Archive for the 'Writing' Category

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An interview with Alma Katsu, whose latest is The Deep (Putnam).

For this episode's Write the Book Prompt, I'd like to reiterate Alma Katsu's advice about research. Narrow your focus before delving in too deeply. Keep it manageable, for you and your readers.

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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Rob Harrell, cartoonist and author - most recently - of Wink, a novel for middle graders (Dial).

Rob Harrell generously offered a Write the Book Prompt for today’s show. He created this one for kids. Come up with an unlikely super hero, and come up with their origin story, their powers, and what their costume looks like. Try to make it an unlikely super hero, like a BatPig. 

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and please tune in each week for more prompts and great conversations about books and writing.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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An interview with Laurette Folk, author of the new novel The End of Aphrodite (Bordighera).

Here, you can find The Compassion Anthology, the journal that Laurette edits.

During our interview, Laurette Folk mentioned working after meditation as a way to engage her creativity. Specifically, after having a particularly vivid dream, she plays Tibetan bowl audio and meditates, in an effort to recapture the dream. Laurette says the bowl vibration is said to change how our consciousness works, drawing people into a deeper state. After that, she goes to her workspace and writes. This is the Writing Prompt that she suggests.

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

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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An interview with the author Phyllis Barber, whose new novel is The Desert Between Us (University of Nevada Press).

Phyllis Barber kindly suggested a Write the Book Prompt for us. Go to your writing desk first thing in the morning, when your mind is fresh and not bogged down with tasks and duties. Doing this, writing first thing, from the lip of your mind - writing fast and not editing yourself - can be so useful. Set down whatever idea comes without worrying if you’ll be able to use it. Just have fun. Let your morning brain liberate your creativity.

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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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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Local entrepreneur Janice Shade's new book is Moving Mountains: The Power of Main Street Americans to Change Our Economy (Onion River Press). 

Write the Book Prompt: Can you imagine "economic justice for all?" What would that look like? How would it different from our present system? Can you think of a few small, symbolic images that might represent achieving that vision? Does it bring to mind a person or group from your past? If so, maybe write about them today. Let the expression, taken from Janice Shade's book description, inspire you. Think hard about economic justice for all, and write. 

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 Janice's book through her local bookstore, that would be Phoenix Books.  

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An interview with Sharon Cameron, author most recently of The Light in Hidden Places (Scholastic Books).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Sharon Cameron, who finds the availability of online oral histories fascinating and invaluable as she works. She suggested, as an exercise, finding oral histories--immigrant stories, personal experiences from wars, and interviews--on youtube or in university collections, among other places. Listen and, if you’re lucky, watch these oral histories and create a story out of what you learn. Overlay your own creativity atop these stories. She warns that this is simply a good exercise, and it’s important to choose the right stories to tell, if you plan to take them public. Use this exercise to stretch your writing muscle. 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 Judith Chalmer, whose new collection of poems is Minnow (Kelsay Press). 

This week's Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Judith Chalmer. Start observing using your hand. This can be a very rich approach to writing, Judith says, because what comes to hand can be physical and what comes to hand can be metaphysical. The hand itself is a landscape that can be a wonderful subject. But apart from that, the exercise offers a way of starting close in and moving out, with observation as the starting point. Good luck with your work in the coming week, and tune in next week for another prompt or suggestion.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

 

Like many authors with recent book publications in the age of the Corona Virus, Judith Chalmer found herself in the predicament of having a book, but no launch or physical book tour. In order to help these authors find their audience, Write the Book is offering a series of mini-interviews with Vermont authors whose launches have been cancelled. Check back for more of these short-but-deep conversations on craft. And if you want to investigate her book through Judith's local bookseller, that would be Bear Pond Books in Montpelier. 

 

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Vermont Author Kerrin McCadden, whose new chapbook is Keep This to Yourself (Button Poetry). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Kerrin McCadden. 

  • Choose 12 words you like the sound of (mostly 1-2 syllable words). Include a place name, a weather element, a geological feature, some verbs, and a garment in your list.
  • Set a timer for 7 minutes. 
  • Begin writing. Do not stop. Do not cross out anything you write. Use at least 10 out of 12 of the words on the list. You may modify word forms to fit the sentences as they emerge. If you had the word “belt” you could use “belted,” for instance.

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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Just in time for Saint Patrick's Day! A conversation with the very Irish (American) Kathryn Guare, author of Deceptive Cadence, the first of the Conor McBride series of international suspense novels. 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to think about where you’d most like to be quarantined, and write about what would meet your expectations as you spent time in that place, and what might defy them.

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

Music: Aaron Shapiro

 

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An interview with Megan Angelo, author of the debut novel Followers (Graydon House). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Megan Angelo. She thought of it in response to a feeling of regret around the lack of spontaneity in her life at a certain point. It has, in time, become a helpful writing tool for her. Go somewhere today, like the pharmacy or the DMV or a diner that does not play loud music. Do not look at your phone the entire time. And either see what kind of conversation you might get into with someone else who isn’t buried in a phone, or eavesdrop on a conversation. If you absolutely have to take notes because the conversation gets away from you, you may. But don’t use your phone for anything else than note taking while you conduct the exercise. Megan says that this has paid off enormous dividends whenever she has done 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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An interview from 2013 with the author Anne Lamott, who that year co-authored (with her son, Sam) Some Assembly Required: A Journal of My Son's First Son (Riverhead).

This week's Write the Book Prompt is to consider: How would you spend your birthday if, as Anne was during our conversation, you were on a book tour? 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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Author Amy Bonnaffons, whose debut novel is The Regrets (Little Brown).

This week's Write the Book Prompt is to head over to the site Amy Bonnaffons co-founded, 7x7.la, and browse for inspiration. Offering "interdisciplinary collaboration, each 7×7 invites one visual artist and one writer to engage in a two-week creative conversation." Lots to enjoy, and surely lots of inspiration for new work there as well. 

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 with the author Kathleen Donohoe, whose latest is Ghosts of the Missing (Mariner), a novel that follows the mysterious disappearance of a twelve-year-old girl during a town parade.

This week's Write the Book Prompt was generously offered by my guest, Kathleen Donohoe. Open a favorite poetry collection to a random page, write the first line of the poem you see there, and let that be the starting point for your writing session. Kathleen finds that, even if that first line can't stay ultimately, this can be an excellent way into new work. 

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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Canadian Journalist Jessica McDiarmid, author of Highway of Tears: A True Story of Racism, Indifference, and the Pursuit of Justice for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (Atria).

This week's Write the Book Prompt is to write a poem, a story, an essay, or a reflection about a person who has disappeared. 

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 the author Ann Patchett about her essay collection, This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage (Harper Perennial). 

Recent impeachment coverage has me remembering that, when I was nine years old, Richard Nixon’s impeachment hearings were on the television every afternoon, pre-empting my cartoons. This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to write about a child’s perspective on some contemporary political moment.

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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Cynthia Newberry Martin, whose debut novel is Tidal Flats (Bonhomie Press).

This week I’m going to suggest two Write the Book Prompts, both of which were part of my interview with Cynthia.

  • First, think of black and white passions for your characters and write in that direction. See if you uncover something new and interesting that might stay black and white, or might become more layered and complex. See where it takes you.
  • The second prompt was suggested during the interview by Cynthia, who loves sentences. Turn to a random page in a piece that you are working on and study the sentences you find on that page. Where are the boring ones? What can you get rid of? Do away with anything unnecessary. So many first-draft sentences are boring or unnecessary. After that, try to make the remaining sentences more interesting. In the aftermath of our interview, she added yet another layer to this exercise. As you try to make the remaining sentences more interesting, consider looking Shirley Hazzard’s The Transit of Venus. One example from Cynthia: Instead of “Pearl Harbor was bombed,” or something banal, Hazzard writes, “One hot day Caro looked up Pearl Harbor in the atlas.” This brings the information to the reader by way of character. Try, likewise, to bring information through your own characters, making more interesting and relevant sentences.

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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Lisa Moore Ramée, whose debut middle grade novel is A Good Kind of Trouble (Balzer + Bray).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Lisa Moore Ramée, and was inspired by an exercise that was assigned in the workshop she attended led by Renée Watson. Take your two main characters and put them in direct opposition. Have them fight or argue about something that they really care about. You may or may not end up using the scene, but it will probably help clarify who your characters are and what they want.

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 Benjamin Percy, whose new story collection is Suicide Woods (Graywolf).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to consider the blueprint exercise that Benjamin Percy mentioned assigning to his students so that they might better understand structure. Choose a favorite story and read it many times, enough that you know it inside and out. Then read it again, taking notes. Try to identify the beats of the story: the way, for example, that setting might relay theme, or dialogue might inform character weakness. After you make meticulous notes on your discoveries, write a story that tries to follow this same blueprint but bears no resemblance to the original. Perhaps then write an explanation about what you did, so that you can return to it and continue to study and understand the outcome as you write more stories. Most importantly: write more stories.

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 Abby Frucht, whose new collection of prose poems is Maids (Matter Press)

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was inspired by my conversation with Abby Frucht. In her own book, Maids, Abby followed one poem in which, as a child, she snuggles with her mom at the end, with a poem titled “Spoons,” which does not relate directly to the concept of snuggling or "spooning." And yet, because of the relevant placement of the works in the collection, they somehow do. Abby talked about an exercise that she gives her students, encouraging them to look at the beginnings and endings of different pieces they’ve written, and see how they might choose to order a collection. This week, if you are the author of poems, stories, or essays, have a look at your pieces and consider how they might best fit together into a collection. Watch beginnings and endings for ideas, words, expressions, or intentions that somehow speak to each other. Think about how they might work in transition, from one to the other.

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 Jon Clinch, whose new novel is Marley (Atria).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to consider the quote from Jon Clinch’s favorite folk musician, the banjo player John Hartford: “Style is based on limitations.” Consider how this idea might apply to your own work, and let it help you decide: what are your strengths and what are your limitations? Are these in fact helping you reign in the scope of your project, or should they? In other words, would it be helpful to focus on your strengths, as you’ve recognized them, and let go of certain goals that are perhaps overambitious, given your limitations? 

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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Writer, editor, and publisher Dave Eggers, whose new book is The Captain and the Glory: An Entertainment (Knopf).

Here's a prompt to go along with my interview with Dave Eggers: write a satirical paragraph about a story in the news. This will require doing deep research to find something in our current events that you find outrageous, disgusting, or bizarre. I have faith that you can.  Good luck with it. 

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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

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

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

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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The TW Wood Gallery was the venue for a recent panel discussion with three former Write the Book guests about their work writing horror, mystery, and suspense. Miciah Bay Gault, Jennifer McMahon, and Susan Z. Ritz shared their thoughts about the craft of scary stories, and I had the honor of moderating their discussion. 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to consider a fear, an incident, and a mode of resolution. I’m going to offer ten of each of these for you to match up and work with as you like. (You'll see that incidents might also be resolutions in a few cases...)  See what comes - maybe something scary! Good luck with your work in the coming week and please tune in next week for another prompt or suggestion. 

FEAR

INCIDENT

RESOLUTION

Animals or insects

Aggression

Chemical Resolution

Darkness

Conversation

Conversation/Emotional Confrontation

Fire

Entrapment 

Hiding

Ghosts

Legal Action

Noise

Illness

Prolonged Strife or Conflict

Running Away

Madness

Solitude

Scientific Innovation

A Category of People: Men or Women or Children

Surprise

Silence

Responsibility

Temptation

Surrender

Thieves

Threat

Trickery

Weather

Trickery

Violence

 

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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My guest this week: the author Ruta Sepetys, whose new historical novel is The Fountains of Silence (Philomel Books).

This week's Write the Book Prompt is to write about a disempowered person who takes at least a small risk to change his or her circumstance, or to improve the situation of someone else.

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

 

 

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Vermont Author Emily Arnason Casey, whose debut essay collection is Made Holy

(Crux: The Georgia Series in Literary Nonfiction). 

This week's Write the Book Prompt was generously offered by my guest, Emily Arnason Casey, during our live conversation. It's one she's used in a recent class: write about a place you can't return to. See if you can find an object in that landscape of memory that gives you some direction or shapes your understanding of that place.

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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Alice Lichtenstein, whose new Pulitzer-nominated novel is The Crime of Being (Upper Hand Press). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Alice Lichtenstein. She has found it fun to assign her students a prompt she calls “ekphrastic fiction.” Ekphrastic writing is written in response to a work of art. Alice recommends googling Edward Hopper, many of whose paintings are clearly narrative in nature, and letting his work inspire your writing. Often his works exhibit a single figure posed in such a way and lit in such a way that the figure naturally lends itself to story. So this week, engage in a free-written response to a Hopper painting. Explore the narrative--who is this, in the painting, what has just happened to him or her, what’s going to happen next? See where it takes you.

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 Host Kim MacQueen interviews local author and teacher Cinse Bonino about her new book on creativity, One Key See, One Key Do (Onion River Press).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt comes from Cinse Bonino’s new book, One Key See, One Key Do, and it’s about noticing things we usually miss. Pick something at random to notice. You could choose to intentionally pay attention to all the doorknobs and handles you encounter today, or perhaps notice all the buttons on people’s clothing. Take the time to notice something you don’t usually focus on your attention on. For instance, you could notice if the people around you, not just the ones you know, are right-handed or left-handed. Notice all the slip-on shoes. Notice all the height difference in the couples and small groups of people you encounter. Notice the things people do when other people are speaking. 

Most of all, notice what you think and do as you attempt to see more. Figure out what you do intuitively that helps you to notice more. Make a note so you can do it on purpose in the future.

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

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Author Christine Coulson, whose new novel, Metropolitan Stories (Other Press), was inspired by her time working at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

We have three Write the Book Prompts this week, all sparked by my conversation with Christine Coulson:

  • First, challenge yourself to write from the perspective of an inanimate object. Animate it. Think about how it might feel, if it could express thoughts about its current situation.
  • Next, rather than exchanging work on the page, try sharing your writing with a friend who acts as an editor for you, by reading aloud from your work and letting that person offer suggestions, after hearing it. This is how Christine Coulson and her editor at the Other Press, Judy Gurewich, worked on Metropolitan Stories.
  • Finally, imagine yourself in a famous museum or other historical building after hours. What would you do, and how would you feel?

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

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

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

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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Interview from the archives with Author Gary Kowalski, about his 2012 book Goodbye, Friend: Healing Wisdom for Anyone Who Has Ever Lost a Pet (New World Library).

This week's Write the Book Prompt is to write about an unexpected interaction with an animal to which (to whom?) you have no personal ties.

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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New interview with Author, Poet, and former Vermont Poet Laureate Sydney Lea, whose new poetry collection is titled Here (Four Way Books). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to write a villanelle. Syd Lea and I discussed his poem, “Old Lessons,” during our conversation, and he then explained what the poem’s form consists of. But here’s a recap, thanks to the Poetry Foundation (where you can also find examples): "The villanelle is a French verse form consisting of five three-line stanzas and a final quatrain, with the first and third lines of the first stanza repeating alternately in the following stanzas. These two refrain lines form the final couplet in the quatrain."

This week, write a villanelle! See what happens as you allow yourself this very specific form to contain the ideas that come.

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

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A new interview with Carol Anshaw, author most recently of Right After the Weather (Atria). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Carol Anshaw. As we discussed during our conversation, Right After the Weather does concern violence, and it includes scenes of violence. Carol suggests tackling this in the coming week; attempt to write a violent scene. Have you ever done this before? What do you find hard about it? What comes easily? How do you approach the material? Do you have to turn away, or do you find the process a natural extension of your 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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Sandra A. Miller, author of Trove: A Woman's Search for Truth and Buried Treasure (Brown Paper Press). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was suggested by my guest, Sandra A. Miller. Read the poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, “What If You Slept?” And then use the lines as your prompt for this week:

What if you slept
And what if
In your sleep
You dreamed
And what if
In your dream
You went to heaven
And there plucked a strange and beautiful flower
And what if
When you awoke
You had that flower in your hand
Ah, what then?

In other words: what if we pulled our dreams into the world and made them a reality? What would you want to bring into the world--your physical reality--from your dreams? When Sandra shared this with a group of writers recently, the results were rich, and the experience of the participants, emotional.

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

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

*“What if you slept...” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Public Domain.

 

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Interview from 2013 with Australian Author Poppy Gee. We discussed her novel, Bay of Fires (Reagan Arthur; Back Bay Books subsequently published the paperback.)

This week's Write the Book Prompt is to consider Poppy Gee’s character, Sarah, whose reckless behavior has cost her so much. Write about someone’s reckless behavior. Depending on who your character is, reckless might look very mild or outrageous. How does it affect the person’s experience and life? What might come next as a result?

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 Miciah Bay Gault, whose debut novel is Goodnight Stranger (Park Row Books).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to try your hand at the exercise that brought Miciah to find the first line of Goodnight Stranger, a trick that was suggested to her by former WTB guest Juliana Baggott: Try summing up your novel in the first sentence, and see what happens.

When she was the editor of the journal Hunger Mountain, Miciah set the authors of one issue this task, which comes from a famous Ray Bradbury exercise for generating ideas: "jot lists, without thinking too hard, of the things that represent the writer’s deepest interests, preoccupations, desires, fears, obsessions." This original exercise can be found in Bradbury's essay "Run Fast, Stand Still, Or, The Thing at the Top of the Stairs, or, New Ghosts from Old Minds" in his book Zen in the Art of Writing: Essays on Creativity. So that can be a second Prompt this week. 

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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Archive Interview with Moira Crone. We discussed her 2012 novel, The Not Yet (Univ of New Orleans Press).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to begin with one of the following phrases, and write from where it leaves off:

  • After he dove into the water…
  • Through the haze and beyond the line of tractors, he saw…
  • When she found the watch in her sister’s top dresser drawer…

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

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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

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

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

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

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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Guest host Kim MacQueen interviews writer and psychotherapist Lori Gottlieb, author of Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, HER Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed (Mariner Books). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to try writing something in the second person. You can take a piece you’re actively working on, employing another POV narration, and simply use this as the opportunity for an exercise. Or attempt a new story, essay, or poem in the second person. Electric Literature has a pretty good piece about writing from this unusual point of view, and I’m going to include a link to that in this week’s prompt, should you like to read it before giving this a go. One caveat: I disagree with the author they quote as disliking Jay McInerney’s Bright Lights, Big City,  a novel famously written in the second person. I found that short novel to be a real gem, and very much enjoyed the narrative point of view that McInerney employed. SO - give this a try. You may dislike the results. You may rush back to your cozy first- or third-person close with renewed relish. If so, that’s all for the best! But maybe the second person will crack open something you couldn’t see as you worked before. I hope so. Here’s the article link:

https://electricliterature.com/how-to-write-a-second-person-story/ 

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 Musician Tony Whedon, whose essay collection Drunk In the Woods (Green Writers Press) was recently nominated for the Vermont Book Award.

I announced this week's "official" Write the Book Prompt after the broadcast's first interview, with Megan Price, but here's another: find a recording of John Coltrane's "Giant Steps" (which Tony mentions in one of the poems read in this interview). Here's one. Play it. Turn it up, play it again. Don't like jazz? Don't be ridiculous. Turn it up and play it again! Sit down and write. See what happens. 

Good luck with your work in the coming week, and please tune in next week for another prompt or suggestion! (Now play it again!!!) 

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

 

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Vermont author Megan Price, who will soon publish another in her wildly popular Vermont Wild series (Pine Marten Press).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to write a story, poem, or essay that concerns wildlife or nature, and maybe has a funny aspect to 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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2013 interview with Award-Winning Scottish Crime Novelist Denise Mina. We discussed her then-new novel, Gods & Beasts (Hachette). Her latest, just out this spring, is Conviction (Mulholland). 

This week's Write the Book Prompt has to do with the history of our broadcast date: July 29. On that date in 1981, Prince Charles married Lady Diana. Their wedding, even more than those of their sons, was the international event of the century. Around 3,500 guests were in attendance at the St. Paul's Cathedral in London, while another 750 million watched the wedding on televisions around the world. Write a scene from the point of view of one of those spectators. Choose a quiet gathering of friends, a rowdy party, the royal family, an expat family. Where are they? What time is it as they watch the event? How do they feel about the royals, the spectacle, the media attention? How do their own marriages or courtships feel, next to what they’re witnessing? And, if you like, feel free to write a better future for Diana. 

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 Susan Z. Ritz, whose debut novel is A Dream to Die For (SheWrites Press).

In our live in-studio conversation, Susan generously shared the following, which is now this week's Write the Book Prompt: 

Pick up a box of buttons or bows or pieces of jewelry and choose two that are somehow different from each other. Think about the people who might wear or use these things. Write a scene where they meet somewhere - perhaps a café or park - and hold a conversation that begins: "Where were you last night?" Susan says her students have found this exercise to be a great avenue into scene, dialogue, and character. 

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 Eric Zencey, who passed away on July 1st after a battle with cancer. Eric's books included Virgin Forest: Meditations on History, Ecology, and Culture (University of Georgia Press); Greening Vermont: The Search for a Sustainable State, coauthored with Elizabeth Courtney (Vermont Natural Resources Council/Thistle Hill); and The Other Road to Serfdom and the Path to Sustainable Democracy (University Press of New England). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to consider the following quote from Eric Zencey’s book, The Other Road to Serfdom and the Path to Sustainable Democracy, and then write about whatever might occur to you, having read it:

 

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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 Chris Tebbetts, whose latest novel is Me, Myself, & Him (Delacorte Press). 

This week's Write the Book Prompt was generously offered by my guest, Chris Tebbetts. He, in turn, first heard about this one through the writer Matt de la Peña, who suggests writing letters to yourself from your characters, explaining what you’re getting right or wrong about them. 

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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Award-Winning Author T. Coraghessan Boyle, whose latest novel is Outside Looking In (Ecco). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, TC Boyle. Sometimes he finds his stories through newspaper clips. But because news stories are journalism, he says, we don’t know the why or how of them, just the what. With students, he’ll suggest finding a one-paragraph story in the newspaper and trying to inhabit it to find out why and how. He jokes, Man Bites Off Own Nose, Swallows It, Winds Up in the Hospital. What’s that about? Write about it. He also suggests, as ever, reading the work of great writers. This helps us see ways into ideas that we may have had on our 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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Debut author Sara Collins, whose new novel is The Confessions of Frannie Langton (Harper).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Sara Collins. 

An older woman is angry  that a pair of teenagers keeps collecting rocks and shells from the beach on which she lives. Write a scene in which she confronts them for the first time. She never tells them why it distresses her so much nor do the teenagers tell her why it's so important to them to collect the shells, though the reader comes to understand. Write the scene first from the perspective of the old woman and then one of the teenagers.  

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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Author Heidi Diehl, whose debut is Lifelines (HMH). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Heidi Diehl. Think about an event or a time that has been important in your character’s life but does not appear in the pages of your story. Write two versions of what happened. One should be 3-5 sentences, and one should be a full-fledged scene, spanning a couple of pages. If the outcome sparks something that feels important to include, than you should of course use it. But, as Heidi reminds us, even if you don’t use that particular scene in your story or novel, it can be useful as an exercise. Exploring our characters’ histories can give us a sense of who they are and help us bring them more vividly to the page.  

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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