Archive for the 'Structure' Category

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A new interview with the author Douglas Glover about his  collection of essays on literary form, The Erotics of Restraint (Biblioasis). 

When Douglas Glover and I spoke, he mentioned that, as he was developing his craft, he would make lists of conflicted situations in a notebook. Then, when he wanted to begin a new project, he'd read through his notebook to find a promising conflicted situation with which to start. He doesn't know what the plot will be as he begins, but he does still always know the conflict. This week, make a list of conflicts from which you might draw an interesting situation to use in your writing.

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

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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Author Jane Alison, whose latest is Meander, Spiral, Explode: Design and Pattern in Narrative (Catapult). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Jane Alison, who led a workshop recently that was studying Grace Paley’s story “Distance.” A phrase in the story includes the words, “the picture in the muck under their skulls…” Jane loved this line. She says we all have such pictures “in the muck under our skulls” - those moments that have formed or deformed us, that haunt us. Maybe places we want to return to, or moments that will not leave us. So this week, think if there’s some moment or image from your recent or long-ago past, a deeply imbedded thing that can still glimmer before your eyes, or make you feel homesick, or has a mysterious potency to it. A moment that could become an important part of a story about your life, or perhaps part of a story that you would invent about someone like you. Write about it, and let its magnetism lead you as you work. See what comes out of the muck.

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

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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Vermont Author Kathryn Davis, whose new novel is The Silk Road (Graywolf Press). 

As she mentioned during our interview, one goal that Kathryn Davis had in writing The Silk Road was moving fluidly through time. She said, “The way you experience living is often like you’re sitting in this kitchen but there’s some part of you that is somewhere else, and … it’s also temporally dislodged. We’re not as organized as beings as we like to think we are.” This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to consider this statement, and to consider time and space, and your ideas about them. How are time and space organized in your consciousness? Do you feel they are independent of one another, are they interchangeable? Do you see the flow of time as unidirectional, do the past and future exist, or do they become conceptual given the notion of the now--the present moment? Maybe you’ve never thought much about these ideas. But sit with them and consider what might change in your work if you were to attempt a revision that embraced some of these new ideas. I don’t mean you should turn that historical novel into science fiction. But might the tense change to offer a more interesting presentation? Maybe your consideration of this subject will open up a new path to the structure you've struggled to find.

This week, either play with time and space in your work, reconsider how you tend to ground your stories, novels, and poems in each, or double down on what you already thought and the way you have worked in the past. If there is such a thing.

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

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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Mitchell S. Jackson, Award-Winning Author of Survival Math: Notes on an All-American Family (Scribner). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Mitchell S. Jackson. Write your own answer to the question, what is the toughest thing you have survived? Write it in the second person; Mitchell says this might make you think about the experience in a different way.

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

 

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Journalist and author David Shields, whose new book is The Trouble With Men: Reflections on Sex, Love, Marriage, Porn, and Power (Mad Creek Books).

David Shields generously offered the following Write the Book Prompt this week: write a postcard that simultaneously evokes place and reveals something about the postcard writer that he or she is not aware of.

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

Music: Aaron Shapiro

 

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J. Robert Lennon, whose second story collection, See You in Paradise, is just out from Graywolf Press.

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously offered by my guest J. Robert Lennon, who is a teacher as well as being a writer, and who is working on a collection of writing prompts and exercises. He created this exercise after reading the book A Void, translated from the original French La Disparition (literally, "The Disappearance"), a 300-page novel, written in 1969 by Georges Perec, entirely without using the letter e (except for the author's name). The 1994 translation by Gilbert Adair likewise does not contain the letter e. As J. Robert Lennon pointed out to me, “there goes the past tense and every pronoun.” His exercise is this: write a one-page story about a funeral without using the letter “e.” You can’t use cemetery or grave or funeral or death or tears or dead or die. He finds that students will come up against a word they can’t use, then another and another, and the sentence becomes so terrible, they have to back up and do an end runner on the problem. Which is a great thing to do in any case. He says it often ends up being the best prose they’ve written all semester because they have to work so hard to write every single sentence.  
Good luck with this exercise and please listen next week for another.
Music credits: 1) “Dreaming 1″ - John Fink; 2) "Virginia" - Starry Mountain Sweetheart Band (of which my guest, J. Robert Lennon, is a band member!) 

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

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

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

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

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National Book Award Finalist Joshua Ferris, whose new novel is To Rise Again At A Decent Hour, published by Little Brown.

This week's Write The Book Prompt  concerns titles, because I think To Rise Again At A Decent Hour is a fantastic title. I’d love to do an entire show about finding good titles. They are the first words most of us ever see about a book, and they can prompt a potential reader to investigate further, or just walk on by. This week, spend a little time thinking about how you might like to title a piece you’re working on. Initially, just spend time with the piece, without making comparisons about other titles that are out there in the world. Then do a study: scan titles at a library or bookstore. Pick up a collection of stories or poems (preferably an anthology, or a Best American collection, so that you’re studying the names of various writers’ works). Take notes about which selections you might want to read, based on title alone. Look for patterns in your own tastes, and in what you see getting published. Are you more drawn to titles that include a character’s name, or a place, or a hint of the plot? Do you prefer titles that are quirky, like The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time or Me Talk Pretty One Day? Or do you gravitate to more straightforward titles: The Goldfinch, The Bird Artist. Look once more at the piece you’re working on and think about how you might title it. Hopefully you’ll have some new ideas.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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Award-winning Vermont poet Daniel Lusk, whose latest book is Kin, published by Wind Ridge Books of Vermont.

This week I have two Write The Book Prompts, both offered by my guest, Daniel Lusk. The first is prompted by what’s been happening all around us: 

After the ice storm, what do you wish might happen when the sun comes out?

And another, especially apt for the New Year: 

Make a list of questions to which you do not know the answer. Maybe the list is your poem. Maybe one of the questions will warrant further unraveling or provocative guesses in response.

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

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

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Bestselling British author Diane Setterfield, whose latest book is Bellman & Black, published by Atria/Emily Bestler Books. Her first novel, The Thirteenth Tale, sold over 3 million copies in 38 countries.

Today’s Write The Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Diane Setterfield. When Diane is writing and is confused about which way to go or is stuck: she puts out of her mind that she’s writing a novel and imagines, what if I was just on the phone with my mother and telling her about this? How would I tell her? She just writes it down as if she’s telling it to her mom. This doesn’t necessarily result in something finished, but it almost always gets her through that difficulty of not knowing and from that, provides a jumping off point for what she does need to do. This works particularly well, she says, when she knows the content that needs to go in, but is struggling to figure out HOW to present it. Writing can be like staging a play, according to Diane. You might know what the props are and where the actors are standing, but what is the lighting? What do you, the writer, want highlighted in the scene? For example, what do you want foregrounded, and what is just visible in the darkness?

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

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

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Best-selling nonfiction author, David Laskin, whose new book is The Family, published by Viking. David Laskin's USA Today article that he mentioned during our conversation, about the Pew Study on American Jews and religion, can be found here.

This week I have two Write The Book Prompts to offer, having to do with point of view in nonfiction. Both of these were generously suggested by my guest, David Laskin. First, describe a family crisis (death of a relative, decision to move or emigrate, wedding) from the points of view of two or three different family members. And second, write about an historic event from an intimate and specific point of view. This might be along the lines of "Where were you when JFK was assassinated?" or "What were your exact circumstances when the terrorist attacks took place on 9/11/01?" Weave together or juxtapose the personal and historic -- for example, details from daily life with memories of newscasts, tv images, and such.

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

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

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Stephen Elliott, author and founding editor of the online literary magazine, The Rumpus. We discuss, among other things, his books Happy Baby and The Adderall Diaries: A Memoir of Moods, Masochism, and Murder.

Today’s Write The Book Prompt is to write about a miscommunication that causes offense: an unanswered phone call, a backhanded compliment, an accidental Facebook “unfriending,” etc. Be sure that the error was unintended, and that it results in tension between two or more people.

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 Kathryn Davis, whose new novel is Duplex, published by Graywolf Press.

Today’s Write The Book Prompt was inspired by my conversation with Kathryn Davis about her new book, Duplex. Write about a situation or place that, somehow, has multiple dimensions.

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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2010 interview with Vermont playwright Dana Yeaton about his play, My Ohio, and writing for the theater.

This week's Write The Book Prompt is to take a scene of dialogue between two or more characters and re-write it for the theater. Block it out, consider if the lines of dialogue that exist might need to be re-tweaked to make sense on stage. Think about your characters' movements; will they be different in a theatrical version?

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

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David Jauss, award-winning author of Glossolalia: New and Selected Stories, published by Press 53.

Today’s Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, David Jauss. It’s an exercise he has used in his introductory writing classes, because this helps people realize they have a creative ability that they otherwise might not know that they have. He starts by offering students a situation to work from:

A man is standing at a bus stop. The bus is due in about five minutes. He’s alone. Then a woman shows up. She turns out to be his ex-wife. They haven’t seen each other in several years.

David says that if he just were to leave it at that, people would immediately start inventing their own stories, and playing things out. What he asks is that students write dialogue only. He wants five exchanges between the two characters. Each side of an exchange can be more than one sentence, but only five exchanges, and no descriptions, no setting - only dialogue. First the man says something, then the woman. Then the man, and the woman. Five times total. (David jokes that, as this is fiction, you should give the man the last word.)

Another layer to the prompt is this: do not plan out what the characters will say to one another. David’s students have to wait until he shares a word with them, for each half of each exchange. He chooses a book at random, opens to any page, points his finger to the page, and says the word he finds there. For example, he might hit the word “funnel.” So the man’s half of the first exchange must include the word funnel. When the woman responds, she will need to use the second word that David finds when he opens to another random page and tells his students the word he finds there. So you’ll find ten words, one at a time as you go, to incorporate into these five exchanges.

As you write using today’s prompt, either enlist the help of a partner, who can find random words for you to use in your five exchanges, or open a book of your own and choose as you go, finding words on your own. But don’t plan the five exchanges ahead of time.

Once you have the five exchanges, THEN ask yourself what your characters look like, and what are the details of the setting that you held back from writing initially. David says that people find really interesting ways to put these words in the dialogue, whereas if they had known the words ahead of time, they’d naturally start to plan it all out. Also, as you write the dialogue, you will likely find out about the surroundings, and the details of what your characters look like and such, without realizing you’ve done it, and without “planning it.” I’m guessing, too, that you’d have never used a word such as “funnel” in your dialogue, which means that what you come up with might well be more interesting and take you to a different place than you would have expected.

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 South Burlington High School students.

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Vermont Poet Laureate Sydney Lea, whose tenth collection of poems, I Was Thinking of Beauty, is now available from Four Way Books. Skyhorse Publishing has just published A North Country Life: Tales of Woodsmen, Waters and Wildlife. This interview is also available to watch, thanks to production by RETN, the Regional Educational Technology Network in Burlington, VT.


Today's Write The Book Prompt is to write a poem that involves a recollection of an old friend, and a reaction to the natural world.
Good luck with this exercise and please listen next week for another.


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

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2013 Interview with the writer Abby Frucht, whose collection of stories, The Bell at the End of a Rope, is new from Narrative Library.

Today's Write The Book Prompt was mentioned by my guest, Abby Frucht, during our interview. You may recall that when we spoke, she said that she will ask new students to read the opening line or lines of a story, and then to use those lines to "project the objects, events, circumstances, characters, techniques, perspectives ... structural inclinations, anything that will take place over the course of the story." So today's prompt is to do this. Read the opening lines of a story - not one of your own, of course - and make a list of these story elements for which you might see the opening lines laying the groundwork. Then put down your list of gleaned ideas, read the full story, and see how the piece of fiction emerges from those early sentences. Don't look at this as a test of your ability to predict the story, but to understand how that author uses the early sentences to lead the reader into the story. In our interview, Abby said that the first lines have both the responsibility and the privilege of that introduction -- they lay down the clues about how the rest of the story might be drawn.

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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Short story writer and novelist Moira Crone, whose latest book is The Not Yet, published by University of New Orleans Press and one of seven on the ballot for the Philip K. Dick Award - Best Paperback Original Science Fiction Novel of the Year (winner to be announced in late March 2013).

Click here to see artwork inspired by The Not Yet.

Today I have several Write The Book Prompts to offer, suggested by my guest, Moira Crone.

Conventional Fiction Prompts:

After he stopped her from jumping ...

I remember ...

I will never forget ...

Speculative Fiction Prompts:

Since there was no more religion, he decided to ...

Once the sky had smashed into smithereens, she ...

She read his arm to see where he was headed ...

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

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

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Vermont writer Lloyd Devereux Richards, author of Stone Maidens, published by Thomas & Mercer (Amazon's mystery imprint).

Once or twice during the interview, Lloyd mentioned a book he'd found particularly helpful in revising Stone Maidens. I'll mention it here, so you have the full title; it's Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook, by author and literary agent, Donald Maass.

This week's Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Lloyd Devereux Richards. Rewrite a scene you've already worked on, but do so from a different character's perspective.

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

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

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Interview with Vermont Writer Rowan Jacobsen. We discussed his book The Living Shore: Rediscovering a Lost World. His latest book is Shadows on the Gulf: A Journey through Our Last Great Wetland. Both books were published by Bloomsbury.

Today's Write The Book Prompt is to write about an experience visiting the shore (any shore...)

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 award-winning poet Charles Harper Webb. We discussed his 2009 book (part of the Pitt Poetry Series), Shadow Ball. His next collection, What Things Are Made Of, will be published by Univeristy of Pittsburgh Press in February 2013.

Today's Write The Book Prompt is to write about a terrible experience that, over time, becomes a cherished memory.

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

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

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

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

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

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Interview with National Book Award Finalist and Author of Fiction and Memoir, Joan Wickersham. Her latest book is The News From Spain, published by Knopf.

This week's Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Joan Wickersham. When she teaches, she often encourages her students to read Tim O'Brien's extraordinary story, The Things They Carried, from the collection by the same name. After reading the story, which is, in fact, a long list in itself, make your own list. In fact, make a list of lists. What are some ideas for structuring a story in the form of a list? Here are a few ideas I've come up with: a grocery list, a packing list, a to-do list, a category on Craig's List! Come up with a few of your own. Then pick one of those ideas and see if you can write a story using that list form as a structural device, or just for inspiration.

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

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

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Award-winning fiction writer Ann Hood, in an interview from 2010 about her novel The Red Thread, published by W. W. Norton & Company.

It's election week, as I'm sure most of you are painfully aware. When I was a child, voters weren't allowed to wear any campaign buttons into the voting booth. I have a vivid memory of walking with my parents into the building where they would both vote a second time for Richard Nixon. The lobby of this building was absolutely littered with campaign buttons, removed by voters and thrown on the ground before they entered the school gymnasium where they would cast their ballots. I still have a Nixon Agnew button that I picked up that night while I waited for my parents to vote. This week's Write The Book Prompt is to use a memory from long ago about an election or a vote: it doesn't have to be a presidential election, and it doesn't have to come from a time when you were any certain age. Just whatever comes to mind. Recall it, write about it, and tomorrow - if you haven't already - please do vote.

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

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Local Writer and Tai Chi Teacher Bob Boyd, author of Snake Style Tai Chi Chuan: The Hidden System of the Yang Family.

This week's Write The Book Prompt is some basic, helpful advice suggested by my guest, Bob Boyd: Sit down and just start putting words on paper. The process evolves. If you don't get started, Bob says, you'll never get finished. He adds that being prone sometimes helps him come up with ideas. Though if you write in your job, as he did at Burch & Co., lying down at the office can create difficulties. Bob acknowledges that everyone's different. Lying down might help some people. For others, a walk might be the relaxing activity that gets the ideas flowing. Figure out what works for you. Then, as soon as you have an idea, even if it's in the middle of the night, put something on paper. You can always get back to it later. But preserve the idea so it's waiting for you.

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

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

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Interview with Middlebury College Art Professor and Photographer John Huddleston, author of Killing Ground: Photographs of the Civil War and the Changing American Landscape (2003, Johns Hopkins University Press) and Healing Ground: Walking the Farms of Vermont (2012, Center for American Places).

Today's Write The Book Prompt is actually a series of photographs included by my guest, John Huddleston, in his books Killing Ground and Healing Ground. Here you'll find photos that we specifically discuss in the interview, as well as a few others that you might likewise find inspirational. I hope these images speak to you and encourage your writing process. And, as ever, please tune in next week for another prompt.

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

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1 - 3 July 1863

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

The Union Dead

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51,112 American Casualties

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

In the early afternoon of the first day, the Confederates forced the Federals to retreat from this position just north of the college.

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70,000 American Casualties

Petersburg, Virginia

Bombproof Quarters of Fort Sedgwick, a Key Position on the Eastern Union Siege Line

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15 June 1864 - 2 April 1865

Petersburg, Virginia

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27 June 1862

Gaines' Mill, Virginia

Federal dead from Gaines' Mill were photographed in 1865 after their shallow graves had been exposed.

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15, 587 Casualties

Gaines' Mill, Virginia

Center of the Battle Lines, Site of Several Unsuccessful Confederate Charges

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6 - 7 April 1862

Shiloh, Tennessee

The guns of the USS Lexington (background) shelled the Confederates throughout the evening and night of 6 April.

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23,746 Casualties

Shiloh, Tennessee

Bloody Pond. Here the wounded from both sides dragged themselves to drink and to die.

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19 May - 4 July 1863

Vicksburg, Mississippi

Bombproof Quarters on the Union Line at the Shirley House

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37,293 American Casualties

Vicksburg, Mississippi

Iraq-bound National Guardsmen at the Shirley House, July 1990

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Cows in a Stall.

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Manure Pond.

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Pods/Grass/Snow.

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Ice Columns Sculpture.

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Car Tracks on the Snow.

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2009 Interview with Vermont writer and Middlebury professor, Robert Cohen, author of Amateur Barbarians.

This week, I'm helping my stepson and his wife move to their new home. So I'm spending a lot of time in their old home, emptying it of boxes, food, pots, pans, paper towels ... you get the drift. So this week's Write The Book Prompt is to write about an empty house.

Good luck with this prompt and 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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Vermont author Bill Schubart, whose latest novel is Panhead: A Journey Home.

Today's Write The Book Prompt was inspired by my interview with Bill Schubart about his new book, Panhead. Write about an accident. It can be something real, from your life, or a fictional incident. Maybe your sister threw her croquet mallet in a huff when you were small, and hit you with it. Or maybe it was something more serious: a boating accident or a burn from a spill. If an actual incident, write a poem or story or essay about how this incident changed one of the people involved. Or, if fictional, imagine how it might have changed someone and write about that.

Good luck with this prompt, and 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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Award-winning Vermont poet Jane Shore., author of That Said: New and Collected Poems, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Today's Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Jane Shore. Two books that she very much appreciates are I REMEMBER, by the poet Joe Brainard, and THE POETICS OF SPACE, by Gaston Bachelard. In I REMEMBER, Joe Brainard starts off every sentence with the words "I remember." He then fills out each sentence with a specific memory. Gaston Bachelard's book talks about the power that various spaces have.

In keeping with lessons she's learned from reading those books, Jane Shore offers the following writing exercise to students in her classes. Consider the house you lived in when you were maybe seven or eight, and mentally go through every room in the house: open every drawer, every closet. Consider all the clothes in the closet. Think about the bicycle, the dolls, the toys. In the kitchen, open the refrigerator, look at the name of the milk company printed on the milk carton. What kind of ice cream is in the freezer? What kind of leftovers are in the fridge? What is the surface of the kitchen table? What does the floor look like? When you lived there, did you have a special cup you drank out of? She goes through the entire house in great detail: think about your mother's perfume, your old Halloween costumes, parties that your parents had, how you celebrated birthdays. Let the memories of that place in which you lived help you recall other memories. Take notes as you go, mentally, from front hall to powder room to den. And as you go, write about the details you rediscover.  Good luck with this prompt and tune in next week for another.

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

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Award-winning Canadian author Douglas Glover, on his latest book: a collection of essays on writing, Attack of the Copula Spiders, published by Biblioasis.

Today's Write The Book Prompt is to write what Douglas Glover playfully calls "a but-construction." In his new book, ATTACK OF THE COPULA SPIDERS, he writes: "Imagine any simple declarative sentence, and add the word but to the end." The example Douglas offers is: "The barn was red, but..." Now keep writing. See what complexity you might be able to introduce to this sentence, or another of your own devising, simply by adding the word "but." As he explains in the book, "I wrote the word 'but' and then had to write something else; the blank space demands completeness. I had no idea what I might put in there before I wrote the words. The result is pure invention, discovery, and rather fun."

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

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

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Award-winning Vermont author Julia Alvarez, whose latest book is A WEDDING IN HAITI: THE STORY OF A FRIENDSHIP, published by Shannon Ravenel Books, an imprint of Algonquin.

The televised production of this interview can be found at RETN.org

Today I can offer two Write The Book Prompts, both of which were generously suggested by my guest, Julia Alvarez.The first is to write a list poem or prose passage. Julia loves making lists, and reading them. She wrote in an email, "sometimes, when I am grocery shopping, I'll find a discarded list on a shelf or on the floor, and I always pick it up and read it. Many are just a straight list of items to buy, but every once in a while, the list will include little notes or things to do. I'll start to imagine a story for the shopper who dropped the list!"

She offered a number of examples of good list poems and prose passages, including Triad, by 19th century poet Adelaide Crapsey:

These be three silent things:

the falling snow. . .the hour

before dawn. . .the mouth of one

just dead

Julia asks writers to remember that the items on the list need to be vivid and concrete, as sharp as little haikus, because as we read a list, we have to quickly picture each item before the next one comes on board. No brand names. None of those airbrushed abstract adjectives ("beautiful," "interesting") that are vague and generic" and don't nail down an image with a bright flash of recognition. She writes, "I love the surprises and juxtapositions that happen when you try to group, say, shapely things on a list." She sent a number of eighth graders' wonderful poems, from a workshop that she taught. Here they are:

Shapely Things

Waves on an ocean. . . long,

high rollercoasters, mouths

forming words. . . writing. . .

someone walking or running

with a limp. . .

clouds in the open sky. . . a mind

forming an idea.

Tammy, 8th grade

These things hardly have time:

lightning in a storm,

very nervous people,

the rush of embarrassment,

the years in a life and

a never-stopping clock.

These things hardly have time.

Scott, 8th grade

These things are extra hard:

writing a poem,

being original,

riding up a hill in 10th gear,

and taking wet socks off.

James, 8th grade

Slippery Things

Rocks the water of a creek runs over

Worms

and the slime of a swamp.

Catch a fish--that, too.

The words of a blabber mouth.

Sue, 8th grade

Another writing prompt came via a book her stepdaughter Berit gave to Julia one Christmas: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous & Obscure, edited by Smith Magazine, which has a whole site devoted to posts of six-word memoirs.

So the second prompt would be: write your six-word memoir! Julia cautions that it can be really difficult to get an essence of who you are so briefly.

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

The commemorative event that Julia and I discussed during the interview, marking the 75th anniversary of the 1937 Haitian Massacre, takes place in October. More information about that event will be available at border of lights.org

More information about Piti's band, Rise Up, Brothers, will be available soon at cafealtagracia.com

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Massachusetts novelist Andrew Goldstein, author of The Bookie's Son, published by 617 Books.

Today's Write The Book Prompt is to write a setting from your childhood. It might be the bedroom you had before your family moved to another town when you were in high school, or it might be the street in front of your house, a scene from your kindergarten classroom, or from the back seat of your parents' car. Try to capture the details that will help readers understand what it was like to be in that place, and in particular, to be you -- your childhood self -- in that place. Consider colors as you write, and odors. The smells from the kitchen as mother cooked, the sound of a vacuum, the sounds of your parents talking from the other side of a closed door. What was it like to be there? Was it air conditioned? Or did the heater go all the time so that the windows had to be left open? What made you feel particularly safe, or comfortable, or frightened to be there? Try to capture it and then see how you might use it, or simply what you learned from writing it, in a larger piece of writing.

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

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

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Novelist Carol Anshaw, whose new book is Carry The One, published by Simon and Schuster.

Today's Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Carol Anshaw, who uses it in her classes in the MFA in Writing program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. The prompt actually started from an exercise in the book What If? by Anne Bernays and Pamela Painter, although Carol uses a slightly altered version. Take an event that happened in your life between the ages of 5 and 11. Write a list comprised of everything you can remember about that incident. Then make a second list: everything you don't remember. Write a story using that second list. The exercise is particularly useful for new writers, who, afterward, might better understand the process of creating fiction. 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 short story writer Megan Mayhew Bergman, author of Birds of a Lesser Paradise, published by Simon and Schuster.

Today's Write The Book Prompt was inspired by my conversation with Megan Mayhew Bergman. Twice during our conversation, she talked about slowing down the fiction narrative, to its benefit. She mentioned slowing things down poetically as you approach the end of a story. She also talked about slowing down the outcome of a suspenseful moment in a story. This week, think about how you might use this advice in a story or a scene of your own. Slow things down, perhaps when you're most tempted to speed things up, and see what happens.

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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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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Interview from the archives with short story writer and guitar builder, Creston Lea, author of the story collection Wild Punch, published by Turtle Point Press.

The last time I broadcast this interview with Creston Lea, I used his suggestion for a Write The Book Prompt, which was to eavesdrop on a conversation in a public place, and then use what you heard to write a scene with dialogue. This time, I'll recommend something slightly different, but also useful in writing dialogue. Using a digital recorder or a dictaphone, record a conversation between two people. Then transcribe the conversation exactly as it occurred. Keep all of their pauses and stutters and "ums" and repetitions. Now study a page of dialogue in a book. What might differ in the way that conversation actually sounds from the way that would best represent it on the page? What would you take out, what might you change or add? See if you can turn the conversation that you recorded into a scene that would be understandable--effortless for a reader to digest.

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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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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Award-winning writer Margot Livesey, author of the new novel, The Flight of Gemma Hardy, published by Harper.

Today's Write The Book Prompt is to write about a character who, for some reason, assumes another identity. The character can be acting on a dare, trying to escape something or someone, or just testing him- or herself to see if s(he)can get away with it. What name will the character choose? What job will she pretend to have? Where will she say she's from? What history will he choose to give himself? How will assuming another identity affect your character's self-esteem? Will she feel excited? Guilty? Will he have to solicit help from others to make this work? Play around with a fictional life for your fictional character.

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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David Wojahn, Award Winning (and Pulitzer Prize Nominated) Poet, Author of the New Collection WORLD TREE, part of the Pitt Poetry Series (University of Pittsburgh Press).  Part of this collection, a series called "Ochre," can also be found (along with photographs) at the Blackbird Online Literary Journal Website.

Today's Write The Book Prompt was offered by my guest, David Wojahn. This prompt works well with poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction alike. Write a piece about a family member meeting a famous person. It can be invented or authentic. This will naturally force you to take something personal and put it in a perspective that has to do with a wider public world.

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

Music credits: 1) “Dreaming 1″ - John Fink; 2) “Filter” - Dorset Greens (a Vermont band featuring several 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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Author Steve Almond, whose third book of stories, God Bless America, has just come out from the Lookout Books (UNC Wilmington).

Today's Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Steve Almond, who said in our interview that he feels the path to the truth runs through shame. Think of the most shameful moment you can recall and write about it. Set up the piece so that readers will be oriented, and then write about those five or ten seconds, or that minute, of shame. Chances are, that will be a great piece of writing. As Steve put it, "You have to be willing to disclose your own stuff, you have to be willing to put it on the line."

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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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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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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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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