Friday, December 9, 2011

Point of View Writing Prompt with Jessie Carty

Jessie Carty is our guest prompter again this week. I hope you enjoy her prompt and have a great weekend!
Point of View Writing Prompt by Jessie Carty

In May of 2008 I had this idea that I wanted to write a series of poems called the fat girl poems. I’ve bounced around with my weight, but I also knew I’d be taping into the general “fat girl” experience rather than just my own.

Here is an example of one poem that is, perhaps, not completely from my point of view. (The link will take you to the poem below a video. The video is myself and two other wonderful ladies take turns reading the poem in a video. )

So, my challenge for you today is to write a poem or story from a point of view that isn’t your own, but maybe is a topic that is close to you. See how it challenges you!

BIO: Jessie Carty is the author of five poetry collections including the upcoming chapbook An Amateur Marriage (Finishing Line Press, 2012) which was a finalist for the 2011 Robert Watson Prize. She teaches at RCCC in Concord, NC. You can find her editing Referential Magazine or blogging at

Jessie's most recent chapbook “An Amateur Marriage” is now on pre-order from Finishing Line (  

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Writing Prompts with Poet Jessie Carty

This weekend, I'm thrilled to announce that our guest prompter is Jessie Carty, a poet from North Carolina.

First, read Jessie's poem, "An Amateur Marriage," from her soon-to-be released chapbook from Finishing Line press.  Then follow her directions for your prompt.

An Amateur Marriage by Jessie Carty
On Saturday we shop
First we frequent
one of the big box
electronics stores
and plan video cameras
for vacation
or big screen TV’s
for Superbowl Sunday
Before stopping at the home
improvement warehouse
On Sunday
we strip down
an old coffee table
and stain it
laying haphazard lines
of walnut
It takes hours to set

While we wait
I comb your hair
feeling your scalp
for the natural part
I trim around your ears
where the strands
have grown long
these last six months

Prompt from Jessie:

The word amateur is fun to play with. According to Wikipedia “An amateur (French amateur "lover of", from Old French and ultimately from Latin amatorem nom. amator, "lover") is generally considered a person attached to a particular pursuit, study, or science, without pay and often without formal training. Amateurism can be seen in both a negative and positive light. Since amateurs often do not have formal training, some amateur work may be sub-par. For example, amateur athletes in sports such as basketball, baseball or football are regarded as having a lower level of ability than professional athletes. On the other hand, an amateur may be in a position to approach a subject with an open mind (as a result of the lack of formal training) and in a financially disinterested manner. An amateur who dabbles in a field out of casual interest rather than as a profession or serious interest, or who possesses a general but superficial interest in any art or a branch of knowledge, is often referred to as a dilettante.”

Think of how I use it in the poem, and what implications come with the idea of an amateur marriage. Now write your own poem or story about an amateur something. Maybe make something amateur that you wouldn’t think of being amateur.

BIO: Jessie Carty is the author of five poetry collections including the upcoming chapbook An Amateur Marriage (Finishing Line Press, 2012) which was a finalist for the 2011 Robert Watson Prize. She teaches at RCCC in Concord, NC. You can find her editing Referential Magazine or blogging at

Jessie's most recent chapbook “An Amateur Marriage” is now on pre-order from Finishing Line (  Jessie says, "I didn’t write the poems in any particular order. I, in fact, didn’t realize I was writing these poems about marriage until I had about 10 completed."

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Anne of Green Gables Writing Prompts

Today it is the birthday of Lucy Maud Montgomery, the woman who wrote the Anne of Green Gables series.

In honor of Lucy's birthday, I am going to take two quotes inspired by the Anne series to guide us along for our creative writing prompts.

Prompt #1:

Mrs. Cadbury: Tell me, what you know about yourself.
Anne Shirley: Well, it really isn't worth telling, Mrs. Cadbury... but if you let me tell you what I imagine about myself you'd find it a lot more interesting.

I love this little conversation. For today's prompt, one option is to imagine yourself doing something you otherwise wouldn't be able to do. Perhaps it is telling someone a secret, or perhaps it is some extravagant act. You can write about it in either poetry or prose.

Prompt #2:

Anne Shirley: Don't you ever imagine things differently from what they are?
Marilla Cuthbert: No.
Anne Shirley: Oh Marilla, how much you miss.

For this prompt, take something from your world, and turn it into something it is not. You can write in either poetry or prose.

And today's writing prompts would not be complete unless I share a link with you that goes to one of my most favorite poems ever. I encountered it on Poetry Daily years ago. It's called "Like Anne Shirley's House" and it is by Faye George.  You can find it by clicking here.

Bonus Poetry Prompt: Read the poem, "Like Anne Shirley's House," and then you write a poem that starts, "I want a house that. . . "

Monday, November 14, 2011

Writing Prompts With Laughter

Laughing Out Loud by amslerPIX
Laughing Out Loud, a photo by amslerPIX on Flickr.
For today's creative writing prompts, we will reflect on laughter. I love this picture of these kids, especially the one on the left. They look like they are having a good time, goofing off and enjoying themselves.

Story Prompt: Write a story that begins with two or three people who are laughing. Why are they laughing? Who are these people and what relationship do they have with each other? Write for 10 minutes without stopping.

Essay Prompt: What is something that made you laugh a lot? Write about it.

Poetry Prompt: Write a poem that contains laughter in it.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Peace Dove Writing Prompts

peace dove by Jeff Attaway
peace dove, a photo by Jeff Attaway on Flickr.
Today for our creative writing prompts, we will reflect on PEACE.

Please read the poem "Let it Begin with Me" by Wisconsin poet Mary Jo Balistreri.  (This poem is featured on Your Daily Poem (dot com), which is a wonderful resource of all kinds of great poetry.  Teachers, please check it out!)

Essay Prompt: What are examples of letting peace begin with ourselves? Please elaborate on personal examples from your own life or examples you've observed through others.

Poetry: Begin a poem with this prompt:

If peace. . .

Story Prompt: Create a story that ends with a very small in appearance, but big in meaning, gesture of peace.

Happy Writing!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Writing Prompts with Polka Dots

polka dot tea party by Shandi-lee
polka dot tea party, a photo by Shandi-lee on Flickr.
Today's writing prompts start with the image of "polka dots." For one minute, free-write what images come to mind when you think of "polka dots."

After the time is up, pick one or more images from your list to write a story, poem, personal essay, etc.

OR you can write a story based on the character in today's picture. Why is she wearing the red polka dot dress today? What is she waiting for? Who will she see?

Bonus Prompt:

Reflect on this quote and write a short sketch of a character, showing HOW this character travels in the manner of happiness.

"Happiness is not a state to arrive at, but a manner of traveling. " -Margaret Lee Runbeck

Friday, November 4, 2011

Writing Prompts with Autumn Leaves

Autumn leaves by Ray Wise
Autumn leaves, a photo by Ray Wise on Flickr.
So many beautiful leaves are everywhere out here---on the ground and some still on the trees. For our writing prompts, here are some starters you can use to start a story, essay, poem, song, etc.

1. Walking through the wet leaves, she realized. . .
2. The leaves were falling like. . .
3. The color of the leaves brought him comfort. . .
4. In autumn, there is comfort in. . .
5. The smell of leaves. . .

Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween Writing Prompts 1

Happy Halloween!  Here is my greeting to you all for a safe Halloween filled with lots of wonderful things.             

Make sure you check out this poem by Donna Pflueger called, "The Autumn Witch of Oak Creek Canyon." 

For our creative writing prompts today, we will reflect on things in the spirit of the supernatural.  Give yourself the freedom to explore things that are out of the ordinary.

Here are some starters, and you can use them to write a poem, story, essay, song, or anything you would like:

1.  When black cats prowl and pumpkins gleam. . .
2.  The laughter I heard was like. . .
3.  The moon glowed with wicked radiance. . .
4.  All of a sudden, my friends were gone and . . .
5.  There was something funny about that cat. . .
6.  I never believed in ghosts until. . .
7.  She always wondered what it would be like to fall in love with a vampire. . .
8.  He had no idea he was falling in love with a witch. . .

And last, but not least, "It was a dark, stormy night. . . " (Sorry, I just couldn't resist!)

Friday, October 28, 2011

Writing Prompts: Your Whole Heart

Hearts For Necklace by perpetualplum
Hearts For Necklace, a photo by perpetualplum on Flickr.

Creative Writing Prompts with Hearts

For today's creative writing prompts, we will meditate on hearts. 

What is the last thing you remember doing with your whole heart?

Write an essay, poem or song about it. 


Write a story about someone doing something with his or her whole heart. Perhaps something so meaningful it changes the character, or the people the character interact with. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Creative Writing Prompts at Shoal Creek

Chert Glades 008 by jsigler
Chert Glades 008, a photo by jsigler on Flickr.
Creative Writing Prompts

Above is a beautiful picture of Shoal Creek.  Below is a poem, "Crossing Shoal Creek."  For today's creative writing prompts, we will use the photo and the poem for inspiration.

Fiction Writing:  Write the beginning of a short story that takes place in the setting of the picture.  Write for at least 10 minutes without stopping.

Creative Nonfiction:  Do you have any memories of any creek?  If so, write about them.

Poetry Prompt:  Write a poem that ends with the line, "so close we could have touched."  You can title your poem, "Poem Ending With a Line by J.T. Ledbetter," or credit the line in a note at the end of the poem. 

5-Minute Free Writes
Writing Starters: 

Write with the following phrases as your starting points.  All phrases are from J.T. Ledbetter's poem. 

1.  I waited for you to. . .
2.  Like mists off the. . .
3.  There was only the rain on the. . .

Enjoy the column below.  It was last week's feature, and I was so moved by it I wanted to post it here.  Thank you to this wonderful project that allows the article to be shared.  I love this program and hope it will live forever. 

American Life in Poetry Column #343 by Ted Kooser, Poet Laureate of the U.S.

Most of us have received the delayed news of the death of a family member or friend, and perhaps have reflected on lost opportunities. Here’s a fine poem by J. T. Ledbetter, who lives in California but grew up on the Great Plains.

Crossing Shoal Creek by J.T. Ledbetter

The letter said you died on your tractor
crossing Shoal Creek.
There were no pictures to help the memories fading
like mists off the bottoms that last day on the farm
when I watched you milk the cows,
their sweet breath filling the dark barn as the rain
that wasn’t expected sluiced through the rain gutters.
I waited for you to speak the loud familiar words
about the weather, the failed crops—
I would have talked then, too loud, stroking the Holstein
moving against her stanchion—
but there was only the rain on the tin roof,
and the steady swish-swish of milk into the bright bucket
as I walked past you, so close we could have touched.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2010 by J.T. Ledbetter, and reprinted from his most recent book of poetry, Underlying Premises, Lewis Clark Press, 2010, by permission of J.T. Ledbetter and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2009 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Writing Prompts with SURPRISE!

Surprise! by Greencolander
Surprise!, a photo by Greencolander on Flickr.
For today's creative writing prompts, we will focus on the element of surprise. Now, this cat is not faking it, that's for sure.

Creative nonfiction prompt: Think about a time when you were really surprised, whether it was a big surprise or a little one. Write about it for 10 minutes without stopping.

Poetry Prompt:
Write a poem with an element of surprise, or write a poem with a surprising line in it.

Fiction writing prompts:

1. Write a short story where one character surprises another.
2. If you are in the middle of a novel, take one of your characters and put the character in a situation where he or she is totally surprised.

Free Write: Free write about this cat. Give the cat a name and explore his internal thoughts about whatever it is that has surprised him.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Creative Writing Prompts: The Sounds of Autumn

Hello, everyone.  Today's creative writing prompts involve the background of nature's autumn sounds and the beautiful visuals.  All you have to do is listen and/or look, and then write what comes.  I will provide some starter lines below to help you along, too.   Feel free to write poetry, a song, an essay or story---go where the Muse leads you and ENJOY!

Starter lines:

1.  She loved the sounds of the leaves as she walked over them. . .
2.  Autumn is. . .
3.  They kissed as the leaves fell all around them. . .
4.  Of all seasons he hated autumn most because that was the season when it all started. . . .

Monday, September 19, 2011

Creative Writing Prompts with Free Association

What Word are You? by TerryJohnston
What Word are You?, a photo by TerryJohnston on Flickr.

For today's creative writing prompts, you will have a choice of words to work with that are generated by YOU. Below is a list of words, and I want you to write down the first word that comes to your head when you see the words. The rule of thumb on this one is not to think about it too much. Just write down the first word that comes to your head.

Then from your list, choose 5 to 7 words in one of the following:

1. A poem of 12 lines or less.
2. The first paragraph of a short story.
3. The first paragraph of an essay.
4. The first verse of a song.
5. A conversation between two characters.

Also, in the comments section, please feel free to list the words you come up with or a part of your writing.

Word List:

key chain

Monday, September 12, 2011

Writing Prompts: Let There Be Peace on Earth

Yesterday marked the tenth anniversary of 9-11, and where I attended worship, we ended with this song which moved me beyond belief.  
For today's writing prompts, I want our theme to be "peace."  Enjoy the video and the great quotes within.  

Then write a personal piece of writing about how you can add one little fragment of peace in your life today.  Could it be spending time in prayer or writing a special prayer for peace?  Could it be enjoying a moment outside?  Could it be writing a small stone that brings you peace?  Could it be just lighting a candle and remembering a loved one?  Would you like to write a song or poem about peace?  Write about what you would like to do to add peace to your life today, then find the time to do it.  

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Writing Prompts with Willow Tree

Over the weekend, my youngest brother got married at the farm that belongs to him and his bride. As part of the ceremony, they planted a Corkscrew Willow on their land. I was quite touched. If you look at the branches closely, they twist together as they grow. What a wonderful symbol for a life of love togehter!

For today's writing prompts, please choose six of the words below to include in either a poem, a short story, essay or song. I have chosen words inspired by Luke and Christy's wedding.


Thursday, September 1, 2011

Creative Writing Prompts: Keys

 Keys, a photo by Svadilfari on Flickr.

Today, we will kick-off our writing prompts with a phrase,

"I want a key to. . . "

Please write for 5 minutes without stopping.

After that, your assignment will be to turn your free-write into a poem of 10 lines or less.


Fiction Writing Prompt:
Write the first page of a story that has the word key as the first line. Here are some example lines you can use or you can make up your own:

1. She never dreamed that she would find the key to. . .
2. Jake was quite sure that the key he stole would open the door to that house on the hill they said was haunted. . .
3. She always dreamed of keys. . .

After you get your first page, you can certainly continue if you'd like.

Essay Prompt:
Write an essay of 500 words or less about keys or write about something prompted by a specific key from your life.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Creative Writing Prompts Inspired by Ray Bradbury

Morning Tea by Ornamelle
Morning Tea, a photo by Ornamelle on Flickr.
"Love. Fall in love and stay in love. Write only what you love, and love what you write. The key word is love. You have to get up in the morning and write something you love, something to live for." - Ray Bradbury

I hope you like the quote by Ray Bradbury and this lovely photo by Ornamelle.

For today's writing prompts, start by making a list of 10 things you love, and then pick just 1 and write for 10 minutes without stopping. You can turn that thing you love into a story, poem, essay, song, play, etc. Just write what about what you LOVE today. That is the key!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Creative Writing Prompts: Fun with Words

How many words can you make out of this phrase:

I love vine ripe tomatoes.

Spend a few minutes putting together a few words.

Here is a start for you:


AFTER your list is to your satisfaction, pick six to eight of the words to use in a poem, short story, essay or song.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Lemons and Lemonade Creative Writing Prompts

Lemon and Sky by fonticulus
Lemon and Sky, a photo by fonticulus on Flickr.
We are living in a world today where lemonade is made from artificial flavors and furniture polish is made from real lemons. -Alfred Newman

Good morning!  Perhaps you might have heard a quote similar to this one: 

When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. I have several stands around here. James Brady

Our creative writing prompts today will be based on lemons vs. lemonade. 

Fiction:  Think up a situation that starts out as a lemon, but ends up being being lemonade.  For example, I've read a true story about two people who were stuck in an elevator for hours and ended up falling in love.  They got married. 

Creative Nonfiction:  Have you had any past lemon-like situations in your life that ended up being lemonade in the end?  Write about one.

Poetry:  Start with a negative image or situation, but end it with positivity. 

Please fell free to post part of what you write.  I promise I will read every comment!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Creative Writing Prompts Inspired by Willy Russell

Today is the birthday of English playwright and songwriter Willy Russell.  For writing inspiration, Willy Russell loved to listen in on conversations. In honor of Russell's birthday, we will do just that for writing practice.

Writing Practice: Listen in to a conversation at a cafe, park, or anywhere. Write out part of the dialogue, then finish it up the conversation with your own ideas, but with the voice of the people you were listening to.
Write out a conversation for any of the people from the picture.


Here is some inspiring quotes  for the day.  You can respond to one of them in writing any way you would like:  with a poem, essay or story.

Never part without loving words to think of during your absence. It may be that you will not meet again in this life.
Jean Paul Richter

Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky.
Rabindranath Tagore

Friday, August 19, 2011

Creative Writing Prompts with Jade Bennington

For your weekend writing pleasure, I'm happy to announce our guest prompter, Jade Bennington.  She gives us some ideas about how to work through our dreams in journals and how to use them to inspire creative writing.   I hope you enjoy these prompts by Jade.


Dream Journal Writing Prompt by Jade Bennington

There are times when dreams come at night, so vivid and puzzling, that I awake feeling heavy with the desire to create something with them, to write them down and enjoy them, to make sense of them.  I've found that writing down my dreams in a journal provides me with a great source of inspiration for future poems and projects.

It's been helpful for me to mark my dream pages to easily find them.  Others might like to make a separate dream journal.

Poetry Prompt:  Browse through past dream journal entries.  Read an entry and consider what emotion is most obvious in the dream, whether it is a feeling of anxiety, contentment, anger, or joy. 
Write out the dream in the present tense.  Then, write a poem in which the most compelling dream image or emotion is described in concrete detail.
It can be interesting to weave together images from different dreams that are grouped together by a common thread or emotion.

Fiction Prompt:  Write a story in which a fictional character comes face to face with a dream conflict, object, or person. 

Here's an example of the dream writing process:

First, the journal entry.

I dream that my house is on fire.   After the fire is gone, I discover that some of my journals which I no longer own are piled up behind the family room couch.  I flip one open and find that a friend had gone through them, and with a red felt pen, had written notes in the margins. 

To work with this entry and better understand it, I circled the main words, which were: fire, house, journals, friend, and red felt pen.
And then I wrote a line for each main word, if it could speak.  For example, for fire, I wrote: "I show you your clinging."  And for the red felt pen I wrote, "At my best, I correct, and at my worst, I hinder with censorship."

From here, I could write a poem which includes the journals stacked behind the family room couch. 
I could write a story which begins with the main character discovering someone else's journals, or a story that begins with a fire.

There are many ways to approach dream writing.  Sometimes the dreams won't fit into a poem or story, and that is okay.  Writing out dreams can be an art in themselves and teach us something about our minds.  This knowledge can better equip us for creative writing.  So, let's see what we can create.

Jade Bennington is a published poet and fiction writer from Brooklyn, NY.  When she isn't writing, she enjoys parks and gardens, classical and singer-songwriter music, loose leaf tea, and visual art.  She is the author of the short story collection, On a Wobbly Beach Chair beside the Ocean and can be found blogging about creative writing at Blush of DawnShe currently lives in southern Massachusetts.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Creative Writing Prompts: Let's Make a Sandwich!

Really? Sure!  Sometimes the prompts I choose are inspired by some fabulous pictures I come across.  I absolutely LOVE this picture by Pink Sherbet Photography.  Thank you Pink and Flickr!

The fun-write below is for everyone. After your fun-write, pick an exercises below from today's writing prompts.

PLEASE post your invented sandwich in the comments below. I'd love to read about them.

FUN-WRITE: Invent a sandwich, a silly or serious, one-of-a-kind sandwich. Justify why you choose it to be what it is. Give it a name. Make it fun, make it original.

1. Essay prompt: Think of sandwiches you've enjoyed throughout your life. They could be from your home, someone else's home, a cafe, camp, anywhere.

Make a list of 5 to 7 sandwiches.
Then pick one.
 Free-write for a minimum of 5 minutes about the connection you have to that place, time, etc. associated with the sandwich. Is that memory really about the sandwich? Probably not. Go there.

2. Fiction Prompt:  From your fun-write, invent a character that would eat the sandwich you created. Write a scene where the character either makes the sandwich or orders the sandwich.  Show how the character either enjoys it or not. Give it a minimum of 5 minutes.

3. Poetry: Write an ode to you favorite sandwich in 20 lines or less.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Abstract Art Writing Prompt

Messy Trail by Ecosalley
Messy Trail, a photo by Ecosalley on Flickr.
Today, look at the photo for one minute. Then free-write for 5 minutes without stopping.

After that, work with what you have and use it to create a poem, essay or story.

Happy Writing!  I hope you are enjoying the writing prompts.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Writing Prompts Inspired by Charles Bukowski

What Matters Most by Hryck.
What Matters Most, a photo by Hryck. on Flickr.
In honor of Charles Bukowski's birthday, our creative writing prompts will be starter lines from within his poems. However, you don't have to write a poem. You can use the starter lines to start anything. Pick one and write for a minimum of 5 minutes without stopping.

1. It's not my death that worries me, it's. . .
2. Very little love is. . .
3. I walked away from. . .
4. I remember my father's. . .
5. The man across the table has watery blue eyes and a . . .

Monday, August 15, 2011

Writing Prompts Inspired by the Poem, "Something You Hope You Won't Have to Tell Your Daughter" by Shoshauna Shy

Ultra Concentrated Joy! by soopahgrover
Ultra Concentrated Joy!, a photo by soopahgrover on Flickr.
Today I want to direct you to an interview with poet Shoshauna Shy at Long Story Short. Please read the interview and the enjoy her poems throughout.

Today's creative writing prompts are inspired by Shoshauna's poem, "Something You Hope You Won't Have to Tell Your Daughter." First, read the poem at Long Story Short,. Then pick one of the writing prompts below.

1. Poetry Prompt: In the last stanza the poet refers to simple, everyday things like "the smell of dish soap" and the "swallow of lemonade." Make a list of ten simple, everyday things tied to one of the senses. After you make your list, use at least three of them in a poem, OR pick one phrase from your list to use as a title of a poem. 

The buzz of bees
The plop of ice-cubes
The smoothness of velvet
The roughness of wool

2. Essay Prompt: Have you ever been in a situation where you had to tell someone something that was difficult? Write about it.

3. Dialogue Practice: Write a scene where a character tells another either some very good or very bad news.

Happy Writing!

To find out more about poet Shoshauna Shy, please visit 

Friday, August 12, 2011

Word Stew Writing Prompt with Shaindel Beers

Many thanks to Shaindel Beers for providing the "Word Stew" writing prompt below.  Once you gather your words,  you can turn them into a poem or a story or ?????  The sky's the limit.  Have fun!


WORD STEW by Shaindel Beers

photo by Jeff Kramer

One of my favorite prompts, whether writing poetry or fiction, is a "word stew." I teach both Intro to Poetry Writing and Intro to Fiction Writing at Blue Mountain Community College, and my students and I "make" poetry and fiction stews every quarter.

What I do is write categories on the board, such as:

(1) A store or business --
(2) A color --
(3) An invention --
(4) A town or city --
(5)  A make and model of car or truck --
(6) A band --
(7) A song by that band --
(8) An animal --
(9) A plant --
(10) A food --

I put enough categories on the board so that each student gets to pick a word or phrase for that category. Then, we each have to write a poem or story that includes all of those words. So, go out, find some friends, and have at it with this prompt! It's better to do with others because inevitably other people will pick words outside of your comfort zone and you'll have new material to work with that will force you to make a departure from your normal work.

Here's a poem that I wrote in a workshop I led at Prescott College when I guest-taught in Sheila Sanderson's poetry class:

If Tesla Had Aimed His Death Ray at Vortex, Kentucky

There wouldn’t be a girl at Target in her red polo shirt
and khakis, waiting for a boy in a Ford Ranger
who will drive up,  steady as an assembly line,
singing Garth Brooks’ “Friends in Low Places,”
to pick her up from work. She would not stretch
like a lily on a stem, straining for the sun, to see if he is there,
in the indigo pick-up to rescue her from shoppers
too good for Wal-Mart who will let you know it
by unleashing a storm of insults the way Wal-Mart shoppers
are too meek to. When she gets in, he will change
from Garth Brooks to The Beatles out of respect,
and they will sing off-key about the octopus’s garden.
They will joke about getting a van and painting it
like a yellow submarine. You are happy for them,
Dear Reader, because you know that death is stalking them
like a panther. Time does not stretch like Turkish Delight,
and you are glad that Tesla did not aim his death ray
at Vortex, Kentucky, because these are your parents.
The quiet trailer park girl, the burly boy in the pick-up.

Every time I do a poetry or fiction stew, I tell the students participating in the workshop how grateful I am for their words, because I would never have come up with that particular work without them. Tesla's death ray and Vortex, Kentucky? Those two items would have never converged in my mind if I hadn't been forced to do it in a prompt! Now, let's see what you can come up with.

Shaindel Beers’ poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies. She is currently an instructor of English at Blue Mountain Community College in Pendleton, Oregon, in Eastern Oregon’s high desert and serves as Poetry Editor of Contrary. A Brief History of Time, her first full-length poetry collection, was released by Salt Publishing in 2009.

Shaindel was raised in Argos, Indiana, a town of 2,000 people. She studied literature at Huntingdon College in Montgomery, Alabama (BA), and at the University of Chicago (MA) before earning her MFA in Creative Writing (Poetry) at Vermont College of Fine Arts. She has taught at colleges and universities in Illinois and Florida but feels settled in the Eastern Oregon high desert town of Pendleton. Her awards include: First place Karen Fredericks and Frances Willitts Poetry Prize (2008), Grand Prize Co-winner Trellis Magazine sestina contest (2008), First place Dylan Days Poetry Competition (2007), Award-winning poem published, Eleventh Muse (2006), Honorable mention, Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Awards (2005), Honorable mention, Juniper Creek/Unnamed Writers Award (2005), and the title poem from this collection, “A Brief History of Time,”was nominated for a Pushcart prize (2004).

Shaindel loves meeting her readers. You can find her on Facebook or on Twitter.

You can find out more about Shaindel Beers by clicking on her website below:

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Old Houses by Robert Cording : American Life in Poetry


Old house, Dendron, VA

For today's creative writing prompts, first enjoy the photo and read this week's American Life in Poetry column below.  After you gaze, enjoy and read, you can choose to either start a story from the setting of this old house, write a poem about any old house, or write an essay about any house from your life.


American Life in Poetry: Column 333

Here is a lovely poem by Robert Cording, a poet who lives in Connecticut, which shows us a fresh new way of looking at something commonplace. That’s the kind of valuable service a poet can provide.

Old Houses by Robert Cording

Year after year after year
I have come to love slowly

how old houses hold themselves—

before November’s drizzled rain
or the refreshing light of June—

as if they have all come to agree
that, in time, the days are no longer
a matter of suffering or rejoicing.

I have come to love
how they take on the color of rain or sun
as they go on keeping their vigil

without need of a sign, awaiting nothing

more than the birds that sing from the eaves,
the seizing cold that sounds the rafters.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2010 by Robert Cording from his most recent book of poetry, Walking with Ruskin, CavanKerry Press, Ltd., 2010. Reprinted by permission of Robert Cording. Introduction copyright ©2011 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.
American Life in Poetry provides newspapers and online publications with a free weekly column featuring contemporary American poems. The sole mission of this project is to promote poetry: American Life in Poetry seeks to create a vigorous presence for poetry in our culture. There are no costs for reprinting the columns; we do require that you register your publication here and that the text of the column be reproduced without alteration.

Old Houses by Robert Cording : American Life in Poetry

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Wordle Writing Prompt from Mark Stratton

Wordle: Adventure Paragraph

For our weekend creative writing prompts, here is some inspiration contributed by Mark Stratton. He is offering a wordle which was made from a blog entry he wrote about going back to school this fall to study poetry.

You can use as many or as few words from the picture to write whatever you would like. No rules! Feel free to post what you come up with.

As another prompt option, you can respond to one of Mark's favorite quotes below:

"Success comes to a writer, as a rule, so gradually that it is always something of a shock to him to look back and realize the heights to which he has climbed."

— P. G. Wodehouse

‎"I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason and intellect has intended us to forgo their use."

- Galileo Galilei

A huge thank you to Mark for contributing prompts this weekend. You can learn more about Mark Stratton by vsiting

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Creative Writing Prompts: Ice cream! Mine!

Ice cream! Mine! by Ollie Crafoord
Ice cream! Mine!, a photo by Ollie Crafoord on Flickr.
Here is a link to a poem by a high school student named Tara Morris. The poem is called, "I am a Mint Chocolate Chip." Please read it at this great website that offers a new poem every day. It is one of my favorites, "Your Daily Poem."

After you read it, take 5 minutes and write a list of all the objects that are a part of your life and define you. I love that Tara started with ice-cream. What is your favorite ice-cream? Pick objects, but also pick situational things. The fact that the bus is not just a bus, but a "missed bus," tells us a lot.

After you make your list, please write in either essay or poetry form using favorite images from your list.

PLEASE feel free to post part of what you write today. I would love to read it.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Using Unfamiliarity to Create Dramatic Tension in Writing

Hello, everybody.  This week's guest prompter is award-winning writer Terri Giuliano Long.  
Thank you to Terri and all my guest prompters who help us out and bring us unique lessons and ideas!
Please let us know how you like the prompts.  Comments are always welcome.


Use Unfamiliarity to Create Dramatic Tension
by Terri Giuliano Long
Setting and atmosphere provide a backdrop for stories and poems, creating a sense of reality that puts readers in the moment. That’s only their most basic function. Skillfully written atmospheric detail also increases tension and drama.
Although the two work together, setting and atmosphere are not interchangeable:
Setting: the story’s time (time of day or historical time period), location, weather

Atmosphere: prevailing mood, which can be established or affected by setting

Typical ways to use setting and atmosphere to create narrative tension include: 1) setting characters in opposition to nature; 2) using dramatic irony; 3) placing characters in an unfamiliar setting. For this prompt, I’ll focus on unfamiliarity.

In strange places, we think and behave differently than we do in familiar places, where we’re comfortable and we know what to expect. Settings unfamiliar in time or place evoke a similar sense of disrupted balance for characters and for readers.
Eric Larson’s riveting book The Devil in the White City, set in Chicago during the 1893 World’s Fair, pits protagonist Daniel Burnham against serial killer Dr. D. H. Holmes. Larson vividly evokes the sights, sounds, and smells of the period, luring us into the underbelly of this unfamiliar world. This tense situation is made even more dramatic by our lack of familiarity with nineteenth century Chicago. This world operates differently than ours, so we never quite know what to expect. 

In his 2005 film Hostel, Quentin Tarantino uses an unfamiliar place to create dramatic tension. Three college students backpacking in Slovakia, looking for fun and adventure, encounter terror beyond their wildest imagination. In a familiar setting – say, the U.S. or England – where the students knew the language and had a reasonable chance of getting help if they needed it, the story would be less inherently frightening. In Slovakia, even before anything terrible happens, we feel a creepy sense of danger. The kids have absolutely no idea how this world works, or how to survive it; as that reality sinks in, it terrifies them, and it terrifies us.
Writing Prompt
a) Describe a familiar place. Maybe it’s your hometown or your alma mater, your workplace, your favorite city or rural area, the city or town where you live now. Use all five senses to evoke a tangible sense of this place. What makes it unique? Describe the weather, the people, the culture, the environment – the architecture or decor. What language/s do people speak? How do people interact?
b) Write a scene or poem set in the place you’ve described. Make the scene active, vibrant – write about a riot, a block party, a festival, a parade. Bring the place to life.
c) Think of a person who’d be unfamiliar in this place– someone far younger or older than you or the other characters (a grandmother walking in on a frat house party, for instance), a foreigner who doesn’t speak the language, a city dweller in the backwoods for the first time. Rewrite a scene or poem from his or her point of view. 

What changed? How did a lack of familiarity affect the protagonist? Did anything unexpected happen? How might readers interpret and experience the scenes differently? If you’re intrigued, keep writing! See where the story poem takes you!

Terri Giuliano Long teaches writing at Boston College. Her award-winning debut novel, In Leah’s Wake, is the 2011 Book Bundlz Book Pick. Visit her blog: Or connect with her on Facebook: Or Twitter: @tglong

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Blueberry Writing Prompts

Blueberries by La Grande Farmers' Market
Blueberries, a photo by La Grande Farmers' Market on Flickr.
Have you ever picked blueberries? What are your memories of blueberries? What do blueberries remind you of?

1. Memoir Prompt: Write about a memory of blueberries.

2. Poetry Prompt: Do an acrostic poem with the word BLUEBERRIES written down the side of your paper.  Make a reference to something that is shade of blue in four of the lines.  Here is a rough draft starter example:

Blueberry picking time in Michigan, and I
Love the wild taste of blueberries fresh from the patch
Under a sizzling sky
Blue thoughts of pies, jam, and cobbler cloud my mind, this
Eternal summer to be frozen in a Ziplocfor winter blues protection, but
Right  now you are fresh, real,
I've never known sweeter blues than this taste of July
Endless rows of blue paradise
Succulent summer, so delicioius and short, I savor you in blue. 

Monday, July 25, 2011

Abstract Writing Prompts

Abstract Art, Dubai by Virtual BCM-Bobb & Company Marketing
Abstract Art, Dubai, a photo by Virtual BCM-Bobb & Company Marketing on Flickr.

"Abstract Art... is part of the constant change and vital searching that energizes every true art."  (Leonard Brooks)

For today, we are going to do abstract writing prompts based on the picture above. 

1.  Free-Write Prompt:  Write for 5 minutes about the energy you feel, see and hear from this work of abstract art.

2.  After your free-write, write either a short essay or story (minimum of 300 words) or poem (10-20 lines) inspired by the painting.  Use your notes from the free-write to keep you going.

Please feel free to post part of your work or what you think about the painting.

Happy Writing!!!

Nature-Inspired Writing Prompts

Colorized Butterflies by Ang Kim

"I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station, through which God speaks to us every hour, if we will only tune in." George Washington Carver

Today, I'm asking you to tune into nature.  Even if it is too hot to go outside, you can look out a window, find a picture, or remember something.

Free-Write for 10 minutes:  Write something about nature that you have not noticed before.  For example, I have zinnias blooming in my garden, and I was intrigued that  Ifound one pink zinnia with two petals that are white.  I've been going back to that image all weekend, and I think I would like to write about it. 

Poetry Prompt:  Look at your notes from your free-write and draft a poem from them.  Any length, any style, even if it is a bad poem.  (You can always turn it into a better poem later!)

Fiction Prompt:  Look at your notes from the free-write and use an image to relate to a character.  Write about a character that is connected to one of the images or discoveries you found in your free-write. 

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Creative Writing Prompts Inspired by Joy Harjo

Happy Weekend, Dear Writers!

I have a great guest prompter lined up for you next week, but this Friday, looks like you get me again.  I hope you are enjoying the blog and the prompts.  Please let me know if you know of any artists or writers who want to contribute to inspiring others because I would love to feature them.

I came across this FABULOUS poem by Joy Harjo that is online at the The Writer's Almanac.  Please go to the poem "Perhpas the World Ends Here" by Joy Harjo.  Read the poem 3 times.  Yes, that's right, 3 times.

After you read the poem, take some silence just to think.  Reflect on tables you sat at during family gatherings over the years.  Or even just your own every day table.  What memories are sparked?  For your creative nonfiction prompt, please write on the subject of table memories for 10 minutes. 

For your poetry writing prompt, write an ode to a table from your life, a specific table. 

And for your fiction writing prompt, practice dialogue.  Think of a conversation from a kitchen table, or make one up.  Write a dialogue with a little conflict.  Use your relatives for character inspiration. 

Happy Writing and have a great weekend everyone!

Love to all,


Creative Writing Prompts with Random Words

Random Words of the Day:

pinball, trickle, crawl, sin-sweet, knuckles, happiness, mess, purge, saint, soul, cranes, Swiss Army knife, bandanna, vote, swear, essence, sunburn, boat, veil

Writing Prompts: 

1.  Free-write about the feelings the picture gives you.

2.  Write a 10-line poem with 5 of the random words.

3.  Make 3 opening lines for a story using three of the random words in each sentence.   Then pick your favorite line and write from that for 10 minutes without stopping.

4.  Pick a word that prompts a memory and write for 10 minutes without stopping.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Enjoying Where You Are Writing Prompt

This beautiful quote and painting is by a dear friend of mine, Chantal Hoey Sanders.  She is one of the most positive people I know, despite her daily struggle with fibromyalgia. 

For today's writing prompt, I want you to take this quote and run with it.  Make it a poem, a story, an essay, or just free-write and explore in your journal.  Write about where you are in this VERY moment and what you can enjoy despite your circumstances. 

Thank you to Chantal for providing today's prompt.  Blessings to all of you, dear writers!

Please visit Chantal's website to learn more about her and how she has found victory on her life's journey through fibromyalgia.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Summertime Writing Prompts 1

Vlasta Salnikova |

Creative Writing Prompts for Summer

It's going to be a hot one out here today, for sure.  Today for our creative writing prompts, we are going to reflect on summer.  Where I live, summer is a great time to eat fresh fruit (like watermelon) and vegetables.  We also have a lot of colors with the flowers in bloom. We will use quotes today to jump-start our writing.

Free-Write Prompt

In June, as many as a dozen species may burst their buds on a single day. No man can heed all of these anniversaries; no man can ignore all of them. - Aldo Leopold

Free-write for at least 5 minutes on what you have noticed about summer recently.

Essay Prompt

There shall be eternal summer in the grateful heart. - Celia Thaxter

Write about what you are grateful for in summer.

Poetry Prompt

What are some of your favorite summer foods?  Write a poem about one of them.  You might want to review Barbara Crooker's prompt on food before starting a summer food poem. 

Good luck and enjoy!  As always, feel free to leave a comment or an excerpt of your writing. 


Friday, July 15, 2011

The Writing Scavenger Hunt with Miss Good on Paper

Good morning, Writers!  This weekend you can think of your creative writing prompts as an adventure.  Our guest prompter is Miss Good on Paper and she has a fun and interactive set of writing prompts which I know I will look forward to using with high school students in a couple of weeks.  I hope you enjoy them.  Please let me know how the prompts work out for you---we read all your comments and appreciate them.  Thank you, Miss Good on Paper, for sharing this fabulous idea!

Nick Stubbs |

The Writing Scavenger Hunt by Miss Good on Paper

I used to love scavenger hunts, searching for items and crossing off the found objects on my list. Who am I kidding? I still love scavenger hunts. It’s why I must make a list before going to the grocery store. It’s why I love holidays like Easter, when I can hide eggs and watch my nieces and nephews discover each hidden egg like it is buried treasure. 

Writing can sometimes feel like a scavenger hunt, too. You search through your mind and your notes for the right detail, the perfect setting, the ideal word. Yes, it is sometimes tedious, but you have to admit that it’s pretty fun, too. 

The scavenger hunt activity is one I use with students to help get them out of their chairs and into the world. After all, so much of the inspiration for writing doesn’t happen when staring at a blank page or screen. Real life is where you meet people who will become the basis of your characters. Real life is where all your story’s amazing details begin (even if you don’t realize it at the time). 

Below you will find a list of items. You’ll need to get out of your seat and start searching. You may even need to leave your home to find some of these items; take your time and take the list with you on your next outing. Try jotting down your results because you’ll need all of this later.

When you’re finished finding each item, there is a related writing activity to help you quilt together all of the items on your list.

Writing Scavenger Hunt:
One piece of graffiti 

One name of a store or restaurant·        

One vivid and specific description of a person

Two pieces of dialogue (overheard from someone besides you)      

Two smells  (be specific)    

Two hand gestures or facial expressions that a person makes   

Three names of food and/or drinks you’ve never tried before        

Three sounds (be specific)


Touch something and write down a description of how it feels     

Listen to a song (any random song will do) and write down one lyric       

Find one specific thing that is beautiful, one thing that is sad, one thing that is grotesque, one thing that is funny

Writing Activity Fiction writers: Write a scene involving that uses as many of the “items” from your scavenger hunt as possible. Try to incorporate at least one character in your scene. Do not feel forced to use them all, though. Just like in writing, not every idea will fit. You may be able to save some of these items for another piece in the future.

Poetry Prompt:  Write a poem that tells a story and uses sensory details from your scavenger hunt. Do not feel forced to use them all, though. Just like in writing, not every idea will fit. You may be able to save some of these items for another piece in the future.

As a writer your job is to pay attention and observe the world. Try to imagine each day as a scavenger hunt in which you are always collecting snippets and details to use for your writing.  Let me know what you find on your scavenger hunt. I’d love to hear all the wonderful details! 

Miss Good on Paper is a writer, blogger, and English instructor.  She writes literary fiction and her writing has appeared in Iron Horse Literary Review, The Potomac Review, Pank, and many others. She is also the author of the blog, The Writing Apprentice. She lives in South Carolina with her husband and two cats. 

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Lao-Tzu Writing Prompts 1

Iperl |

Lao-Tzu Writing Prompts

Whether Lao-Tzu from China is a myth or actually lived, and whether or not Lao-Tzu was conceived when his mother gazed upon a falling star (after which he lived in the womb for 62 years before emerging after his mother leaned up against a plum tree), it is true that Lao-Tzu is considered the founder of Taoism and given credit for many insightful quotes.  Today we look at one Lao-Tzu quote that will inspire our creative writing prompts. 

"I have just three things to teach:  simplicity, patience, compassion.  These things are you greatest treasures."

Essay prompts:

1.  Do you agree that simplicity, patience, and compassion are the greatest treasures?  Why or why not?  Give examples.

2.  Reflect on how simplicity can bring joy and contentment.  How can you incorporate more of that into your life?

3.  Reflect on patience.  Do you need more?  What do you think you can do to become more patient?

Story Starters for Fiction Writing:

1.  She found pleasure in simple things like. . .

2.  He was surprised by her act of compassion. . .

Poetry Prompt:

Write a poem that contains at least three simple things that bring you joy.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Writing and Imagery

Dailos Ortuño |

Writing and Imagery Creative Writing Prompts

Today we will explore imagery.  I want you to go to the poem which is featured on Your Daily Poem.  It is by Mary Jo Balistreri and it is called "Poetry."   Within this poem, you will find some strong nature images.  Which one is your favorite? 

Today, I want you to explore nature and collect a list of images.  Please feel free to share your images in the comments section.

Poetry Writing Prompt:

Pick an image from your list and start a poem with it. 

Memoir Writing Prompt:

Mary Jo's poem is filled with imagery that is based around the scene of camping.  Do you have any memories of camping?  Please write about one.

Fiction Writing Prompts:

Below are some story starters based on Mary Jo's poem.  Pick one and write from that for five minutes without stopping.

1.  When they heard a wolf's wail echoing from the woods, they were not afraid because. . .

2.  She found comfort in the unseen sounds of . . .

3.  Reflections were shining from. . .