Archive for the 'Vermont' Category

Our second NaNoWriMo check-in of the month is a conversation with Vermont Author Reina Pennington, military history expert and former Norwich University Professor. 

This week's second Write the Book Prompt comes from Reina Pennington, who suggests writing with the same implement that your character might have written with. Not all the time, but at least once, give a quill a try. A fountain pen. An old manual typewriter. In Reina’s case, her characters in the pilot seat had to write on rough paper with a pencil, sharpened with a knife. They folded them into triangles to send, in lieu of envelopes.  This is an original way Reina finds to connect with her characters, which I found a very cool suggestion! 

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 Poet and Publisher Samantha Kolber, of Rootstock Publishing

One of this week's Write the Book Prompts comes from Samantha Kolber, who suggests writing for seven minutes without stopping. Put your pen to the page or your fingers to the keys, and have at it for seven minutes straight. Samantha loves this exercise and finds she comes up with great material by doing this: a draft poem that can be revised later. 

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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Angela Palm moderates this Fall 2022 Green Mountain Book Festival panel on Memoir, featuring fellow Vermont Authors Jay Parini, Brett Ann Stanciu, and former Governor Madeleine May Kunin. 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to write a short memoir containing three things: the story of how you came to have your name, a recent dream you’ve had, and the way a certain color features in your life right now, the way Governor Madeleine May Kunin spoke on this panel about her Prius, and why it was important to her that it was "Barcelona Red."

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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Local author and professor Dr. Millicent Eidson, who writes a series of novels concerning the work of fictional CDC veterinarian Dr. Maya Maguire. A regular NaNoWriMo participant, Millie spoke with me live on WBTV-LP about that experience.

This Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Dr. Millicent Eidson, who reminds us that conflict and challenges are important in our work. As an example, the weather has just changed from mid-70s to mid-30s. Our clocks have just changed again. Think about these and other changes that might present difficulties for your characters and write about that.

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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The editors of Vermont Almanac discuss their work. A recording of a Green Mountain Book Festival panel discussion featuring Virginia Barlow, Dave Mance III, and Patrick White. 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to write about an insect or arachnid. We aren’t all as focused on insects as Virginia Barlow, but they are vital. This is a quote from the Florida Museum at the University of Florida: a diverse range of insect species is critical to the survival of most life on Earth, including bats, birds, freshwater fishes and even humans! Along with plants, insects are at the foundation of the food web, and most of the plants and animals we eat rely on insects for pollination or food. A couple of weeks ago I saw a praying mantis outside my front door. Last week, I photographed an amazing, scary-looking spider on my front walk. It turned out to be a shamrock spider. So, consider your favorite arthropod, and write about it.

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

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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Guest Interviewer Kim MacQueen speaks with John Killacky, author of Because Art, and Mark Redmond, author of Called, both published by Onion River Press

Last week the Green Mountain Book Festival came to Burlington and it was a fantastic event! I'm on the board. As the festival plans for next year, we'd love to hear ideas for panels. So your Write the Book Prompt this week is to write to me (Shelagh) and share your panel ideas! Thanks so much. 

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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A new interview with Vermont author Doug Wilhelm about his nonfiction book, Catalysts for Change: How Nonprofits and a Foundation Are Helping Shape Vermont's Future (Rootstock). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was kindly suggested by my guest, Doug Wilhelm, who thinks about stories all the time. Find one observation: something you’ve overhead or seen, and make a story from it. This can be a piece of conversation or part of an argument, an interesting person who stood out for some reason. Take note of this small observation, and start writing. Story involves tension, so see what tension might emerge from what you began with, and then see if the tension will resolve somehow. 

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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Daniel Lusk - 8/29/22

Vermont Poet Daniel Lusk, who's new collection is Every Slow Thing (Kelsay Books). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to consider what Daniel calls his “farthings,” tiny Zen-like poems that share wit, irony, natural beauty, and wisdom. Here are a few of his, kindly shared with us:

  • Sepals - As if priests were magpies and souls were shiny objects. As if brothels were little seminaries of corporeal art. 
  • After the Storm - And Noah sent forth birds, voiceless gestures over the fathomless silence in search of something that might be said.
  • Lyric - Listen! There is saffron on the poet's bow. 

So those are a few of Daniel Lusk's "Farthings." The new collection Farthings is published by Yavanika Press. See if you can come up with some of your own.   

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

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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An interview from the archives (with our old music!) with Vermont poet and UVM Professor Stephen Cramer. We discussed his book From the Hip: A Concise History of Hip Hop (in sonnets). Since that time, Stephen has published a number of other books. His latest collection, The Disintegration Loops, "attempts to uncover the music within the world's dissolution and fragmentation, from Italian masters painting over the work of previous artists, to the innocence of childhood giving way to scars, to the description of badly stored tapes being looped and played over and over again until they begin to flake."

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to consider the world's "dissolution and fragmentation" and write about something that changes with time, for better or for worse.

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

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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Vermont poet Laura Budofsky Wisniewski, the author of Sanctuary, Vermont (Orison). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Laura Budofsky Wisniewski. Set a timer and start writing. Do not stop. Even if you have to occasionally write the same word over and over until the next word comes, keep it up. When the timer goes off at whatever point you designated - two minutes, five minutes, twenty - stop writing. If what you were creating was poetry, use the next little while to make line breaks in the piece. Then delete everything that’s not interesting and see what you have come up with. 

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

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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Vermont photographer and writer across genres Shanta Lee Gander, whose debut poetry collection, Ghettoclaustrophobia: Dreamin of Mama While Trying to Speak Woman in Woke Tongues (Diode Editions), won the Vermont Book Award for Poetry in 2021. 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Shanta Lee Gander, who mentioned her own version of this during our conversation. 

What are your impossible things that are all true?  

The Shenanigans List

“Alice laughed. 'There's no use trying,' she said. 'One can't believe impossible things.' I daresay you haven't had much practice,' said the Queen. 'When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast. There goes the shawl again!”

Are there funny things that people in your life have shared or things that they say?  For Shanta, the shenanigans list includes real vignettes and quotes of the ridiculous, the absurd and the most surreal things that usually has one thinking, "This is so good, I can't make this up."

For this prompt, and perhaps as an ongoing practice, think about quotes, funny things and quirky things and start your own list of the impossible, the bizarre and surreal. Start a shenanigans list; you'll be surprised at the material it may provide in the future for other writing!

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

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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An interview from the archives with award winning writer, educator and translator Wendy Call

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to choose one of the following sentences, and translate it into a language of your own design. 

  • Tomorrow morning, as the sun shines up and over the eastern wall of your house, you will awaken to a gift of joy. 
  • He ran through the woods and hopped the stones in a bright, cold stream, shouting that he had won.
  • Alone, without purpose or thought, she brings a hand to her face and feels the cool touch of her own comfort. 

Pick one of these sentences, or really any sentence you come up with, and translate it into a language of your own invention. Make up sounds that feel like these sounds, shape them into words, see what other sentences come out of your unusual translation. Try to create a sense of the sentence that another reader might come close to understanding, if not intellectually. Sure, it might be nonsense, but it might feel just right, too.

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

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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An interview from the archives with bestselling author Meg Wolitzer, about her novel for young adults, Belzhar (Dutton Books for Young Readers). One of her latest projects is hosting Selected Shorts at New York's Symphony Space, hosted by Public Radio International.

Seedlings, soil, compost, fertilizer. It’s gardening season. This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to write about a garden. Perhaps a small mystery: a missing plant, a wrong fruit, an illegally felled tree. If a mystery doesn’t inspire you, maybe write a poem or a scene that takes place in a secret or famous garden. Or a former garden, paved over and turned into a parking lot. 

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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This month, the words of celebrated Vermont poet David Budbill take center stage in Sutras for a Suffering World, a concert featuring Vermont and New York artists and music by composers William Parker, Erik Nielsen, and Evan Premo. I spoke with Vermont artists Lois Eby and Nadine Budbill, wife and daughter of the late David Budbill, about these concerts. 

As literary executor of David Budbill's estate, Nadine Budbill once said of her father's book, Broken Wing, that it was "the ultimate culmination of his legacy—encouraging all of us to slow down, to notice, to contemplate, to honor, to engage, to love and mourn and be fully alive." For a new Write the Book Prompt, try to write with these goals in mind: slowing down, noticing, contemplating, honoring, engaging, loving, mourning, and being fully alive. 

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 Jennifer McMahon, whose new novel is The Children on the Hill (Simon & Schuster). 

Jennifer's recent reads include:

The Fervor, by Alma Katsu

My Heart Is a Chainsaw, by Stephen Graham Jones

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Jennifer McMahon, who sent me this note:

At its heart, The Children on the Hill is an exploration of monsters and monstrousness. So my writing prompt is to create your own monster!

What type of monster is it? Does it have a name? What does it look like? What does it sound like? Where does your monster live? Who can see it? What does your monster eat? What special abilities does it have? Can it run fast? Is it super strong? Can it hibernate for years? What does your monster want most? What’s stopping your monster from getting it? What is your monster most afraid of?

Now, write two scenes, the first from the point of view of a person (maybe a character you’ve already been working with) coming across your monster. Where do they meet? Is your monster a danger to this character? How does your character feel about this creature?

Write the same scene from the monster’s point of view. What is the monster thinking and feeling? Is your monster afraid of the person, or is it longing for connection? Or is it just really, really hungry?

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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Melanie Finn, winner of the Vermont Book Award in Fiction 2021, and author of The Hare (Two Dollar Radio). 

Melanie's favorite recent reads include:

Empireland, by Sathnam Sanghera
On The Black Hill, by Bruce Chatwin
Orlando, by Virginia Woolf
 

This week's Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Melanie Finn, who recommends starting "outside the box" when it comes to building character. For her protagonist Rosie, the sense of smell is a strong guide; she's really aware of how things smell. When you consider your own characters, think about all their senses: color and sound, but also how a character  might feel the sensation of silk or wet grass. Melanie says that sometimes we get caught up with the obvious—what is seen or heard—and forget to convey the world through all the senses.

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

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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An interview from the archives with local author and Queen City Ghostwalk Guide Thea Lewis about her book Haunted Inns and Ghostly Getaways of Vermont, published by The History Press.

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to imagine a creepy scenario that has always frightened you. Maybe it has to do with going down into a basement, or up into an attic. Maybe it centers on a certain person who leaves you feeling unsettled. Are you afraid of water, of heights, of open spaces? Focus on one of your most haunting fears and consider how you might turn it around. If the idea of being up high frightens you, maybe write about a person who delights in great heights: a gymnast, or Phillipe Petit, who famously walked a tightrope strung between the twin towers in 1974. If you’re afraid of water, imagine being a long-distance swimmer. Write about this person’s attitude, and then midway into the piece, let your own phobia slip in and change what they are feeling or experiencing. What happens?

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 and Documentarian Jim Carrier, whose book Charity: The Heroic and Heartbreaking Story of Charity Hospital in Hurricane Katrina came out as an audiobook in 2021.

This week's Write the Book Prompt was inspired by my interview with Jim Carrier, whose book Charity tells the story of one hospital in one storm, through the closer detailed narratives of individuals who were caught up in the tragedy. Consider these famous catastrophic moments in history, and either research or imagine a single human story from the incident to write about. Write a scene, a story, a poem, or just a paragraph. 

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

 

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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Vermont author and exceptional literary citizen Nancy Means Wright passed away on January 19 at the age of 95. This week I aired an interview with Nancy from the early days of the show. Many thanks to Seven Days for granting me permission to read their obituary for Nancy on air (with the stipulation that I read it in its entirety). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to write a short or maybe even longer fictional piece featuring an historical figure, much as Nancy Means Wright featured Mary Wollstonecraft in two mystery novels.

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

 

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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A conversation from the archives with Vermont children’s author Elizabeth Bluemle, about her picture book, TAP TAP, BOOM BOOM (Candlewick Press).

My son and I once experienced a hurricane in Florida. Those of you who know storms might remember Charlie, in 2004. We stayed in a motel in Winter Park–a second-story room with an outside entry that looked out at the parking lot. The storm was fierce and loud. We lost electricity and the room went dark, but outside the winds were furious and sounded like the world would end. The eye arrived, and with it an eerie silence. Hotel guests all stepped out of our rooms and stood leaning on the metal railings, looking down at the parking lot, talking, eventually feeling a kind of rapport that comes with facing the unknown. When the winds picked up again, we all went back inside our darkened rooms, feeling like we knew the neighbors who surrounded us, if just a little bit. This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to write about a weather incident bringing people together, as they do in the subway in Elizabeth Bluemle’s book, Tap Tap, Boom Boom. 

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 Joy Cohen, whose debut novel is 37 (Guernica Editions). 

This week's Write the Book Prompt was generously offered by my guest Joy Cohen during our conversation. She suggests making two lists: the first, a list of 10 characters. They can be actual people in your life, such as your mom or dad, your best friend, the pharmacist, the mail carrier, people that you know really well or don't know at all. They could include fictional characters from movies or books. Just make a list of ten. Then make a list of ten activities such as going for a bike ride, attending a funeral, eating breakfast... anything active. Then put the papers away. A few days later, before you read the two lists, randomly pick out two numbers. Maybe three and seven. For your exercise, you'll take character number three and put that person in situation number seven, and then write about that. Joy finds the people in her classes enjoy this prompt and come up with great scenes and scenarios. 

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 Michael Freed-Thall, whose debut novel is Horodno Burning (Rootstock).

Consider this Write the Book Prompt, inspired by my conversation with Michael: try using history as a frame from which to hang your characters in writing a story, poem, essay or longer piece. As you work, be sure you are accurately rendering the historical period, researching the industry, technology, customs, and events of the period. 

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 Melissa Perley, whose 2019 book The Violin Family (Rootstock) was recently named a winner in the Children’s Category of the 2021 Indie Reader Discovery Awards.

Here's a musical Write the Book Prompt: listen to a piece of music and try to describe it in your work. It's harder than it sounds! 

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

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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A conversation from the archives with Vermont author and former president of Vermont College of Fine Arts, Thomas Christopher Greene, about his novel The Headmaster's Wife (Thomas Dunne). 

On Friday, at a football game in Burlington High School's stadium, community members were treated to a very special halftime show featuring many students and teachers appearing in drag. According to The Washington Post, and yes, this was covered by The Washington Post, the idea came from Andrew LeValley, an English teacher and alliance adviser at the school. He is quoted as saying, “I was just really hoping to give our students — who are both out and the students that were in the stands who are not out — a moment to shine and feel loved, and know that there is a place for them in public schools.” I loved reading this story, both the spirit behind the event and the support with which the performance was met. This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to write about someone who wears clothing that is new to them and perhaps makes a statement about who they are or how they are feeling. It doesn’t necessarily have to be about dressing in drag, though that would be great. Also, though, a costume, a uniform, a borrowed outfit. What is the backstory? How does the person feel, dressed up in a new way? Do people notice? How do they react? Is there any consequence or change that comes about as a result?

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 and former WTB Co-Host Gary Miller, whose new nonfiction book for students and their teachers is There's No Way to Do It Wrong!: How to Get Young Learners to Take Risks, Tell Stories, Share Opinions, and Fall in Love with Writing

Gary generously offered us one of his many writing prompts to use for a Write the Book Prompt today. And that prompt is to begin with the sentence, “They told me, but of course I didn’t listen.” See where it takes you. Write for seven minutes. And there is no way to do it wrong!

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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Ralph Culver - 9/20/21

Vermont Poet Ralph Culver, whose new collection is A Passable Man (Mad Hat Press).

In his poem, "Tableau," Ralph Culver writes about one person sharing a space with two other versions of himself, presumably over time (though this is never stated overtly). For a Write the Book Prompt, try experimenting with a similar moment that captures multiple expressions of one person - perhaps three ages, three states of mind, or three memories. Whatever strikes you as interesting.

Good luck with this, and please tune in next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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An interview from the archives with the author Jessica Hendry Nelson, who has a new book out - co-authored with fellow former Write the Book Guest Sean Prentiss: Advanced Creative Nonfiction: A Writer's Guide and Anthology, just out from Bloomsbury. During this interview, we talked about her memoir, If Only You People Could Follow Directions (Counterpoint).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is inspired by the title of my guest’s memoir, If Only You People Could Follow Directions. Write a list of simple directions concerning how to do something - how to change a tire, how to make pasta, how to tape a room before painting it - and then expand on that list, making it into an essay that has deeper meaning.

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 Nancy Hayes Kilgore, in a conversation about her new novel, Bitter Magic (Sunbury Press).

As we mentioned during our interview, one character who Nancy Hayes Kilgore describes in Bitter Magic is the devil himself. He appears to Isobel Gowdie in a spot where a tree had stood only moments before. She depicts him as a blonde man wearing green, but during their encounter he changes. This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to write a character based on a famous non-human entity: a leprechaun, a fairy, a centaur, a cherub, a poltergeist, a ghost. Consider what you feel to be accurate about how this entity has been depicted historically, and how you might change that depiction. Will you use this character in your work without naming who or what it’s based on, or will you leave that to readers to identify?

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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Local author, yoga practitioner, and teacher Kyle Ferguson, whose new book (with co-author Anthony Grudin) is Beyond Hot Yoga: On Patterns, Practice and Movement (North Atlantic Books). 

Kyle's reading during our interview is excepted from Beyond Hot Yoga: On Patterns, Practice, and Movement by Kyle Ferguson and Anthony Grudin, published by North Atlantic Books, copyright © 2021 by Kyle Ferguson and Anthony Grudin. Used by permission of publisher.

One concept discussed in the book is that of “flipping” an established practice—turning it on its head, you might say—to explore the power of opposition. Can we do this as a writing exercise? What is a pattern for which you regularly reach? Do you always write in the morning and find it’s not flowing lately? Maybe write after lunch instead, or last thing at night; maybe write in a notebook rather than on the laptop. Craft-wise, do you start every scene mid-dialogue? Do you use the same tired gestures for your main character? How might you flip these patterns to explore the power of opposition? Perhaps you could begin a scene at the end of an important action, and find a way other than dialogue to present what has happened. Perhaps Matilda avoids her reflection for once. Perhaps she reaches for her younger sister’s hand and not that cigarette. Or would she never do that? Why not? If it’s not consistent with her character, what other than a cigarette will satisfy (or at least live comfortably on the page alongside) her tension and unhappiness? Will she nervously play with a necklace? Will she stalk from room to room, always as if she has a mission, though never actually having a mission? Perhaps this in itself can underscore that lack of purpose you’re going for, and her feelings of inadequacy.

I have no idea, in fact, what you're working on and what the patterns of your writing practice look like. But for this week's Write the Book Prompt, consider ways to flip that practice, re-pattern your habits, and freshen both the words on the page, and the stories they tell.

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

 

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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Interview from the archives with Vermont Poet Daniel Lusk. This conversation took place at the time that his collection Kin was published (Maple Tree Editions).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt comes from a local writer and artist who lives in Bristol, Vermont: Lily Hinrichsen. Choose one of the works of art on her website, and write an ekphrastic poem. Ekphrastic comes from the Greek word for description. Here’s a definition from the Poetry Foundation:  an ekphrastic poem is a vivid description of a scene or, more commonly, a work of art. Through the imaginative act of narrating and reflecting on the “action” of a painting or sculpture, the poet may amplify and expand its meaning.  So my suggestion is that you visit Lily’s website, take a look at the art there, and write! If you choose to share the outcome with me, I’ll share it with Lily, and she may post it on her website at the side of the work you chose to write about.  

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

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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Author and award-winning poet Natasha Sajé, whose new book is Terroir: Love, Out of Place (Trinity University Press). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously offered by my guest, Natasha Sajé, who discussed the concept during our conversation, referring to “The Flash Forward” and “The Flash Back.” As long as your readers know the present moment of a scene, and that scene is clear to them, you can move around in time to inform the moment, making it richer and deeper. In Natasha’s book, she presents a dinner party in such a way that it becomes an elegy to friends she will later lose to AIDs. And so a dinner party scene gives way to a flash forward of what is coming - the AIDS epidemic, insight into its roots and politics, lives lost, a community devastated. That scene in turn brings us back to the happy dinner party, so that we finish by reading the “present” moment of the party scene. A mouse runs through the room, Natasha and another guest scream, and the scene ends almost comically, but still a strong sense of emotion and disquiet. This week, play around with flashing forward or back to enrich a moment in your work and see what emerges.

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

 

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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An interview from the archives with Vermont Author Alec Hastings, whose 2013 debut novel was Otter St. Onge and the Bootleggers: A Tale of Adventure, published by The Public Press. This one first aired on The Radiator

This week's Write the Book Prompt is to write about a flight delay (which I'm presently experiencing...) 

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 poet and author Erika Nichols-Frazer, who has edited a new collection on themes of mental health, A Tether to This World: Stories and Poems About Recovery (Main Street Rag). We are joined later in the hour by the poet A. E. Hines, a contributor to the collection. 

This week we have two Write the Book Prompts, thanks to the generosity of my guests. The first was offered by Erika Nichols-Frazer, who credits it to the poet Chelsie Diane. Write a letter to yourself that starts with the phrase “I forgive you.” 

And Earl, who publishes as A.E. Hines, shares an exercise on practicing self exposure. Pick a moment from your past or a personal circumstance that stands out in your mind as embarrassing: one that makes you at least slightly uneasy when sharing it. Now write a short poem about that experience using either second or third person — as if you’re telling the story about someone else. It doesn’t have to be a big thing; it could be something you did, a mistake you made, or something that happened to you due to no fault of your own. The only requirement is that writing about it puts a twinge of angst in your belly.  When you’re done, change the POV back to first person, and see what happens. Did you learn anything new about that situation?

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 Joseph Covais, whose debut novel is Quiet Room, the first in the "Psychotherapy With Ghosts" trilogy (New Line). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to consider an alternative to the conventional discovery of a ghost -- that blood curdling scream and dash out of the house with your arms in the air. If you spent the night in an old, unfamiliar home and found a ghost leaning over you in the middle of the night, could you  maintain your presence of mind and ask the spirit a question? What might you say? Write a short dialogue and see what comes.

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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Two interviews from the archives. Ralph Culver, author of Both Distances (Anabiosis), has a new book coming in the fall: A Passable Man (MadHat Press). And James Fallon is the author of The Psychopath Inside: A Neuroscientist's Personal Journey into the Dark Side of the Brain (Current). 

This week's Write the Book Prompt is again visual. Take a look at the photo,  below, and write! 

womenonswings.png

Image via https://unsplash.com/@bewakoofofficial

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

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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An interview from 2013 with Vermont Author Howard Norman. We discussed his memoir I Hate to Leave This Beautiful Place (Mariner).
 
Howard Norman’s memoir I Hate to Leave This Beautiful Place begins with a sentence about how, in the summer of ‘64, he used to sit on his basement steps, reading a book and trying to stay cool. It’s a wonderful way to open: that specific action and image, complete with an insinuation about the weather, and the different temperature downstairs. The scene does not disappoint, but goes on to offer more action and imagery from his fifteen-year-old memories. This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to remember when you were fifteen, and write a sentence worthy of opening into a larger recollection--if not a memoir--from that time in your life. Be specific, imply some activity or impending action, and see if you can’t involve one or two of the senses in some way.
 

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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Local author, artist and pet lover Dawna Pederzani, whose new book is The Bread Fairy (AuthorHouse).

During our interview, Dawna mentioned that the first writing she recalls taking on was the sermon for her grandfather’s funeral. She was twelve. This intrigued me. Writing offers the opportunity to really spell out how we feel about a person and to get the words just right. Dawna finds that her sentiments generally spill onto the page exactly how she intends right from the first draft, which is unusual, I think. For me, the ideas are the first to spill. A kernel of something right may build and take on life and energy as I continue, and then as I revise. A funeral sermon might be an opportunity to delve into emotion and offer tribute in a way that few other writing projects could. So this week’s Write the Book Prompt is to write a funeral sermon. Interpret that as you like. You could eulogize someone you lost years ago but have not yet fully said goodbye to. You could write your own funeral sermon, or one for a fictional character you’re trying to get a better feel for: a protagonist, perhaps (or maybe a villain...) Though as Dawna points out, few people are fully heroes. We all have shades of gray in the good and the bad that we show our community, especially during times of duress. 

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

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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Former Vermont Laureates Sydney Lea (Poet) and James Kochalka (Cartoonist) on their latest collaboration, The Exquisite Triumph of Wormboy (Word Galaxy). 

 

This week I have a visual Write the Book Prompt to share, thanks to the illustrative talents of James Kochalka, and inspired by the way he and Sydney Lea worked together on Wormboy. Have a look at some of James Kochalka's work on his Tumblr site, find a panel that inspires you, and see what words come to mind!  Maybe try to write a poem or a short scene. Maybe a brief lyrical essay. Whatever you choose to write, 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 writer, artist and anthropologist, Dana Walrath, who has contributed to the graphic medicine book, Menopause: A Comic Treatment (PSU Press). You can check out the book trailer here. 

Dana Walrath generously offered us a Write the Book Prompt for today’s show, which is related to the advice she offered for writers. Precede your writing session by spending some time drawing, even simply drawing the evocative and inspiring spiral, which is a great way to tap into your subconscious but also establishes a ritual that announces to your creative self that it is time to write. 

I have to say, I got all excited as I wrote this prompt out and put down the word inspiring right before the word spiral. But then I looked them up and there is no etymological link; the association must be coincidental. However!!! …  that doesn’t mean we can’t link the words for ourselves as we work. 

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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Wildlife Journalist and Vermont Author Laurel Neme, whose new children's book is The Elephant's New Shoe: A True Rescue Story (Orchard Books). 

Laurel was kind enough to suggest a Write the Book Prompt for us, based on an exercise that she learned by taking an intensive picture book workshop by Anastasia Suen. Keep a daily journal and creative record--writing for a set amount of time each day that you assign for yourself--but keep it on your computer and in a single file. This way, if months from now you remember writing about something you can’t quite recall, you can search that file for a theme or keyword in order to find it. 

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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Vermont Author Ann Dávila Cardinal, whose latest supernatural YA thriller  is Category Five (Tor Teen). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously offered by my guest, Ann Dávila Cardinal. She says that it’s not a prompt, exactly, but an exercise in encouragement:

Get three smallish pieces of paper. 

1) On the first one, write down your short term writing goals, say for the next week. Even day by day. It can be to write 1,000 words, or finish a chapter of revision, or journal everyday for a week. 

2) On the second, write down your goal for the year. Send out a certain number of submissions, finish a full draft, pull together a poetry chapbook. Whatever that looks like for you.

3) And finally, on the third, write down your long term writing goals. To be a published writer, to teach writing, to publish a book a year or every other year, to build a writing life. 

Put the first one somewhere you will see it every day. When the week is over, look at it, and access how you did. Adjust your goals for next week accordingly. The second one, put it away somewhere nearby, but not in immediate sight. Somewhere you will find it over the next year and be reminded, a jewelry box, in a book you look at a couple of times a year, in the tool box. For the third one, Ann recommends doing what Dr. Tererai Trent suggests in her book The Awakened Woman, and "plant your dreams." Either in a garden or a pot you then use for a plant, or even a park. Visit the place you planted your dreams as often as you need to, but trust that you are creating "intentional rootedness." If this is too "woo woo" for you, says Ann, don't worry about planting it, write down your three levels of goals and work towards them. Period. The point is, build that writing life your way.

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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UVM Professor Emeritus Robert Manning and Artist Martha Manning, authors of several books on long distance walking, including the subject of our 2013 conversation, Walking Distance: Extraordinary Hikes for Ordinary People (OSU Press).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to write about a famous walk. This could mean Steven Newman’s famous solo walk around the world, or it could mean your own child’s first steps. 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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American academic and political advisor, Stanley "Huck" Gutman, who writes a newsletter about poetry which is distributed by email and through the UVM listserv, "Poetry."

See below for links to pages featuring some of the works that Huck and I discuss during the interview. 

This week's Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Huck Gutman, who writes:

The surprising subject of many, many poems of the past two hundred years has been the need to pay attention to what is right in front of us, of what is so ‘ordinary’ that we look at it, through it, but don’t see it.  In some sense, our lived reality is invisible to us; in our habitual movement through our lives, we don’t pay attention to what is actually there in front of us and around us.

So as a writing prompt, I would suggest writing about something right in front of you that you don’t normally ‘see.’  For many, this is an object; for some, like Wordsworth, it is a person who seems ordinary but who has that amazing spark that is the emblem of life. 

 Among the life of ordinary things is where our existence takes place.  A poem can recognize that in the ‘ordinary’ are the things that make our world our world.  Write about such a thing.  (If you want to see what this looks like, lots of William Carlos Williams poems do this; so do a lot of poems by Elizabeth Bishop; so do the remarkable ‘Odes’ to common things that Pablo Neruda wrote in the later years of his life…) (For ‘ordinary’ people, there is Wordsworth; there is always that superlative writer – though not a poet – Anton Chekov. )

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

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

Works Discussed:

Paul Celan, "Once" 

T.S. Eliot, "The Waste Land"

Zbigniew Herbert, "Five Men"

Tim O'Brien, "The Things They Carried"

Stevie Smith, "Not Waving But Drowning"

Wallace Stevens, "Sunday Morning"

Walt Whitman, "Song of Myself 47 "

C.K. Williams, "Jew On Bridge"

William Carlos Williams:

"Calypso II"

"This is Just to Say"

"Asphodel, That Greeny Flower"

William Wordsworth, Extracts from the Prelude: [Ascent of Snowdon]

Paul Zimmer, "A Romance for the Wild Turkey"

 

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

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

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

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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Vermont Author Julia Alvarez on her new novel, Afterlife (Algonquin). 

This week I have two Write the Book Prompts to offer, both generously suggested by my guest, Julia Alvarez. First, a prompt she learned about when she was researching titles for her book. In considering the title Afterlife, she researched, as authors do, to be sure her book’s title was original and unique. As she did this work, she found out about another book titled Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives, by the neuroscientist David Eagleman. The book offers forty short, imaginative narratives on the theme of God and the afterlife. Julia says the pieces are sometimes funny, sometimes not, but they are all clever and inspiring. She suggests a writing prompt in which we write such a piece: a 2-3 page vignette that imagines what happens when we leave this life.

The second prompt Julia suggests is to write a six-word story or bio. Hemingway famously penned this one: For sale: baby shoes, never worn. Julia was once asked to contribute to a book titled NOT QUITE WHAT I WAS PLANNING: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous & Obscure, edited by Smith Magazine. As Julia points out, it can be hard to do! If you like, you can narrow it down to what your life is like in this particular year. Either way, here is a six-word prompt for you, from Julia Alvarez:  Write your story in six words. 

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 Poet James Crews, whose new collection is Bluebird (Green Writers Press).

As a Write the Book Prompt for this interview, let's consider Ted Kooser's advice for James Crews, mentioned during our conversation: Open a poem like a handshake.

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

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

This is one of several shorter interviews Shelagh is conducting with Vermont authors whose new books have had their tours upended by Corona.  

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A conversation with Vermont author Ginny Sassaman, whose new book is Preaching Happiness: Creating a Just and Joyful World (Rootstock).

For a Write the Book Prompt, write about what has made you happy in the past week.

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

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

This is one of several shorter interviews Shelagh is conducting with Vermont authors whose new books have had their tours upended by Corona.  

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Sixth Generation Vermonter Bill Torrey, whose new memoir is Cutting Remarks: 40 Years in the Forest (Onion River Press). 

Prompt: Write about a recent walk in the woods. What was the weather like? What did you see and hear? How did your boots sound walking over the ground? Were there any animals about? Did the trees make sounds above you? Was there water running nearby? If you haven't been lately, perhaps go into the woods now. And then write. 

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

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

This is one of several shorter interviews Shelagh is conducting with Vermont authors whose new books have had their tours upended by Corona.  Stay tuned: there will be more! 

 

 

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Vermont Poet Scudder Parker, whose new collection of poems is Safe as Lightning (Rootstock Press).

Write the Book Prompt: Consider Scudder Parker’s advice about not being intimidated to write poetry. He says to turn to the singer songwriters you love and read their lyrics. Realize you’ve been experiencing poetry all your life, in the words of hymns, arias, folk songs, and pop music. All of that is poetry set to music. Poetry tries to create music. Don’t be intimidated by trying to write poetry. You’ve been feeling the mystery of it and the rhythm of it all your life. 

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

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

This is one of several shorter interviews Shelagh is conducting with Vermont authors whose new books have had their tours upended by Corona. Stay tuned: there will be more! 

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Robert S. Foster, whose new historical work is The Granville Hermit (Onion River)

Write the Book Prompt: Have you ever known of a hermit? When you were a child, were there stories about reclusive people in your town? Or maybe you were related to someone who preferred a life of isolation and solitude. If so, write about that person this week. If not, consider what that life might be like. How would you get food? How would you manage problems, health care, simple loneliness? When you had to interact, how difficult might that be for you? Use the answers to these questions as inspiration, and write.

Good luck with your work, and please keep tuning in for more prompts and suggestions.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

This is one of several shorter interviews Shelagh is conducting with Vermont authors whose new books have had their tours upended by Corona. Stay tuned: there will be more! And if you'd like to order Butch's book through his local-to-Granville bookstore, that would be Sandy's Books & Bakery in Rochester. 

 

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