Archive for the 'Writers' Block' Category

lvw.jpgInterview from the archives with then-president of the League of Vermont Writers, Deb Fennell.

It is now officially football season. The Bills have a win, the Patriots, a loss. But it’s early days. This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to write about a football game that begins in a friendly way and turns nasty. It can be about a Thanksgiving touch football game, or a group of old friends coming together to watch the Superbowl. It can be about high school parents, professional players, the fans, or the guy selling beer and hot dogs. Be sure to describe the weather, the smells and sounds and colors.

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

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Interview from the archives with Tim Brookes, author of eleven books, including Thirty Percent Chance of Enlightenment.


Today’s Write The Book Prompt is inspired by the Endangered Alphabets Project, founded by my guest, Tim Brookes. Think back to some aspect of your own life that was once important to you, or to an entire community, but disappeared or ended for some reason. This could be a tradition, a celebration, a place, a sports team, a family recipe, a song. It doesn’t have to be as important an issue as an entire language that’s going extinct, though if you have such an inspiration, go with it. Write about that aspect of your life that was vital to you, then write about how you lost it, and what that has meant for you, and if it exists anymore in any form for anyone else.
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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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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Writer and psychologist Matt Fried, MA, PhD, MFA. Among other things, Matt teaches workshops on writers' block. In October, he'll be leading sessions at the St. Augustine Writers' Conference.

Today’s Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Matt Fried. Write about a way in which you usually protect yourself in your daily life. You can define protection any way you like: emotionally, communication-wise, physically, etc. Then write about the reason or reasons you believe you protect yourself this way. Ask yourself: do I still need to do this? Finally, write about what might be a better (more effective, less emotionally costly) way to accomplish self-protection.

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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Interview from the archives with novelist Alice Lichtenstein. We discussed her book, Lost, which was published in March 2010 by Scribner.

Today's Write The Book Prompt is to write about either an arrogant, opinionated person committing a subtle act, or a shy, nervous person creating a public disturbance.

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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Interviews highlighting three local groups that are making the Burlington area writing community much richer: The Burlington Writers' Workshop (Peter Biello), The Renegade Writers' Collective (Angela Palm and Jessica Hendry Nelson), and The Writers' Barn (Lin Stone and Daniel Lusk).

Today I have two Write The Book Prompts. The first is to write about two interactions between lifelong friends: the first time they meet, and the last time they meet. Limit each scene to a page, but try to intimate a whole friendship into those two pages, letting us know who these people are, how they eventually influence each other, how important they become in each other's lives.

Today's second prompt was suggested by my guest, the poet Daniel Lusk. It's a prompt he used recently in the poetry group at the Writers Barn: Write a poem with a red dress in it.
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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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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Author and teacher Lawrence Sutin, who publishes books in multiple genres including biography, memoir, history and the novel. At the time we spoke, in December 2009, his latest was When To Go into the Water, published by Sarabande Books.

Today’s Write The Book Prompt is inspired by something I found on Lawrence Sutin’s website - a project he calls Erasure Books. He works with “old, sturdy” texts, and erases or crosses out most of the original text in an attempt to find something unexpected and alive. He also erases image, and creates collage out of images in new texts. You can find a more detailed explanation, with examples, on his website.

This week, your prompt is to take a discarded piece of your own work, something you didn’t like or use for whatever reason, and practice erasure to salvage something pleasing or worthwhile or new. Here’s an example, using the opening paragraph of a story I never did anything with:

  1. Billy liked to watch the rainbow puddles form on the cracked slopes of the garage floor. So many cars dripped oil through here, and puddles formed, swirling with color when the temperature rose above freezing. It was almost spring, so he didn't need the heat on inside the booth anymore. In the winter, he sometimes slipped off his boots and rubbed his woolen feet over the small heater's scalding surface. But now it was warmer out, almost spring. The metal box remained on the floor, and once summer came, he'd flip a switch and turn it into a fan. It was off today, though.
  2. Billy liked rainbow puddles on cracked swirling color. Freezing inside the booth. In the winter, boots rubbed the scalding surface. Once summer, turn today.

So I’m pretty sure I need to keep going - playing with these erasures - but that’s an interesting start to something different. Maybe a poem, or maybe a new way to present Billy’s world, by erasing some extraneous words to turn the paragraph on its side and see it differently.

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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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 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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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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Vermont Writer and Writing Coach, Tamar Cole (tamarcole21@gmail.com).

This week's Write The Book Prompt is inspired by a prompt that Tamar Cole has used in her writing workshops. She offers a word and then has participants write six lines about that word, or influenced by that word. So let's do that. In honor of Hurricane Sandy, the word for this week's prompt is STORM. Think about the word storm, and write six lines. Or more!

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 from the archives with Vermont Psychologist Arnold Kozak, author of Wild Chickens and Petty Tyrants: 108 Metaphors for Mindfulness (2009, Wisdom Publications) and The Everything Buddhism Book (2011, Adams Media).

Prompt: Today's Write The Book Prompt was inspired by the interview you heard today with Arnold Kozak. The thirtieth metaphor for mindfulness in his book, Wild Chickens and Petty Tyrants, begins this way: "In many Buddhist works, the mind and the self are often compared to a small pool of water. Thoughts can be seen as a breeze or wind blowing on the surface. These disturbances obscure what can be seen below the surface-the bottom of the pool, the ground of being-without changing it in any way. This ground is there, always there, no matter what is happening on the surface." Today's prompt turns that metaphor to writing. Consider the piece you're now working on. Maybe it's a novel, a memoir, a collection of stories or poetry. Perhaps it's a smaller entity: an essay or story or poem.  The work itself has an underlying essence, apart from the various images, snippets of dialogue, and actual scenes that exist within. As you write, try to keep a sense of this underlying essence within your work, your vision for it as a whole. Imagine that to be the bottom of the pool. Then, as you work, as you lose yourself in the wonderful creative act, feel free to create ripples along the top of the pool, to experiment and change and play with various elements within the work, all the while keeping clear in your own mind the bottom of the pool. Maintain some sort of focus, so that your work continues to embody that underlying vision, your writing's "ground of being" that is the bottom of the pool.

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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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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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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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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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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Interview From the Archives with Vermont Author of Memoir, Fiction and Nonfiction, Christopher Noel, whose most recent books include Impossible Visits: The Inside Story of Interactions with Sasquatch at Habituation Sites, and A Frail House: Stories.

Today's Write The Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Chris Noel in 2009, when I first interviewed him. It's a great prompt, and fitting for Halloween, so I'm repeating it now.

During the interview, Chris mentioned that writers should meditate on the monsters that move us, those mysterious creatures that fascinated and perhaps repelled us when we were small. Contemplate the monster that lived under your bed, inside your closet, or outside your window, and then free write. This is a great way to enlighten or SHOW yourself what interests and motivates you. It may well also show you something you'd forgotten or hadn't even realized about yourself.

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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Interview from the archives with award-winning fiction writer, Diane Lefer.
No prompt this week. Take it easy! And then please listen next week for a new prompt...

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

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

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

*

My Punishment

I get up before the sun,

make a fire in the woodstove,

boil water, make tea,

watch the dawn come.

Then I get back in bed,

under the quilt,

propped up on my pillows,

read a little, drink my tea

and stare out the window

at the snow coming down.

.

Oh, this lazybones life!

.

Others rush off to work while

I lie here in silence waiting for

a few words to come drifting

over from the Other Side.

No wonder I never make any money.

I am being punished

for having such a good time.

~ David Budbill

*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Interview from the archives (July 2009) with Sue William Silverman, author of Because I Remember Terror, Father, I Remember You; Love Sick: One Woman's Journey Through Sexual Addiction; and Fearless Confessions: A Guide to Writing Memoir.

Prompt: Today’s Write The Book Prompt comes from my guest, Sue William Silverman, who included it in her new book on craft, Fearless Confessions. Recall a photograph from childhood, or dig one out of an old album. Write a paragraph about it using the voice and sensibility of who you were when the photograph was taken. Then, write a paragraph about it through the voice and sensibility of who you are now. Next, write a third paragraph that combines the perspectives of the first two: a paragraph that speaks in both the Voice of Innocence and the Voice of Experience. 

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

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

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

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

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

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Kristin Kimball, NY Farmer and Author of The Dirty Life: On Farming, Food, and Love.

This week's Write the Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Kristin Kimball. Write about your grandmother by describing her home. If you don't have a living memory of your grandmother, pick somebody else from your childhood who was very important to you, and describe that person by describing their home.

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

Many thanks to the South Burlington Community Library for hosting this interview in front of an audience of their patrons!

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

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Deborah Fennell, President of the League of Vermont Writers.

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

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

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

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Pulitzer Prize Winning Author Geraldine Brooks, whose latest novel is Caleb's Crossing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Interview with author of poetry and prose Sydney Lea. Hosted by Shelagh C. Shapiro, Write The Book airs on WOMM-LP 105.9 FM “The Radiator,” in Burlington, Vermont, every Saturday morning at 9:00 a.m. - a new time for the new hour-long format.

Prompt: Today’s Write The Book Prompt concerns setting. How can a writer describe setting in such a way that it informs readers about a character’s or narrator’s state of mind? Consider the following two excerpts from works by Sydney Lea:

From his essay, “Alone With Friends: A Journal Toward Springtime”

… Landy and I sat for a spell on the tailgate, staring at the clean dark that walked at a human pace up the mountains, feeling a flake or two of snow on our wrists and faces, noting a heron who came languidly flapping out of a back pond, roost-bound early.

From his poem, “The Author in March”

Remnant, rank corn snow

.   perspires like dirty dough.

What few drab birds there are

.   don’t fly up very far,

So hard do the clouds bear down.

.   Not much to this splotch of a town—

Flue smoke, smalltalk, clutter.

.   Last autumn’s leaves clog gutters

Here’s this week’s prompt. Imagine a place in a poem or story you’re writing or are thinking about writing. Using minimal description, make a list of several things—five or six details—that exist in that setting. Now rewrite the list, describing those same details as seen from the perspective of a character who is upset, frustrated or depressed. Then write the list one last time, describing these same things from the point of view of a character who is happy, optimistic or excited. Don’t change the actual details of place, but the lens through which they are viewed. Good luck with this exercise and please listen next week for another.

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

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A Rerun of a January 2009 WTB interview with Abby Frucht, former Iowa Short Fiction award winner and writer of short stories, novels, essays and reviews.

Today's Write The Book Prompt was inspired by this week's interview with Abby Frucht. In discussing her work, Abby explained that, to her, specific detail achieves two purposes. First, "it allows the reader to have an immediate physical investment in the story." And second, it can have larger significance, serving a figurative function in the narrative and acting as a signpost for the reader. In the case of her story, "The Dead Car," the detailed description of the spoon that was lost may later be brought back to remind the reader that this spoon speaks to loss, generally. Not just the loss of a certain object, but other kinds of loss, as well.

In your own work, study the descriptions that already exist and see if you can use specific detail to your advantage, not simply to embellish, but to help readers experience the work more fully. Try to find objects that already exist in the work, then heighten their function through detail. Avoid wedging in symbols; try to allow significant details to arise organically.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This week's Write The Book Prompt is inspired by the interview you heard today with bestselling novelist Kate Atkinson. This one's simple. Find a line in a poem you like, and let it grow to become something you can write about. Not necessarily what the poet was writing about. In our interview,  Kate Atkinson said that she began this book knowing only that she wanted to use Emily Dickinson's line, "Started Early - Took My Dog," for the title. She said during our talk that if you know your title in this way, "you don't have a blank page, you have something written down. ... it gives you a focus for your thoughts." Whether you use a favorite line of poetry as a title for another work, or merely as inspiration is up to you. Give it a try, and see if the blank page looks less daunting in this way.

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

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

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Charles Barasch, Poet and Crossword Puzzle Creator.

This week's Write The Book Prompt is inspired by the interview you heard today with Charlie Barasch. If you enjoy crosswords, find a newspaper or website that offers puzzles that you particularly like, and solve that day's puzzle. If you don't enjoy crosswords, use an already-solved puzzle from previous days. In either case, take all the words from a solved crossword, and try to work them into a story, poem, chapter or essay.

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

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Interview with James Kochalka, Vermont's First Cartoonist Laureate.

This week, James Kochalka offered one Write the Book Prompt and I offered another:

James' prompt: Think back to an encounter you had with someone today and write a paragraph about it. My prompt: Draw a cartoon of yourself with a person that you know and a pet. James then suggested there might be a way to combine these prompts ... Cool.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A Discussion Of Writers' Block with Angelique and Morella Devost, Hypnotherapists and Practitioners of Neuro-Linguistic Programming.

This week we have two Write The Book Prompts, suggested by my guests. Morella and Angelique Devost. The first is the prompt you heard Angelique mention in the interview, to write about a "Fraught Drive in a Car." And the second is to consider the idea that Morella mentioned, What would you do if you could not fail? And then write with that sense of possibility.

Good luck with these exercises and please listen next week for another. And check out these articles, if you're interested in resources about the work that Morella and Angelique Devost do.

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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