Archive for the 'Novels' Category

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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Acclaimed nonfiction writer Jean Zimmerman, whose novel, The Orphanmaster, was published in 2012 by Viking.

Today's Write The Book Prompt is to write about an interaction between two people who do not share a common language.

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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Paula Martinac, author most recently of The Ada Decades (Bywater Books). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by our guest, Paula Martinac. Observation + imagination = fiction. Paula’s novel The Ada Decades got its creative start when, on a walk in her neighborhood, she observed an elderly woman scurrying nervously into her bungalow. Raymond Carver said he got the idea for a story when he was on an airplane and watched the passenger next to him pocketing his wedding ring just as they were landing. Think about the action of a stranger that caught your attention; you observed it, but didn’t understand what it meant and will never know for sure. Let your imagination roam and “explain” the incident in a fictional narrative. 

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 Bill Schubart, whose new novel is Lila & Theron (Charles Michael Publishing).

This week's Write the Book Prompt is to consider the following lines from Bill Schubart's essay "On Exigency," and to write from that point of inspiration: 

“There is an intrinsic self-reliance in those who see life’s exigencies as challenges to be overcome. Development in the person who feels victimized and overlooked by life becomes stunted since he is always looking outside himself for someone or something to blame.”

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

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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

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

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

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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Vermont Author Stephen P. Kiernan, whose new novel is The Baker's Secret (William Morrow). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by our guest, Stephen P. Kiernan. The book he’s now writing involves the difficult task of describing art. Stephen recommends reading W.H. Auden’s "Musee des Beaux Arts," one of the best examples he can recommend of writing inspired by a painting. In this case, the painting is “The Fall of Icarus,” by Pieter Brueghel. Here's a link to the poem and the painting. Have a look, then find a work of art that’s unfamiliar to you, and write about it. Stephen says, having now done both for different projects, he finds writing about music easier than writing about art, because like narrative, music occurs through time. Both have movement, crescendo, culmination, completion… A painting is a moment apprehended that does not have narrative.

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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Thirteen-year-old novelist Emily Rose Ross, the youngest author I've ever interviewed (and the youngest author ever to be signed by her publisher). Her debut novel is Blue's Prophecy (Title Town). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by our guest, Emily Rose Ross. When Emily and Diane were half way through the editing process, they decided it would be a good idea to lay out the story of Blue’s Prophecy in such a way that the book’s motive and their goals were always visible to them. They went to Home Depot and bought a huge strip of landscaping paper. They hung it on the wall in such a way that, standing on chairs, they could write down information about individual chapters, about characters, about maps and other details. The paper kept them organized and helped them find the story arc. Emily says it helped them a lot. Her suggestion is that listeners who write do a similar thing with paper, or a whiteboard, possibly a bulletin board. I’ve also heard of writers who like to use sticky notes on a wall. All of which offers a unique new way to see your work and possibly help you plan next steps, solve problems, and stay organized.

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

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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New York Times bestselling author Pam Jenoff, whose latest novel is The Orphan's Tale (MIRA).

For today's Write the Book Prompt, Pam Jenoff kindly suggested that writers check out Nathalie Goldberg's "First Thoughts" freewriting exercise. I found a copy of the exercise online here, but investing in the original book,Writing Down the Bones, would be a good idea for any writer. It's a wonder, full of great ideas.

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 Joseph Kertes, whose new novel is The Afterlife of Stars (Little Brown). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by our guest, Joseph Kertes, who has used it in his classes. He was once asked by a ten-year-old in his daughter’s class - where he led the after-school writing club - “How do you know if you’re a comic writer or a tragic writer?” He answered, "Well, I guess if you start writing and it’s funny, you’re a comic writer." Then he brought them this prompt, which resulted in both very sad and very funny writing outcomes.

My best friend in elementary school was born without a head. At recess, she ran like the wind.

So that’s our prompt for this week. Write in response to that sentence, and see if what you come up with is comic or tragic.

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

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Award-Winning French Novelist Camille Laurens, author of who you think i am (Other Press). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt comes from Camille Laurens' book, who you think i am. At one point, the character Camille, who is a writing workshop leader, suggests an exercise called “Changing the Premise.” Here is how it’s described in the narrative:

Camille suggested we work on the theme "Changing the Premise.” The idea was to take our own experience as a starting point, a disappointing, unhappy or tragic experience …  to imagine a different version, a new development, a possible ending, to invent a narrative that would reorient the actual course of our lives.

This week, our prompt is to do this exercise. Rewrite a moment in your life that was disappointing in some way. Revise it, and see where it 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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British author Jane Corry, on her debut thriller, My Husband's Wife (Pamela Dorman Books). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously offered by my guest, Jane Corry. In fact, it was something she mentioned during the interview. Characters go through change in the progression of a narrative. To help you relate to the many ways in which a life can change, make a list of the larger events that have changed your life. Perhaps you’ll include births, deaths, and other lifecycle events. Did you ever experience an accident? A fire? An inheritance? Think about these larger events. Then make a list of the somewhat smaller things that have happened in the last month or even the last week. For example, if you missed a train, what did that change about your day? Did it impact some larger truth for you? What was the result? How might some similar events, small or large, change the lives of your characters?

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 Andrew Goldstein, author of The Bookie's Son, published by 617 Books.

Andrew Goldstein's book was inspired by events in his own life. This week's Write the Book Prompt is to notice how you react in situations with family, friends, co-workers. Where you might normally become upset or frustrated in a certain situation, try instead to focus on how you might reinterpret the moment for a poem or a scene in a book of prose. How would you convey your own emotions, but also, how would you get across the experience of being with these people? Could you write it so that someone who's never been around your cousin Adelaide might understand JUST how manipulative she is? Or how kind? Or how deeply in denial? Pay attention to yourself in the moment, and try instead to focus on how you might reinterpret that interaction for the page. Good luck with your work in the coming week, and please listen next week for another prompt or suggestion.

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 the novelist Carol Anshaw. We discussed her book, Carry The One, published in 2012 by Simon and Schuster.

This week's Write the Book Prompt is to write about an accident. Good luck with your work in the coming week, and please listen next week for another prompt or suggestion.

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 Maggie Kast, whose 2015 novel, A Free Unsullied Land (Fomite Press), recently won a Wordwrite Book Award. 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is generously suggested by Maggie Kast, who uses it when she teaches workshops on "Writing Your Family Story." Identify an object that was important in your family (either your family of origin, or the family you’ve since come to be a part of), and then contemplate that object, draw it if you want to, identify sensory details connected with it (looks, smells, feels, tastes, makes sounds?) and then put that object into a scene--into a place--if you want, draw that place. And then ask yourself what happened in that place that made the object so important. Did it involve something contentious, nostalgic. Was there a fearful memory, or did the object get broken, perhaps? Write as you remember.

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

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

N.B. Maggie wrote to offer the precise William Gass quote she tried to recall when we spoke. Here's her follow-up: ... a quote from William Gass' wonderful book, On Being Blue. Subtitled "a philosophical inquiry," it deals mostly with writing about sex. The passage I was attempting to quote is: "I should like to suggest that at least on the face of it a stroke by stroke story of a copulation is exactly as absurd as a chew by chew account of the consumption of a chicken's wing." It's on page 20 of the edition brought out by New York Review of Books in 2014, with introduction by Michael Gorra. Original publication was 1976, and that's when I first encountered it. - MK

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Vermont Author Castle Freeman, Jr., whose novel The Devil in the Valley comes out this week as a paperback (Overlook Duckworth).

This week's Write the Book Prompt is to experiment with rhythm and repetition in your own work.

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

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 Mary Dingee Fillmore, whose new novel is An Address in Amsterdam (She Writes Press). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously offered by Mary Dingee Fillmore, who says that when she is stuck in her writing, she likes to describe the environment: the weather, the shadows in the snow or grass... This nearly always works to get her work going again.

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

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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C.D. Bell, author of Weregirl, the first Choose Your Own Adventure (Chooseco) project with a single, dedicated ending! 

To some extent, change is a part of every book. The main character goes through a change, or her town goes through a change, or the situation that sets up the book changes. Perhaps these aren’t all as abrupt or significant as the change that takes place when a werewolf transforms, but still… This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to write about a transformation. Or just study the piece you’re working on a decide what is changing, because that’s probably something you should understand.

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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Former Deputy Associate Director at the White House Office of Management and Budget Meg Little Reilly, author of We Are Unprepared (MIRA Books). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt concerns the word storm, which has many uses, perhaps because of the impact that storms have always had on the populations that experience them. Here are a few brief definitions and synonyms: a violent disturbance of the atmosphere with strong winds and usually rain, thunder, lightning, or snow. Windstorm, tempest, whirlwind, gale, squall. A tumultuous reaction; an uproar or controversy. As a verb, it can mean to move angrily or forcefully in a specified direction. To storm off, stomp, march, stalk, flounce, stamp. It can be a sudden attack and capture by means of force. “Someone stormed the capital yesterday.”

Write a story, poem, essay or scene in which any form of the word “storm” or one of its synonyms has significance. If you have a friend who spells her name G-A-L-E, then you can go ahead and write about her.

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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A new interview with Pulitzer-nominated author Eowyn Ivey, whose latest novel is To the Bright Edge of the World (Little Brown). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by our guest, Eowyn Ivey, who finds old photographs interesting and inspiring as she writes her novels. She says looking into the eyes and faces of people from the past offers new perspective and motivation in her work. One resource is Alaska's Digital Archive. Eowyn forwarded a couple of examples of the types of pictures one could find there:
 
 

Many photos can also be resourced in the U.S. National Archives.

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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Marc Estrin and Donna Bister, founders of Vermont's Fomite Press, "a literary press whose authors and artists explore the human condition -- political, cultural, personal and historical -- in poetry and prose."

This week's Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Donna Bister. Write about your first pair of shoes. Or, if you can't remember them, write about your favorite shoes. 

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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Katharine Britton, whose first two novels, Her Sister's Shadow and Little Island were published by Berkley Books. We discuss her latest novel, Vanishing Time, which Katharine brought out this year.

This week we have three Write the Book Prompts, all generously suggested by my guest, Katharine Britton, who is a writing teacher as well as an author. 

  • First, have a conversation with one of your characters. Ask him or her questions about motivation, goals, pet peeves… It’s a good way to find a voice for a character that’s different from the author’s.
  • Get two characters talking to one another “off stage.” Not a scene that occurs in the book, simply a chance for them to air their grievances, express opinions... It’s slightly different from the author chatting with a character.
  • Finally, write a scene from the perspective of an object in a location: what did it see, hear, experience, such as - in Katharine’s book, Vanishing Time, the live oak trees on the rice plantations.

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


Music credits1) “Dreaming 1″ - John Fink; 2) “Filter” - Dorset Greens (a Vermont band featuring several former South Burlington High School students).

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Bestselling author and screenwriter Delia Ephron, whose most recent novel is Siracusa. Her other novels include The Lion Is In and Hanging Up. She has written humor books for all ages, including How to Eat Like a Child and Do I Have to Say Hello?; and nonfiction, most recently Sister Mother Husband Dog (etc.). Her films include You’ve Got Mail, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Hanging Up (based on her novel), and Michael. Her journalism has appeared in The New York Times, O: The Oprah Magazine, Vogue, and Vanity Fair. Her hit play Love, Loss, and What I Wore (co-written with Nora Ephron) ran for more than two years off-Broadway and has been performed all over the world. She lives in New York City.

This week's Write the Book Prompt is to write about a vacation gone wrong. 


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


Music credits1) “Dreaming 1″ - John Fink; 2) “Filter” - Dorset Greens (a Vermont band featuring several former South Burlington High School students).


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A new interview with Abby Frucht, co-author with Vermont writer Laurie Alberts of A Well Made Bed (Red Hen Press). 


This week's Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Abby Frucht. She recommends considering an "invented collaboration." Write the first page of a story or the first set of pages of a novel. Choose a favorite author whose work you respect, who you feel you can learn from. Then pretend you've asked that author to write the next page (or equivalent number of pages) of your new project. Write their part, keeping in mind what you admire about their work, and see what results. Abby says this gives you license to choose an author from whom you feel you can learn. 


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


Music credits1) “Dreaming 1″ - John Fink; 2) “Filter” - Dorset Greens (a Vermont band featuring several former South Burlington High School students).

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Vermont author Richard Hawley, whose new novel is The Three Lives of Jonathan Force (Fomite)

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Richard Hawley. He recommends that writers learn a bit about Jungian archetypes if they aren’t already familiarthose universal, mythic characters that exist within each of uswhich Jung said are not just stories or structures, but are alive. They work on you, Jung would say. So read about archetypes, such as the star-crossed lovers, the hero’s journey, the hero’s miraculous birth... Find one that appeals and sketch or write a naturalistic in-this-world narrative in which that archetype is expressed. Use the architecture of the archetype to write a naturalistic narrative.


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


Music credits1) “Dreaming 1″ - John Fink; 2) “Filter” - Dorset Greens (a Vermont band featuring several former South Burlington High School students).

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Novelist L.S. Hilton, whose new thriller is Maestra (Zaffre). And a new book chat with Claire Benedict about summer reads, 2016.

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was inspired by Gary Lee Miller’s conversation with L.S. Hilton. Her book, Maestra, is, as the author puts it, brand heavy. She mentions that her character, Judith, finds herself in the world of new money, which doesn’t think about art in terms of aesthetics but only in terms of financial gain. Art and pictures, she says, are reduced to commodities. They of no more interest or worth to many of the characters in the book than a Chanel jacket or a pair of sunglasses. Hilton says, “It was about making a connection between the commodification of the self -- something that has happened to Judith as a result of social media.” This week as a prompt, consider how you, or one of your own characters, responds to brands and to the commodities of our society. Write a scene or poem about this, either in your own voice, or in that of one of your characters.


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


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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Thomas Christopher Greene with his new novel, If I Forget You (Thomas Dunne Books).


This week's Write the Book Prompt is to write a love scene. Allow yourself to express emotion, and don't mistake sentiment for sentimentality.

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

Music credits1) “Dreaming 1″ - John Fink; 2) “Filter” - Dorset Greens (a Vermont band featuring several former South Burlington High School students).




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Anjali Mitter Duva, author of the novel faint promise of rain (She Writes Press).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Anjali Mitter Duva. The prompt she suggests comes from the writer, Barbara O’Neal, who was inspired to come up with it after watching one-second-every-day videos. Set a timer for one minute, and write what is happening right now, wherever you are. Begin writing with the words, “In this moment…” Include as much detail as you can. This prompt helps to get you in the habit of observing and conveying detail.

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

Music credits1) “Dreaming 1″ - John Fink; 2) “Filter” - Dorset Greens (a Vermont band featuring several former South Burlington High School students).

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


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

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

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

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Bestselling and award-winning novelist Jane Hamilton, whose new book is The Excellent Lombards (Grand Central).


This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to consider the advice of Willa Cather, whom Jane quoted during our interview. Here is the full text of the quote, which she was kind enough to share with me. It comes from Willa Cather’s On the Art of Fiction:


"Art, it seems to me, should simplify.  That, indeed, is very nearly the whole of the higher artistic process;  finding what conventions of form and what detail one can do without and yet preserve the spirit of the whole, so that all that one has suppressed and cut away is there to the reader’s consciousness as much as if it were in type on the page."


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


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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Anna Quindlen American author, journalist, and opinion columnist whose New York Times column, Public and Private, won the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in 1992. Her new novel is Miller's Valley (Random House).


This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Anna Quindlen, who finds a certain approach to her work invaluable. At the end of any given writing day, she never stops her work at the end of a chapter, or a paragraph or a sentence. She stops in the middle. She finds getting started in the morning really challenging, because of course, as she says, “writing is so terrifying and difficult.” But if she looks at the screen and there is a half-written sentence, she can almost always manage to finish the rest of that sentence, which will frequently lead her into the next one. If she had to start a new chapter from scratch first thing, she says, she could be paralyzed for days. Stopping in mid-sentence has been a boon as far as getting started in the morning, which is her most vulnerable moment.

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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In the second of two interviews on May 9th, John Preston, author of The Dig (Other Press, May 2016). 

This week's show aired on May 9th. On this day in 1429 - Joan of Arc defeated the besieging English at Orleans. On this day in 1502 - Christopher Columbus left Spain for his final trip to the Western Hemisphere. And on May 9, 1994 - Nelson Mandela was chosen to be South Africa's first black president. This week’s  Write The Book Prompt is to write about one of these historical events while trying to do what John Preston mentioned at the end of our interview: try to make it real -- give it an immediacy -- despite being distanced by history. “The way that people are wired emotionally doesn’t change,” said Preston in our interview. Breathe your characters to life as much as you can to allow the reader to metaphorically extend an arm and touch a character who has been gone for, in some cases, a very long time.

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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In the first of two interviews on May 9th, Dinitia Smith, author of The Honeymoon (Other Press, May 2016). 

This week's Write the Book Prompt follows Interview 399, Part 2! 

Good luck with it, 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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NY Times Bestselling author of historical fiction for young adults, Ruta Sepetys, whose new novel is Salt to the Sea, published by Philomel.

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Ruta Sepetys. Think back to yourself as a child and a time you were in the backseat of your parents' or grandparents' car. Take fifteen minutes to write about it. 

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

Music credits1) “Dreaming 1″ - John Fink; 2) “Filter” - Dorset Greens (a Vermont band featuring several former South Burlington High School students).

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Stewart O'Nan has a new one coming out later this month: City of Secrets: A Novel. 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 make a list of ten signs of spring in your area, and then use that list as a starting point for your writing.

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

Music credits1) “Dreaming 1″ - John Fink; 2) “Filter” - Dorset Greens (a Vermont band featuring several former South Burlington High School students).

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


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

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

Music credits1) “Dreaming 1″ - John Fink; 2) “Filter” - Dorset Greens (a Vermont band featuring several former South Burlington High School students).

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Vermont author Laura Williams McCaffrey, whose latest novel is Marked, published by Clarion.

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to expand the vocabulary of the world about which you are writing. Laura Williams McCaffrey said in our interview that the fantastical vocabulary of the dystopian world of her novel Marked tends to be functional vocabulary. “Squatties” squat -- that’s what they do, she tells us. In considering the world you are perhaps creating in a piece of fiction, or poetry, or essay, even if you’re not working on a dystopian piece, think about the functional vocabulary of that place, time, or community. Are you writing about a faraway place? Might there be a vocabulary you could research and expand on, or a vocabulary that you should invent? Is there a workplace in your piece that might have specialized functional vocabulary? Perhaps an ad agency that has a code word to refer to an important client waiting in the lobby? Or maybe in your narrator’s family, are there words or expressions specific to their experience that you could add to amplify your reader’s understanding of their life together? Maybe the mother always shouts a certain phrase when she wants  the kids to turn out their lights and go to sleep. Maybe she shouts, “BEDTIME!!” at the top of her lungs. Or does she come to the door and barely whisper it, her tone full of consequences. 

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

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

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Interview from 2012 with Margot Livesey, whose novel The Flight of Gemma Hardy had just come out from Harper. It went on to win the New England Independent Booksellers Association 2012 book award in Fiction.

The Flight of Gemma Hardy was Margot Livesey's homage to Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre. This week's Write the Book Prompt is to consider a favorite book - either a classic, or simply a book that you personally love - and play around with how you might go about paying homage if you were to write a new work. What themes would you maintain and how would you change the book? Would you set it in another time, another place? Would you create a main character who shares the circumstances of the original protagonist? Or would you create a portrayal that only you could recognize as related in any way to the original work? What draws you to this work in the first place? What characteristics do you so admire that it came to mind? Are those qualities that you already try to include in your writing? How might you consciously work toward that? 

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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Novelist Sharon Guskin, whose debut novel, The Forgetting Time (Flatiron Books), has been named book of the week by People Magazine, and listed by the BBC as one of ten books to read this month.


This week’s Write the Book Prompt was kindly suggested by my guest, Sharon Guskin. It’s a four-part prompt that has to do with discovering your enthusiasm:
  • First, as quickly as you can and without thinking about it ahead of time, list five areas that you feel are the neglected dark corners of your world--the areas that aren’t discussed enough or need more air.
  • Then, circle the one that seems the most alive to you, right now.
  • Imagine a voice within that world.
  • Finally, again without thinking, write from that voice for twenty minutes.

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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YA graphic novelist Marika McCoola, whose book Baba Yaga's Assistant (Candlewick) won a New England Book Award last year, and Marie Lu, best-selling author of the Legend Trilogy and the Young Elites Series, including her latest, The Rose Society (Putnam Books for Young Readers). My interview with Marika McCoola took place in front of an audience at the Chronicle Book Fair in Glens Falls, NY. 


This week’s Write The Book Prompt is a character development exercise suggested by Marie Lu. List a character’s greatest strengths as well as what that person most values. Then write about one single behavior or action that this character would never ever undertake. Finally, list that character’s greatest weaknesses. After you have your lists, write a scenario where the character must do that one thing he or she would never ever do. What circumstance would force this character to cross that line and how does he or she respond to the circumstance, in a larger way?

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

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



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2011 interview with Joan Leegant, author of the story collection, An Hour in Paradise and the novel that we discuss in the interview, Wherever You Go, both published by W.W. Norton & Co.


This week's Write the Book Prompt is to write a scene or poem or paragraph backwards. It can be a piece that you're stuck on, something you're trying to revise, something you've yet to attempt. Consider how you would normally go about writing it and write it "backwards." Let this mean whatever makes the most sense for you. Is your structure chronological? Change the flow of time. Would you normally introduce your characters in a certain order? Change that order. Would you setting begin indoors and move outdoors? Swap that. Write it backwards, and see if this opens up anything interesting for you. 

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

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

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Vermont author Brett Ann Stanciu, author of Hidden View (Green Writers Press).

Brett Ann Stanciu suggested a famous John Gardner exercise for this week's Write the Book Prompt. Here's a link to a site that lists many. (Brett's favorite is #4d). 

Here's her own version of that exercise:

Describe a building as seen by an elderly woman whose sister has recently been killed by a random and unexplained act of gun violence. Do not mention the sister, death, or the old woman doing the seeing. Then describe that exact building at the same time as seen by a young woman in love for the first time. Do not mention love, the loved one, or the young woman.

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 Ellen Hopkins, author most recently of Traffick (Margaret K. McElderry Books).


For this week's Write the Book Prompt, let's take a page from Ellen Hopkins, who writes novels in verse. You have two options: first, you could take an existing prose scene you've already written and rewrite it in verse. Or you could write a completely new scene in verse instead of prose. There's no need to use rhyme or any formal scheme, but if sonnets are your thing, you can let it fly. 

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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Two interviews this week. First, Lorin Stein, Editor of The Paris Review. Their new collection is called The Unprofessionals: New American Writing from The Paris Review, published by Penguin. My second interview is with Vanessa Blakeslee, author of the novel, Juventud, published by Curbside Splendor.


This week’s  Write The Book Prompt was inspired by my conversation with Lorin Stein, during which we discussed the repeated word, “there,” in the story “The Dark and Winding Road,” by Ottessa Moshfegh, in The Unprofessionals: New American Writing from The Paris Review. Often, writers are told to steer clear of repeating words in close succession in their prose, and yet this story absolutely benefits from the author’s intentional repetition. To my mind, it’s intention that makes the difference. Words that are repeated by accident are unlikely to do much other than bump the reader out of the prose. But words that are chosen and placed carefully in succession to highlight something a writer wants to draw attention to--these can be useful and beautiful. Former WTB guest Priscilla Long writes in her book, The Writer’s Portable Mentor: “Good writers delight in repeating good words.” She later adds, “If you have trained yourself not to repeat, learning to do the opposite takes practice and it takes developing your ear.” The word “there” in Ottessa Moshfegh’s story becomes a good word--the right word--by the author’s intention. She uses it to highlight the importance of the setting, which lies at the end of a dark and winding road, but I think also to highlight the otherness--the “there”--of the narrator’s present state of mind. This week’s prompt, then, is to use word repetition in a way that will accentuate something intentionally. Practice reading the result out loud, to be sure the music is just right. 
Good luck with this exercise and please listen next week for another.
Music credits: 1) “Dreaming 1″ - John Fink; 2) “Filter” - Dorset Greens (a Vermont band featuring several former South Burlington High School students).

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Vermont author Coleen Kearon, whose debut novel is Feminist on Fire (Fomite Press).


This week's Write the Book Prompt was generously offered by my guest, Coleen Kearon. Open a favorite book to a random page. Write down the opening three words of any sentence. Close the book, and use those three words as a starting point for your own work. 

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

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



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Vermont author Stephen P. Kiernan whose new novel is The Hummingbird, published by William Morrow.

So let’s say we wanted to put some pressure on that paragraph, above. What if we were to rewrite it, putting some pressure on the language, making it leaner, and getting that last word, “widow,” onto the previous line? I’m going to have a go.

There! I took it from 13 lines to 10, and did remove that widow, which was, ironically, the word “widow.” Now you try it with your own prose. 

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


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Interview from the archives with New York Times Bestselling Author Mary McGarry Morris. We discussed her 2011 novel, Light from a Distant Star.


This week's Write the Book Prompt is to write about candlelight or firelight. Describe it in a new way, without using words you've read before about the appearance and movement of fire. 

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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Critically acclaimed and bestselling author Julianna Baggott, whose new novel is Harriet Wolf's Seventh Book of Wonders (Little Brown).

This week’s  Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Julianna Baggott, who encourages her students to use “visualization” to move forward in narrative. She suggests that her students close their eyes for each. They can take notes in between each. Here are a few examples she offered, from which you can work. Either now, if you’re all set up to do so, or later, listen to these with your eyes closed, and try to visualize what’s happening, but missing, from each prompt:

  • A Man walks out of a house* He’s dressed very strangely* He walks to a car* Opens the trunk, looks inside* reaches in*
  • A woman is running, scared – where* She runs out of breath, falls to her knees. She hears a * looks up and sees*
  • A man is sitting on a park bench. By his clothes, we assume he works as a _________ . A woman sits next to him and says something that makes no sense to us but means a lot to him, “ -------------“
  • A woman is standing in a flooded basement – things float and are soaked around her* -- she finds a footlocker, wades over to it – reaches inside to find * 
  • A boy in pajamas is outside* -- alone. He hears * but ignores it and keeps heading toward a *
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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