Archive for the 'Publishing' Category

Dr. Debra Horwitz, veterinarian and co-editor of Decoding Your Cat: The Ultimate Experts Explain Common Cat Behaviors and Reveal How to Prevent or Change Unwanted Ones(HMH).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is a piece of advice that my guest, Dr. Debra Horwitz, generously suggested. People do their best thinking at different times. Dr. Horwitz says she sometimes comes up with her best ideas when she’s driving, or has just woken up in the night or in the morning, or is otherwise unavailable. So she recommends having sticky notes in the car, on the bedside table, and all those places where you might get a great idea and want to jot a note despite not having a computer at hand. If you like dictating notes instead, be sure you have a dictation app on your phone, or a recorder that you can carry and have at hand.

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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Fiona McCrae, Director and Publisher of the Minneapolis-based literary publisher, Graywolf Press

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously offered by my guest, Fiona McCrae. Consider the Black Lives Matter movement and the murder of George Floyd, and write. Maybe write from the perspective of someone with different or more extreme opinions than your own. Or write from two distinct perspectives. Or perhaps write from the point of view of someone who has one opinion, but is somehow personally affected by the movement in a way that amplifies, changes, or even negates that opinion. In responding to this current moment in history, consider your goal to be one of inspiring meaningful dialogue. 

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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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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An interview with Megan Angelo, author of the debut novel Followers (Graydon House). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Megan Angelo. She thought of it in response to a feeling of regret around the lack of spontaneity in her life at a certain point. It has, in time, become a helpful writing tool for her. Go somewhere today, like the pharmacy or the DMV or a diner that does not play loud music. Do not look at your phone the entire time. And either see what kind of conversation you might get into with someone else who isn’t buried in a phone, or eavesdrop on a conversation. If you absolutely have to take notes because the conversation gets away from you, you may. But don’t use your phone for anything else than note taking while you conduct the exercise. Megan says that this has paid off enormous dividends whenever she has done it. 

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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A conversation with the author Kathleen Donohoe, whose latest is Ghosts of the Missing (Mariner), a novel that follows the mysterious disappearance of a twelve-year-old girl during a town parade.

This week's Write the Book Prompt was generously offered by my guest, Kathleen Donohoe. Open a favorite poetry collection to a random page, write the first line of the poem you see there, and let that be the starting point for your writing session. Kathleen finds that, even if that first line can't stay ultimately, this can be an excellent way into new work. 

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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Cynthia Newberry Martin, whose debut novel is Tidal Flats (Bonhomie Press).

This week I’m going to suggest two Write the Book Prompts, both of which were part of my interview with Cynthia.

  • First, think of black and white passions for your characters and write in that direction. See if you uncover something new and interesting that might stay black and white, or might become more layered and complex. See where it takes you.
  • The second prompt was suggested during the interview by Cynthia, who loves sentences. Turn to a random page in a piece that you are working on and study the sentences you find on that page. Where are the boring ones? What can you get rid of? Do away with anything unnecessary. So many first-draft sentences are boring or unnecessary. After that, try to make the remaining sentences more interesting. In the aftermath of our interview, she added yet another layer to this exercise. As you try to make the remaining sentences more interesting, consider looking Shirley Hazzard’s The Transit of Venus. One example from Cynthia: Instead of “Pearl Harbor was bombed,” or something banal, Hazzard writes, “One hot day Caro looked up Pearl Harbor in the atlas.” This brings the information to the reader by way of character. Try, likewise, to bring information through your own characters, making more interesting and relevant sentences.

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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Author Abby Frucht, whose new collection of prose poems is Maids (Matter Press)

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was inspired by my conversation with Abby Frucht. In her own book, Maids, Abby followed one poem in which, as a child, she snuggles with her mom at the end, with a poem titled “Spoons,” which does not relate directly to the concept of snuggling or "spooning." And yet, because of the relevant placement of the works in the collection, they somehow do. Abby talked about an exercise that she gives her students, encouraging them to look at the beginnings and endings of different pieces they’ve written, and see how they might choose to order a collection. This week, if you are the author of poems, stories, or essays, have a look at your pieces and consider how they might best fit together into a collection. Watch beginnings and endings for ideas, words, expressions, or intentions that somehow speak to each other. Think about how they might work in transition, from one to the other.

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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Vermont Author Emily Arnason Casey, whose debut essay collection is Made Holy

(Crux: The Georgia Series in Literary Nonfiction). 

This week's Write the Book Prompt was generously offered by my guest, Emily Arnason Casey, during our live conversation. It's one she's used in a recent class: write about a place you can't return to. See if you can find an object in that landscape of memory that gives you some direction or shapes your understanding of that place.

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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Alice Lichtenstein, whose new Pulitzer-nominated novel is The Crime of Being (Upper Hand Press). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Alice Lichtenstein. She has found it fun to assign her students a prompt she calls “ekphrastic fiction.” Ekphrastic writing is written in response to a work of art. Alice recommends googling Edward Hopper, many of whose paintings are clearly narrative in nature, and letting his work inspire your writing. Often his works exhibit a single figure posed in such a way and lit in such a way that the figure naturally lends itself to story. So this week, engage in a free-written response to a Hopper painting. Explore the narrative--who is this, in the painting, what has just happened to him or her, what’s going to happen next? See where it takes you.

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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Vermont Author Archer Mayor just published his 30th Joe Gunther novel, Bomber's Moon (Minotaur).

Blood Moon, Super Moon, Blue Moon, Harvest Moon, Bomber’s Moon. This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to come up with a new type of moon, and write about a night on which it rises. 

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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Veteran Literary Agent and Entrepreneur Jeff Herman, author of Jeff Herman's Guide to Book Publishers, Editors and Literary Agents (New World Library). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was inspired by my conversation with Jeff Herman. Write a query letter. Jeff says the query letter is really a sales pitch. Keep that in mind as you work. Tell the agent you’re addressing about why you are reaching out, especially if you’re a fan of work they’ve sold. Let them know why you respect them, and that you hope your work will appeal to them. The letter should be short (1 ½ pages or fewer) readable, direct, and personalized. Jeff writes on his website, “Say what you have, why it’s hot, why you’re a good prospect, and what’s available for review upon request.” His website offers a lot of other advice for writing the query letter, which has a certain format you should read about before getting started. Even if your creative work isn't ready to submit, writing the query letter can take some time to get just right, and it's worth practicing ahead of time. 

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

Music: Aaron Shapiro

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Guest Host Kim MacQueen interviews Champlain Professional Writing Alum Ian Frisch, author of Magic Is Dead: My Journey Into the World’s Most Secretive Society of Magicians (Dey Street Books).

Ian Frisch kindly offered this Write the Book Prompt for listeners: get out of your own head, out of yourself, and be on the lookout for compelling characters in your own area. A well-known character, such as the local mayor, the owner of a store, your neighbor who has lived in town for sixty years. In seeking stories for his nonfiction and journalism, Ian likes to watch for the people who can carry a narrative. Go out and listen to people's stories -- characters who embody a greater sense of purpose outside of themselves, who are reflections of things that are going on in the world. As you hear people's stories, you will understand their relevance. Talk to people, listen to their stories, and then try to translate what you've heard onto the page. 

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

Music: Aaron Shapiro

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

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

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

Music: Aaron Shapiro

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Vermont Poet Ralph Culver, recorded live in the studios at WBTV-LP. We discuss Ralph's new chapbook, So Be It.

Happy National Poetry Month! 

This week we have three Write the Book Prompts. Ralph suggested two during our conversation.

1) The first extends his point about how "ridiculously broad" or "OCD specific" prompts can be. You can tell someone "write twenty lines of blank verse," or you can be specific: Write twenty lines of blank verse representing one side of a phone conversation between two spouses who are arguing about money. (It's possible Ralph offered this prompt with tongue in cheek, but I liked it, so I'm including it here.)

2) Write a poem about something or someone you lost.

3) My own suggestion is inspired by Ralph's poem "Fill Up," in which the narrator notices his own distorted reflection in the metal of a dented car ashtray. The distortion is literal, but it bends the poem as well, affecting the way in which we think about what we've read. In your work this week, include a literal reflection in your poetry or prose. See how a reflection in water, a window, a mirror... might affect someone's view of him- or herself, or of someone else or their surroundings. 

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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2012 Interview with John Homans, author of What's a Dog For? (Penguin

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is inspired by the lives of two men born on this date: martial artist and actor Bruce Lee, born November 27, 1940, and American rock guitarist, singer, and songwriter Jimi Hendrix, born November 27, 1942. Both men had ties to Seattle. Hendrix was born there. Lee moved there to attend college and later opened a martial arts school there. Both men struggled to achieve success in their fields, and each finally achieved it before dying young, eventually becoming a legend in his respective field. This week, consider these men and their lives and careers. Consider their fortunes, good and bad, their determination and talent. And then either write about them, or allow their stories to inform the work that you’re doing.

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

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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lvw.jpgInterview from the archives with then-president of the League of Vermont Writers, Deb Fennell.

It is now officially football season. The Bills have a win, the Patriots, a loss. But it’s early days. This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to write about a football game that begins in a friendly way and turns nasty. It can be about a Thanksgiving touch football game, or a group of old friends coming together to watch the Superbowl. It can be about high school parents, professional players, the fans, or the guy selling beer and hot dogs. Be sure to describe the weather, the smells and sounds and colors.

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

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Literary Agent Anne Hawkins, with John Hawkins & Associates, Inc., in New York City. 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Anne Hawkins. If you work in prose—fiction, creative nonfiction, nonfiction, or memoir—be extremely careful in your use of backstory, because it can really slow down a book. Do not frontload backstory, Anne says; let it trickle in as the book goes on so that it does not wreck the pacing for your readers.

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 Poet, Publisher and Book Designer Dede Cummings, whose new poetry collection is To Look Out From (Homebound Publications).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is inspired by the conversation you just heard with Dede Cummings. Dede found the title for her collection To Look Out From, by researching the etymology of the name of the town where she was raised, Matunuck, RI. Matunuck, as we learn in the collection, is possibly a term that comes from a Southern New England Algonquian term meaning “high place,” “high point,” or “to look out from.” In your own world, is there a place name or otherwise relevant term that you hear all the time but perhaps have never investigated? Maybe you live in Winooski. Did you know that Winooski comes from an Abenaki term that means “Land of the Wild Onion?” Is your last name from a place you could research and learn more about? Do a little investigative work and then write a poem, a story or an essay that is inspired by what you learn.

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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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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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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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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A conversation with Douglas Glover, founder, publisher and editor of the online magazine Numéro Cinq

This week’s Write the Book Prompt, generously suggested by my guest Douglas Glover, is an "aphoristic mad lib." Doug began studying aphorisms early in his writing career, once he realized what they were and how they were used by certain writers he admired. This is from the Numéro Cinq website: “Generally speaking, aphorisms are terse, pointed sayings meant to provoke thought and argument. There are several basic types, but they often set up as definitions or clever balanced antitheses or even puns.” Doug recommends approaching the aphorism as a formal experiment. Decide which type appeals to you, and then sit down and write some. Don’t write just one; write many. Don’t spend too much time. Play with them, see what happens. Don’t think about what you mean ahead of time. The exercise is meant to be an act of discovery. After you’ve written some, play with putting them into thematic passages in your work. A few examples:

  • If you have a scene where a husband and wife are fighting, insert a love aphorism. “And what is love? An erotic accident prolonged to disaster." (Douglas Glover, "Bad News of the Heart") 
  • Have a scene where you want to compare and contrast two types of people? "There are two kinds of readers; the adventurers who glory in the breathtaking audacity and risk of a well-turned aphorism and the weenies who, lacking courage themselves, find it affront in others." (Douglas Glover sent this in an email “to a recalcitrant student.”) 
  • Here’s one that I wrote for a Numéro Cinq Aphorism Contest, back in the days when Numéro Cinq had more contests. “Truth prowls in mansions of wit.” 

So to start, just play around with these types:

1) The definition aphorism: 

_____ is _____.


2) The two (or three) kinds aphorism: 

There are two kinds of ______: the _______, and the ________.


Here's an article that Douglas Glover wrote about epigrams and aphorisms, in case you’d like to read more about this.

My previous interviews with Doug can be found here and here


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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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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Award-winning author Christine Sneedwhose novel Paris, He Saidcame out this spring from Bloomsbury USA.

Christine Sneed generously offered two Write the Book Prompts when I spoke to her. Gary Miller read one of them on the show last week. You can find it here. The second is a dialogue-writing exercise that Christine uses to encourage her undergrads to write with restraint. Write a short scene that happens almost entirely in dialogue.  Keep it to 2 or 3 characters.  In the scene, one of the characters should reveal a secret or some fact that worries or upsets the other person(s) in the scene.  Don’t overdo the reaction. Think about gestures the characters might also make or the physical/sensory details that would enable your readers to see the scene even more vividly.

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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Author, playwright and activist Diane Lefer, whose new book is Confessions of a Carnivore, published by Burlington, VT publisher, Fomite Press. Visit Second Chances LA to read Diane's interviews with torture victims in her local (Los Angeles) community. 


This week’s Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Diane Lefer, who says that writers sometimes forget to consider what their characters want at different points in their fictional lives. She likes to present a character’s emotional life, and not just the facts. The prompt, then, is to write, “When I was five years old, what I wanted more than anything else in the world was…” and finish that statement. Write it again, beginning, “When I was ten years old,” and “When I was fifteen years old.” Keep going with this. Choose the intervals of time that make the most sense for your age or for that of your character. See how the desire changes, and keep that in mind as you 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 former South Burlington High School students).


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


This week's Write the Book Prompt is to consider the word mentor. Have you ever had a mentor? Have you ever been a mentor to someone else? What have those relationships provided for you and the other person? Are you still in touch? Is the coaching/education/guidance ongoing, or was the mentorship a temporary situation? If you're no longer in touch, do you miss that other person? If you were the mentor, what did you get out of offering guidance to another? Consider all of these questions, and write.
Good luck with this exercise, and listen next week for another.

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



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Two interviews this week! The first, with former Williston Observer columnist, French-trained chef and memoirist Kim Dannies, whose new book is Everyday GourmetThe second, with best-selling author Sue Monk Kidd, whose book, The Invention of Wings, has just come out in paperback from Penguin.


This week’s Write The Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Kim Dannies. Either use the following phrase for inspiration, or as a starting point: “He was slicing limes...” 

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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Houston author Chris Cander, whose new novel is Whisper Hollow, published by The Other Press.


This week I’m offering you two  Write The Book Prompts, thanks to the generous suggestions of my guest, Chris Cander. She just participated in a literary showdown recently, at Brazos, her favorite local bookstore in Houston. The event was in honor of independent bookstore day. Four participating Houston-based novelists were given a prompt and had thirty minutes to create a story each. Chris is a fan of working under pressure, which she says helps a writer bypass self-censorship. The bookstore employees picked out a romance novel that had “Texas” in the title. They read the first page aloud, which was full of raw passion and prairie angst, as Chris puts it. The main character was fleeing a difficult and traumatic situation. So the challenge was to write a story that would expand upon that summarized trauma in detail. Chris says it was a great prompt with a rich, ripe setup. It was fun and funny, because there were no expectations. She says you could do anything with this. Pick a genre. If you write literary fiction, pick something pulpy; if you write mysteries, maybe pick a historical novel. Then spend 30 minutes turning a piece of it into something different. It can help to unblock you and it’s a lot of fun, particularly in a group.


Chris also has found this second prompt useful. Because confession had a large role to play in her book, Whisper Hollow, Chris offered herself the challenge of letting a character she was having trouble with write a confessional letter to see what that character would say, what information might emerge to help her push through.


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

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Award-winning New Hampshire writer and Dartmouth professor Ernest Hebert, on the writing life and completing his series, The Darby Chronicles, published by UPNE.


This week’s  Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Ernest Hebert. He tells his students to take a page and draw a line down the middle. On one side, write one thing that you like about yourself (loyal to friends). On the right side, write something you don’t like about yourself (petty streak). Keep going. Fill the page. You don’t have to show anyone else. Just keep it for yourself. According to Ernie, in that language you will find all the characters you will ever need for a career in writing.

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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Vermont author Gary Lee Miller, whose collection of stories, Museum of the Americas, was published by Fomite Press in July 2014.


This week’s  Write The Book Prompts were suggested by my guest, Gary Lee Miller. The first three are prompts that he has used in his work with the group Writers For Recovery. Gary refers to these as Positioned Prompts--prompts that give writers a specific, unique starting place to help them get going.
  • Here's exactly what happened. 
  • She was just a block from her house when she found the blue envelope on the sidewalk.
  • In the beginning, all I wanted was a normal life.

Gary also shared a prompt called the Neverending Sentence, which he and his friend use in writing workshops they teach for kids. It reminds me a bit of the game of telephone. You begin by writing a simple sentence on a page, pass the sheet to another person, and ask that person to change one word or phrase. It goes from there. Gary's example is below. As you can see, it might get a little weird. But that's part of the fun. And it definitely gets more interesting!

  • On a Tuesday morning, Gary Miller walked to town to buy eggs.
  • On a Tuesday morning, Charmagne Miller walked to town to buy eggs.
  • On a raggedy Tuesday morning, Charmagne Miller walked to town to buy eggs.
  • On a raggedy Tuesday morning, Charmagne Miller walked to Carter’s Corner to buy eggs.
  • On a raggedy Tuesday morning, Charmagne Adelphi walked to Carter’s Corner to buy eggs.
  • On a raggedy Tuesday morning, Charmagne Adelphi walked to Carter’s Corner to steal eggs.
  • On a raggedy Tuesday morning, Charmagne Adelphi walked to Carter’s Corner to steal somebody’s car.
  • On a raggedy Tuesday morning, Charmagne Adelphi walked to Carter’s Corner to steal Henry Beefer’s car.
  • On a raggedy Tuesday morning, Charmagne Adelphi walked to Carter’s Corner to steal Henry Beefer’s golden retriever.
  • On a raggedy Tuesday morning, Charmagne Adelphi walked to Carter’s Corner to steal Henry Beefer’s deaf golden retriever.
  • On a raggedy Tuesday morning, Charmagne Adelphi stumbled to Carter’s Corner to steal Henry Beefer’s deaf golden retriever.
  • On a raggedy Tuesday morning, Charmagne Adelphi stumbled, half exhausted and violently ill, to Carter’s Corner to steal Henry Beefer’s deaf golden retriever.
  • On a raggedy Tuesday morning, Governor Peter S. Shumlin stumbled, half exhausted and violently ill, to Carter’s Corner to steal Henry Beefer’s deaf golden retriever.
  • On the Tuesday before the hurricane, Governor Peter S. Shumlin stumbled, half exhausted and violently ill, to Carter’s Corner to steal Henry Beefer’s deaf golden retriever.
  • On the Tuesday before the hurricane, Governor Peter S. Shumlin stumbled, half exhausted and violently ill, to Carter’s Corner to vaccinate Henry Beefer’s deaf golden retriever.
  • On the Tuesday before the hurricane, Governor Shumlin stumbled, half exhausted and violently ill, to Carter’s Corner to feed Henry Beefer’s deaf golden retriever.
  • On the Tuesday before the hurricane, Governor Peter S. Shumlin stumbled, half exhausted and violently ill, to Carter’s Corner to shoot Henry Beefer’s deaf golden retriever.
  • On the Tuesday before Hurricane Irene wiped out half of Vermont, Governor Peter S. Shumlin stumbled, half exhausted and violently ill, to Carter’s Corner to shoot Henry Beefer’s deaf golden retriever.
  • On the Tuesday before Hurricane Irene wiped out half of Vermont, Governor Peter S. Shumlin’s half brother Luke Tweedly stumbled, half exhausted and violently ill, to Carter’s Corner to shoot Henry Beefer’s deaf golden retriever.
  • On the Tuesday before Hurricane Irene wiped out half of Vermont, Governor Peter S. Shumlin’s half brother Luke Tweedly stumbled, half exhausted and violently ill, to Carter’s Corner to shoot Henry Beefer’s deaf golden retriever in the ass.
  • On the Tuesday before Hurricane Irene wiped out half of Vermont, Governor Peter S. Shumlin’s half brother Luke Tweedly stumbled, half exhausted and violently ill, to Carter’s Corner to shoot Henry Beefer’s ex wife Melodica in the ass.
  • On the Tuesday before Hurricane Irene wiped out half of Vermont, Governor Peter S. Shumlin’s half brother Luke Tweedly stumbled, half conscious and furious as a rabid hamster, to Carter’s Corner to shoot Henry Beefer’s ex wife Melodica in the ass.
  • On the Tuesday before Hurricane Irene wiped out half of Vermont, Governor Peter S. Shumlin’s half brother Luke Tweedly stumbled, half conscious and furious as a rabid hamster, to Carter’s Corner to shoot Henry Beefer’s ex wife Melodica, who had betrayed him more than once, in the ass.
  • On the Tuesday before Hurricane Irene wiped out half of Vermont, Governor Peter S. Shumlin’s half brother Luke Tweedly stumbled, half conscious and completely furious, to the Little Bub Daycare Center to shoot Henry Beefer’s ex wife Melodica, who had betrayed him more than once, in the ass.
  • On the Tuesday before Hurricane Irene wiped out half of Vermont, Governor Peter S. Shumlin’s half brother Luke Tweedly stumbled, half conscious and completely furious, to the Little Bub Daycare Center to shoot Henry Beefer’s ex wife Melodica, who had betrayed him more than once, in the ass with Cupid’s arrow of love.

Good luck with these exercises, 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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Literary Agent Emily Forland, of the Brandt Hochman Agency in New York. 

This week’s  Write The Book Prompt is to imagine what life might be like for an agent or an editor -- perhaps one with whom you’ve had interactions -- and write a scene from that person’s perspective. Write with empathy as you imagine that person’s job and circumstance.
Good luck with this exercise and please listen next week for another.  

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Archive interview with Cathy Ostlere, Canadian Author of the memoir Lost and the recent YA novel in verse, Karma.

This week’s  Write The Book Prompt is to write about a friend you’ve known for a very long time, but imagine meeting that person now, instead of all those years ago. Would you have as much in common? Would you encounter each other in a very different way? What might happen?  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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NH novelist Toby Ball, whose third novel is Invisible Streets, published by Overlook Press. 

This week I'm offering two Write the Book Prompts on the website. The first is to write about a move. (The Radiator moved last week - did you know?) 
The second is to write a poem or story using ten words that I've pulled at random from the pages of Toby Ball's Invisible Streets. They are: neighborhood, knock, tourist, gaze, exhausted, slump, artificial, masterstroke, grip,crack. 
Good luck with this prompt and please listen next week for another.

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

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Write the Book's 300th (!) episode features an interview with Philip Graham, author of two story collections, The Art of the Knock and Interior Design; a novel, How to Read an Unwritten Language; and The Moon, Come to Earth, an expanded version of his series of McSweeney's dispatches from Lisbon. He is also the co-author (with his wife, anthropologist Alma Gottlieb) of two memoirs of Africa, Parallel Worlds (winner of the Victor Turner Prize), and Braided Worlds. Dzanc Books will reprint The Art of the Knock, Interior Design, and How to Read an Unwritten Language as ebooks this summer.

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is inspired by the interview you heard today with the author Philip Graham. We spoke about the appearance of objects in written work. As Philip mentioned, his 1979 short story, “Light Bulbs,” chronicled how a couple coping with the “empty nest” grew to form relationships with the light bulbs in their home, almost as a substitute for their absent children. This week, as you work, consider the objects that show up in your work. In particular, pay attention to those objects that already exist there. Try to understand what they might be doing for your story, and how your appreciation of their existence might deepen what you’re writing.

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

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

 

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Vermont children's author and bookstore owner Elizabeth Bluemle, whose latest book, Tap Tap Boom Boom, came out in March from Candlewick Press.

 

This week’s  Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Elizabeth Bluemle. Write a paragraph using only words that have four or fewer letters. This is not an exercise in writing for children. Write about an experience. One that works very well, says Elizabeth, is to write about how you got a scar. Almost everyone has at least one small scar. The outcome might seem stilted at first, but it makes your brain work around itself and take pathways you’re not used to taking, to express something. Interesting things always come out of doing that. You are tricking your brain into discovery.

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

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

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Interview with Jim DeFilippi, whose new novel is Jesus Burned, published by Brown Fedora Books. 


Today's Write The Book Prompt is to do as Jim DeFilippi suggested during our interview: deliver action through dialogue. In other words, think of a scene in which something happens--some action--whether it's someone robbing a bank, going for a run, taking part in a car chase or giving a gift. And get the action across, after the fact, by way of dialogue, as people later discuss it. 

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

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



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Vermont Author Jennifer McMahon, whose new novel is The Winter People, published by Doubleday. I also spoke with Jennifer in 2011. That interview is available here.

Today's Write The Book Prompt was inspired by my conversation with Jennifer McMahon. You may recall that during the interview, I asked about the way she used a short list of spare details and events to draw the reader into the narrative. In that opening, which is actually a journal entry, her narrator, Sara Harrison Shea, quickly lists several people: Papa, Auntie, Jacob, and Constance. She mentions a place called the Devil’s Hand, where Papa had forbidden his children to play. Most chillingly, she mentions the first time she saw a sleeper--a person she knows to be dead, who is up and walking around. For your writing prompt this week, play with openings that draw in a reader. Look at the action of a story or novel that you’ve been working on, and think about how you might list intriguing characters and events without giving too much away and without overwhelming a reader.
This might not be the right way to begin. But playing around with these ideas might open up some new avenue of storytelling 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, long since graduated).

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Connie May Fowler, award-winning novelist, memoirist, and screenwriter.

This week's Write The Book Prompt is to write about a frightening moment that is not taken seriously by anyone except the character it most effects.

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

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

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Vermont College of Fine Arts President Thomas Christopher Greene, whose new novel, The Headmaster's Wife, comes out from Thomas Dunne Books on February 25th, 2014.

This week’s  Write The Book Prompt was inspired by the interview you heard today. Write a scene from the perspective of a narrator who does not understand what is happening, but write it so that the reader does 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 Vermont band featuring several South Burlington High School students. 

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Three conversations about self publishing: Kathryn Guare, two-time self-published author of the Virtuosic Spy Suspense Series; Kim MacQueen and Cindy Barnes, co-founders of Barnes Macqueen Publishing Resources in Burlington, VT; and Claire Benedict, co-owner of Bear Pond Books in Montpelier.

Today's Write The Book Prompt is more of a marketing exercise than a writing prompt. Think about how you would want your book to look if you were going to self publish. Do a little research: wander your local bookstore looking at covers and thinking about what draws the eye, and why. Are you picking up the same colors over and over? Do you prefer the look of a painting, a softly lit photograph, or bright graphics? How about the inside? Do certain fonts make you squint? Does one book feel better in your hands than another? Why? Is it about weight, page quality, margins? Take notes, look for trends. And then later, try to fit these ideas into some notions that you could convey to a designer. Not that you should design your own book; that work is not everyone’s forte. But if you have tastes, you should know what they are so that you can be a participant in the process of bringing your own book into the world.

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

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

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Vermont author James Tabor, Author of Blind Descent, discusses cave exploration, writing, and  Curtis' "Eighth Wonder of the World" Barbecue in Putney, Vermont.

This week’s Write The Book prompt is to write about an adventure you've had as an adult.

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

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

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Interview from the archives with with Willow Bascom, author and illustrator of the book, Paisley Pig: A Multicultural ABC, published by Publishing Works.

This week’s Write The Book prompt is to write a poem, memory, scene or story about a library and its librarian.

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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Irish-born Vermont writer of poetry and prose, Angela Patten. Her new book is High Tea at a Low Table, published by Wind Ridge Books of Vermont.

This week’s Write The Book Prompt was generously shared by my guest, Angela Patten. Write a non-fiction essay or short story that begins, "The moment seemed to go on forever..."

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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Vermont author Alec Hastings, whose first novel is Otter St. Onge and the Bootleggers: A Tale of Adventure, published by The Public Press.

This week I have two Write The Book Prompts, generously suggested by my guest, Alec Hastings. In his classes, Alec offers his students prompts for their twice-a-week journal entries. He says, “I supplement the prompt with an anecdote that helps them see how even one word can be spun into many. For instance, before Thanksgiving, I gave table as a prompt. After letting my students give me blank stares for a moment or two, I launched into a description of my grandmother's kitchen, the cast iron cook stove with the hot water reservoir; the wood box; the bench with the lid that lifted and allowed boot storage beneath; the basketball-sized cookie jar shaped and painted like a ripe, red apple; the fresh baked bread and cookies that awaited us every day when my brothers and I returned home from school; the oaken, claw-foot table upon which meals were eaten and around which we gathered for conversation, dessert, and many a colorful tale; and not least of all, my grandmother, the heart of the kitchen and the source of the good smells, the good cheer, and the grandmotherly love that enfolded us all.” On the day that I spoke with Alec, he’d offered his students the prompt: Scary experience. So there you go, consider the word table, or consider scary experience, or both! And write.

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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2010 Interview with literary agent Janet Reid, of FinePrint Literary Management.

Today's Write The Book Prompt is to write about an unusual addiction.

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 Vermont author Howard Norman, whose latest book is a memoir: I Hate To Leave This Beautiful Place, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. This interview was a co-production with RETN in Burlington. The television interview can be viewed at their website, retn.org, and on YouTube.

My earlier interview with Howard Norman can be heard
 here.

Today’s Write The Book Prompt is inspired by my interview with Howard Norman, and his memoir I Hate To Leave This Beautiful Place. As we discussed during the interview, for a period in his life, Howard Norman worked in the northwest territories, collecting and translating Inuit folk tales. The prompt this week is to write an original folk tale. Here's a definition of folk tale:

  1. A tale or legend originating and traditional among a people or folk, especially one forming part of the oral tradition of the common people. 
  2. Any belief or story passed on traditionally, especially one considered to be false or based on superstition. (dictionary.com)

So with that as a start, write a folktale!

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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