Archive for the 'Psychology' Category

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Vermont Psychologist Bruce Chalmer whose new book is Reigniting the Spark: Why Stable Relationships Lose Intimacy, and How to Get It Back (TCK Publishing). 

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

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

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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

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

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

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

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

 

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Award-Winning Author T. Coraghessan Boyle, whose latest novel is Outside Looking In (Ecco). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, TC Boyle. Sometimes he finds his stories through newspaper clips. But because news stories are journalism, he says, we don’t know the why or how of them, just the what. With students, he’ll suggest finding a one-paragraph story in the newspaper and trying to inhabit it to find out why and how. He jokes, Man Bites Off Own Nose, Swallows It, Winds Up in the Hospital. What’s that about? Write about it. He also suggests, as ever, reading the work of great writers. This helps us see ways into ideas that we may have had on our own. 

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

 

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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Guest host Kim MacQueen interviews Karol Jackowski,

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

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

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

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

 

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

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

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

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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Kim MacQueen interviews Writer and Food Expert Hannah Howard, whose memoir, Feast: True Love in and Out of the Kitchen, was published earlier this year by Little A.

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to write about someone who tries to pass off a dish as something he or she actually cooked, when that is not the case.

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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Neurologist and neurophysiologist, Suzanne O’Sullivan, MD, whose new book is Is It All in Your Head? True Stories of Imaginary Illness (Other Press), which concerns psychosomatic disorders. 

This week's Write the Book Prompt is to write about trying to convince someone about something important that is, for whatever reason, deemed implausible.

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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From 2012, an interview from the archives with Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking.

Today's Write The Book Prompt is to navigate to this link on Susan Cain's website and read a guest post by another former Write the Book author, Arnold Kozak (in which he quotes yet another former Write the Book guest, Timothy Wilson!) Read the post, and follow Arnie's suggested exercises. Focus on your breathing. When you are ready to return to your writing, consider the Pascal quote he includes in the post: "All men's miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone." Reading this made me feel grateful to be a writer, grateful to know how to sit alone in a quiet room. Maybe you'll feel grateful, too. I hope so. And I hope this inspires in you a desire to write. 

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 the archives with Timothy D. Wilson, Sherrell J. Aston Professor of Psychology at the University of Virginia and a researcher of self-knowledge and affective forecasting. In January 2012, we discussed his book Redirect: The Surprising New Science of Psychological Change, published by Little, Brown.

For this week's Write the Book Prompt, as I did when this interview first aired, I’m going to suggest checking out the Pennebaker writing page that Timothy D. Wilson mentions in his book, Redirect. On this page, you’ll find helpful advice about writing and health that you can read and think about. 

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

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

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


This week's Write the Book Prompt is to write about a character recalling a past relationship. Is your character missing an old love, relieved to be free of that person? Does your character consider looking someone up on Facebook? Is she a stalker? Is he being stalked? Take the story wherever it wants to go.
Good luck with this exercise, and listen next week for another.
Music credits: 1) “Dreaming 1″ - John Fink; 2) “Filter” - Dorset Greens (a Vermont band featuring several former South Burlington High School students. 

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

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

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

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

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Roxana Robinson, author of five novels and three collections of short stories. Her latest novel is Sparta, published June 4th by Sarah Crichton Books.

Today's Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Roxana Robinson. The first exercise she always offers to her students is this: write one page, no more, and include two voices and a conflict: nothing but dialogue, and no description. She says what comes from this setup is always interesting. With only dialogue and conflict, the writer naturally supplies everything the reader needs to understand.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Interview from the archives with Vermont Psychologist Arnold Kozak, author of Wild Chickens and Petty Tyrants: 108 Metaphors for Mindfulness (2009, Wisdom Publications) and The Everything Buddhism Book (2011, Adams Media).

Prompt: Today's Write The Book Prompt was inspired by the interview you heard today with Arnold Kozak. The thirtieth metaphor for mindfulness in his book, Wild Chickens and Petty Tyrants, begins this way: "In many Buddhist works, the mind and the self are often compared to a small pool of water. Thoughts can be seen as a breeze or wind blowing on the surface. These disturbances obscure what can be seen below the surface-the bottom of the pool, the ground of being-without changing it in any way. This ground is there, always there, no matter what is happening on the surface." Today's prompt turns that metaphor to writing. Consider the piece you're now working on. Maybe it's a novel, a memoir, a collection of stories or poetry. Perhaps it's a smaller entity: an essay or story or poem.  The work itself has an underlying essence, apart from the various images, snippets of dialogue, and actual scenes that exist within. As you write, try to keep a sense of this underlying essence within your work, your vision for it as a whole. Imagine that to be the bottom of the pool. Then, as you work, as you lose yourself in the wonderful creative act, feel free to create ripples along the top of the pool, to experiment and change and play with various elements within the work, all the while keeping clear in your own mind the bottom of the pool. Maintain some sort of focus, so that your work continues to embody that underlying vision, your writing's "ground of being" that is the bottom of the pool.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Timothy D. Wilson, the Sherrell J Aston Professor of Psychology at the University of Virginia and author of Redirect: The Surprising New Science of Psychological Change, published by Little, Brown.

Today's Write The Book Prompt was offered by my guest, Timothy D. Wilson, who suggests that writers listen to people talking on their cell phones. People will say the most bizarre, intimate things in front of others often, when they're on the phone. Take something they're saying, and just imagine what the larger story is. Use that as a prompt to tell that person's story or some other story. Dr. Wilson and his daughter collect sentences they overhear in this way - obviously it's a one-sided conversation and the context is hard to discern, which makes this a fun exercise.

Another possibility for a prompt this week is to try the Pennebaker writing exercise that Timothy Wilson explains in his book. Full directions about trying the exercise can be found at James W. Pennebaker's website at The University of Texas, Austin.

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

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

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Award-winning Crime and Mystery Author Megan Abbott, whose latest novel is The End of Everything.

This week's Write the Book Prompt was suggested by my guest Megan Abbot. Select a long paragraph from a favorite book-Megan mentioned doing this with a section from the Great Gatsby-break it down and look at the sentence structure. Then rewrite the paragraph, keeping only each word's part of speech. Create a paragraph that works within a project of yours, trying to adhere (at least at first) to the original flow. You can change it in revision to work within your piece. But doing this first will bring out a new cadence or rhythm.

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

During our interview, Marilyn mentioned a recent article about her work in the web-zine New York City Woman. You can find that article by clicking here.

This week's Write The Book Prompt was inspired by the conversation you heard today with Marilyn Graman. The prompt is based on an exercise from How To Be Cherished, by Marilyn Graman and Maureen Walsh with Hillary Welles. If you write memoir or autobiographical poetry, create a "Care and Feeding Manual" about yourself. If you write fiction or biography, create one for one or more of your characters. In the book, a Care and Feeding Manual is described as "a fun and helpful way for your man to know you better." In the case of this week's prompt, creating such a manual can be a way to get better acquainted with the subject of your work, be that you yourself, or a character.

Below are several of the points that might be included in a "Care & Feeding" manual for your subject. These are all based on the work of Marilyn Graman and Maureen Walsh, from their book, How To Be Cherished (although I've edited the list to make it a bit more character-relevant, a bit less relationship-relevant). Many thanks to Marilyn Graman for permission to base this prompt on the Care & Feeding exercise in the book.

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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 Julie Metz, graphic designer and author of the memoir Perfection.

This week's Write the Book Prompt comes to us from a listener in Westford, Vermont. Mark Peloquin writes that he's had good luck with this prompt:

Describe your room as a child.  Describe why you felt safe there or perhaps, why you did not.  Describe what you would see when you looked out the window or through the key hole. Describe any things that were on the walls and why there were significant.

Good luck with this prompt, many thanks to Mark for sending it, and please listen next week for another.

Excerpt of Perfection read with permission from Hyperion Books.

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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Local Short Story Writer, Public Radio Commentator and Businessman Bill Schubart. His latest collection is Fat People.

This week's Write the Book Prompt was included in the interview itself, but here it is again:

My guest, Bill Schubart, said during our talk, "I love stories. I grew up in a French Canadian family in Morrisville, VT, and everybody told stories all the time in French and English." He went on to say that we as a society are too distracted by technology, and we don't listen to each other as much as we used to. So ask your family members for their stories. Listen to their stories. Maybe even record them. You can then write about these stories, or you can just enjoy them. As Bill said, "...stories define us, in our communities [and] in our families."

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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Interview with Vermont Mathematician, Professor and Author Joseph Mazur.

This week's Write the Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Joseph Mazur. I'm including it in his words, as sent to me in an email:

You know that nonfiction writing requires the writer to bring readers to places they haven't ever been and to tell them things they have not known. In one single sentence, that is the task of the nonfiction writer. But to keep readers reading, a book must be alive with human experience. That's the job of anecdotal entrances and anecdotal relief.

Anecdotes are there to first amuse, and therefore hook the reader, and then to give clues to what the book is about.

If you are writing nonfiction, try weaving in as much anecdotal material as possible. Take a look at some of Stephen Jay Gould's books for fine examples. Gould was the king of anecdotal entrances.

There are a few principles to favor when using a leading anecdote-Bring in something that the reader can identify with, a character, a place, an object, or a brief amusement. Watch out for making it too specific-specificity has an uncanny way of creeping into the lead to defeat the hook.

I introduce each of my own books with lead anecdotes-

I came to understand mathematics by way of a Russian novel. (The first sentence in a book about truth and logic in mathematics.)

My father was the first person to tell me about paradoxes of time. (The first sentence in a book about time and motion.)

When I was a child, my uncles would gather every Saturday at my grandparents' house to sit at a long dining room table telling jokes while accounting their week' s gambling wins and losses. (The first sentence in a book about the history and psychology of gambling.)

My own high school days were the near misfortune of my teenage years. (The first sentence in a book about learning math in an inner-city high school.)

What about anecdotal relief? In most cases, relief suggests a reprieve from something burdensome. And burdensome reading is never a welcome task. However, unless it is memoir or biography, nonfiction often involves the burden of strings of complicated information that tends to swell into what sometimes seems to be disconnected from thoughts of the real world. Even the best nonfiction writers need to think about anecdotal relief just as the most indefatigable readers need respite.

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

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