essay, story or poem that you like but find yourself stuck with the beginning or ending, go ahead and add a second beginning or ending. Just tack it right on. Maybe start or end your piece with an overt idea, or start or end your piece with a scene that moves us to some new place or time. Or start with a powerful metaphoric image. This can be just the kind of writing play you need to get you where you want to go. 

Good luck with these exercises, and listen next week for another.

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


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2011 interview from the archives with Seattle-based writer and teacher Priscilla Long. We discussed her wonderful book and writing resource, The Writer's Portable Mentor.


This week's Write the Book Prompt is to consider the word mentor. Have you ever had a mentor? Have you ever been a mentor to someone else? What have those relationships provided for you and the other person? Are you still in touch? Is the coaching/education/guidance ongoing, or was the mentorship a temporary situation? If you're no longer in touch, do you miss that other person? If you were the mentor, what did you get out of offering guidance to another? Consider all of these questions, and write.
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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2011 interview with Award-Winning Author and Journalist Christian Parenti, regarding his book, Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence.

This week's Write the Book Prompt is to write about the eventual occasion of a long-avoided conflict.

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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Best-selling sports writer Jeff Pearlman, whose latest book is Showtime: Magic, Kareem, Riley, and the Los Angeles Lakers Dynasty of the 1980s, which came out last fall from Gotham Books.


This week’s  Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Jeff Pearlman. Look around your room and choose something. For example, Jeff mentioned seeing a pineapple. Use the word for that object in your next sentence; it has to be a viable sentence. In his case, Jeff might then try to compare a basketball to the look and feel of a pineapple. Maybe the stickiness or the texture. He says it might not last, it might not make the final cut when it comes to finalizing the draft, but it often helps him to keep going when the work has slowed down. 

A second recommendation that Jeff makes is to listen to old-school hip hop while you write. He suggests choosing a jazz-infused kind of hip hop, like A Tribe Called Quest or Black Sheep. Jeff feels that the flow of really good hip hop is similar to the flow of writing. He says that some of his best work was written when he was listening to old-school hip hop.

So there you go: two writing ideas from Jeff Pearlman.

Good luck with them, 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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Veteran Boston Globe Reporter Stephen Kurkjian, author of Master Thieves, the story of the the largest art theft in history, published by PublicAffairs.

This week's Write the Book Prompt is to bring suspense to your (creative) nonfiction by writing certain pivotal moments in scene, rather than summarizing the historical facts. If you are able, include dialogue, eye contact, movement and sensory detail. This was an aspect of Master Thieves that I found engaging: that Stephen Kurkjian was able to inform readers about the events of the Gardner heist by bringing us into the moments that counted.
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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Interview from 2011 with Kristin Kimball, author of The Dirty Life, published by Scribner.


This week's Write the Book Prompt has to do with the podcast I'll be airing tomorrow, about the book Master Thieves, by Stephen Kurkjian. Master Thieves concerns the Gardner Museum heist, which happened twenty-five years ago this month. (Stephen Kurkjian's publisher has embargoed all interviews until 3/11, and so I will air the podcast on that date.) Write about a theft. From bubblegum slipped into a small pocket, to a painting removed while an alarm goes off, theft can make for interesting fiction. Who commits the crime and why? Who is the victim--an elderly woman missing her purse, or a huge corporation missing their computer files? Is the thief conflicted? What does he or she stand to gain?
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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Archive interview with Vermont writer Laban Carrick Hill, author of over thirty books, including the historical picture book, Dave the Potter, and co-director of the Writers Project of Ghana, a nonprofit based in the Ghana and the US. In 2014, Laban Carrick Hill published the award winning When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of Hip Hop.

Today's Write the Book Prompt is to write about a person with some regimen that is challenged: a vegetarian who can only find a hamburger in the small town he is visiting; a Jewish mourner who is unable to find a synagogue in which to pray (or a minyan for a prayer service); a reserved mother who can't find a private place to nurse her hungry baby. 
Good luck with this exercise, and listen next week for another.
Music credits: 1) “Dreaming 1″ - John Fink; 2) “Filter” - Dorset Greens (a Vermont band featuring several former South Burlington High School students. 

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Interview from the archives with Marilyn Graman, New York psychotherapist and co-principal of Life Works, an organization "committed to supporting people in having lives that are healthy, fulfilled and satisfied." Life Works books include The Female Power WithinThere is No Prince, and How To Be Cherished.


This week's Write the Book Prompt is to write about a character recalling a past relationship. Is your character missing an old love, relieved to be free of that person? Does your character consider looking someone up on Facebook? Is she a stalker? Is he being stalked? Take the story wherever it wants to go.
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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Author, editor, educator, and translator Wendy Call

This week’s Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Wendy Call, who says it was inspired by the portion of our interview about translation. It’s an exercise in homophonic translation -- that is to say, translation based on sound – actual, assumed, or imagined – of poetry written in other languages.

First: Find a stanza of poetry written in a language you do not know.

Second: Look at the words carefully and imagine how they sound when spoken aloud. Link those sounds to English words. Try sounding out each line verbally, until English words occur to you. Focus on SOUND, not known or imagined meaning. Feel free to take liberties and be nonsensical.

Here's an example, of a stanza of poetry written by Irma Pineda in Isthmus Zapotec, a language spoken in Oaxaca, Mexico.

The Original reads:

Nuu dxi rizaaca

ranaxhi tobi ca yáaga ca'

Wendy’s English version reads:

New dixie rise AKA

Ran an exit to bike yoga,  ‘kay?

Third: Take your "found" English stanza and revise it into a new 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 former South Burlington High School students, now alums). 

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Interview from the archives with Nancy Marie BrownVermont author of the bookSong of the Vikings, The Abacus and the Cross, The Far Traveler, Mendel in the Kitchen, and A Good Horse Has No Color.

Today's Write the Book Prompt, in honor of Thanksgiving, is to consider an early cooking experience (either one of your own, or a friend's or relative's) and write about that. My own might be the first time I cooked for the woman who would eventually be my mother-in-law. We were on a vacation in a remote but lovely place with terrible grocery store options, and when I opened the box of pasta (once I was all ready to boil it), it was full of bugs. But that's just me.
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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Vikram Chandra, author most recently of Geek Sublime: The Beauty of Code, the Code of Beautypublished by Graywolf Press.

Today's Write the Book Prompt is to write about someone's first experience using a computer. 

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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Shelagh interviews Tim Brookes about his latest, First Time Author, and Tim interviews Shelagh about her debut novel, Shape of the Sky. RETN captures the interview for television and radio. Much fun had by all. 

Today’s Write The Book Prompt is to write about a person who meets a goal. Someone who achieves something she has always wanted to achieve. It can be a sales goal, a personal best, a long-avoided task. Is she pleased? Does it look like it was supposed to? Is he happy afterwards, or does it immediately fail to meet his expectations? What does he do next? What does she?  

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

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

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Vermont author Eric Zencey, in a conversation about his novel, Panama (Farrar Straus Giroux), and his nonfiction books, The Other Road to Serfdom and the Path to Sustainable Democracy (UPNE), and Greening Vermont - The Search for a Sustainable State (Vermont Natural Resources Council/Thistle Hill Publications), co-authored by Elizabeth Courtney.


This week’s  Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Eric Zencey. It concerns noise and noise pollution. Based on a theater exercise that he’s been interested in turning into a writing prompt, this week’s exercise is to lie down, shut your eyes, maybe dim the lights, and then listen to and remember every sound you hear for a set amount of time. Maybe five minutes. Maybe ten. You decide. After that time is up, take notes about what you recall, and use the noises you were able to identify in your work.

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 Vermont Mathematician, Professor and Author Joseph Mazur.


This week's Write The Book Prompt is to write about a gambling experience in which the goals of your main character have changed by the time he or she wins or loses. 

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

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

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Vermont 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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Best-selling nonfiction author, David Laskin, whose new book is The Family, published by Viking. David Laskin's USA Today article that he mentioned during our conversation, about the Pew Study on American Jews and religion, can be found here.

This week I have two Write The Book Prompts to offer, having to do with point of view in nonfiction. Both of these were generously suggested by my guest, David Laskin. First, describe a family crisis (death of a relative, decision to move or emigrate, wedding) from the points of view of two or three different family members. And second, write about an historic event from an intimate and specific point of view. This might be along the lines of "Where were you when JFK was assassinated?" or "What were your exact circumstances when the terrorist attacks took place on 9/11/01?" Weave together or juxtapose the personal and historic -- for example, details from daily life with memories of newscasts, tv images, and such.

Good luck with these exercises and please listen next week for another.

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

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Interview from the archives with Tim Brookes, author of eleven books, including Thirty Percent Chance of Enlightenment.


Today’s Write The Book Prompt is inspired by the Endangered Alphabets Project, founded by my guest, Tim Brookes. Think back to some aspect of your own life that was once important to you, or to an entire community, but disappeared or ended for some reason. This could be a tradition, a celebration, a place, a sports team, a family recipe, a song. It doesn’t have to be as important an issue as an entire language that’s going extinct, though if you have such an inspiration, go with it. Write about that aspect of your life that was vital to you, then write about how you lost it, and what that has meant for you, and if it exists anymore in any form for anyone else.
Good luck with this exercise and please listen next week for another. 


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

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Interviews with Neuroscientist James Fallon, author of The Psychopath Inside: A Neuroscientist's Personal Journey into the Dark Side of the Brain, published by Current; and Vermont Poet Ralph Culver, whose chapbook, Both Distances, was published by Anabiosis Press.

Today I have two Write The Book Prompts for you, both of which were mentioned by my second guest, Ralph Culver, during our conversation. First, if your writing needs a jump start, go to a favorite book of poetry and spend some time reading that work. Often, Ralph finds that doing this will reanimate his desire to write. He also mentioned trying to write a short haiku-like poem, which may or may not follow all the rules of the haiku, but is likely to involve nature. So those are your prompts this week. Read a favorite poem or book of poems. And try to write a haiku. Don’t focus so specifically on the rules that you’re unable to write, but perhaps let the form inspire you.

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

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

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

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

Today's second prompt was suggested by my guest, the poet Daniel Lusk. It's a prompt he used recently in the poetry group at the Writers Barn: Write a poem with a red dress in it.
Good luck with these exercises and please listen next week for another.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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Vermont Poet Laureate Sydney Lea, whose tenth collection of poems, I Was Thinking of Beauty, is now available from Four Way Books. Skyhorse Publishing has just published A North Country Life: Tales of Woodsmen, Waters and Wildlife. This interview is also available to watch, thanks to production by RETN, the Regional Educational Technology Network in Burlington, VT.


Today's Write The Book Prompt is to write a poem that involves a recollection of an old friend, and a reaction to the natural world.
Good luck with this exercise and please listen next week for another.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today's Write The Book Prompt, of course, involves walking. On a piece of paper, write down a problem you've been having in your written work. You might write something very general, like setting. Or you might write something more detailed, like, Why is Melody so afraid of dogs? You might write a few lines from a poem, and then add "structure," or "line breaks," if the poem's structure has been giving you a hard time. Fold up the piece of paper and put it in your pocket. Then go for a walk. While walking, look around, enjoy the day, enjoy the beauty of the environment. Do not re-read the words while you're out. Don't focus on the problem, but let it sit in your pocket, a quiet presence that needs resolution. Then go back to your desk, right away when you get home, and start 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 former Vermont band featuring several South Burlington High School graduates).

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

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

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

This week, consider these numbers, and write about autism. Write about someone you know whose life has been affected, or write about your own theory about how these numbers have changed. Write about your own experience with an ASD. Or whatever else might come to you.

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

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

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The Reverend Gary Kowalski, author of bestselling books on animals, nature, history and spirituality. We discuss two of his latest: Goodbye Friend: Healing Wisdom For Anyone Who Has Ever Lost A Pet and Blessings of the Animals.

During the interview, Gary recited the poem, The Peace of Wild Things, by Wendell Berry. Unfortunately, due to licensing concerns, I can't air Gary's recitation. But you can find the poem here.

Today's Write The Book Prompt is inspired by advice that Gary Kowalski offers in his book, Goodbye Friend: Healing Wisdom For Anyone Who Has Ever Lost A Pet. This is a quote from the book:

I usually counsel those who are grieving to employ the power of words by writing a eulogy for the one they love. The term itself means "good words," for a eulogy attempts to sum up the qualities that made another person memorable and worthy of our care. In the case of an animal, a eulogy could take the form of a letter, a poem, or a memoir that reflects on the traits that made that creature most endearing or stamped it with a special personality.

This week's prompt, then, is to write a eulogy. It can be in remembrance of a pet, or of a person. It can even be a fictional or poetic eulogy for a character you're writing about, an historical figure, someone you never met. After you've written it, follow Gary's advice and read it aloud. Particularly if you've written a eulogy for a person or creature you're truly grieving, reading the words aloud may help you more than you'd imagine.

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

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

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

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

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

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Local writer and public radio commentator Bill Mares, author most recently of 3:14 and Out and Brewing Change. Bill's wife, Chris Hadsel, whom he mentioned a few times during our interview, is the founder and director of Curtains Without Borders, a conservation project dedicated to documenting and preserving historic painted scenery. This week's Write The Book Prompt is to write a commentary. Choose a subject that interests you, decide what it is you want to say about that subject, and write 500 words about it. Edit the piece for concision, and read it aloud to see if it would translate well to radio. If you like it, submit it to a local station. Or submit it to Write The Book! 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 R. Morgan, author of Beginning With the End, A Memoir of Twin Loss and Healing.

This week's Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Mary R. Morgan. It might best help writers who are working with difficult personal material. Mary was able to begin her book, and handle all the emotions she had to work through to write about the loss of her twin, Michael, by holding a little spiritual ceremony at the beginning and at the end of each writing session. She made a small altar, and she held the work in a kind of sacred place which she could then make an ending to whenever she finished writing. This helped her to keep all of those emotions and difficult memories from overtaking her life. She says, "It was very beautiful. I found when I had to go back to that journey, I had to really reconnect with those feelings. And that was difficult, and so doing that in a spiritual context was very helpful. I asked for inspiration and protection and I voiced my gratitude for the ability ... to do this." Mary says that a lot of the inspiration for her ceremony came from the work she had already done in the natural world. She received a lot of spiritual comfort from this approach to her writing time. This week, and perhaps going forward, if you find it helpful, create a ritual that embraces your writing time. You don't need an altar, and you don't need to follow Mary's or anyone else's specific path, but try to find your own way to celebrate your work this week, marking it with a protective and inspirational ceremony.

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

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

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Interview with Vermont Writer Rowan Jacobsen. We discussed his book The Living Shore: Rediscovering a Lost World. His latest book is Shadows on the Gulf: A Journey through Our Last Great Wetland. Both books were published by Bloomsbury.

Today's Write The Book Prompt is to write about an experience visiting the shore (any shore...)

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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John Homans, author of the new book, What's A Dog For? , published by Penguin, and executive editor of New York Magazine.

From Anton Chekhov's Lady With Lap Dog to Jack London's Call of the Wild, dogs, of course, feature prominently in literature. This week it's your turn to add to the canon; the Write The Book Prompt is to write about an unexpected encounter with a dog.

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

NOTE: Check out the guidelines for submitting your writing prompt outcomes for possible inclusion on the show!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Local Writer and Tai Chi Teacher Bob Boyd, author of Snake Style Tai Chi Chuan: The Hidden System of the Yang Family.

This week's Write The Book Prompt is some basic, helpful advice suggested by my guest, Bob Boyd: Sit down and just start putting words on paper. The process evolves. If you don't get started, Bob says, you'll never get finished. He adds that being prone sometimes helps him come up with ideas. Though if you write in your job, as he did at Burch & Co., lying down at the office can create difficulties. Bob acknowledges that everyone's different. Lying down might help some people. For others, a walk might be the relaxing activity that gets the ideas flowing. Figure out what works for you. Then, as soon as you have an idea, even if it's in the middle of the night, put something on paper. You can always get back to it later. But preserve the idea so it's waiting for you.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Former Vermont Governor Madeleine M. Kunin, author of The New Feminist Agenda: Defining the Next Revolution for Women, Work, and Family, published by Chelsea Green.

Governor Kunin's book opens with a recollected moment of anger about the status of women's and families' rights. Today's Write The Book Prompt is to write about something that makes you angry. It can be political or personal, about your spouse or your sibling or the price of organic almonds. Be sure to state your reasons clearly, and not allow the emotion you feel to cloud the message you might be trying to convey.

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).

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University of Vermont Professor Paul Kindstedt, author of Cheese & Culture: A History of Cheese and its Place in Western Civilization, published by Chelsea Green.

Today’s Write The Book Prompt is to write about a dining experience involving cheese. Use the words salt, linen, grated, and shadow.

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

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

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Award-winning Vermont author Julia Alvarez, whose latest book is A WEDDING IN HAITI: THE STORY OF A FRIENDSHIP, published by Shannon Ravenel Books, an imprint of Algonquin.

The televised production of this interview can be found at RETN.org

Today I can offer two Write The Book Prompts, both of which were generously suggested by my guest, Julia Alvarez.The first is to write a list poem or prose passage. Julia loves making lists, and reading them. She wrote in an email, "sometimes, when I am grocery shopping, I'll find a discarded list on a shelf or on the floor, and I always pick it up and read it. Many are just a straight list of items to buy, but every once in a while, the list will include little notes or things to do. I'll start to imagine a story for the shopper who dropped the list!"

She offered a number of examples of good list poems and prose passages, including Triad, by 19th century poet Adelaide Crapsey:

These be three silent things:

the falling snow. . .the hour

before dawn. . .the mouth of one

just dead

Julia asks writers to remember that the items on the list need to be vivid and concrete, as sharp as little haikus, because as we read a list, we have to quickly picture each item before the next one comes on board. No brand names. None of those airbrushed abstract adjectives ("beautiful," "interesting") that are vague and generic" and don't nail down an image with a bright flash of recognition. She writes, "I love the surprises and juxtapositions that happen when you try to group, say, shapely things on a list." She sent a number of eighth graders' wonderful poems, from a workshop that she taught. Here they are:

Shapely Things

Waves on an ocean. . . long,

high rollercoasters, mouths

forming words. . . writing. . .

someone walking or running

with a limp. . .

clouds in the open sky. . . a mind

forming an idea.

Tammy, 8th grade

These things hardly have time:

lightning in a storm,

very nervous people,

the rush of embarrassment,

the years in a life and

a never-stopping clock.

These things hardly have time.

Scott, 8th grade

These things are extra hard:

writing a poem,

being original,

riding up a hill in 10th gear,

and taking wet socks off.

James, 8th grade

Slippery Things

Rocks the water of a creek runs over

Worms

and the slime of a swamp.

Catch a fish--that, too.

The words of a blabber mouth.

Sue, 8th grade

Another writing prompt came via a book her stepdaughter Berit gave to Julia one Christmas: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous & Obscure, edited by Smith Magazine, which has a whole site devoted to posts of six-word memoirs.

So the second prompt would be: write your six-word memoir! Julia cautions that it can be really difficult to get an essence of who you are so briefly.

Good luck with these prompts, and please listen next week for another!

The commemorative event that Julia and I discussed during the interview, marking the 75th anniversary of the 1937 Haitian Massacre, takes place in October. More information about that event will be available at border of lights.org

More information about Piti's band, Rise Up, Brothers, will be available soon at cafealtagracia.com

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

This week's Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest Martin Magoun. "Describe the girl with the far away eyes."

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

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

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Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking.

Today's Write The Book Prompt was inspired by my conversation with Susan Cain. The tenth chapter of her book, QUIET, is called "The Communication Gap: How to Talk to Members of the Opposite Type." The chapter begins with this paragraph: "If introverts and extroverts are the north and south of temperament-opposite ends of a single spectrum- then how can they possibly get along? Yet the two types are often drawn to each other-in friendship, business, and especially romance. These pairs can enjoy great excitement and mutual admiration, a sense that each completes the other. One tends to listen, the other to talk; one is sensitive to beauty, but also to slings and arrows, while the other barrels cheerfully through his days; one pays the bills and the other arranges the children's play dates. But it can also cause problems when members of these unions pull in opposite directions." Consider this paragraph, then write a scene or a poem that includes dialogue between an introvert and an extrovert. And many thanks to Susan for permission to reprint that paragraph.

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

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

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

This week's Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Tovar Cerulli. Recall an experience with an animal, wild or domestic, from your childhood or teen years. Write the scene as you recall it, describing what occurred. Read your own description and consider: Are there additional layers of thought or feeling that are relevant? Do you want to work any of these into the scene? (Optional second round: Recall a more recent experience with an animal and write and consider that scene. What similarities or differences between the two scenes do you notice?)

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

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

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Vermont author Mark Pendergrast, whose latest book is Japan's Tipping Point: Crucial Choices in the Post-Fukushima World.

Inspired by our guest Mark Pendergrast's interest in Japan, this week's Write The Book Prompt is to fold an origami crane. If you get stuck in your writing, or are simply wanting an activity that keeps you thinking, but not struggling, folding an origami animal might help. You'll still be engaged in a creative act, but you'll be following a set list of instructions, which might free the author in you to continue working away from the computer keyboard. Below are a few links to origami paper folding (all from the same site, which seemed easy to follow and not full of annoying ads). You can also print the Write The Book logo I've included below that for colorful folding paper. Or use a sheet from your recycle bin: maybe a rejected poem or scene can have a second life as a crane, a frog, or a flower.

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

Crane

Flower

Frog

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Vermont organic gardener and writer Ron Krupp, whose books are The Woodchuck's Guide to Gardening and Lifting The Yoke: Local Solutions to America's Farm and Food Crisis.

Today's Write The Book Prompt is to write about your eating habits or those of someone you know. You can journal about how those habits have changed for the better or worse, how education has played a role, whether organic and/or locally-grown foods are an important part of this person's diet, and why or why not.

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

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Robin Hemley, author of the book Do Over! “in which a 48- year-old father of three returns to kindergarten, summer camp, the prom, and other embarrassments.” Robin will have two new books out in 2012: Reply All: Stories (Break Away Books), and A Field Guide for Immersion Writing: Memoir, Journalism, and Travel, (University of Georgia Press). You can find more information about these on Robin's website.

The sound quality of today's archive rebroadcast was not great. Not sure what happened, but a bit buzzy. So here I'm posting the old podcast as it originally ran in 2009, in hopes of providing better sound quality. The were minor differences in the intro and closing, most notably a new prompt, which I'm offering below. Thanks for your patience.

Today's Write The Book Prompt is to organize your own Do Over. Maybe it doesn't make a lot of sense for you to redo the prom, or to re-enroll in kindergarten. But perhaps you had another experience in recent weeks or months that you wish you could do over. Go back to the store where a counter person was rude and you left feeling upset. Or make plans to see a friend to whom YOU were perhaps rude, or were not your best self in some way, and you left feeling embarrassed or frustrated or uniquely human. Revisit your old school, if it's nearby, track down one of your former teachers. Maybe you gave a reading at a local open mike venue and it went poorly; try it again. See how it goes to re-approach an imperfect experience with new enthusiasm and perspective. And then write about the two events, and what you might have taken away from this exercise.

Good luck with it, and please listen next week for another!

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