Archive for the 'Writing' Category

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Veteran Literary Agent and Entrepreneur Jeff Herman, author of Jeff Herman's Guide to Book Publishers, Editors and Literary Agents (New World Library). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was inspired by my conversation with Jeff Herman. Write a query letter. Jeff says the query letter is really a sales pitch. Keep that in mind as you work. Tell the agent you’re addressing about why you are reaching out, especially if you’re a fan of work they’ve sold. Let them know why you respect them, and that you hope your work will appeal to them. The letter should be short (1 ½ pages or fewer) readable, direct, and personalized. Jeff writes on his website, “Say what you have, why it’s hot, why you’re a good prospect, and what’s available for review upon request.” His website offers a lot of other advice for writing the query letter, which has a certain format you should read about before getting started. Even if your creative work isn't ready to submit, writing the query letter can take some time to get just right, and it's worth practicing ahead of time. 

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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Vermont authors Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy, whose new novel is Once & Future (jimmy patterson). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously offered by my guests this week, Cori McCarthy and Amy Rose Capetta. When they received notes from their editor about a section of Once & Future that, for one reason or another, needed a little work - perhaps not enough was happening in a scene - they would sit down and brainstorm what they came to call “the ten worst things that could happen to your character.” The first thing was always, "the character dies." Even if this was not the answer, Cori and Amy Rose say that you have to include ridiculous things as well as possibilities. The ridiculous things loosen up the other things that might actually lead to a solution.

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

Music: Aaron Shapiro

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Live, in-studio interview with Vermont author and UVM faculty member Emily Bernard, with her new book, Black Is the Body: Stories from My Grandmother's Time, My Mother's Time, and Mine (Knopf).

This week's Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Emily Bernard. Here it is, in her words:  

I tell my creative writing students that the best villains are born in ambivalence. A good rule of thumb is to let the reader love a villain first, before you condemn them. If a character is wholly loathsome, we readers might ask why you are asking us to spend so much time with them, or why you allowed them inside in the first place? For this writing prompt, choose someone who treated you unkindly from your past or your present and write about them, focusing on the one thing—a skill, quirk, personality trait, etc.-- that makes them lovable.

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

Music: Aaron Shapiro

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Journalist and author David Shields, whose new book is The Trouble With Men: Reflections on Sex, Love, Marriage, Porn, and Power (Mad Creek Books).

David Shields generously offered the following Write the Book Prompt this week: write a postcard that simultaneously evokes place and reveals something about the postcard writer that he or she is not aware of.

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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Guest Host Kim MacQueen interviews Champlain Professional Writing Alum Ian Frisch, author of Magic Is Dead: My Journey Into the World’s Most Secretive Society of Magicians (Dey Street Books).

Ian Frisch kindly offered this Write the Book Prompt for listeners: get out of your own head, out of yourself, and be on the lookout for compelling characters in your own area. A well-known character, such as the local mayor, the owner of a store, your neighbor who has lived in town for sixty years. In seeking stories for his nonfiction and journalism, Ian likes to watch for the people who can carry a narrative. Go out and listen to people's stories -- characters who embody a greater sense of purpose outside of themselves, who are reflections of things that are going on in the world. As you hear people's stories, you will understand their relevance. Talk to people, listen to their stories, and then try to translate what you've heard onto the page. 

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 Christy Stillwell, whose recently released novel is The Wolf Tone, which won the Elixir Press Fiction Prize in 2017. 

This Week's Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Christy Stillwell. In reading Warlight, a novel by Michael Ondaatje, Christy noticed the way the author was able to use his knowledge of navigation to create haunting and vivid scenes around barges and river work near London. She set herself the task of developing some area about which she has interest and some knowledge, and learning more in order to be able to do what she felt Ondaatje had done: turn his knowledge into haunting, recurring scenes. In order to do this well, some research might be necessary. In Christy's case, the subject matter turned to haying: the growing, baling and cutting of hay. This has always fascinated her, though she doesn't do this work herself. But she enjoys watching the swathers cut the hay, and seeing the people and machines working in the fields. Christy says her interest might have been even simpler: trimming hedges or mowing the lawn. So - what subject interests you, something you know well enough that you could sit and write two-to-three pages about it, and then file those pages away to perhaps use someday when your work will benefit from a lyrical moment? 

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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Interview from the archives with Canadian Author Douglas Glover. We discussed his book of craft essays, Attack of the Copula Spiders (Biblioasis).

Early in his essay collection, Doug Glover asserts this about point of view in fiction:

Point of view is the mental modus operandi of the person who is telling or experiencing the story--most often this is the protagonist. This mental modus operandi is located in a fairly simple construct involving desire, significant history and language overlay. The writer generally tries to announce the desire, goal or need of the primary character as quickly as possible. the key here is to make this desire concrete and simple. 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to look at the point of view in what you are working on and ask yourself: is this character’s desire clear? Is it concrete and simple? Do I introduce it quickly enough? How might I improve on the early presentation of my point of view character?

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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A conversation with the author Joseph Kertes about his novel, The Afterlife of Stars (Little Brown). 

This week's Write the Book Prompt is to write about a mis-delivered Valentine. 

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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Senior Editor at the Atlantic and American Author Juliet Lapidos, whose debut novel is Talent (Little Brown). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to take a familiar theme and try to turn it sideways so a reader might see something new.

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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Interview from the archives with award-winning Poet and Essayist Jim McGarrah, about his collection The Truth About Mangoes (Lamar University Press).

Thanks to Jim's title, The Truth About Mangoes, and to the fact that there's a lot in the news about what is true and what is false, this week's Write the Book Prompt is to write a poem, story, scene, or essay about a truth being seen differently from two or more perspectives. 

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

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

 

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Author Lyndsay Faye, whose new novel is The Paragon Hotel (G.P. Putnam's Sons).

This week's Write the Book Prompt is to put a character on a train and see where she goes. 

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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Tessa Hadley, author of the new novel Late in the Day (Harper).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was mentioned during our interview. Tessa Hadley said she needs to know who her characters are, physically, in order to write about them. She has set an exercise to students in which they pair up and write physical descriptions of each other. So this week, write a physical description of someone you know well or at least can get a really good look at. Don’t let that person see the outcome of your efforts; Tessa says this last instruction--not sharing the outcome--is imperative, insuring that you will keep the physical description that you write honest.

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 J.P. Choquette, whose latest is Let The Dead Rest

This week's Write the Book Prompt was suggested by J.P. Choquette. It has helped her to use the "fifteen-minute method" of writing, rather than trying to squeeze her productive time into the "fringe hours of the day." Set a timer for 15 minutes, and write until the alarm rings. You'll get work done, and you'll feel a real sense of accomplishment. 

I'll just add that a variation of this exercise, "The Pomodoro Technique," splits work into short segments, separated by breaks. I've had a lot of success with this approach, as well.

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 with Vermont Author and Poet Julia Alvarez about her book, A Wedding in Haiti (Algonquin Books). This show was originally broadcast on RETN and WOMM-LP "The Radiator" in 2012.

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to write about a wedding through the eyes of the photographer, the caterer, or the officiant. 

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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Pulitzer Finalist and Tony-Nominated Playwright Sarah Ruhl, co-author with the late Max Ritvo of Letters From Max: a book of friendship (Milkweed Editions).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Sarah Ruhl: write a poem or a play that is a gift for someone.

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

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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Vermont author and fellow WBTV-LP host Gin Ferrara. We discussed her children's book I'm Not Afraid of Snakes: a not-too-scary story (published by Gin in 2009).

This week's Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Gin Ferrara. Her book, I'm Not Afraid of Snakes, deals with Florida, the place of her childhood. Gin points out that we all have magical memories about the place that we come from, be it about a corner store, someone's back yard, the sound of the birds at night, or something else. Write about the magical, powerful, unique piece of your childhood place. 

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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Cheryl Suchors, author of 48 Peaks - Hiking and Healing in the White Mountains (SheWrites).

This week's Write the Book Prompt is actually three prompts, generously suggested by my guest, Cheryl Suchors. Begin with one of these statements or questions, and then write:

  • “I’d never consider hiking, or wearing these ridiculous hot, heavy boots, except that ...”
  • “You’re on a mountain that you’ve never hiked before. You’re by yourself. You’re suddenly remembering stories of women who’ve been attacked while alone in the woods, or maybe you’re making these up, you’re actually not quite sure if they’re true. You hear something or someone thrashing through the forest. It sounds like they’re coming your way. What do you do next?”
  • “Your grief is so profound that you haven’t left the house in two weeks. You know you have to do something about yourself. You decide to...”    

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

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

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

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

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

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

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

 

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Award-Winning Author J.M. Holmes, whose debut story collection is How Are You Going to Save Yourself (Little Brown).

This week I'll offer two Write the Book Prompts, both of which were generously offered by J.M. Holmes. They are based on exercises by the author Bonni Goldberg, in her book, Room to Write, which Jeff (Holmes) recommends. 

First, an exercise for writing place: choose three different songs from different musical genres and play each, taking 5-7 mins to write a scene where this music is taking place in the background. Second, for fleshing out character: write about what the person's room looks like; what does s(he) have in the closet? 

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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Guest Host Kim MacQueen speaks with Nik Sharma, the writer, photographer, and recipe developer behind the critically acclaimed blog, A Brown TableHis cookbook Season: Big Flavors, Beautiful Food, is just out. (Chronicle Books)

A quote from Nik Sharma that works well as another Write the Book Prompt this week: "I always write from my heart. I either want to share a personal story, or a story about an ingredient or a food so that people connect with it. ... I think it's okay to be vulnerable when you write."

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 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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From the archives, an interview with Vermont Author Megan Mayhew Bergman. We discussed her first story collection, Birds of a Lesser Paradise  (Scribner). She has subsequently published a second: Almost Famous Women. 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to find a moment that you feel is lacking in your poetry or prose, and infuse it with at least two sensory elements--visual details or details of touch, taste, sound, or smell, to try to enliven that moment in your work. Then find another point in that same piece where you can somehow echo the sensory element that you added. For example, if you first added the taste of salmon, and this is something vital to your story, perhaps later a chair can be not just orange or pink, but salmon-colored. Don’t hit your reader over the head with something, but try to find ways to echo and repeat (important) images and ideas. 

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 with Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking (Broadway Books). 

Is one of your characters an introvert? Do you know? This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to go to the quietrev.com website and take the introversion quiz on behalf of a character. Perhaps it will help you understand the way this character should think, act and grow on the page.

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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Christina Dalcher, whose debut novel is VOX (Berkley). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Christina Dalcher. She says it works to "denormalize" our expectations. Start with something universally known with an expected outcome, and do something unexpected. The best example of this, according to Christina, is Shirley Jackson’s famous story, “The Lottery.” When we hear the word lottery, we think of something won, something positive. But Jackson’s story of course turns this on its head. Christina suggests we all read “The Lottery,” or read it again, and then try the exercise of writing something that denormalizes or defies reader expectations.

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

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

 

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Author and Screen Writer Robin Green, whose new book is The Only Girl: My Life and Times on the Masthead of Rolling Stone (Little Brown).

This week's Write the Book Prompt was generously offered by Robin Green, who suggests you write an essay on a subject of your choosing and submit it to a magazine or newspaper. See what might happen.

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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Kim MacQueen interviews Writer and Food Expert Hannah Howard, whose memoir, Feast: True Love in and Out of the Kitchen, was published earlier this year by Little A.

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to write about someone who tries to pass off a dish as something he or she actually cooked, when that is not the case.

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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Stewart O'Nan's most recent novel, City of Secrets, came out last year. In this interview from 2012, I spoke with him about his book The Odds: A Love Story

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to write a scene between either platonic friends or adversaries who find themselves falling in love. 

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

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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Pulitzer Prize Finalist and Alaskan Writer Eowyn Ivey, author of The Snow Child, published by Reagan Arthur Books.

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to consider fairy tales, a genre from which Eowyn Ivey draws inspiration. This fall, CBS is airing a new show that takes classic fairy tales and turns them into present day thrillers set in New York City. Consider a tale that might be a favorite for you, and think about how this story might inform your work. Perhaps the witch in Hanzel and Gretel could help you develop your depiction of a person who works at a subway news stand. Or maybe you see a hint of the ugly duckling’s journey into adulthood when you work to recreate your childhood best friend. Reread one of these stories, and let it give you new ideas. Feel free, as you work, to recognize the cultural cliches that might by now be outdated, and change them, play around with them. Make the Beast a woman, Beauty a man. Because, why 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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Vermont Author Sarah Ward, whose new novel is Aesop Lake (Green Writers Press). 

This week's Write the Book Prompt was generously offered by my guest, Sarah Ward. In her writing, Sarah tries to fully depict villains as well as the “good guys,” whose stories always do tend to be fully explored. In the Harry Potter series, for example, what do we really know about Malfoy? Why is he—a wealthy, privileged boy with two devoted parents—such a jerk? Write the backstory of a villain. What drives him to be a bully or a sadist? What makes her so dark, so villainous? What are your villains frightened of? What do they want?

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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Suspense novelist David Bell, whose latest is Somebody's Daughter (Berkley). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt concerns part of the conversation you just heard with David Bell. We discussed writing conflict, and the fact that even the best relationships are likely to have some conflict. Some of that centers on regular, every-day problems. As David said during our interview, these might be “money problems or kid problems or work problems.” Sometimes marriage is just about getting through those kinds of daily issues together. This week, write a scene of small conflict. Something that might occur in any marriage or relationship, even a healthy one. Consider what causes the conflict, what each person’s position is, why those positions might be at odds, even if the ultimate goals are perhaps the same. Maybe two parents are concerned about a child’s lack of interest in school. Mom wants her daughter to do more extracurricular activities, while Dad feels she needs tutoring and a real focus on homework. Both agree they want her to be happier and more successful at school, both have her best interest in mind. But they argue over the best approach. What small issues might crop up to cause a disagreement in your scene? Keep the dialogue moving, and don’t forget to describe the scene as it would look to your narrator in that moment. 

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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Michael Kardos, author of Bluff, published by The Mysterious Press.

This week’s Write the Book Prompt comes from my interview with Michael Kardos. Take a hobby, something that you do and that maybe you know a lot about, and write a scene in which a character is doing that thing--your hobby--but it is not the point of the scene. It makes for more interesting possibilities in plot and execution. Your expertise (special knowledge, tools or implements, technical information) will come through and lend authority to the entire scene.  

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

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

 

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Author Katharine Dion, whose debut novel is The Dependents, published by Little Brown.

This week’s Write the Book Prompt comes from my interview with Katharine Dion. Something that has been useful for her, and is related to the kind of stories she is interested in telling, is to look around at situations that have on first glance nothing interesting going on: a situation or setup that might at first even seem boring. Then reverse that proposition in your mind. Assume the opposite: that something fascinating is going on in the situation, or between the people you’re observing. This will give you the chance to look again at something you initially chose to dismiss. We dismiss things for all sorts of reasons, Katharine points out. Either we are fearful of what we see, or we’re made uncomfortable by it. But looking again at what we might initially dismiss can offer unexpectedly rich material.  

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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Robert and Martha Manning, (former Vermont) authors of Walking Distance: Extraordinary Hikes for Ordinary People, published by Oregon State University Press.

In conjunction with this interview, I'll post a slideshow with audio of my own recent long hike: El Camino de Santiago de Compostela. Watch for that, and for this week's prompt, soon. 

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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UK Novelist Allison Pearson, following her huge hit from 2003, I Don't Know How She Does It (Anchor), with a sequel, how hard can it be? (St. Martin's Press)

This week’s Write the Book Prompt comes from my interview with Allison Pearson, who says she likes to help readers feel the narrative pulse by adding a line at the end of each chapter that helps the reader along. “Would she get the car out of the river?” Offer the reader the reason to read on.

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 with the author Margot Livesey. We discussed her novel, The Flight of Gemma Hardy, a retelling of and homage to Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre.

This week's Write the Book Prompt is to read a favorite short story and write something as an homage in some way. Either retell the actual story (careful not to plagiarize, of course), or write a poem, another story, a character sketch, or something of your own invention that honors the original. 

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 author and New York Times Journalist Karen Crouse, who recently published her first book, Norwich: One Tiny Vermont Town's Secret to Happiness and Excellence (Simon & Schuster). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Karen Crouse. It is inspired by a talk she heard, given by the author Elizabeth Gilbert. During her talk, Elizabeth Gilbert mentioned that she'd had no idea, when she set out to write her book, Eat Pray Love, that it would eventually meet with so much success. She commented that that knowledge might even have made it hard to approach in the first place. She went on to suggest that, when you sit down to write, don’t think of it as a formal exercise. Think of it as relaying a story you might tell it to your best friend. This always stayed with Karen, who has found it valuable advice. And so she has shared it with us!

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 with Vermont author Bill Mares. We discussed his book, Brewing Change: Behind the Bean at Green Mountain Coffee Roasters, co-authored by Rick Peyser. He has since published The Full Vermonty: Vermont in the Age of Trump, co-authored by Jeff Danziger. 

This week's Write the Book Prompt is to write about the role coffee has (or does not have) in your own work and life. 

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

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Vermont Poet April Ossmann, whose new collection is Event Boundaries (Four Way Books). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, April Ossmann. It’s about extended metaphor, which we discussed during the interview. April says it makes for magic in poems. Often poets use metaphor but they drop it too soon and don’t explore it deeply enough. But when you push it and continue describing using the metaphor, that’s often when you get to a moment of epiphany or discovery and you realize something. The smarter part of the brain can then teach you something. Focus on describing in specific detail and keep the event or theme in the periphery of your brain. It’s a great exercise. Pick something for a metaphor and maybe in that description, write about something that wasn’t as you expected it to be or something that happened in a way other than how you expected it to happen.

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

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

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Author and cartoonist Tim Kreider, whose new collection is I Wrote This Book Because I Love You: Essays (Simon & Schuster).

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was generously suggested by my guest, Tim Kreider. When he offers prompts to his students, he tries to keep them broad so that the students can write about what they want to write about. Here is one that he has offered to spark their ideas: Write on the theme: “That’s how they get 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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Award-winning author Madeline Miller, whose new novel is Circe (Little Brown). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt was offered by my guest, Madeline Miller. Inspired by an Ursula K. LeGuin exercise, Madeline has used this one in her classes. She says it’s about “the elephant in the room.” Write a scene that is about a major trauma without actually mentioning the trauma. For example, have two characters talk about a death that has just happened, but neither of them mentions it. This is the elephant in the room. It is never named, but the truth of it is there in the scene.

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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Kim MacQueen's interview with author Lisa Romeo, whose debut essay collection is  Starting with Goodbye: A Daughter’s Memoir of Love after Loss (University of Nevada Press).

For a Write the Book Prompt, consider Lisa Romeo's advice to not let in the inner critic! Just write. 

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

Music Credit: Aaron Shapiro

 

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Author Veera Hiranandani, whose new young adult novel is  The Night Diary, published by Dial Books.

This week’s Write the Book Prompt, which was suggested by my guest, Veera Hiranandani, concerns point of view. Veera says that people aren’t always aware of why they are using the point of view they’ve chosen. She likes to suggest to her students that they switch both point of view and tense, as an exercise, just to see how different their work might feel. So if you’re writing a piece in the third person past tense (“she went to the restaurant,”) try changing it to the first person present tense (“I go the the restaurant”) or first person past tense (“I went to the restaurant”), just to see how that feels to you. It can offer a new way of looking at your writing that can be really interesting, even if you don’t ultimately decide to use it.

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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Swedish columnist and author Therese Bohman, whose new novel is Eventide (The Other Press). 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt, which is really more of a suggestion for how to take a break and recharge, was suggested by Therese Bohman. She likes to leave her work from time to time and take a walk. For each novel that she’s written, she has created unique playlists of music to listen to, to keep herself energized for the specific work she’ll be returning to after the walk.

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 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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An interview from the archives with award-winning children's author Mary Casanova. We discussed her 2013 novel Frozen (Univ. of Minnesota Press).

This week's Write the Book Prompt, inspired by April in Vermont, is to write about a place where it is cold when it should be warm, or warm when it should be cold. 

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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Vermont author Jill M. Allen, who will be reissuing her self-published story and ballad collection: The Green Mountains Deep: Fiction About Disabled Vermonters by a Disabled Vermonter, with Onion River Press (from Phoenix Books)  in the near future. 

This week’s Write the Book Prompt is to think about your own abilities and obstacles, and write about how they affect you as you make your way in the world. 

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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An interview from the archives - and from a previous radio station - with Mary R. Morgan, author of Beginning With the End, A Memoir of Twin Loss and Healing.

This week's Write The Book Prompt is to write about a person who is lost. Interpret the word "lost" in whatever way might help you as you work.

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

Music credit: Aaron Shapiro

 

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