Archive for the 'Research' Category

Writer and Gardening Expert Charlie Nardozzi, author of Northeast Fruit and Vegetable Gardening, published by Cool Springs Press.

Today's Write The Book Prompt was inspired by my conversation with Charlie Nardozzi. You're digging in your garden and you find something. What do you find? What's its history? What's it worth? What will happen to your life as a result of finding this item? Write a poem, a scene, a story, or a paragraph about 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).

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Children's Writer Laurie Calkhoven, author of Michael at the Invasion of France, 1943, and other books.

Today's Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Laurie Calkhoven, who likes working on character meditations in preparation for writing. So that is your prompt for the week: meditate on your character. Begin with a simple breathing meditation, for five or ten minutes, to relax. Then picture your character walking toward you. As you imagine your character getting close enough to sit on your shoulder, ask yourself a question about the character. Laurie keeps a collection of index cards on her desk with prepared prompts for this purpose. She says the element of surprise helps keep the meditation spontaneous, so she shuffles her index cards and keeps them face down on her desk until she needs one. Then she turns one over, not letting herself see what it says before doing so. One example of what might be written on a card: your character has something in his hand; what is it? That's how she came to include a newspaper for Michael and Jacques to use in their covert activities in France. Here are a few more ideas for questions to put on your index cards: What is your character wearing? How does he walk? Does your character have any particular expression on her face? Why? What might she be reacting to? Who is your character going to meet up with and what will be the first thing he says to that person? Now you make up some of your own and try the full exercise.

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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Vermont author Mark Pendergrast, whose latest book is Japan's Tipping Point: Crucial Choices in the Post-Fukushima World.

Inspired by our guest Mark Pendergrast's interest in Japan, this week's Write The Book Prompt is to fold an origami crane. If you get stuck in your writing, or are simply wanting an activity that keeps you thinking, but not struggling, folding an origami animal might help. You'll still be engaged in a creative act, but you'll be following a set list of instructions, which might free the author in you to continue working away from the computer keyboard. Below are a few links to origami paper folding (all from the same site, which seemed easy to follow and not full of annoying ads). You can also print the Write The Book logo I've included below that for colorful folding paper. Or use a sheet from your recycle bin: maybe a rejected poem or scene can have a second life as a crane, a frog, or a flower.

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

Crane

Flower

Frog

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Award-winning author Stewart O'Nan, whose latest novel is The Odds: A Love Story, published by Viking.

This week's Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Stewart O'Nan. While you're writing, be sure to remember all five senses. Often beginning writers approach their work very cinematically, relying heavily on visuals, or occasionally something auditory. So while you work, be sure to think about texture, feel, taste, smell, as well as sights and sounds. Stewart O'Nan actually takes his hand - his five fingers - and slaps it to the top of his head to remind himself to think about this as he works. The flip side of that is, don't just include the senses because you can come up with interesting smells or tastes. Any detail that you include-any sensory reaction-has got to impinge on your characters' true desires. Otherwise, there's no need for it to be in the book. Selectivity is all, Stewart says.

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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Vermont organic gardener and writer Ron Krupp, whose books are The Woodchuck's Guide to Gardening and Lifting The Yoke: Local Solutions to America's Farm and Food Crisis.

Today's Write The Book Prompt is to write about your eating habits or those of someone you know. You can journal about how those habits have changed for the better or worse, how education has played a role, whether organic and/or locally-grown foods are an important part of this person's diet, and why or why not.

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

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Alaskan writer Eowyn Ivey, author of The Snow Child, published by Reagan Arthur Books. Today's Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Eowyn Ivey. Find a photograph or a post card (used book shops or second-hand shops will sometimes have old post cards). Or take a photo from your family albums, maybe a picture of one of your ancestors. Use that as a starting point to writing. Try to imagine who the people are in the picture, and what they're doing. Eowyn has used Alaska's Digital Archives as a resource. The University of Vermont also has an archive of digital images called the Landscape Change Program. Good luck with this prompt, and please listen next week for another!

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

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

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

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

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Interview from the Archives with Award-Winning Vermont Writer Howard Frank Mosher, whose new book, The Great Northern Express, comes out  March 6, 2012.

Today's Write The Book Prompt celebrates a little-known holiday. According to the Writing Instrument Manufacturers Association, which established the event in 1977, Today is National Handwriting Day, a day devoted to promoting the utilization of pens, pencils, and writing paper. January 23rd was chosen by the association because this is the birthday of John Hancock, the first person to sign the Declaration of Independence. So the prompt today is to write long hand. Write a poem, a page, or a chapter, or simply free write for a set amount of time - but do so by putting pen to paper. Let your hand experience the activity of writing, of sweeps and loops and spirals and lines.

Nathalie Goldberg, in her book, Writing Down The Bones, says that a different aspect of yourself comes out when you type. She also says that when she writes something emotional, she must write it "the first time directly with hand on paper." Handwriting, according to Goldberg, "is more connected to the movement of the heart." So this week, write something in your own handwriting.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Joan Leegant, Award-winning Author of Stories and the Novel, Wherever You Go, published by Norton.

Today I have two Write The Book Prompts to suggest, both of which were generously offered by my guest, Joan Leegant. First, write titles: maybe ten of them. Pick one, and start writing. Let the title you've come up with and chosen be the impetus that feeds what you write. Joan's second suggestion is to read someone else's book for an hour and then write ten first lines of your own. Pick one, and go from there. Reading another book first will put your mind into the language of fiction, and can help to feed the first lines you write.

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

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

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Interview from the archives with author, essayist and NPR contributor, Tim Brookes, discussing his book Guitar: An American Life.

Prompt: This week’s Write The Book Prompt was inspired by the interview you heard today with author Tim Brookes. During our conversation, Tim said that often, when people feel stuck, they have put up a fence around the thing they should be writing. Even if this mysterious fenced subject isn’t what you’ve been trying to confront, perhaps it’s time to have a look at it. What’s on your mind? What have you been avoiding? Are you procrastinating in order to keep from tackling something real or difficult? Give this some thought and see if you can identify something that’s been wanting to be written about – something you’ve fenced off for whatever reason. Then take a journal and free write about this subject for twenty or thirty minutes. Ignore form. Ignore genre. Don’t worry about whether or not this is the subject you’ve been feeling stuck on. Write about the things that are there with you, right now, and see if this doesn’t help you move forward in some larger way. Good luck with this exercise and please listen next week for another.

Music Credits: 1) "Dreaming 1" - John Fink; 2) Tim Brookes on guitar playing "End of a Holiday," by Simon Nichol.

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Literary Agent April Eberhardt, who works with clients in both traditional publishing venues and e- and self-publishing venues.

Today's Write The Book Prompt is to write a poem that includes at least six of the following ten words, which I've chosen by scanning through a back issue of a favorite literary journal:

Spear, Makeshift, Sporadic, Glue, Wrestle, Pull, Bargain, Tributary, Feast, Grainy

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 Writer of Children's Books Kate Messner, whose latest is Over and Under the Snow. If you're interested to read about libraries in need following Tropical Storm Irene, check out this part of Kate's blog.

Today's Write The Book Prompt is to write a story, a scene, a poem, or a paragraph that has something to do with the kind of reader you were as a child.

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

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An Interview With Three Participants In National Novel Writing Month: Martin and Anne LaLonde, and T. Greenwood. National Novel Writing Month is "a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to novel writing," according to the movement's website. "Participants begin writing on November 1. The goal is to write a 50,000 word, (approximately 175 page) novel by 11:59:59, November 30."

In honor of NaNoWriMo's everywhere, today's Write The Book Prompt is to write 1,667 words one day this week. Or every day this week, depending on what you have planned.

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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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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Ecologist and educator Amy Seidl, author of Early Spring: An Ecologist and Her Children Wake to a Warming World and Finding Higher Ground: Adaptation in the Age of Warming.

Today's Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Amy Seidl. First, read over this passage from her book, Finding Higher Ground:

"Peer into the natural world, one close at hand. Perhaps it is a city park whose paths are lined with oak or maple trees planted in the nineteenth century. Or maybe you are fortunate enough to walk in a remnant prairie with freshwater kettle ponds and migratory ducks, or an old-growth forest with trees whose gigantic trunks and canopies house thousands of species. Maybe you are walking in your own backyard, traversing an enclosed space that you've filled with daylilies, climbing roses, and garden beds filled with vegetables. All these places-the ones intended as sanctuary or refuge, the ones cultivated by gardeners, the wild places with no cultivators or patrons-all are experiencing the agitation of change."

Having read that passage, follow Amy's advice. Gaze out at the natural world-whichever one you find inspiring or, as Amy says, close at hand-and consider what you see and the adaptive realities that exist there. Now write about what you noticed, and your reactions to these observations. Were you surprised, awed, worried, impressed? Describe the changing world as you witness it, and the adaptation represented in what you've seen, and then describe how it moves you.

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

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Wendy Call, writer, editor, translator and teacher. Author of No Word for Welcome: The Mexican Village Faces the Global Economy.

This week's Write the Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Wendy Call. It's a two-step writing exercise. First, think about a place that you really love. Describe this delicious place (using as few adjectives and adverbs as possible) to someone who's never been anywhere like it. Include how it looks, how it sounds, how it smells, as well as the quality of the air and light. Next, imagine that this place has, somehow, been destroyed. Now, rewrite your description, with that terrible knowledge.

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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Originally from Vermont, Award-Winning Author and Journalist Christian Parenti, whose latest book is Tropic of Chaos: Climate Change and the New Geography of Violence.

This week's Write the Book Prompt was inspired by my interview with Christian Parenti. Write a nonfiction article or essay - or even just a paragraph - on a subject about which you're passionate. This subject might be climate change, women's rights, the work of a nonprofit whose mission you admire, your local school budget, an examination of various diets and their effects on health... whatever matters to you. Try to include in the piece adequate historical perspective to help readers understand the background,  an explanation of any confluence of events that might have relevance to your subject, and - as Christian Parenti said - always be sure to keep in mind the larger issues or core ideas behind the details of your story. Don't forget to read and do your research, if you hope to put this out into the world.

Good luck with this exercise 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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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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Pulitzer Prize Winning Author Geraldine Brooks, whose latest novel is Caleb's Crossing.

This week's Write the Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Geraldine Brooks. She keeps two poetry collections handy in her writing space, and opens them when she needs inspiration. The first is Palgrave's Golden Treasury, the second, the Norton Anthology of Poetry. Open to a random page, read a poem, and then write.

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

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Vermont writer Laban Carrick Hill, author of over thirty books, including the historical picture book, Dave the Potter, and co-director of the Writers Project of Ghana, a nonprofit based in the Ghana and the US.

This week's Write the Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Laban Carrick Hill. He describes it as an exercise about transgression. Try to write a children's picture book from the POV of a young boy whose brother was tortured and murdered during Rendition at Guantanamo. Laban explains that this might be the least likely book that would ever be written, which is what makes a good prompt. Vermont writer Laban Carrick Hill, author of over thirty books, including the historical picture book, DAVE THE POTTER, and co-director of the Writers Project of Ghana, a nonprofit based in the Ghana and the US.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Vermont Poet Jody Gladding, author of Rooms and Their Airs, published by Milkweed Editions.

This week's Write The Book Prompt is inspired by Jody Gladding's poetry and her focus on the natural world. Go for a walk in an outdoor place of your choosing. It can be in your back yard, in the woods, on Church Street, in the parking lot at your local mall. Wherever you'd like. Bring along a notebook and record sounds, smells, sights. Be sure to record some detail of nature that you find in whichever environment you choose. And also record at least one detail that reflects man's influence on the surroundings you've chosen. Set your notes aside, but continue to consider what you saw and perhaps experienced on your walk. A day or two later, write a poem about your walk and try to include the details you noted.

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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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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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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Novelist Kate Atkinson, Winner of the Whitbread Award and Creator of Bestselling Mysteries Featuring Detective Jackson Brodie. Her latest is Started Early, Took My Dog.

This week's Write The Book Prompt is inspired by the interview you heard today with bestselling novelist Kate Atkinson. This one's simple. Find a line in a poem you like, and let it grow to become something you can write about. Not necessarily what the poet was writing about. In our interview,  Kate Atkinson said that she began this book knowing only that she wanted to use Emily Dickinson's line, "Started Early - Took My Dog," for the title. She said during our talk that if you know your title in this way, "you don't have a blank page, you have something written down. ... it gives you a focus for your thoughts." Whether you use a favorite line of poetry as a title for another work, or merely as inspiration is up to you. Give it a try, and see if the blank page looks less daunting in this 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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Nancy Marie Brown, author of the new nonfiction book The Abacus and The Cross, which Kirkus Reviews has called "an engrossing account of the Dark Ages and one of its Popes, both far less dark than popular histories teach" and "a lively, eye-opening portrait of a sophisticated Europe whose intellectual leaders showed genuine interest in learning."

This week's Write The Book Prompt is inspired by the interview you heard today with Nancy Marie Brown, whose book, The Abacus and The Cross, challenges common notions about life and understanding in the Dark Ages. In your work this week, try to include one thing that challenges a myth or popular conception. It can be historic, cultural, medical ...

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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Donald and Lillian Stokes, authors of The Stokes Field Guide to The Birds of North America.

This week's Write The Book Prompt is inspired by the interview you heard today with Donald and Lillian Stokes. Settle yourself in a comfortable spot where you can spot birds. Either go outside, if it's a lovely day, or sit in a window where you can see birds coming and going. Choose a bird and write as full a description of it as you possibly can. Here's an example from the Stokes' Guide. The Rock Sandpiper is a medium-sized, fairly rotund, short-legged sandpiper with a strongly tapered fine pointed bill that droops slightly at tip. After you record as much detail about the bird's shape, coloring and movements as you can, take that description and use it to fill out details about a character in your work. Mr. Piper was a rotund man of medium height whose short legs made him walk with an amusing little hop. He had a strong nose that drooped at the tip, as if pointing out that he had no chin at all.

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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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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Writer of fiction, creative nonfiction and poetry Richard McCann, author of Mother of Sorrows.

This week's Write the Book Prompt comes to us from the writer Dorothy Allison, by way of my guest, Richard McCann. In teaching writing at American University, he will occasionally offer this prompt to his students. First, he has them read Dorothy Allison's essay, SURVIVAL IS THE LEAST OF MY DESIRES, which is included in her collection, SKIN. In the essay, she suggests that writers make use of the whole of their lives: honor your dead, your wounded and your lost, and acknowledge your crimes and your shames-what you did and did not do in this world. Richards suggests making a list: who are your dead, your wounded and your lost (literal and metaphorical), and what are the crimes and shames of what you did and did not do. He says those lists become good places from which to start writing.

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

Excerpt of Mother of Sorrows read with permission from Vintage, a division of Random House.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Vermont 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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Interview with Louella Bryant, author of While In Darkness There Is Light.

This week's Write the Book Prompt is pretty straightforward. If you tend to love the holidays, write about your worst holiday memory ever. And if you don't enjoy the holidays, write about your best.

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

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

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Interview with Vermont Mathematician, Professor and Author Joseph Mazur.

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

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

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

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

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

I introduce each of my own books with lead anecdotes-

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~ Jay Parini

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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    Ann Hood, author of fiction, essays and memoir, most recently of the novel The Red Thread, published by W.W. Norton and Co.

    This week we have two Write The Book Prompts, both suggested by Ann Hood. The first is to write your autobiography in 500 words. And the second is to find a copy of Sandra Cisnero's very short story, "My Name," which was part of her book, The House On Mango Street. Read that, and then write the story of your own name. Or, if you're working on a piece of fiction, write the story of your character's name.  Ann says that these exercises have proven very useful in classes that she's taught and that they really help details of character to emerge. Due to copyright laws, I can't reproduce Sandra Cisneros' lovely vignette, My Name, on my podcast site. But if you google it, you'll probably find a copy floating out there in the world. Or, hey! Buy it! Writers supporting writers: always a good idea.

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

    Excerpt from Ann Hood's novel The Read Thread 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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    Thea Lewis, Vermont author of Haunted Burlington: Spirits of Vermont’s Queen City, and founder of the Queen City Ghost Walk.

    Prompt: This week’s Write The Book Prompt was inspired by the interview you heard today with Thea Lewis. Write from the perspective of a ghost. How would it be if everyone who could see you were afraid of you? Would you haunt a place or a person? Would you be helpful or frightening? Who do you suppose you were you in life, and what happened to bring you to this point?

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

    Readings by Thea Lewis, from Haunted Burlington: Spirits of Vermont’s Queen City (Charleston: Haunted America, The History Press, 2009). Copyright © 2009 by Thea Lewis. Recorded with permission from The History Press.

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

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

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

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

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

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