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Archive for the 'Writing Craft' Category

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American Novelist and Poet Rosellen Brown, whose latest is The Lake on Fire (Sarabande). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Rosellen Brown: "Use questions and answers." She has found this an intriguing way to write. She offers the Mark Strand poem “Elegy For My Father” as an example. In the poem, Strand poses a question to his father, is given an inadequate or dishonest answer, and so asks the question again, to receive a more honest answer. He does this several times with many different questions. Rosellen herself used a questionnaire to format a story in her collection Street Games, offering both standard questions like name, address, but also crazy questions, like “Have you ever wished to die at the height of the sex act?” She has found it very fruitful with students.

[Also, during our conversation, Rosellen mentioned the site S for Sentence. Seems like another great resource to check out!]

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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American novelist, essayist and poet Barbara Kingsolver, whose new book is Unsheltered (Harper).

Barbara Kingsolver is one of the reasons that I write. I loved Animal Dreams, her 1990 novel published by Harper Collins. After I finished that book, the voices of Kingsolver's characters would not leave me alone (in a good way). I recalled how much I love to write, and began to write a book of my own. Since that time, writing has offered solace, inspiration, satisfaction, and a sense of achievement. Reading her beautiful prose always inspires me to go to my desk. So today - sure, call it a Prompt -  I encourage you to seek out the work you love, read it again, let it wash over and inspire 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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Evan Fallenberg, author, translator and faculty co-director of the Vermont College of Fine Arts International MFA in Creative Writing & Literary Translation. His new novel is The Parting Gift (The Other Press)

One of the reviews of The Parting Gift suggests that it compels us “to confront the parts of ourselves we’d rather not look at.” This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to do just that. Write something that will compel a reader to confront something that he or she would rather not.

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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Interview with former Vermont Governor Madeleine May Kunin about her memoir, Coming of Age: My Journey to the Eighties (Green Writers Press).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to write about a transition from one era to another in your own life, as Madeleine May Kunin has written about her journey to the eighties. Are you a new teenager? A new parent? Have you recently gone through menopause? Have you retired? We are all forever going through transitions, but how often do we write about these changes in our lives, minds, bodies? 

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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Interview from the archives (and my old station, The Radiator!) with writer, nurse and humanitarian aid worker Roberta Gately, author of Lipstick in Afghanistan and The Bracelet.

This week's Write the Book Prompt is to turn on the television, find a drama, and write down the first sentence you hear. Use that as the first sentence in a new piece of work. Of course, if it's so unique that you'll later be accused of plagerism, go ahead and take it out after you've used it for inspiration. 

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

Music Credit: John Fink

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Vermont Poet Ralph Culver, recorded live in the studios at WBTV-LP. We discuss Ralph's new chapbook, So Be It.

Happy National Poetry Month! 

This week we have three Write the Book Prompts. Ralph suggested two during our conversation.

1) The first extends his point about how "ridiculously broad" or "OCD specific" prompts can be. You can tell someone "write twenty lines of blank verse," or you can be specific: Write twenty lines of blank verse representing one side of a phone conversation between two spouses who are arguing about money. (It's possible Ralph offered this prompt with tongue in cheek, but I liked it, so I'm including it here.)

2) Write a poem about something or someone you lost.

3) My own suggestion is inspired by Ralph's poem "Fill Up," in which the narrator notices his own distorted reflection in the metal of a dented car ashtray. The distortion is literal, but it bends the poem as well, affecting the way in which we think about what we've read. In your work this week, include a literal reflection in your poetry or prose. See how a reflection in water, a window, a mirror... might affect someone's view of him- or herself, or of someone else or their surroundings. 

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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American novelist and short story writer Yang Huang. Her new novel in stories is My Old Faithful, winner of the Juniper Prize for Fiction (University of Massachusetts Press).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Yang Huang. Alter the rhythm of your writing to jog your creative mind. First, work on a problematic scene by focusing closely on the language, painstakingly going over every word choice, until you make it work or realize this needs to be cut.

After a short break, return to the desk and write as fast as you can, hardly reading what you wrote. Silence the inner critic for the time being, and set your mind free. Write for an hour, until you slow down, or you want to read over the passage.

Sleep on it. Edit the passage next day and throw away any material you cannot use. Analyze the movement in your narrative. What have you discovered about the story and characters?

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

Music by Aaron Shapiro

 

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Prize-Winning Author Michael Andreasen, whose new story collection is The Sea Beast Takes a Lover (Dutton). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Michael Andreasen. Try to find an oblique angle - an odd vector of approach. Sometimes this is as simple as not starting in the place where you have the impulse to start. So if your charaters are in a room, perhaps begin in the other corner of that room. Describe the air coming in the vents, or something happening outside the window. Or maybe a sink in a nearby bathroom is making a noise. Move the focus someplace else. We have such an urge to get to the ONE thing we want to talk about, and talking about only that thing can become boring. A dripping faucet, or an unattended child spotted through a window, about to wander into the street, can ramp up the tension.

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

Music by Aaron Shapiro

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New York Times bestselling author Robin Oliveira, whose new novel is Winter Sisters (Viking).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to consider how it must have been to live before weather could be predicted: imagine how it would be to not know if your day would hold sunshine, wind, ice, rain. Write about unexpected weather.

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

Music by Aaron Shapiro

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Author, literary critic and philosopher Martin Puchner, whose new book is The Written World: The Power of Stories to Shape People, History, Civilization (Random House).

What is one of the earliest legends you remember coming across? Was it a biblical story, such as that of Cain and Abel? Was it the story of Ulysses (or Odysseus), perhaps in a form published for children? Or maybe it was the Thousand and One Nights? This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to consider an early legend that had an effect on you, and write with that story in mind. Perhaps write a contemporary take on the story itself. Or give consideration to the moral of the tale and write in an effort to share the same ethical lessons. You could also research the ways in which that early legend might have influenced historical events and write about that.

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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