Author and teacher Lawrence Sutin, who publishes books in multiple genres including biography, memoir, history and the novel. At the time we spoke, in December 2009, his latest was When To Go into the Water, published by Sarabande Books.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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