Archive for the 'Poetry' Category

Charles Barasch, Poet and Crossword Puzzle Creator.

This week's Write The Book Prompt is inspired by the interview you heard today with Charlie Barasch. If you enjoy crosswords, find a newspaper or website that offers puzzles that you particularly like, and solve that day's puzzle. If you don't enjoy crosswords, use an already-solved puzzle from previous days. In either case, take all the words from a solved crossword, and try to work them into a story, poem, chapter or essay.

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

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Interview with Award-Winning Poet Rick Jackson, winner of the Order of Freedom Medal for literary and humanitarian work in the Balkans.

Today's Write The Book Prompt is inspired by the interview you just heard with Rick Jackson, much of whose work centers on translation. I also must credit the site Numéro Cinq, from which I borrowed this exercise (from a similar one that Doug Glover posted last year). When I post this interview on the podcast site, I'll include in the description a paragraph written in Slovenian. Or, actually, written by Google Translate from a paragraph I wrote in English. Do not try to understand the words, and do not take them over to Google to see what they mean. Just study the foreign text-I presume most of you won't speak Slovenian-and let the words affect you as they will. Either translate them, not trying for actual meaning, but for the sense of something you felt as you looked at the words. Or take what you feel in studying them, and use your reaction as a jumping off point to new work.

To ni res pesem. To je točka pišem, da se odstavek v slovenščini, ponuditi pisno vajo govorijo angleško. Upam, da nihče ne bo prevedla to besedilo, ampak bo poskušala najti navdih v besedah, kljub svoji kar nima smisla, da večina Američanov. Morda bo nekaj besed pogled prepoznati ali vsaj kozarec ohlapno ideje domačnosti. Trava in ribnik in gorskih lahko podobne besede. Lepota. Ali pa bo morda besedo drevo, se zdi, kot naša beseda drevo. Ne vem. Ne govorim slovensko.

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

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Acclaimed Author of Poetry, Fiction and Creative Nonfiction, Rosellen Brown.

This week's Write the Book Prompt is to write from the perspective of someone you find in a news story. Read to learn about what's happening in the world, in the country, in your town. Find a story that interests you, familiarize yourself with all the details, and then write from the perspective of a person in that story. For example, how might you represent the perspective of the driver who whisked Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier from the airport to the Karibe hotel in Port-au-Prince, Haiti last night. Imagine this person's role in the unfolding events, and write from his or her perspective.

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

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

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Novelist Colum McCann, author of Let The Great World Spin, Winner of the 2009 National Book Award.

This week's Write the Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Colum McCann. When I described this part of the show and asked if he had any prompts or advice to share, he said (and I quote):  "My prompt is: Poetry Poetry Poetry Poetry Poetry Poetry Poetry ... Poetry." Then he added, "And learn from the masters. We get our voices from the voices of others. There's a sort of mitosis that goes on there. So listen to the great ones, imitate them, and develop your own voice."

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

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

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Vermont Poet, Musician and Editor Ben Aleshire. Ben founded and edits the Vermont Literary Journal The Salon.

This week's Write the Book Prompt was inspired by the interview you heard today with Ben Aleshire. During our talk, Ben read his own "Autumn Poem" that featured, among other things, a stallion. He read another, "The Cock Fight," that featured roosters being set against one another in a cock fight. He also read "After Innocence," a poem by local writer Edie Rhoades that featured swans.

Read the following lines from those poems, maybe listen again to those parts of the interview. Then consider animals you've watched and how their beauty or grace, violence or playfulness might be represented on the page using specific detail and precise image. Now ... write!

.

.

The swans feed and come up

first the white rumps high over the water

black feet crabbed and kicking, then

duckweed draped in strings over their bills.

Symbols of grace and flight. The one pure white –

the adult male – I’ve seen him hiss and hunch his wings

stampede across the pond’s face heavy with rage.

This is what swans do.

.

~ From 'After Innocence' by Edie Rhoads

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A different death. Blood, too - lots of it,

crusting in the sand with bits of feather

.

as the trainers clutch the birds to their hearts,

roosters shivering with muscles ready

.

to kill, their neck feathers

flaring out like cobra's hoods:

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Chile y Blanco, Speckled and White –

.

~ From 'The Cockfight' by Ben Aleshire

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.

black and shimmering

muscles popping his

nostrils flare his hot breath

streams out in violent puffs

like the barrel of a gun.

.

~ From 'Autumn Poem' by Ben Aleshire

.

.

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

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

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Vermont Poet Pamela Harrison, author of the new collection, Out of Silence.

This week's Write the Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Pamela Harrison.  In her creative writing classes, she will sometimes ask students to read and study Archibald McLeash's Poem "Eleven," which captures a particular time in the intellectual and emotional life of an eleven year old boy. He is asked by the adults in his life to "think, think, think!" But he's not ready to think. He's still living deep inside his body. He hasn't arrived at his intellectual capacities yet and hasn't awakened to his separate self. The poem, says Pamela, beautifully captures that time in the life of a child.

Your prompt this week is to find the poem "Eleven" and read it. Look at each line as it develops. Then find or remember a place in your own life that was your hideaway, your safe place as a child, where you were most alive inside your body and where you had a sense of wholeness; then write. It's amazing, says Pamela, what this exercise inspires in her students.

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

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Jon Turner, Vermont Veteran, Poet, Paper Maker and Warrior Writers Member.

This week, instead of a Write the Book Prompt, I'm going to refer you to the Warrior Writers' blogspot. There, alongside regular blog entries, you'll find weekly writing prompts, poetry forms, and occasional shared work.

Please listen next week when the Prompt will return.

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

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Interview with Jay Parini, Biographer, Poet, Novelist and Essayist. Author of The Passages of H.M.

I'll leave this week's Write The Book Prompt in Jay Parini's exact words, just as you'll hear it when you listen to the interview:

If you're writing a poem, for example, it's important to have one deep image at the center of your poem. So, think of an image and really try to reinforce that image with concrete details. It works for prose as well, to begin with an image. See something. I always tell my students, in writing prose, if you're stuck, go through the senses: sight, smell, sound, taste, touch-the five senses. And try to make a gesture in the direction of each one of those senses.

Just describe a landscape. So I'm looking out the window. I say the autumn light slants across the field. I can smell the dry leaves with their mustiness. I can hear the leaves rattling. There's a cool breeze playing across my skin, which I can feel. I taste the slight acidity in the air.

And - boom - you've got a fall scene. So write for the senses and create images. Remember that an image is not just a picture but as Ezra Pound said, it's a kind of psychological and emotional complex, moving in time.

~ Jay Parini

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

Excerpt of The Passages of H.M. read with permission from Doubleday, a division of Random House, Inc.

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

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Interview with Richard Russo, Novelist, Pulitzer Prize Winner and Author of That Old Cape Magic.

This week's Write The Book Prompt is inspired by the subject matter of Richard Russo's novel, That Old Cape Magic. Write about a childhood vacation. This can be a recollected vacation from when you were a child, or an imagined vacation seen through the eyes of a fictional child. As you write, focus on details of place.

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

Excerpt of That Old Cape Magic read with permission from Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc.

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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A Discussion Of Writers' Block with Angelique and Morella Devost, Hypnotherapists and Practitioners of Neuro-Linguistic Programming.

This week we have two Write The Book Prompts, suggested by my guests. Morella and Angelique Devost. The first is the prompt you heard Angelique mention in the interview, to write about a "Fraught Drive in a Car." And the second is to consider the idea that Morella mentioned, What would you do if you could not fail? And then write with that sense of possibility.

Good luck with these exercises and please listen next week for another. And check out these articles, if you're interested in resources about the work that Morella and Angelique Devost do.

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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Upper Valley poet Carol Westberg, author of the new collection, Slipstream.

This week's Write The Book Prompt is inspired by the writing exercise you heard Carol Westberg describe on the show today. In her case, the exercise resulted in her poem, "Postcard from San Vitale." I'm going to read a list of eight words and suggest that you try to work them into a poem that's written in the form of a message to someone close to you, be it a lover, a relative, a friend, a neighbor. Here are the words: unscrupulous, hook, rhythm, pecan, thrum, peccadillo, downy, messenger.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Poet and Story Writer Nance Van Winckel, author of the poetry collection No Starling, published by University of Washington Press.

This week’s Write The Book prompt was suggested by my guest, Nance Van Winckel, who keeps a folder of visual art pulled from art magazines and turns to these sheets for inspiration and to offer a writing exercise to her students. Choose a picture from a magazine. The page can be of a photograph or a painting, of a person, a group, a landscape. Look at the page that you've chosen, and consider one of the following questions:

  1. What happened just before this moment in the life of the person or the persons in your picture?
  2. What is going to happen next week?
  3. In the case of a landscape, what's happening behind that building, around that corner, over that hill?

Begin writing. See where your magazine page takes you. As Nance points out, visual imagery can be a wonderful way to access the imagination.

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

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

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Interview from the archives with Rita Murphy, who spoke with Shelagh in October 2008.

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

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

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

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

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Interview with Gary Clark, Writing Program Director at the Vermont Studio Center.

This week's Write The Book Prompt is inspired by the Vermont Studio Center and writing retreats in general. Even if you can't get to a retreat at present, perhaps you can offer yourself a mini-retreat. Begin by looking at your writing space. Really study it. Is it a place you look forward to going to, sitting down and working in? If not, what might you be able to do to create a more comfortable, enjoyable atmosphere? Maybe you need to put in a bookshelf full of the kinds of books you might like to reach for when you need inspiration. Maybe you should consider new décor, a poster, a small colorful rug, a comfortable chair where you can sit and read over what you've written on a given day. Or maybe you need to do the opposite: simplify. Is the space too full of knick knacks, books, papers, pens? Do you need to clean it out, reduce the clutter? Figure out what you need to make yourself look forward to being in your writing space. Then, on a certain day, plan ahead. Make yourself lunch, put it in a picnic basket, and leave it outside your office door. Turn off your phones, ask your family to leave you in peace for one day. Create your own personal retreat. And then go to your space, sit down, and write.

Good luck with your feng shui and please listen next week for another exercise.

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

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Interview with playwright Dana Yeaton, whose new play, My Ohio, opens at FlynnSpace with the Vermont Stage Company on 4/21.

This week's Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Dana Yeaton, who uses prompts and exercises when he teaches. He recommended a joint prompt, requiring two people. Each person will need a piece of paper and something to write with. You'll be writing two dialogues between what we'll call character A and character B. The partners are told (or together create) the first line for character "A." It might be, for example, "I wouldn't do that if I were you." Each person writes that line and then writes character B's response to that line. You then switch papers, and write character A's response to the most recent response written by your partner. Switch papers again, respond, and keep going. As the exercise unfolds, you'll create two dialogues, all from that initial line. Dana says that what's really fun in this activity is that each person has to respond.

There should be no talking. No planning, no plotting. Each time you switch pages, you'll find yourself once more in a new situation. What would be an interesting next step? What would drive this story? Watch out for impulses that take away from or sabotage the story. You don't want the first response to the line, "I wouldn't do that if I were you," to be, "What?" And if someone writes, "Here, then, you take the gun," the response shouldn't be, "That's not a gun, that's a pickle."

Within 6-7 minutes, you'll have co-written two dialogues. As Dana explains, this exercise is pretty open-ended, it's quick, and it produces two outcomes.

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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This week's show celebrates National Poetry Month, and the format is a little different from our norm.

Instead of an interview, this week's radio broadcast of Write The Book consisted of a montage of poetry and music. I contacted past guests who are poets and asked that each send me a poem and the name of a favorite poetic song. You can hear the poems on this week's podcast. (All poems are read with permission.) Unfortunately, I can't put the musical selections up on the podcast, due to licensing concerns, and so this recording is different from the show I aired on the Radiator yesterday. But the songs are listed below, as are the poets' names and the works they submitted for the broadcast. Click on each poet's name to follow a link where you can learn more about her or him.

So here they are: each poet, that person's poem, the chosen song, and the composer's name.

1. Natasha Saje, "Knell," Bird On The Wire, Leonard Cohen

2. David Budbill, "Sweet Early Spring," It Might as Well Be Spring, Stan Getz and Astrud Gilberto

3. Charles Harper Webb, "The Open-Air Recital Survived A Shaky Start," I Am The Walrus, The Beatles

The poem from the book Shadow Ball: New and Selected Poems, by Charles Harper Webb, © 2009, is aired/posted by permission of the University of Pittsburgh Press.

4. David Jauss, "The Hatchet," Round Midnight, Thelonious Monk

5. Jody Gladding, "Vernal Pool," Dark Was The Night-Cold Was The Ground, Blind Willie Johnson

"Vernal Pool," by Jody Gladding, excerpted from Rooms and Their Airs (Minneapolis: Milkweed Editions, 2009). Copyright © 2009 by Jody Gladding. Read with permission from Milkweed Editions.

6. Leslie Ullman, "Agape II," Muskerraren Balsa & La Balso de Combourscuro, Kepa Junkera

7. Clare Rossini, "The Subterrestial," The Mooch, Duke Ellington

8. David Huddle, "Hilltop Sonnet," Tom Ames' Prayer, Steve Earl

9. Charles Barasch, "40th High School Reunion," The Way You Do the Things You Do, The Temptations

10. Sydney Lea, "Small Jeremiad," That Old Feeling, Gerry Mulligan and Stan Getz

11. Shelagh Shapiro, Nope, I'm not a poet. (Or if I am, I don't know it! Sorry ... corny joke.) I closed out the show with my own poetic song choice, a long-time favorite: Last Chance Texaco, Rickie Lee Jones

I wish I could present the whole show here as it was heard on the radio; I had a great time putting it together. If you have any of these songs in your personal collection, pull them out and have a listen. Or you could always buy them from your favorite Indie music store! For now, though, maybe just click "Play," below, and listen to the poems. If you open your heart and close your eyes, you might just hear the music anyway.

The Write The Book Prompt for this week is simply to listen for the poetry in music. Whether it be the music you choose to put on at home, music that you yourself might make, music that you hear on Church Street as the weather improves, music in elevators. Even music you don't like very much might have one single chord change that moves you. Listen well, and write.

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

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

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

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

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Interview with Poet and Short Fiction Writer David Jauss.

Prompt: This week's Write The Book Prompt was inspired by work of my guest, David Jauss. As we discussed in the interview, David published an essay titled, "Remembrance of Things Present: Present Tense in Contemporary Fiction," in the March/April 2002 issue of the AWP Chronicle. Here is a quote from that article:

Whatever the causes for the prevalence of the present tense in our fiction, it is important that we understand its advantages and disadvantages, so we can better decide when to use it. Our principal concern as writers ought to be to choose those techniques which best serve the particular story we're writing...

As an exercise this week, experiment with tense. If you have a story or a narrative poem that doesn't seem to be working, see what happens if you change the tense. Consider the level of immediacy that you want to bring to the piece. Think, too, about how tense affects narrative introspection, and how it might heighten or detract from the overall theme, or sense of what you're trying to accomplish. As you study the piece, written in different tenses, you may find you have an instinctive reaction about which is the best way to go.

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Interview with poet Leslie Ullman.

Prompt:This week's Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Leslie Ullman, during our interview. She mentioned this exercise-the poetic inversion-twice during our talk. Take a poem that strikes you in some way-it can be a poem of yours or one by another writer-read it through a couple of times, and then jot down casually, phrase by phrase, opposites to something in the poem. Use the work as a starting point only, writing opposites that occur to you as you read each line. Then put the exercise aside. Look at it later, and see what's coming at you. Do this without any expectations, but just to see what comes of trying to create an inversion of the original poem.

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

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

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Interview with author of fiction and nonfiction, Lawrence Sutin. His latest book is When To Go Into The Water: A Novel.

Prompt: This week's Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Lawrence Sutin. Describe your opposite. On paper, as an exercise, describe your personal opposite: whatever that means to you. Whether it means gender, age, psychology, physicality. Write in vivid detail a human being who, in your sense of things, is absolutely opposite to yourself.

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

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

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Interview with poet and author of fiction and nonfiction, David Huddle. This interview from the archives was the first show aired on Write The Book, back in March 2008.

Prompt: This week's Write The Book Prompt was inspired by my guest, David Huddle. In his essay, Issues Of Character, which appears in his book, The Writing Habit (published by The University Press of New England) he suggests six ways to bring a character to life in a story. They are: Information, Physical Appearance, Thoughts and Feelings, Actions, Sensory Experience, and Speech. He fills an entire essay with helpful explanations of what he means and examples of fine characterizations, but at the very least, the list itself may be of help to a writer who is stuck, trying to build a character. So, as you write this week, focus on your weakest character, and see if you might improve on his or her presentation on the page by studying the information, physical appearance, thoughts and feelings, actions, sensory experience, and speech that you, as the writer, have provided to the reader about this character.

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

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

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Interview with the poet Charles Harper Webb, author of the new collection Shadow Ball, published by the University of Pittsburgh Press.

Prompt: Today's Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Charles Harper Webb. Charles recently published this prompt and one or two others in a collection titled The Working Poet, published by Autumn House Press and edited by Scott Minar.

Choose two subjects that interest you - the more different and apparently unrelated, the better. You may choose two stories, two processes (making beer, lethal injections), a story and a process, whatever. The important thing is that both subjects be of real interest to you. Now write a poem in which you combine the two subjects, letting each intermingle with and illuminate the other. Ideally, you will have no idea how the two interconnect until - it may seem like magic - they do.

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

The poems from the book Shadow Ball:  New and Selected Poems, by Charles Harper Webb, ©2009, are aired/posted by permission of the University of Pittsburgh Press.

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

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Interview with Tanya Lee Stone, Vermont author of picture books, novels and nonfiction books for children, young readers and teens. Her latest is Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared To Dream.

Prompt: This week's Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Tanya Lee Stone. Write about an embarrassing moment, without revealing the actual event that caused the embarrassment.

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

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

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Interview with Writer and upstreet Editor and Publisher Vivian Dorsel

Prompt: Today's Write The Book Prompt was inspired by the interview you heard today with Vivian Dorsel. During our conversation, she mentioned an exercise that she likes (by Natalie Goldberg). A similar activity might be to try writing the words "I used to," on a page, then follow that with a ten-minute free write about something you USED to do. Then write "I'm going to," and write for another ten minutes about something you're going to do.

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

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

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Interview with award-winning poet Natasha Saje

Prompt: Today’s Write The Book Prompt was inspired by the interview you heard today with Natasha Saje, who occasionally turns to the dictionary for inspiration. Open a dictionary to a random page. Run your finger down a column of text, paying attention to the first five or ten words you see. Choose one of those words and find a way to include it in a poem you’re working on, or a paragraph of prose. As Natasha says, you can force the word into your work “like hammering open a door.” Maybe in a later revision, you’ll block it up again. But in the meantime, this randomly chosen word will have allowed you to get some “air” into your writing.

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

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

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Interview with best-selling author Anita Diamant.

Prompt: Today’s Write The Book Prompt was inspired by my guest, Anita Diamant, whose fiction is often based on “found stories” and historical events. Navigate to the Library of Congress’ “Today In History Site”  ( http://lcweb2.loc.gov/ammem/today/ ) Read about this day in history, keeping your mind open about how you could create a fictional character who might have participated in or witnessed the event of the day. Then write a scene featuring that character. Here’s an example:

On Sunday March 7, 1965, about six hundred people began a fifty-four mile march from Selma, Alabama to the state capitol in Montgomery. They were demonstrating for African American voting rights and to commemorate the death of Jimmie Lee Jackson, shot three weeks earlier by a state trooper while trying to protect his mother at a civil rights demonstration. On the outskirts of Selma, after they crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge, the marchers, in plain sight of photographers and journalists, were brutally assaulted by heavily armed state troopers and deputies.

Given this historical moment, would you choose to write a scene from the perspective of a bystander, a marcher, from Jackson’s mother, from the state trooper who shot Jimmie Lee Jackson? Perhaps from the viewpoint of a photographer? Use this moment in history as a starting point. Honor the sacrifices of  the past by re-imagining it in your fiction. Good luck with this exercise and please listen next week for another.

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

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Interview with author Robert Vivian and Burlington business owner Norbert Ender. Hosted by Shelagh C. Shapiro, Write The Book airs on WOMM-LP 105.9 FM “The Radiator,” in Burlington, Vermont, every Monday afternoon from 2-3 p.m. - a new time.

Prompt: Today’s Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my first guest, Robert Vivian. In his work with students, he occasionally distributes postcards from small towns, and asks each student to write a note on that card to a fictional recipient. Look at the postcard and imagine you’re traveling across the country and you’ve landed in this small town. Use the postcard as a trigger and write to someone. It could be someone who’s wronged you in the past or it could be a beloved person. You might be writing this postcard due to a situation that you’re fleeing. “Dear Randy. Hello from the middle of nowhere. I’m in a diner. Icicles are hanging down from the roof.  I’m driving to Santa Fe. I have 20 dollars in my pocket. I can’t stop thinking about the last time we spoke…” Etc. Invent a situation and write. Let the postcard be a trigger, and lose yourself in the creative act. Good luck with this exercise and please listen next week for another.

Music credits: 1) “Dreaming 1″ - John Fink

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Interview with Kate Harper and Leon Marasco about their nonfiction book, If Only I Could Tell You: Where Past Loves and Current Intimacy Meet. Hosted by Shelagh C. Shapiro, Write The Book airs on WOMM-LP 105.9 FM “The Radiator,” in Burlington, Vermont, every Saturday morning at 9:00 a.m.

Prompt: Today’s Write The Book Prompt is inspired by fear: an emotion that can make people reluctant to discuss past loves. Write a poem, story, or chapter in which a character—real or imagined, completely new or already familiar to you—has to confront his or her greatest fear. This can be, like the dread of discussing past loves, a fear of sentiment. Or it can be a fear of physical harm, of disease, of bugs! Whatever it might be, treat it as very real to your character, so that the reader will take it seriously and empathize. Good luck with this exercise and please listen next week for another.

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

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Interview with former Iowa Short Fiction award winner Abby Frucht, writer of short stories, novels, essays and reviews. Hosted by Shelagh C. Shapiro, Write The Book airs on WOMM-LP 105.9 FM “The Radiator,” in Burlington, Vermont, every Saturday morning at 9:00 a.m.

Prompt: Today’s Write The Book Prompt was inspired by my guest, Abby Frucht. In discussing her work, Abby explained that, to her, specific detail achieves two purposes. First, “it allows the reader to have an immediate physical investment in the story.” And second, it can have larger significance, serving a figurative function in the narrative and acting as a signpost for the reader. In the case of her story, “The Dead Car,” the detailed description of the spoon that was lost may later be brought back to remind the reader that this spoon speaks to loss, generally. Not just the loss of a certain object, but other kinds of loss, as well. In your own work, study the descriptions that already exist and see if you can use specific detail to your advantage, not simply to embellish, but to help readers experience the work more fully. Try to find objects that already exist in the work, then heighten their function through detail. Avoid wedging in symbols; try to allow significant details to arise organically. Good luck with this exercise and please listen next week for another.

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

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Interview with Rosellen Brown, award-winning writer of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, author of such books as Before and After, Half a Heart and Civil Wars. Hosted by Shelagh C. Shapiro, Write The Book airs on WOMM-LP 105.9 FM “The Radiator,” in Burlington, Vermont, every Saturday morning at 9:00 a.m.

Prompt: Today’s Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Rosellen Brown. This exercise is also taught by Nicholas Del Banco in his courses at the University of Michigan. Take two classic books and have the characters from one show up in the other. Write a scene in which a character from Mrs. Dalloway appears in The Sun Also Rises. What might happen? Would Pip, from Great Expectations, be a good friend for Tom Sawyer? Would Mr. Darcy be attracted to or repulsed by Daisy Buchanan? This may seem a little silly, but writing playfully and having fun is better than staring at the blank page. Like all exercises, this one might help you to open your mind and discover new things about voice.

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

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Interview with Charles Barasch, poet, linguistics instructor, crossword puzzle writer, and author of Dreams of the Presidents. Hosted by Shelagh C. Shapiro, Write The Book airs on WOMM-LP 105.9 FM “The Radiator,” in Burlington, Vermont, every Saturday morning at 9:00 a.m.

Prompt: Today’s Write The Book Prompt is inspired in part by the interview you heard today. Charlie Barasch said that when he has trouble writing, he sometimes sets his poetry aside and turns to music. His own instrument is the guitar, and he’ll spend time singing and playing songs in order to jumpstart his brain and motivate the words to flow once more.

Oliver Sacks, in the book Musicophilia, writes: "Given the obvious similarities between music and language, it is not surprising that there has been a running debate for more than two hundred years as to whether they evolved in tandem or independently—and if the latter, which came first." He also says: "We humans are a musical species no less than a linguistic one. This takes many forms. All of us (with very few exceptions) can perceive music, perceive tones, timbre, pitch, intervals, melodic contours, harmony, and (perhaps most elementally), rhythm."

Perhaps this explains why, when Charlie Barasch takes up his guitar, he’s able to break through the occasional obstacle of writer’s block and free up his creative capacity to write poems.

Here is your assignment for the week. If you’re stuck in you work or  unable to start writing, stand up out of you chair, close your eyes, and sing a song. Not all of us can play the guitar, but most people can pick up the nearest object, tap it with a pencil, and sing a favorite tune by Sinatra, the Clash, the Talking Heads, Van Morrison, Tommy Dorsey. If you’re so moved, dance around the room. Don’t feel silly. Do just exactly what you might enjoy, musically, all by yourself, without being told by an inner critic to stop. Play Once In Love With Amy on the piano. Hum Gershwin. Whistle Mozart. Or just clap your hands for a while, in a rhythm that is recognizable or somehow moving just to you. Then return to your work and see what might have changed since that moment when you turned to music for help. Write for at least half an hour and see if you’ve made progress. Good luck with this exercise and please listen next week for another.

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

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Interview with Louella Bryant, author of While In Darkness There Is Light. Hosted by Shelagh C. Shapiro, Write The Book airs on WOMM-LP 105.9 FM “The Radiator,” in Burlington, Vermont, every Saturday morning at 9:00 a.m.

Prompt: Today’s Write The Book Prompt is inspired by this holiday season. Love it or hate it, the season is upon us. Probably you have a great many catalogs piling up in your living room or on the back of a toilet somewhere, waiting to be chucked in January. Why not use these to some advantage? Pour yourself a cup of tea or coffee, sit back in your coziest couch, and window shop for your characters. Pick out clothing, furniture, sunglasses. Pick out boots, necklaces, belts. Would your narrator wear new jeans, or faded? Would his fleece have buttons or a zip? Would she be in heels or flats? Boots or strappy sandals? Use your catalogs to fill out a scene whose details have been lacking. Sometimes the poses in magazines look wrong somehow. The snow is synthetic, the beach is off-kilter. Why? What’s missing? How might you write these settings more convincingly? You might look for the things your characters can’t afford. What would substitute? Instead of that pricey lamp, how would she light her desk? A candle in a jelly jar? A flashlight? Look at your catalogs not with the eye of a buyer, but with the imagination of a writer. Make lists of ideas as you go, and then write without catalog in hand for twenty minutes. See what develops.

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

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Interview with author of poetry and prose Sydney Lea. Hosted by Shelagh C. Shapiro, Write The Book airs on WOMM-LP 105.9 FM “The Radiator,” in Burlington, Vermont, every Saturday morning at 9:00 a.m. - a new time for the new hour-long format.

Prompt: Today’s Write The Book Prompt concerns setting. How can a writer describe setting in such a way that it informs readers about a character’s or narrator’s state of mind? Consider the following two excerpts from works by Sydney Lea:

From his essay, “Alone With Friends: A Journal Toward Springtime”

… Landy and I sat for a spell on the tailgate, staring at the clean dark that walked at a human pace up the mountains, feeling a flake or two of snow on our wrists and faces, noting a heron who came languidly flapping out of a back pond, roost-bound early.

From his poem, “The Author in March”

Remnant, rank corn snow

.   perspires like dirty dough.

What few drab birds there are

.   don’t fly up very far,

So hard do the clouds bear down.

.   Not much to this splotch of a town—

Flue smoke, smalltalk, clutter.

.   Last autumn’s leaves clog gutters

Here’s this week’s prompt. Imagine a place in a poem or story you’re writing or are thinking about writing. Using minimal description, make a list of several things—five or six details—that exist in that setting. Now rewrite the list, describing those same details as seen from the perspective of a character who is upset, frustrated or depressed. Then write the list one last time, describing these same things from the point of view of a character who is happy, optimistic or excited. Don’t change the actual details of place, but the lens through which they are viewed. Good luck with this exercise and please listen next week for another.

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

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Interview with author Kathryn Davis. Hosted by Shelagh C. Shapiro, Write The Book airs on WOMM-LP 105.9 FM “The Radiator,” in Burlington, Vermont, every Saturday morning at 9:00 a.m. - a new time for the new hour-long format.

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

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

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Interview with Jody Gladding, poet, translator and 2007 Resident Poet at The Frost Place. Write The Book is a radio show for writers and curious readers. Hosted by Shelagh C. Shapiro, Write The Book airs on WOMM-LP 105.9 FM “The Radiator,” in Burlington, Vermont, every Saturday morning at 9:30 a.m.

Readings by Jody Gladding, from Rooms and their Airs (Minneapolis: Milkweed Editions, 2009). Copyright © 2009 by Jody Gladding. Recorded with permission from Milkweed Editions.

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

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Interview with Michael Collier, poet and director of the Bread Loaf Writers Conference. Write The Book is a radio show for writers and curious readers. Hosted by Shelagh C. Shapiro, Write The Book airs on WOMM-LP 105.9 FM “The Radiator,” in Burlington, Vermont, every Saturday morning at 9:30 a.m.

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

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Interview with David Jauss, author, poet, and faculty chair of the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA in Writing Program. Write The Book is a radio show for writers and curious readers. Hosted by Shelagh C. Shapiro, Write The Book airs on WOMM-LP 105.9 FM “The Radiator,” in Burlington, Vermont, every Saturday morning at 9:30 a.m.

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

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Interview with Stephanie G'Schwind, editor of Colorado Review and director of the Center for Literary Publishing at Colorado State University. Write The Book is a radio show for writers and curious readers. Hosted by Shelagh C. Shapiro, Write The Book airs on WOMM-LP 105.9 FM “The Radiator,” in Burlington, Vermont, every Saturday morning at 9:30 a.m.

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

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Interview with Nancy Means Wright, poet and author of adult and children's fiction. Write The Book is a radio show for writers and curious readers. Hosted by Shelagh C. Shapiro, Write The Book airs on WOMM-LP 105.9 FM “The Radiator,” in Burlington, Vermont, every Saturday morning at 9:30 a.m.

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

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Interview with David Huddle, author of Glory River. Write The Book is a radio show for writers and curious readers. Hosted by Shelagh C. Shapiro, Write The Book airs on WOMM-LP 105.9 FM "The Radiator," in Burlington, Vermont, every Saturday morning at 9:30 a.m.

Readings by David Huddle, from Glory River (Baton Rouge: LSU Press). Copyright © 2008 by David Huddle. Recorded with permission.

Music credits: 1) "Dreaming 1" - John Fink; 2) "The Book I Write" - Spoon

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