Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Walt Whitman Creative Writing Prompts

Happy Birthday to Walt Whitman!  You can read a wonderful article about Walt Whitman at today's Writer's Almanac. 

In honor of Walt Whitman's birthday, our creative writing prompts will be inspired by a couple of his many thought-provoking quotes.

Creative Nonfiction Prompt: 

"Have you learned the lessons only of those who admired you, and were tender with you, and stood aside for you? Have you not learned great lessons from those who braced themselves against you, and disputed passage with you?"

Write an essay about someone who "braced themselves against you" or "disputed passage with you" and what you learned from that. 

Poetry Prompt:

"A morning glory at my window satisfies me more than the metaphysics of books."

Write a poem about things in nature that give you pleasure.  You can make a list poem of many things, or you can focus on one or two things.  If you choose to write about two things, try to tie them together in some way.  

You can read more Walt Whitman quotes here:  

Monday, May 30, 2011

Emily Dickinson Creative Writing Prompts

Grethe Bjornas | Dreamstime.com

by Emily Dickinson

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I've heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

I hope you enjoy today's picture and the poem by Emily Dickinson.  Being that today is Memorial Day, I thought a theme of hope would be appropriate for our creative writing prompts. 

Today, one creative writing option  to free-write from the picture and the phrase from the pictures description, "behind the sky there's always sunshine. . . "

Fiction Writing Prompt:  Write a short story where a character struggles with a problem, but finds a sign that brings hope in the end.

Poetry Prompt:  Start your own poem with the words, "Hope is. . . "  Be sure to use a lot of imagery in your poem.  It can be free-verse or it can rhyme like Emily Dickinson's hope poem -as always, it is your choice.  The most important thing is to write!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Poetry Prompt With Adele Kenny

Jeremyreds | Dreamstime.com

I'm very pleased to introduce this weekend's guest prompter Adele Kenny.  I'm not only a fan of Adele's poetry, but I'm also a fan of her blog "The Music In It," where you can find weekly poetry prompts that will offer a challenge alongside great examples.  In my opinion, Adele's blog offers THE BEST poetry prompts on the web.  So for those of you into writing poetry, you will definately want to follow her blog. 

Today Adele offers us a prompt and a poem which won the Merton Poetry of the Sacred Prize in 2007.  For those who don't normally write poetry, I ask you to give this exercise a try. You are also free to free-write from today's picture for 5 minutes without stopping. 

And now, here is today's prompt with Adele Kenny.  Enjoy!


This is a prompt I designed for a workshop group many years ago and still use. The focus is a memory – something real, sourced to the past. Begin by thinking of a moment in your life that was especially meaningful.

(a) Write a word or two to set a specific time that you associate with your memory. The word(s) with which you begin can be a season, month, day, occasion, morning, afternoon, night. End with a period.

(b) On the same line start an image that characterizes your time word(s). This is an image – descriptive, evocative… Stay in the present tense – the poem begins now, (this will help create a sense of immediacy in your poem). Find a natural pause in your image and go to the next line to complete it. You may need more than one line to do this. Remember: break to a new line when you “feel” a pause. Use as many lines as you need, but keep it fairly brief. Punctuate as you would in prose.

(c) Now add a second brief image, still in the present tense. Use as many lines as you need.

(d) Here’s where you get to the memory. If you look at the sample, you’ll see the ellipsis at the end of the last line. This doesn’t signal the end of the poem! At this point you get into your memory. You don’t have to use words like “I remember” (you may if you wish, but there are better ways to make the transition from present to past). From this point on, you will write the memory.

(e) Finally, find a way to bring the poem to closure – not a summation or moralization. You don’t need to overtly make your point in the last line – the body of the poem should do that. Remember that less can be more.

After you’ve drafted the poem, edit, revise, and tweak. This is the best time to revamp the pattern and rewrite if you wish. As you tweak, look for adjectives that you don’t need. Be ready to eliminate prepositions or prepositional phrases (e.g. change a phrase like “the whisper of a church” to “a church’s whisper” or “the colors of the rainbow” to “the rainbow’s colors”). Polish your poem’s form (stanzas, use of space). Choose a title (often a significant phrase from the poem)

Sample:(a) Late night. (b) Deepening dark
(b) and no moon.
(c) Curtains billow into my room
(c) like pale ghosts
(c) through the window’s white driftwood.
(d) It is now and night
(d) and twenty years ago…
(e) ______________________

I wrote my poem “Of Feathers, Of Flight” using this prompt as a starter.
Available online: http://www.yourdailypoem.com/listpoem.jsp?poem_id=327
and http://poetry.us.com/adelekenny.html

Or, here it is:

Of Feathers, Of Flight

…if I look up into the heavens I think that it will all come right …
and that peace and tranquility will return again.
                                                                                 – Anne Frank
That spring, a baby jay fell from its nest,
   and we took it to Mrs. Levine, who told
us the mother would know our hands and
   never take it back. Spring that year was a

cardboard box, cries for eyedropper food –
   feather-stalks stretched into wings. We
knew, of course, that we couldn’t keep it.
   (Later, we would mark the spot with stones

and twigs – where the bird fell, where we
   let it go – and sometimes, stopped in the
middle of play, would point and say, there,
   right there.) The day we freed it, it beat, a

heart-clock (wound and sprung in Ruth
   Levine’s old hand) that, finally, finding
the sky, flew higher than all the briars
   strung like metal barbs above the fence –

a speck of updraft ash and gone. Heaven,
   fuller then for one small bird, spread its
blue wing over us and the tree and Mrs.
   Levine who, breathing deeply, raised her

numbered arm to the light and moved her
   thumb over each fingertip as if she could
feel to the ends of her skin the miracle
   edge of freedom, of feathers, of flight.

 – Merton Poetry of the Sacred Prize (2007)
    First Published in Merton Seasonal

About Adele Kenny

Adele Kenny is the author of 23 books (poetry & nonfiction). Her poems, reviews, and articles have been published in journals worldwide, and her poems have appeared in books and anthologies published by Crown, Tuttle, Shambhala, and McGraw-Hill. She is the recipient of numerous awards for her poetry, including two poetry fellowships from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, a first place Merit Book Award, a Thomas Merton Poetry of the Sacred Award, and a Writer’s Digest Poetry Award. A former professor of creative writing in the College of New Rochelle’s Graduate School, she is the founding director of the Carriage House Poetry Series and poetry editor of Tiferet. Welcome Rain will publish her newest collection of poems, What Matters, in 2011.

Adele’s Website: http://mysite.verizon.net/adelekenny/

Adele’s Blog: http://adelekenny.blogspot.com/

Books by Adele


Thursday, May 26, 2011

Dorthea Lange Creative Writing Prompts

"Cheap Auto Camp Housing for Citrus Workers"
By Dorothea Lange, Tulare County, California, February 1940
National Archives and Records Administration, Records of the Bureau of Agricultural Economics
(83-G-41555) [VENDOR # 85]

Dorthea Lange was born on this day in 1895 in Hobokon, New Jersey.  Dorthea worked for the government and many of her photos, including those above, are in the public domain.  She captured many scenes of American hardships.  The Writer's Almanac has a nice article about her today and you can read it here. 

If you believe there is a thousand words per picture, then I say with Dorthea's work, you can find at least 2,000.  Today, I ask you to free-write from one of these pictures for at least 5 minutes without stopping.

Here is a quote from Dorthea Lange:  

"You know, so often it's just sticking around and being there, remaining there, not swooping out in a cloud of dust: sitting down on the ground with people, letting children look at your camera with their dirty, grimy little hands, and putting their fingers on the lens, and you just let them, because you know that if you will behave in a generous manner, you are apt to receive it, you know?

Poetry Writing:  Write a poem with the theme of generosity

Fiction Writing Practice:  Write a paragraph about one of the characters in one of the photos.  What is the characters name?  What does your character need?  What does your character enjoy?  What does the character want?


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Ralph Waldo Emerson Creative Writing Prompts

It was on this day in 1803 that Ralph Waldo Emerson was born in Boston.  You can read more about Emerson here. 

Today we are going to use some quotes from Ralph Waldo Emerson to inspire our creative writing prompts.  There are so many good ones that it was hard to choose. 

Poetry Prompts:  Emerson said, "Live in the sunshine, swim in the sea, drink the wild air."  Write a poem that celebrates your life in relation to nature.  You can start your poem with Emerson's quote as an epigraph if you would like. 


Here is my favorite Emerson quote:  "The earth laughs in flowers."  Write a list poem of images of other ways you see the earth in an expression of joy.  Name the flowers, what they do.  Notice other things that are little images that parallel happiness and laughter. 

Creative Nonfiction Prompt:  Emerson said, "In my walks, every man I meet is my superior in some way, and in that I learn from him."

Think about someone you have learned from and write about what you learned from the person.  Try to pick a person who seems superior in a surprising way.  Perhaps someone younger than you, perhaps someone less fortunate, etc.

Fiction Writing Prompt:  From  his essay "Self Reliance," Emerson writes, "Nothing can bring you peace but yourself. Nothing can bring you peace but the triumph of principles."

Write a fiction scene where a character finds peace.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Creative Writing Prompts Inspired by Bob Dylan

In honor of Bob Dylan's 70th Birthday, I thought creative writing prompts about CHANGE would be a appropriate.  Bob Dylan is a musician, song writer and poet and you can read about him on today's Writer's Almanac.  My favorite song of Bob Dylan's is "The Times They a Changin'."  The Youtube video is the song as performed by Marco Magani, and it features some intense moments in history.  (Teachers will want to preview the video before deciding whether or not to show it in class.) If you would like to see the lyrics to this song, you can read them at this link:  http://www.metrolyrics.com/the-times-they-are-achangin-lyrics-bob-dylan.html

Song Writing Prompt:  Look at the lyrics of this song and write another verse or two for the song.  I'd love to see you post what you come up with.  OR
Write your own song about change. 

Creative Nonfiction Prompt:  Write about something that has changed in your life or that is changing now.  OR Write about what you wish would change and why. 

Poetry Writing Prompt:  Write a poem about the way things used to be and the way they are now.  Some of this may turn out to be ironic.  You can follow a simple list form to get this poem started, but of course, you can mix it up and use any form you like when you revise.  For starters, use the form before and repeat six times.

I used to __________________________,
            but now I ____________________________

Fiction Writing Prompts:  Write about a short story about a character who makes a change that impacts something in his or her life.  The change can be physical or psychological. 

Monday, May 23, 2011

"I AM" Poetry Prompt

© Carlos Sanchez Pereyra | Dreamstime.com

For today's free-write prompt, you can write anything that comes from the picture.  Time yourself for 5 minutes and write without stopping. 

And now, I am going to encourage everybody to try their hand at a poetry prompt today.  I have used the "I AM" poetry exercise over the years with children and adults, and this is something that everyone can do.  You can use this prompt again and again, and you will get something different every time because we are always in a different spot at different phases of our lives.  I have suggested that people do this poem every year to mark the celebration of their birthdays. 

I was happy to see that Ted Kooser featured an example of the "I AM" poem in his column a few weeks ago. The form is below, and below that the form, I have inserted the Kooser article with an example "I AM" poem.  Please feel free to post part of your poem (or all of it) in the comment section today.


I AM POEM (fill in the blacks with the directions.  Be as unusual as you dare!)

I am     (Two special characteristics you have)
I wonder     (something you are actually be curious about)
I hear     (an imaginary or actual sound)
I see     (an imaginary or actual sight)
I want     (a desire)
I am     (the first line of the poem is repeated)
I pretend     (something you actually pretend to do)
I feel     (Something imaginary)
I touch     (an imaginary touch)
I worry     (something that really worries you)
I cry     (something that makes you sad)
I am     (the first line of the poem is repeated)
I understand     (something you know to be true)
I say     (something you believe in)
I dream     (something you actually dream about)
I try     (something you make an effort to do)
I hope     (something you hope for)
I am     (the first line of the poem repeated)

American Life in Poetry: Column 319
Here’s a poem in which eight-year-old Ava Schicke, who lives in Omaha, Nebraska, tells us just who she is and what she thinks.

I am

I am a daughter and a sister.
I wonder when I will die.
I hear the warm weather coming.
I see stars in the day.
I want to learn my whole ballet dance.
I am a daughter and a sister.

I pretend to be a teacher at home.
I feel like I am a teacher.
I touch hands that are growing.
I worry that I will never change.
I cry when something or someone dies.
I am a daughter and a sister.

I understand that teachers work hard for students.
I say that I don’t like bullies.
I dream about me not moving while trying really hard to run.
I try to become a good friend.
I hope that there is no more dying or killing.
I am a daughter and a sister.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Creative Writing Prompts with Michael Giorgio

First of all, I want to thank all the guest prompters who have helped me so far:  Kathie Giorgio, Kelli Russell Agodon, Diane Lockward, Barbara Crooker, Elizabeth Spann Craig, Nancy Canyon and Michael Giorgio .  This blog is still quite new, but I'm very pleased in the direction it is going, and I know that part of its success is the writers who are contributing to offer a nice variety of prompts and perspectives.  I'm also grateful for those who lent poems and artwork for special features.  If anyone out there is interested in being featured as a guest prompter, please see the "Be A Guest Prompter" page.  We are also on the lookout for interesting art work to inspire our writers. 
I would also like to say thank you to the readers and especially those who post.  I wish you all the best in your writing and I hope you will come back and find more inspiration in the future. 

For this weekend's creative writing prompts, I'm pleased to introduce a fantastic writer who is also a good friend.  His name is Michael Giorgio and I met him through Kathie Giorgio, his wife and my teacher.  Today Michael offers some serious and insightful prompts that should keep you busy with your writing time this weekend.  Ladies and gentlemen, I now turn the blog over to Michael Giorgio.

As a writer who started his career writing for audio productions, I am most interested in the power of the spoken word and how that power can be translated to the printed page.  I’m also interested in how the same spoken words can have different meanings to different listeners.  Because of this, I find myself pondering quotations as a source for creative inspiration.  Not necessarily the most famous quotations—anyone can work with those—but the more personal, somewhat obscure utterances.

Recently, I heard a story regarding William O. Douglas, US Supreme Court Justice from 1939 to 1975.  When Douglas was six, his father, who had been sick several times in young William’s life, was going to have surgery.  He knew his outlook was grim and his last words to his wife, which William overheard, were “If I die, it will be with glory; if I live, it will be with grace.”

I’ve been pondering this quote for a while now, thinking of all the different situations in which it could be applied, and of the situations in which the opposite could be applied.  So now it’s your turn.  This is actually a multiple prompt, because there’s more here than just the quotation.  Think about the creative possibilities.  There’s the quotation, of course.  There are plenty of themes to play with—deathbed promises, purpose of or purposeful lives, last words to loved ones.  Overheard words not necessarily intended for one to hear.  Then there’s the whole issue of eternity, which has inspired and will continue to inspire volumes of writings.

For another, related prompt, think for a moment about the idea of last words.  What would you (or a character) want your last words to be?  Who would be the person or people to hear them?  Who wouldn’t you (or the character) want to hear them?  If time were short, what would go unsaid?  What would be that last thought, that last emotion, that last visual, that last smell, or touch…

Or, turn it around.  What about the person who hears those last words, provides that last touch….

Michael Giorgio lives in Waukesha with his wife, fellow writer Kathie Giorgio, and daughter Olivia.  He teaches creative writing for AllWriters’ Workplace and Workshop (http://www.allwriters.org/) and online for Writers’ Digest University.  Though primarily a mystery writer, he has published short stories in many genres, as well as poetry and creative nonfiction, and has had audio dramas produced on radio stations from coast-to-coast and rebroadcast in England and Australia.  His short fiction has appeared in over a dozen anthologies, including the upcoming Pot Luck Flash Fiction; Comes the Night; and Twisted Love, as well as in magazines such as The Strand (the original home of Sherlock Holmes).  He is an active member of the Mystery Writers of America.


Thursday, May 19, 2011

Creative Writing Prompts with Random Words

Yordan Mihaylov | Dreamstime.com

Today we are working with random words for our creative writing prompts.  Here are your words of the day:

lizard like, blink, evolve, ceiling, violin, island, dazzle, afloat, south, backwards, chickadee, humble, random, blush, appear, sunrise, spirit, fall, lie, turn, sweeten, green, willow, green, amethyst

Writing Practice:  Use 5 of the words in a paragraph about anything. 

Poetry Writing Prompt:  Use at least 7 of these words in a poem that is 12 lines or less.

Free-Write:  What is the cat in the picture thinking?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Creative Writing Prompts with Bicycle

Alvaro Lopez | Dreamstime.com

For today's creative writing prompts, we are going to reflect on bikes.  I would recommend everybody read this wonderful memory poem of learning to ride a bike by Sheila Packa.  It is called "Not Forgotten" and you can read it on today's Writer's Almanac by clicking on this link:  http://writersalmanac.publicradio.org/index.php?date=2011/05/18

Creative Non-fiction:  Do you remember learning to ride a bike for the first time?  Write about learning how to ride a bike. 
Write about a memory of riding bikes with friends or alone.

Fiction Writing Prompt:  Write a story to  go with the picture.  Who is the person who rode the bike in the picture?  What is the person doing while the bike is parked by the shore?

Poetry Writing Prompt:  Write a poem about a bicycle you used to ride.  OR Write any poem with a bike in it.

Fun-Write:  Design your own bicycle.  What special qualities does it have?  How fast does it go?  What does it look like?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Beethovan Kruetzer Sonata Creative Writing Prompt

It was on this day in 1803 that Beethovan's Kruetzer Sonata was first performed.  I hope you enjoy the video of Rachel Barton Pine playing this beautiful piece.  Today's creative writing prompts are based on this peaceful music.

Free-Write Prompt:  Try writing while the music is playing.  Ride the notes and see where they take you. 

Poetry Writing Prompt:  First listen to the music and jot down a list of images and emotions that go through your mind as you listen.  When you are finished, circle three things from your list and try writing a poem of 10 lines or less using the three things you circled from your list.  Of course, you can use more than three if you would like. 

Creative Nonfiction Prompt:  Write about any memory you have about listening to music.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Creative Writing Prompts with Limericks

Today is the birthday of Edward Lear who wrote over 200 limericks in his lifetime.  Below are a couple of Lear's limericks. 

There was an Old Lady whose folly
Induced her to sit in a holly;
Whereupon by a thorn
Her dress being torn,
She quickly became melancholy.


There was an Old Man who supposed
That the street door was partially closed;
But very big rats
Ate his coats and his hats,
While that futile old gentlemen dozed.


There was an Old Person of Ischia,
Whose conduct grew friskier and friskier;
He danced hornpipes and jigs,
And ate thousands of figs,
That lively Old Person of Ischia.

Poetry Writing Prompt:  Try your hand at a limerick or two.  The two limericks show lines 1,2 and 3 ending with the same rhyme and lines 3 and 4 have a rhyme of their own.  Notice how the third limerick's last line is a summing up of the first line, and that is a technique that might make this a little easier.  You can write a limerick about the picture if you'd like or anything you want to.  Give it a try and PLEASE post your limericks (or a link to them) if you'd like.  The most important rule is to HAVE FUN with this!


Fiction Writing Prompt:  Write a silly story based on one the limericks on this page or any limerick.


Free-Write:  Free-write about today's picture OR free-write about the word "worry." 

Creative Writing Prompt About Shoes

Since yesterday marked the birthday of Lyman Frank Baum (writer of The Wizard of Oz), I thought it would fun to have creative writing prompts about shoes.  In the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy is given the shoes of the Wicked Witch's sister to wear as she journeys through Oz.  The movie made shiny red shoes famous, and I remember buying a pair of red sparkly mary jane's for my daughter when she was young so that she could have shoes just like Dorothy. 

Free-Write:  Think about shoes to get your writing started.  Think about shoes you have worn that might have marked a special occasion, shoes you might have lost, shoes that you loved when you were a child, shoes you wanted but could not have, etc.   Go where your mind takes you.

Fun-Write:  Write about a pair of shoes you invent that can do anything.  Write about your design, what do they look like? What can they do?  What makes them special?

Fiction-Writing Practice:  Start creating a character in relation to the shoes he or she wears.  Why does your character wear those shoes?  What parts of the personality can you connect with the shoes he or she wears?


For those of you in progress with a novel, spend some time reflecting on the shoes your character wears.  Write out a scene that references which shoes your character is wearing. 

Poetry Writing Prompt:  Write an ode to your favorite pair of shoes.  They can be shoes you have now or shoes you used to have.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Poetry Prompt with Diane Lockward

Today, I'm pleased to introduce an amazing poet, Diane Lockward, who is our guest prompter today.  We are also featuring one of Diane's poems as an example of the poetry prompt.  You can read about Diane below the post.  As a free-write prompt, you can focus on any of the steps in the exercise below and practice descriptive writing.  I hope you enjoy today's creative writing prompts!


This is an activity I adapted from one by the poet and educator, Georgia Heard.

Before you begin, fold a piece of paper so that you end up with six boxes or rooms—in half the long way, then in thirds. (Alternatively, you can use 6 index cards.) Give yourself a few minutes for each step. This should be fast writing. Try to do this one step at a time,
in order, without looking ahead to see what's next.

1. Think of something that you’ve seen outside—something that is amazing, beautiful, interesting, or that has just stayed in your mind. Close your eyes and try to see it clearly. Notice its details. In the first room, describe what you see as accurately as you can.

2. For room number two, keep the same thing in mind, but just focus on the quality of light. E.g., is the sun bright? is it a dull day? any shadows? any colors that are reflecting light?

3. In the third room, picture the same image again, but focus on sounds: any voices? rustling of leaves? sound of rain or thunder? If it’s silent, what kind of silence is it?

4.In room four, write down any questions you have about the image. Anything you want to know more about? or wonder about?

5. In room five, write down any feelings you have about this same image.

6. Before you put anything In room six, look over the other rooms and select one word, a phrase, a line, or a sentence that feels important. Then repeat that three times in room six.

7. Read over what you have in all six rooms. Then create a poem from the material. Feel free to rearrange the order of the rooms.

I wrote my poem, "April at the Arboretum," using this prompt.
Available online:

Or here it is:

April at the Arboretum

 Hope is the thing with feathers.
          —Emily Dickinson

In a glass-encased room I thought of you,
far away, in the city you’ve flown to.
All winter I’d prayed hard for a miracle.
Now rain and ice pelted the windows,
drenched the gardens I’d wanted
to stroll. Yellow daffodils tilted,
tulips and crocus collapsed, leaves
of magnolias hung heavy with slush.

Out of purple rhododendron the first
goldfinch appeared, from forsythia, another
and another, at least a dozen, swooping
and gliding from thistle seed feeder
to tree to bush. A flock of goldfinches—
tarnished, soft, and brilliant, flying fragments
of gold, as if the sun had shattered.

Leaves of gold floated past panes of glass,
each bird without cares except to feed and fly.
All around me I heard sleet rat-a-tat-tatting,
and still the birds continued their airshow.
They did not suffer from ice, but flew
in perfect formation, a miniature
roller coaster, gliding in freefall,
looping and soaring, cradled by air.

Then the rain stopped pounding, and
in that airless silence no flutter of wings, no
twitter of birdsong. I only saw those small
trapeze artists on wings, flying cordless,
without cables or net, oblivious to danger,
and I thought of you, miles away,
trembling in the cold, cold rain.

 —from Temptation by Water (Wind Publications, 2010)

About Diane Lockward:

Diane Lockward is the author of three poetry books, most recently, Temptation by Water. Her previous books are What Feeds Us, which received the 2006 Quentin R. Howard Poetry Prize, and Eve's Red Dress. Her poems have been  included in such anthologies as Poetry Daily: 360 Poems from the World's Most Popular Poetry Website and Garrison Keillor's Good Poems for Hard Times, and have been published in such journals as Harvard Review, Spoon River Poetry Review, and Prairie Schooner. Her work has also been featured on Poetry Daily, Verse Daily, and The Writer's Almanac. She lives in northern New Jersey .

Diane's website:  http://www.dianelockward.com/   
Diane's Blog : http://www.dianelockward.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Creative Writing Prompts With Random Words

Jack Dagley | Dreamstime.com

Random Words of the Day:

charm, change, cricle, glass jars, ghost, watercolors, open, flag, hooting, anger, megaphone, barrel, rock, blocked, throw, doze, harvest, watch, escape, glitter, marbles

Fiction Writing Prompts:  Make some opening lines using 3 of the words (or any version of the words) in each line.   Then choose one to start a story. 


The charming ghosts circled her as she daydreamed about her journey. . .

He kept rocks in glass jars, next to his watercolors. . .

Poetry Writing Prompt:  Use 5 of the words in an 8-line poem.

Free-Write Prompt:  Pick a word that triggers something you can write about and write for 10 minutes without stoppping.

Happy Writing! 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Creative Writing Prompts About Things We Find

Ra Khalil | Dreamstime.com

Over where I live, spring time sets us free from the cold and going for walks is something we truly enjoy after being couped up all winter.  Today, I want you to think about things you have found in the past.  And if you have the time and the weather is nice by you, make a walk part of this prompt and see what you find on your walk.  Record what you discover. 

Creative Writing Prompts For All:  Make a list of things you remember finding, perhaps something you found or discovered on your walk today.

Free-Write Prompt:  Write about one of the things from you list.

Fiction Writing Prompt:  Write a story where your character finds something that helps him or her solve a problem.  What does your character find?  How is it found?  How does it help with the problem?

Poetry Writing Prompt:  Write a poem about something you have found.  Below is a poem from Ted Kooser's American Life in Poetry Column that features a poem about finding a turtle by Jeff Worley.  Notice how the first stanza is about explaining why the turtle was there to be found, and the second stanza starts "I imagine. . . "  Try writing a poem in that style or make a style of your own.

I hope you enjoy the poem below and your writing today.


A poem is an experience like any other, and we can learn as much or more about, say, an apple from a poem about an apple as from the apple itself. Since I was a boy, I’ve been picking up things, but I’ve never found a turtle shell until I found one in this poem by Jeff Worley, who lives in Kentucky.

On Finding a Turtle Shell in Daniel Boone National Forest

This one got tired
of lugging his fortress
wherever he went,
was done with duck and cover
at every explosion
through rustling leaves
of fox and dog and skunk.
Said au revoir to the ritual
of pulling himself together. . .

I imagine him waiting
for the cover of darkness
to let down his hinged drawbridge.
He wanted, after so many
protracted years of caution,
to dance naked and nimble
as a flame under the moon—
even if dancing just once
was all that the teeth
of the forest would allow.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2008 by Jeff Worley, whose most recent book of poems is Best to Keep Moving, Larkspur Press, 2009, which includes this poem. Reprinted from Poetry East, Nos. 62 & 63, Fall, 2008, by permission of Jeff Worley 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, May 9, 2011

Charles Simic-Inspired Writing Prompts

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Happy Birthday to poet Charles Simic!  Here is a quote from him to inspire your writing prompts today.
"If the sky falls they shall have clouds for supper."
Charles Simic (The World Doesn't End: Prose Poems)
Creative Writing Prompts for All

First, make a list of all things that the wind has blown around you or that you have seen come down from above.  Here are a few things to start your list:
dandelion fuzz
tumble weeds
. . .
Poetry Writing:  Write a 10-line poem about something from your list.

Free-Write Prompt:  Pick a word from your list that prompts a thought and write from there. 
Pick two words from your list and write about how they are similar. 

Children's Story Writing Prompt:  Write a story similar to the Chicken Little story, but put your own twist on it.  For example, instead of farm animals, you could have characters be creatures from another planet who think the stars are falling.   

Friday, May 6, 2011

Food-Inspired Creative Writing Prompts with Barbara Crooker

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Hello and Happy Friday!

Today’s guest prompter is one of my favorite poets, Barbara Crooker.  You can read about her at the end of the blog entry today.  I highly recommend visiting her website and reading some of her poems.

Many thanks to Barbara for preparing our creative writing prompts today, and thank you to poets Diane Lockward and Ron Wallace for giving us permission to showcase their poems as excellent examples that we hope will inspire you. 

Barbara Crooker says, “I like to use food prompts when I’m teaching workshops, because even if the writing exercise doesn’t go anywhere, you can always eat the prompt.” 

Enjoy the two poems below and you will find Barbara’s prompts after the poems. 

Bon Appetit!


To a Potato

by Diane Lockward  (from her new book Temptation by Water)

I love the smell of you just before bathing,
the earth that clings to your skin,
your skin scrubbed and peeled, salted and eaten raw,
prelude to the flesh inside,

pale flesh, multitudinous pleasures,
tender and hot, steam rising from the slit,
coarse, squashy, and fluffy, requiring a ritual
of preparation, the recklessness of butter.

Bit of a bother, actually, and rather dull on your own,
always in need of enhancement.
Sliced and diced, mingled with cheddar,
sautéed, and restuffed into your skin,
the Marilyn Monroe of potatoes.

As I clutch you, plump and firm, in my palm,
I recall your humble roots, your poisonous leaves,
you among potato pickers, a crude tuber,
feeding so many mouths, sidekick to fried hunks of fish.                                                                       

You are a fat, dirty spud, a misshapen blob
of starch, carbohydrates, and useless calories,
disreputable nightshade, consort to blight and famine.

Some days I think you are merely a side dish.
Nights I suffer the pangs of starvation,
tantalized by dreams of french fries,
my mouth stuffed with crisp strips of gold.

You Can't Write a Poem About McDonald's

by Ronald Wallace

Noon. Hunger the only thing
singing in my belly.
I walk through the blossoming cherry trees
on the library mall,
past the young couples coupling,
by the crazy fanatic
screaming doom and salvation
at a sensation-hungry crowd,
to the Lake Street McDonald's.
It is crowded, the lines long and sluggish.
I wait in the greasy air.
All around me people are eating—
the sizzle of conversation,
the salty odor of sweat,
the warm flesh pressing out of
hip huggers and halter tops.
When I finally reach the cash register,
the counter girl is crisp as a pickle,
her fingers thin as french fries,
her face brown as a bun.
Suddenly I understand cannibalism.
As I reach for her,
she breaks into pieces
wrapped neat and packaged for take-out.
I'm thinking, how amazing it is
to live in this country, how easy
it is to be filled.
We leave together, her warm aroma
close at my side.
I walk back through the cherry trees
blossoming up into pies,
the young couples frying in
the hot, oily sun,
the crowd eating up the fanatic,
singing, my ear, eye, and tongue
fat with the wonder
of this hungry world.

(Note:  “You Can’t Write a Poem About McDonald’s” by Ronald Wallace appeared in Long for This World:  New and Selected Poems.)

Poetry Writing Prompts:
Write a poem addressed to another fruit or vegetable.
Or do your own take on the potato.
Or write a poem in the voice of (written by) a fruit or a vegetable.
Or write an anti-poem, such as “You Can’t Write a Poem About McDonald’s” by Ron Wallace
Fiction Writing Prompts: 
Try to work a potato into your plot line at a pivotal moment.
Or see how you can use the likes/dislikes of these spuds to reveal an aspect of one of your characters.

Non-Fiction Prompts (memoir, journal entry, creative non-fiction):
What sensory images do you associate with potatoes?  What early childhood memories do you have about eating your first potato?

Barbara Crooker lives and writes in rural northeastern Pennsylvania, where she lives with her husband and son.  Her books are Radiance, winner of the 2005 Word Press First Book Award and finalist for the 2006 Paterson Poetry Prize; Line Dance (Word Press, 2008), winner of the 2009 Paterson Award for Excellence in Literature; and More (C&R Press, 2010) http://www.amazon.com/More-Poems-Barbara-Crooker/dp/193619600X/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1270034803&sr=1-6 .  Her poems appear in a variety of literary journals and many anthologies, including Good Poems for Hard Times (Garrison Keillor, editor)(Viking Penguin) and the Bedford Introduction to Literature. Visit her website: www.barbaracrooker.com

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Creative Writing Prompts with Random Words

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Below you will find a list of random words for your creative writing prompts today.  I love the many possibilities that await us in random word lists.

logic, whisper, surprise, aluminum, squander, purify, limit, inhabit, brick sidewalk, steer, mail slot, frame, narrow, widen, cross, world, wind, groceries, keys, unclip, soft heat, hum, emergency, puzzle, truck, five, dance, May

Fiction Writing Practice:  Create a new character and write a paragraph about the character you create.  Use 7 words from the list to write about your character.  For example, maybe your character collects keys, drives a blue truck, and loves to hum, etc. . . .

Creative Nonfiction Prompt:  Pick a word that prompts a memory, and write from there.
Write a memory you have about celebrating Cinco de Mayo.

Poetry Writing Prompt:  Write a ten-line poem that uses one word from the list in every other line.

Free Write:  Just write about the picture. 

Happy Writing!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Star Wars Creative Writing Prompts

Well, believe it or not, today is Star Wars day according to the Writers Alamac.  In honor of Star Wars, I'm sharing the "Stars Wars Tribute" video made by "kaufmattman" for your viewing pleasure.  May it inspire you!  Many thanks to "kaufmattman" and the You Tube share button for making this available to share. Your prompts are below.  May you find one for inspiration, and may the force be with you!


Luke Skywalker said, "If there's a bright center to the universe, you are on the planet that it's farthest from."

Poetry Writing Prompt:  All life has light, or some bright center to our personal universe to keep us going.  Write a poem about the bright center of your own personal universe.
Write an ode to your favorite Star Wars character.

Memoir Prompt:  Write a memory you have about enjoying Star Wars in one way or another.  You can write about seeing one of the movies, write about a toy or collection you might have from the series, or???

Essay Prompt:  Explore Yoda's famous quote, "May the Force be with you."  What is the "Force" for you that you hope to have with you? 

Call for Action:  Please leave a comment about your favorite thing about Star Wars, a Star Wars memory, or some of your writing from the prompts.  I would love to see some comments today.  Thank you!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Creative Writing Prompts from Oxymorons

Oxymoron:  (noun) phrase that combines two words that seem to be the opposite of each other, for example a deafening silence

For today's creative writing prompts, we are going to work with oxymorons. Below is the list we will be working with  today.  Feel free to come up with your own list of oxymorons if you would like and you can also work with those.

alone together, dry wine, false hope, firey ice, going nowhere, liquid crystal, partial silence, sinfully good, valuable junk, waking dream, snow-covered tulip

Poetry Writing Prompts:  Write a poem with at least two of the oxymorons in the poem.
Write a poem with one of the oxymorons as the title.

Fiction Writing Prompt:  Write a story with one of the oxymorons as the title.

EssayWriting Prompt:  Write an essay about how you feel about oxymorons.  Do you enjoy them? Find them amusing or annoying?  What oxymorons are in your life? (For example, where I live, finding a snow-covered tulip is certainly possible.)

Monday, May 2, 2011

Creative Writing Prompts with Colors

Andrey Grinyov | Dreamstime.com

For your prompt today, I thought it would be fun to have a colorful abstract painting.  I love this one by Andrey Grinyov.  You can study the painting and write a list of what the shapes remind you of.  After you make your list,  free-write about one of the images it provoked for you.

Poetry Writing Prompt:  Look at the names of the colors listed below and write a poem with one of these color names as a title.  (Note:  I hijacked these color names from a catalog.)

Midnight Mauve, Cocoa Glow, Rose Radiance, Blue Shock, Mocha Latte, Waterfall, Bronze Treasure, Sparkling Blush, Twig

Fiction Writing Prompt:  Write a story about an animal that is named one of the colors above. 

Creative Nonfiction:  Pick one of the colors that provokes a memory for you and write about it.