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Vermont Poet Michelle Demers, whose new collection is Green Mountain Zen (Blue Light Press). 

This week's Write the Book Prompt was generously offered by my guest, Michelle Demers, who has a large staple of writing books from which she pulls exercises for herself and her classes. The exercise, titled "The Word Hoard," appears in The Cambridge Introduction to Creative Writing, by David Morley. Morley writes, “You should try to do this exercise every day, not only to keep your writing mind limber, but also to create a hoard of original and unusual phrases from which you can draw when you are writing. ‘Word hoard’ is a ‘kenning’ (a Norse poetic device ...), meaning ‘a supply of words’, such as a book, or vocabulary itself.”

Go to a shelf of books of fiction or poetry. Take one book at random. Close your eyes while opening that book and place your finger somewhere in it. Your finger will have landed on a word or words. Write the word down, as well as the three words preceding it and the three words following it in the text. You now have a seven-word phrase. Write this phrase in your notebook and, once you have written it, keep writing for five minutes. There are only two rules to this game: you must not stop writing; and you must not think. Try to write as fast as you can. You are not producing a work of art. After five minutes, you should have covered quite a lot of pages. Now read what you have written. Read it forwards, then read through it, word for word, backwards. Underline one phrase that strikes you as possessing any one of the following qualities: it has energy; it surprises you; it has never been written before in your language. The phrase must make a kind of sense; it must possess its own inner sense at the very least. That is, it must not be completely opaque in meaning. It might be a whole sentence, or it might be the end of one sentence and the beginning of the next. Now, write a short story or poem in which this phrase occurs without it seeming in any way out of place. You might wish to place the phrase into the mouth of a speaker in the poem or story, for example.

A I M : When we strive to be original, we tend to get tongue-tied, for we have been long taught that originality is no longer possible.  ... this ‘free-writing’ exercise is effective for warming up for writing, but it is also effective at creating unusual phrases, ones that possess a surprising amount of personal linguistic energy. You are trying to capture ideas and sentences that you would not ordinarily come up with consciously.

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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Cai Emmons, author of Weather Woman (Red Hen Press). As I mentioned on the show, the book trailer is great. Find it on YouTube

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is based on a fiction exercise created by Cai Emmons for the 2006 book Now Write! Fiction Writing Exercises from Today's Best Writers and Teachers, by Sherry Ellis. I’ve edited the prompt for our show, but Cai’s own language can be found in that book. It’s called “Braiding Time.”

Cai opens the exercise with thoughts on how our pleasure in reading fiction is similar to the pleasure of snooping. We get a peek into the lives, physical spaces, and thoughts of other people. And in fiction, it’s okay - we’re allowed to be there, snooping! In fiction, we get to go even deeper than we can in actual life. We see into characters’ emotions and reactions; we have the right to understand both what is happening to them, and how they feel about it. Much of the process of knowing a character is learning how she thinks; this exercise helps us develop that understanding through how she experiences time, which, Cai explains, is an intricate braid of three strands: present, past, future.

Here’s the prompt:  Choose a character to write about, one you want to better understand. You are going to write four paragraphs about this character. First, write a paragraph in which your character is involved in some ongoing action: cooking a meal, searching for something that’s been lost, getting ready for an evening out--something like that. The prompt works best if the character is faced with some conflict or problem to deal with.

Staying with the ongoing activity, write a second paragraph in which this character considers something that is going to happen in the future. In the third paragraph, write about a past event that your character is moved to recall due to some trigger from the ongoing action he or she is engaged in. Finally, in the final paragraph, use elements of forward- and backward-looking to help your character continue with or finish the action. Try to make the transitions between times feel smooth and uninterrupted.

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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Author Will Dowd, whose debut essay collection is  Areas of Fog (Etruscan Press). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Will Dowd, who suggests you begin writing about the weather, let your mind free-associate, and see where the winds take you!

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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Former Deputy Associate Director at the White House Office of Management and Budget Meg Little Reilly, author of We Are Unprepared (MIRA Books). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt concerns the word storm, which has many uses, perhaps because of the impact that storms have always had on the populations that experience them. Here are a few brief definitions and synonyms: a violent disturbance of the atmosphere with strong winds and usually rain, thunder, lightning, or snow. Windstorm, tempest, whirlwind, gale, squall. A tumultuous reaction; an uproar or controversy. As a verb, it can mean to move angrily or forcefully in a specified direction. To storm off, stomp, march, stalk, flounce, stamp. It can be a sudden attack and capture by means of force. “Someone stormed the capital yesterday.”

Write a story, poem, essay or scene in which any form of the word “storm” or one of its synonyms has significance. If you have a friend who spells her name G-A-L-E, then you can go ahead and write about her.

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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