Archive for the 'Novels' Category

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Kurt Kirchmeier, author of the novel The Absence of Sparrows (Little Brown for Young Readers).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Kurt Kirchmeier. Write a scene or a short story from the perspective of someone whose life is profoundly changed by an intimate encounter with nature. And to make it more personal, write it in first person.

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

Music: Aaron Shapiro

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New York Times–bestselling author Meg Wolitzer, whose novel The Female Persuasion (Riverhead Books) is now in paperback. 

For a new Write the Book Prompt, write a scene in which two characters meet for the first time. The main character has long idolized the other from a distance. In the scene, have that other person let down your main character in some way. 

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

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

 

* Audio excerpted courtesy Penguin Random House Audio from THE FEMALE PERSUASION by Meg Wolitzer, narrated by Rebecca Lowman.

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Author Rachel Howard, whose debut novel is The Risk of Us (HMH). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously offered by my guest Rachel Howard, and I can’t wait to try it. She says that it’s a somewhat arbitrary structure she came up with when she was teaching undergraduate creative writing at Warren Wilson College:

Write a lyric essay about one of the three great forces of life: sex, death, or love.  The essay should never name whether it is about sex, death, or love, or use the word. The essay will consist of the following sections:

* A pure description of a significant place from your past.  This could be a room, a street corner, the back of a car. Use as many concrete sensory  details as possible.  Ten sentences maximum.

* A character sketch of someone from your life.  Six sentences max.

* One short description of a song.  You may quote lyrics, but not use the words "sex," "death," or "love."  Three sentences max.

* One scene with dialogue.  Any length.

* One semi-obscure scientific fact that does not seem obviously connected to the rest of the essay (but which, metaphorically, is).  Four sentences max.

Rachel concedes that it’s an unusual exercise, but give it a try, and you may well be surprised at the experience. And after the exercise generates the rough draft, you can move sections around, and start breaking the rules to fit the emerging organic form.

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

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

N.B. A quote about trauma that I read during my interview with Rachel came from the book Beyond Consequences, Logic, and Control: A Love-Based Approach to Helping Attachment-Challenged Children With Severe Behaviors by Heather T. Forbes and B. Bryan Post.

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Catherine Cusset, author of Life of David Hockney (Other Press). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Catherine Cusset. When we remember something that we've shared with another person - a story or incident - very often, two very different stories might emerge from the two perspectives. Memory is not reliable, and so different people will remember events differently. With this in mind, write the same event or story from the perspectives of two people who experience it. These can be two lovers, two siblings, a parent and child, two friends; whatever you choose. Consider how each experiences a moment in time - and the sensory details each notices (what they see, hear, smell, etc) - then write two versions of the same story.

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

 

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Author Steven Wingate, whose new novel is Of Fathers and Fire (Univ. of Nebraska Press - Flyover Fiction). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Steven Wingate. He calls it “The Endless Sentence,” and it is designed as both a loosening up exercise and a means of exploration. It requires only a timer and your favorite writing implement (analog or digital). You simply set your timer for five minutes and start writing, and everything is allowed except one single punctuation mark: the period. Steven explains that writers rely on periods instinctively to separate thoughts from each other. If our thoughts feel like they’re getting too uncontrolled or scraggly, we end one sentence and start another. But if you take that tool away from yourself, you’re forced to keep flying through your thoughts with less control than you’re used to. Steven argues that this is a good thing because it means freedom—which is essential, especially early on in a project when you’re looking for a narrator’s (or character’s) voice. When you remove the period, you slip beneath your own radar and do things that surprise yourself. This can lead you to a new understanding of characters and settings, or maybe even to self-standing flash pieces with intriguing musical or formal features (e.g., lists or recurring verbal motifs). Try this especially when you’re feeling stuck or when a writing day hasn’t gone according to plan.

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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Author, Journalist and Critic Juliet Wittman, whose new novel is Stocker's Kitchen (Beck & Branch). 

This week's Write the Book Prompt was generously offered by my guest, Juliet Wittman. In developing a new character, try writing a series of simple sentences about the person, to find out more about his or her life and nature. For example:

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As you work, you may find the sentences becoming more complex and interesting, revealing important information about the character and possibly about his or her situation, guiding you toward your story.

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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Vermont authors Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy, whose new novel is Once & Future (jimmy patterson). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously offered by my guests this week, Cori McCarthy and Amy Rose Capetta. When they received notes from their editor about a section of Once & Future that, for one reason or another, needed a little work - perhaps not enough was happening in a scene - they would sit down and brainstorm what they came to call “the ten worst things that could happen to your character.” The first thing was always, "the character dies." Even if this was not the answer, Cori and Amy Rose say that you have to include ridiculous things as well as possibilities. The ridiculous things loosen up the other things that might actually lead to a solution.

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

Music: Aaron Shapiro

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

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

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

Music: Aaron Shapiro

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A conversation with the author Joseph Kertes about his novel, The Afterlife of Stars (Little Brown). 

This week's Write the Book Prompt is to write about a mis-delivered Valentine. 

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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Senior Editor at the Atlantic and American Author Juliet Lapidos, whose debut novel is Talent (Little Brown). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to take a familiar theme and try to turn it sideways so a reader might see something new.

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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Author Lyndsay Faye, whose new novel is The Paragon Hotel (G.P. Putnam's Sons).

This week's Write the Book Prompt is to put a character on a train and see where she goes. 

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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Tessa Hadley, author of the new novel Late in the Day (Harper).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was mentioned during our interview. Tessa Hadley said she needs to know who her characters are, physically, in order to write about them. She has set an exercise to students in which they pair up and write physical descriptions of each other. So this week, write a physical description of someone you know well or at least can get a really good look at. Don’t let that person see the outcome of your efforts; Tessa says this last instruction--not sharing the outcome--is imperative, insuring that you will keep the physical description that you write honest.

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 J.P. Choquette, whose latest is Let The Dead Rest

This week's Write the Book Prompt was suggested by J.P. Choquette. It has helped her to use the "fifteen-minute method" of writing, rather than trying to squeeze her productive time into the "fringe hours of the day." Set a timer for 15 minutes, and write until the alarm rings. You'll get work done, and you'll feel a real sense of accomplishment. 

I'll just add that a variation of this exercise, "The Pomodoro Technique," splits work into short segments, separated by breaks. I've had a lot of success with this approach, as well.

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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Cai Emmons, author of Weather Woman (Red Hen Press). As I mentioned on the show, the book trailer is great. Find it on YouTube

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is based on a fiction exercise created by Cai Emmons for the 2006 book Now Write! Fiction Writing Exercises from Today's Best Writers and Teachers, by Sherry Ellis. I’ve edited the prompt for our show, but Cai’s own language can be found in that book. It’s called “Braiding Time.”

Cai opens the exercise with thoughts on how our pleasure in reading fiction is similar to the pleasure of snooping. We get a peek into the lives, physical spaces, and thoughts of other people. And in fiction, it’s okay - we’re allowed to be there, snooping! In fiction, we get to go even deeper than we can in actual life. We see into characters’ emotions and reactions; we have the right to understand both what is happening to them, and how they feel about it. Much of the process of knowing a character is learning how she thinks; this exercise helps us develop that understanding through how she experiences time, which, Cai explains, is an intricate braid of three strands: present, past, future.

Here’s the prompt:  Choose a character to write about, one you want to better understand. You are going to write four paragraphs about this character. First, write a paragraph in which your character is involved in some ongoing action: cooking a meal, searching for something that’s been lost, getting ready for an evening out--something like that. The prompt works best if the character is faced with some conflict or problem to deal with.

Staying with the ongoing activity, write a second paragraph in which this character considers something that is going to happen in the future. In the third paragraph, write about a past event that your character is moved to recall due to some trigger from the ongoing action he or she is engaged in. Finally, in the final paragraph, use elements of forward- and backward-looking to help your character continue with or finish the action. Try to make the transitions between times feel smooth and uninterrupted.

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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Bestselling Author Kristan Higgins, whose new novel is Good Luck With That (Berkley). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Kristin Higgans. You wake up in a strange room in a strange bed and there’s a stranger in the room. He knows you extremely well, and seems to assume you know him also. Write about what happens next.

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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American Novelist and Poet Rosellen Brown, whose latest is The Lake on Fire (Sarabande). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Rosellen Brown: "Use questions and answers." She has found this an intriguing way to write. She offers the Mark Strand poem “Elegy For My Father” as an example. In the poem, Strand poses a question to his father, is given an inadequate or dishonest answer, and so asks the question again, to receive a more honest answer. He does this several times with many different questions. Rosellen herself used a questionnaire to format a story in her collection Street Games, offering both standard questions like name, address, but also crazy questions, like “Have you ever wished to die at the height of the sex act?” She has found it very fruitful with students.

[Also, during our conversation, Rosellen mentioned the site S for Sentence. Seems like another great resource to check out!]

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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American novelist, essayist and poet Barbara Kingsolver, whose new book is Unsheltered (Harper).

Barbara Kingsolver is one of the reasons that I write. I loved Animal Dreams, her 1990 novel published by Harper Collins. After I finished that book, the voices of Kingsolver's characters would not leave me alone (in a good way). I recalled how much I love to write, and began to write a book of my own. Since that time, writing has offered solace, inspiration, satisfaction, and a sense of achievement. Reading her beautiful prose always inspires me to go to my desk. So today - sure, call it a Prompt -  I encourage you to seek out the work you love, read it again, let it wash over and inspire you. 

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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Evan Fallenberg, author, translator and faculty co-director of the Vermont College of Fine Arts International MFA in Creative Writing & Literary Translation. His new novel is The Parting Gift (The Other Press)

One of the reviews of The Parting Gift suggests that it compels us “to confront the parts of ourselves we’d rather not look at.” This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to do just that. Write something that will compel a reader to confront something that he or she would rather not.

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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Christina Dalcher, whose debut novel is VOX (Berkley). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Christina Dalcher. She says it works to "denormalize" our expectations. Start with something universally known with an expected outcome, and do something unexpected. The best example of this, according to Christina, is Shirley Jackson’s famous story, “The Lottery.” When we hear the word lottery, we think of something won, something positive. But Jackson’s story of course turns this on its head. Christina suggests we all read “The Lottery,” or read it again, and then try the exercise of writing something that denormalizes or defies reader expectations.

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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Stewart O'Nan's most recent novel, City of Secrets, came out last year. In this interview from 2012, I spoke with him about his book The Odds: A Love Story

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to write a scene between either platonic friends or adversaries who find themselves falling in love. 

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

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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Pulitzer Prize Finalist and Alaskan Writer Eowyn Ivey, author of The Snow Child, published by Reagan Arthur Books.

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to consider fairy tales, a genre from which Eowyn Ivey draws inspiration. This fall, CBS is airing a new show that takes classic fairy tales and turns them into present day thrillers set in New York City. Consider a tale that might be a favorite for you, and think about how this story might inform your work. Perhaps the witch in Hanzel and Gretel could help you develop your depiction of a person who works at a subway news stand. Or maybe you see a hint of the ugly duckling’s journey into adulthood when you work to recreate your childhood best friend. Reread one of these stories, and let it give you new ideas. Feel free, as you work, to recognize the cultural cliches that might by now be outdated, and change them, play around with them. Make the Beast a woman, Beauty a man. Because, why not?

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 (and my old station, The Radiator!) with writer, nurse and humanitarian aid worker Roberta Gately, author of Lipstick in Afghanistan and The Bracelet.

This week's Write the Book Prompt is to turn on the television, find a drama, and write down the first sentence you hear. Use that as the first sentence in a new piece of work. Of course, if it's so unique that you'll later be accused of plagerism, go ahead and take it out after you've used it for inspiration. 

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

Music Credit: John Fink

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Vermont Author Sarah Ward, whose new novel is Aesop Lake (Green Writers Press). 

This week's Write the Book Prompt was generously offered by my guest, Sarah Ward. In her writing, Sarah tries to fully depict villains as well as the “good guys,” whose stories always do tend to be fully explored. In the Harry Potter series, for example, what do we really know about Malfoy? Why is he—a wealthy, privileged boy with two devoted parents—such a jerk? Write the backstory of a villain. What drives him to be a bully or a sadist? What makes her so dark, so villainous? What are your villains frightened of? What do they want?

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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Suspense novelist David Bell, whose latest is Somebody's Daughter (Berkley). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt concerns part of the conversation you just heard with David Bell. We discussed writing conflict, and the fact that even the best relationships are likely to have some conflict. Some of that centers on regular, every-day problems. As David said during our interview, these might be “money problems or kid problems or work problems.” Sometimes marriage is just about getting through those kinds of daily issues together. This week, write a scene of small conflict. Something that might occur in any marriage or relationship, even a healthy one. Consider what causes the conflict, what each person’s position is, why those positions might be at odds, even if the ultimate goals are perhaps the same. Maybe two parents are concerned about a child’s lack of interest in school. Mom wants her daughter to do more extracurricular activities, while Dad feels she needs tutoring and a real focus on homework. Both agree they want her to be happier and more successful at school, both have her best interest in mind. But they argue over the best approach. What small issues might crop up to cause a disagreement in your scene? Keep the dialogue moving, and don’t forget to describe the scene as it would look to your narrator in that moment. 

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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Michael Kardos, author of Bluff, published by The Mysterious Press.

This week’s Write the Book Prompt comes from my interview with Michael Kardos. Take a hobby, something that you do and that maybe you know a lot about, and write a scene in which a character is doing that thing--your hobby--but it is not the point of the scene. It makes for more interesting possibilities in plot and execution. Your expertise (special knowledge, tools or implements, technical information) will come through and lend authority to the entire scene.  

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 Katharine Dion, whose debut novel is The Dependents, published by Little Brown.

This week’s Write the Book Prompt comes from my interview with Katharine Dion. Something that has been useful for her, and is related to the kind of stories she is interested in telling, is to look around at situations that have on first glance nothing interesting going on: a situation or setup that might at first even seem boring. Then reverse that proposition in your mind. Assume the opposite: that something fascinating is going on in the situation, or between the people you’re observing. This will give you the chance to look again at something you initially chose to dismiss. We dismiss things for all sorts of reasons, Katharine points out. Either we are fearful of what we see, or we’re made uncomfortable by it. But looking again at what we might initially dismiss can offer unexpectedly rich material.  

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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UK Novelist Allison Pearson, following her huge hit from 2003, I Don't Know How She Does It (Anchor), with a sequel, how hard can it be? (St. Martin's Press)

This week’s Write the Book Prompt comes from my interview with Allison Pearson, who says she likes to help readers feel the narrative pulse by adding a line at the end of each chapter that helps the reader along. “Would she get the car out of the river?” Offer the reader the reason to read on.

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 the author Margot Livesey. We discussed her novel, The Flight of Gemma Hardy, a retelling of and homage to Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre.

This week's Write the Book Prompt is to read a favorite short story and write something as an homage in some way. Either retell the actual story (careful not to plagiarize, of course), or write a poem, another story, a character sketch, or something of your own invention that honors the original. 

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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Award-winning author Madeline Miller, whose new novel is Circe (Little Brown). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was offered by my guest, Madeline Miller. Inspired by an Ursula K. LeGuin exercise, Madeline has used this one in her classes. She says it’s about “the elephant in the room.” Write a scene that is about a major trauma without actually mentioning the trauma. For example, have two characters talk about a death that has just happened, but neither of them mentions it. This is the elephant in the room. It is never named, but the truth of it is there in the scene.

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 Veera Hiranandani, whose new young adult novel is  The Night Diary, published by Dial Books.

This week’s Write the Book Prompt, which was suggested by my guest, Veera Hiranandani, concerns point of view. Veera says that people aren’t always aware of why they are using the point of view they’ve chosen. She likes to suggest to her students that they switch both point of view and tense, as an exercise, just to see how different their work might feel. So if you’re writing a piece in the third person past tense (“she went to the restaurant,”) try changing it to the first person present tense (“I go the the restaurant”) or first person past tense (“I went to the restaurant”), just to see how that feels to you. It can offer a new way of looking at your writing that can be really interesting, even if you don’t ultimately decide to use it.

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

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

 

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Swedish columnist and author Therese Bohman, whose new novel is Eventide (The Other Press). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt, which is really more of a suggestion for how to take a break and recharge, was suggested by Therese Bohman. She likes to leave her work from time to time and take a walk. For each novel that she’s written, she has created unique playlists of music to listen to, to keep herself energized for the specific work she’ll be returning to after the walk.

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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An interview from the archives with award-winning children's author Mary Casanova. We discussed her 2013 novel Frozen (Univ. of Minnesota Press).

This week's Write the Book Prompt, inspired by April in Vermont, is to write about a place where it is cold when it should be warm, or warm when it should be cold. 

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

Music by Aaron Shapiro

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American novelist and short story writer Yang Huang. Her new novel in stories is My Old Faithful, winner of the Juniper Prize for Fiction (University of Massachusetts Press).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Yang Huang. Alter the rhythm of your writing to jog your creative mind. First, work on a problematic scene by focusing closely on the language, painstakingly going over every word choice, until you make it work or realize this needs to be cut.

After a short break, return to the desk and write as fast as you can, hardly reading what you wrote. Silence the inner critic for the time being, and set your mind free. Write for an hour, until you slow down, or you want to read over the passage.

Sleep on it. Edit the passage next day and throw away any material you cannot use. Analyze the movement in your narrative. What have you discovered about the story and characters?

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

Music by Aaron Shapiro

 

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

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

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

Music by Aaron Shapiro

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#1 New York Times Bestselling Author Kristin Hannah, whose new novel is The Great Alone (Macmillan)

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously offered by my guest, Kristin Hannah. She says her favorite trick for herself is to simply write the description of place until her characters have something to say. For example, she’ll sit and start to describe Alaska. Perhaps it will take two pages of description before she realizes what it is she has to say in that scene, and then she’s off and running.

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

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

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

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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Author Melissa Fraterrigo, whose new novel is Glory Days (Univ. of Nebraska Press). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously offered by Melissa Fraterrigo. Take out a story, poem or novel by a writer you admire and look at one page. Isolate words that are evocative or “pop” for you. List them. Then use these words to write a sentence that feels like an opening—and write your own paragraph or scene and insert it into this place. Feel free to continue adding words from your list to your scene. The objective is to use language in a striking way and let it prompt you to use vocabulary different from your own.

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 author Tracy Chevalier, about her 2013 novel, The Last Runaway (Penguin).

In The Last Runaway, Tracy Chevalier designed a hat after a cereal bowl she had loved as a child. For your new Write the Book Prompt, look around your house, find an object and create another (fictional) object based on what you've found. Maybe you'll base a chair on a painting. Or a dress on a curtain. (Ear tug to Carol Burnette!) Write about it, or include it in a story, poem, or scene.

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 and environmentalist Bill McKibben, whose new (and debut, after some twelve nonfiction books!) novel is Radio Free Vermont (Blue Rider Press). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to find an article in a newspaper or other news source and turn it to fiction, while retaining the underlying thematic point of the original journalistic piece.  

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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English journalist, broadcaster and novelist Elizabeth Day, whose new novel is The Party (Little Brown).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is inspired by something Elizabeth Day said in our interview. Have a look at the details in a scene you are perhaps struggling with, and see if there are words that can come out, or one aspect of detail. Ask yourself, how would this sentence read if I just took out this word, or that embellishment? Often, as Elizabeth said in our interview, it’s the most cliched word. Think of it as taking off a jangly, loud golden bracelet.

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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An interview from the archives - and my previous station, "The Radiator" - with Robin Cook, American physician and novelist who writes about medicine and topics affecting public health. He is best known for combining medical writing with the thriller genre. His breakout novel was Coma. We discussed his 2012 medical thriller, Nano (Berkley). 

Happy Thanksgiving! This week's Write the Book Prompt is to write about a holiday cooking disaster. 

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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Newbury- and National Book Award-Winning Vermont author of Bridge to Terabithia, Katherine Paterson, whose new novel is My Brigadista Year (Candlewick). 

This week's Write the Book Prompt is to consider an historical event that might have reverberations in our own time, and write about it. 

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

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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Award-Winning Swiss Author Peter Stamm, whose new novel is To the Back of Beyond (Other Press). 

This week we have two Write the Book Prompts, both generously suggested by my guest, Peter Stamm, who has used them in classes he’s taught. The first is to look at another person’s random receipt and see what it suggests that could become a story or a poem. What was purchased, and where? What was the cost? The date? The cashier’s name? Was it an expensive item? Was it on sale? Let the details collect for you and write. The other prompt is to find inspiration in a graveyard, looking at gravestones. Usually these only suggest a name, the dates of a life, but sometimes also family members, a cause of death, a war, a favorite quotation. See what these suggest to you about this person, and if a character might begin to present him or herself to you as you study the grave.

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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Pulitzer Prize-Winning Author Jennifer Egan, whose new novel is Manhattan Beach (Scribner). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Jennifer Egan, who - as you’ve just heard - discovers her story as she writes it, knowing only the time and place when she begins. This prompt is very much in keeping with that approach. She suggests, “Write without knowing what you are writing. Cover the screen of your laptop and write continuously for 15 minutes. Print and read.  Viola!”

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 Nancy Hayes Kilgore, whose new novel is Wild Mountain (Green Writers Press). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously offered by my guest Nancy Hayes Kilgore, who is a pastoral counselor and has been a parish pastor as well. She suggests considering, “What was your first spiritual experience? Where were you? What could you see and feel? What were your senses telling you at that time? What spiritual awakening might have come out of the moment?” Consider these questions, and use them as inspiration as you begin to write.

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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Bestselling novelist Dean Koontz, whose new book, The Silent Corner (Bantam) marks the start of his new suspense series, featuring FBI agent gone rogue, Jane Hawk.

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is inspired by the conversation you just heard with Dean Koontz. Early in Dean’s new book, the reader encounters this definition of the term Silent Corner: “Those who are truly off the grid and cannot be tracked by any technology, yet are able to move about freely and use the Internet, are said to be in the silent corner.” Think about how much of our activity is tracked;  ATM and debit cards, credit cards, GPS technology, security cameras, and smart phones are all eminently capable of tracking our actions and movements.

How do you feel about that? Does it make you feel at risk, or safe? Write a short story, an essay, or a poem using your reaction to this phenomenon as a starting point.

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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Nadine Budbill, daughter and literary executor of the late David BudbillVermont poet, playwright and author. We discuss David's life and work, in particular one of his last publications, Broken Wing, a beautiful Vermont allegorical tale about a rusty blackbird with a broken wing. A story of loneliness, survival, tenacity and will, Broken Wing is also about music and race and what it is like to be a minority in a strange place. With a brief conversation as well from Dede Cummings, whose press published the novel. (GWP

This week's Write the Book Prompt is to read some of David Budbill's work and let it inspire you in your own writing. His work was frequently included on the Minnesota Public Radio show The Writers' Almanac. Those poems can be accessed here.

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 professor of English and former director of the creative writing program at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, Eric K. Goodman. We discussed his then-new novel Twelfth and Race (Bison Books).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to write a poem, a scene, or a story in which race plays some role. Write without thinking or planning. When you finish a draft, set it aside and think a little bit about what you’ve decided you’re trying to say or portray before you revise. When you finish, will you show it to anyone else?

Do you find race a hard subject to tackle? Why or why not?

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

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Novelist Tiffany McDaniel, whose debut is The Summer That Melted Everything (St. Martins Press). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt has to do with the play of expectation that was central to Tiffany McDaniel’s debut novel, The Summer That Melted Everything. Her characters are not always who we expect them to be. The young man who calls himself the devil commits acts of kindness. The older man whose name implies goodness and piety is not who everyone always thought him to be. In your own world, consider a recent misunderstanding - perhaps you underestimated or misread someone, or someone underestimated or misread you - and write about that experience.

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

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