Archive for the 'Publishing' Category

Bestselling Canadian Mystery Writer Louise Penny, whose latest novel is A Trick of the Light. This interview from the archives first aired in 2010.

Today's Write The Book Prompt is to write a poem or story about an invented fad. Create a fictional trend, imagine that it has become wildly popular, and write about it.

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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New York Times Bestselling Author Mary McGarry Morris, whose latest book is Light from a Distant Star.

Today's Write The Book Prompt was inspired by the work of my guest, Mary McGarry Morris, whose latest book, Light from a Distant Star, involves eavesdropping to some extent. Whether she's listening through the walls or peering from a tree house into her neighbor's yard, Nellie Peck is guilty of eavesdropping. She discovers secrets in this way, and sometimes she sees and hears things she later wishes she hadn't seen and heard. Your writing prompt this week is to eavesdrop. Take a seat next to two strangers in a cafe or restaurant, or sit quietly with a pair of old friends, or ... wherever ... and see what people are saying to each other. Unlike similar eavesdropping exercises that we've had on this show, your task this week is not to study dialogue, but to learn how people gossip and tell each other secrets. How do their voices change? How do they protect themselves from seeming small or unkind? Do they use any form of verbal foreshadowing to add tension to the ways they share secrets? Take notes--mentally or on paper--and see if you can use what you learn in your work.

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

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

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Interview from the archives with award-winning fiction writer, Diane Lefer.
No prompt this week. Take it easy! And then please listen next week for a new 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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Evan Fallenberg, writer, translator and director of fiction for the Shaindy Rudoff Graduate Program in Creative Writing at Bar-Ilan University near Tel Aviv. Author of the novels Light Fell and When We Danced on Water.

Today's Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Evan Fallenberg, who says this is a good exercise for writing minor characters. When we create character, we traditionally access four methods of (direct) presentation: action, appearance, speech and thought. Take a character you know very well: yourself. Come up with one idea each, or four ideas total, that might best describe you, considering those four methods of presentation. Each one idea has to be the most perfect representation of you as a minor character, helping a reader understand the essence of who you are. How can I describe my appearance with one single idea? What action is a truly representative action of how I might behave? With speech, consider those verbal tics that we all have, and pick a perfect example. For thought, write down that thing you would think but would never dare to say. Then take the exercise a step further. Take these four ideas, and craft them into a single paragraph, introducing a character who may only be in your story for a single paragraph.

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

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Vermont poet David Budbill, author of seven books of poems, eight plays, a novel, a collection of short stories, a picture book for children, and many more works. His latest book is Happy Life, published by Copper Canyon Press.

This week's Write the Book Prompt is inspired by the work of today's guest, David Budbill. The following is one of David's new poems from Happy Life:

*

My Punishment

I get up before the sun,

make a fire in the woodstove,

boil water, make tea,

watch the dawn come.

Then I get back in bed,

under the quilt,

propped up on my pillows,

read a little, drink my tea

and stare out the window

at the snow coming down.

.

Oh, this lazybones life!

.

Others rush off to work while

I lie here in silence waiting for

a few words to come drifting

over from the Other Side.

No wonder I never make any money.

I am being punished

for having such a good time.

~ David Budbill

*

The prompt this week is to write a poem that conveys an aspect of your life that is joyful or pleasant, but also conveys the truth about an associated hardship.

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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Priscilla Long,  award-winning poet, prose writer and teacher. Seattle-based author of The Writer's Portable Mentor: A Guide to Art, Craft, and the Writing Life.

For this week's Write the Book Prompt, I'll offer two exercises in writing voice from Priscilla Long's book on craft, The Writer's Portable Mentor. To practice capturing voices you know well: spend fifteen minutes writing a bitter complaint in your own most colloquial voice. A second exercise is to spend five minutes writing beyond this opening: "My father always used to say..."

Many thanks to Priscilla for allowing me to suggest these exercises to you! Good luck with them, and please listen next week for another.

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Interview from July 2009 with best-selling author Mary McGarry Morris, who has a new book coming out in September 2011.
Today's Write The Book Prompt was inspired by the interview you heard today with Mary McGarry Morris, who says that when she's developing a character, she tries to think the way that character thinks and have empathy for that person, no matter how different he or she may be from herself.  This week's prompt, then, is to think of someone VERY unlike yourself. How would you represent that person's character? What sorts of thoughts might you have? How would you speak? What might you be afraid of? What might you desire? Who would you like or dislike? What secrets might YOU be trying to hide? Stay open to that person's perspective, no matter how strange or violent or dishonorable or meek. Maintaining empathy for the full range of human possibility will benefit the development of your character in the long run.

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 Novelist Jennifer McMahon, author of the new book, Don't Breathe A Word.

This week's Write the Book Prompt was suggested by my guest Jennifer McMahon, in whose books, secrets play an important role. Jennifer says that when she's stuck working on character, she'll often do an exercise in which she asks a character: "What have you never told anyone?" The answers she comes up with sometimes surprise her. If you're work doesn't involve character, then pose the question to yourself. What have you never told anyone?

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 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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Deborah Fennell, President of the League of Vermont Writers.

This week's Write the Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Deborah Fennell. The prompt COMBINES HER LOVES OF POETRY, PROSE, PHYSICAL EDUCATION AND WRITING. Go for a walk or a hike. As you're walking, say some words to yourself - whatever comes into your brain. Deb Fennell learned in a poetry workshop with Julia Shipley that we tend to walk in iambic pentameter. So this exercise tends to naturally bring out words in a memorable way. Be observant. When you get back inside, sit down and write at least 100 words, or for 10 minutes, whatever comes first. Don't worry about whether you're writing poetry or prose, just try to capture some of the words that came to you on your walk. Deb Fennell tries to always remember the first 8 words she'd been thinking about on her hike. If you can remember those, everything else begins to flow, helping you remember what you saw and thought about on your walk. Deb has done this in the city, and out in the woods on a trail. Because of the nature of our "iambic pentametric" strides, it's a productive way to access words in a creative way.

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

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

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Please note: my interview with Geraldine Brooks about her newest novel, Caleb's Crossing, will air next week. Thanks for your patience! I announced the interview before recalling that this Monday would be a holiday.

Interview from the archives with Vermont children's novelist Kimberly K. Jones, author of The Genie Scheme.

Today's Write The Book Prompt is to write about a genie. Man or woman, good or evil, helpful or impish; write about a genie.

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 South Burlington High School students)

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Interview from the Archives with author Margot Livesey about her latest book, The House On Fortune Street.

This week's Write the Book Prompt is to describe a place you know very well from the perspective of a narrator who has never been there and has only just arrived. The place can be a city, a village, a house, a farm, a specific room-whatever you like.

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.

List.jpg

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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Bestselling Novelist Heidi Durrow, Author of The Girl Who Fell From The Sky.

This week's Write The Book Prompt was inspired by the work of my guest Heidi Durrow. In the interview, she spoke about the difference between writing short fiction, which tends to find endings and closure, and longer fiction, which needs to open up possibilities that lead into the next part of the novel. This week, write about a character who witnesses something extraordinary. First, write a 500-word story about the situation, in which you offer closure. Then write 500 words that might belong within a longer work of fiction-a chapter that asks questions and opens up the situation for further exploration.

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

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

This week's Write The Book Prompt was inspired by the work of my guest Cathy Ostlere, whose new novel, Karma, is written in verse. Look through your creative writing file on the computer or in the bottom of your desk drawer and pull out an idea you've previously shelved, thinking it wouldn't amount to anything. Now look at it anew, and consider what might happen if you were to develop a certain character whose life or situation might be relevant to this idea by working in verse. You can try rhyming verse, or simply play with rhythms. See if something new comes out of that idea simply because you're playing with words in a different way.

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

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

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Vermont author of fiction and poetry, William Lychack, whose latest book of short stories is The Architect of Flowers.

This week's Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest William Lychack. He calls it AN EXPERIMENT IN SYNTAX:  THE NEGATIVE INVERSION. Choose a piece of writing that you particularly like or need to think about in some way. Rewrite the piece by copying down the opposite of each word in the excerpt (except, perhaps, for "little words" like articles and prepositions.) Since most words don't have exact opposites, the possibilities are endless, and that's the point. Here's an example that William Lychack provided, inspired by an excerpt from Emerson. Unfortunately, I don't believe I have the legal right to write out the Emerson excerpt here, on my podcast site. You can probably find it online, though. It begins "I dreamed that I floated at will in the great ether," and ends, "I ate the world."  [Emerson]

Here is William Lychack's Negative Inversion of the quote:

You awoke on the tiny tip of a pin, attached against your will, blind to all but that pinpoint of fire, a vast emptiness beneath these nightmares of a boy. Then a demon took you by the needle and carried you down and said, "Open your mouth." And you opened like a dark void. [Lychack]

Your poem or letter or postcard probably won't make much sense at first, but continue writing your negative inversion until you have your own draft. Work quickly on this first draft, letting your unconscious decide the antonyms. Now put the original away and see what you can make of your draft. Look for a sense of place, character, or subject to develop; cut out what you can't make work; alter details as much as you wish.

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 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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A Rerun of a December 2008 WTB interview with Linda Bland, owner of Cahoots Writing Services in Cambridge, Vermont.

Today's Write The Book Prompt is inspired in part by the interview you heard today. Linda Bland mentioned that she needs to exercise before attacking a manuscript, either her own or one that she's reading for a client. With this in mind, today's prompt is this: if you're feeling stuck or need an idea before getting started with your writing today, go for a walk. Or, if you prefer, a run or a swim. Put on snowshoes or cross country skies, if the snow is too deep for walking. Before striking out, set yourself an assignment. Tell yourself you need an idea, or you need to develop that idea you had last week. If a particular scene or snippet of dialogue is giving you trouble, suggest to yourself that during the next hour of exercise, you'd really like to work out this problem. Write down what you are hoping to accomplish, then go exercise. Don't actively focus on the problem you've set yourself, just let it be there, within your awareness, as you walk or hike or bike. When you get back, 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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Nonfiction Author Susan Kushner Resnick, whose latest book is Goodbye Wifes and Daughters, published by University of Nebraska Press.

This week's Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest Susan Kushner Resnick, who occasionally assigns this exercise to her students. Describe a loved one's body part. For example, describe your brother's eyebrow. Or your best friend's teeth. This allows you to get very specific and paint a small, detailed picture about someone you know well.

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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Scientist and Memoir Writer Cardy Raper, Author of Love, Sex & Mushrooms: Part 2 of a 2-Part Interview With New Vermont Writers.

This week's Write The Book Prompt is inspired by National Libraries Week. The state slogan for this year's celebration is: "Vermont Libraries can take you anywhere." This week, find inspiration at a local library. Go sit in the reading room, people watch, chat with the librarian. Browse the shelves. Browse any fliers, posters or announcements in the lobby. Find out what online services your local library provides, and then browse those sites. Keep your mind open and your pen ready. Then write.

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

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Novelist Jack Scully, Author of Eyewitness: Part I of a 2-Part Interview With New Vermont Writers.

This week's Write The Book Prompt is inspired by National Libraries Week. The state slogan for this year's celebration is: "Vermont Libraries can take you anywhere." This week, find inspiration at a local library. Go sit in the reading room, people watch, chat with the librarian. Browse the shelves. Browse any fliers, posters or announcements in the lobby. Find out what online services your local library provides, and then browse those sites. Keep your mind open and your pen ready. Then write.

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

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Interviews from the Archives: Literary Agent Douglas Stewart and Vermont Author and Illustrator Amy Huntington.

I never announced the prompt on today's show (oops!) but here's one to try, inspired by Amy Huntington's latest work: Grandma Drove the Snowplow. Consider a line of work that might seem unlikely for a certain character, and try to bring them together. How about a librarian with a boisterous personality and loud, grating laugh? A pharmacist with a tremor? A real estate agent who's afraid to be alone in strange places? You can try to make the combination seem absurd or poignant. Play around and see what might emerge.

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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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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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

.

.

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:

.

Chile y Blanco, Speckled and White –

.

~ From 'The Cockfight' by Ben Aleshire

.

.

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 Writer Kenneth M. Cadow, author of Alfie Runs Away published by Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, a division of MacMillan.

This week's Write the Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Kenneth Cadow, though he wanted to be sure I credit the true creator of the exercise, Emily Silver, who is an English Teacher at Thetford Academy. Ken and Emily co-teach from time to time. On one occasion, when the class was studying The Catcher in the Rye, Emily Silver gave the class the following exercise: write about your pet peeve, using your stream of consciousness to really go off on the subject. See where it takes you. Ken said that this exercise really got the students writing. His own pet peeve is vending machines.

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

Alfie Runs Away read with permission.

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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New Hampshire Novelist Toby Ball, author of The Vaults, published by St. Martin's Press.

This week's Write the Book Prompt is inspired by my guest's novel, The Vaults. In our conversation, Toby Ball mentioned his decision to create an unidentifiable city in which to base his story. This week, study the setting of your book and decide to what extent it is identifiable, and if the geography of your work conveys all that you'd like it to convey. Perhaps, like Toby, you'd rather the place in your present piece NOT be specifically identifiable, with roads and highways that you'd find in your Garmin. Or maybe place is vital to your work, and you need to study the way you've presented it on the page, see if it adequately represents the real thing.

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

Excerpt of The Vaults read with permission from St. Martin's Press, a division of MacMillan.

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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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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Sorche Fairbank, Literary Agent and Founder of Fairbank Literary in Hudson, NY.

This week's Write The Book Prompt is directed toward aspiring novelists. Your job this week is to write a synopsis of your book. Many literary agents will ask to see a synopsis with an initial query, or as a follow-up to a query that caught their attention. Here are a few things to consider as you approach the task.

* A synopsis is not a chapter outline. It's not necessarily even a chronological retelling of the book. Rather, a synopsis presents the book's plot and introduces the main characters in an appealing way that will interest an agent in reading the whole novel. It's a chance to show off your creativity, as well as your ability to condense and organize material.

* You may find that the agents you are querying have their own guidelines for appropriate synopsis length. But if they don't specify otherwise, try to make your book synopsis two-to-three double-spaced pages.

* Use the jacket covers of books you're familiar with as guidelines for how to approach writing a good synopsis. Jacket copy is written to sell books, and that's what you're trying to do as well. Here's an example. This is the jacket copy of a paperback reprinting of George Orwell's 1984: "The world of 1984 is one in which eternal warfare is the price of bleak prosperity, in which the Party keeps itself in power by complete control over man's actions and his thoughts. As the lovers Winston Smith and Julia learn when they try to evade the Thought Police, and then join the underground opposition, the Party can smash the last impulse of love, the last flicker of individuality."

* UNLIKE book jackets, your synopsis should fully describe the plot of your novel, including what happens at the end. To skip over the ending in hopes that the agent will want the full experience of reading your masterpiece is to take yourself out of the running. This is a sales pitch, and the agent will want to know how your book ends if she requests a synopsis as part of the query process.

    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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    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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    Vermont author Jon Clinch, author of the new novel, Kings Of The Earth.

    This week’s Write The Book Prompt is inspired by the interview you heard today with Jon Clinch. As we discussed, his novel, Kings Of The Earth, proceeds in a somewhat  non-linear fashion with various characters describing events as they experience them. So consider your own work, think about how you might structure it differently. If the work is chronological, could you present it backwards? Or in a circular pattern? Could you present it by seasons, or all in a single day? Play around with ideas to see if an alternate structure appeals 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 Vermont band featuring several South Burlington High School students.

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    Burlington writer and teacher, Susan Weiss. Her blog is Publish or Perish... Which Will Come First?

    This week's Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Susan Weiss. Begin writing a narrative either from experience or imagination-just a sentence or two and then veer off onto a tangent. Continue for another couple of sentences and again go off on a tangent. Do this a few more times and then try to bring the narrative back to the beginning somehow, to make it feel like a full circle. So, are you left with dizziness or a sense of closure?

    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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    Jennifer Karin Sidford, columnist, blogger and award-winning creator of The Dreamstarter Books 1 & 2.

    This week’s Write The Book Prompt can be found in Jennifer Karin Sidford's first Dreamstarter Book. I found it appropriate because of its title: "The Radio Station."

    Jada found an old radio in the loft of a hay barn that had been deserted for many years. The hay that remained had turned to dust, leaving the floors, pitchforks, buckets and other tools covered in a heavy yellow coating. She picked up the radio and heard a rattle. She gave the radio a shake and heard the distinct sound of broken glass. "It's busted," she said aloud. "That's too bad." She tossed the radio onto a pile of old grain sacks. The radio began to hum; the dial lit up. Jada walked over to the radio and picked it up. A voice came through the radio's speaker. "Hello? Is anyone there? Can anyone hear me?" the girl's voice said. She had an accent that was very different than Jada's. Jada lowered her mouth to the radio speaker and shouted, "I can hear you! Who are you?" The girl answered...

    This one should be a lot of fun to play with. If Jada's story inspires you to write something that you like, remember that you can't publish the first part, as Jennifer already did!

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

    This week's Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Connie May Fowler, whose latest novel, How Clarissa Burden Learned To Fly, involves the ghosts of women who reside in a graveyard. Connie May recommends walking through a cemetery in your own area and finding a tombstone, and then writing a story or poem inspired by that tombstone and the person whose grave it marks.

    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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    Douglas Glover, author of five story collections, four novels, a book of essays, and the book we discussed: The Enamoured Knight, which is about Don Quixote and novel form.

    Instead of a Write The Book Prompt this week, I'm going to encourage people to check out Douglas Glover's blog, Numéro Cinq, which is described on the site as, "a maze of inter-connected posts, essays, stories, poems, translations, contests, videos, jokes, book lists, resource materials, and craft advice." It's been called "the equivalent to literary Facebook," and "A warm place on the cruel web."

    I hope you enjoy Numéro Cinq. Next week, I'll return to offering the prompt.

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    Jacob Paul, author of the new novel, Sarah/Sara, published by IG Publishing.

    This week's Write The Book prompt was inspired by the work of my guest, Jacob Paul. Write a scene or a poem in which a small conflict is resolved through action, even adventure. So, for example, a character who is a little hungry but has no money tries to steal a candy bar from a convenience store. A character who was once pick-pocketed witnesses a purse snatching and plays some role in interrupting the crime. A character who longs for warm weather goes skiing. This doesn't need to be an enormous inner conflict or Job-like act of valor. But use action to impact conflict in some small way.

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

    Music credits: 1) “Dreaming 1″ - John Fink; 2) “Filter” - Dorset Greens (a Vermont band featuring several 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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    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 was inspired by the work of my guest, James M. Tabor. Next time you're considering getting up from your desk and walking away from your writing-against your better judgment-imagine yourself in a cave, two miles below the surface of the earth. Close your eyes, and consider what it might be like to have only the lights that you brought along, only the equipment that you carry on your back. Imagine yourself suspended over water, carefully making your way along the wall of a cave that has a 200-foot vertical drop. This is the sensation that can result in "The Rapture," the kind of panic attack that quickly becomes dangerous for cave explorers. Control your breathing, control your urges to flee. You can't just walk away. You have to finish what you started. Now open your eyes, feel grateful that you're no deeper than the last paragraph that stumped you, and keep 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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    Nancy Means Wright, author of Midnight Fires: A Mystery with Mary Wollstonecraft, joins Shelagh Shapiro on Write The Book.

    This week's Write The Book prompt was inspired by my guest, Nancy Means Wright, whose work in the theater has helped her as a fiction writer. She said in our interview, "When I write, I try to see the scene in front of me as if it's on a stage, as if my characters are up there." She tries to see how her characters react to each other, how they handle their props, how they look, and what they do. She tries to experience all the shadings of their voices and expressions. "On the stage," Nancy says, "You're always trying to find the focus and purpose of a scene." Try to do the same in your work. If you're writing a scene, try to understand its focus, its purpose. If you are writing about a character who is going through an emotional experience, try the system of accessing that emotion by recalling some experience of your own. This system of acting, developed by Constantin Stanislavski, may helps you empathize with your character's situation as you try to write about it. As Nancy said in our interview, "The act of trying to become your character is something that a writer can 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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    Ginnah Howard, author of Night Navigation, joins Shelagh Shapiro on Write The Book.

    This week's Write The Book prompt was inspired by the work of my guest, Ginnah Howard, who mentioned a few times during our talk how important rhythm is to her in her own work and in the books she admires. In order to get a better sense of the rhythm of her prose, she often reads her work out loud. Your prompt this week, then, is to read aloud. Really listen to what you've written. You may find it differs from what you thought it would sound like. Listen for simple mistakes, for repeated words that you didn't intend to place so close together. As you read, pause in appropriate places for the punctuation you've used. Pay attention to the length of your sentences. Does their length reflect the intended mood of the fictional moment? Listen for the following elements, and decide if they are serving your work, or distracting from it: rhyme, fragments, alliteration, and repetitive sentence structure. In this last case, watch in particular for the repeated use of a subject, verb, object structure that may lull readers or distract them, making them lose their way. For example, which sounds better?

    Mary had a little lamb. Mary's lamb had white fleece. Mary's lamb followed her everywhere. Mary's lamb really got on her nerves after a while. He wanted to follow her to school. She had to stop him.

    Or

    Mary had a lamb. Fleecy and white, it was a sweet little animal, and very devoted. While Mary loved how the lamb followed her from room to room, she had to keep him from actually coming to school with her.

    Finally, you might find it helpful to have someone else read your work aloud to you. If this is too embarrassing, you might look to see if your word processing program has a "speak text" feature. Speak text allows you to highlight sections of work and have the computer read them back. Despite the somewhat robotic voices that some computers have, you might hear something you'd missed, just by virtue of being read to.

    In fact, using sound editing software, you can actually record your entire book and put it on your mp3 player, which is pretty cool.  You can email me (writethebook@gmail.com) if you want to know how to do this.

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

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

    This week’s Write The Book prompt, was suggested by my guest, Willow Bascom, who noted during our talk that many writers and artists have trouble identifying themselves as such. She suggests counteracting this by offering artistic services for free, for example to a local food co-op or other non-profit. Write an ad, or make a stunning poster or sign that the non-profit wouldn't budget for normally. Volunteer your expertise. When you see the pleasure that other people take in what you do, you can value yourself and, in turn, your work. Give it away, and next time you're asked what you do, call yourself an artist. Say it with confidence.

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

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    Interview with Matthew Aaron Goodman, author of the novel Hold Love Strong, published by Touchstone Fireside (Simon and Schuster April 2009).

    This week's Write The Book prompt, a musical free write, was suggested by my guest, Matthew Aaron Goodman. Spend a little time picking a song or songs to which you think you could write. Put on the piece, and then write. Don't pick up your pen once it hits the page. Write whatever crosses your mind. Even if all you write is, "this is crazy I don't have any ideas," write that down. No scribbling or doodling. Put words on paper. Keep going for the length of the song or songs that you chose ahead of time.

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

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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 Wouter Nunnink, self-published author of the YA series Ba El Shebub's Gift Awakens

    Write The Book Prompt: In his book, A Mad Man's Poison, Walt Nunnink has created a world that mixes reality and fantasy. One of the aspects of this world is a magical book that only the two main characters can see. In your work this week, play around with this idea of something that can be seen or otherwise perceived by one character or set of characters, but not by others. You could work, as Walt does, with a magical world in which a certain item is selectively visible, or audible. Maybe one of your characters always catches the scent of lilacs on the air when night is coming on.

    Even if you don't write in the fantasy genre, consider this exercise as a way to learn about how your characters' perceptive capacities differ. Maybe your main character senses tension between two co-workers, while his boss is completely oblivious. Or perhaps a wife can tell that her husband is attracted to another woman, but the woman doesn't notice in the least.

    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 local author Tim Brookes about his new book, Thirty Percent Chance of Enlightenment.

    Prompt: This week, instead of a Write The Book Prompt, I offer what I'm calling an "anti-prompt." When I asked my guest, Tim Brookes, if he had a prompt to suggest, he answered with a very firm "no." Tim does not use prompts, and as a teacher, he does not assign them. When I asked him if I might offer his opinion this week, instead of a prompt, he wrote me the following email. Perhaps you'll find it useful.

    I guess I'm anti-prompt for the same three reasons why I'm against that rhetoric/debate exercise where the teacher says, "Which side are you on when it comes to this issue? Okay, in that case, argue the opposite side."

    One, I want my writers to discover what they have to say by paying attention to their own inner landscape, their own issues, passions, dark corners.

    Two, that's not the way it works in real life.

    Three, it takes a writer absolutely at the top of his/her game to be able to pull that off well.

    One: it takes a great deal of time and practice for a young writer even to be aware of what s/he has to say, let alone to have the confidence and the means to say it powerfully. To me that's a crucial, crucial goal. Writing to a prompt produces reactive writing--writing to please someone else, writing to respond to someone else--which actually takes the writer's focus away from what is most important to him/her. For the prompt to strike home and hit a subject of genuine urgency and importance to the writer is like throwing a dart across the street and trying to hit the bulls eye of a dartboard on the other side of the traffic. Giving prompts is a way to get writing from the student, but not a way of helping the student become a writer. It's a recipe for bullshit.

    Two:  In all the twenty years I was writing for NPR--the form that's closest to the kind of short personal essay/poem product that writing prompts are usually intended to provoke-I was only ever asked to respond to a specific subject twice. My best feature-story editor used to say to me, "What do you want to spend three months learning about?" It's true that a good many journalists are given assignments they have to go and cover, but they themselves would rarely claim that daily grind produced their best writing. The fact is, we writers write best about the things that matter to us. Sometimes we can bring that passion to a subject that was assigned to us, but more often that's not the case. If you want student writers to write like professional writers, have them talk to poets/novelists/essayists and ask them, "How do you reach your best writing?" and see what they say. And here's the real problem: none of those writers will say, "I sit down in a regularly scheduled English class at 10:10 every Tuesday and Friday and whatever's going on inside me or around me I always find something to say." Bollocks.

    Three: It is possible to write well from a prompt--and in a sense editorial writers do it all the time--but there's a reason why a newspaper's editorials are written by the most seasoned, experienced, widely-read writers on the staff. You need to have an astonishingly wide range of reference in order to have a chance of understanding the subject, let alone saying anything worthwhile; you need a deep sense of form and structure to be able to create a finished piece of given proportions in a limited time; and you need to be capable of interesting turns of phrase under pressure. Student writers try desperately to ape that kind of skill, but they also know that 85% of what they write is bullshit. I know: I've asked them. So I'd far rather have them attempt something that genuinely means something to them. Even the act of trying to access that genuine subject is worth more than facility at writing a poem on Spring at the drop of a hat.

    So what do I use instead of prompts?

    I usually just say, "Think back to an incident or a conversation (conversation is better, as it's much more specific) that you've had, or you've witnessed, from the past twelve months, one that you recall with some kind of strong emotion. Now write about that in as much detail as you can remember."

    So that's Tim's take on prompts. I offer his words as encouragement to anyone who doesn't tend to find them helpful or generative. For those of you who do like them, the prompt will be back next week. I may rename it, though... hmm.

    Good luck with your writing this week!

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    Interview with Vermont author Creston Lea, whose story collection, Wild Punch, comes out this spring from Turtle Point Press.

    Prompt: This week's Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Creston Lea. He says that a useful activity for writers is to eavesdrop. Go to a bar or a restaurant and listen in. According to Creston, chances are, you'll hear something worth stealing.

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

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    Interview with Vermont author Howard Frank Mosher.

    Prompt: This week’s Write The Book Prompt was inspired by the interview you heard today. Howard Frank Mosher mentioned during our talk that he had twice, in the course of writing his new book, Walking To Gatlinburg, asked his wife Phyllis to cast and read Nordic runes as a helpful form of inspiration. He did this partly because Phyllis was studying runes at the time, and partly because runes were the inspiration for the Kingdom Mountain pictographs that play a role in his new book. This week's Write The Book Prompt, then, is to cast runes. For help in understanding how to do this, try these websites (or Google "Nordic Runes," and see if you find other references):

    http://www.ehow.com/how_5830139_make-own-rune-set.html

    http://www.runemaker.com/casting.shtml

    Set yourself a question or problem that you'd like to resolve in your work, and let the runes offer suggestions. These could inspire a course of action for your character, for yourself, for the plot, or for the structure of the project. Keep your mind open and see what presents itself.

    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.

    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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